Archive for Randy Fairfield

Webinar: Integrating Canvas with Hapara Workspace and Dashboard

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by Randy Fairfield, 10/30/19

Do you use Canvas in your school? Have you ever wondered how Canvas and Hapara can be used together? Check out this half hour webinar I led on 10/28/19 that’s full of a lot tips, tricks, and creative ideas!

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Teaching Digital Organization With Hapara Dashboard/Sharing

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by Randy Fairfield, 10/9/19

The school I work at has implemented a new course called “S3: Strategies and Skills for Success.” With the visibility of students’ Google Drives I had from the Sharing tab in Hapara, I could see that many students at our school really struggled with digital organization in their Google Drives! I created this short five minute video to help my students learn how they can use the Google Drive folders created by Hapara to help them get more organized. Feel free to use this video if you’d like!

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Google Forms for Surveys, Quizzes, Differentiation, and More!

Share That Google Form

Google Forms can be a powerful tool to help facilitate a surprising variety of learning experiences for students. Such learning experiences can range from quick formative assessments to check for student understanding to breakout room puzzles that require high levels of cognitive demand and collaboration from students!

SLIDE DECK – LINK

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Directions Optional – What Teachers Need to Learn From Gamers

by Randy Fairfield, 12/26/18

During my last blog post in this fifteen blog series, I covered my first point, “Gamers like to be in control.” In this post, I will be addressing my second point, “Directions are optional” by discussing the way educators lead students into learning activities.

How many instruction manuals have you read before jumping in and playing a video game? Probably none. Seriously, why does anyone even bother making those things? Half the fun of gaming is jumping right in and figuring out how things work. Unfortunately, sometimes we as educators are in the nasty habit of killing the fun by overdoing it with the directions and getting in the way of students learning by doing. The jobs of tomorrow will require students to learn on the fly, and while our intentions may be good in setting students up for success by diving deep into the directions for an activity before getting started, I wonder about the unintended consequences of not giving students enough room to take a quick dive off the deep end and productively struggle through uncertainty. While some students could benefit from learning to take help from adults, particularly in the age of helicopter parenting, it seems to me that even more adults could help kids by just backing off a bit. Cue, Homer Simpson.

What happens when we overdo the directions and don’t allow enough room for self-exploration? Well, let’s just look at the adults that were taught almost exclusively with the “I do, we do, you do” model of instruction. Listen, I mean no offense here, but after spending three years as a technology/instructional coach I started to go a little crazy with an adult majority that simply refused to explore on their own and were reliant upon me for direction. Like, there was a little part of me that died inside when the same teachers kept repeatedly coming to me for technical help navigating a platform. They would take step-by-step handwritten notes on how to accomplish one specific task as their hand shook over the mouse and they made audible sounds expressing discomfort. While that’s still streets ahead of some who were outright resistant to learning something new, it still killed me because I knew that the help I provided in that moment was only going to help that day. Whatever platform they were working on that day was inevitably going to change tomorrow, and they would be back again asking for help with pencil, paper, and sticky note in hand. When encouraged to do a little exploring on their own, their response was almost always, “I don’t learn that way.” Students in our classrooms need to learn to learn that way or they will be left behind.

Snap Circuits

So what does that look like? How do we teach kids to learn by exploration? There’s much to be said here, but I’ll just share a recent example from a 2-3 STEM class that I subbed for at the last minute and didn’t really have much of a lesson plan to go off of. Besides consulting with homeschooling families, I teach a little bit of secondary social studies, so I was a bit out of my element. The students had these Snap Circuits for light and sound that neither I nor they had ever messed around with before. Instead of letting that be a deterrent, I simply let them work in groups of two or three and told them to try and figure stuff out together as best they could. They productively struggled for most of the class period, and I learned alongside them while choosing to show them nothing but encouragement. And then some lights came on. And then some sounds were emitted. And they didn’t need me or the instruction manual for anything other than the suggested builds. And it was pretty cool.


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Gamers Like to Be in Control – Gamification and Classroom Management

by Randy Fairfield, 11/12/18

During my last blog post, I introduced my new blog series on gamification in education. In this post, I will be addressing my first point, “Gamers like to be in control,” by discussing gamification and classroom management.

