For Our Students: Thinking Through the Transition to Digital Learning

For teachers and school administrators, the following is a guest post from BGL’s Andrew Bixler.

If we agree that the goal of digital learning is the same as the goal of traditional classroom learning, then we must restructure the systems we use to provide a high quality education given the realities of the quarantine and school closures. 

One teacher transitioning from the classroom to the living room presents an overwhelming number of obstacles. For leaders and administrators, those obstacles multiply as they attempt to provide solutions and manage staff expectations. There is an endless list of digital resources that provide solutions that schools are facing, and as a consequence there are many choices to be made. In other words, digital solutions can unfortunately also be obstacles, and it’s surprising how easy it is to get stuck in the mire. Leader or teacher, the amount of questions that pop into your brain, onto your phone, and outloud over virtual meetings, can leave you feeling off-balanced, flustered, and frustrated. 

What should we think about since there is so much to think about? The answer to this question is unsurprising: we should think about the student. We should think about school-wide, grade-wide, and content-wide protocols with the student in mind just like we normally would. Again, the goal is the same. The medium is just different. 

Student Access

Before moving forward in any meaningful way, schools must know the answers to these questions as they will help prioritize what needs to be done first. As educators, we can set expectations for ourselves or our students only if we have data on student access. 

Do students have a wifi-enabled device and experience with educational applications? 

Schools might have extra computers in the building they can lend. Spectrum is offering free-wifi

Students’ access and digital literacy will be the starting point for schools. For example, if students do not have access or have little to no experience navigating educational resources, then leaders and teachers will have to rely heavily on calling families directly until they have consistent access to the digital resources you will be using.

Do leaders have school-wide data on student access?  

Identify the key information leadership needs in order to connect students to their teachers, Then create and end a Google Forms survey, get feedback, and identify (hopefully) a short-list of families that need additional support. Delegate specific people for outreach, so that families who still do not have access or need support get it. 

Screen Shot 2020-04-14 at 2.17.38 PM.png
Spreadsheet populated by Google Form to use for assessing student access

Communication protocols for all stakeholders

When communication is too frequent or confusing, it causes frustration, and eventually, apathy among staff. Clear and consistent communication is essential for students and families. The goal is to establish points of contact  in the school, so families are informed but not overwhelmed or confused. With most information now being communicated digitally, it’s essential that communication is strategic and hierarchical. Spend more time thinking through and planning communication to reduce opportunities for confusion. In these ways, all stakeholders know what information to expect, when, and how often.

It’s important to have a deep understanding of where students are academically and socio-emotionally during this time too. However, it’s not feasible for any stakeholder – student, parent, teacher, or leader – to be in close contact with everyone. Imagine a parent of four having to manage communication between multiple teachers multiplied by four!  Leaders should identify groups of students that each teacher will be responsible for communicating with on a consistent basis. It’s easier for teachers to communicate any information on a particular student. Using a CRM tracking system or simply a Google Sheet (above), teachers who are not that student’s advisor can write notes for each student. When that student’s  advisor checks in, they can communicate information from all of their teachers in one communication.

 “…leaders will do well to collaborate with each other and grade team leaders before pushing out information to all staff.”

How are leaders communicating information to staff?

Ideally, leaders provide consistent and predictable communication (weekly same day/time), one medium (email with attached one-pager of the week ahead). Anything sent to all staff must be clear and purposeful, so leaders will do well to collaborate with each other and grade team leaders before pushing out information to all staff. The less time it takes for teachers to interpret information, the more time and energy they will have to provide quality instruction to their students. 

How are staff communicating to each other?

What warrants a video call vs. phone call vs. email vs. group message vs. Calendar Invite vs. DM vs. text? It seems silly, but having general protocols for the media you use will assuage some of the anxiety that stems from checking multiple platforms and, in the long run, will save hours of work time. Tone, time, and relevance are just three essential variables to consider when making protocols for communication. If communication about a topic requires conversation and discourse, a video call is probably necessary. If simple information needs to be pushed out, a concise email will suffice. Calendar invites that include pre-work, agendas, and links to any materials set expectations for meetings and enable attendees to feel the purpose of the meeting. If there’s a light question that a staff member has, they might want to reach out to a colleague over a DM or text before reaching out to the group. Thinking through scenarios that are common in the digital workplace and establishing norms for communication in those scenarios can relieve tension by eliminating confusion. 

