Sunday, December 01, 2019

My 20/20 vision

This article originally appeared in the Discovery Education blog "Kathy Schrock's Katch of the Month" in December 2019 and is re-posted here with permission.

This past year, 2019, has been an exciting year! The use of new technologies in the classroom have Hour of Code into a year-long exploration for students as well as access to makerspaces as they become commonplace in most schools.
exploded. The number of new tools, apps, and sites to support the embedding of augmented and virtual reality in the classroom have become a hot topic of discussion. And the new devices and tools for coding have turned the
As I look ahead and back, I just want to make sure pedagogy does not get lost in the shuffle. Without a solid content-knowledge background, and well-crafted formative and summative assessments, students may not be getting the whole picture.
My vision for 2020 is for educators to sit back and think about their good teaching practices and make sure students have a solid foundation in content.  Although technology is awesome, and provides us with cool tools and computer programs that provide students with feedback and differentiation to help them, I feel we still need to use some “old skool” pedagogically-sound methods in new ways, enhanced by technology, to support student learning.
One concept I have been interested in for years is that of activators and summarizers and how they impact student learning. I have an entire page of my site, Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything, with all types of information and resources dedicated to the topic. And, having been trained in using Research for Better Teaching’s activators and summarizers (overview here), I know how effective taking the time to include these strategies in my classroom lessons and/or units could be for student learning. I still use some of these same methods in my online graduate courses and face-to-face workshops, too.
The Discovery Education Streaming site has included many of these type of strategies for years in their online instructional resources and techbooks. Their goal is to provide teachers with ways to embed their online video, audio, and additional resources effectively in the curriculum.  Strategies are submitted by Discovery Educators and Discovery Education staff and each strategy includes a downloadable PDF version of the ideas as well as a vignette, which may includes an instructional video or additional information by the author of the strategy idea. And, since 2018, the SOS Strategies have been aligned to McREL International’s six-phase model for learning. I have always found these great strategies to be useful in the content areas and across the curriculum outside of Discovery Educations Streaming, too.
The SOS Instructional Strategies can be found in Discovery Education Streaming, and they are categorized by topic.
On my Discovery Education blog, Kathy’s Katch, in February and March of 2016, I took some of the SOS non-tech strategies  and “digitized” them by suggesting technology tools that could enhance the strategies. And in 2018, two educators, Carrie Willis and Caitlin Arakawa, also “techified” additional SOS strategies.
With the addition of the Board Builder tool within Discovery Education Streaming, educators can now include SOS Strategies as well as support materials on a digital assignment board. Students can use their own Boards to digitally submit projects and creations to the activator or summarizer assessment.
Here is a sample of one of the Discovery Education’s SOS strategies, “25 Things You Didn’t Know”.
And here is the instructional video that goes along with this SOS Strategy.

So, as we soon begin a new year, I encourage you to make a resolution to investigate activators and summarizers and build them into every lesson and/or unit of study. After all, it is all about the pedagogy, right?
Do you use the Discovery Education SOS Strategies in your classroom? Do you use Board Builder for student creation of assessments?  Do you use other activation and summarizing strategies enhanced by technology? Please share your experiences, thoughts, ideas, and questions on Twitter. Have a Happy New Year! #kathyskatch

Friday, November 01, 2019

Teaching perspective to build empathy

This article originally appeared in the Discovery Education blog "Kathy Schrock's Katch of the Month" in  November 2019 and is re-posted here with permission.

Empathy is defined, as per the Teaching Tolerance site, as “the understanding of, or the ability to identify with, another person’s feelings or experiences”.  This ability to put oneself in another’s shoes does help students build empathy and tolerance toward others. There are some great ideas online and in the Discovery Education Streaming  resources to support the teaching of the skillset involved in developing empathy. One of the areas included in this skillset is understanding the concept of perspective.


11 Activities to Help Students Understand Different Perspectives

Marsha Rakestraw, on the The Institute for Humane Education site, offers a series of age-appropriate lesson plans, mapped to the Common Core State Standards, that scaffold the understanding of perspective from grade two through twelve. The activities range in complexity from an hour-long lesson for the younger students which has them considering the commonalities that humans, cows, pigs, and chickens share, to a 90-minute activity that “inspires (high school) students to think about their own areas of prejudice, to identify how we develop our attitudes about others, and empowers them to take action to reduce bigotry in their own lives and in society.”

