Saturday, December 01, 2018

College and career readiness activities

This article originally appeared in the Discovery Education blog "Kathy Schrock's Katch of the Month" in December 2018 and is re-posted here with permission.

Helping students think about their future is one of the goals of college and career readiness. Students need time to research occupations, decide what career path they want to take, which things they are good at, and, most importantly, what they are passionate about. There are tons of sites on the Web to help students with this process.
One publication I love to recommend to support this process is the Occupational Outlook Handbook. It is updated every two years by the United States Department of Labor, but data not including projection data is updated more frequently. This publication includes information on:
  • What workers do on the job
  • Work environment
  • Education, training, and other qualifications needed to enter the occupation
  • Pay
  • Projected employment change and job prospects
  • State and area data
  • Similar occupations
  • Contacts for more information
The Occupational Outlook Handbook’s Teachers Guide page goes into much more detail on the make-up of the information on each page.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Home Page, on the Internet at (visited November 21, 2018).


The Occupational Outlook Handbook can be the basis for many different college and career readiness activities.  Here are some I feel would be engaging and useful for students. In addition to just researching the careers, students are also using their communication, creativity, and critical thinking skills as they work through the activities.
  • To make sure students become familiar with a wide range of career options, one activity could have the teacher creating a “random career generator”. (This can be done digitally or simply on slips of paper that get pulled from a box.) Students then read the Occupational Outlook Handbook entry for the career they receive, and present the career to the rest of class by creating a short video overview using iMovie, WeVideo, Clips, or Adobe Spark Video. The Occupational Outlook Handbook includes questions students might use for both this activity and for researching other careers they are interested in.
    • How does the occupation fit your skills and interests?
    • What will you be doing in the occupation?
    • What is the necessary education and/or training?
    • How many jobs are there in the occupation currently?
    • Is the occupation projected to grow, decline, or remain unchanged? Why?
    • How much does this occupation pay? What do the top 10 percent earn? The bottom 10 percent?
    • Find someone with a job in the occupation you are interested in, and interview him or her.
      • What kind of work does the person do?
      • What does the person like and dislike about the job?
      • What advice would the person give to someone interested in a career in this field?
  • Skype in the Classroom activity might include students searching and reading about careers which they are  interested in the Occupational Outlook Handbook.  The students would then create a persuasive essay or video as to why the class should agree to find an expert to Skype with in this chosen career. Having passionate students address their dreams and goals to convince others through voting or consensus would lead to some lively discussion in the classroom!
  • Once students have identified at least one career from the Occupational Outlook Handbook, have them create a Fakebook profile, screenshot the final project, and post the JPEG/PNG to a shared Padlet. Have other students post questions to the posted profile on the Padlet page, and have the student answer while staying in their chosen career  role.
  • Students can also design a LinkedIn-replica page using Weebly or Keynote, PowerPoint, or Slides, and include the “current” job of their persona as well as the “past” jobs leading up to the current one. This exercise will help students understand both the educational and training aspects of the career.
  • Students can use the information found in one or more careers to practice their data literacy skillset, too. Students can use the data component of the occupation or occupations to manipulate the data for their own graphs and charts. Below is a screenshot of the Middle School Teacher career page.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Middle School Teachers, on the Internet at (visited November 21, 2018).
Under the “State and Area Data tab, students will find the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) for the career of a middle school teacher. This page includes tables of data and state-by-state information. Students could easily use the data for creating an infographic about their chosen career/careers. In addition, besides the informational infographic they can create, they can also make an advocacy infographic for promoting this career. (For more on types of infographics and how-to ideas, please see Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything: Infographics as a Creative Assessment.)


