Wednesday, June 22, 2016

GUEST POST: Going Forward with GoFormative and Desmos (Hanalee Chung)

This is in a series of posts by teachers in the TUSD Connect Fellowship for the 2015-2016 school year. I hope you enjoy reading their reflections on the impact of technology in their classroom, specific tools and strategies that have made a positive impact on teaching and learning, and their goals moving forward.

Technology has streamlined the teaching process and has made it easier to demonstrate concepts that were once too abstract to explain in the traditional manner (verbally and visually on a PPT or whiteboard). Technology has put the learning into the hands of the students as manipulatives, examples, and exploratory tools (GoFormative, Desmos, Socrative, and Quizalize) -- providing students of different learning styles and preferences the opportunity to see mathematics in a different manner.

In GoFormative, students are able to move at their own pace, and many of them enjoy receiving instant feedback; however, what was traditionally done on paper and needed time to grade and return, we can do it instantaneously on GoFormative. For instance, I uploaded a graph onto GF and had students graph their lines on the program. From there, I would grade their work using the colorful bar on the bottom of the screen. This can all be done simultaneously as the students are working.  You can check out the assignment shown below with the Teacher Share Code: KDXH246

  In Desmos, students were allowed to go at their own pace, and many students who were able to finish independently were given the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge/skill in a creative task that applied their new knowledge/skill. (student names have been changed to be anonymous)
  In this activity, students were taken through a series of slides that helped students “discover” the equation of a circle by guiding them and allowing them to experience the functions of the different parts of the equation -- facilitating their understanding of the different parts as well as the equation as a whole. Activity can be found here:

Next year, I want to start incorporating more resources on Haiku (OfficeMix PPTs, videos from Sphere, which is our document camera recording software) that students can access before, during, and after the unit -- in a way, it would be great to start gradually flipping my classroom so that the instructional time can be used for in-depth, creative, and higher-order-thinking activities (rather than the distribution of information).

The Tech Fellowship provided me with the safety and confidence to try various technological tools and devices that I would not have normally explored on my own. In addition, because the fellowship was based on collaboration, it was great to receive input and learn about new tools online that I would have never come across. For instance, I would have not known about Quizizz, GoFormative, Quizalize, and OfficeMix if it had not been for the Tech Fellowship.

My name is Hanalee Chung.
I was born and raised in Guam for 14 years before moving to Rancho Cucamonga, California before my freshman year in high school.
I obtained my undergraduate degree at University of California, San Diego in Psychology.
I became interested in becoming a teacher when I volunteered as a math tutor for a research study that mapped brain waves of young learners. In order to explore my interest further, I interned as a Teaching Assistant at The Preuss School, a charter school located inside UCSD's campus.
I then went on to get my Secondary Teaching Credential in Math at University of California, Irvine.  I love coming to work everyday, and I have enjoyed improving my practice by being a fellow this year!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Reflections from reading my own book...

My first book, Flipping with Kirch: The Ups and Downs from Inside my Flipped Classroom was released just a few weeks ago.  It is such an honor and privilege to be able to share my journey and experiences with all of you and to facilitate conversations that will ultimately improve teaching and learning for all students.

What better way to spend part of my two-ish weeks of maternity leave than to actually read through it... on paper (not digitally)!  I've read through it so many times on the computer in the process of publishing that my brain just gets a little muddled sometimes.  However, there is such a difference in reading a physical book that you can hold in your hand!

While everything in the book obviously comes from the lens of a high school math teacher, I was reminded of how much #flipclass really is a pedagogical approach, a mindset shift, and a way of doing things differently with your time.  I am excited to begin the Book Chat in mid-July on Slack (join in here) and share even more ideas with teachers from multiple subject areas and even further refine the ideas I share in the book.

