5 Ways to Use TodaysMeet

Can you imagine having every student in your class actively taking part in a class discussion?  Although this is an amazing idea, for many teachers this rarely happens.  Usually, during a discussion, a few students take over and dominate the conversation.  One tool that can change all of that is TodaysMeet, which is a web based backchannel that allows every student in the room a voice.  Far too often class discussions become focused on a few students whose voices are heard throughout the entire school year let alone one discussion.  TodaysMeet changes that by removing the spoken word and taking away that fear for many students of being the only voice in the room at any one time.  Instead, all students can be engaging in a conversation at the same time digitally and on any device connected to the internet.  The setup takes seconds and once you have shared the link to your room (a temporary web page is created for you and your students) with your students the activity is ready to go!  Here are five ways you can integrate TodaysMeet into your classroom.

#1 Class Discussion –

One of the easiest ways to use TodaysMeet is a whole class discussion.  After opening a room, the teacher puts out a question or prompt and the students begin interacting.  During the discussion the teacher can guide and facilitate the discussion by asking more questions and providing comments directly to students inside the TodaysMeet room.   

#2 Class Brainstorming Session –

Planning on having a brainstorming session with your class?  TodaysMeet is a great way to do a digital brainstorming session.  Open a room and share the link and in no time students will be generating ideas in real time in a collaborative way.  Encourage students to make each others ideas better by adding to them.  A large amount of ideas can be created as all students are writing at the same time and seeing each others thoughts.

#3 Group Work Sharing –

Next time you do group work and you are planning on having groups share their ideas with one another setup a TodaysMeet room so that groups can begin sharing in real time instead of waiting and having one group share at a time.  This can be a huge time saver plus students are able to see what is happening in other groups as they work.  

#4 Review Session –

TodaysMeet is a great way to support students outside of class, especially the night before a test.  Let students know that you will be sending them an email with a link to a TodaysMeet room and that you will be available to answer any questions they may have while they are studying.  For example, I would let students know that between 8:00-8:30pm I would be available to answer student questions the night before the big test.  Even if one student stops in with a question, it has been worth it as you have shown that you are supporting their learning.  I also encourage students to ask and answer each others questions.  TodaysMeet provides students the opportunity to have a study session together without being in the same location.  Just another way to provide students with extra support when they need it the most.  

#5 Video or Reading Backchannel –

Next time you are showing a video clip or have students reading open up a TodaysMeet room.   This will provide students with the opportunity to interact with you and each other by asking questions, sharing aha moments or important facts as they view the video or complete their reading.  It is important to note that some students will not want to do this as they will feel distracted, and that is ok!  This just offers another way to create an opportunity that allows the teacher and students to interact in a powerful way within the moment.  

Jeff Bernadt

A Powerful Story Telling Strategy: Creating Six-Word Stories with Video

Think about a recent story you have told to family, friends, colleagues, or students. Now imagine telling that same story in six words.  The Six Word Story was born when Ernest Hemingway was challenged to write a single story in six words, which led to him creating the following story:  “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.”  That story has inspired many to write their own six word stories.  Don Goble (@dgoble2001) is now working to spread his own version of the six word story that takes it to a new level by coupling those six words with 6 video/images used to bring those words to life in less than 30 seconds.  A powerful and challenging way for students and educators to tell any story. As I sat listening to Don’s presentation last week at iPadPalooza Indiana (@iPadpaloozaIN) hosted by Noblesville School District I couldn’t help but think of all the possibilities and ways that teachers could use this in their classrooms.

shoesAs educators, stories are one of the most powerful strategies we can use to connect and teach our students.  It is also a great way for students to show their learning and to tell their own stories.  No matter what subject students are studying, six word stories could be an effective way to challenge students to show their understanding of a concept.  I could see students in English class summarizing the theme of a novel or summarizing a single chapter.  Students showing a math or science concept while they could summarize a historical event.  But I think teachers and even administrators should take on this same challenge.  Teachers could tell a story about themselves or their classroom.  Administrators could tell the story or vision of their school or district.  The possibilities are endless.
The key to success according to Goble is the planning.  He encourages students to go beyond their first idea before picking up their device and requires them to spend time planning out their story before turning on the camera.  One strategy he uses is to have students fill out a storyboard showing their shots and what would be happening in each scene.  This is one area I know I came up short when having my students create videos.  As I reflect on different video projects I have done with my students I know I didn’t guide them enough in the planning stages, and as a result, the videos often suffered in overall quality.  I encourage teachers to check out his informative iBook, which I have included below, and take on the challenge of writing their own six word stories.  Then find ways for your students to do the same.  I am looking forward to taking on the challenge myself.  So now the only question is, what will be your six word story?
Written by Jeffrey Bernadt

Voxer: A Vehicle for Collaboration and Communication

Communication is at the heart of personalized professional learning communities.  Establishing an effective collaborative workflow is key to capturing ideas and continuing critical conversations that may start in person.  Great ideas often occur hours after a conversation takes place when people have had time to reflect. Having a workflow in place to capture these ideas and continue the conversations has many benefits.