The Occupational Outlook Handbook is most likely written at a too high a reading and interest level for most elementary students. Here are a few resources for this age group.
  • The Texas Labor, Market and Career Information group, part of the Texas Workforce Commission, has a wonderful activity book for elementary students titled “Careers are everywhere!“. The activities in this book were mapped to the National Career Development  Guidelines (NCDG) to help students achieve these goals.
    • Self-Knowledge
      • 1. Knowledge of the importance of self concept
      • 2. Skills to interact with others
      • 3. Awareness of the importance of growth and change
    • Educational and Occupational Exploration
      • 4. Awareness of the benefits of educational achievement
      • 5. Awareness of the relationship between work and learning
      • 6. Skills to understand and use career information
      • 7. Awareness of the importance of personal responsibility and good work habits
      • 8. Awareness of how work relates to the needs and functions of society
    • Career Planning
      • 9. Understand how to make decisions
      • 10. Awareness of the interrelationship of life roles
      • 11. Awareness of different occupations and changing male/female roles
      • 12. Awareness of the career planning process
The activities in the PDF include interest inventories, reflecting on jobs of the future, resume-writing, math skills, and investigations into many categories of careers.
  • ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning and ACE’s American College Application Campaign have created a document with college and career awareness activities for PreK through middle school students. Each of the awareness activities include both a lower level and higher level activity. For instance, there is a Career Bingo activity for elementary students and a Human Bingo activity for the older students. The older students need to locate teachers and administrators in their school who had certain educational experiences, such as “had a job when in college” or “studied on a Saturday night while they were in college”. The activities seem like they would be engaging for students.


The number of assets in Discovery Education Streaming to support college and career readiness is staggering!
  • There are over 1000 videos, many of which are career profiles in science, math, technology and STEM.
  • There are 142 text-based interviews and biographies of astronauts, sports figures, scientists, and many more careers.
  • There are 97 boards created by teachers and students which run the gamut from an overview of a career to resources to support STEM careers.
  • There are 190 lesson materials on everything from careers and entrepreneurship to careers in the performing arts.
What Discovery Education resources do you use to support college and career awareness and readiness? Have you used the Occupational Outlook Handbook in the classroom? Let me know what you did with it, and, if you try any of the activities in the article, please let me know how it went! Please leave a post on Twitter! #kathyskatch

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Technology can support social-emotional learning

This article originally appeared in the Discovery Education blog "Kathy Schrock's Katch of the Month" in November 2018 and is re-posted here with permission.

One of the perks of being an instructor for the Wilkes University/ Discovery Master of Science degree in instructional media is access to the research databases at Wilkes’ Farley Library. (Students in the masters program get access to these databases, too, as well as a subscription to Discovery Education Streaming!)
I conducted a research query on social-emotional learning and came up with tons of research studies and methods for infusing social-emotional learning into the classroom and across the content areas. There was a small research study from 2015 by Iaosanurak, Chanchalor and Murphy that piqued my interest entitled “Social and emotional learning around technology in a cross-cultural, elementary classroom.
The researchers discussed the work of others which indicated social competencies and emotional competencies are important to help students learn. In addition, the authors stated that cultural issues, gender issues, and lack of time to focus on anything but academics were often deterrents to addressing social-emotional learning in schools.
As outlined in the abstract:
The purpose of the study reported on in this paper was to design and test an intervention with elementary-aged children to promote social and emotional learning around technology. The intervention structured learning around technology as a catalyst and scaffolding tool that engages learners in cross-cultural, collaborative interaction, dialogue, problem-solving, decision-making and reflection in a face-to-face context.1
The overview of the process of this study would not be hard to replicate in a classroom using online tools and/or apps. The components of the activities were based on six interactive videos/stories, a discussion forum, a mind map, and a learning journal.


Each of the interactive digital stories was approximately twenty pages long and had no sound due to the lack of headphones in the research classroom. However, the addition of sound in classrooms with computer/tablet headphones would not take away from the goal of the exercise.
In each of the six stories “there is a socioemotional conflict or problem that is resolved through positive behavior on the part of the characters in the story”.2
The steps for each of the six activities include:
  1. Students get into small groups
  2. They view the animated digital story/video online, either as a small group or individually
  3. They discuss the six questions provided face-to-face and post their answers to the discussion forum
  4. All students view the discussion forum responses of the other groups
  5. In their group, they come to consensus on the best responses from all the groups
  6. As a group, students use a single online mind map to present their exemplars
  7. They view the mind maps of the other groups and discuss them face-to-face with their own group
  8. Each group uses the online learning journal to answer the group reflection question
The series of six questions the small groups answer after each story are:
  1. What happened?
  2. What were you feeling?
  3. What was good and bad about the experience?
  4. How is the story important for you?
  5. What else could you have done?
  6. If it happened again, what would you do?
The group reflection question for the learning journal is: What did you learn from the stories and discussions today?