Classroom Management: The Controller


Control. It’s something we as people like to have. We like to be able to make our own choices rather than having someone else make them for us. Perhaps that’s one of the the great appeals of gaming: You can choose what you want to play and how you want to play it. In fact, the more I think about it, this appeal to control and power is exactly what Nintendo was marketing to their younger audience back in the day. Consider the message: When you have a controller in your hand, you’ve got the power.

What makes this marketing strategy so effective is that control and power are not something that kids are often used to having in their everyday life. Part of the reality of being younger is that, whether it be at home or at school, you are going to be told what to do and how to do it for a significant portion of your day. While much of what adults tell kids to do is entirely appropriate, I wonder if, in general, we could do more to release some of that power and control to provide students with a greater sense of autonomy over their lives. For as much discussion is held about having student-centered classrooms, the reality is that the vast majority of classrooms are still very teacher-centered.

You know, it’s kind of funny that I’m now saying this because I’m quite literally cringing as I think about what my approach to classroom management looked like when I first started teaching. It was bad. Really, really bad. I was working with an extremely challenging group of students, and particularly as a young teacher, I felt the need to get in there and establish my authority early. I’d heard about young teachers coming in and trying to be too relational with the students, and I just didn’t want to give off that vibe. So what did I do? I took control of my classroom. Or so I thought.

38 Special: Hold on Loosely

Right out of the the gate, I hammered kids on the dress code. I stood and delivered from PowerPoints and expected silence and note taking. I frequently called home and let parents know when their students were misbehaving. There was little grace and a lot of sternness. Full transparency here, it probably wasn’t long before the sternness became meanness. I wish I could say differently, but I can’t. You see, what I was doing wasn’t working. I wasn’t happy, the students weren’t happy, and honestly I started to doubt if I wanted to teach for the rest of my life. What I didn’t understand at the time was a lesson perhaps best learned from 38 Special: “Hold on loosely, but don’t let go. If you cling too tightly, you’re gonna lose control.”

There’s that word again. Control. You know, we really desperately need to change some of the vocabulary we use in education. Why? I really think the language related to classroom management had a significant impact on my perception of what was expected of me as a teacher in the early going. I find it curious that “being controlling” is generally considered to be poor behavior, and yet that same behavior is often seen positively when describing a teacher’s approach to classroom management. That is, when a boss constantly tries to control his or her employees by telling them what to do and how to do it, we call it micromanaging; yet when an educator does the same to a group of students, we say, “Oh, wow! Mr. Fairfield has such great control over his classroom!” Do you see the problem here? Rather than teacher, I now prefer to be considered a facilitator of learning. Rather than rules, I prefer guidelines and parameters. Rather than a classroom management plan, how about an academic and behavioral engagement plan? Words convey meaning, and the words we use and the way we use them can have a significant impact on the way we are perceived by the students in our care.

Stop a moment and think: Are you in control of your classroom, or have you found ways to release as much of it as you reasonably can to your students?


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Gamification in Education: 14 Things Teachers Need to Learn from Gamers

by Randy Fairfield, 10/20/18

A few years ago I was teaching a course and noticed a curious trend towards the end of the school year: There seemed to be a direct correlation between students wearing Minecraft t-shirts and failing my class. It was uncanny. Now I wasn’t really sure what Minecraft was at that point in time, but I wondered if there might be a way for me to harness the energy these students were expending on the game and somehow get them to use it on my class instead. So I bought a copy of the game and put in a good fifty or so hours of time over the summer. In all honesty, I found the game to be fairly enjoyable; In fact, my wife had to get on my case a few times! This was all the beginnings of a great of learning about gamification in education, and I’ve finally decided to sit down and blog about my learning and experiences.

So anyways, I somehow talked my principal into letting me experiment with Minecraft Edu—which ended up largely being a failed endeavor due to the lack of support from the IT department—but I’m not sure Minecraft Edu was really the answer anyway. The more I thought about it, the “if you can’t beat them, join them” approach didn’t really sit well with me. Nevertheless, I still wanted to find ways to get kids more plugged into my class and less plugged into their video game consoles.

PNW Tecmo Super Bowl

The truth is, I have more than a little experience to draw from to relate to my students. Indeed, about 90% of my misspent youth was playing the good old Nintendo Entertainment System. While my days of hardcore gaming are now largely behind me, I feel no shame in admitting to winning a few Pacific Northwest Tecmo Super Bowl Championships over the past few years.