When I was at NETA 2014, I heard @angelamaiers keynote where she said  “BRAVE is the new 21st Century Skill along with wonder, expect, think deeply, adapt, struggle, risk, grapple, & fail! Her words resonated with me.  

At the same NETA conference, I heard about the Voxer app.  Curious, I downloaded the app and started Voxing.  Over the past year I became involved in several professional Voxer groups. These groups are my place to wonder, expect, think deeply, adapt, struggle, risk, grapple, and fail with a group of educators that push my thinking every day.  My Voxer learning communities are my go to people for ideas, inspiration, and advice as well as a place to share both the victories and challenges as an educator.

Voxer is an app available for both Android and iPhone that allows you to send text messages, images, videos, and voice to individuals and groups.  The game changer for workflow are the walkie-talkie / voice and the group chat.features.

Everyone you want in the group chat needs to download and create an account on Voxer. Then, one person creates the group chat and adds everyone to the group.

What is Voxer?

A walkie-talkie app

Why use Voxer?

  1. Connect with colleagues in a jiffy.  
  2. Share ideas as images, voice, text, and in real-time as a walkie talkie.  
  3. Speedy!  Talking is so much faster than texting!

What are the benefits to using Voxer?

  1. Easy access to people in your Voxer group.
  2. Exchange information quickly and in real-time.  
  3. As people share ideas and information, other ideas previously unimaginable begin to develop.

How powerful would it be to use this tool to connect your grade levels, coaches, administrators, instructional teams, instructional coaches? The sky’s the limit.  Share a few ways you are using Voxer or your plan to use Voxer in your educational setting.

Written By Ann Feldmann


Six Gmail Tips You Don’t Want to Miss

Gmail is something we use every day, but few educators maximize the capabilities. There are some simple, yet powerful, Gmail tools that you can use to become more efficient with what can sometimes become a blackhole….your email inbox. The six tips below will help you keep your inbox clean and help you stay organized.  

Tip #1: Archive vs Delete

One of the easiest ways to organize your inbox is to keep it clean. However, people are generally afraid to delete a message fearing that at some point they will need it in the future. The solution to this problem is simply archiving the message instead of deleting it. Archiving keeps individual emails hidden away but accessible through the search within Gmail. Whereas, if you delete a message they will eventually be completely removed from your account after thirty days. So, next time you contemplate whether you need to keep an email or not…don’t think, just archive it!

Tip #2: Boomerang Add-on

Need to send an email but at a later time/date? Want to get rid of an email in your inbox but you know you will need it down the road? The Google Chrome Extension, Boomerang, is your solution. By installing this add-on you can compose an email and then schedule a date and time that it is sent. The best part is how easy Boomerang makes this process. Once it has been installed, you will see a Send Later button directly below the normal Send button. Simply click the Send Later button and you are given the opportunity to send the email whenever you choose. Boomerang also allows you to get rid of a received message and bring it back whenever you need it. This add-on allows you to plan ahead and stay organized all in one.  

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Tip #3: Filters

Filters are an efficient way to save all the great newsletters and articles you want to read for another day. Or, what about emails that you get daily from the same person or business that doesn’t fall under the urgent or read now category? What if you could have those emails bypass your inbox and be labeled for you to access when you are ready? Then, when you have time to stop and read a few articles, click on the label and read away.

Tip #4: Labels

Labels are a nice visual way to tag or categorize your emails. You can create labels that are unique to your needs. Once you create labels they will show up on the left side of the page. If you prefer, you can even color code your labels for quick and easy identification. Think of this as a way to sort your messages for easy retrieval later. You can also create filters to sort email into certain labels and emails can have multiple labels if needed.

Tip #5: Canned Responses

A great time saving solution for sending the same message multiple times is to leverage the canned response feature. By using the canned response, you not only save time, but you also ensure you are sending a consistent message to your recipients. Canned responses are sometimes overlooked because they are located in the lab section of settings. You must go to settings and enable the canned response feature. Once you have the canned response feature turned on, it will be found in the bottom right of every email you compose. Canned responses are simple to manage and even easier to use. Whether you are communicating a message to parents, students, or teachers, this is one feature you will want to try this year.

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Tip #6: Use Read Receipts

Ever wonder if anyone opened an important email? Read receipts are a quick way to let you know your message has been viewed. Google sends you an email that even includes what time the message was opened. This is a wonderful feature to use on the occasional document of high  importance. The best part of using read receipts the ease of mind knowing the email reached the viewer.

Note: When sending a group message using read receipts, include the names of all recipients in the bcc: section. Read receipts are sent to everyone in the to: and cc: fields.  Be kind to your recipients, and use the bcc feature.  

Written by Jeffrey Bernadt (@jeffreybernadt), Jeanette Carlson (@mrsjcarlson), and Ann Feldmann (@annfeldmann1)