There are any number of sites and tools that can be used for adapting this activity for your classroom.
The following links provide suggestions of stories to use with various grade levels in support of developing social-emotional competencies. Older students could even create stories that younger students could view.

Social-emotional stories

Following are some suggestion of technology tools for students to use during the activities.

Discussion group apps/tools

G Suite (info)
  • The power of G Suite (formerly Google Docs) is the collaborative nature of some of its tools. Students can have a discussion group in a shared Google Doc or on a slide in a shared Google Slide presentation. For a true discussion forum, Google Groups could be used, too.
Padlet (iOSAndroidChromeWeb)
  • Each student group could use a note on a Pallet page dedicated to the story being used for a discussion group. All students would be able to see the postings from all the other groups.
Twitter (iOSAndroidWeb)
  • Students could use Twitter posts to share their ideas, with each group using their hashtag in addition to a hashtag for the story being studied.
  • Notion is a project-management tool that has many different features. It could be a good choice for housing all the items the students need, allowing collaborative discussions and work when not in the classroom, and teacher viewing of the work of the groups
Microsoft OneNote Class Notebook (info)
  • With a free Office365 account, a OneNote Class Notebook has a personal workspace for every student, a content library for handouts, and a collaboration space. The collaboration space would be a great space for the discussion groups.

Mind map apps/tools

There are tons of mind mapping tools and they each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Some are collaborative so each member of the group can contribute and some are just for one person to input while the rest of the group contributes.
Here are some for you to try out!

Reflection apps/tools

Padlet (iOSAndroidChromeWeb)
  • Student groups could leave their final reflection answer on a Padlet note. They could also create a graphic in Adobe Spark Post (iOSAndroidonline) or Canva (iOSAndroidChromeonline) to attach to the note.
Penzu (iOSAndroidWeb)
  • Penzu is a personal journaling tool that also allows sharing of posts with others. For these activities, the teacher could have the students share with other groups or just keep it private between the teacher and each group.
Microsoft OneNote Class Notebook (info)
  • A separate shared page for each story can be created in a Class Notebook for the reflection answers at the end of the activity. All students would be able to see the reflections.
What are your methods for infusing social-emotional learning into the curriculum? What other tools do you use for discussion groups, mind mapping, and reflection? Please share on Twitter! #kathyskatch

Monday, October 01, 2018

Using tech to help differentiate instruction

This article originally appeared in the Discovery Education blog "Kathy Schrock's Katch of the Month" in October 2018 and is re-posted here with permission.

Differentiated instruction is defined by Carol Tomlinson as “an approach to teaching that advocates active planning for and attention to student differences in classrooms, in the context of high quality curriculums”.  Carol Weselby, in a 2014 blog post, breaks down the components into manageable categories, which, taken as a whole, is simply good teaching!
  • Design lessons based on students’ learning styles
  • Group students by shared interest, topic, or ability for assignments
  • Assess students’ learning using formative assessment
  • Manage the classroom to create a safe and supportive environment
  • Continually assess and adjust lesson content to meet students’ needs
Although differentiated instruction is usually thought of as the teacher delivering lessons and materials to each student at their own level, Weselby points out it “may mean teaching the same material to all students using a variety of instructional strategies”. With the myriad of technology devices, tools, and apps available today, providing students with lessons based on how they learn best, checking their progress via formative assessments, and adjusting the lesson content and groupings when necessary, has become much easier to do. The development of great lessons and units of study still comes first, but teachers now have an unlimited toolbox of choices to help in the delivery of the content! Tom├ís Franceschin provides an overview of both differentiated instruction and how technology can enable it in this 2017 blog post.
Here is an interesting infographic from the ASCD site for Tomlinson’s second edition of her book detailing what differentiated instruction is and is not.

Permission granted by ASCD to share.