A few weeks ago, I had a fantastic conversation with Peter Grostic, Director of Professional Learning for CBD Consulting, and we discussed gamification in education. Gamification is the process of taking the design elements of game play and applying them in another context, and I think I have a unique perspective on the topic. Feel free to listen if you’re interested!

During our conversation, we talked about some things I’ve learned from incorporating elements of gamification into my own classroom. By better understanding what motivates gamers, we as educators can do a lot to keep our students more engaged with our classes. Over the coming months, I’ll be blogging once every few weeks about each of the points raised below. Stay tuned if I’ve piqued your interest! You can subscribe to my newsletter if you’d like a reminder to check back every once in awhile. 🙂

Gamification in Education - Keynote Overview

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Building Meaningful Relationships in a Digital Classroom

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by Randy Fairfield, 3/28/17

As technology becomes increasingly prevalent in our schools, workplaces, and everyday lives, many educators feel the pressure to make the shift to a more digital classroom. The threat of automation is a workplace reality in many sectors, and it is more important than ever for teachers and students to learn to leverage technology to add value to their work.

Does technology hurt relationships?

One of the biggest concerns expressed by educators over the influx of devices in classrooms is that something is being lost—particularly, that students are losing the ability to communicate and collaborate with their teachers, and with one another, face-to-face.

Consider the following piece of spoken word poetry by Prince EA:

It’s true that, if not used intentionally, technology can add a cold and disconnecting element to our classrooms. However, it’s also possible for technology to be used to add value to our relationships and bring teachers and students closer to together.

Watch how Ms. Kornowski uses Google Forms to connect with students:

Using tech for good in a digital classroom

When you consider both Prince EA’s spoken word poetry and the example from Ms. Kornowski, it’s clear that the problem is not so much the technology itself, but how we use it. Both you and your students can learn to use technology to better communicate and collaborate in the digital classroom.

If your school has adopted Hapara and Google Suite for Education, then you and your students have a bevy of tools at your disposal that can be used to improve communication and collaboration.

Consider the following example of a Hapara Workspace that does just that:

Hapara Workspace

Hapara Workspace

In Hapara Workspace, both teachers and students have the ability to collaborate by adding resource cards to support student learning. Students can add a card while they are in class or out of class. You can then use the resources they add as a jumping off point for discussions about whether or not the resources are relevant, helpful, or credible.

Teachers and students can also use Workspace cards to link to other collaborative tools like Google Hangouts. This allows students to collaborate via video chat while working on a group project outside of school. A teacher could also conduct class from home on a day when school is closed due to inclement weather.

Hapara Highlights Activity Viewer

Hapara Highlights

Hapara Highlights provides teachers with visibility into what students are looking at online. This could help or hurt teacher-student relationships. If you’re using Highlights in your digital classroom, the following tips will help you ensure it contributes to a positive classroom culture that is conducive to healthy communication and collaboration:

Be upfront and transparent with students. Show students what kind of visibility you have into their Chromebook usage, and let them know that you trust them to make good decisions too! This proactive and positive approach will solve the vast majority of issues you may run into in a digital classroom.

Start Highlights tracking at the beginning of the class period, and use the Activity Viewer to check it again at the end. If a student or two is having a hard time following your classroom expectations, even after you’ve taken positive and proactive steps, you can use the Activity Viewer at the end of the class period to identify those students and pull them aside for the one-on-one conversation they need about digital citizenship.

Technology doesn’t have to be cold. There are many ways to use it to connect with students and support their learning!

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If a Picture Speaks 1,000 Words, an Animated GIF Speaks 10,000!

by Randy Fairfield, 3/21/18

No, students will not be asked to effectively integrate Animated GIFs into their writing on their high stakes standardized tests. They probably won’t be asked to analyze questions related to the author’s purpose in using Animated GIFs in a blog post either. And that’s a shame. It’s a shame because Animated GIFs have become an increasingly important way that people communicate, and it’s a shame because there is a whole lot of higher order thinking that goes into this whole Animated GIFs thing. Just think about it!

