Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Using Schoology as the Central Hub for your classroom

An essential part of a 1:1 classroom will be delivery of the material or workflow.  I've tried different management software to make this happen -- Edmodo, Livebinder, Google Docs, and Schoology.  These are all wonderful tools and can be very useful in your classroom.  But as regular readers of this blog may know, Keep It Simple Stewart.  I need a Central Hub for my 1:1 classroom to function.  Thus, Schoology is my most trusted LMS because of everything it offers. 

It definitely helped that my school district purchased an enterprise version of Schoology.  However, my classroom was leveraging Schoology before said purchase, and I'm not sure what changed after the purchase other than what seems to be an infinite amount of space for posting classroom resources.  (I leave all the technical stuff to the people who actually know what they're talking about.)

I organize my classroom's Schoology page by unit or chapters.  This aids in classroom managment and communication.  Both the students and teacher see the same thing.

Inside of each unit's folder, I post the resources we will be utilizing.

Among these resources could be my videos for my flipped classroom.

Powerpoints of classroom notes.

Readings for classroom use or homework.

Assignments with weblinks.

A discussion board where students can post and respond to prompts.

You may have noticed on the right hand side of some of the pictures, it indicates which students have turned them in.  That is particularly helped when handling the workflow portion of your 1:1 classroom.

With the ability to post everything in Schoology, it made it easier for my classroom to function.  The students knew where to go to get everything they needed to be successful in the class.  They didn't need prompting, I was never forced into finding a new app, and they were never confused about delivery method both from me and to me.

And access!  Students can access the resources 24/7 as long as they have an internet connection -- meaning they have 24/7 access to me.

Christmas in July!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Formative Assessments and the Power of Your 1:1 Device

When you find out that you will teaching in a 1:1 environment, it may be difficult to figure out where to start.  There are so many different apps, strategies, and ideas.  To not get overwhelmed, I followed the KISS acronym -- Keep It Simple Stewart!

I have a lot of ideas, but on many of them, I realized I did not have the time to learn how to implement them.  I tried not to get caught up in the excitement of the device.  Instead, I focused on a simple philosophy.  Sometimes I can't accurately express the way to wield the power of the iPad, but at one presentation this year, I listened to my colleague in the Physics Department ask a simple question -- "What can the iPad do for learning that I couldn't do previously?"

That question resonates with me as I think about a simple philosophy that any teacher can follow when they enter a 1:1 teaching enviroment.

One strategy that I always tried to incorporate in my classes before the 1:1 enviroment was exit slips or anything to measure if the student grasped the concepts that they learned during the class.  Grading 150 exit slips per day is definitely a daunting task.  There's got to be a better way. 

With any 1:1 device, there is a better way.

For workflow, my classroom leverages Schoology.  As stated in a previous post, my school district has an enterprise version the Schoology so that allows for what I'm finding to be an infinte amount of space.  Schoology has a Test/Quiz function.

To adhere to the KISS philosophy, I didn't want to overwhelm my students (or myself!) with more apps to search for.  Since we were already leveraging Schoology, using the Test/Quiz function would make it easier for the students to locate where we needed to go.  Schoology became the central hub for the class.

I committed to the idea that at the end of the each hour, the students would take a formative assessment on what we learned that day.  The typical assessment was 3 mutliple choice questions.



The set up is relatively easy.  Questions can be mutliple choice, true false, fill in the blank, you can input picutres for students to examine, or just about anything.  I like the functionality because it gives the teacher options such as creating start and end times, a time limit, or an attempt limit.

The teacher gets immediate feedback.

With the feedback, the teacher can determine what type of reteaching or remediation should occur the next day.

Since I committed to this at the end of every class period, the students knew that at 10:45, the exit slip would open, and that is what we were doing at that time.  Some students got competitive -- "3 out of 3 in one attempt, Mr. Stewart!" they would shout.  Adding positive encouragment was always helpful as I would always recognize the first few students to get 3 out 3 correct.

Schoology provides a easy platform in the app.  My students were already using Schoology.  There are other options to quiz and collect data with the students.  For instance, my school district uses Mastery Manager.  I could use their online testing platform and then utilize the wonderful gradebook paste option to record their scores in my gradebook.  But this would be sending the students somewhere else on their iPad, breaking away from my KISS philosophy.

The use of exit slips as a formative assessment is a simple idea.  It's one that any teacher can commit to.  When deciding on how you can use your 1:1 device, consider the end in mind -- what should the students be able to do or know at the end the class?  Create a quick quiz, have the students complete it, and make conclusions on the effectiveness of your lesson.

The power of the 1:1 device makes the exit slip strategy more effecient with grading and data collection.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Dropbox: the first app you need for both professional and personal use

Dropbox has been a life saver in both my classroom and outside.