No matter your experience or interest level in #flipclass, I encourage you to check out the book ( to order straight from me!) if you haven't already and join in the summer reading journey with other passionate educators.  
  • I know I always had more to learn, so even if you are an experienced flipper, I hope my book gives you an ignited passion for what you are doing and a few new ideas.  
  • If you are a newbie flipper, I hope that my book gives you the proper mindset and strategies and ideas for successfully starting out.  
  • If you aren't really interested in flipping right now, I hope that my book helps you to reflect on your practices and take some strategies that can even be implemented into a "traditional" classroom to improve and deepen student learning.
I'll end today by sharing the last two paragraphs of the book with you:

In the end, it’s not about flipping your classroom – it’s about constantly growing and reflecting on our practice as educators, striving to facilitate a classroom that is more student-centered, focused on active learning, and where students are given higher-order thinking opportunities and challenged appropriately. My journey led me to the flipped classroom, where I was able to use video as an instructional tool to remove direct instruction, content delivery, vocabulary, and background information outside of the group learning space. This allowed class time to be more effective, efficient, engaging, and enjoyable, where I was able to construct learning experiences for my students that allowed them to collaborate, communicate, and engage in critical thinking and creativity.
My version of the flipped classroom, as I’ve outlined in detail in this book, allowed the goals I had set for my classroom to be accomplished. There is definitely not one “right” way to flip a class, but there are definitely best practices and experiences from other educators that we can all glean from in order to support our own journeys. My hope as you read through my journey is that you were able to take the pieces that apply to you, tweak them to fit your teaching style and to meet your students’ needs, and continue reflecting and growing in your own journey. (pp196-197, Flipping with Kirch: The Ups and Downs from Inside my Flipped Classroom)

I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback as you read through the book via Twitter (use #FWKirch and #flipclass), your own blog post about what you've learned (share it with me!), and reviews.


Purchase my new book today!  Click here for more details and to place an order!  Also on at

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

GUEST POST: Improving Student Interaction Through Technology (Chris Veitch)

This is in a series of posts by teachers in the TUSD Connect Fellowship for the 2015-2016 school year. I hope you enjoy reading their reflections on the impact of technology in their classroom, specific tools and strategies that have made a positive impact on teaching and learning, and their goals moving forward.

Entering into this fellowship, my goal was to see how the use of technology can improve my student’s learning. As someone who is relatively proficient in tech and can navigate my way around most software I know the importance of being “tech literate” in the 21st century, however as a new teacher I question where to efficiently incorporate that technology into my teaching.

Being a fellow this year and exposing my students to the opportunities that technology can bring to a learning setting, I am convinced of its importance and will be planning my future instruction through the lens of how technology can enhance my lesson. This praise should also come with a qualifier. Technology is not a band-aid that can “fix” poor instruction or take over for a human teacher. Technology is simply an ingredient that should be a part of  the “dough” of education, in that technology provides tools to enhance a lesson and force students to take control of their own education.

Through technology students can collaborate in ways not possible before, students can become “historians” whereas before they were simply note takers, and students can challenge the material where before they simply had to take the information provided to them on face value. As a history teacher, one of the most important aspects of my teaching is that students are historians in my class. And by analyzing multiple sources, students begin to pick out of the nuances of a topic and discover that the issue is not simply “black or white” or “right and wrong”. One of my favorite sites to gather these multiple historical documents is the Stanford History Education Group. (Featured on this site)

This site follows the current Common Core standards of multiple text analysis and finding the many perspectives that are inherent in this types of lessons. In addition, this site provides for guiding questions and pre-built lessons that educators can use or modify as they see fit. One of the most convenient aspects of this site is that the the primary sources can either be used modified (to fit the learning styles of all readers) as well as the full documents themselves. This allows for differentiation among classes. This is important for me as a CP U.S. History teachers as students enter into my classroom with all different skill levels. As such, it is important to challenge all students to rise to their own ability level and this site provides several helpful tools in order to accomplish this goal.

Another powerful tool that I have been able to utilize this year has been Google Classroom. My students and I have all been well versed in the multiple Google Drive suite of applications and their wonderful collaborative uses. However, there was never a centralized hub in which to properly distribute those lessons and activities out to the students. This problem has been solved with the use of Classroom. Google Classroom allows teachers to set up their classes similar to the Haiku platform and make use of the already existing knowledge students have of
Google Drive.
This classroom is then used by your students as their resource hub. Classroom contains all activities and additional material you would wish to use for your classroom. Students also turn in all material that you assign them through classroom no the need for huge stacks of paper and the question of “What did I miss yesterday” becomes a thing of the past as students know where to locate their material as each assignment is dated and appears in a list-like format.