How To Teach Perspective-Taking to Children

This post, intended for speech-language pathologists working one-on-one with a student, includes activities that would be useful for K-12 classroom teachers and whole class discussion, too. Broken down by grade levels, each overview starts off with the typical skills of the age group and is followed by three practical activities to help students learn to look at situations from another’s point of view.

Perspective, People! Ideas on Teaching Literature

I love this blog post by Stephanie Jankowski. She realized her students struggled “with the idea that a narrator’s perspective is narrow and limited in that he tells the story through his own lens, based on his own experiences” in the literature her high-schoolers were reading. Jankowski created some practical point-of-view and perspective activities that could work across all the subject areas .

Finding Another Perspective

The first lesson plan, subtitled “Determining and actively seeking alternative perspectives to enhance our understanding of an issue”, provides a model for grades 2-12 that includes multiple activities that are practiced over a period of weeks. The components include large class discussion of point-of-view and perspective and identifying the stakeholders. The second lesson focuses on students finding and taking another perspective for various scenarios and also includes a useful student rubric.

Through Others Eyes: The Power of New Perspectives

Kathleen Cushman, of the New Teacher Center, provides a comprehensive overview of the teaching of perspective and its impact on empathy for the middle and high school student. Some ideas she includes are role-playing, the use of art and literature, and open discussions. This post includes a wonderful section on cultivating empathy with self-reflection. Cushman includes a useful list of questions for this.
    • If I were this person, how might I be feeling?
    • Can I come up with more than one way of seeing the situation?
    • What might have happened in the past that would cause this person to feel this way?
    • What unmet need might this person have?
    • Am I feeling frustrated?
    • Am I willing to listen and be open?
    • Am I willing to stick with an uncomfortable conversation?
    • Who or what does this person or situation remind me of? Am I reacting to something from my past?
    • Am I setting clear and healthy boundaries?
    • What does my body language show?

Critical Literacy: Taking Multiple Perspectives

This ninth grade Applied English unit from EduGAINS includes wonderful lessons, support materials, and information for the teacher. I feel it could be used from grades 7-12, too. The guiding questions for the unit are:
• How does who I am shape my perspective?
• How can I increase my understanding of the perspectives of others?
• What does it mean to take a position on an issue?
• What are some possibilities for action with or against a situation?
• How do we write a position statement or a position letter?
The unit uses whole class and small group activities, activator and summarizer strategies, and a series of questions for the teacher to help them develop strategies to move towards more student-driven classrooms.


Discovery Education Streaming includes many types of resources to use when teaching perspective to build empathy in students.
The SOS Strategies area includes a variety of ideas for embedding point-of-view and purpose into the curriculum.
I like Kristy Vincents’ Multiple Perspectives SOS which is described as “a teaching strategy that requires students to engage deeply with an image or video as they assume a perspective other than their own. Students create a narrative from inside a piece of media, from the perspective of an object or person within.” Below is the overview video, but there is also a Discovery Board here which includes components to edit and then share it with students as a center or an assessment.
Video Player
When searching the DES videos by the word “empathy” there are 82 videos clips and full-length videos that can be used when teaching perspective and empathy concepts. Here are a few I found interesting.

MyBlog: What’s empathy? Do I have it?

This 13-minute video for grades K-8 includes four chapters that provide an interesting look at how students in this age group approach empathy.

Cheddar K-12 Explains: Can empathy prevent a robot uprising?

This video discusses the importance of AI being programmed  to include components of empathy and emotional intelligence. This video could frame a lively classroom discussion with middle and high school students!

Do you teach empathy and/or perspective in the classroom? Are there some other methods you know of to teach perspective to help students develop their empathetic mindset? Are there resources you would like to share? Please do so on Twitter! #kathyskatch

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Virtual field trips

This article originally appeared in the Discovery Education blog "Kathy Schrock's Katch of the Month" in October 2019 and is re-posted here with permission.

