Quote your students, Value them

Earlier this school year, I wrote about Educanon, an application you can use to add questions and pause points to videos. A new quarter recently started, and I used the same Video Bulb with the fresh group, but this time around, I took their best extended responses and put them into a slideshow.

The day after the vidoe viewing, I showed the presentation and we talked about each student’s insight. Kids were clearly proud and pleased (sitting up straighter, smiling widely, checking out their friends reactions, etc.) to see their brilliant quotes up on the big screen.  Making the presentation by re-reading their answers and copy/pasting the best of them took only about 15 minutes, and was so worth their positive response. You could use this idea in any class. It reviews your content and shows your students that you value their voices.

One tech issue I ran into was the text pasting into the slides with original (ugly) formatting from Educanon. Like this:

bad copy paste

But, if you use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+V, it pastes without formatting, and will automatically take on the style of the slide! It looks much better.

good copy paste

Up Your Vid Game with eduCanon

My friend and colleague Shaun Spence shared eduCanon with our staff at the beginning of this school year, and I was immediately excited about it. It’s a website where you can find and create “Video Bulbs”–videos with questions built in at particular times. Their tag-line is “Deeply engage learners and accountably measure understanding”.

Here’s a 3 minute Video Bulb of Kid President that you can watch to see the possibilities. With a free account, you can add multiple choice questions, free response, and reflective pauses. If you upgrade to a paid account at $89/year, you add in Check all that apply, Skip Segment, Website and Fill in blank. eduCanon question types

The free options are just fine for my purposes. I’ve used eduCanon to have some of my 2nd quarter students watch and think about a video called “Why You Need to Fail” by Derek Sivers. If you’re curious about that, you can check it out below. (In the first quarter, I had them watch that video and take notes using videonot.es. It shows a video on the left and has a time-stamped note-taking feature on the right. But when I found out about eduCanon, I thought it would work better for the assignment). 

As they watched and answered in eduCanon, I was able to use the Monitor tool to see their progress, and grade the extended responses. Multiple choice are graded automatically. As you can probably guess, green=correct, pink=incorrect, and grey=not finished yet. Orange means they answered, but I haven’t graded. The whole grading process took much less time than I expected, because I was able to focus on one question at a time, instead of grading one kid’s entire assignment. Plus, I didn’t have to wait for them to be done with the whole video. So, I finished grading everything just after the last kid finished answering! I also caught one girl who was skipping the extended responses by typing a space, and was able to redirect her to go back and change those non-answers. With a traditional grading system, I wouldn’t have been able to correct that issue as quickly.eduCanon Monitor

You can also reset the bulb for individual students, that way, they can try again if they do poorly the first time around, or if they just enjoyed it that much and want to re-watch and answer. I had a couple of students take this option, and I love that it fits in with what the video is trying to teach them.

Setting up my class lists was simple, because eduCanon and Google Classroom work well together. Other friendly entities include Schoology, Edmodo, Moodle, Blackboard and more. Students can use single sign-on with Google or Clever, or sign up with a class code. If none of those work for you, upload a spreadsheet roster instead.

One way to use this that I haven’t tried yet is to take one of my own videos (created with Screencastify) and eduCanon-ify it. The level of relevance of content created for my students in that way could be swoon-worthy! But remember, you can start slowly, by assigning Video Bulbs that are already created. There are some really wonderful bulbs out there.

I feel like this is one of those things where you might think, “Cool, I’ll have to look into that when I have time.” And I totally understand that feeling. But carve out even just 10 minutes to play around with eduCanon. It’s really fun! More importantly, it’s a way to get your students engaged with the content.



Failure, reconsidered

The following was published in NEOTIE’s first magazine this past weekend. There’s a lot of great content in there so read it! NEOTIE is having a conference on October 3, and registration is just $15. I attended (and was a presenter at) their February event, and I highly recommend it. High quality sessions, great food, not too far from home, and not expensive.