How are teachers interacting with students?

If not as a whole-school, as a grade-team identify the one medium (like Google Classroom) that makes sense to communicate assignments and other information to students. Identify the medium for video conferencing (like Zoom) you wish to use for continual outreach to parents and students. Set a day and time each week that students can expect to receive an update on the week ahead.

Screen Shot 2020-04-14 at 2.20.11 PM.png

This “Week at a Glance” enables students to see their assignments and plan their time accordingly. 

“Plant the student in the forefront of your mind as you think through these questions.”

Leader and Teacher Roles and Responsibilities

Save time and empower each other by defining the roles and responsibilities for leaders, teachers, and staff. When everyone knows what’s expected of them, knows who to manage up to given any circumstance, staff will feel confident and focused in performing their duties. 

What are leaders’ non-negotiables, deliverables, and expectations? 

Push out consistent and predictable communication while leveraging self-starters and tech-literate staff. Maintain a pulse on each grade-level and maintain a positive culture of feedback, e.g. anonymous, daily feedback survey. Help guide teachers in making thoughtful choices around digital solutions.  Manage and support outlier families and students that need resources or that benefit from additional reminders to meet expectations. Delegate tasks in a way that makes sense. 

“Push out consistent and predictable communication while leveraging self-starters and tech-literate staff.”

What are teachers’ non-negotiables, deliverables, and expectations?

Use one medium for instruction, designate a minimum number of lessons, assignments, and grades per week for the grade-team or content-team. Set a number of office hours to be held by teachers over video conference, phone or other tech. Identify and reach out to students who are approaching standards and will benefit from small group video conferences. Hold teachers accountable for student outreach by logging communications in a CRM or other tracking system for accountability. 

How are leaders and teachers holding each other accountable? 

Assume the best all the time. During these new and difficult circumstances, assuming the best creates an inviting atmosphere that bolsters collaboration. Setting deliverables as a team will encourage buy-in and thereby empower all to hold one another accountable. Using shared documents, establishing clear communication of deliverables, agreeing to non-negotiables, and adhering to a system for accountability are just a few systems that take unnecessary, logistical pressure off of the team. With less pressure, schools can focus more on those we actually are here to serve: the students.

Mindset Moving Forward

Plant the student in the forefront of your mind as you think through these questions. In delivering what students need academically and socio-emotionally, leaders and teachers need to prioritize and streamline their approach. Everyone will have to make adjustments throughout this process, especially in the beginning as there is likely to be a sharp learning curve for all stakeholders. So, with each step, plan backwards. Define what the ideal end product looks and sounds like, and then with that goal in mind, develop systems and protocols that are simple and purposeful. In this way, we can make fewer adjustments as we move forward and continue to set up our students for success. 

For more educational content like this, give us your email! We’ll send you our new and helpful information.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Connect Students Socially During School Closures Using Video Conferencing

In Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, just above safety and security is a feeling of belonging. For many students that is the most important thing that was suddenly ripped away from them as they were abruptly isolated from their peers and classmates. While your child may be in contact with a few friends here and there, maintaining a sense of belonging to a group is harder to achieve. Your little kiddo especially needs your help maintaining these social ties.

Luckily we still have video conferencing. Although it requires high bandwidth and can sometimes be finicky, video conferencing is the next-best thing to IRL. It’s an invaluable tool we can use to provide opportunities for group socialization during self-quarantine.

Here’s a (fairly) simple way to do it: regular group Zoom* calls run by you, the parent/teacher.

*Zoom allows you, as host, to mute other participant’s microphones. This is critical with young children.

Step 1: Contact the parents of your young child’s friends and classmates. Maybe post on a school Facebook group or message board. Set a time for a regular call (at most daily, at least weekly) for kids to drop in when they can. Explain that you will be using Zoom and will send out links that people can click to join.

Step 2: Familiarize yourself with Zoom by watching a tutorial like this one. Make sure you know how to mute participants and use breakout rooms.

Step 3: At the time of the meeting, launch a Zoom call. Click on “Invite” and “Copy URL”. Paste the URL into a message to the other parents. And, you’re in!

