Museum Scavenger Hunt Using Instagram Hashtags


So I will begin by crediting my colleague HP who, inadvertently but certainly not unwillingly, gave me this idea. She had mentioned to me a project she had heard about whereby students use Instagram and hashtags to post aspects of a project for French, and we ended up talking through what that might look like, how that might look, etc.

I was bringing my Classical Literature class to the Harvard Art Museum today for the first time; in past years, I had brought them to Boston’s MFA. The MFA provided docent tours for the class, while Harvard does not and I was the only chaperone who could reliably give a tour on ancient art. So I wanted (really, needed) something for the not-with-me-group to do while I was giving the other half the tour. And a scavenger hunt seemed a logical choice.

The problem was I wasn’t quite sure what that would look like, especially since I had not been to the newly renovated Harvard Art Museum yet and wasn’t too familiar with the collection. I had done a scavenger hunt years ago at the Worcester Art Museum, but I knew that collection very well and could easily come up with specific things to be found.

I quickly realized that the Instagram hashtag approach could be the solution to my problems. I would create an open ended scavenger hunt that students would conduct by taking pictures with their smart phones and posting them to Instagram with a scavenger-hunt-specific hashtag. Each group would then have their own hashtag to distinguish one group from the other.

Here is the scavenger hunt itself:

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This seemed about right length wise. Not every group finished, but that’s ok; I would have rathered too much to find than too little. And all of the groups seemed excited about it. In fact, the scavenger hunt ended up being more engaging and interesting than my tour; next year, I suspect that I might just do the scavenger hunt, but wander and offer specific information about specific pieces as I run into students scavenging.

And here are some of the Instagram results. The hashtag for the scavenger hunt was #hamftscavhunt (harvard art museum field trip scavenger hunt), and you can see some of the hashtags the groups came up with.

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Saw this article in Slate about WriteLab, a, for lack of a better term, new generation robo-grader. As the article details, the founders were looking for an automated writing tool that focuses on the process rather than the grade. Looking quickly over the home page, I can attest that it seems like a tool with a lot of potential.

I experimented for a while with EssayGrader, an iPad app that had a bank of pre-written comments that could be inserted into essays. What I liked about EssayGrader was that the comments were as close as I’d seen to comments I’d actually make myself. The problem was, however, that EssayGrader’s interface was too clunky, and I didn’t have an efficient way to move between the iPad and my LMS. WriteLab might be the best of both worlds.

From a student standpoint, WriteLab analyzes and suggests, and students can either accept or reject those suggestions. Comments appear at left and are color-coded to their category / focus. From a teacher standpoint, WriteLab’s feedback is instantaneous and encourages drafting and editing, rather than moving quickly to the final product. And, as the article points out, students are perhaps (probably) more likely to consider carefully the suggestion of an inert machine that is not grading their essay rather than robotically adhering to the suggestions of the person grading their work.

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The pricing seems a touch opaque, i.e. teachers are free but students pay $15 / month. From a school’s standpoint, I’m not quite sure what that would look like, though I assume the school would pay the student fee and the students would create their own accounts? I will have to look into that further, but this seems like an exciting tool, and one that I’d like to learn more about (and have someone pay for my students to use).

Removing Default Apple Apps from iOS Devices [from Buzzfeed]

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Check out these instructions for removing Apple’s default (and heretofore unremovable) apps: so agree about Stocks, Tips, etc., and happy to be rid of them. One tip about the instructions: when moving the app to the third new page in the folder, you have to let it go on the second page, then re-tap-and-hold for the third page to appear. (I was sliding to p.2 and then still sliding to a p.3 that wasn’t appearing.)

Thanks, Buzzfeed. Very useful.


Regression? (Or Why I Haven’t Written As Much)

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As my technology use develops, I find myself, well, returning to simpler times. I use whiteboard markers (more). I try to minimize my add-ons / peripherals / accessories. It’s all symptomatic of that finding the right balance between technology and efficiency, or, perhaps better, the balance between short-term efficiency and long-term efficiency.

I’ve returned to Socrative, one of the first inst-assessment tools that I came across (here’s Socrative in this blog). I did some iPad assessments, I did physical clickers (which, I’ll admit, I did like, but, again, too inefficient in the short-term), and I’ve recently been almost exclusively using the assessment tools in ItsLearning, my school’s LMS.

Socrative, however, provides that quick, no-set-up check-in that can be so useful when concluding a lesson or activity, and in the past week I’ve used it twice to survey the class for the results of an activity: once when we matched up Milton’s primary characters in Paradise Lost to modern occupations or roles, and once when my Latin class went around the room to use comparatives and superlatives to find fellow students that fit certain characteristics (one student had a size 15 foot!).

