Tech Salad

With Crunchy Bits and Bytes

Category: Professional Development (page 1 of 5)


At the end of January I had the good fortune to attend the MiTE conference in Galway, Ireland. I’ve been trying to figure out how to synthesize everything I saw and heard into a coherent blog post. It is hard because all the information I harvested is hard to sort. Some of it will help me when I’m working with students, some when I’m working with teachers, and some is stuff I’d love to share with instructional leaders in Goochland. But, despite much of it having very distinct audiences, it is all interconnected.

So, MiTE focused on teacher preparation. More specifically, in the use of mobile technologies in teacher preparation, the affordances, the possibilities, and difficulties in changing the mindset of pre- and in-service teachers. One of the topics that stood out for me was reflection. Student teachers and teachers taking additional graduate classes are asked to record video of themselves teaching. The teachers then watch the video and record their own comments as an additional audio track over the video. The observations and comments are based on what is in the video rather than on recollection of the events in the classroom. The video captures the teacher’s instruction along with student responses and behavior. It creates a record that can be referenced multiple times, and it can also be shared in mentoring relationships.

This past week I learned that the Language Arts department at GHS, on their own, decided to make and share videos of themselves teaching. Because I answered a few questions about video formats and sharing, I ended up hearing some of what the teachers thought of the exercise. It was very interesting to hear the teachers’ comments after watching themselves on the screen. Most importantly, it was impressive to hear how teachers set goals for themselves based on what they thought could be improved.

What if this could be incorporated into Goochland’s roadmap towards our goal to transforming instruction and fostering deeper learning?


Schoology – Student Completion Requirements

True or false: When I give my students work, they all finish at the same time.

Yes, keeping kids on task is one of the most difficult issues faced by teachers. Schoology has a tool that can help.

When you have multiple activities planned for a class period, you can create a folder with all your resources and require that students work in order, achieving a minimum score per item. Watch this tutorial to find out how to set up a classwork folder with Student Completion requirements.

Tech Snacks

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.

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.

Teacher Dashboard and Google Passwords

Earlier this month I blogged about passwords, the importance of having strong ones and keeping them safe. It is important for students to learn to manage passwords. The first step is learning to remember passwords.

School is a place to learn with a safety net, and right now we have a safety net that is pretty easy to use. Any teacher can access Teacher Dashboard and reset a student password. The question now becomes how often we want to do this. It is up to you, the classroom teacher, to decide how often you do this for students. If you don’t ever expect them to develop a skill and provide opportunities and incentives, do they learn?

This is a tutorial to help teachers reset passwords for students who forget their Google password.


Social Media Event – Passwords

A week from today, on February 13, Goochland County Public Schools will be hosting an event at JSarge.  Community members will have the opportunity to learn about social media and how to participate safely. We are working on resources to share with attendees, and I have been writing about passwords this morning.

I have written about passwords before, and I have spoken to almost every GHS student about passwords at some point this year. Here is my advice on passwords.

What’s your password?

Most of the time, your answer should be silence. Passwords have become increasingly important as our lives have moved online in so many ways. From email, to bank accounts, to Facebook and Instagram, our passwords are the only thing standing between a possible hacker and our reputation.
Creating secure passwords and safeguarding them requires some effort. Not expending that effort can lead to huge headaches. Here are a few rules to follow when creating passwords.
  • Use at least 8 different characters
  • Use at least one upper case letter, one number, and one special character
  • If you are allowed, change your password regularly
  • Don’t use incremental passwords such as superman1, superman2, superman3 when changing your password
  • Don’t use the same password everywhere
With all this in mind, how do you create passwords you can remember? Here is one example of how to create a good set of passwords.
Think of something you like and words related to it. Let’s say you like music, and one band in particular. Here is how to make passwords out of that:
The Beatles – fab4Beatles!
You could make other passwords for other accounts related to the same theme.
Of course, no matter how good your passwords are, they are only effective if you keep them to yourself. Author Clifford Stoll‘s famous quote is a great piece of advice when thinking about passwords: Treat your password like your toothbrush: Don’t let anyone else use it and get a new one every six months. Sometimes it is not possible to change your password, but if you keep it safe, you don’t have to.
Here are a few tips for safeguarding your password:
  • Do not say it aloud as you type it
  • Do not write it down, especially anywhere near the word “password”
  • Do not share it
  • Be aware of who is watching as you type your password
  • If you are using a shared computer, make sure “save my password” is not checked
Keep in mind all these strategies reduce the risk that your accounts may be compromised, but it might still happen. If you suspect any account has been accessed by someone other than you, change your password immediately, and alert people who need to know (network administrators, parents, teachers). If you are not allowed to change the password yourself, make sure you contact the appropriate person immediately.

Need a Twitter Widget?

Now that so many of our teachers are tweeting, we get questions about displaying Twitter feeds on blogs often. The widget we had in WordPress no longer works, so here is a tutorial showing how to create a new widget that does work.


Managing Your WordPress Media Library

Have you ever uploaded a picture to your blog, then decided it was not the one you wanted to share with the world? It happens. I do it all the time.

Most people simply delete the picture from the blog post and leave it at that. Unfortunately, this leaves the file still sitting on the server, taking up space. It would be fine if we had infinite server space, but we don’t and sometimes teachers run out of space for pictures and videos on their blogs.

Here is a video showing you how to remove unwanted files from your blog’s media library.

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