School Closures: Best Practices for Online Teaching Using Interactive Video Conferencing

Online Contingency Plan for Educators

This guide is a crash course for how to transfer learning magic from your classroom to an online environment.

  • You’ve probably never done this before. That’s ok. We’re here to help.

BGL’s TITAC training method has effectively transitioned classroom teachers to online environments for over a decade.

  • We recently presented this method at the NCCE conference in Seattle. Here are the slides from that presentation which can support overview training.

This training video is an overview of BGL’s TITAC method for how to teach over interactive video.

  • Due to our decade-long experience in the field we find ourselves in a unique position to support educators so that learning can continue during school closures.

(Updated 3.19.20)

Other Tips for Teachers Quickly Transitioning Online

  1. Even though you know your students already, treat it like the first day of school. Spend time first building community and your routines for this new virtual classroom.
  2. If possible split your class into small groups. Large groups will be harder to manage especially at first. If large groups are inevitable, Zoom’s breakout rooms are a good way make things more manageable.
  3. Make sure your students or an adult in the room are prepped on how to use the technology you plan to use. Especially important will be the ability to mute people; they will be in their homes and random noises can disrupt the lesson. In Zoom, you yourself as the host of the meeting can mute participants.
  4. Many teachers will not connect with their students daily over video conferencing. To stay connected to your students record a short video greeting every day. This is an uncertain time for your students and you are a grounding force in your students’ lives. Little efforts toward human connection can go a long way toward keeping them feeling safe and engaged.

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Here’s a Summary of TITAC (Also Covered in the Video Above):

This resource is intended to help quickly transition teachers to an online teaching environment using interactive video conferencing (IVC).

Overview

Distance learning and teaching vary widely in methodology, with some online classrooms having equivalent (Bernard, Abrami, Lou, Borokhovski, Wade, Wozney, Wallet, Fiset, & Huang, 2004; Cavanaugh,  Gillan, Kromrey, Hess, & Blomeyer, 2004; Bertsch, Callas, Rubin, Caputo, & Ricci, 2007) or even greater success than traditional classrooms (Harris-Packer, J. D., & Ségol, G. , 2015) . Given that online teaching and IVC are not monolithic, constant forces with consistent elements, BGL has developed the TITAC method to create a powerful education environment.

TITAC Method Overview:

  1. Teacher – The IVC teacher is effective and highly engaging.
  2. Interaction – Meaningful interaction is central to lesson design.
  3. Technology – The technology used is driven by learning goals and enhances the learning experience.
  4. Aesthetics – The aesthetics of the lesson engage the learners.
  5. Collaboration – Open communication facilitates collaboration between all stakeholders.

TITAC Best Practices for Online Teaching Using IVC:

  1. Teacher: The teacher is effective and extra engaging.
    1. The lesson design, pedagogy, teaching methods and tools are founded in best practices, meticulously planned and optimized for the student population and delivered effectively.
    2. The IVC teacher brings excitement and passion that extend beyond the 2-dimensionality of the medium.
    3. The IVC teacher’s word choice, pace of speech and intonation are appropriate for the medium and audience.
  2. Interaction – Meaningful interaction is central to the experience.
    1. The students have frequent opportunities to lead and to share their ideas.
    2. A sense of global citizenship – including cultural respect and empathy – is developed while connecting with otherwise unattainable people and places.
    3. The interaction introduces students to and/or reinforces 21st century skills such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.
  3. Technology – The technology used enhances and is driven by the learning experience.
    1. Operation of supplementary technology is internalized and back-up plans are on the ready.
    2. All stakeholders are invested in the capacity of technology to redefine education and prepare students for the future.
    3. In 1:1 environments, blended learning tools redefine student work and teacher assessment.
  4. Aesthetics – The presentation looks and sounds good.
    1. The IVC setting and all people in it are camera-ready and professional.
    2. The IVC feed is well-framed, well-lit, has good acoustics and good use of color.
    3. The IVC visual and aural experience is multi-dimensional and dynamic.
    4. Any digital resources are pithy, visible and well-designed.
  5. Collaboration – The relationship of stakeholders to each other is communicative and collaborative.
    1. Teacher roles – both on-site and IVC – are well-defined beforehand including classroom management and assessment.
    2. The teachers have an open back channel with which to communicate during class.
    3. All teachers know the lesson plan, design and contingency plans and discuss these beforehand.
    4. The classroom teacher handles individual behavior management.
    5. The IVC teacher has an accurate class roster.

In addition to the free resources that will be available soon on our YouTube channel and our website. Follow up training sessions are available by writing to info@banyangloballearning.com or by clicking here.

Background

Teaching with IVC removes limitations of physical location and therefore dramatically expands possibilities for human connection. Mastering these connections is critical in a world where unanticipated school closures can restrict access to education and where demand for flexible school environments is increasing. IVC prepares students for a future where essential human skills are prioritized and technological advances create unprecedented opportunity for widespread collaboration. Therefore, more than ever, a model for delivering high-quality educational experiences over IVC is essential.

