The “Primo” Classroom Chronicles

Click on the picture to take a virtual tour of my classroom!

Visual Paradigm of Learning

Below, I have included a video of me discussing how I view my students’ learning and the different methods in which we achieve this learning in class.

Preparing for Remote Learning Concept Map

Created with Mind Meister

(re)Design Process–Going from Passive to Active Learning; Interactive Notes

Throughout this semester, I have been engaging in a design process. I am (re)designing a portion of my teaching after asking students what would help them most with their learning. Below, I am including my (re)design journey throughout the Spring of 2021.

Discover/Empathy Phase

On Monday, February 8th, 2021, I created a Google Form to get an idea of what technological resources have been helpful for students, what they want to see more of, how they learn to the best of their abilities, where they prefer to sit in the room, and they can comment additional information if need be.  I gave out the Google Form on Wednesday, February 10th, 2021 for students to do, and I analyzed the results from there to see what direction I would like to go in for my (re)Design.

Here are my Google Form results.

For the students who completed the survey, I will be reconsidering where they are seated in the room. I will also be looking into more labs (virtual or in-person), simulations, videos, and hands-on activities (if applicable).  Many students learn in a variety of ways, so I may need to take a differentiated instruction approach using different forms of technology for certain students.  I will need to incorporate as many hands on activities (if it is safe to do so) as I can while adapting these activities to remote learners.  It is safe to say many of my students have benefited from the use of Google Meet and Google Classroom, so these will continue to be used throughout my instruction of my (re)Design.  The interactive notes portion surprised me quite a bit, but I will need to incorporate this in my unit I am focusing on (unit 7) so students can get more involved in the note-taking process.  I was also surprised by the number of students who did not prefer to work in groups.  I usually have the opposite response with freshman (group projects tend to be more frowned upon among the upperclassmen).

Define/Interpret Phase

Last week, I had my students fill out a Google Form that helped me to understand what type of technology helps them the most in their learning.  This week, I was able to look deeper into the data I collected (and this allowed for more time for more students to respond).  Through this, I was able to empathize with how students learn, and how I can improve my technology usage to better assess their learning. I learned students in my classroom want to see more labs, videos, and interactive notes being used in the future.  I think where biology teachers in my department and district (myself included) have missed the mark is making notes a very passive process.  Students are more recipients of the information, scrambling to write down the information, and then they tend to forget it as soon as they walk out the door.  They seem to only remember information after it is reviewed consistently.  What I think may help with this is the use of interactive notes throughout biology units to increase engagement, understanding, and making students take an active role instead of the teacher being the active role.  In my (re)design process, I want to create presentations where students will still have to take notes, but I want them to play a bigger role in this process.  I am thinking shifting gears to resources like Peardeck, think-pair-share, KWL charts, etc.  I have not seen these across the district (I student taught at Normal Community High School and now teach at Normal West High School, so I have seen how both curricula are set up).  We do some work with think-pair-share in early units of biology, but it is not something that is done enough.  Having students play an active role in the note-taking process and assessing them in a formative way is how these results are going to influence my (re)design.  Once I have the data and results from this, I will present the results to my district PLC once the results are in.  This is perfect timing due to the upcoming standards based grading task force that is currently being set up to help roll out SBG for future years.

Ideate Phase

What I did: For this phase, I kept in mind many of my students wanted to see more interactive note-taking in biology class.  I researched a few interactive note-taking strategies, and I had my students research different note-taking strategies.  We brainstormed and came up with a compiled list of interactive note activities and apps.  I put these ideas in a Google Form for students, and they took the survey.  I also included an “Other” option at the end in case students have another idea.  In order to cater to many students, I wanted to give them a way to give their input on how these interactive notes should be done. 

What I learned: Here are the Google Form Results.

How this might influence my (re)Design: The two ways many students wanted to make notes more interactive; through Edpuzzle and Peardeck.  I am thinking for my (re)Design, I am going to make my Google Slides interactive with Peardeck, and when students are to take notes on asynchronous days, I will post a video on Edpuzzle.  That is the direction I plan on going for this project, so students are not just recipients of information.  I will ask bell-ringer questions, checks for understanding, an exit slip type questions all in one place.  This will help me gauge where students are, and it will help students know where they are at and what they should know by the time they leave class.  This can also keep remote learners focused because they are still participating in the class discussion, even if they aren’t in the classroom themselves. I will be creating my new presentation and videos soon!

