This morning I returned from VSTE and hit the ground running. When I stepped into Ms. Kass’s room to say hello, she showed me the projects the students were developing on their iPads. A few minutes later, I stopped by Ms. Potter’s office to let her know I was back in the building. The first thing she asked was, “Did you see the amazing stuff Ms. Kass and her students are doing?” Of course, I had just been there. Here is an administrator’s take on our iPad program and the learning environments it is helping us create.
Today and tomorrow I am working with Ms. Thomas and Ms. Samuel, 8th grade Language Arts teachers, helping them kick off their research unit. We are using Schoology, Google, and Wikipedia.
Yes, yes, I know. Google is making us stupid and Wikipedia can’t be trusted. If you say so…
I think these tools are indispensable in today’s world. They are only seen as bad by people who don’t want to take the time to educate kids on how to get the most out of them. Wikipedia is the absolute best place to start any search. Articles are written in very accessible language and organized in ways that help students narrow down topics, formulate a research question, and get to the original location of the information by following the links at the bottom. Google has given us A Google a Day puzzles to help students hone their search term selection skills. With the appropriate guidance, students can learn lots about validating sources, something they miss when using a paid service such as GALE (does anyone still use GALE?).
Schoology is letting us curate student ideas using the discussion tool. It is also making the distribution of documents and links to students very, very easy. Using a folder with student completion requirements, students will race each other to solve selected A Google a Day puzzles to earn badges.
Of course, when we are done with this introductory phase, students will take notes and draft their papers using Google Docs, and using Teacher Dashboard, Ms. Thomas and Ms. Samuel will be able to give timely feedback and scaffold progress without killing any trees.
Today I helped Mr. Hecker with a bit of a computer glitch. He started telling me how much he likes Schoology, so I decided to make it a formal chat. Here’s the video.
This year we are trying a new way to meet our teachers’ needs. In the past, all teachers were expected to attend at least one two-hour technology class after school, or a longer class over the summer. But, two hours after a long day of teaching is not always easy. Furthermore, a two-hour session has to be planned in advance, something with a somewhat inflexible structure or topic.
Tech Snacks will be more informal sessions between twenty and thirty minutes long. The topic and location will be announced a few days before and will reflect questions asked by faculty and staff during the week. I believe this will make the sessions more relevant and the content presented will be immediately applicable. So, if a two-hour class is a full meal to be digested over time, these shorter sessions are a snack that energize your teaching immediately.
In addition to members of the Instructional Technology team, teachers with cool ideas or interesting resources to share will be leading the sessions. If you have something you would like to share with the GHS/GMS faculty, please let me know. If I see you are doing something worth sharing, I will invite you to lead a session.
Here is the fine print:
- The dates of the Tech Snacks have been tentatively set in our GCPS Tech PD calendar, but are subject to change. The day varies so people with prior weekly commitments can still take advantage of this resource.
- Final date, location, and topic announcements will be made through the GMS and GHS faculty and staff groups on Schoology.
- You do not need to sign up in advance. If the weekly topic is interesting and useful, and it fits your schedule, join us.
- In order to meet your PD requirement, you must attend four Tech Snacks during the school year. Leading a session will also count as attending a session.
I hope this will be a successful model for us. Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.
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.
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!
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?
I have been meeting with teachers over the past couple of weeks to help them get started with Schoology. Most of the time, I have no way of knowing if the help I have given teachers makes a difference. This time, however, I know it. Look at the trends in logins. After my initial trials and training sessions, student logins are finally higher than teacher logins. Data is beautiful, no?
The start of the new school year has been incredibly tech-intensive. We have been working around the clock to get all our services set up with accounts and passwords.
If any of your students have forgotten their Google passwords, you once again have the ability to reset them. To log in, go to the Teacher Dashboard page. You may want to bookmark this URL.
Once you are there, follow the instructions in this video about resetting passwords. Keep in mind that Teacher Dashboard is a powerful tool that helps you do much more than a quick password reset. Be on the lookout for announcements regarding after school classes.