Structure of the Call – One Success Story

Seth at BGL has been running these all week with his first grade daughter and her classmates. Here’s his recipe for success:

1. Allow students to slowly roll in and chit chat.

2. Inevitably with young kids the call will devolve into loud noises and general silliness. That’s fine for a minute or two. Once it’s no longer fine, mute all participants.

3. Now, you take charge. Start with a general feelings check in. How are you feeling today? What other emotions would you like to share? Do a share around the circle by unmuting each kid one by one to let them answer before muting them again. Don’t forget to let your kid respond, too!

4. Next, do another share around the circle. This one can be a variable topic, different every day. So far Seth has done:

– choose an artifact from your home to share (show and tell)

– what is your daily schedule like now that you’re learning from home?

– tell us a joke!

– choose a picture from your home. Tell us about it.

5. Then, do breakout rooms. Create enough for 2-3 students per room and let them run for 3-5 minutes. Check in if you can, but they basically run themselves when they are this small. If you have time, mix up the rooms and do another round.

6. Finally, come back for a quick dance party. Play a song through your computer and just be silly for a few minutes. Thank everyone for coming and tell them you’ll see them tomorrow.


We hope this strategy helps connect kids to each other during this weird and challenging time.

At BGL we used to just work with schools and teachers. Now that parents have suddenly become homeschool teachers, we think you might be interested in some of our free content, too. If so, give us your email and we’ll include you in our announcements. No pressure!

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

March 20 UPDATE – New Kids

Seth managed a call today that extended beyond his daughter’s friend group (it was advertised on the school’s FaceBook page as the first of a recurring Friday event). The call spanned 5 grade levels and included students who did not know each other. The following adjustments were made:

  1. The first few minutes were spent on introductions – just grade level, name and a general how ya doin? As the host of the meeting, Seth used the dropdown menu in their video feed to rename their account from their parents’ name to the students’ name so he’d be able to call on them later.
  2. Time was spent sharing general knowledge about the nature of this pandemic. Why are we here and not at school? Why can’t we be near people right now even if we won’t necessarily get that sick? What is scary and sad about this? What is hopeful and good? This took about 10 minutes.
  3. With older kids who were more willing to share and actual subject matter (the pandemic) the dynamic was more call-and-response than circle-share. Seth tried to make sure he was calling on different people each time.
  4. In breakout rooms, Seth created groups of kids that were on similar grade levels and seemed to at least be familiar with each other.
  5. The dance party was a fail. We’ll need to try a different closing next time. One of Seth’s favorites from his days in the NYC DOE was having everyone whisper their wishes into their hands and then hold on to them with their hands closed. On the count of three everyone releases their wishes into the air. It sounds corny but it’s pretty powerful when a whole room does it. Next time!

Shark Tank! Project-Based Learning over Video Conferencing

Shark sightings were reported in BGL’s 7th-grade Learning Live classes this past December! Our students participated in an entrepreneurship competition modeled after Shark Tank, the popular television series where aspiring entrepreneurs pitch business ideas to savvy investors. Inspired by the show we launched our students head first (pun intended!) into an ocean (again!) of product development and high-pressure pitching. They absolutely loved it.

Screen Shot 2020-01-24 at 12.36.30 PM.png

Here’s how we did it: the students first developed a product idea in a short timeframe with a specific framework: the product had to be original (to the best of their knowledge), marketable and realistic. We worked through business terminology and concepts focusing on marketability, pricing, and profitability. We watched and analyzed product pitches to analyze what works and what doesn’t. Using their newly acquired business terminology and knowledge, students then created a presentation or demonstration for their product idea. They pitched their idea to their classmates via a presentation/demonstration and the classmates voted on whether the product was worth funding. Five finalist groups from each of the 7th-grade classes moved to the final to face the sharks!

Our sharks consisted of a former CFO, COO and executive vice president of IBM Global Services, a computer vision research engineer, and a product manager. They considered our students’ pitches carefully and asked pointed questions within each of their respective expertise (finance, computer engineering, marketing). The students were definitely in “unfamiliar waters” as they sunk or swam. Abner, Gene, and Ian were ready when they were asked about the product liability for their small-space-living-problem-solving “Double Sofa Emergency Alarm System Toaster Clock”. Their fire retardant material was water-resistant/stain-resistant and even had a built-in alarm system that called the authorities for help (whether or not you used the automated wifi connected communication). Oh, it also detected earthquakes and sounded the alarm but still made you breakfast. 

