Monday, March 30, 2015

My New Favorite Tech Tool for Writer's Workshop

Finding new technology tools to improve my classroom practice has become my new favorite past time. Nothing gets me more energized about teaching than implementing a new tool that makes my job as a K-1 teacher easier and more fun. This school year I have found a number of new tools and resources through my PLN on Twitter that have enhanced my classroom practice on so many ways from the way I teach to the way I assess. The newest of those tools is BrightLoop a digital conferring notebook for K-12 teachers to store their student observations and anecdotal records in a safe, secure environment. I instantly began using BrightLoop during writer’s workshop and was thrilled with the results!

I have used Lucy Calkin’s Units of Study in writing curriculum since the fall of 2013. I instantly fell in love with teaching writing in the writer’s workshop structure. My students began to write with confidence and stamina. It was wonderful to hear my students talking about their writing together in partnerships. It was even better to have the time to work with each of them one on one to talk about and plan their writing. These conferring sessions quickly became my favorite part of the writing workshop. I loved listening to my students read their writing and recording their strengths and growth areas. What I didn’t love, however, was the organization of my conferring notes--or should I say lack of organization? I tried using everything from sticky notes all over my desk to a large binder full of anecdotal notes that was very difficult to carry around the room from table to table. My notes were so disorganized they weren’t helping me plan my instruction or properly assess my students. I couldn’t find what I had written when I needed it.  I often had sticky notes stuck to the bottoms of my shoes as well. I had almost given up on recording notes from my writing conferences with students until I found BrightLoop. I was participating in a Twitter chat when a teacher posted a link to learn more about a tool teachers could use for recording student progress. I clicked on this link out of curiosity and was relieved to see what I had found. BrightLoop is a free, online, digital conferring notebook that is tablet friendly and easy to use. With BrightLoop on my iPad I easily walk from student to student and type my notes in a few simple screen touches. I can assign Common Core State Standards to my notes, write my lesson plans and even take photos of student work to save as a digital record of their progress.

I was hooked on BrightLoop from the beginning because it was so easy to use in the classroom. It complimented my conferring style perfectly. I was even more excited about it after I finished the first progress reports of the school year.  I got a call that my daughter was sick the day before progress reports were due. In a hurry to pick her up I scooped up the blank reports and rushed out the door thinking I would get them done while my daughter napped. Once I got her settled and she was napping I realized that it was going to be hard to do progress reports from home without any of my student work samples nearby. Then I remembered BrightLoop! I was able to access my conferring notebook on my home computer and get the progress reports done while my daughter napped beside me on the couch. Progress reports were complete and ready to go home with students the next day. I was so grateful that a digital copy of my notes was so accessible to me when I needed it. Since then, BrightLoop has expanded their mobile capabilities by developing an app for the iPhone as well! Now my notes are with me wherever I go! This comes in handy when a thought about one of my students’s writing comes to me while I am standing in line at the grocery store or waiting to get the oil changed in my car. Teachers never stop thinking about their students, right?

Now that I have BrightLoop conferring with my students and recording their progress during writer’s workshop is my favorite part of the day. It is such a relief to have a desk, and the bottoms of my shoes, empty of random post it notes and large binders that take to much space. I love that I can check my notes from wherever I happen to be when I need them. Have you used BrightLoop yet?