Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tuesday Tech Tip: Google Classroom- a Teacher Timesaver!

At the beginning of the school year, we published a blog post on how Schoology, Google Classroom and gScholar can be used to support teaching and learning. Here's a link to that post in case you would like a refresher: http://techtips-ccsd.blogspot.com/2014/08/digital-classroom-tools-schoology.html

Today, we thought we would dedicate a post to Google Classroom and what it can do for you as a teacher. 

If you use Google Docs with your students, you might be running into the same frustrations many other teachers do with organization, sharing and naming of documents. Luckily, Google has come up with a solution to all of those issues, Google Classroom.  
It takes about 5-10 minutes to set up a class the first time, and because we have Google Groups set up in CCSD, you can invite all of your students at once to a class, just by knowing the course name in PowerSchool.  Or, you can give your students an access code to join.  Either way, it�s easy.
Once in, you can share attachments of any kind, presentations, YouTube Videos (secondary only), links to websites, and anything else in your Google Drive with students. There are three ways to share these items. You can allow students viewing rights only, push a copy to each student (which will be shared back with you automatically), or you can give full editing rights of a Google document or presentation to all students. That feature can be used for a class creating a presentation in which each student contributes a slide, or a document used as a backchannel when watching a video or listening to a presenter. 
You can also create an assignment without any attachments. Then your students can see what the assignment is, then create a Google Document, Spreadsheet, Presentation, Drawing, or attach a file, picture, or link to a website directly into a Google Classroom assignment.
How does this take care of the mess of shared documents from students?  When you set up a class in Google Classroom, a set of folders is created in your Google Drive. There you will find a Classsroom folder, with folders in there for each class you create in Google Classroom. They contain folders with all of the assignments you have created within the class, and all student work is contained in the folders, named by the assignment name and the students� names. This makes it very easy to find a student�s work. You can also find student work in Google Classroom, and can see who has turned in work, and who still needs to turn it in very easily. And don't worry, you can still add all of the comments you want in Google, and students can still share their work with a peer or parent as well.  
I think anyone having students write in class, especially those who are frustrated with the organization of Google Docs, should check out Google Classroom. I guarantee it will save you time and help you be more efficient in using Google Docs with your students.
You (and your students) can find Classroom at http://classroom.google.com. Make sure you are signed in with your Cherry Creek e-mail address, as Classroom is only for teachers and students.

Below you'll find a couple of videos from Google that explain a little more about Google Classroom and how to set up a class of your own.

For more information about new features in Google Classroom, including a great new mobile app, visit http://googleforeducation.blogspot.com.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Embedding PDFs from Google Drive into Schoology

We've posted before about the magic of embed code, the HTML code that lets you insert something into a website or blog.  We use embed code a lot when working with Schoology because Schoology allows you to insert embed code into almost any item where you can add content (discussion boards, assessment questions and answers, pages, and assignments).

Thanks to a blog post from Steegle.com about embedding PDFs into Google Sites, we can use the same idea to embed a PDF into Schoology.

A quick word about copyright.  If you are working with a PDF that you've created, copyright doesn't come into play.  However, if you've gotten the PDF from elsewhere, the content may be copyrighted.  Check the Fair Use guidelines to be sure that you're modeling a responsible and respectful approach to someone else's intellectual property for your students.

First, you need to have the PDF saved into Google Drive.  (If it's saved on your computer, you can use the upload option in Drive to upload the PDF.)   See the embedded *PDF below (see what we did there?) for the steps on embedding a PDF into Schoology.

After inserting the PDF, it should be visible in your Schoology item (complete with a scroll bar if the length exceeds the default size).

*originally created in Google Slides (view original)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tuesday Tech Tip: Grading Terms & Grade Setup in Schoology

Most of our secondary schools in CCSD will start 2nd semester this week, so we thought it would be a good time to post some information and reminders about using grading terms and the gradebook in Schoology.

Our courses are created by a sync with PowerSchool, and while that may impact the default grading term for assignments and the gradebook in Schoology, we can customize how information appears, is filtered in Schoology, and pushed to PowerSchool.

