Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tuesday Tech Tip: 10 Great Ways to Use Schoology�s Media Albums With Your Class(es) or School

We love the media albums feature in Schoology.  Media albums are simple to create and use, but can be so powerful. Did you know that you can crop pictures in the album, rotate and re-order the pictures, and tag people in them? You can also decide if you want to enable comments, and if you want your students to be able post pictures and videos in the album. 

Remember, Schoology is password protected, so you can enjoy posting pictures here without them being publicly shared. However, if your course or group is public, your media album can also be made public. To learn how to create a media album, see Schoology's video directions by clicking here.  

Here is a screen capture of what a media album looks like, including some pictures and video:
If you're ready for ideas on how to incorporate media albums with your class or school, find 10 great ones below.

1, Show and Tell
: Kids love to show off things that are too big to bring to school, or alive, or that they ate for dinner last night. They also want to show everyone things they (or their cats) do at home. Have them post those pictures and videos to your Schoology Show and Tell Media Album.

2. Vacation Pictures
: Create a vacation media album and have your students post pictures and captions of where they are - in front of the Eiffel Tower, perhaps? The Statue of Liberty? A battlefield from the Civil War? Pull your students' pictures into your lessons when your class learns about those locations in history or current events, or even science. Other ideas: Have the student be "Teacher for the Day," teaching other students about where they went or add everyone's pictures to Google�s My Maps to document places the class has been.

3. Science Experiments: Have groups of students document the phases of an experiment in media albums with captions.  They can also add predictions or results of the experiments using the comments feature.

4. Field Trips: Bring your students� parents with you (virtually) on your next field trip. You and your students can take pictures and post them to the media album so parents can experience the trip while you do.

5. School Events: Take pictures during poetry slams, the science fair, Veteran�s Day events, etc. to document exciting things happening at your school or in your class.

6. Athletics and Activities: Capture dances, plays, musicals, and sporting events after school.

7. Virtual Art Gallery: Have students upload photos of their artwork into a media album for others to comment on or just peruse.

8. Vocabulary Sets: For primary students, try having students take pictures of items that start with a certain letter. For foreign language classes, have students take pictures and label them in the caption with the word (or phrase) in the language they are learning. 

9. P.E. Class: Take photos or videos of students performing an exercise correctly (or incorrectly) and post them for others to see and learn from.

10. Silent Auction: Take photos of items offered in a Silent Auction and post them with description and opening bid as the caption.  Have people comment to bid on the items.

Each item in your media album can be customized. Below is a screen cap of the options (click the green star icons to learn more about the features available).

We hope you will now have some new ideas for using Schoology's media albums. How will you use them with your class(es) or school?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tuesday Tech Tip: Embedding Scrolling Text or Longer Multiple Sources for Synthesis Tasks

There are times when we want students to read something online and respond, perhaps as part of a discussion, an assessment, or an assignment.  For shorter passages, it's not typically a problem.  However, for longer sources, we may want to have a scrolling text box so that we minimize the length of the page or have tabbed resources where students can navigate between them.

We have several options for including longer passages into online activities.  While we can do this in COLE 3.0/Schoology, this could work in other spots as well, as long as you can edit HTML code or embed.

Single Source Text Example (add div code to HTML)

In the example below, I added a scrolling text box by switching to HTML and adding the following before the text:  <div style="width: 100%; overflow-x: hidden; max-height: 200px;">.  After the text, I added </div>.  The result is below (you can add other code for the background color and other style elements, which I didn't include above):

Second Inaugural Address of Abraham Lincoln 


1.   At this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

2.   On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war--seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.

3.   One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

4.   With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

If you're adding scrolling text into Schoology, you can "switch to HTML" to add that code above the text you want to scroll.  If 200px is too short, just adjust the length as needed (we used 450px in some other sources).  Once you add that line at the top of your window, you can switch back to the regular editor and paste in your text.  Schoology will add the </div> code at the bottom for you automatically.

Update:  As of February 2015, you can also use the "Insert  Content" tool to embed a Google Doc or you can see this blog post on how to embed PDFs that you have saved into GoogleDrive.  However, this will not allow you to use an online annotation tool, like Scrible.

Multiple Source Text Example (Google Presentation & LiveBinders)

We posted previously about embedding Google Presentations into assessments or an online activity to have interactive tabs.  The default setting for Google Presentations works well for shorter passages, but it's difficult to add longer passages into a Google Presentation unless you customize the Page Setup to 8.5 x 11 (or whatever size works).  Thanks to @DenverUbow/+NateUbowski for the following tip at the #gafesummit (see his post about using Google Presentations for doing newsletter layouts here).

Want to use our templates so you don't have to create your own?  If you are a CCSD teacher, you can find these in the CCSD Template Gallery.  If you aren't a CCSD teacher, here's the public folder link.

Another option for multiple tabbed sources is LiveBinders, which you can also embed into Schoology and other web pages.  (You can see it here since I can't embed it into Blogger:  http://www.livebinders.com/play/play?id=1539691&present=true.)  This is a very flexible tool -- you can add your own text (it will create scroll bars automatically for longer passages), embed items from sources other than just YouTube, and you can add as many tabs as you need.