Screen Shot 2020-01-24 at 12.37.08 PM.png

All of our Tsai Hsing future business leaders discussed financials of their products on the fly (and in American currency no less!) and demonstrated their ability to negotiate. They thoroughly impressed our sharks, who said they would fund at least half of the products pitched. Their leader, who was a real-life former Shark Tank type of guy, refused to tell us who was the best saying he could not discount the exceptional work of the others by only choosing one as a standout. 

Screen Shot 2020-01-24 at 12.37.53 PM.png

The final round of innovative products also included Ann’s OPhone that not only solar-charged and downloaded any app with ease but also improved your eye health. Ann even had medical endorsements! Meanwhile, Eve and our other Ann offered up non-melting ice cream to a panel of hungry sharks. Their ice cream was a scientific breakthrough using a low calorie, all-natural and completely safe proprietary ingredient that lowered the melting point. While the girls created ice cream, Ian and Jordan prepared a savvy new shopping app that was cleverly promoted with an exceptional presentation that even included their new company website and social media accounts – all with usable barcodes. 

Not to be outdone, HC proposed a new currency just for students. The currency would work just like Taiwanese dollars but would be given to students from their teachers for things like good behavior and high grades. HC furthered that the money would expire two years after graduation. This would allow students who worked hard to gain a positive start in life. Our former CFO was intrigued but wanted to know how HC made money on the product. HC replied, “You have a credit card, right?” and explained that he would assume the credit card company role and keep a small percentage from all transactions. Since the projects had to be realistic but not real, HC was able to explain that he already had funding approved from the Taiwanese government in an effort to promote domestic spending and to retain the best local talent in Taiwan for the first two years after their graduation. This would help to solve a major problem facing Taiwan right now: a brain drain to neighboring China where economic opportunity can oftentimes be greater than in Taiwan. This was perhaps the greatest example of achieving one of the project’s goals: to create innovative solutions to some of our most pressing real-world problems.

Read more the successes of our Learning Live distance learning program on these blog posts!

For more educational content like this, give us your email! We’ll send you our new and helpful information.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Field Trips Live: Apple Campus in Cupertino, California

Silicon Valley in the San Francisco Bay Area was a place of quiet fruit orchards until sometime in the 1970s when the semiconductor industry took off. At the time silicon was a major component of semiconductors which were used in machines like calculators, computers and most electronics, hence the new name for the area to the west of the SF Bay. 

BGL’s Learning Live seventh graders at Tsai Hsing School read our original iBook, Joyce Visits America, in which a girl from Taipei visits the San Francisco Bay area to learn more about where the technology which informs her life is created. Most of the students in 701 and 702 have been to an Apple store, and most use at least one Apple product. Before the FTL, students explored the Bay Area virtually and decided to focus their explorations on Apple since in addition to being one of the largest corporations in the world it is such a part of global daily life. Students learned about the history of Apple from its early days in a garage in Los Altos to its Cupertino headquarters.

Former CEO Steve Jobs was obsessed with Apple products exhibiting good design, and Apple’s Cupertino headquarters reflects what happens when design is considered in its entirety. Jobs believed that even the best software needed its hardware to be elegant and environmentally and people friendly. During the FTL, students learned about the many ways Apple tries to be environmentally friendly and/or sustainable. They learned that Jobs insisted that only 20% of the land at the new headquarters be built. This left 80% for greenspace. There are over 9,000 fruit trees – cherry, apple, apricot and plum. This last is of historical value, too. The land on which the campus was built was once a plum farm where the Glendenning family dried the fruit until it became prunes; these were shipped all over the world. Today, the drying barn is a feature of the campus. Clearly, the campus requires a lot of water. All of the water used to take care of the grounds is reclaimed wastewater. The balance of the landscaping consists of drought-resistant and indigenous plants.

This pursuit of perfection in design extended to the invention (by others) of a new type of glass for the front windows of Apple stores and another new kind of glass for its donut-shaped headquarters in Cupertino in which all the windows are curved. Why is the building circular anyway? Our students researched and conjectured: perhaps because circles have no end. Or, because there’s no “best” most important place around a circle? Or it may have had to do with Steve Jobs’ engagement with Buddhism and the enso, or circle, drawn with one stroke. The enso symbolizes creation, strength, elegance and one-mindedness, all things which factored into Jobs’ design thinking.