Grade Setup in Schoology

Because PowerSchool holds the official grades in our district, it's a good idea to go into the Grade Setup in Schoology to adjust a few settings (visible when you click on "Gradebook" in the left navigation).   The most important thing to change here is the way calculated grades appear to students (and parents).  Checking the boxes for "Hide overall grade" and "Hide grading period grades" provides students with feedback for assignments but doesn't show a final grade column.  This minimizes potential confusion for student and parents since Schoology's final grade may or may not match what PowerSchool shows as a cumulative grade.

The Grade Setup area is also where you can create assignment categories in Schoology, either for customized syncing with PowerSchool or for filtering assignment and achievement data in Schoology.  This is also where you can create "permanent" rubrics, although these cannot currently be aligned to standards or learning outcomes for Mastery reports.

Grading Periods/Terms in Schoology

In our district, Schoology assigns a default grading period for assignments based on the grading term provided by PowerSchool.  So, a course that has a 2014-2015 grading term in PowerSchool defaults to a 2014-2015 grading period in Schoology; however, most teachers divide assignments and grades into smaller terms, like semesters, quarters, or trimesters.  

If you prefer to have assignments categorized into smaller grading terms, use the Period pull-down in the assignment settings to choose the correct grading period (click "Grading options" if you don't see the pull-down).  This lets you filter the Schoology gradebook based on different grading terms. 

This does not affect the PowerSchool gradebook as assignments are placed into a term based on the assignment due date.  Assignments without a due date will land on the last day of the grading term in PowerSchool's gradebook (i.e. June 2, 2015 for year-long courses).

Bulk Editing Assignments in Schoology

If you already have assignments in the Schoology gradebook and you want to adjust the grading period, you can use the "bulk edit" feature to see the list of existing assignments in Schoology.  Not only can you change the grading period, but you can also shift due dates, change grading scales, edit the category, and rename.  This is also where you can choose to "unpublish" an assignment -- the grades and other information remain visible to you but are hidden from students and parents (helpful for diagnostic assignments or items for your feedback only).

Customizing PowerSchool's Syncing Configuration 

If you are using PowerSchool's gradebook in our district, grades entered into Schoology push over to PowerSchool in the "Homework" category by default. You can, though, customize how Schoology's categories sync to PowerSchool if you'd rather have finer-grained control.

Click on the PowerSchool option in the left navigation when in a course.  Under the "Customization" tab, you can check the box to "Categorize grade category mapping."  This gives you the option to either not sync specific Schoology categories or sync to the 4 default assignment categories in PowerSchool (Homework, Quiz, Test, and Project).  Categories need to exist in Schoology's Grade Setup prior to this step.  Using the pull-downs, choose the Schoology categories that will match with the PowerSchool categories (you can have more than 1 Schoology category linked to any default PowerSchool category).  Any Schoology category not mapped here will not sync to PowerSchool (which might be a great option for formative assessments).  

Finally, remember that you can also hide folders and items in your courses.  If you teach a year-long course and are entering a new segment (like semester 2 or another trimester), it might be a good idea to hide earlier folders and items to minimize confusion for students and parents.

For more information on Schoology's gradebook, please see Schoology's Help Center article.  For information on syncing with PowerSchool, see this article from Schoology's Help Center.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Cherry Creek Bright Spot: MinecraftEdu in the Classroom

Should students be allowed to play video games at school? Absolutely- if they are playing Minecraft in Joel Solomon's technology classes at Village East Elementary or with the Minecraft Club at Thunder Ridge Middle School with Cary Joice and Justin Cantrell.  

These educators have leveraged student interest in gaming and use MinecraftEdu as a way to use to reinforce the teaching of standards. They focus not only on 21st Century Skills like collaboration, communication, and digital citizenship, but also on standards for core subject areas such as math, science, social studies and language arts. Check out the video below to learn more about Minecraft and using MinecraftEdu in the classroom.