Be Thoughtful About Copyright

Whenever we want students to read online, we need to be mindful about where we get our passages. Remember that just because it's on the internet doesn't mean you can take it and republish it elsewhere.  The sources here are in the public domain or embedded from original sources (like YouTube).  We'll be posting some suggestions about finding open educational resources, but in the meantime, you may want to consider checking into Fair Use before you copy, paste, and publish. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Personalized Professional Learning

Personalized Professional Learning

Standards---yes, we use them to guide our teaching but did you know that there are standards for professional learning too? Learning Forward is an organization devoted to professional learning.  They state that:
�The standards make explicit that the purpose of professional learning is for educators to develop the knowledge, skills, practices, and dispositions they need to help students perform at higher levels. The standards are not a prescription for how education leaders and public officials should address all the challenges related to improving the performance of educators and their students. Instead, the standards focus on one critical issue -- professional learning.�  

Indeed, you have been a part of professional development or learning in the past.  Many times the PD or PL includes an outside source telling you what you should learn or develop. I am sure that you can reflect on times when the PD was �great� or �just what you needed�.
Likewise, there have certainly been occasions when the time that you spent being developed fell short.  What if you took some control over what you learned?  This is not to suggest that you ditch the next PD session you are invited to.  Instead, this is to remind you that you have options.  

Below are some things to think about as you take more control over your learning!  

  • Visit this guide from EdSurge for Brewing your Own Professional Development

  • Consider using Twitter to create a Professional Learning Network or PLN.  Check out this post on the topic.  You do not have to be an expert or even know how to tweet.  Set up an account and start searching for topics that you are interested in.  Soon you will find yourself following others and learning from them.  When you are ready, you might just start to find your voice in 140 characters or less.  For a little more wisdom on twitter, look at this blog.

  • Visit Connected Educators.  This is a site dedicated to help educators thrive in a connected world.  Bet you did not know that this is Connected Educators Month?  

  • Participate in a webinar- Many companies have free webinars that you can sign up for.  Being part of an actual webinar is exciting as you have an opportunity to ask and hear questions in real time.  Can�t make the specified time?  Don�t worry. Often times if you have signed up to be a participant you can watch an archived version at a later date.  

The challenge is up to you.  Decide.  What do you want to learn about.  Take charge and investigate.  You will thank yourself.  

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Moving Forward with Schoology: Thinking About the Why

Last year, we posted about our district's Chromebook implementation, looking at the reasons why our district decided to put those devices into our schools & classrooms (CCSD's Chromebook Infusion: Thinking About the Why).  We were getting quite a few questions about why we made the choice we did, it seemed that a post about our rationale was in order.

This year, having had Schoology's Enterprise Learning Management System (LMS) in place for a little over a full school year, we're also getting many questions about why we made that choice over the other options out there (we looked at Edu2.0, Edmodo, Canvas, Haiku, and Moodle).  So, in the same spirit as the previous post, here are the 5 factors that pushed us to move forward with Schoology.  Bottom line: it was a really good choice for us in CCSD.

cc image from ja.wikipedia.org
1.  Online, Blended, Hybrid Learning Opportunities for All Learners (including K-5)
When we started exploring adoption and implementation of digital learning environments at the classroom level back in 2013, we had basically no adoption at the elementary levels and we had a very small percentage of teachers doing anything beyond basic file uploads.  With increased access becoming a reality for all schools with the Chromebook initiative and a district vision that included online learning as an expectation, we needed something that could be easily used by all grade levels and all levels of technology comfort.  We also needed something that would help our classroom teachers provide supports for students with special learning needs, options for differentiation, and options to gather their own data to support learning.  Of the systems we explored, Schoology's interface was the most intuitive and could help us measure what we value.

cc photo courtesy of NJLibraryEvents
2.  Parent Community Involvement in Online, Blended, Hybrid Learning Environments
As a district, we strongly value our parent community as partners in learning.  If our students are engaging in digital learning, we need to make sure that our parents feel included in that aspect as well.  If students submit digital work, parents can see what they've done, in addition to being part of the digital classroom.  In addition, we wanted the potential to have parent groups using our LMS for their own communication, collaboration, and learning.   Our previous LMS was not meeting our needs with our parents -- Schoology provided ways to include parents as learners and participants.

cc photo courtesy of Tyler89
3. Anytime, Anywhere, Any Device
We have a lot of Chromebooks now.  But we also have a ton of other devices not only in our schools but also in our community.  Our district vision of anytime, anywhere learning required us to take a look at our options and find something that was device agnostic. Schoology's web platform works on all devices, but even better for us, the iOS and the Android app meant that we could leverage mobile devices for students, teachers, and parents.  Schoology provided the best fit for our mixed device reality -- and it took the device out of the equation.

4.  Collaboration & Sharing Across the District (and More) 
One of our district goals was to provide online collaborative environments for working smarter. We needed the ability for grade level teams, PLCs, and/or departments to work and share work with each other across schools. That could involve creating common assessments, having online discussions, debriefing and sharing video content from classroom observations, creating curriculum units, etc. While we wanted flexibility for small groups or large district-level groups, we also wanted the option to share and collaborate with teachers outside of our district.  Schoology lets us work and learn together in a larger arena.

cc photo courtesy of Kim Cofino
5.  Professional Development and Support Structures
As with anything that impacts learning, PD and ongoing support are major considerations.   Providing a district-wide solution meant that we could use varied approaches for PD.  It also allowed us to streamline our PD with a train-the-trainer model, provide systemic support across the board, and host content that could be easily shared and aligned with professional learning standards.  Another consideration for us was the ability for "non-district" folks to take part in learning.  Because Schoology has a free version, we could include people like student teachers, community members, and other guests in our sessions, even though they didn't have district accounts.

I've heard leaders from other districts talk about not having a district-wide LMS and letting teachers make that choice.  That might be a great choice for them; however, in our situation, we needed to be sensitive to our goals surrounding equity, opportunity, and access.  Ultimately, Schoology has provided a way to meet those goals in our district.

This is cross posted from This Ones Goes to 11.

CCSD Bright Spot: 5th Graders Create YouTube Style How-To Videos Using WeVideo

When Technology Teacher Jen Sevy from Fox Hollow Elementary kept hearing her 5th grade students explain how they learned to do things they...