Tech Salad

With Crunchy Bits and Bytes

Month: September 2014 (page 1 of 2)

Let’s Give Them Something To Write About

I don’t have much time to comb through Twitter to find good stuff these days, but a tweet by @intrepidteacher caught my eye while I stood by the microwave at lunch.


@mywriteabout is a twitter account full of really fun ideas for writing assignments. For example, look at this book review idea.

Or look at this idea for using descriptive language in a persuasive piece.
Or meet the kids where they are. This would prompt them to write a BuzzFeed-like post.
These are just three examples. If you have a Twitter account, this is a great feed to follow.

Schoology – Calendar Colors

How can you tell who added a calendar event in Schoology? You can change the color of each calendar for each of your classes to make them easier to tell apart. Watch this video to learn how.


Schoology and Google Drive Integration

Here is another tutorial for teachers and students using Schoology and Google Drive. When teachers create an assignment, students can turn in Google Drive documents very easily. Watch the video that includes all steps.

But, why use Schoology if we already have Teacher Dashboard?

I believe they serve very different purposes. Teacher Dashboard allows teachers to view student work while it is in progress. Students need scaffolding as they work on lengthy assignments, and Teacher Dashboard and Google Drive provide the perfect combination for this. Using the commenting function and the revision history function, teachers can track student progress and give constructive feedback. Once the due date arrives, Schoology allows teachers to collect an assignment that will not be edited further.

Schoology – A Cultural Shift for GCPS

Whenever I walk into a classroom where students are using computers during the first few minutes of class, I can bet my stash of good chocolate that at least a handful of kids will be logged into PowerSchool. This is true regardless of the subject area, grade level, time of the day, gender, socio-economic standing, or anything else.

This is a very important observation to share with teacher who are sometimes tempted to tell me their students cannot log into accounts, and that is their justification to use online services only with select groups.

Logging into PowerSchool has become a habit. The motivation is clear. There is important information in PowerSchool, the students want it, and they want it multiple times a day.

Despite its popularity, PowerSchool has limited functionality. Students can see grades and upcoming assignments. But, they cannot ask questions, leave comments, or submit missing work. All these gaps are filled by Schoology in a single place, with a single login.

So why not start using Schoology? The sooner you jump in, the sooner you will learn how to take advantage of all its functions. And the more you use it, the more likely your kids are to form the habit of logging in and participating. You don’t need to be in the 1:1 program. PowerSchool and WordPress were both very successful even before we dreamed of a 1:1 program.

Schoology and other tools like it are not a passing fad. Join the cultural shift and give your students the opportunity to become constructive digital citizens.

Schoology – Allowing Student Posts

Schoology courses are very flexible. Teachers can change settings to fit their needs. Sometimes teachers will want students to post updates, and sometimes they won’t. Here’s a video showing you how to make that happen.


Schoology – Student View

It is always a bit scary to try out new tools in the classroom. What if kids can’t see what I have given them to do?

This video will help you with that. Everything that you add to Schoology, you can preview as a student.


Remember the Egg?

Years and years ago, I remember watching some television sitcom where one of the characters had to care for an egg as if it were a baby. It was a school assignment designed to teach students responsibility, and I think it had something to do with babies. I really don’t remember the details.

This week I found out that this assignment has been updated at GMS to help students transition to our 1:1 iPad program prior to deployment. Mrs. Ray’s students created mock iPads out of construction paper. For the past few days, they have carried their paper iPads with them, taking them out of their backpacks in each class. The paper iPad cannot be on the floor, cannot get crumpled or stained with food, and it cannot be left at home or in a locker.


The students are having fun, building excitement, and learning important habits.

Great idea, Ms. Ray!

Folders In Web Mail

Many of our teachers have decided to use Google Mail in the browser rather than in the Mail app on their laptops. One of the features they miss is the folders, or mailboxes, for organizing correspondence. Here is a video to help teachers replicate that functionality in their browser.


Say Yes to Schoology

This is just the fifth week of the school year, and we are seeing unprecedented adoption rates for our newest tool, Schoology. Yes, the service is very easy to use and the kids find it a natural extension of their online lives. Still, this is has not happened as an accident or without lots of planning. In fact, I’m very proud to say we have made it very hard for teachers to stay away from Schoology and still be aware of meeting agendas and up to date on required procedures such as the OSHA annual review of blood-borne pathogen safety.

New teachers are using Schoology because they have never known Goochland to be any different. Teachers who have been here longer are questioning our dogged determination to get them onboard.

The question I get is whether teachers will “waste all this time learning this new tool just to have it go away next year, just like…”

What follows at the end of that is a list of services that have come and gone, some during my tenure at GCPS, and some even longer than 7 years ago. This might be a justifiable concern, but, that it is the nature of the world we live in now. Teachers can try to stem the tide of change in technology-related services, and that will lead nowhere. This is the way the world works. We have to learn to relearn, or become obsolete ourselves.

Schoology replaces Moodle and Word Press, both of which have been around for many, many years here in Goochland. We hope to use Schoology for years, just like those two. But, if Schoology goes away next year, it won’t take with it any of the valuable educational experiences students will have while we do have it available. Furthermore, teachers will have had the experience to teach in a state-of-the-art blended learning environment. Isn’t that worth it?

Everything Is Awesome!

“When my students use the word ‘awesome,’ I make them justify it or do ten pushups.” Brad Overnell-Carter (@braddo on Twitter) said this to me about five minutes after we met. I think he was joking. It was an awesome conversation (haha) discussing the ridiculous overuse of some words that lead to some truly great words being completely ignored.

Of course I use the “a-word” myself. It is so easy to just grab for the first adjective that pops into my head, even if I sound like a goofy character in a television sitcom. After all, if I am just chatting informally in the hallway outside my office, my choice of adjectives doesn’t really matter. So what if the ice cream I had yesterday didn’t really inspire awe? It was very good. I’ll just substitute “awesome” because “good” doesn’t quite capture my appreciation for the ice cream. And fun people all over the internet use “awesome.”

When students are writing, everything changes. How long have “word graveyards”and “dead word walls” been around? We often ask students to stay away from words rendered meaningless by overuse, but beyond pointing them to a Thesaurus, we rarely provide fun alternatives.

When I can’t think of a good word to use, I visit the Lexipedia, a pretty cool service that would take very long to explain. So just click on the link.

Why do I like Lexipedia? I like the spatial arrangement of words and what it says about their meanings and connotations. I can mouse over any word to see its definition. I can click on any word and go deeper into my search for the perfect term. I like that the site gives me antonyms, synonyms, and “fuzzynyms,” or words that are related but are neither antonyms nor synonyms. I absolutely love that Lexipedia is now available in Spanish, French, German, Dutch, and Italian, too.

Lexipeida is not new, but it is free and awesome.


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