You failed. You’ll continue to fail, over and over. Same for me, same for our students. Feel terrible now? You shouldn’t! Let me explain. Failing is, has been, and will always be a sign of reaching for something that is simply out of reach at this point. Maybe only slightly, or maybe by a whole bunch.  I want to reframe failure as a necessary, and helpful step in achieving awesome goals. Failure is striving for better. You, me, and especially our students need to be told this explicitly, and be encouraged to keep failing, learning, and growing, throughout our lives.

In the first week of my quarter-long 7th and 8th grade tech classes last year, I wanted to empower students by helping them realize that failure will happen, and how they deal with it can make them better. One way I did this was by telling them about my grading system. Any assignment that they received less than 70% on, they were allowed to continue working on and resubmit. This way, students had the opportunity to view their “failing” D or F grade as a chance to improve, and truly learn the material. One student resubmitted an effort-intense assignment 3 or 4 times! I supported him with comments in the document, helping at lunch, and communicating the redo option to his parents. He showed great persistence in refining each draft until it was nearly perfect. He was so proud of himself; it made me get teary. There were always a few kids each quarter who took this option to heart, and they learned much more than they would have in the traditional mindset of failure equals done, grade-sunk, oh-well, moving-on.

Another first-week activity to make this point clear is an assignment all about failure. Please, use these resources to make your classroom a safer place for striving. The first part of the assignment is watching a video by Derek Sivers called “Why You Need to Fail”. 

I like to have them use vidoenot.es where they watch the video on the left and take time-stamped notes on the right. It helps them to be more personally engaged than just projecting the video to the whole class, and allows them to pause and rewind the video to adjust to their own learning needs. They share this with me so I can see what facts jumped out at them personally.

The second part of the assignment is a document asking them to reflect on what they learned in the video, apply it to a personal situation, and surmise what my opinion is on failure once they’ve been presented with all of this, including this screenshot of a tweet.

Failure Google Docs

I’ve found that this approach really helps students understand that failure doesn’t have to be viewed as an extremely awful event marking a sad end, but can be seen as a not-there-yet guidepost. Throughout our time together, I am sure to praise and thank students who continue trying to make adjustments after they do something poorly, and to remind students one-on-one, and as a class that they are allowed to redo their assignments.

An essential element of students being able to use their failures to learn is feeling and really knowing in their hearts that asking for help is a smart strategy. I know that I have not always felt that way personally, and I talk to them about it on the very first day they are in my class. Luckily, a great example of me realizing that I can’t always figure things out on my own was when I was in middle school, so they can easily relate. I tell them the story of how I was at a summer-program in a class about personal development. Our teacher took us all outside where there was a long rope strung at waist height around trees and poles, creating a circle-ish shape. We were instructed to close our eyes, put our left hand on the rope, and feel our way around the circle, until we could find a way into the middle. Also, we could ask for help any time we needed it.



So, I walked for a while, and heard kids in the middle after a few minutes. I cheated, and peeked, and saw that I had been the whole way around at least once, and that some classmates were inside. I felt frustrated, because I was always one of the top performers in school. I figured I must have missed something, but continued my slow walk around. After what felt like hours, it was just me and another boy left outside the circle.When the teacher told us we ran out of time and called us to come inside, I was embarrassed. He explained that the point of the activity was that sometimes, the only way to achieve your goals is to ask other people for help and guidance. You just can’t always do it on your own. To get into the circle, all I had to do was ask for help, and I’d be invited in. This lesson hit me hard that day and I use it to illustrate how even if you’re used to understanding everything right away, there will come a time when you just don’t know what to do. A brave and mature thing to do is to admit this to yourself, and ask for the help you need.

This year, let’s make it a point to reframe failure for ourselves and our students. Talk to them about your own failures and what you did to improve. Tell them about times you needed to ask for help. Encourage them to recognize failures, strategize ways to improve, and view these actions as strengths rather than weaknesses. Then, watch them grow as learners, and most importantly, people.