There are commonly several ways to determine a student’s learning style. With younger students, it sometimes involves a period of teacher observation. With middle schools students, an interest inventory with targeted questions can help the teacher understand how a student thinks they learn best. There are also online scenario quizzes that older students can take that allow them to self-assess their learning style. Remember to take into consideration that many of us have a preferred learning style we feel comfortable with, but also use other methods to learn, too. Here are some resources for this process.
This online quiz asks a series of twenty scenario questions. The results of the quiz include both the learning styles breakdown, a description of each one, and some practical information about each learning style. For example, my learning style results from the student quiz were that I learned in multiple ways — 35% auditory, 35% visual, and 30% tactile. I would have assumed I was more visual than anything else, but, after reading the information provided, the results seem correct. It would be interesting for students to understand (and for teachers to know) they can learn using different modalities!
The VARK model (visual, aural, read/write, and kinesthetic) is based on the premise that:
  • Students’ preferred learning modes have significant influence on their behavior and learning
  • Students’ preferred learning modes should be matched with appropriate learning strategies.
  • Information that is accessed through students’ use of their modality preferences shows an increase in their levels of comprehension, motivation, and metacognition.
The VARK website includes questionnaires for younger studentsathletesteachers and trainers, and adults. The website also includes much more information about the VRK model, how to use and interpret the questionnaires, and much more!


I think this video about Flexible Groupings at West Belden is a well-done overview of how differentiated instruction strategies and student grouping work in many schools.
Once grouped, there are many online tools for helping a teacher allow grouped students to work together with teacher support.
  • Padlet is a customizable “bulletin board” that allows the teacher to set it up in various ways (grid, linear, moveable) and invite the grouped students to a specific Padlet. The teacher can leave written or recorded  directions for the assignment or assessment, as well as monitor the shared Padlet. Students can easily post text, documents, Web links, and video on the Padlet while working with the group.
  • A shared document in Google Docs is another way for teachers to leave directions and resources for the student group and have the students work together if needed.
  • Flipgrid is an online video discussion platform that allows a teacher to create a Grid page for each group and give the students an access code for their group’s page. Students can easily provide verbal feedback to the teacher and/or each other. Flipgrid works on multiple platforms and is a great tool! You can find downloadable guides for teachers and students on their site.


In a differentiated instruction model, the use of large group quick formative assessment tools, like Kahoot, are probably not the tools to use. However, tools like Kahoot can be useful to assess if groupings need to be re-worked by checking for understanding from the whole group and comparing the results to the current groupings.
Judith Dodge suggests there are a few useful ways to support teachers as they check for understanding of learning. Here is her list, followed by links to resource pages on my site to support each one


Michael Gorman penned a series about project based learning and differentiation of instruction. These articles were written in 2016, and some tools have disappeared and others are now available, but Gorman does a great job of explaining why to use each particular tool. I loved the fact he put the student first and foremost by targeting “differentiated learning”!
This post by Sarah Layton  provides “nine tips for using technology to differentiate instruction“.
John McCarthy provides 100+ ways to differentiate instruction through social media in this Edutopia article. Again, many new tools are available to replace some of the older ones covered in this article, but he includes the important aspects of the types of technology use that can help students learn.
The Discovery Education Spotlight on Strategies series, which provides ideas, tips and tricks for infusing Discovery Education media into the curriculum, includes some differentiated instruction ideas that lend themselves to the use of technology for grouping, collaboration and sharing.
How do you use technology tools in your classroom to help with differentiated learning and instruction? Are there any S.O.S. strategies you use to support differentiated instruction? What apps and tools do you recommend to others? Please share on Twitter! #kathyskatch

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Favorite tools for schools

This article originally appeared in the Discovery Education blog "Kathy Schrock's Katch of the Month" in September 2018 and is re-posted here with permission.

