Posted in Creating Accessibility

Meaningful Onboarding When Using Tech in the Classroom

I started my teaching career back in the dark ages of 1996 and stayed in the classroom until the end of 2007 when I moved into the library/media center. Those first few days of school were always a wonderful flurry of activity where I would introduce myself, meet the kids, but most importantly, give them glimpses of how things in the classroom needed to work in order to create a positive experience for everybody. You know, things like: where assignments needed to be turned in; where to find supplies; where to find additional copies of class materials; how to keep track of individual progress; classroom roles and responsibilities; how our classroom economy would work; how to be a good classroom citizen; and most crucially, how to be excused to go to the bathroom! By the time we hit the middle of the first quarter, my classroom would run like a well-oiled machine and students were largely independent and able to function in the environment we had created together. Whenever a new student arrived, the kids would demonstrate their knowledge by teaching the new student the ropes.

Our classrooms of today have added a technology element that has big impacts on our classroom communities. Living in a technology-rich classroom has changed the landscape, but have we given any thought to how to introduce our students to these tools and how to best use them to keep our classes running like that well-oiled machine? When you walk into any classroom these days, the automatic assumption usually made is that every single child in that room has more tech knowledge and skills than the average adult. Teachers believe that all we need to do is hand our students a device and they are off and running. I suppose that is true if we are asking the students to use Snapchat, post on Instagram or create a playlist on Spotify. However, if we want them to use their devices for teaching and learning, there is a good chance that they need to be onboarded into our classroom’s digital environment.

Think about your experience as an educator. When you adopted an LMS like Schoology or Canvas or began using a content delivery system like Google Classroom, you probably (hopefully) received some sort of professional development to help get you started. Even if it wasn’t anything official from your school or district, you most likely watched the introductory training videos or read the quick start guide offered by the programs themselves. Now, look back to the first time you had your students work inside one of these systems. Did you talk to them about what to expect when they are working within the system? Did you walk them through the steps necessary to log in? Did you show them how to access the content you are sharing? Turn in their assignments? Add it as a favorite to their browser? Did you have any discussions about digital citizenship and your expectations for how each student should represent themselves in a digital environment? If you haven’t had these discussions with the students, I am not sure they know how to live in the digital space you are using. Just like you needed a little guidance to get started, so do your students. I am not advocating for long drawn out sessions of direct training, but the first few times that you have assignments in Classroom or in your LMS, walk students through access, creation and turn-in options so that they know how to effectively interact with the environment. When you see students writing “Heyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy everybody, I am so crazy!” on your Classroom stream, think about how you can discuss appropriate sharing in a digital space.

My district is a Google district and I spend a lot of time in different classrooms with students. The funny thing about our students these days is that they are able to figure out how to use just about any flashy tool that they stumble across, but if I ask them to create a Slide or Doc, there is a pause and students scatter to create in a weird variety of ways. I have watched students Google the words ‘Slides’ or ‘Docs’ and then randomly click on whichever search result is at the top of the list, even if it isn’t a Google product. When we are working on something on one day and I want them to access it on another day, they aren’t entirely sure where to find it. It has become apparent to me that I need to onboard these students by quickly showing them how to access their Google apps via the app finder (we call it the ‘waffle’), how to navigate to Google Drive, how to create folders in Drive and how to create within the folders for easy access at a later date. These are not all stand-alone lessons that take a bulk of the class time. Rather, these skills are what I show them when I model the set-up and routines expected in my class. They are not limited in their choice of creation tool, but at the very least, I know that they know how to organize their creations and share them with me.

