Teachers for Teachers | It’s Monday! Amplify! Amplify! Amplify!
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It’s Monday! Amplify! Amplify! Amplify!

IMWAYR 2015

One of the highlights of #NCTE15 was hearing Katie Muhtaris and Kristin Ziemke speak. We follow their tweets, read their blogs and watch them on #The EdCollab Gathering. As the session began, the room was overflowing…no worries… they would just “live stream it with periscope.” The session had not even started and they were using digital tools to solve problems.

Well, let’s just say they had us at messy:

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While many of the apps they were describing were new to us, the pedagogy they were speaking was totally familiar. They were talking about scaffolding, guided practice, approximation and dare we say it…. formative assessment! They were singing our song! They showed so many ways for students to respond and learn in purposeful, authentic ways using digital tools. What they were describing felt playful – it allowed students to construct knowledge and understanding. It was about being messy in the pursuit of understanding.

Now we only got a taste of their knowledge in the session since they were on a panel and we knew we had to get their book Amplify to learn more. Fast forward to …

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People were coveting the titles they wanted, some even began to strategically place themselves in a prime location for the book they wanted. We tried to play it cool, not look overly interested, but when the moment came – Amplify was ours!

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This book bridged our pedagogy and digital teaching in a way no other professional resource has done for us thus far. They use the term tools to describe the digital resources they use in the classroom:

“The term tool does not always refer to technology tools. Tools are anything that we use in our instruction to support students, ranging from pencils, sticky notes, colored markers, and clipboards to projectors, tablets, and computers.” p.4

Yes! Tools! We introduce all kinds of tools to help students transfer the skills, strategies, and concepts they are learning to independent application. These tools are scaffolds to help them practice, express, note, or track their thinking. Digital tools should do the same and we need to provide the same parameters on these tools: purpose, agency, revision, and choice.

“We want students to be the ones doing the work: creating, communicating, and learning. We place the highest value on technology use that encourages this practice. It’s not the tools – it’s what we do with them that counts.” p. xiv

So how do we make those initial steps to using purposeful digital tools in our classrooms? These authors suggest that you start with what you are passionate about, “Tap into your passion… technology skills evolve over time, but we have to begin with one small step.”p.19 The authors share how they started using technology as a tool to support what they were passionate about teaching in the classroom.

It was easy for us to navigate where we will begin… formative assessment. When we heard them speak and then read Chapter 5 – Reflection and Assessment we knew these digital tools would support the work we are already doing in classrooms. “Edutopia’s Vanessa Vega (2013) identified that student’s active use and access to feedback about their performance as one factor that signaled the effective use of technology in the classroom.” We believe that assessment and instruction are inseparable and when we capture moments of student learning in the classroom those are our windows into effective teaching. Digital tools provide more windows for us to look through for our students. “The simple act of giving ourselves permission to stop and watch opens our eyes to the rich fabric of learning in our classroom.” P. 90

Muhtaris and Ziemke share how the use of technology amplified their ability to collect, analyze and reflect on formative assessment:

  • We used technology to curate student learning.
  • Technology changed our learning landscape.
  • We expanded students’ reflections on their learning to include their technological preferences and use.   p.91

So if they had us messy, they clinched it with the role of the student in setting goals and reflecting using digital tools. Our passion is using assessment, in messy ways, to help students understand their role in the process of learning. We can’t get better at something if we don’t know what it is we are trying to get better at or where we are in relation to meeting our goal. Muhtaris and Ziemke share how they use digital tools to help students be a part of the process:

“Technology also helps our students gather data about themselves as learners. Whether they are photos of their work, a detailed portfolio, or a digital record of daily progress, these footprints of learning are rich in information students can use to evaluate their own progress (Pahomov, 2014).” P. 97

We love how they show ways to capture student thinking, work, and observations on the process of learning. So often we focus on the “end” in assessment, they show ways to use digital tools to focus on how learning is going. This type of data is information students can use every day in all areas of the curriculum. They use digital tools to celebrate the process of learning. “Struggle is learning. Failure is an opportunity to teach kids thoughtful persistence, a problem-solving mindset, and emotional fortitude.” P.106 

This is a book we know we will turn to again and again as we continue our journey of digital learning. Each chapter ends with ideas to try tomorrow and they dedicate an entire chapter to helping you get foundational systems and structures up and going in your classroom. We look forward to continuing by connecting in digital discussions with these authors and all of you!

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Thanks Katie and Kristin for writing a really smart and accessible book about digital teaching and learning!

12 Comments
  • Avatar
    Lisa
    Posted at 11:52h, 30 November Reply

    Thanks for your post. I have this book sitting on my desk. I’ll definitely have to make it the next professional book I read.

    • Avatar
      Tammy and Clare
      Posted at 00:56h, 01 December Reply

      Hi Lisa,

      Please let us know what you think – We would love to hear your ideas.

      Best,
      Tammy and Clare

  • Avatar
    Linda Baie
    Posted at 16:01h, 30 November Reply

    Sounds fabulous, and love ““We want students to be the ones doing the work.” With any tool used, students must be the worker, and feedback from the teachers and peers can be the support. Happy you enjoyed such a wonderful NCTE.

    • Avatar
      Tammy and Clare
      Posted at 00:58h, 01 December Reply

      Hi Linda

      So important to make sure that we foster learning experience where kids experiment, play and explore. We can’t wait to try some of the ideas from this book in classrooms this winter and spring.

      Best,
      Tammy and Clare

  • Avatar
    Tara
    Posted at 16:02h, 30 November Reply

    I’ve saved this book for Christmas break. So wonderful to see that photograph of the book swap – happy memories from last year!

    • Avatar
      Tammy and Clare
      Posted at 00:59h, 01 December Reply

      Hi Tara,

      We were just talking about your posts on TWT with a middle school teacher. The post about how you have refined your writing notebooks was so helpful.

      Best,
      Tammy and Clare

  • Avatar
    cheriee weichel
    Posted at 18:59h, 30 November Reply

    Wow! You’ve got me all psyched up to read this book. I think I will even order a few extra copies for our school. Thanks so much!

    • Avatar
      Tammy and Clare
      Posted at 01:00h, 01 December Reply

      Hi Cherlee,

      It is a great book for a book group – Filled with ideas and easy to read.

      Best,
      Tammy and Clare

  • Avatar
    Kristin Ziemke
    Posted at 02:12h, 02 December Reply

    Oh my gosh! Thank you for this amazing review of our book! It means everything to know that Amplify is resonating with teachers. We believe in this project, we have faith in our kiddos and know there is a place for technology in classrooms that connects to what we value. Tech is a tool and our students are the craftsmen on this digital learning adventure. Simply, we start with what makes sense and look for opportunities to amplify collaboration, audience, creativity and differentiation.

    Sincere gratitude for your praise of Amplify! We’d love for you to post a review on Amazon. PLEASE keep us posted on what you try with students and how they respond.

    Power to the little people,
    Kristin

  • Avatar
    Debra Neighbors
    Posted at 14:11h, 02 December Reply

    My copy just arrived! I can’t wait to read it and see how it can impact my school where we are 1:1 iPads, with students able to take them home, and have started student-created digital portfolios. I’ll sure I will incorporate many of the activities into teacher professional learning to model new activities they can do with their students.

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