Friday, May 14, 2021

Using Adobe Aero and Adobe Spark for Project Showcase

I’ve been playing with a variety of Adobe apps the more I have been working in the makerspace. As more and more students use the space, the more variety in projects we are starting to see. One of the projects I have started using in my Innovation and Design class is a Design Thinking exercise.

Students need to create a shoe for a partner using limited supplies; 4 sheets of newspaper, 1 foot of duct tape, and 1 foot of yarn. Once students completed their design and build, they needed to create an ad to sell it. It has been lots of fun to see all of the different shoes and ads the students created.

Students share their ads on SeeSaw and parents and the teacher can see it, but what about everyone else? Then I explored Adobe Aero on my phone and iPad and realized I could import images I had saved from SeeSaw. With that, I created an AR gallery of some of the student ads. You can watch the video below.

If you want to check it out yourself, you can download the app on your mobile device and click on this link. 

Another cool feature is that it can connect to the Creative Cloud so any creations you have made and stored there can be pulled into Aero. I was thinking about how cool it would be to use different Adobe apps to create the different planets of the solar system and then import them to Aero to create a moving solar system. Maybe recreating an animal cell and seeing closeups of the mitochondria? There are so many possibilities for teachers and students. New apps like this make project based learning even more appealing to students. 

Disclosure - - I am an ACE Rewards Program member with Adobe, but that doesn't make this idea any less awesome. 

Monday, May 10, 2021

#NotAlone - National Mental Health Awareness Month


It has been a crazy week for me and I wanted to make sure I share it out in the hopes that it could help at least one person who feels the same. 

Almost 7 years ago, I shared my first post about my ongoing battle with depression and anxiety. It was not an easy post to write, but it is one of the most important ones I have ever written. We need to end the stigma around talking about Mental Health because too many people suffer in silence. Not everyone is ready to share their story, but the more of us that are ready and share, we make it a little easier for others. 

This past week has been rough for me. For a reason I cannot figure out, I have been having anxiety attacks. I have an amazing family. My job is the best in the world. Everything around me is pretty amazing right now. And yet, I have this sense of impending doom that comes out of nowhere and I find myself fighting off a spiral into depression. I still take my medication like I always do, but something about this week has set off the funky parts of my brain. The crazy part of these feelings is the guilt that comes with it it. Why do I feel this way when everything is so good here?

I'm lucky to have an amazing support network in place because I was open about my mental health years ago. I can reach out to my friends and they can talk me through the nonsense in my brain. I'm not sure where I would be during the pandemic without my meds, my therapist, friends, and family. I'm lucky to have these things in my life. 

I encourage you to speak out and share with others your battles with mental health if you are comfortable. Sharing makes a difference and can save lives. Teaching is tough. Teaching during a pandemic is tougher. Teaching during a pandemic while dealing with mental health issues is next to impossible. Whether you think you should or should not have these feelings, know that you are not alone. You are loved. 

Please share this far and wide so we can help end the stigma of talking about mental health. 

Monday, May 3, 2021

The Home Stretch #Wellness #TeacherAppreciation

Here we are. We made it to May. I've been in-person and hybrid teaching all year and I'm tired. Non pandemic Mays are tiring for teachers, but add in-person/hybrid teaching to the mix and I am downright exhausted. This is the time of the year where I have to remind myself to make sure I make time for Self Care. Here are some simple tips that can help you make it through the final weeks of the school year while maintaining what is left of your energy and sanity. 

1. Close your email

One of the toughest things to do is to take a step away from your work email. This is the time of the year where I regularly take time away from my work email on the weekends. It allows me to focus on me and my family and not the stress of what I have to deal with on Monday. For some, this might not be an option, so I suggest cutting off email after a set time of the day. It could be 5 or 6 pm or something sooner. Find time away from the tether of your school so you can focus on you. 

2. Do that thing you like

That is a pretty vague statement, but I want people to do just that. It might be knitting, gardening, gaming, painting, readings, yoga, etc. Whatever it is, make time in your schedule to do the thing. Work with your partner and see if they can help hold down the fort while you make time for an hour here and there to do that thing. Doing that thing will make you happy which is great for your brain when things get stressful at the end of the year. 