Prototype Phase

Description of Current Redesign: The votes are in, and students and I have decided to make notes more interactive by using Peardeck and my regular Google Slides presentation.  Students like the idea of answering questions anonymously if they get it wrong or do not know the answer.  Throughout my Evolution unit, I will be using Peardeck to “test the waters” on how interactive note-taking will go.  If this goes well, I will bring my PLC/department results to try and get them on board with this idea.  If it does not go the way I intend, I will develop interactive note-taking methods for students in the future.  This shouldn’t be an idea that goes away; rather, it is an idea that should be constantly evolving/be revisited.  I appreciate Peardeck because it tells me how many students are present in the presentation, and I can give them reminders that not everyone is there.  This is particularly important for remote learners, as it is easy for them to be distracted by what is going on at home.  Through interactive note-taking, I can keep students engaged longer and focused on what we are learning throughout the class period.

Which Model(s) and National Standard(s) or Goal(s) I am Incorporating 

  1. ISTE Standards for Students
  • Empowered Learner 1c: Students use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.
  • Knowledge Constructor 3d: Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories, and pursuing answers and solutions.
  • Computational Thinker 5c: Students break problems into component parts, extract key information, and develop descriptive models to understand complex systems or facilitate problem-solving.
  • Global Collaborator 7a: Students use digital tools to connect with learners from various backgrounds and cultures, engaging with them in ways that broaden mutual understanding and learning.

2. NETP Learning–These points come straight from the website

  • 5. Technology access, when equitable, can help close the digital divide and make transformative learning opportunities available to all learners.
  • Providing technology accessibility for all learners: Provide multiple means of representation so that students can approach information in more than one way, Provide multiple means of expression so that all students can demonstrate and express what they know, and provide multiple means of engagement to stimulate interest in and motivation for learning.

3. Model I am using: I have decided this fits best with the TPACK Model.  TPACK is something that I have not really considered much until this year due to hybrid/remote teaching.  I have had to incorporate many new technological approaches and apply them to my pedagogical and content knowledge.  When I was thinking of ways to better involve my students in the lesson, whether remote or in-person, I immediately thought of Peardeck.  I know of colleagues who have used it in the past, and they have thoroughly enjoyed it.  I have yet to use it, so what better time than now?  This tool falls under the TPACK realm perfectly due to its incorporation of all three components: pedagogy, content, and technology.

Technology-rich Component I have Created: I have linked my master copy of the Peardeck presentation here.  I have broken up the different topics into chunks for students, as the presentation would make them start from the beginning questions each time.

Test Phase

Who I tested Peardeck with: I tested my Peardeck interactive notes presentation with my biology classes two times this week.  The tests took place on Tuesday, March 30th, and Thursday, April 1st.  The majority of students, remote or in-person, participated. I had some absent students who were obviously not participating.  I also had students on the Google Meet, but they were not on the Peardeck presentation.

What I learned from the test(s): All of my links worked fine, and the technology is user-friendly/straightforward. The only issue I have technology-wise was that Peardeck would sometimes freeze and kick students off the presentation. I need to consider this to be a potential issue in the future, but it happened to students who will be in-person full-time next week.  I also learned that students are much more engaged with note-taking when they are given a chance to free respond.  They proved to themselves they know more than they give themselves credit for, as I pointed out to them when reading through the responses. It inspired shy students to participate beyond the presentation, which is what I was hoping for.

What changes I will make based on what I learned: Luckily, my school district is going back four days a week now, and most students will be in person.  This means I will be able to monitor their screens to ensure participation because Peardeck is anonymous.  I may add a name slide to know who is actually listening on the Google Meet and who has tuned in and muted me.  The students’ answers’ will still be anonymous, but I will know who is on the presentation.  This also means WiFi will not be an issue anymore, and students will be able to be on the presentation without it freezing the whole time.

Final Verdict: I feel as though testing went well this week.  Stay tuned for more from me!

Evolve Phase

What I began to do towards the end of the evolution unit is tell students to type their names at the end of their answers. I know I had mentioned before that one of the perks of Pearkdeck was that it kept student answers anonymous.  However, I never planned to have student answers projected onto the board.  With that being said, students know I am going to be the only one who sees their answers, which is less intimidating to them.  This helps me monitor who is on the presentation and who is not.  Then, I encouraged students to share their answers after giving the general, class feedback of “great job, great answers, here’s what to add” etc. This encouraged even more students to participate, even those who generally don’t.

One thought on “The “Primo” Classroom Chronicles

  1. Hi Abby!
    I have always wanted to do peardeck or nearpod but just haven’t taken the plunge! I think it’s great that it’s gone well in your test run with your students. I wonder how much more engagement you get when they do it in the classroom versus not doing it while in the classroom. It didn’t helps for those who are shy to answer and then you have data on how many actually understand. This helps if you have a quiet class that maybe has 2-3 that typically will speak up. Did you choose peardeck over nearpod for a specific reason or is it just the one you’ve seen used most?


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