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!