2560px-Aerial_view_of_Apple_Park_dllu.jpg

By Daniel L. Lu (user:dllu) – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69553418

 

Looks a bit like a mothership from a science fiction movie from the future, doesn’t it? In fact, it is the largest office building in the world at 2.8 million square feet and sits on 175 acres. Four stories are above ground and three are underground. Yet all of its power comes from renewable energy. Even though 12,000 people work there with parking for 14,200 cars, more than eighty percent of the land is green space. You get a sense of how large the campus is in a short video set to the Mission Impossible theme.

During the Field Trip Live in the visitor center, the classes saw a scale model of the entire Apple campus. When Teacher Courtney hovered her hand over a part of it, that part was revealed in more detail through Augmented Reality (AR). Students were in awe of this relatively new technology that will soon become mainstream and were eager to learn more. 

After the FTL, students had a few questions about the experience. Chief among them was wanting to know what happens to all the old Apple products when people replace them. Google searched led them to learn  that Apple not only reclaims water on its campus, but reclaims and repurposes parts of the iPhone and other hardware it makes.

To apply what they learned, students reflected on the most interesting aspects of the FTL and came to the conclusion that the AR experience was of greatest interest. After their visual and virtual experience, students experimented with AR on their own iPads using the iMeasure app. This app enables the user to measure objects and spaces using AR. For many, this was the first of many times they will use their iPad to learn from augmented reality.

Using Field Trips Live to Explore Psychology as a Career

BGL’s Field Trips Live (FTLs) are changing education for a changing world. Students now have access to the highest quality educators and experiences no matter where they are as technology lifts the limitations of physical location. FTLs are particularly well-suited for connecting students with dynamic experts in any given professional field. 

An example of this new approach in education plays out in this video. 8th grade classes at Tsai Hsing School in Taipei, Taiwan welcomed Dr. Adriana Galvan, a psychology professor from UCLA, into their classroom as a guest speaker. Suddenly the 6,774 mile distance between their campuses did not prevent them from creating a meaningful connection. This was great news considering that the subject of the the research conducted by the award-winning professor is precisely the age group of the students she conversed with over Zoom.

maxresdefault-2.jpg

Dr. Adriana Galvan at a conference speaking about the adolescent brain. Photo credit: United Way King County via YouTube.

The question-and-answer session with Dr. Galvan about her work as a research psychologist – which focuses on adolescent decision-making – spawned a fascinating dialogue between the 8th grade novices and the seasoned professional. Important for the impact of the experience, the conversation did not occur in a vacuum; rather, beforehand, the students researched adolescent decision-making and took the industry standard Flinders decision-making questionnaire. The results of the survey shed light on which which factor was most influential in the respondent’s decision-making processes: self-confidence, vigilance, panic, evasiveness or complacency.

The results were surprising for the teenage students. For example, when asked what they thought would be the most important factor for their own decision-making, the vast majority of students responded either self-confidence or vigilance:

Screen Shot 2019-02-15 at 5.09.44 PM.png

However, when they were asked specific questions about their decision-making students realized that each of these five factors played significant roles in decision-making within the class as a whole. Students were asked to reflect on why they thought the results came out the way they did and many had interesting takes on their own psychology. For example, one student who scored high on panic said that she was worried about how her decisions would affect other people. When pressed to explain it further, she discovered that it was less about how the decision would affect other people and more about how it would affect their perception of her. It’s a reasonable fear to have, especially for a teen, but one that she may not have been aware of were it not for exposing them to the field of psychology at such a relatively young age.

The talk with Dr. Galvan gave students an opportunity to gain valuable insight into the results of the Flinders questionnaire. But the floor was also open for the students to ask any question they wanted about Dr. Galvan’s work in addition to their own psychology and that of their peers. Not surprisingly, what ensued was educational gold. Here are some of the more compelling questions asked by the students:

  • Why do I think my parents know nothing about me while they think they know everything about me?
  • Why do we have emotions?
  • I think it’s quite interesting that the video used scientific researches to explain the crazy stuff that teenagers do all the time. I want to ask: if we finish our brain development at the age of 25, then why do the laws want us to take responsibility at the age of 20?
  • Why do teenagers talk on the phone so much?
  • Why don’t I like to study?
  • What is a difference between the brain of a humorous person and an un-humorous person?
  • Why do we dream?

