Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Schoology Discussions: Care to Chat?

Our #CCSDTech team is in schools pretty much every day of the school year.  Part of our main charge is supporting leaders, teachers, and students with Schoology implementation.  It has been quite a ride so far and we've learned a lot.

One thing we value is finding logical Schoology entry points for teachers and students.  We can train on Schoology for days, but we don't.  We do our best to create a safe entry point with logical instructional context linked to what teachers are already doing in their classrooms.  Schoology has many of these entry points: parent communication, the place kids go to access resources, a online place to post classroom updates, a place to turn in assignments and/or take tests and quizzes, and more.  Through time though, we consistently go back to one feature Schoology provides that is powerful and simple.  That's online discussions.

No matter the content area, every class has discussions and interaction.  These discussions, when done orally and traditionally, create opportunities as well as challenges and limitations.

  • There's the student that simply can't wait their turn and interrupts/blurts out/says something questionable/says the correct or incorrect response when he or she should be allowing others to reflect and think, etc.  This student can change the focus of a discussion quickly and easily.
  • There's the student that very rarely speaks up.  We know he/she would have something thoughtful to share that should be heard, but we don't want to call on him or her out of respect.  
  • There's the student that's always correct.  This is the student every other student waits for us to call on when we have asked an objective question just so everyone can move on with life.  
  • There's also the issue of time.  There are many occasions when there is simply not enough time in a class period or day to keep a great discussion going. 
Overall, discussions are complicated.  There are many factors that can impact their success.  Using Schoology's discussion tool discussions take on a whole new (and more dynamic) life in the classroom.

One, everyone has a voice.  The playing field is leveled and every student has an EQUAL chance to contribute.  There's the opportunity to have 100% participation and interaction in a discussion anytime and anyplace.  Try that without technology.

Two, options within the initial discussion setup are powerful.  From being able to assign a discussion to small groups of kids rather than the whole class to having the students reply before seeing the responses of their peers to grading responses based on a rubric to locking discussions so they're still able to been seen but not interacted with any longer and so much more.  Many options provide choice and power.

So, if you're looking for an initial entry point with Schoology integration and/or you're looking to take learning and interaction to a whole new level in your classroom consider an online discussion within Schoology.  Within just a few clicks the culture of a class can be changed.  As we all know very well, that's not an easy thing to do, but Schoology has made it possible.  Give it a try!

NOTE: This is cross-posted from Jay's blog which can be found here: http://jayveanccsd.blogspot.com/  Please contact us and let us know how we can support you!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

In Case You Missed It...Schoology Assessments

We've got you covered! The Office of Instructional Technology provides Tuesday Tech Tips aimed at providing teachers ideas and support to thoughtfully integrate and utilize technology in their instruction to maximize student learning. So, in case you missed these past posts, here are the essentials on features and innovative uses with Schoology assessments.

(In addition, our Literacy Coordinator, Amanda Wahlborg, published "Do I Really Have to Teach Tech? ELA Tech Skills That Matter."  If you haven't done any tutorials on PARCC or are curious about how the tech side of the ELA assessment works, this is definitely worth a look.)

Office of Instructional Technology Assessments in Schoology Blog Posts:
  1. 5 Tips for Online Assessments in Schoology
    This is a great starting place.  This blog post focuses on creating & using online assessments by highlighting five fantastic features.
  2. Embedding Google Presentations into Schoology Assessments
    Are you wanting to provide your students with opportunities to analyze multiple sources from diverse media and formats?  If so, check out this blog and the templates provided.
  3. Embedding Scrolling Text or Longer Multiple Sources for Synthesis Tasks
    Check out this blog if you are looking for solutions on adding longer passages of text that will allow students to scroll and annotate (using tools like Scrible Toolbar).
  4. Aligning Work Digitally to Track Student Mastery
    This blog post this could be very powerful as we think about measuring what we value in our students' work and looking for growth on specific standards.
  5. Grading Assessments in Schoology
    You have created an amazing assessment, now what?  This blog will show how to grade and provide some tips and tricks along the way.
  6. Providing Feedback Digitally to Help Track Mastery
    Feedback is one of the most important tools we can use to impact student learning.  Check out this blog post for support on maximizing feedback features within Schoology.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Voices from the Classroom: Big Plans for Technology

The Office of Instructional Technology has had the pleasure of working with extraordinary teachers throughout the Cherry Creek School District.  We decided that we would launch "Voices from the Classroom" as a way to highlight innovative teaching and learning from the teachers themselves, in their own words.  

Our guest blogger today is Faye Ampe from Rolling Hills Elementary.  Faye has been teaching 4th grade for 10 years.  Faye has her master�s degree in literacy and endorsements in Reading and ESL.

Big Plans for Technology
In the beginning

There I was, sitting at my end of the year review with my principal discussing my achievements and goals for next year.  Everything had gone well until I noticed I had been marked as partially proficient in technology.  At first I panicked slightly and then realized I completely deserved that mark.  In fact, my principal was generous in giving me that. I barely used technology in my classroom and that was simply unfair to my students.  It was time to do something about it.  I emailed our district technology coaches with a plea for help.  The title of my first email was �Big Plans for Technology.�  The thing was, I wasn�t quite sure what those plans would be yet.  In late August I had the privilege of meeting and working with my technology hero, the best coach EVER!  She was there to help me fulfill my technology dreams.  We began right away in building my Schoology account.