Face it, we all love field trips! Getting out of the school and visiting an historic site or attending a performance is fun for everyone! Well, maybe not for everyone. Having chaperoned fifteen, four-day trips to Washington, DC with eighth-graders, I can attest, while exciting and fun, it was also exhausting!
With today’s budget constraints and testing schedules, there may be money and time set aside for one great field trip per year. However, taking students on a virtual field trip from your classroom can easily be worked in-between testing weeks  and, with a little pre-planning on your part, will be fun and exciting! (And not exhausting!)
Annette Lamb offers some great tips for a successful field trip in the classroom. (She also covers how to create a virtual field trip to share with other educators from a real-life field trip you take.)
Begin by considering the purpose of the field trip. What will students be able to do or talk about when they’ve completed the experience? How does the experience connect to curriculum goals and the development of an information fluent (student)?
We often prepare students for real-life field trips with resources created by the museum, theater, or historic site we are going to visit. Tying the virtual field trip to the content being studied is important, too. Once you have figured out the content you want to cover, here are some things to think about.
  • Research what is available already on the Web that can be a stand-alone virtual field trip or some resource which can be part of a virtual field trip you are developing from scratch.
  • Always prepare a back-up plan. For real-life field trips, we always have an alternate plan if it rains on the field trip day. Consider the things that can go wrong with a virtual field trip — the site(s) you want to use are no longer found, they not available during your field trip experience, or the bandwidth in your school is not robust enough for each student to stream the field trip site(s) at the same time. Technology is great when it works, and, nowadays, it most always does, but have a back-up plan, too!
  • Annette also includes some fun ways to begin the virtual field trip. For the younger students, line up the classroom chairs in the hallway as if they were bus seats. (You can be the bus driver and tour guide. Dress like one.) Have the students take the “bus” trip through history or your town, and introduce the topic being covered in the virtual tour. (Try not to encourage a round of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall”, since other classes may be disturbed!)
  • For the older students, take them outside to the school’s track, set a 1 round = x number of miles goal, and have them walk the distance to the virtual field trip. We had a teacher in our school who used my husband’s Appalachian Trail thru-hike slideshow and had the students walk the “distance” between each of his hiking days, and then come in to the school, view the slides for that “day” and conduct research on the items they viewed. This physical “ride” or “walk” to the field trip can be a fun addition!
  • Plan a follow-up reflection or project after the virtual trip. Have students create something in a Makerspace or online and present their take-away to the rest of the class.
It might be worth the time to locate a virtual field trip online and have your students participate before creating a virtual field trip of your own. You will be able to see what works well in your classroom with your students, and avoid any snafus in trips you create.
Many virtual field trips are offered online by some education-focused companies. Here are some of the most popular.
If you are a Discovery Education subscriber, there are tons of content-related, rich virtual field trips available for you to access with your class. Each no-cost virtual field trip includes a companion teacher guide with standards-aligned, hands-on learning activities. Each field trip can be attended “live” or via an on-demand recording if that fits better into your class schedule or to have multiple class periods attend.

You can find out about upcoming or archived virtual field trips that complement your curriculum by limiting the trips available by grade level range.
In addition, you can do a search from the DE menu by keyword and see if there are applicable virtual field trips available. After you clock on one you would like to review, you can watch the video, view the text transcript, and also download the video and the closed captions file to show from your local computer. This will eliminate the dependence on big bandwidth when you take your class on the virtual field trip!

If you are not a Discovery Education subscriber, you can still search and view the virtual field trip offerings on this page, but you will not be able to participate until your school or district is a member.
Discovery VR
Discovery Communications offers virtual reality video content via an iOS  and Android app. Although these no-cost apps have great VR videos that you may use to support teaching and learning, there are no support materials for teachers available. However, if you are curating materials to use in your personally-created virtual field trip, you may find some gems here to add to your resources. What is nice about the Discovery VR videos is that they can also be viewed within a computer browser window and manipulated by the student. Take a look at a sample here.
Google Expeditions VR
GoogleEDU offers over 900 Expeditions that can be viewed via a mobile device in a headset (Cardboard View) or just on the screen of a mobile device. These expeditions can be led by the the teacher and include an editable script to go along with the virtual field trip or experience. Students can go “solo” and view the Expedition on their own. It might be neat for all the students in your class to take a different virtual field trip, or take the same trip in groups of four, and then share out the details with the rest of the class. There is an iOS app and Android app available for Google Expeditions VR.
Google Street View
Google Street View, an app that comes standard on Android devices and can be installed for iOS, is another great place to find searchable, crowd-sourced 360° images from all over the world. You can easily curate and share these with students. Since these images are taken by “regular” people, I would suggest previewing them carefully to ensure they are appropriate.
Resources from others
I have only touched the tip of the iceberg with these resources to support virtual field trips. Here are some additional links from other you might find useful.
If you have some virtual field trip resources you recommend, or want to share virtual field trips you have created with the rest of us, please leave a note on Twitter. Happy traveling! #kathyskatch

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Classroom centers to support learning