This model is based on 10+ years experience teaching over IVC trans-nationally to whole groups of students in Asia. The benefits of this type of IVC education also include 1) the steep reduction of cost and carbon footprints 2) the ability to drastically expand the audience for any given educational content and 3) the real-life human impact of communicating directly with people from different backgrounds. The added challenges of IVC include logistical complications and the need to develop cultural understanding.

As more providers use IVC to teach, this paper provides a guide map for factors to consider. It is a supplement to established resources such as Ben Newsome’s account of successful STEM experiences over IVC and Cole, Ray and Zanetis’s trailblazing book Videoconferencing for K12 Classrooms. Critically important aspects of the IVC experience – including curricular goals, classroom setup and definition of stakeholders – are described in those resources.

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.

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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.

Investigating themselves: Students are data detectives in crowd-sourced Big Dayta Project

Over 800 participants worldwide and growing every day

Big Dayta is an international collaboration of students sharing what they do every hour for one typical weekday. That data is collected into a single spreadsheet that classrooms can then analyze. Over 800 students worldwide have shared their data to date.

What does a student do with 24 hours on a typical day? Do they sleep for 8 hours and go to school for 6 hours? How does this compare to their best friend, their entire class, or even more than 800 students around the world? With Big Dayta, students are able to make these comparisons and analyze data whether they are in first grade or about to graduate from high school. Developmentally appropriate (and Common Core aligned) ideas are provided for grades 1-12.

Students can be guided by whatever they find most interesting to investigate. Guiding research questions may include:

  • How much homework do kids in my grade do?
  • How does amount of homework differ between countries?
  • Does the amount students sleep change as they get older?
  • Where do kids spend the most time with their families?
  • What are most kids in my grade doing at 4pm? Is this different from kids in other grades?
  • And much, much more, based on whatever the kids want to find out!

All suggestions provided in the Idea Guide are Common Core aligned, so teachers can know that they are giving students a chance to satisfy their curiosity about other kids, while meeting the standards. “Humans are naturally curious about each other,” according to educational consultant Stephanie Ramsey, Ph.D., “So they do these calculations to get at the information, without thinking of it as a math problem. Math, reading, and writing all become tools to solve real-life questions.”

While the basic idea is simple, students keep track of what the do every hour on a typical weekday, the opportunities for application are enormous. Students can practice academic skills (analyzing data, stating claims and evidence, adding, subtracting, and more), and they can also connect with each other online to share their findings and debate what conclusions we can draw. The Big Dayta Facebook page gives students the chance to connect over their shared analysis.

The idea for Big Dayta came from inquisitive students. According to Seth Fleischauer, president of Banyan Global Learning, “Big Dayta started out of a fifth grade classroom in Taipei, Taiwan. Our students there were collaborating with another class in America and they wanted to know more about them. As a group, they came up with the idea with this survey. That was four years ago, and we’ve been slowly building it ever since. This year, BGL teachers pooled their resources and time to in an effort see if we could make a larger impact.”

Teachers can access a number of resources to support them in using Big Dayta in the classroom:

  • A slideshow introducing Big Dayta to their students (ElementaryJunior High/High School are currently available and one with a heavier-statistics component for just high school coming later this summer) and a slideshow with screenshots of how to work with the data using Google Sheets for iPad.
  • Idea guide for choosing activities
  • A longer explanation of each idea suggestion along with which Common Core standards that idea is aligned with (click here for ELA ideas and here for Math ideas)
  • Big Dayta Facebook page so students and teachers can connect with each other to discuss and debate their findings.

Classrooms can use Big Dayta for one-off lessons as the school year winds down, or for longer units where students can investigate and report on the data across multiple subjects including math, writing, social studies, and more. However teachers choose to use it, Big Dayta is a chance for students to practice academic skills, critical thinking, and learn more about themselves and each other as they do it.

 

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.  

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

 

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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.

 

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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.   

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

10 Ways for Time-Strapped Teachers to Keep Up with EdTech

Teachers who love technology (like we do!) always want to learn about the next best—and most useful—thing. Whether it be a burgeoning LMS, a free game site with built-in analytics, or an app students can use for creative projects, within the booming edtech world it can be difficult to wade through the tedium to get to the truly fantastic. So, we’ve developed some tips for keeping up with edtech without tearing your hair out in the process.

Image by Shutterstock, copyright Master1305.

Image by Shutterstock, copyright Master1305.

1. SCHEDULE – 2-3 professional development events each school year to attend where you think you can get the most information and learn the most. (Great resources here and here.)

2. Keep an ongoing LIST of new apps, programs and resources you hear about.  Give some description after each listing so you can remember, generally, the purpose it serves. (Some of our favorites are: Zaption, Zeal, Formative, BrainRush, DragonBox, NOVA Elements App, GoodReader, Duolingo, and ClassDojo to name a few.) Make the list in Googledoc for collaborative input.