Why do this?

I had always dreamed of having a classroom web page and had attempted several times in years past, only to fail due to the difficulty of keeping up with them.  Schoology hasn�t been difficult at all.  It is a place where I have created many folders in which I store resources for myself and my students.  I have created many assignments and discussions for students across curriculum.  I have created assessments that I had always done previously with paper and pencil and put them in Schoology. It has allowed me to differentiate in a way I have never been able to do in years past.  And my students love it!

Big plans played out

I have learned many things about Schoology in a short 4 and a half months.  I have learned how to use resources where I have created folders for each subject area.  Within the folders I have more folders for different units or activities.  The folders can be shared between resources so I can keep them for myself and share with my colleagues and my students.  

One of my favorite folders is the �Wonderful Words� folder.  This is where we house our classroom words plucked straight out of our read alouds.  The students uploaded videos of themselves in small groups stating the word, giving a definition, using it in a sentence, and then creating an action for it.  After the words were uploaded, the students went back and in the comments section of each word they wrote a sentence using that specific word.  They knew the public (their classmates) would be seeing their sentences so they did their best to impress.  This is just one small example of how I have used to folders to make learning and technology enhance my students� learning.

I have also begun to scratch the surface of Schoology by using updates, the calendar, the gradebook, and badges.  I send updates to my parents through Schoology.  This is where I have created a calendar for the year with special events.  I upload my weekly newsletters to the updates for my families to access.  And parents can check out the gradebook for their student to see how they have done on their assignments.  I have even had a little fun creating and giving out badges to my students for their wide variety of accomplishments.  They get so excited to receive a badge.

It�s worth it!

Creating the Schoology page has taken time and effort and I am so glad I have done this.  One of the best things I have done is set up bi-weekly coaching.  This gives me the opportunity to learn about something in Schoology, practice it, and come back with questions and celebrations.  I have definitely stumbled along as I experiment with Schoology more and more and that is fine because I have learned so much.  I keep trying because it has been so beneficial for my students and their families.  I can�t wait to see what the next 5 months brings in my technology journey.  And I can promise I will not be scoring partially proficient on my end of the year review again.  I am making sure of that!

Our deep thanks and appreciation to Faye Ampe and all that she does for her students!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Tuesday Tech Tip: Working with Schoology & Google Classroom

With our post last week about Google Classroom, we wanted to publish something about how Google Classroom fits with Schoology.  After all, there is some overlap between them, but ultimately, there is room for both in the digital classroom.  Both of these tools are constantly changing, so the following information is "the truth as we know it" as of February 3, 2015.

When would you use Google Classroom?  Whenever you want to share, collect & organize work from kids in Google Drive . . .

Google Classroom is pretty limited in what it offers, especially compared to Schoology.  However, it's really good at what it does, which is content management or organization of Google Docs and files shared with students.  Here's where it really shines -- and where Schoology doesn't yet reach:
  • it automatically makes folders in Google Drive for each class & assignment you create, and it sets all of the permissions automatically.  This means that you no longer need to worry about setting sharing permissions for documents and organizing the files once you get them from students.
  • it can create a copy of a template for each student and automatically names the copy and shares with you for feedback & assessment.  This means that students don't need to worry about making a copy, naming the file, and sharing with you.  When ready for you to assess, they "submit" it right within Classroom.
  • it tells you which students have not yet finished/submitted an assignment, which is very difficult to determine if you're only having students share documents with you in Google Drive.  In Classroom, you can see in one glance who still needs to turn work in.

When would you use Schoology?   Basically when you want to do everything else . . .

Google Classroom is awesome at collecting and organizing work that kids have created in Google Docs/Google Drive (content management).  But at this point, Schoology is awesome at learning management, which includes just about everything else:
  • Communicating with both parents & students via message, update, progress, or calendar event (parents access in Google Classroom doesn't give them mastery or rubric information about assignments)
  • Creating, giving, and grading digital tests & quizzes that are aligned to standards and have varied question types
  • Hosting online discussions (graded or not) with options for audio responses
  • Assigning work to specific students or groups of students
  • Aligning items to standards and learning outcomes for your own data gathering (which can also be visible to students & parents, if desired)
  • Giving feedback to students (including audio comments) and assessing against rubrics
  • Hiding items and pacing learning for students
  • Embedding other web content to enrich learning
  • Collaborating with other teachers in Groups to share curriculum, learning objectives, and PLC work
Can the two work together?  Absolutely.  If you want your students working and collaborating with you in Google but you want to assess them in Schoology using a rubric, for example, you would create the assignment in Schoology first (which gives you a place to assess using the rubric), collect the work in Classroom so it's organized for you, and put in the final grade or rubric scores in Schoology.  (If you have a mobile device, like an iPad, you could use that  to enter the rubric scores or grade while viewing the files on your laptop or desktop.)

Both of these tools can  enhance how you leverage technology to impact learning.  Just keep in mind how you will be interacting with students and let your instructional needs guide your choice (and let us know if you need any help).

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...