Monday, August 17, 2015

3 Things to do BEFORE using Google Classroom

Google Classroom does not do everything (yet!) but it does do several things very well. If you plan to use three of its strongest features (distribute resources, distribute and collect assignments, or create complete lessons), there are a few things to do before you use it with students.

#1 Prepare “static” resources
Let’s start small. Classroom is great for distributing “static” resources (articles or readings as handouts or website links). Gone will be the days of “I lost it,” “I wasn’t here,” or “You didn’t give me one.” “But you were in class when I handed them out!” “Well then, you must not like me.” You’ll want to get the resources “Google Classroom ready” and keep track of them for future reference.

How to get resource ready: Add the link or the document name to a document that has all the links and handout names in order. Copy the handout/document to Google Drive.

The details: Create a Google Doc (this will be a theme) in a Google Drive folder for the course and/or unit. In this document (called Readings?), copy and paste the link to each reading.  For handouts, copy the documents (the PDF or Word file) to the same folder or create the document directly as a Google Doc. Add the names of each document to the Readings document.  Keep the readings in order and you may want to add a brief description of each so that you can keep track of each one.

#2 Prepare your Fantastically Fun Fill-in Forms
(formerly known as worksheets)
Be honest. You would have cringed and completely skipped this section had I entitled it “Prepare your Worksheets,” correct? This is not the time or the place for “the worksheet argument” so let’s just leave it at this: What you create and distribute determines the difference between the two.

We’ll just assume that you have something to distribute that your students are going to complete that will help them learn. Google Classroom is great for this because you prepare one document (Theme alert - Google Doc) and without heading anywhere near a copy machine, distribute to everyone without [insert previously stated excuses here]. Then, students “hand in” completed assignments that are non-wrinkled, readable, not lost in backpacks, and contain no visible sweat/tear stains (therefore guilt free!) while you don’t have a stack of papers endlessly shedding little edges of spiral notebook paper scraps.

How to get the resource ready: Create a Google Doc with the question(s). You also may want a document that has a list of all the question documents or add them to the Readings document after the reading assignment they pertain to.

The details: Google Docs works very well for distributing assignments of this type. If you have an existing (wait for it, wait for it...) worksheet (or FFF-inF) copy it to Drive to convert to a Google Doc (or you may need to retype it). Skip a line after each question but there is no need to leave extra space for student answers because they will add as many lines as needed when they type in their answers.

The key comes when you distribute via Google Classroom. You’ll be distributing a Google Drive file. Therefore, you’ll select the document you created and you’ll select “Make a copy for each student.” Students have their own copy of the document to answer as completely as they would like. When they complete it, they “hand it in” via Google Classroom.

#3 Pre-organize an entire lesson
Currently in Google Classroom you are unable to save a lesson that you have created. Therefore, it’s important to have the sequence saved.

How to get the resource ready: Many lessons follow the “Read. View. Do.” format in some variation or form. Create a Google Doc for each lesson that contains the links and document names to the readings, the links to videos, and the document names for the “Do” part(s) of the assignment.

The details: When you distribute the lesson, you’ll create an assignment that contains each of these different parts. You may even want to include the Google Doc you’ve created (giving students View rights only) as an overview of everything the lesson entails.

Bonus: Purchase 50 Things You Can Do with Google Classroom by Alice Keeler and Libbi Miller. It is a great reference as you continue to use Google Classroom with your students.

Friday, May 1, 2015

How did #AprilBlogaDay impact my practice?

I've often heard that it takes 30 days to develop a habit. From my #AprilBlogaDay experience, that may not be completely true. But it was only by taking part in the challenge that I was able to figure that out, along with a few other key things.

Time is of the essence
When the challenge began, I was on Spring Break. This gave me the necessary time to get a blog finished each day. Once classes began again, I found that many of my blogs were completed and submitted after 11 pm. The daily deadline helped make it happen but I'm just not ready to commit to that going forward. Even though I got better at churning them out, it still takes quite a bit of time each day.

Practice, practice, practice
One of the biggest takeaways was that the daily writing helped me develop a process to writing each post. I learned to let go and press Publish. It's never going to be perfect so just let it be and move on. It has certainly made it easier for me to post something and so the hurdle each time has gotten much smaller.

Variety is the spice of life
Initially, I had figured that each post was going to be similar in length and style. That was my goal as I figured it was a good plan to try to follow. Now, the structure may be to try something different each week or on particular days. It may make for a disjointed blog but trying different things will make it more interesting for me.

Connections made
Participating in a project such as this with others made it much more educational and possible. Reading what others wrote and having them read some of what I wrote was a constant motivator. Feedback is very important early on in order to get things kickstarted. I've now connected with several others who have great things to say.

Habit of reflection
While the daily blog habit may not be a result of this challenge, the practice of reflection has come much more the forefront for me. This was an unexpected but extremely positive outcome. I do find myself reflecting more during the school day and I already seen it playing out in what I do in the classroom each day. Among many positives, this may be the most encouraging for me.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The worst advice I've ever heard about technology in the classroom

The worst advice I've ever heard about technology in the classroom came out of my own mouth. It went something like "You should do/use/incorporate this because it is great and easy to do."