This application has made life easier because it already utilizes everything I had done last year in terms of assignments and Google drive, but now it all exists in a centralized and organized location. Adding announcements and additional links are as simple as hitting the plus button on the lower right of the screen and pasting your announcement or link and documents can be uploaded from either your Google Drive folder (recommended) or uploading documents off of your desktop. Overall this tool, while simple, has made the biggest impact in my teaching this year.

Additionally, I was fortunate enough to be selected to speak during the TECHstravaganza where I was able to introduce the collective power of the Verso discussion app and the collaborative power of the Google Drive suite of applications, specifically utilizing Google Docs. As mentioned above, I have pushed this year for my students to think more like historians and through the interaction of primary source documents (from the SHEG group mentioned above) I wanted my students to interact with history as historians. By utilizing Google Docs and SHEG i have allowed students to interact with these documents in a group setting, using Google Docs, and address essential questions on their own. Normally this is where the lesson would end and the students would turn in their material. 

However, I have also wanted to push my students to interact critically with each other’s writing and this is where Verso comes into the picture. Verso allows for anonymous interaction between students with only the teacher being aware of any one commenter's identity. I found this to be important because students tend to interact with people they know and often choose not to step outside their comfort zone. With Verso students do not know who they are interacting with, which produces more meaningful interactions. Students are tasked with posting their essential question responses on Verso and other are randomly assigned to engage with the question and determine where there can be improvements. After receiving this feedback students then revise their questions and repost their responses. This allows for students to assess their own writing style and get a chance to review others at the same time. Slides from the presentation are provided here.

I knew going into this year that being a tech fellow would provide a challenging and meaningful opportunity for me as I would be exposed to more technology and classroom training. As mentioned above, this is my second year in the teaching profession and new teachers are always looking for some simple ways to make their lives easier. Being a tech fellow has improved my teaching confidence by giving me the tools to succeed. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my coach, Crystal Kirch, and know that while there is no real proper way to thank her for all that she has given me, I can show my appreciation by using all the tools she has given me to be the best teacher that I can.

Chris Veitch is a second year Social Science teacher at Beckman High School teaching U.S. History and AP Human Geography. He received his bachelor's degree from U.C. Santa Barbara in the field of Law and Society. Chris sees technology as not simply a component of education but a tools that needs to be in every teacher’s toolbox.  

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

GUEST POST: Evolving (Darin Hallstrom)

This is in a series of posts by teachers in the TUSD Connect Fellowship for the 2015-2016 school year. I hope you enjoy reading their reflections on the impact of technology in their classroom, specific tools and strategies that have made a positive impact on teaching and learning, and their goals moving forward.

When I first started teaching, I promised myself that I would be an innovator…and I have been.  But, this year, my growth has been exponential, and the impetus for that growth resides in my role as a fellow.  

Crystal Kirch, my DLC, will tell you that the word “purposeful” has driven our work this year.  For instance, I am not interested in blindly adding a tech factor to my lessons, or using technology just to be different and edgy and current.  The technology I have incorporated this year has aided my instruction – or I have not used it.  Rather, I have developed lessons solely because of the learning opportunities that the technology allows.  If an app will allow me to provide students with more immediate feedback, I’ll use it.  If a website will allow my students to collaborate more effectively, I will use it.  If software exists that will allow my students to learn with greater facility, I’ll use it.  These principles have guided me this year.  Fortunately, apps and websites and software DOES exist that will allow my students to learn and grow with greater ease, and incorporating them into my curriculum has been the most rewarding work I have completed.