In general, either my technology use has gone down or, at least, it has not moved forward at the rate at which it had, or was, when I began the blog. I’m not a techno-hipster, longing for the days of pen-to-paper; my classes are all very much paperless and we use the laptops every day, but having those laptops in the hands (or on the desks) of students has taken much of the techno-burden off of me, i.e. I don’t have to innovate or find technological workarounds because the students have the tools they need already.

On the one hand, I miss my wild west technology days, when I was trying things to try things, and school would give me things because they knew I’d see how they worked (even if they didn’t work well; and they are still willing to give me things, I might add; there just isn’t as much to give because of the laptops). But I feel more settled, with a plan of both how I want to use technology and how I want my students to use technology.

And for me that’s the important step, that technology is now so ingrained in my teaching that I neither notice it (much) or worry about how to implement it (much). It is for me and my students no different or separate from their notebooks, textbooks, and pencils for many of their other classes.

So, no, I’ve not been updating the blog as much because there hasn’t been much to say. But, yes, I’ve been more content with my technology use such that, well, there hasn’t been as much to say.

Control Your AppleTV from any Remote

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Kind of an interesting article from MacWorld, especially since, as suggested in the article, I (or perhaps better my kids) are constantly not putting the AppleTV remote back, and its slender profile allows it to oh-so-easily slide between the sofa cushions.



iNACOL 2015: Tuesday Lunchtime Keynote on Educational Leadership

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Tom Stritikus, Gates Foundation

  • 95% of hs students say they want a college degree
  • 14% of black students graduate college or career ready
  • three ideas will transform education: high standards for all students, effective teaching, personalized learning
  • care about the technological infrastructure to bring PL to life in a classroom and to scale in a system
  • scale is essential: not enough to create programs that only impact a few students; Gates wants all students to experience high quality learning studies
  • a data-driven organization

Dallas Dance, Superintendent Baltimore County Public Schools [not Baltimore City]

  • “Creating a culture of deliberate excellence for every student, every school, every community.” – Blueprint 2.0
  • Globally Competitive Graduates: To equip every student with the critical 21st century skills needed to be globally competitive, BCPS must ensure that every school has an equitable, effective digital learning environment, and eveyr student has equitable access..
  • Focusing on every student: close the achievement gap, etc.
  • Bluepoint 2.0 focuses on equity
  • “Until there is a clear perception that the leadership sets high expectations for all students, I do not think our teachers will create an environment where all students can thrive.” – Jon Galla, Class of 2014, Hereford High School
  • the shift from equality to equity
  • equality = every kid gets the same thing
  • equity = every kid getting what they need at that moment
  • 8 conversions: curriculum, instruction, assessment, organizational development, infrastructure, policy, budget, communications
  • curriculum conversion required ‘hearts and souls’
  • “Great leaders see the need for a major change and will do whatever is necessary to make the status quo seem more dangerous than launching into the unknown” – John P. Kotter, Why Transformation Efforts Fail

Buddy ____, Superintendent of Eminence, KY Schools

  • 5 years ago, 10% of enrollment was leaving, 2 mobile devices in the whole district for students and staff
  • a map mindset does not work, i.e. he wanted to create a map for other districts to follow but realized that didn’t work
  • instead, he follows the compass mindset, focused on the goal / objective, with missteps still bringing him back to the original goal
  • a ‘Yes…And’ philosophy
  • an intersection of best practice and next practice

iNACOL 2015: Sound Practices and Must-Haves for Online and Blended Schools to Customize Legally Sound Opportunities for Individuals with Disabilities

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Kevin McKenna, Esq; Dr. Joanne Barnett, CEO, the PA Virtual School

How do IEPs account for the differences in environments between face-to-face learning and blended / online learning? We don’t. IDEA is silent on blended / online and we are still responsible for implementing it.

How is a school defining LRE in terms of face-to-face vs. blended? And does the IEP reflect that?

How does a school service a rural student who needs an OT, with the closest being over 100 miles away?

History / Background

  • 1991 MN passed laws creating the first legislated charter school (Stat 120.064 (1991))
  • 8 results-oriented, student-ctrd public schools formed; City Academy, the first, in St. Paul, opened in 92
  • at least 24 states + DC have blended schools

Hypothetical 1

  • Charter School didn’t allow student with autism and mild visual impairment to take online course sequence b/c student required accoms and aide to access curricular materials that school couldn’t provide in their online program [what does last part mean: that…program?]
  • start with IEP
  • what resources are available?
  • can’t discriminate against students
  • can’t deny FAPE
  • if they can’t do online, print materials must be provided
  • assistive technology must be provided
  • can’t exclude student from GC (LRE)
  • child find: schools need to find students with needs before OCR does
  • OCR will consult state agency; if state agency had advised and school does nothing….
  • can we really afford to provide (extreme) services? can you afford not to (in expectation of legal fees / rulings)?

[This started off promisingly but became too general as it went on: 504, ADA, IDEA, etc.]

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