For more information about using MinecraftEdu with your students, contact Joel Solomon at jsolomon2@cherrycreekschools.org or visit minecraftedu.com

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Tuesday Tech Tip: Exploring Apps & Websites with Graphite

In our office, we tend to get this question a lot:  "So, what apps should I use on <insert hardware here>?" That's a pretty complicated question.   What, ultimately, do you want students to learn by using the app(s)?  Are you trying to target specific standards or objectives?  How much time do you have (instuctionally) to dedicate to this activity, both before and during?  Does this need to be something web-based or will you be installing it onto a device?  How much money are you willing to spend?  
A great source of information when looking for classroom apps and websites is Graphite (http://www.graphite.org), from Common Sense Media.  Graphite is a website that provides reviews and ratings on apps, websites, and games.  It's searchable by grade level, content area, price, platform, and Common Core State Standard.  And the best thing about it? The reviews and ratings are done by educators for educators.   

When rated and reviewed on Graphite, teachers can get a quick snapshot about pros and cons, engagement, pedagogy, and support.  In addition, the detailed review explains what the app is or does, whether or not it's good for learning, and how teachers can use it (in addition to other helpful information like which skills it builds, what types of learners would benefit from using it, set-up times, and tech tips).  

Anyone can search or use Graphite without a user account, but when you create an account (free), there are additional benefits.  
  1. You can create "Boards," which are saved collections of reviewed apps and websites.  Boards are public, so you can create a board of your favorite reading apps to share with your PLC or colleagues.
  2. You can write your own field notes.  If you find an app or website that you've used with students, you can add your own comments to the existing review.  These can be very helpful, especially as your perspective may or may not align with the reviewer's take on the app.
  3. You can also create "App Flows," which are basically lesson plans that you share on the site.  App Flows take you beyond the basics of a single app into a practical way to use the app in a lesson or unit.
  4. You can follow other educators who review things that you find helpful or interesting.
In Cherry Creek, we've had quite a few teachers contribute content to Graphite.  In fact, some of them are now Graphite Certified Educators!  If you're interested in becoming a Certified Educator for Graphite, you can find more information on their website.  

Graphite is constantly adding more reviews to their site, and while you can get ratings in the iTunes store for iOS apps, the Chrome Web Store for Chrome apps, or Google Play for Education for Android apps, they are nowhere near as detailed or helpful as the information you can find on Graphite.  Graphite keeps reviews for all platforms in one place and keeps the focus on learning.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Tuesday Tech Tip: EdCamp Denver!

The best description of an EdCamp ever: �It�s like going to a restaurant where you will help build the menu when you get there, oh, and you might be cooking.� Going to an Edcamp can be a little intimidating for teachers who are used to a traditional conference format, with a schedule and sessions set up prior to attending. EdCamp sessions won�t be decided until it actually starts on the day of the event with participant signups and volunteers to facilitate the sessions. Although it is still viewed as a conference, an EdCamp is more of a free, collaborative, participant-driven PD unconference for teachers and the topics they want to discuss than a traditional conference.

From the edcamp.org website, Edcamps are:
  • free
  • non-commercial and conducted with a vendor-free presence
  • hosted by any organization interested in furthering the Edcamp mission
  • made up of sessions that are determined on the day of the event
  • events where anyone who attends can be a presenter
  • reliant on the �law of two feet� that encourages participants to find a session that meets their needs
EdCamps are a great way to take control of your own PD and make some new connections in the process. A few tips: Head to the unconference with a focus or a goal, and attend the sessions you know will help you reach those goals. Get the contact information of the presenters or other participants for follow up questions or support, or just to keep in touch. Make sure you carve out some time to reflect on your learning and find a way to share it with others. Attend the Demo Slam for a few quick and easy tips and tools you can take and use right away.

EdCamp Denver has several unconferences every year, and the next one is just around the corner! You can check out the details for the Jan. 31, 2015 EdCamp on the EdCamp Denver site, or if you are ready to jump in you can register with Eventbrite. Some of the team members from the Office of Instructional Technology have already registered...let us know if you are planning to attend! We'd love to connect with you there!

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...