A few examples…


This is the website I use most often simply because it works so well for feedback.  I can immediately see the progress my students are making on writing assignments, and I can help them modify and improve their work before they submit.  The assignment below was an evidence-gathering activity used in conjunction with The Old Man and the Sea unit in my Freshman Transitional English class.  Timely feedback is critical in this class because most students are not as adept at writing as they should be.  It is incredibly beneficial to correct writing and grammar errors as they make them; doing so helps students learn to make modifications in their own grammar and syntax.  For example, my typical procedure for a Formative assignment is to 1) introduce the assignment, 2) model the assignment, and then 3) allow students time to start.  After 5 - 10 minutes, I’ll log in to “Live Results” on Formative and start reviewing students’ work.  It never fails:  Almost immediately, I will observe a “teachable moment” that I will bring to their attention.  I’ll project one or two students’ work on the screen and then commence the compliment/issue/problem. In the example below, for instance, I used the partially completed student examples to discuss the effective incorporation of quoted evidence into an argumentative literary analysis.


A terrific app for collaboration.  The assignment below was a collaborative effort involving three or four students per group.  Immediately after submission, students were able to evaluate the work of their peers anonymously (each was color-coded only when viewed in class) and determine superior and exemplary models.  The comments students offered were carefully contemplated as well.  It was extremely meaningful for students to have their opinions taken into consideration in the evaluation process.

I am routinely looking for insightful, relevant articles for my students to read, and this website provides them.  In addition, the fact that the reading level can be adjusted is incredibly helpful.  For example, I will adjust the reading level for my English 1 Transitional class to account for their language facility.  I do not automatically adjust the level to the lowest level either.  Instead, the lexile is adjusted based on the complexity of the article and the purpose (annotation, comprehension, etc.) The good news is that the articles do not get “dumbed down;” the content and message remain the same.   

Kami/Google Classroom:

After an entire year of searching for an effective annotation tool for text and poetry, Crystal introduced me to Kami.  Kami is an app you can find in the Chrome Web Store; it gets connected to your Google Drive so you can open PDF files with it in order to annotate. The annotations can be highlights, underlines, strikethroughs, text boxes, comments, or drawings.It has a terrific, easy-to-use interface that my students adapted to almost immediately.  It syncs perfectly with Google Classroom, making it both easy to use and easy to grade.


I really enjoy PearDeck; it may replicate my style of teaching better than any other app I have tried. A significant part of that feeling comes from the fact that the teacher can control the pace of the lesson on PearDeck.  I can control the slides and the flow of the questions.  Therefore, when we are completing an activity like the one below for example, where the students need to consider possible symbols and metaphors in The Great Gatsby before casting a vote, this opportunity becomes essential.  Why?  The one drawback to many apps is what I call the “behind-the-screen” factor:  Too many students simply put up the screen and disappear.  I want my students collaborating and talking and communicating and sharing.  PearDeck allows me the control to encourage discussions rather than simply having kids “disappear” to complete an assisgnment before the end of the period.  I can delay the next slide or I can push it through, based on the level of discourse in the room.

How do you want to continue to grow next year?  What are your goals and plans for progressing from where you are now?

I am definitely going to continue my growth next year.  Although I am a little worried that my time will not be as well-managed without a set weekly appointment to discuss technology, I am bound and determined to keep innovating.  I can keep myself motivated and focused on change.  In addition, I have forged new relationships with other teachers - in and out of my department - who are enjoying similar levels of innovation and experience with apps and websites and new tech-based teaching styles.  It is gratifying to collaborate with others - even if they are completing a math lesson as I plan a poetic deconstruction.

My plan for next year is two-fold:  I will continue to find apps and websites that supplement my teaching style and my objectives, and I will continue to utilize those tech aids I discovered and implemented this year.

What impact has the Tech Fellowship had on your teaching practice?

I sincerely cannot overestimate the impact that the Tech Fellowship has had on my instructional practice this school year.  The weekly appointments, the regular check-ups, the opportunity to keep a journal, the reflective requirement … all of it has combined to provide me with a lifetime of technology assistance in just one year.  Best of all, however, has been the guidance and support provided by Crystal Kirch.  She is the consummate professional:  approachable, knowledgeable and capable. I am often amazed at her willingness to assist.  Best of all, she does so with a steady focus on student achievement.  Working with her, I am often reminded of one of my favorite quotes:  “If you are too comfortable, you will never change.”  Crystal respectfully makes you just uncomfortable enough to want to change.  With great facility and endless expertise, she demonstrates that there is a better way for kids to learn, and she provides the support and patience and time necessary to make that change happen.  Honestly, this has been one of the best years in my 25-year teaching career, and I owe a tremendous amount of that credit to her influence.