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

I did my student teaching in a second grade classroom at the Knollwood Elementary School in Piscataway, NJ in the spring of 1979. I was big into learning centers and spent a lot of time with Imogene Forte’s bulletin board books. I traced and cut out images for many activities for centers in all the subject areas. I even created a center with cut-out sandpaper letters to help students practice tracing their letters. (Probably not the smartest creative activity— besides wrecking my future husband’s scissors, the students wound up with scraped fingers pads after tracing on the sandpaper a few times!)
My centers included only single-student remediation or extension activities. I had yet to learn about student collaboration or cooperative learning. My pedagogical base consisted of teacher talk/student listen, practice, testing and IALAC. In addition, there was only a single, small student desk in the back of the room on which to set-up up a center.
Fast forward forty years and different formats of learning centers have been developed, collaboration is an important part of every school day, and configurable classroom furniture now allows a collaborative center anytime, anywhere in the classroom.
There are many well-done online resources to support the effective use of learning centers in the classroom. Here are a few of my favorites.
This article breaks down learning centers, which are defined as
a space set aside in the classroom that allows easy access to a variety of learning materials in an interesting and productive manner.. (and).. are designed to enhance the learning of concepts, skills, themes, or topics
into three main types- enrichment, skill, and interest/exploratory centers.
Enrichment Centers
Enrichment centers are centers that provide students with activities and resources to enhance their understanding of a concept after it has been taught. Most times, the activities are scaffolded to provide each student or group of students with a choice of meaningful activities based on their preferred method of learning.
Skill Centers
In a skill center, also used after the topic has been studied, students do not get to pick their topics, but are assigned one to complete. The skill center is intended to reinforce what the student has learned.
Interest and Exploratory Centers
Interest and exploratory centers allow students free choice of topics to study and may include hands-on experiences. These centers allow students to explore their interests and can be used as a springboard to enhance creativity in the classroom.
All of these learning center types have components in common. Be prepared to re-arrange furniture in the classroom to allow for quiet and group spaces. Make sure to include specific steps or directions at the center for its use and review your expectations and directions with the entire class. For a technology-based center, consider including a video overview of the instructions which includes a transcript to support both accessibility options and the visual learner. (YouTube is a great place to host videos because of the transcripts that are automatically created as illustrated below.)

Alison Stumacher’s article provides a different view of the use of learning centers in the classroom. She is a third grade teachers and outlines her journey for effective use of centers in her classroom. Her list includes-
After creating and communicating the procedures for the center with the class, provide practice sessions with various students to illustrate what use of the center should “look like”.
As with any cooperative learning experience, consider pre-grouping the students who are working at the center on  based on interest or ability.
Include processes in the center instruction that provide practice in real-life skills, whether it be evaluation of Internet resources or other digital citizenship skills practice.
Be sure to monitor student progress, as with any formative or summative assessment, and re-work the center to provide additional directions, enhanced activities, or practice as needed.
Today’s learning centers
Over the years, many learning centers have been “analog” centers with laminated instructions, consumables, and paper. There are online sites that include ideas such as putting the materials for the learning center in folders at the learning center to make the teacher and student clean-up easier and having students leave their completed work in a basket.
With the infusion of technology into the classroom, the pendulum then moved  to “computer learning centers” which were totally digital experiences. Students were given a URL to an online site or teacher-created experience, and submitted their work directly to an online folder.
I believe the best learning centers, in today’s classrooms, include both real and virtual components. Online instructions and procedures are great since students can refer back to them whenever they need to. Submitting work to Google Classroom or another CMS can streamline the process of review, peer editing, and grading. Having hands-on materials available to create prototypes and projects supports small group work in a way that online collaboration cannot easily replicate.
For those of you with subscriptions to Discovery Education, the Discovery Education Studio tool is a great place to develop the online components of any learning center. With its easy set-up, tons of teacher-friendly templates to pick from, and online assets galore to support the enrichment, skills, or interest/exploratory centers, it is the perfect place to start when developing a learning center activity. And, with its student collaboration functions, it works well as an adjunct to the real-life small groups.
Below you can view some of the features of using the many templates found in Studio.
Some of the many templates to edit.
One example of an empty template to use.

Sample of an edited template in Discovery Education Studio.