Anyone who has been or will be in a 1:1 teaching environment will need to master workflow -- how you're going to deliver items to students, how will they return it, how you will grade it, and how you will return it to them.  Fortunately for me, my school has an enterprise version of Schoology.  Thus, I use that for my typical workflow.

Dropbox has become essential to me because I need to access my material from numerous devices.  At any given time, I will be using my personal laptop, the desktop computer in my classroom, my iPad, or my iPhone.  With my material in Dropbox, I might even use your computer at your house.

Professional purposes are very obvious.  Beginning my first 1:1 classroom last year, I needed to convert anything I wanted to use or create into a pdf.  Past practice would have compelled me to save the files on the school district server, but I wanted easier, 24/7 access.  Dropbox is the simple replacement.

Dropbox is excellent for students because it allows them to save something from their iPad and access it later from a computer at their house.  I often had my students backup their work into Dropbox.  For delivery, I used Schoology and Livebinder.  The students wrote on assignments or activities I posted in Notability.  From Notability, my students saved the final product to their Dropbox folders.  At the end of the semester, some of my students left my 1:1 section.  By putting all of their work in Dropbox, they had access to it even without their iPad.

Dropbox allows you to create shared folders.  This is why many teachers have decided to use Dropbox as their workflow.  The teacher creates a shared folder with each of their individual students.  I stayed away from that because I thought there would be too much clicking (and found Schoology to probably have the same amount).  I prefer to use Dropbox as a backup to Schoology.  Every once in a while a student would have trouble delivering something to me for a variety of reasons.  A shared folder in Dropbox is a simple sollution.

Dropbox gives you 2GB of space for free.  However, a great perk is that they give you 500MB everytime you get someone to sign up.  I'm up to 7.5GB!

I also use Dropbox for my basketball practice plans.  I have a shared folder with my assistant coach.  This is akin to team teaching.  I like to create the practice plan and put it in the shared folder in the morning of an afternoon practice.  This helped our communication.  My assistant coach can look at the plan any time through the day and see what drills he might be leading that day.  He can be organized and add suggestions.  Once this season, I had an emergency and couldn't make it to practice.  The plan was already in Dropbox.  I didn't need to do anything more, and my assistant could access it right from his phone.

Dropbox has personal uses as well.  Nothing says romance like a shared Dropbox folder with your wife.  We have shared pictures.  But also, we are currently renting two properties -- both from before we were married.  Managing them can be cumbersome.  All of the documentation goes into the shared Dropbox folder.  This way, if one of us is talking to the tenant or a contractor, we've got everything we need.

Dropbox was especially a life saver when we made our offer on our current house.  This is a great house, and we needed to move fast.  No time to get to our own computer and printer/fax machine.  We were at my wife's parent's house when our realtor emailed over all of the documentation.  I needed a place to quickly store documentation, print, sign, scan, save, and return to the realtor.  I did this all with my iPhone, Dropbox app, and my in-laws printer/scanner.

Speaking of in-laws, I even have a shared Dropbox folder with my mother in-law (insert your own joke here!).  I needed to record a live song with my iPhone and get her a copy.  The file was way too big to email.  The shared folder in Dropbox was just way to easy.

As you can see, these practical personal and professional uses make Dropbox an essential resource.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Vocabulary Development with Quizlet

I flipped my classroom in Advanced Placement US Government and Politics 2 years ago.  Lectures are posted online, and the students complete activities and participate in simulations during classtime.  This is quite a change for the typical AP student at our high school.  After about a month of this instructional change, I noticed something that stood out.  The students' vocabulary was severely lacking.

In AP Government, there is an extroardinary amount of vocuabulary to learn in a short amount of time -- the course is taught in a semester.  Quite frankly, if you're not a follower of the news, most of the vocabulary is completely foreign.  Since the filibuster was used over 100 times last Congressional term and was debated just this past week, why isn't it a household term?

I needed to implement a strategy to help the students learn the vocabulary.

This is why I use Quizlet.

Quizlet is an online resource that allows students to create vocabulary terms and then choose from a variety of ways to learn them.

In my flipped AP Gov classroom, Quizlet is a shared responsibility.  On the first day of every unit (or one week), I release a list of vocabulary of about 40-50 terms.  Each student is assigned at least 2 terms.  The students log in to quizlet, and there, they define their assigned terms. 

When they think they have finished, the student raises their hand, I preview their definitions, and they add their set of terms and definitions to our class bank.

After each student has uploaded their terms, I combine all of their sets into one for the entire unit.

With this finalized set, the students have the opportunity to learn or review the vocabulary in a number of different ways:

I have found that the boys in the class like to compete and will play some of the games over and over again until they dominate the leaderboard. 

Others just like to flip through the flash cards or take some of the practice quizes.