My name is Darin Hallstrom. I have worked as a public school instructor for 25 years.  I love my job.  I work very hard to make lessons meaningful and purposeful for my junior Honors and freshman Transitional students at Beckman High School.  My room is always open; please feel free to come by and watch my amazing students learn and grow.

Follow me @DarinHallstrom

Sunday, May 29, 2016

GUEST POST: Tried and True Lessons Made New (Stephen McGill)

This is in a series of posts by teachers in the TUSD Connect Fellowship for the 2015-2016 school year. I hope you enjoy reading their reflections on the impact of technology in their classroom, specific tools and strategies that have made a positive impact on teaching and learning, and their goals moving forward.

Every year I feel like a new teacher. While I build upon the successes of the past, I am constantly evaluating to what extent the activities I have designed are meeting the needs of my current students. To this end, the frequency and scope of my implementation of technology in the classroom this year represents a dynamic shift in my teaching. I have used several applications to what I perceive to be great results in the past. However, through the coaching process, my repertoire of applications has increased dramatically. I am now able to move more seamlessly between various apps and select an appropriate tool for specific lessons.

If student learning is simply a function of exam scores, then the use of technology in the classroom is having a demonstrably positive effect on student outcomes. More importantly, using technology has also increased student engagement and class participation, When I provided a one or two page activity on printed paper, most students would dutifully answer the questions or respond to the prompts with just enough elaboration to address the prompt and support the response with evidence. However, I have noticed throughout the past year that when similar activities are pushed out via Google Classroom, the depth and complexity of students’ responses has increased steadily.

The following student samples demonstrate the depth of their preparation on an activity that would typically have a one or two page response.

The following applications represent what I will continue to use as an integral part of my teaching.
  • Google Classroom
  • Google Drive
  • Google Docs, Slides, Drawings
  • Google Forms
  • Padlet
  • Verso
  • GoFormative
  • Haiku (discussions, polls, content management)
  • Quizizz
  • Kahoot
  • Ancillary Resources (videos, websites)

Google Drawing
While many of my lessons and activities may look similar to what I have done in the past, I know I have made incremental, though profound changes that have ultimately resulted in better lessons and increased student engagement and performance. For example, using Google Drawing for my previous “Tell the Story” framework has resulted in significantly better results. Exam scores and commentary during the class discussions and debates reflect this increased understanding both quantitatively and qualitatively.

Here is a student example that demonstrates the connections between significant events during President Jefferson’s tenure in office from 1801 - 1809.

Presentation on Google Classroom and Google Drawing
I had the great privilege of presenting this year at the TUSD Connect Institute 2016 with my Digital Learning Coach and mentor Crystal Kirch. We presented an overview of Google Classroom and demonstrated the use of Google Drawing, Docs, and Forms in the classroom. Please use the following link to access the slides and the examples.

While I use several applications in my teaching interchangeably throughout the year, Padlet has always been my “go to” platform for expedient and purposeful student responses. Earlier this year, I used Padlet to facilitate responses from my students regarding the excerpt I had each of them read from Babbitt, by Sinclair Lewis. The purpose of the reading was to provide students with a glimpse into the world of a successful businessman, who in the beginning of the 1920s, represented the upper-middle class.

At the beginning of class, I provided an introduction to various book covers of Babbitt. Students shared their interpretations during our class discussion. I had students listen to the title track from The Lego Movie titled “Everything is Awesome.” I asked them to comment to what extent this would serve as a theme song for the 1920s. Shortly after, I assigned various groups specific prompts regarding the text as it relates to today.

Here is a sample of what student responses to a prompts regarding the text as it relates to today look like on the Padlet wall.

Padlet - The Epilogue
While the class discussions were on point and revealed the striking parallels between the 1920s and today, I learned an even more valuable lesson regarding instructional practices from this experience.