3. Talk to someone

One of the best things I have ever done was decide to speak to a therapist. While talking to my wife is helpful, I don't want to unload all of my stress and anxiety on one person. A therapist allowed me to unpack lots of feelings and find some peace when things would get hectic. If you are not ready to speak to a therapist, it is important that you have someone to connect with to share your thoughts and feelings. Bottling everything up will only lead to more stress and anxiety over time. 

4. Be OK with OK

One of the toughest parts of teaching is accepting that everything does not have to be perfect. Covid teaching adds another level to this. The best thing for me in the current teaching environment is to be OK with OK. Not everything is going to be perfect, but I'm going to try and create a fun and engaging learning environment every day. Some days I will succeed and others I will be fail. I have to be ok with being ok so I can get back up and try the next day. 

5. Keep hope

Lastly, keeping hope that things will get better is important. There will be days where it feels impossible and there will be days that are filled with hope. It is important to ride that rollercoaster and keep hope in your heart. If you are reading things, know that you are part of an amazing educational community that will support you if you reach out. Keep up hope. Things will get better. 

These are just some of my suggestions as we wind down the school year. Some are easier than others, but they are all important. We can all do this together. It is one of the toughest jobs in the world, but you wouldn't be here if you weren't tough. Even the toughest of us have our weak moments, but know that you are not alone in having them. 

It is Teacher Appreciation Week.

From one teacher to another, 

You are appreciated.

Hugs and High Fives, 

N Provenzano

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Project Based Learning Q&A Part 3 - Assessments #PBL #EdChat

Assessments are a big part of any class, but they are sometimes misunderstood. When people hear the word assessment, they think of a test. A test is an assessment, but not all assessments are tests. This is very important to remember as a teacher. There are multiple ways for a teacher to assess what a student has learned during class. That is why Project Based Learning can be a valuable tool for assessment. 

When a Project Based Learning assignment is given in my class that gives students latitude to create a project that demonstrates understanding in a way that is meaningful to them, there can be a wide variety of projects that could be submitted. That leads to a common question from teachers, 

"How can you equally assess a wide variety of projects?"

The answer is simple as well as a bit complicated. The simple part is rubrics. Rubrics can be written in a way that don't focus on the tools that are used to demonstrate understanding, but focus on the concepts that the students are trying to convey. That part is where things get complicated. 

Rubrics are not an easy thing to throw together. I wish I had more instruction on rubric creation in college. That would have helped me so much in my journey. One of things about rubric writing that needs to be embraced is that the first few rubrics are not going to be great and you will have to get used to adjusting them to ensure they are assessing the correct things and awarding points. 

One of the very first rubric creators I used was Rubistar. It allows for the creation of multiple columns and rows that can be filled with language they provide or edited language that better fits your needs. After reading a novel in one of my ELA classes, I might create a rubric that focuses on the student's ability to demonstrate understanding of themes, symbols, motifs, etc. When it came time for student presentations, it was easy to have the rubric in front of me and check off the boxes that matched how they demonstrated understanding. I would jot notes down and then discuss the rubrics with the students the next day. 

I have found that as the year went on, the students became more comfortable with the rubric structure and improved their projects over time based on the feedback that was given. That growth is what you are looking for in a class and the rubrics support that growth. 

In terms of adding a grade to the gradebook, assigning points to each row and column can be difficult and it is important to try and balance the rubric so one aspect does not make or break the entire project. Also, avoid adding columns/rows that focus on non-instructional issues. For example, do not award/deduct points for "neatness" or "turned in on time" or any other concept that is not about understanding the material. I created some terrible rubrics in my early PBL days that gave too many points for things that focused on the aesthetics instead of the content. Rookie mistakes I hope this post can help you avoid. 

Rubrics opened up a world of communication with my students because it allowed for specific feedback that created better conversations when we were able to sit and discuss their work. The back and forth about the final project were strong because of the rubric and the fact that I was there with them throughout the process. 

If you are exploring Project Based Learning and are worried about assessment, that is natural, but do not let it be the reason you do not give it a try. Below are some resources that can help you on your journey.  

Resources for creating rubrics: 

Edutopia - 5 Tips for More Meaningful Rubrics

IUPUI - Creating and Using Rubrics - This site has a link to a bunch of other sites to support rubric writing and provide some great examples. Check this out if you are serious about using rubrics for assessment.