When you create a digital environment for your students to live in, onboard them by defining:

  1. How to access the environment:
    1. How do they login? Username and password?
    2. Can they access it from home?
  2. Digital citizenship expectations:
    1. Are they free to comment and express themselves in the environment?
    2. What are expectations for interacting with peers?
    3. When digital media is created, how are images found and used and how are citations displayed?
    4. What external sites are ok for use in the digital environment?
  3. Workflow:
    1. How do students access assignments?
    2. How do students turn in assignments (share vs dropbox vs “turn in” features)
    3. Will your assignments be posted on a calendar or should students look in another location?
    4. If you are using Clasroom, are students expected to mark their assignments “done” even if they have turned in a physical copy instead of a digital copy?
    5. When you are collaborating and giving feedback on student work before it reaches the final form, how will that workflow be managed?
  4. Communication:
    1. Let the students (and parents) know how you will communicate with them digitally. Will you be using the announcement feature in Classroom or Schoology? Will you use an app like Remind?
    2. Let them know how feedback will be delivered to them for different assignments. Should they look in the private comments in Classroom, comments within a Google Doc or Slide, video links, handwritten on sticky notes? If they know what they are looking for, it will be easier for them to interact with your feedback.
    3. If you give grades, where will the students see the grades? On the assignment? In the Schoology grade book? On ProgressBook? Written on the top of a paper?

In my mind, these are the essentials your students need to know in order to be properly onboarded into your digital learning space. Just like you take some time at the beginning of the year to discuss how to leave the room to go to the bathroom and that your students should call you Queen of Awesomeness (just me?!?), you should spend some time making sure they are comfortable and prepared to learn in both a physical and digital space.

How do you onboard your students? What essentials did I miss? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments!

 

Posted in Cool Tools, Creating Accessibility, G-Suite for Education, Teacher Feature

Teacher Feature – Kat McAndrews and her Digital Portfolios

Kat McAndrews, a sixth-grade science teacher at Berry Intermediate, has decided to throw caution to the wind and jump headfirst into new ways for her students to show themselves as learners and scientists. We had a quick discussion one day about this, and next thing I knew, she had turned her ideas into reality and is using Google Slides and Team Drive with her students as they create digital portfolios to showcase all their learning and growth this year!

I decided that I wanted to see all of this in action and scheduled some time to visit with her and her awesome students. When I first entered her classroom, I could feel the thrum of energy from the kids.

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 They were getting ready to head outside with their soil kits, and even though it was close to 92 degrees, the students were excited to be out in the field. This was day two of their soil quadrant work, and the students were using their interactive science notebooks to record data on the experiments they were conducting. As they were working, Kat walked amongst them, snapping photos and discussing their procedures and results. As the class drew to an end, she began uploading the images to Team Drive so that the students would be able to access them tomorrow in class when they continued working with their digital portfolios.

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I made a second visit later in the day to see a class that was a little further along with this project. These students had finished their lab work and were now ready to show what they knew by creating short skits or presentations about the topic. I watched a newscast, a rap, a scientific demonstration of techniques used, and some very awkward kids hiding behind posters! Kat recorded all of these presentations with her trusty iPhone, and just like she did with the images, uploaded them to the corresponding Team Drives for her students to access.

The next time I was in the room, it was an inside work day (Thank goodness, as the heat was slowly killing me). I circulated around to get a good look at what the students were creating. Since their photos were already in Team Drive, students were able to quickly get to work grabbing images to add to their Slides presentation. Kat gave them free reign to showcase themselves as learners and to share their data. She simply asked them to not select a bold background image because that might interfere with their data and their images.

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The students now have a digital portfolio that showcases who they are as learners and sciAACDC236-062B-4BE1-BCF6-0F895348C06F.JPGentists. Not only can they show their teacher this, they can also share this with family members or other students. Using Slides makes this uniquely portable, and this sixth-grade portfolio can now follow them through their entire school career and even beyond if they decide to make a copy of their school Drive when they go out into the big, exciting world! I am so pleased that Kat has taken this sort of risk and figured out all the pieces necessary to make this a success. She has done a great job troubleshooting any issues that have come up, and even though this was her first time using some of this tech, she has created a vibrant learning community with her students.

Their portfolios are a work in progress that they will continue to add to all year. Here are a few examples (I have removed some Slides to protect privacy)

 

Here are the nuts and bolts of how Kat accomplishes these student created and designed portfolios.