The BREAKTHROUGH of my Tech Journey!

Specifically, I am constantly considering how and in what way I want my students to interact with the material. As I reflected on this experience, I came to following conclusions:

  • I employ the use of technological applications most frequently when I am confident that my students are well-versed and prepared with regard to the topic at hand. I often use applications such as Padlet, Formative, Verso, Kahoot, or AnswerGarden.

  • If I am NOT confident that my students understand the material, I am finding that I move away from using technology and go directly to providing prompts for students in pairs or groups to begin the discussion and to provide the opportunity to conduct research. If students do not know the material very well, I am finding that their responses via any technological application will not reveal startling insights or spark an epiphany among their peers. As such, why employ the use of an app and valuable class time for the sake of using technology?

My Conclusions

My answer to my own questions is that I always consider the ultimate purpose for having students use applications as I plan lessons. My decisions are based upon the following criteria:

New concept/material
Use a class prompt/stimulus and provide time for students to reflect, discuss, research, and share.
Significant preparation and familiarity
Use an app or technological platform to showcase/broadcast understanding

As I mentioned previously, I use several apps to elicit student responses and to prompt student discussion and interaction. While Padlet serves as an expedient and purposeful tool for showcasing student responses, I have used Verso specifically to highlight students writing, NOT student authorship. In other words, it has been my experience that many students will evaluate student writing samples based upon who the author is and not upon the quality or cogency of the actual writing.  

To this end, Verso has provided an excellent platform that allows students to anonymously post their responses and provide feedback to others without the bias inherent with authored posts or comments.

Here is a sample of what student responses to a prompt using Verso looks like on on the screen.

The Tech Fellow Journey Continues…

Based upon the impact that the use of technology has had upon my teaching and the success of my students, I am eager to refine, revise, and create activities that will continue to encourage the exchange of information, ideas, and perspectives among my students. Although I used the apps highlight below this year, I will make a concerted effort in the near future to employ these apps more consistently and comprehensively to encourage student interaction and learning in my classroom.

While the following tools are NOT in my toolbelt at this time, I plan to explore each and implement them in the classroom with my students next year!

My Final Thoughts as a Tech Fellow
Although I am approaching the end of my 18th year in education, this is my first experience having a dedicated, weekly mentor to help me improve and refine my practice. I think it goes without mentioning that it was long overdue. As such, I want to continue to improve my craft and develop new lessons utilizing the apps and ideas I have learned and implemented throughout the year. The evolution and use of technology and its use in the classroom will only hasten with time. As such, I feel more confident in my ability to use new and existing apps, to reinvent old lessons and activities, and to develop new experiences for my future students with apps that may not even be developed.

The Tech Fellowship has been a welcome and enriching professional and personal experience. Teaching six classes and 200+ students does not always afford me the time to search for technological solutions to pedagogical problems. The Tech Fellowship has provided me with a dedicated partner to help me negotiate this process. Additionally, I feel more confident in my ability to develop and use a wider array of apps with my students. The more apps I learn  and use, the easier it is to use them in the classroom. Consequently, the more I use a variety of apps in the classroom, the easier it is for my students to respond more efficiently and more meaningfully. Furthermore, my tenure as a Tech Fellow has empowered me to what I have learned with my students and with my colleagues.

About the Author
Stephen McGill has been teaching in the Tustin Unified School District since he entered the profession in 1998. He currently serves as the History/Social Science Department Chair at Beckman High School in Irvine, a position he has held since the school opened in 2004. He has taught a wide-range of courses to students in grades 6 - 11 from language arts and history in middle school to Advanced Placement United States history in high school. He started his career at the middle school level at Columbus Tustin Middle School. After one year, he served as a member of the founding staff at Pioneer Middle School where he served as department chair until he joined the Beckman faculty. Most recently, Stephen has joined the faculty at Concordia University in Irvine in his newest role is as an adjunct professor where he teaches the introductory course to students who have enrolled in the teaching credential program and who aspire to join the profession.

Watch the “Connected Minute” video to learn more about Stephen and his perspective on teaching and family.

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