If you are reading this blog post, chances are you do not need to be convinced students should be creating projects and products to showcase acquisition of content knowledge. And you probably already have a pedagogical model you use for infusing technology seamlessly into the curriculum to enhance teaching and learning. It may be SAMRBloom’s Revised Digital Taxonomy, the Texas Teacher STaR ChartTPACK, the ISTE Student and Educator Standards, some other local model, or, my favorite, the TECH model by Jen Roberts shown below.
In this blog post, I will be sharing some of my (current) favorite creation tools with you. I use all platforms of devices, so I am going to share apps that run on many platforms, and some that just run on one. I am a believer of using the best tool/app for the job, and encourage schools to adopt a single platform for all, but give students access to devices on other platforms, too. The best tool may not be available on the adopted platform. For instance, if you are a Chromebook district, have some carts of iPads available for student use. And, if you are primarily a Windows district, consider buying iMacs or MacBooks and running Windows in Bootcamp. This gives students access to the powerful, stand-alone tools that come with both Mac computers and Windows computers. Again, we want them to have the right tool available for their need.


Podcast Creation: Anchor

Anchor is an easy-to-use podcast creation tool. It is available as an online tool, an iOS app, and from the Google Play store. Once you create an account, you receive your personal Anchor page, which followers can visit to listen to your podcasts. In addition, you get the RSS feed of your podcast, which allows you to register it is with a podcast aggregator, like iTunes, and followers can then subscribe and automatically receive any new podcasts you post.
There are several other cool features of Anchor. Listeners can send you a short audio response to your podcast which you can moderate and decide whether or not you want to share it with the public. You can even invite a distant guest via their cell phone to record the podcast with you. In addition, once you have the podcast created, you can embed it on your blog, share it with social media, and re-use parts of podcasts for future podcasts. And all of this is for free!
Desktop Publishing: Canva
I am graphically-challenged. It takes me a long time to design a business card, an invitation, a Facebook or blog header, posters, flyers, brochures, and labels. Luckily for me, there is a wonderful online tool called Canva which provides me with tons of templates and backgrounds and icons to use to create professional looking graphics. (There are tons of assets in Canva for free, but you can subscribe to Canva to take advantage of some of the advanced features and have access to more assets.) They also have a teacher and student version which you should try out first!
The image below includes all the types of graphics you can make with Canva. And you can also start from scratch with a blank canvas and design whatever you want! It is available as an online tool, an iOS app,  Android app and is in the Chrome store. I know you cannot read the tiny type below (you can click on the image), but, suffice it to say, templates are included for resumes to restaurant menus and everything in-between! (.) You can also upload your own graphics to Canva to use in your creation and purchase some great content assets from Canva for $1 each.
Virtual Reality Viewing: Ricoh Theta App
For those of you with access to Cardboard-compatible headsets and devices for student viewing of 360° images, or handheld tablets with no headsets, I recommend installing the Ricoh Theta app on those devices, which is available for iOS and Android. You can then put VR images or videos in a Dropbox or Google Drive folder, share the URL with the students, and they can then download the images to the device they are using. The Ricoh Theta app can open items that are in the Photos or Gallery on the devices. (You do not have to have a Ricoh Theta 360° camera to download and use the app.)
What is special about the Ricoh Theta app is the ability to pick the way you want to view the image. When you open the image, you can just use your finger to swipe around and see all aspects of the image, which is called the “Normal screen”. You can pick “VR view (twin lens)” to get the split image you would need to view the image with a Cardboard-compatible headset. To have the students feel more immersed in the image without using headsets, you can have them use the “VR view (single lens)” on a tablet or smartphone. With this view, they stand up and rotate their body in a circle and they feel as if they are at the site where there image was taken.
Check out the screen recording below that I made on the iPhone to show the three different views.

UTILITY APP: RotateNFlip (iOS)
When I used the screen-recording tool on the iPhone to shoot the demo video above, the resulting video came out in sideways in portrait mode and there is no way to flip a video in edit mode on the iPhone, like you can with an image. With the RotateNFlip app, I was able to get the landscape-shot video into landscape mode and upload it. It is well worth the 99 cents it costs!
Next month’s blog post (October 18) will cover video creation, curation, and sketchnoting tools, while November’s post will include my favorite presentation, animation, and infographic creation tools. I will also provide you with quick overviews of some other utility tools I like to use for specific types of work.
What tools or apps do you have students using for podcasting, graphic creation, and VR viewing? Share on Twitter and include links to some example projects, too! #kathyskatch