  1. Using the new Team Drive feature in Google Drive, Kat created a Team Drive for each of her science classes. She then added her students to the corresponding Team Drive
  2. Each student created their own Slides presentation that will be used as a working portfolio for the school year and shared it with Kat.
  3. While students are working as scientists, she takes pictures of them in the field. She also records them giving their group presentations. These presentations are designed by the students to show what they have learned in a new and creative way.
  4. Using the Drive app on her phone, she then uploads the pictures and videos to the Team Drive so that students can then add them to their own portfolios.

Using technology in her classroom has opened the door for Kat’s students to create and show their learning all while putting their personal stamp on their work. She could have done something similar with just paper and pencil, but being able to quickly add images, videos, and creative elements to a digital portfolio that can be shared on a global platform brought this activity to a higher level. It isn’t about replacing a paper portfolio with a digital one, it is about the ability of the students to create and share with other people inside and outside of the four walls of their classroom. Good edtech doesn’t replace an activity, it allows you to do something that would be impossible without the tech. This is a perfect example of doing something Kat couldn’t have done before!

I know many of you are doing equally awesome things in your classroom. I would love to hear about what you are doing and spread the good word. Please contact me if you want to share your awesomeness with the world!

Posted in Cool Tools, Creating Accessibility

Collaborative Spaces with Padlet

As much as I love the collaborative tools in GSuite for Edu, sometimes they just don’t meet my needs when it comes to collaborative brainstorming, problem-solving, quick project sharing, or a place for students to have an online discussion about topics being covered in class. What tool can I use to create this sort of open sharing environment for my students? Why, Padlet, of course!

Have you ever attended a professional development class or meeting where there were large pieces of white paper on the wall and you were given sticky notes with which to go about the room and add your ideas or answer questions? Padlet is basically that, but better!  This free program (with paid upgrades available) allows you to create an online bulletin/white board where people can collaborate, share ideas, contribute resources, and share digital materials like links, docs, and videos! Padlet can be as private or as public as you want, and users can access your Padlet from a Chromebook, computer, phone, or tablet. As long as they have access to the internet, they have access to your Padlet. Students will not have to create an account so Padlets can be quickly and easily accessed and used without disrupting the flow of your class. And for that teacher in you that just wants everything to look “pretty” or “cute,” Padlet has beautiful and fun backgrounds to keep your collaborative space from being too plain.

Want to see it in action? Check out my Padlet and add your ideas about how you would rule the world!

Made with Padlet

Now that you can see it in action, just think of the possibilities! Here are a few of the ideas I came up with:

  • Bell ringer activity – ask a question to get the kids accessing prior knowledge or preparing their brains for learning new content
  • Brainstorming – instead of writing out all of the students’ ideas by hand on your whiteboard or poster paper, have them add their own ideas to your Padlet
  • Question/Answer – create a problem and have students share their answers here. This would be especially useful in a math classroom. Have students post their answers and explain their thinking
  • Group work – have students working in groups create their own Padlets to share their resources with each other. Or, create a class Padlet and have students share resources with their classmates across periods/bells
  • Exit Ticket – what did your students learn today and how will you expand on it for your next lesson?
  • Hypothesis and Results – make your science lab an open forum and let the students share their thinking before and after the lab along with their results
  • Guided research – create a Padlet with all of the links and materials you want your students to use for a project
  • Primary Source – sometimes primary sources are difficult to find, but you could curate a collection of them by providing links to them on a Padlet
  • Book Talks – instead of book reports, students can share a picture of their book and a quick explanation of why others should read it

These are just a few quick suggestions to get your brain thinking. If you do a quick Google or Twitter search, you will see that the possibilities are endless!

To get started with Padlet, simply go to www.padlet.com and sign up for an account. I recommend that all new users check out the Padlet Tour when they begin. Of course, I am here to guide you through and if you would rather have some personal training, just let me know!