 

Dr. Galvan’s answers were fantastic. Some of the bigger hits were the following:

  • Student: Why do teenagers laugh at things that aren’t funny?
  • Dr. Galvan [paraphrased]: People use laughter in different ways for different reasons, it’s not just when something is funny. One thing laughter is used for is to create bonds between people. So when teenagers laugh at things that aren’t funny, maybe they are doing it in order to make friends.

 

  • Student: Why am I not tired when I go to bed?
  • Dr. Galvan [paraphrased]: This is very interesting. There’s a phenomenon called “temporal separation” that we see across many different species. The adolescents of a species stay up later than children and than adults in order to potentially give them the opportunity to experiment with being the ones in charge. So, it’s like they are using the temporal separation to try out adulthood while the adults are all asleep.

 

See the conversation with one of the two classes here:

All in all, this was a fantastic example of how FTLs and can provide the very best educational opportunities to students no matter where they are in the world.

For more from Dr. Galvan, check out her UCLA faculty page and her TEDxYouth talk with over a half million hits on YouTube:

Junior High Distance Learning Students Use the Latest Technology to Express Their Original Ideas

The students in Tsai Hsing’s distance learning think that learning with the iPads is the best. Most everyone in modern society loves using smartphones and tablets, but students in our DL class take utilization of that technology to the next level. By working independently and applying the amazing breadth of information available to them online, DL students show that iPads are about much more than just fun and games when used in the classroom.

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 2.48.19 PM.png

The iPad is truly a multifunctional device. It’s a notebook, a library, a movie theater, a music studio – an all-around creation station. Swipe, tap, hold and drag – students know all the moves to efficiently make the most of their iPads. In just a few short weeks of distance learning class, even beginners soon are on the path to becoming tech experts.

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 2.58.52 PM.png

The assignments that students complete in distance learning class showcase their ability to use English to combine subject areas with technology. The results are as impressive as the students who created them.

For years, students in DL have used tech tools such as Pages, Keynote, Zoom, KidBlog, Class Dojo, Newsela, Edmodo, and Google products like Classroom, Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides. This year, students have expanded upon their tech-spertise to include the following tools as well.

Classcraft

Perhaps you’ve heard of ClassDojo, a classroom management tool that allows students to earn points for good behavior and has cute little monster avatars. Classcraft is similar, but it is a much deeper system of points and rewards that turns good behavior in class into an adventure. First, students create profiles complete with video-game style avatars and roles including mage, warrior and healer. Students are grouped into teams, and together the team must survive by answering questions correctly and behaving appropriately in class (because it’s so customizable, really, the team survives by doing whatever it is the teacher deems worthy of survival). Students earn experience points by completing assignments and are able to “level up” just like a video game. Of course, you can lose points, too, if you answer incorrectly or are caught misbehaving (or, again, doing anything the teacher has deemed worthy of losing points). When you lose health points, an interesting dynamic occurs whereby the healer on your team has the option of spending some of their points to keep you alive (which is also in the best interest of the team). If you lose all your health and you ‘die’, your entire team suffers and you must perform a task to come back to life. It’s classroom game-ification at its finest!

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 3.04.49 PM.png

Below you can see the avatar of Andy from Team White Chocolate (teams choose their own names). Patrick, Jessica, Michelle and Jonathan all work together with Andy. They even wrote a creative story together about how their characters met. Looks like Andy may soon need to ask the team healer, Patrick, for some help.

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 3.05.44 PM.png

Classcraft has features that go far beyond what is described above. For example, students can test their knowledge in Boss Battles. In these battles, students must answer questions correctly to defeat a boss villain. Learning grammar becomes a lot more fun when a giant scorpion demon gets killed when you correctly identify a comma splice.

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 3.06.35 PM.png

One of the most popular elements of Classcraft are the quests. The DL teachers program a sequence of tasks that need to be completed in order to unlock the next stop along a prescribed path. Shortcuts are available only to the brave. Below is an example of the quest map. And, these tasks can even take place in some of the following apps.

