Personalized Learning Paths

I have been working on a project for quite a while to better personalize learning for our students in numeracy.  My teaching partner and I began one for literacy as well, but have a lot of work to do (I’ll blog about that when we are closer).  We are using the same idea for our other standards through the lens of our inquiry units, so those will also be rolling out as we complete them.

Our first grade students are 1:1 with Chromebooks in our classroom and we have spent countless hours and days and months now trying to decide how to best use these tools to boost student engagement and learning experiences(see the upcoming post about student scheduling to learn more about this).  We departmentalize for small group and teach all of the math lessons and two of our reading groups, while my co-teacher teaches most of our reading groups.

We have an amazing classroom space, 1:1 technology, and a great collaborative relationship between my co-teacher and I. However, we do face other hurtles such as limited storage space and trying to balance the usage of tech vs. hands on tasks.

We knew we wanted a way for students to track their learning that would allow for them to move freely from one standard to the next unencumbered by the learning paths of other students.  However, finding a mode of delivery that would allow for this has proven to be quite challenging.  In the end, you will see that we had to do some site-smashing to best meet our goal (and we hope it works).

What We Needed

  • Students to be able to track their standards met
  • Students to be able to access modules and activities for standards currently being practiced quickly and easily
  • Ability to link to websites for practice
  • Ability to provide modules that would not allow students to “fall down a rabbit hole” after completion
  • Ability for students to upload multiple types of assignements such as pictures of hands-on activity completed and assessment videos

What We’ve Tried and Why They Don’t Work Alone

Our district uses Canvas as our LMS and we love it for many of it’s features, most notably what we believe it was created for, a way to organize learning.  However, there are many other apps and sites that better meet the needs of emerging and non-readers and writers that are more user friendly for modules, online student assignments, direct instruction videos, interactive games and quizzes.

For modules, we used Canvas but were having trouble with the microphone. We talked to our Blended Learning Specialist and looked deeply at Canvas modules, but there are problems with the microphone that weren’t easily resolved and it was much more work for students to submit items than we thought reasonable.  We didn’t want them spending their learning time on accessing and uploading their assignments, we wanted them spending their time on constructing new knowledge.

We used Nearpod for whole-group modules, but we didn’t see a way for it to be used for students to work at their own pace.

We began by embedding our activities in Blendspace because of it’s icon-centric design, but found that it was too distracting for students when navigating because of the option to move to other activities on the pages they were accessing.  We also had a problem with some videos continuing to play while others started.  We had the same problem with YouTube videos because when the video stopped, they had the option to click on other videos and fall down the rabbit hole of “other videos you might like.”

We loved Vimeo for uploading flipped videos because it is a secure stand-alone program that allowed us to upload only that particular video.  However, Vimeo, like many other programs, costs money and we were soon reaching our storage limit.  We loved Screencast-omatic for recording flipped videos that captured onscreen material but then had to upload them to YouTube which led us back to the YouTube problem. We recently learned that it also offers storage for flipping videos of the same sort and it looks like it offers much more storage without distractions at the end.

We loved Seesaw as our online learning journal, but there is was no way to link it to our Canvas pages for content areas without them having to navigate the feed.

We loved Google Classroom for assignments and the quick add feature in the extension for classroom for sites.  We also loved the option in assignments to create a student copy automatically (and save to their drive), but assignments cannot be made for individual students or student groups.

However, our problem remained.  We needed a quick and easy way for students to navigate directly to their standard of practice and have quick access to the activities, but also have a way to track their progress and move along a continuum.

The Plan

standard-1We revisited Nearpod as they have recently added a student-paced lesson component that allows students to work through modules on their own.  We decided the options in Nearpod to add videos, activities, upload files and allow students to write on them and the different options for quizzes at the end would be the best fit for our learning modules at this age.

We decided probably the best thing we had seen to create these tracking sheets for the standards was to use Google Slides and share it with students through Google Classroom.  That way they could start at the task they needed to practice and work their way through.  We linked the Nearpod modules to the Google Slides as well as the other activities they needed to create and each one ended with an assessment of the standard such as uploading a video to Seesaw of them counting from 1-120 starting at different numbers.task-1

Our next issue was that while Seesaw is awesome, it only stays loaded on iPads and each student has to re-scan the code every 15 minutes on their Chromebook to add items from it.  Since most of our iPads are in use for OSMO in our classroom, we needed a way for students to have easy access to their stories so we printed a class QR code for each student’s clipboard and used shipping tape to tape them to the back.  Students always have their clipboards with them because they use them for their daily schedules and Lexia/Dreambox goal tracking.

We are still working through how to best store the hands-on activities for easy access for students, but think we may have some ideas on that as well.

Above are examples of a Domain tracking sheet and a task sheet for an individual standard.  The idea is for students to move the green smiley face over when the task is completed.  We will then meet check the Seesaw feed and meet with them to fill in the date met or provide additional instruction if it is not met.

We will begin using this tracking system first for numeracy in the next few weeks, so look for my reflection coming soon!  We are excited to see how it plays out in the classroom!

As always, please provide comments and feedback as this is a continual process for us and we need all the input we can get!



Adaptive Software Lessons

Our district adopted Lexia and Dreambox for our adaptive learning software for literacy and numeracy.  We noticed quite quickly after the start of the year that many of our students were putting in the “minutes” on their adaptive learning software, but they weren’t actually completing many lessons.  We talked to our district math coordinator and he said students should be completing 5 or more lessons each week in each program.

We sat with students and looked at their progress, had conversations about when to ask for help, started a parking lot where they could write their names when they needed help, discussed a peer help system for asking another student for help and tried motivators such as leader boards, etc.  Nothing was working.

We decided to try a new idea.  We created this goal tracking sheet for students to track goal-sheetstheir goals each week on a daily basis.  When they completed a lesson, they colored in a spot on their grid (this also helps with their math standard for bar graphs).  We told them that they would receive a Classroom Dojo point for getting all 5 lessons in Dreambox and another for completing all 5 in Lexia.  The kicker was that every lesson above and beyond 5 got them a Dojo point for each lesson!

In our classroom, we use Dojo as our reward system and do it a little differently than most.  We don’t believe in extrinsic rewards that lead to “junk” such as candy and toys; we want our students to be intrinsically motivated.  However, we also believe that students should have the opportunity to earn rewards for a job well done.  So we allow students to accumulate their points.   They can turn in 25 points for tickets such as “Lunch with the teacher,” “Bring a furry friend,” “Preferred seating (this is a bean bag),” etc.  The students can also save for backpacks or lunch boxes as we had many donated from an area business.  My co-teacher and I decided early on that we would give out Dojo points liberally if students were doing things that promoted growth socially or academically so we were both okay with giving these extra points each week as a motivator.

The results the first week were great!  Students brought their computers to us to check to see if their lessons matched ours and gave themselves Dojo points.  The ones who did not meet their goals, had a clear goal during make-up time so they could move on to STEAM stations.  This week was a short week back and we did not pass out our goal sheets.  We had several students ask when we would be getting our Lexia and Dreambox goal sheets.  We are excited to see this process and determine if it continues to be motivational for our students!