SCHS EdTech Update

A Weekly Communication of All Things Tech Related!

4th Edition: January 15, 2016

Teacher Spotlight: Teamwork Makes the Dream Work!

These three creative people collaborated on an oral history project last semester that is powerful and inspiring. Cyndi's students worked in groups to interview members of the Shelby County community about life here during the civil rights movement. Julie helped organize and facilitate the interview process, and captured the images and audio files. Kathie's students listened to the interviews, tagging the audio files based on the topic of the conversation. They also wrote summaries of the interview.


This was an activity that grew as it happened, and it quickly became apparent that it needed to be captured and shared with others. Julie helped the teachers and students use a variety of devices and edtech tools, and she took it a step further at the end by publishing the results in a digital magazine using a site called FlipSnack.


Take some time to flip through the pages by using the link below. You can listen and read, learning about the history that happened in our own community. I am so proud of what they have created together!


Inspired to expand the potential of one of your own class projects? Reach out to Cyndi, Julie, and Kathie to find out more about the lessons they learned from this transformational learning experience.

Self-Paced Inspiration from the Primary Grades

Thinking about how to build a self-paced unit? Want to make sure you balance technology with hand-written and hands-on learning? I visited Lauren Heath's 4th grade classroom at Heritage Elementary today where they are just starting down this path, and there is so much we can learn from them.


(Lauren learned many great tips from a more experienced teacher in this process, Julia Lyles. Many thanks to both of them for their leadership!)

How do I organize the lessons?

First of all, design each lesson to take about one class period to complete. That will give you an estimate of how many days the unit will take. Use that number of days to build a table that you and the students can use to document progress. Then, pretest students to determine where they should start. Not everyone has to start on the same day! Lauren's students really appreciated that they could start at a point that was meaningful to them. (The image on the left shows Lauren's unit plan, with Day 1 marked out. This student started on Day 2, based on her pretest.)


After the student demonstrates mastery of a day's learning targets, the teacher signs off on that day in the table. Then the student can move to the next day.

How do I share the lessons with the students?

There is a lot of flexibility and creativity you can use here. Lauren created a Google doc that had each day outlined, which students accessed using a link in Schoology. Because she routinely uses the workshop model to organize her lessons, her outline reflects that structure. Students were already familiar with the expectations for each part of table, which allowed them to focus on the work it described for them.


Some modifications of this might be sharing the doc using Google Classroom or building resources directly into Schoology rather than a Google doc.

How do I organize the classroom?

The goal is that the teacher can be moving around the room to do one-on-one or small group talks while students work. This is made easier if you plan ahead on a few issues.


  1. Move the students around before they start working. Consider arranging students so that they are working near students who are on similar days in the unit plan. This allows them to help each other on related lessons, and it makes doing small group instruction easier to initiate.
  2. Create a space for students to go access resources. Some lessons will likely require the use of certain extras, like worksheets, manipulatives, or books. Make sure you have organized these in a clearly organized space so that students can access them without needing you to stop and help them.
  3. Develop a help signal system. If you don't have a plan for this, students will constantly be calling out to you or coming to find you for help. To help you manage this, create a way that students can notify you that they need you that limits disrupting you and the other students.

How much technology is required?

Sharing the lesson outlines online lets students access them at any time, which greatly facilitates the self-paced design. However, what you have students doing within each lesson is greatly variable. You might have one lesson that requires the use of a YouTube video and a Google doc, while another lesson might be annotating a printed article. This is where you can adjust the tech to a level that is comfortable to you. Lauren was intentional about having the students writing in their notebooks and reflecting using a printed exit slip, no matter how much tech was involved in the lesson. Don't throw away instructional practices you value and already have in place!

Final Tips

My visit to Lauren's room was on their second day using the self-paced model. Both the students and Lauren reflected that they were uncomfortable on the first day, but it was already better on day two. There was less time in class spent on the procedures and more time spent on learning. Lauren made sure to make time for them to share their thoughts about how the process was working, so she could make adjustments that helped everyone feel like their needs were being met. I encourage you to make sure you include student voice in your self-paced classroom as well!