Khan Academy

Khan Academy – the online library of instructional videos – has become one of the most popular edtech tools in the world. It was started when an engineer (named Sal Khan) noticed that there weren’t any good instructional videos for teaching math to his young niece. It has grown into a worldwide powerhouse of data-driven instruction that include videos on science, reading, grammar, and even test prep. In 801, students are using Khan Academy in a unique way with the support Classcraft.

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 3.07.51 PM.png

As mentioned above, a special feature of Classcraft are the quests. These include several activities students must complete. The first quest for 801 is all about grammar, specifically nouns.

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 3.08.21 PM.png

 

Padlet & the Global Read Aloud

By using Padlet – a virtual bulletin board – to display assignments, students are able to keep things organized, looking good and facing outward. For the assignment below, students began working with their partners for the Global Read Aloud for the first time this semester. The Global Read Aloud is an innovative international partnership with students from around the globe; millions of students read the same book at the same time and have asynchronous discussions online.  

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 3.11.31 PM.png

As the students embarked on reading the novel A Monster Calls, they first began with an activity called Mystery Padlet. In this activity, both groups in the collaboration offered clues and photos about their respective cities and countries on a shared Padlet “Wall.” They then used the detailed clues to make an educated guess as to where the other group is located. Classes 701 & 702 soon learned that they are partnered with 7th grade classes in Seattle, Washington, in the United States. Over the course of the next few months, the students will continue to connect with their Global Read Aloud partners, using apps, websites and their remarkable English skills to look deeper into the text and grow as language learners and global citizens.

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 3.12.03 PM.png

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 3.12.10 PM.png

Flipgrid & Joyce Visits America

When it comes to learning English, one of the things students need the most help with is speaking. Flipgrid allows students to easily submit short videos on a site that allows for quick video replies as well. It’s like Facebook except with video instead of typing. Plus, teachers can listen very carefully to the videos and give feedback to all students. This is not possible in a traditional classroom and truly allows practice to make perfect.

After reading about Joyce, a young girl from Tsai Hsing who convinces her parents to let her visit Taiwan, students created a Flipgrid to explain a time they had an argument with their parents.

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 3.14.06 PM.png

Andy used Flipgrid to tell a story about a time that he broke his headphones. He wanted new ones, but his dad wanted him to use some old ones instead. Although he didn’t win the argu

ment with his dad, Andy did finally get some new headphones. Yay!

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 3.14.41 PM.png

A lot like the character in the story, Jessica wanted to convince her parents that she 

 

should go to America to learn English by herself. Her parents thought she was too small to go by herself. But she had good arguments for learning English outside of a classroom, and promised she would write down every day what she learned.

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 3.15.28 PM.png

Robie’s answer about being too young to go to a concert was so great, Teacher Travis turned it into a Spark. This is the feature of Flipgrid that allows students to create a video in response to someone else’s video. It ‘sparks’ the conversation. Way to go, Robie!

 

 

iMovie

In order to introduce themselves and share details of their lives with their collaborative partners in the Global Read Aloud, Classes 701 & 702 created All About Me iMovies. These impressive short films included detailed descriptions of Taiwan’s culture, student daily life and the prestige of Tsai Hsing School. Students showcased their superior iMovie skills through the use of all of the fresh features of the new iOS 11 version of iMovie. All iMovies were then uploaded to Edmodo, an online educational website that reinforces and enhances digital classrooms and serves as the primary platform for communication between the collaborative partners.   

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 3.17.17 PM

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 3.17.31 PM

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 3.17.42 PM

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 3.17.53 PM

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 3.18.10 PM

Quizlet

Without using any paper, you can study and organize vocabulary using flashcards with Quizlet. So far this year, students in 801 have studied grammar, learning more about comma splices, run-ons and sentence fragments. Students also have studied vocabulary for the Joyce Visits America story. Below are the top five challenging words or phrases from the first chapter of the story.

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 3.20.08 PM.png

Clearly, the hard-working students in the distance learning program have their work cut out for them between learning English, learning about American culture, and learning all these new apps. Armed with iPads, students can use their brilliant minds to take learning to the next level.

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 3.20.34 PM.png

BGL’s LingoLoop Partners with IRC to Give Free English Lessons to Refugees

BGL has been using technology to deliver quality English instruction to Asian classrooms since 2007. Last year we started a new consumer-facing venture – LingoLoop – that provides online English tutoring. Our small-group classes are based on the Socratic method; as students answer questions, the tutor transcribes their responses, fixes grammar and syntax, and introduces relevant vocabulary. This method captures very well the concept of learning by doing.