Posted in Cool Tools, Creating Accessibility

Collaborative Gaming with Quizlet Live

For review opportunities or gathering formative assessment data on individual students, many teachers love Kahoot and Quizizz. And while these tools are awesome and can be played with the whole class, they are actually very solitary in nature. Each student is responsible for their own responses and an unengaged student can remain unengaged in a classroom of their peers. This is one of the reasons that I recommend you mix it up every once in awhile and use Quizlet Live. Quizlet Live takes the solitary experience of game play and requires all students to participate after they are placed together in randomly formed groups. No longer can a student sit back and let the game pass them by; it might just be their answer that leads their group to victory!

To play Quizlet Live, you must first create an account on Quizlet. Quizlet is a program that allows students and teachers to create study sets and then practice their sets through flashcards and mini-games. Quizlet Live lets the teacher take study sets and turn them into classroom games that require group participation. Look at all the awesome features and tools Quizlet provides for teachers and students!

Features

  • flashcard creator that allows teachers and students to create study sets
  • independent practice within Quizlet in a variety of ways including matching, spelling, and rapid fire recall
  • study sets can then be opened in game format by using Quizlet Live
  • collaborative /social learning within Quizlet Live
  • randomized team creation allowing for flexible grouping
  • use your own study sets or search for sets created by fellow users

Game Play

  • quiz style game can only be played in Quizlet Live
  • students must play in collaborative groups because correct answers are dispersed amongst all group members
  • game requires 12 unique terms
  • game requires a minimum of six students
  • students are randomized into teams
  • each student must have their own device: computer, laptop, tablet or phone
  • teams race to match all terms with definitions
  • incorrect answer resets the entire team score back to zero
  • first team to match all 12 (or more) terms, wins

Tools

  • classes can be linked to existing Google Classrooms
  • study sets can be shared directly to Google Classroom
  • classes can be created within Quizlet so that all student names are preloaded for easy group creation
  • Android and iOS apps are available if you want to make your gaming portable

If you are interested in getting started with Quizlet and like to explore on your own, check out their Getting Started page. If you would like a little coaching assistance and are a member of the Lebanon Schools staff, email me at zolnier.melanie@lebanonschools.org or fill out the Request for Integration Assistance Form.

Posted in Creating Accessibility, G-Suite for Education, Google Classroom

Getting Started with Google Classroom

imagine if you willImagine if you will, that there is a free program out there that will allow you to organize your materials, share work with students, collect assignments with ease, and allow for immediate and personalized feedback for each and every one of your students.  Another classroom dimension…Google Classroom Dimension

Google Classroom is an excellent platform for teachers to not just organize learning, but to impact learning. At the most basic level, Google Classroom allows you to ditch the copy machine and share assignments and materials digitally with students. It also keeps work flow nicely in check since students can return their completed work with a simple click of a button. If you like to be organized, you don’t want the hassle of students losing papers or assignments on the regular, you want the opportunity to have students collaborate in a controlled environment, and you want to be able to provide personalized feedback to students on their work, then getting up and running with Google Classroom should be on your must-do list this school year.

Here are the basic (and amazingly awesome) features of Google Classroom:

  • Announcements – update students quickly or have them focus on an event that is coming up – let students read the information instead of listening (or not listening) as you make the announcement in class.
  • Assignments – Create an assignment and decide how students will interact with it (make a copy, view only, share a copy with other students). Each assignment is automatically given a “Turn In” button that students can click when they are finished.
  • Calendar  – Create a calendar for each class that is automatically shared with each student. Due dates for assignments are automatically added, but you can also add important dates for students and parents.
  • Co-Teacher – If you co-teach, you can invite your teacher friend to be an admin in your Google Classroom. Both teachers will have the rights to create, grade, and manage materials in the Classroom.
  • Drive Integration – Anything you have created in your Google Drive is immediately accessible when creating assignments, announcements, and questions in your Classroom.
  • Folders – As soon as you create your initial Classroom, Google automatically creates a folder labeled “Classroom” in your Drive. All of your classes will have a subfolder within this folder, making it easy to quickly access materials either from the Classroom view directly, or within your Google Drive. Students will also have this same experience, with a “Classroom” folder immediately created in their Drive the first time they join a class.
  • Question – Creating a question in Classroom will allow you to take a quick poll, spur discussion or get kids thinking about what is coming next.
  • Share to Classroom Button – Google has created an extension that allows you to share any web content with your classroom. If you have found a video, web page, or other web based resource that you want your students to interact with, simply click the extension. You can even create an assignment, ask a question, or make an announcement that features the resource.
  • Stream  – This is where the students will see the entire flow of information; announcements, upcoming assignments, and questions.