Not convinced yet? Just consider how my use of Animated GIFs supported my response to a small kerfuffle that unfolded over an email chain at my church this past week. There were some concerns expressed that some children had gotten in the habit of taking the gluten free snacks provided during coffee hour, and as the email chain started to get a little too snippy for my liking, I decided to try and diffuse the situation with a little humor.

The following is a true story about the last 24 hours of my life:

Opens email from the rector.

Closes email. Goes about my day.

Opens reply all emails.

Considers whether or not 1 Cor 11:17-33 has any relevant wisdom.

Says a short prayer.

Considers the following passage from Proverbs 32:

Oops. I accidentally on purpose slipped a meme in there at the end instead of an Animated GIF. I actually thought about renaming the title of this blog post to, “If a Picture Speaks 1,000 Words, a Meme Speaks 10,000, and an Animated GIF Speaks 100,000.” Then I decided that would be a bit too wordy. In fact, I’m being a bit too wordy now! Moving on…

So, yeah, I had to put a lot of thought into which animated GIFs I selected for that email. It took a number of different searches on Giphy for me to find the Animated GIFs that precisely communicated the feelings I wanted to convey. Perhaps we should be teaching our students how to do this stuff, eh? As a reader, did you find yourself watching and then re-watching the Animated GIF loops to see what I was going for? What do you think I was thinking? Deep questions. Maybe ones we should be asking our students? Just a thought.

Animated GIFs can be used as a one-off to convey humor, help tell a story, draw attention to a social media post, and so much more! When I was in the classroom as a teacher, sometimes I would often send my students assignment comments on Edmodo with Animated GIFs and memes to give them feedback on their work and to encourage them in a fun way to keep working towards mastery. Sometimes I would include these images in assignments I posted on Edmodo to keep the group from being nothing more than stale and uninviting text. Here is one I used to send my students when they didn’t capitalize “I” in their essays:

Below are some resources to help you begin using Animated GIFs and memes. Some of the content found on these resources is not suitable for children, so curating resources for students use and putting it in a shared Google Drive folder is probably the best way to proceed.

• GIPHY – https://giphy.com/
• Cut duration of Animated GIF – https://ezgif.com/cut
• Blank meme templates – https://imgflip.com/memetemplates
• Meme Generator – https://memegenerator.net/
• Google Draw meme template – Link
• GIPHY CAM (Android)
• Meme Generator (Android)
• Video & GIF Memes (Android)

SESSION EVALUATION: http://gsummit.link/eval

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Edmodo Certified Learner Course

The Edmodo Certified Learner Course is run by Edmodo, and I can tell you from my own experience that going through the course was super helpful! Registering for the Edmodo Certified Learner Course through MisterEdTech gets you one-on-one coaching support from me as you go through the coursework—and, if you’re an educator in Washington State, you can get STEM and TPEP clock hours too! Details here:

Date: Can be taken any time
Costs: $79 to MisterEdTech + $40 for clock hours
Clock Hours: 20 STEM and TPEP Clock Hours (WA State only)
Course Details: click here
Steps to Sign Up:
1. Create an account on Edmodo if you don’t have one already.
2. Register for the course on Edmodo Spotlight.
3. Optional. For clock hours and coaching support, submit $79 payment to MisterEdTech via PayPal or credit card
4. Optional. Register for clock hours on pdEnroller.
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Hapara Certified Champion Educator Program

The Hapara Certified Champion Educator Program is run by Hapara, and I can tell you from my own experience that going through the program was super helpful! Registering for the HCCE Program through MisterEdTech gets you one-on-one coaching support from Randy as you go through the coursework—and, if you’re an educator in Washington State, you can get STEM and TPEP clock hours too! Details here:

Date: Educators must apply to the Hapara Champion Educator Program by 3/19/18. If accepted, the program runs for four weeks beginning on 4/9/18.
Cost: $69 to MisterEdTech + $10 to Hapara + $40 for clock hours
Clock Hours: 20 STEM and TPEP Clock Hours (WA State only)
Course Overview: click here
Program Details: click here
Steps to Sign Up:
1. Apply to the Hapara Champion Educator Program by 3/19/18.
2. If accepted, pay $10 program fee to Hapara
3. Optional. For clock hours and coaching support, submit $69 payment to MisterEdTech via PayPal or credit card
4. Optional. Register for clock hours on pdEnroller.
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