Any way they are learning is fine by me!

A few pitfalls to watch for: 

I always preview their definitions before they are uploaded.  The reason is that Quizlet has an auto-define option in which the student types the word in and Quizlet suggests a definition.  For some of the terms, the student might have no idea what it means so anything that looks good could be correct to them.

Consider setting limits to how the student defines the term.  Some students would write a paragraph or even two run-on sentences.  Be very clear what you are looking for.  I tell them to be clear and be brief.

As you preview their set, be sure to ask them -- do you know what that means?  The student might type anything or use the auto-define.  There may be words in the definition that they don't even know.

Challenge the students or demonstrate.  Throughout the week, I might play scatter so the the students can try to beat me or comment on how some of the students have been practicing the vocab with the Quizlet created quizzes.

Have fun with it . . . I mean when will be the next time the students will be practicing vocabulary with a term like the Budget Impoundment Act of 1974.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Proof that I live for economics and technology

I love it when I can tell my students about how I use economics on a daily basis.  It helps them get thinking about the cost-benefit analysis or thinking on the margin.  To demonstrate, I will share two economic concepts and how I apply them with two personal apps.  I live for applying economics with technology.

In economics, we talk about how "there is no such thing as a free lunch."  Everything has a cost.  If someone advertises a buy one, get 1 free special, in order to get the free item, one must buy the first one.   Likewise, if there is an advertisement stating something in the store is free, you still have to give up your time to go to the store. 

Yesterday, my wife and I went to see Despicable Me 2.  Now, they tell you at the beginning of the previews to shut your phone off, and I am a rule follower.  Then, an advertisement came on stating that if you open the Cinemark App and put your phone on "Cinemark Mode", you will get a reward at the end of the movie.  This is epic!  And I want the reward.  I turned my phone back on, downloaded the app, created an account, and signed in.  This took place while the previews were still showing so I thought it was an acceptable practice of movie etiquette.  I, then, turned my phone to "Cinemark Mode".  After enjoying the movie with several laugh out loud moments, I opened my Cinemark app and found this:

Success!  But is it really free?  Let's examine.  First, I had to be in the movie theater to get the free soda, and second, I have to come back to see another movie to redeem the reward.  Cinemark is incentivizing me to return to the theater by 8/14.  Nothing is really free.

Still on the edge of your seat?  How about another example?

Another important economic concept is demand and supply.  This plays out in our daily lives especially gas prices.  Instead of going into all of the factors that cause a gas station to set it's price, a typical consumer just wants to pay for gas at the cheapest price possible.  However, the gas station owner wants to charge the highest price possible.  Market forces set the price somewhere in the middle.

What's strange is that when we drive down the street, we notice that different gas stations have different prices.  I could drive around town finding the lowest gas price, but that would defeat the purpose of getting the biggest bang for my buck.

That's why I use the GasBuddy app.  This app allows its users to report gas prices when they see them at the pump.  I can open the app and instantly find the cheapest gas nearest me right now:

Why would you want to pay 20 cents more per gallon if you don't have to?

The free market only works if information is easily accessible.  Both parties benefit.  I benefit by knowing the lowest gas price near me immediately, and the gas stations benefit by getting the advertisment.

Now, go get some cheap gas on your way to a movie!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Out with the old, in with . . . Educreations!

Draw and submit. Draw and submit.

This is a typical "drill and grill" method of making sure students in economics have the ability to draw and analyze specific prompts.  One-third of the AP Economics test is entirely drawing and interpreting these graphing prompts.  The other two-thirds is multiple choice where students may have to interpret a graphing prompt.  These prompts can be difficult to manage because many of them include up to five steps or more.

It's clear - a skill in the class must be the ability to draw, analyze, and interpret a graphing prompt.

The old method of teaching this skill would be to give a prompt and have the students draw it. 

(a student drawn submission of the monetary policy cause effect chain)

That's great if the student can complete the skill to perfection. 

But what if they're not perfect?  Where did they go wrong during the process of completing the prompt?

Educreations offers a great solution for us to find out where they went wrong and correct the mistakes.  Educreations is an interactive whiteboard that allows you create an audio recording while you write on the screen.

Now, instead of just submittting the final answer, the students record their voices while they write their answers.  The viewer has the ability to listen to the student's thought process as they complete the prompt.  The teacher can find the spot where things went wrong and have the student remediate and move forward.  Peer revision could also be an effective way for students to make sure they have grasped the concept.

Here's a link to a good answer to an AP Economics prompt submitted using Educreations.

In the old method, I have often graded a student's submission with the score and posted on the board what the correct answer is.  Students might still be confused and not know where they went wrong.

In the new method, I can still post the correct answer somewhere, but the students who didn't get it can find the place where things went wrong.  Hopefully, this clears up the issues.