What makes the Discovery Education Studio powerful is the ability to use all of the assets found in Discovery Education (the videos, clip art, and images) as well as uploading items on your local device into the template.
If you have a particular format or special design you want to use, Discovery Education Studio allows you to start from scratch and upload specific numbers of blocks, question and answer areas, and much more.
So, consider using Discovery Education Studio, with all the assets included, as the digital, collaborative component for your enrichment, skills, or interest/exploratory centers as a way to provide students with the background information, extension activities, and process instructions. And I encourage you to develop centers that incorporate the digital/analog model with students completing real-life, hands-on assessments guided by the information in Discovery Education Studio!
Are you already using Discovery Education Studio to support learning centers in your classroom or in some other innovative way? Please share your ideas and thoughts on Twitter! #kathyskatch

Friday, August 30, 2019

uHandy Mobile Microscope Duet review

Okay, I have not had this much fun since I got my first microscope when I was 10! I have always loved the microscopic world, and even conducted research on blood cells for a pharmaceutical company for my senior project. 

During the project, I had to remove blood from various animals (rat, rabbit, dog), spin the pipettes in a centrifuge, smear the blood on slides, and manually record the number of different types of white blood cells using an electron microscope. It really is true that the hands-on projects are the ones we remember the most! (I found a video of the type of manual counter I had to use on YouTube!)

If students do not have a microscope at home or limited access to one at school, they may never have the chance to explore the microscopic world in depth. This love could lead students on a career path they never thought they might take.

uHandy ask me to review their Mobile Microscope Duet and, after taking a look at it online, I readily agreed to test it out! I could not wait for it to arrive! (And they have even included a promo code for me to give out for a teacher discount!)

When I first opened the box, I was impressed by the number of items included and the well-written and illustrated user guide that had me up and running quickly! The first step was to install the uHandy app for iOS or Android. The app allows students to capture items as images or videos, adjust focusing, and switch between the Low-Mag and High-Mag lenses.

Low-Mag lens attached and three samples to try

My first experiment was to clip the Low-Mag (10x-300x) lens onto the back camera of my iPad Mini and attach a sample sticker of a down feather to the sample cap of the Lo-Mag lens.

The Sample Cap with the sample.

The result was impressive as you can see below!
View of a down feather with the Lo-Mag Lens.

I then took the plastic cover off of the sample cap so I could view a sample that was irregular. I picked a coin to view.
View of a quarter though the Lo-Mag lens

Next came experimentation with the included Light Stage. Students can easily view a sample with the naked eye via its backlight.
Sample on Light Stage

High-Mag Lens
The High-Mag Lens (30x-1000x) can attach to the back of the mobile device, and the Light Stage can even be magnetically attached to it. And, when students move the High-Mag lens to the front camera, they can use the Circular Glass Slide and put liquid on the glass to view through the mobile device. And, if students create their own specimens using the Sample Stickers, they can easily store them in the included collecting album or any notebook. 

High-Mag Lens with Circular Glass Slide

The Light Stage, with the attachment of the stainless steel slide holder, can accommodate a regular glass specimen slide, too, and can be attached to the High-Mag Lens for viewing.

Another cool feature is that students can have both the Low-Mag and High-Mag lenses attached to the mobile device and switch back and forth between them, as illustrated in the video below.

The uHandy Mobile Microsoft Duet includes 180 sampling stickers for students to use for their own samples, 60 sample cards (which are called the Sample Hub) to create collections from their samples, and a collection album in which students can store their own samples and add notes.
Collection items included 

In addition to students using the Mobile Microscope Duet to complete classroom lessons, there are over 50 topics to explore found in the uHandy app. They include instructional videos at different levels of difficulty and projects for students to complete.
Some lessons included in the uHandy app

Instructional video for one of the projects

After putting the uHandy Mobile Microscope Duet through its paces and trying all the included options, I would recommend this for grades 6-12 science classrooms. It would make a great addition to a traditional science lab table as students could use their own mobile devices, capture the samples as images or videos, and use their findings in reports and for research purposes. Also, all the students can view a sample at the same time via a single, larger tablet, and discuss the topic of the lab as a group. The kits can also be used as content remediation or extension by having students work on the project topics included in the app.

I could envision a few kits put in the school library to be checked out so students could experiment at home. The only consumables that would have to be replaced are the Sample Stickers, the Sample Hub cards, and the batteries for the Light Stage. The kit could be used with younger students, but they would need adult supervision.

You can order the Mobile Microscope Duet package from the uHandy Duet Amazon page and you can save 15%, through September 12, 2019,  by using the promo code kathyBTS19

Follow uHandy on Instagram at @loveuhandy!