Steps to Creating Your First Class in Classroom

  1. Navigate to classroom.google.com
  2. Sign in for the first time – you can use Classroom with your personal account as per a Google update that came out in the spring. However, I would recommend that if your district uses a G-Suite for Education domain, you live within that domain. It will make it easier for you and your students.
  3. You will see a blank Classroom page with a lovely invitation to create or join your first class. Click that plus sign! Obviously, you are going to select “Create Class”New Google Classroom
  4. Name your class – when naming your class, keep in mind that your students might be enrolled in multiple Google Classrooms. Just calling it the school year or something non-specific like your mascot and the year might cause confusion. Creating naming conventions for yourself where you consistently use your last name or the subject you are teaching as the class title will help students.
  5. Your class is now created and ready for you to personalize, add students, and start creating assignments. Your initial class should look something like this, but you can change your theme to one of the preset options or upload a photo to create something more personal to you.Changing your Theme
  6. Personalize the “About” section. You can use this section to upload permanent documentation that you might need for your class (syllabus, homework policy, contact information, etc). If it is in your Google Drive, you can easily add it to your Classroom. You could even create a welcome video using Youtube or Screencastify and post it in this section. About
  7. You will eventually want to add students to your class and you have two options for how to do this.
    1. First, click on the “Students” tab in the header.
    2. If you are a glutton for punishment, you can add students by inviting them to your class. To do this, click “Invite Students” and begin populating the list by typing in their names or emails. The students will get an email invite that they will need to accept before they are enrolled in your class. Adding Students
    3. If you have students that can navigate to the website and type under their own power, the easier way to have them join your class is by displaying the class code on a screen. Adding Students by Code

Creating Your First Assignment

Now that the hard work is done, you can start using your Classroom to teach. When you create assignments in your Classroom stream, you have the ability to attach videos, web links, or materials from your Drive. You do not have to attach any items if you simply want students to create their own materials to turn in to you. If you do attach an item from your Drive, you need to decide how you want the students to interact with it. The options are:

  • Students can view file
  • Students can edit file – this means all students will be working in the same file
  • Make a copy for each student

Options

It all depends on what you want students to do and the level of collaboration you are looking for on the assignment. If you choose “Make a copy,” each student will take ownership of their own doc. No matter what you do, students will be able to access these materials either directly in the stream or in the classroom folder in their Drive.

You can set due-dates, assign the material now, schedule it for later, or save your work as a draft if you just aren’t ready to push out the assignment just. Once you create a due-date for an assignment, it will automatically be added to the Google calendar tied to your class!

Since I know you are just itching to get started, I will bring this lengthy post to a close. However, over the next few weeks, I will focus on a different feature of Classroom so that your classroom experience is robust and fulfilling!

If you would like more information on how to use Google Classroom, feel free to contact me through the Contact link on this blog. If you are a member of the Lebanon City Schools staff and would like to schedule a one-on-one session for training, email me via district email.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Creating Accessibility

Creating Accessibility for Students and Parents

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See that handsome kid? That is my son Jack. The light of my life! The joy of my day! The biggest pain in my ass…

You see, Jack appears to be physically incapable of keeping track of his homework, projects, and general schoolwork. His current method involves crumpling up any worksheets into a ball and either stuffing them in his backpack or his pockets. Our evenings usually include frantic backpack dumps, texts to friends and trash dives as we search for whatever worksheet or project materials he “misplaced” between the time it was assigned and the time he arrived home from school.