3. KEEP your entire team WORKING on research and testing new technology that is available. Organize a task list and be systematic about testing for maximum efficiency.

4. CONNECT WITH OTHERS – Keep an open dialogue with your team and with your personal learning network. What’s working and what is not? Some top hashtags to follow on Twitter are: #edtech, #edchat, #elearning, #ipadchat, #flipclass, #flippedclassroom, #iPadEd, #EdApps, #iPadClassroom and #mlearning.

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Image by Shutterstock, copyright Master1305.

5. Go with the “DOES IT STICK?” approach.  After your team starts testing something, ask yourself: “does it stick”?  If it stays on your radar, it’s probably worth keeping. If not, dump it and move on.

6. COMPARE AND CONTRAST… given there are so many apps and services now that serve similar purposes, choose the top two or three and test those against one another.  Have one of your employees try one and another employee try the other.  Have them take notes and then at the end, collect your team, compare the two and decide which to go with for the time being (A great general resource is the EdSurge EdTech Index which offers a multitude of categories and suggestions).

7. DON’T MIX testing and what your company is currently using at the time.  Implement after testing and decisions are made.

8. BE OPEN TO CHANGE – keep your eyes and ears open to what may be new, better, etc. If you stick with a given piece of tech for too long, you may find yourself quickly outdated and unfamiliar with new stuff that’s out there.

9. STEP BY STEP is the way to work through all the new ed tech options otherwise you could just feel completely overwhelmed and do nothing.

10. ENJOY THE PROCESS – Remember to enjoy the process! This should be fun, right??  Don’t get bogged down feeling it’s tedious work.

Image by Shutterstock, copyright Master1305.

Image by Shutterstock, copyright Master1305.

So… how do you keep up? Write a comment below!

York, PA’s Weary Arts Group – A 4G Field Trip for Students of Shakespeare

There is perhaps no better way for students to dive into the art of theatrical performance than by studying the greatest playwright of all time, William Shakespeare. While reading an adaptation of the comedy Much Ado about Nothing, BGL‘s 8th grade distance learning students explored the themes of the story while learning how to add expressiveness to their acting of the play’s scenes. This 4G Field Trip with the Weary Arts Group in York, PA brought the concept home for these students in a fun and informative way. Our gracious and dynamic hosts, Calvin and Dante, mesmerized the class with their performances, and the students were grateful to learn from some experts.
Thanks to Teacher Jackie for facilitating the trip and for creating short and long versions of the field trip video. See them below!
SHORT VERSION:
LONG VERSION:

That’s Crafty! Our 4G Field Trip to Tom Colicchio’s LA Restaurant

Wow! BGL’s 501 Class was very lucky to take a virtual field trip to Tom Colicchio‘s Craft LA, one of the best restaurants in Los Angeles. The charming and well-spoken manager, Todd Thurman, led the tour and gave the 5th graders a unique insight into the process behind creating some of the world’s finest dishes.

Manager Todd Thurman introduces Taiwanese 5th graders to Craft LA.

Manager Todd Thurman introduces Taiwanese 5th graders to Craft LA.

“Teacher Todd” first showed us around the patron area, discussing the nature of the owner’s fame and the concept behind the design of the dining space.

Students are introduced to Craft's formal dining space.

Students are introduced to Craft’s formal dining space.

The real fun started as we headed into the kitchen. As we visited each of the stations, Teacher Todd told us some of the work that goes into creating such unique food. All of the fruits and vegetables are sourced from Farmer’s Markets up and down the state of California. Some markets will come by the restaurant with a huge selection of food with only the most superb ingredients chosen by special Craft staff.

Chef de Cuisine Ray England addresses the students.

Chef de Cuisine Ray England addresses the students.

We had the pleasure of meeting the head chef (or, “Chef de Cuisine”), Ray England, who talked to the students about Craft’s use of the entire animal after butchering. This made sense to the Taiwanese students, whose culture celebrates the eating of many foods that we might consider “exotic” in an effort to waste no part of butchered animals.

Dessert!

Dessert!

Of course, the students were most excited when they saw the gourmet chocolate chip cookies and, especially, the homemade sorbet and ice cream. One student wished that there was a machine that would allow people to “throw stuff through the television screen” so that they could eat some of the ice cream. The Craft staff got a kick out of the enthusiasm the students showed for their favorite sweets.

Afterwards, Teacher Seth was so hungry he had to sit down and sample the octopus and summer squash puttanesca and orecchiette with lamb and fava beans.

The best octopus I've ever tasted.

The best octopus I’ve ever tasted.

Orecchiette with lamb and fava beans.

Orecchiette with lamb and fava beans.

All in all, a fantastic experience for students and tour guides alike. This was a great way to wrap up our food unit, which also had us taking a virtual field trip to a farmer’s market and conducting a recipe collaboration with the Environmental Charter School in Pittsburgh.

Many thanks Teacher Seth’s good buddy Jim Wisniewski for setting up the trip! Here are some of the best thank you notes from the students:

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