I don't remember what this was but I do remember the comment from one of my colleagues after I said it a couple of times during a professional development session. She stopped me at one point and asked if she could be perfectly honest with me.

Me: Of course.
Her: "Well, it is probably easy for you but it's not really easy for me."
Me: Yet
Her: "Maybe. But until then, it's even more frustrating that I don't get it when you keep reminding me how easy it should be."
Me: I guess I'll hide this big red "That was easy" button until a later session.

I've tried to avoid the word in any presentation or PD session since.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

What I have learned from a year of daily assessments on a deivce

With this year's freshman class required to BYOD, one of the things that I decided to do was to have all of my students do the daily assessments on the devices. I chose to use Socrative because I had already successfully used it for a few quizzes but many review games for almost two years. I committed to try for the entire school year because I figured it would take some time to work everything out and to learn some of the ins and outs.

The process
Each quiz is anywhere from 5 to as many as 10 multiple choice questions. Students start with a blank sheet of paper for the first quiz and I always give an open-ended written question last. While writing that answer on their paper, I format and print results and take a quick peek. Students hand in a quiz with that hand-written answer and it gives me something to put a grade on to hand back the next day.

Creating quiz questions
Initially, it takes a little more time to create each quiz but definitely less time than grading 100+ quizzes daily. Because the answer is in front of them on a multiple choice question, the questions can be a little more specific and so I can expect a little more from their reading.
Expected bonus: I certainly became much better at creating questions specific to our conversations or to lead students to a surprise that may help them learn the material better.
Issue to resolve: I'd like to easily add previous day's questions into the set of questions for each day to give students more exposure to the foundational content. It's not easy to do without retyping it in Socrative.

During the quiz
I disabled immediate feedback because there were too many "OH!'s", "AH!'s", and "DARN!'s" otherwise. It became disruptive to the others. Instead, I go over the questions after the quiz or as part of class discussion.
Unexpected bonus: Students have good focus and concentration on their OWN screens. Each student is at a slightly different pace and only one question is on the screen at once. This lends itself to very little "screen looking." Each student can move at their own pace and I can see their progress and pace.
Issue to resolve: Is there something constructive that the students who finish quickly can do?

Recording results
After printing the results spreadsheet, I record the scores on the student's paper he handed in. I also read and comment on the written answer and make a note on the spreadsheet page for his written answer. Later, I can input the results from the spreadsheet into the LMS.
Expected bonus: There is much less student use of paper. On that one sheet, most students fit the written answer for 1-2 weeks of quizzes.

Future wishes and ideas
Daily exit tickets may be that students create a question (with answers) from that day's topic. Those questions can become part of the next day's review part of the quiz. At the same time, I get to see what type of understanding students have of the lesson through the questions they create.

Overall, it has been very successful. I now have a bank of quizzes to be modified instead of created entirely from scratch and I don't need to run off 100+ copies each day. When I make an update or addition, I add it directly to the quiz and can do it seconds before class is set to begin.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Winding down (or finally getting it?) after 27 posts in 27 days

The biggest fear was the lack of time time so I decided to try keep each post short and simple - one thought - in and out. But that is way more difficult than I had imagined.

Seth Godin's post today addressed this situation for me. Perfect timing.

So after 27 posts in 27 days, I'm trying to actually do it as planned this time. It shows I definitely needed the practice.

What is the purpose of a personal public reflection?

There were several reasons I decided to take on the AprilBlogaDay challenge. One of those reasons was my attempt to get over the thought that a blog was basically a written selfie. I kept asking myself - What is the purpose of a personal public reflection?

After discussing the practice in a chat over the weekend, it became clear that this process is more than just a method to flesh out and expand on an idea or thought that has been limited to a scribble on a scrap of paper. The "Publish" button is just a way to finalize that thought for that moment.

I guess I'm just used to seeing the reaction in the faces of the students in the classroom. On Facebook there is a "Thumbs up" button that at least gives an indication that someone's been there but I'm glad those aren't part of this process. Based on my own experience in reading and (not) commenting, the number of comments for most blog posts must be a very low percentage. By writing it out, it will stick with me a little longer and publishing it just gives it more possible places to bounce.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

If April showers bring May flowers, what do April bloggers bring?

The response is definitely not "No comment" and also more blogging.

Several of those who have been participating in the April blog a day challenge (#AprilBlogaDay) put together by Chris Crouch (@the_explicator) got together for a Twitter chat this morning. As I stated near the end of the hour, I don't know if I have been a part of a more productive chat. It was part reflection and part brainstorming, but then also led to a planned future activity that is often missing from professional development.

The group decided to continue blogging (in various degrees of frequency) in the month of May.

BUT THAT'S NOT ALL! (read in your best ginsu knife commercial voice)

Some have chosen to comment on one blog post a day and post a link to the blog. It should be a great way to share what you are reading to a wider audience and give some needed feedback to many education bloggers.

The hashtag in May becomes more universal - #edBlogaDay. I look forward to continuing to learn and grow from this amazing group of people.

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