Now, I have been a teacher for over twenty years and I have a pretty deep bag of tricks that I can pull from. Can I tell you, friends, that not a single teacher trick works to get my son organized? He scoffs at my suggestions of assignment notebooks, color coded folders, paper clips or just an old-fashioned request to “write the freaking assignment down!” The struggle is real, ya’ll.

But, it was when our discussion turned to digital means to get himself organized that I became most perplexed. My first suggestion was for Jack to get out his cell phone, take a picture of whatever worksheet or assignment was given and then immediately add an event to his Google calendar. That was shot down with a quick, “But, we aren’t allowed to have our cell phones in class, not even if we are using it for school stuff.”

Ummm, ok…

My next suggestion was for Jack to access his materials, especially his math practice, from the online textbook. Jack calmly explained to me that he has no idea how to get to the online version of his math book. When I reached out to his teacher to ask her for a URL, her response was to explain that she knew there was an online version of their textbook out there, but she had no idea how to get to it. She recommended that Jack just Google the name of his textbook and hopefully he could find it and get to it at home.

Wait, what?

As a parent, both of these discussions had me banging my head against a wall. As an educator, these discussions made me decide to extend a call to action. WE MUST MAKE OUR MATERIALS EASILY ACCESSIBLE TO STUDENTS! When we are doing everything in our power to ensure that our students can be successful inside the four walls of our classrooms, we should also make sure that when they are outside of our classrooms they still have accessibility to the materials they need for this success!

We live in a world of 24/7 accessibility. As adults, we can find almost anything that we need at any given hour of the day or night. Why aren’t we also providing this type of accessibility for our students? Stop keeping your materials only in the physical world and start sharing them in the digital world so that your students can access what they need when they need it! By sharing your materials and assignments digitally, you are empowering your students to take control of their own learning. Not only do they now have access to critical assignments, they can also revisit previous material or see content they missed due to absence. If you are requiring students to turn something in, they should be able to access the assignment or the directions digitally. Believe me, your students and parents will thank you!

There are many different avenues that teachers can take to share their materials with students. Check out this list of tools that will make material sharing a breeze. The list is organized from the least amount of teacher effort to the most amount of teacher effort. I will explore some of these options in greater detail in future posts.

  • Allow your students to use their cell phones to take pictures of assignments or add assignments to calendar or homework apps.
  • Student/Parent email groups – Go “old-school” and create email groups for your students and their parents. Send out daily emails and attach any documents that are important for the assignments. This option works better for parents than students since most of our 21st-century darlings don’t use email.
  • Classroom website – Google Sites, WordPress, Weebly, Blogger – the list goes on and on! Any teacher can easily create a classroom website where class materials are posted. My personal preference would be for Google Sites due to ease of creation, direct link to your Google Drive, and drag and drop building tools.
  • Google Classroom – Google classroom (classroom.google.com) is a tool that is free for all educators. Enroll your students, give access to your parents and either create assignments right in the Classroom feed or pull materials from your Google Drive. Any assignment with a due date that is created through Classroom is automatically added to your students’ Google calendars. There are many amazing features in Google Classroom that will blow your mind! Stay tuned for more on this amazing tool!
  • Learning Management Systems like Schoology, and Edmodo (Blackboard also falls into this category, but I don’t believe they have a free option). At the most basic, these LMS tools can be used for information and assignment sharing. If you dig deeper, these LMS tools can change your life! My personal favorite is Schoology, and I will be sharing more on that soon.

You don’t have to be a tech guru to make your classroom more accessible to students; you just need to take a few extra steps to ensure that your students can find what they need when they need it. My challenge to you this summer is to begin thinking of ways that you can help kids like Jack (and frazzled parents like me) successfully navigate to assignments once they leave the well-organized design of the four walls of your classroom.

If you are interested in getting a jump start on figuring all this out and would like my ideas or guidance, please use the “Contact” button at the top of my blog or leave a comment at the end of this post below. I promise I won’t let Jack convince you that the “paper wad” method is the way to go!