An unexpected byproduct of this method is an authentic and sometimes profound human connection. The questions we ask are fairly simple, but in today’s increasingly partitioned society, they are questions that do not often get asked. Who decides which music plays in the car while you’re driving? How is your life different now than it was five years ago? In your home country, what are the easiest jobs to get? What about the hardest? The cultural exchange is fascinating because learners in LingoLoop classes tend to be from different countries.

LingoLoop learners feel motivated to learn partially because of this human connection. The progress that they make helps them in all facets of their lives as they adjust to living in a new country. It is in this light that we are proud to announce our partnership with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), and the launch of our pilot program to offer free online English lessons to refugees. 17309122_1916219465275804_2239278047516257832_n.jpg

The IRC is the leading humanitarian organization dedicated to the cause of refugees. The IRC responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic well being, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. In 2016, more than 26 million people benefited from IRC programs and those of its partner organizations.

In cooperation with the IRC’s Los Angeles office (IRC-LA), we are offering free online English classes to refugees who are in the process of resettling in Southern California. Refugees will have an opportunity to learn English from LingoLoop’s expert tutors and interact with other LingoLoop customers in our small-group classes.

As a company dedicated to empowering people through education, we are extremely proud to help realize the dreams of those greatest in need. Aspiring to become a double-bottom-line enterprise, we hope that this pilot will evolve into a core part of our business over the long term.

#RefugeesWelcome

 

 

 

 

We Love Classcraft! A BGL Review

Here at BGL, we love Classcraft! It’s a free classroom management system a la Class Dojo but with deeper options and a fantasy-based theme that the students really enjoy.

classcraft_characters_bg.jpg

One great element is that a given student’s avatar can “die,” which sounds a bit violent for a classroom setting until you consider a few things:

  • Students are organized into teams and there are disincentives built in to the other team members if one of their teammates dies. In other words, students HAVE to help each other in order to avoid team-wide consequences.
  • The teacher can customize the penalty for death with creative consequences that can otherwise benefit the class.

The latter bullet point is the subject of the following video in which Teacher Travis introduces Classcraft to his 5th grade class via distance learning. Please enjoy! Our students definitely do.

 

The teacher dashboard allows multiple views of the class with varying degrees of detail. It also makes it easy to reward/punish groups of students or the entire class at one time with just a few clicks.

scores2.jpg

Another element we enjoy with Classcraft is “Today’s Event,” a randomized act that may or may not affect multiple student accounts at one time. It’s akin to some of the squares on a Monopoly board where rewards or consequences are doled out simply for having been in the right/wrong place at the right/wrong time.

CNVjnZMWsAAV2Kz.png

Almost everything in Classcraft is customizable. From a student perspective, they can customize their avatars and earn the ability to unlock special wardrobe elements and skills. The teacher, like with Class Dojo, can customize the rewards and consequences to target specific class behaviors.

classcraft-xp.png

Given this level of customization, there is definitely a learning curve. It seems a bit unwieldy and user-unfriendly at first, but most tech users will find it to become second nature after using it for a short amount of time. Like with most things in teaching, consistency is key – the more you use it, the more effective it becomes.

Using Video to Teach Current Events

BGL’s own Teacher LaCora has experience in front of the camera as a red carpet host here in Los Angeles. She used those skills to create a video about the recent earthquake in Ecuador as part of BGL’s weekly current events unit.

 

To teach current events, BGL selects a handful of stories from the week and shares links to the stories along with discussion questions to all their teachers across grades K-8. Each teacher chooses the story and discussion questions that are best suited for the ability and interest of their classes. Choosing more discussion questions – or turning them into writing assignments – takes the activity from a short one (5-10 minutes) to a longer one (a full period or two).

Here are the discussion questions for the Ecuadorian earthquake story. As you can see, they get progressively more difficult so that teachers in older grades choose from the bottom and vice versa for younger grades.

  • What can people do to help when there is an earthquake?
  • Have you ever felt an earthquake? What does it feel like?
  • What causes earthquakes? Are there different kinds?
  • What is the Richter scale? What does it mean to increase exponentially?

How do you teach current events? Tell us in the comments section.