We could also talk about the psychology behind saying it outloud as you complete a task and how that helps you learn and remember.

This strategy is easily transfereable to other disciplines. It's certainly helpful in anything that has a step by step process or requires the student to show their work.

"Draw and submit" has now been replaced with "record, speak, draw, and submit".

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Student Blogs

Writing allows students to define the world.  I can't think of a better way to get students to express themselves in a productive manner than to have them create and share their own blogs.  The blogs being public will have them take careful consideration to what's going out there.

I've tried this in the past, but it failed to stick with me or them because I wasn't ready.  Something like students blogging needs to be emphasized at least once a week in class.

Here's my plan:

Students will sign up for any type of blog site they desire.  I'm going to suggest Blogger since I can use this blog as a model, and its relatively simple to use.

Each student will be assigned a day of the week.  They need to have their post completed by their assigned day.  First semester is economics.  So here's a list of topics they can choose to write about:

1.  Make it useful -- they will be writing college and scholarship essays this year.  Students can relate one of the essays to Economics and blog about it.  The class will even be able to help them edit or provide suggestions to improve it

2. Pick a concept that we learned this past week and describe how you see this concept in practice in the world, community, or school.

3. Find an article about an economic concept that we learned during the week, link it, and explain how it relates to what they are learning

4.  Create an argument in support or against a proposed economic policy.

5.  Take a picure of something, post it,  and explain how it relates to something we learned.

Students will then be responsible for commenting a few other blogs throughout the week.

Since a few will be due each day, it will be good for the class to read a few each night and not be inundated by all of them in one night.  (And good for the teacher!)

Each individual blog needs to be collected in a central location.  A good way to do that is by using Flipboard.  I posted about my plan for that here.

Wow, this will be a collision of great things -- defining the world, applying economics, and creating a portfolio of writing samples.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What I'm working on: Flipboard

If every student in my class has their own blog, how will I keep track of where they all are?


Blogging will be a part of my classroom (more on this in a later post!).  So I needed to find a way to simplify how to collect them and how students can access each other's blog.  Flipboard allows me to organize everyone's blog in a central location.

(My Flipboard dashboard)

The students can access the classroom collection of blogs very simply.  Students will get an account on Flipboard.  After I collect all of their blogs in a "magazine", the students will subscribe to the collection.  The subscription will give them access to the classroom collection of blogs as soon as they open the Flipboard app on their device.

This is quick, useful and very easy for students to read each other's blog.

When the school year begins, I can post on how it's going.  Until then, I can collect the authors I like to read and create a magazine.  I'm sure everyone wants to know all of the economics blogs I like to read:

(How a collection of blogs looks)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Google Forms and a Basketball Workout Calendar

For years, the basketball players have been given a monthly calendar where they would fill in their ballhandling, shooting totals, and lifting totals.

This year, we changed that with a simple google form.  With the amount of players carrying around smartphones, I thought - why not have the players input their totals into an app or program (anything!) instead of carrying around their calendars in their sweaty, smelly gym bag.

The players input their name and their totals:

Of course, with a google form, we get the totals on an excel spreadsheet.

The coaching staff shares the form and has access to the results at their fingertips 24/7.

At the end of every month, the coaches will total all the minutes, shots, and lifts in excel.  We discuss the results with each player and the team.

The only drawback, which was the same for the paper calendar, is getting them to input their totals.

Next idea -- set up a push notification!

Crossing the Rubicon

I had thought that I would start posting ideas here earlier, but my wife and I planned for a perfect storm of events in the last month.  First, and most exciting, we moved to a great house.  Several times over the past month, we've looked at each other and said "wow, do we really live here?!"  Next, to help aid those expected and unexpected costs of the house, we both taugt first semester summer school.  Third, we both coach and went right from summer school to our repsective camps.  Nights were then filled with open gyms (me), league games (me), and classes (her).

Needless to say we needed a week to catch our breath.  And we've had it.

So what I am posting on this blog?

I'm going to post my thoughts on my teaching.  The focus will typically be on technology in education.  This past school year I was part of my district's 1:1 program.  Some might call it blended learning.  I've done a lot of work over the past 14 months to put myself where I am now -- and frankly, I still have a lot to do.  This blog will be a great place for me to share and reflect what I'm working on or what I'm doing.

I may also post my ideas on topics relating to education, coaching basketball, Marquette basketball, family, the Cubs, good coffee, etc.

This was the first post.  When Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon River with his army, he said "Alea iacta est" (The die has been cast).  He said this because he knew that by leading his army across the Rubicon, he was leading them to civil war, and there was no going back.  Now, even though this first blog post is not as epic as Caesar crossing the Rubicon, I do enjoy a good historical reference point.