Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Evernote & My 13 year old

This week an article about Evernote showed up in my Twitter feed multiple times.  12 Surprising Ways to Use Evernote by Michael Hyatt is great! I have been using Evernote as a website clipper for 3 years or more.  I upgraded to premium Evernote last year when I started using Penultimate for my calendar and all around note taking app.  After upgrading, I started using Evernote for things besides web clipping.  I've started storing information about my 3 boys as well as work information.  I use Evernote on my iPhone, iPad, MacBook, iMac and Chromebook (gracious I have a lot of devices). I heart Evernote.

My 13 year old, Sam, has always done well at school.  But this year had struggled in ELA class, specifically in spelling.  And his handwriting is awful.  More awful than regular 6th grade boy.  His ELA teacher asked me about dyslexia in September.  We watched and collected data.  We initiated testing in January.  The results were astounding (at least to me, I'm a geek).  Sam can not decode words longer than 5 letters.  But he has high comprehension scores.  He has trouble with math calculations but excels in math reasoning.  Besides pointing towards dyslexia, the test results also pointed to a short term memory issues.

My husband and I can concur.  Sambo forgets lots of things.  The Sunday before the meeting about his results, at 9 pm, he remembered he needed to take video footage from his phone and make an iMovie.  I ran him up one side and down the other for that one.  Then I felt bad the next day.  I knew we needed a plan for recording assignments and reminders.

Because of his bad handwriting and general dislike for handwriting I knew that an assignment notebook would not work. That's when I thought of Evernote!

I set up an Evernote account for Sam and loaded the app on his iPhone.  We created a notebook for each class, including electives. Then I thought, "he'll never remember to do this" so I set an alarm for 5 minutes before the end of each class period.  I also shared the notebooks with my account so I could help him check everything at the end of the day.  Finally, I emailed all Sam's teachers to let them know what he would be doing and how it was documented in his 504 plan.  They all responded enthusiastically.

So far so good on our Evernote system.  Sam can take pictures, type or record his notes.  His favorite thing to do is to take a picture and record a note.  "Finish this" with a picture is the most common note.  When he comes to my classroom at the end of the day, we review his notes.   Sam records notes of reminders and what they did in class. This helps me review the day with him in hopes of jumping information into his long term memory.

We need to start checking them at home too because we still forget.  It took us 3 days last week to get a milk jug to school for a theatre project.  I've tried adding notes with reminders for him but that's not been too successful but I don't think it's the system's flaw ;). For example, there was a note in his Honors Social Studies notebook "took notes".  I added a note with a reminder that said "ask teacher for a copy of the notes" as this is an accommodation of his 504 plan.  That afternoon, I asked, did you you get the notes? Nope.  He 'forgot'.  I think that time was a matter of not wanting to bother the teacher.  My hope is that adding notes will become an automatic part of his day and we can stop the alarm reminders.  I don't think we'll even talk about this until October, couple of months into the new school year.

Have you used Evernote with your class or individual students?  Tell us how in the comments!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Technology Integration is Like Learning to Ski, Part 2 (aka - helping teachers integrate)

Over Spring Break, I attempted to learn to ski at an advanced age.  My experiences led to this post: Technology Integration is Like Learning to Ski, Part 1.  Go read it now.  I'll wait.  

In this post, I want to talk about how we (technology coaches) can make things easier for teachers.  

Before the trip, we are very excited and spend a lot of money to get ready - I understand that the buck has to stop somewhere.  Someone has to make the decisions.  However, we can make technology transitions easier for teachers by involving them in the decision making.  Before choosing a device, try piloting two devices.  Let the pilot teachers give feedback. Share their feedback with your school community when you announce the chosen device.  

We take lessons - please, please, please and I say again PLEASE! make sure teachers have plenty of time to 'play' with what they've learned at staff development.  When teachers have time to play, they figure out what questions to ask.  They become confident.  They get more excited about using the device in the classroom. They talk to other teachers and hatch new ideas.  

We go ahead and try it anyway - as a technology coach, this is where we can shine.  Follow up with teachers, find out when they'll be implementing their newly acquired knowledge.  Then show up.  in his classroom.  Tell him he's doing it right.  Help if things go wrong.  Don't help when things go wrong.  Let him figure some of it out on his own.  Be a good coach!

We get frustrated & We compare ourselves and get more frustrated - be there for the teacher.  Listen to her frustrations.  Solve problems that need to solved.  Ask questions.  Refute misconceptions.  Remind her how far she's come.  

We decide to stick with what we know - this is what we're trying to avoid.  This is what we'll be able to avoid with proper coaching.  

What do you think? How can we make technology integration easier for teachers?