Meet them Where They Are

In my role as technology integrator, I’m working to to help people in my building  with a 1-to-1 Chromebook implementation, Schoology use, Google Apps for Education. I’m also fortunate to develop training curriculum on how to implement this technology. I offer to help people take what they learn in their training and apply it to their classroom practice. In doing these things, I’m pretty psyched–I get to help others learn.

Teachers in my building are busy. Finding time is tough. Feeling overwhelmed with the day to day work of teaching comes easily. Learning how to implement technology, even with its benefits, only adds to these feelings.

In reality, as an integrator, I’ve learned that I need to find creative ways to get small dollops of technology PD to the people they serve–short newsletters, videos, infographics. These things can be consumed quickly, offer something important that can make tech usage more streamlined, or solve a problem that they are finding with devices and apps in the classroom.

In an effort to help with this, I’ve taken to developing a quick newsletter and series of weekly videoes for teachers with either a quick tip or to address some issue I’ve heard that people are struggling with. It’s my goal to keep these short–less than 3 minutes. Although, I’m feeling like even 3 minutes is too long, and am hoping to get tips down to a minute.


  1. Video tech tips are made using Camtasia, and while I could also easily use Screencastify or Wevideo. Learning Camtasia is a goal of mine, because the district dropped some money on buying me a subscription, and I want to get my money’s worth. Several videos in and I’m feeling more comfortable and proficient with it.
  2.  The tips are each housed on a Google Site. This keeps the delivery free, allows me to share only within our domain, and is so super simple to use.
  3. Along with the tech tips, there’s a simple form for teachers to complete.
  4. Tech tips are sent to our Curriculum Area Lead Teachers, with encouragement to forward them along to the faculty.

Some examples:

Pretty much any kind of video–the good, the bad, and the ugly–I make winds up on my YouTube channel.

Here’s one example of my work:

Don’t expect the people that you serve to line up at your office door begging for help. But, even though they aren’t asking for it, doesn’t mean they don’t need it. Continue to push yourself to find innovative ways to provide assistance.


Submitting Assignments in Schoolgy

Variations on a theme.

There are several ways to give assignments when we create them in Schoology. My experience with this currently is that these options are great; however, they are ever so slightly nuanced, and it takes teachers new to working with assignments time to understand these differences. Primarily the differences are in giving feedback, and how students engage in revision. 

We’re going to look at two ways to do this: Schoology Assignments & Schoology Assignments with Google Drive integration.

We’ll take a look at the how to set them up, the student view, as well as the ways feedback works in each.

Schoology Assignments:

Students can upload from a desktop computer, can create inside of Schoology, or can submit from resources along with a  built in app, like Google Drive, which is how most of our students perform submissions on their Chromebooks.

As teacher, when you get such an assignment submitted:

  • Can provide feedback using an annotation tool which allows for highlighting, on screen marking and commenting.
  • A draw back…for teacher who want students to revise work based on comments, students cannot make changes to “submitted” document. Students can view comments, but have to go back to the original assignment to make edits and revisions._3 Ways to Submit an Assignment in Schoology

Schoology Assignments with google drive integration:

I’m going to share my personal practice when I use this feature. Before going into Schoology to create the assignment, I go into Drive, and to the folder where I store materials for the class and the unit I’m working on.

I’ve made it a habit to start assignment directions in Google drive, making sure to give the assignment a specific title. I’ll spend time in the Doc writing and revising the assignment, until it’s ready for my students.

If I’m having the students answer questions, I’ll give the questions, and a direction that tells them to begin their answers in the space between the question. If it’s an essay, I’ll give a direction that says “Start the Essay on the Next Page.” I do this because in digital environments, not only do we need to give directions about the knowledge they need to demonstrate, but also the procedures for how to complete the work.

With this done, I’ll now go into Schoology, open the folder, where I want to place the assignment, add the assignment, but I click the Google search for the assignment title, and insert it.
This makes it easier to track assignment progress and completion, give feedback in the moment, and share work on a smart board, projector, or Google Cast for Education.

_3 Ways to Submit an Assignment in Schoology (1)

_3 Ways to Submit an Assignment in Schoology (2)


  1. Here I don’t have the Schoology annotation tools. I can’t easily line-edit or use editing symbols that I might on a piece of paper.
  2. Most of the feedback I give in this system, is through making comments in the margins, at the top or bottom of the doc.
  3. Additionally, we’ve found that when students review their docs, they assume that clicking “resolve comment” is enough to fix your suggestions or edits.
  4. In co-taught classrooms, the teacher who created the assignment will only be able to see the student work.

There isn’t one right way to give assignments in Schoology. It’s nice to have two ways to do this for different situations.

Here’s a comparison of the two kinds of assignment submissions. 
Remember that working in an LMS like Schoology is a learning process. How you use it will evolve as your understanding of how it will helps you grow, and how it will serve your students.

Work Smarter, Not Harder: Schoology Pages

I’m setting out and trying something new–a podcast. Here’s some of my thinking on using Schoology Pages to create a culture to foster student responsibility.

In reflecting on pages, I realized that I was lumping together to concepts, which really need to be differentiated. These two terms are student-centered and student-responsibility. In student-centered learning, students have choice, authority and autonomy, in different degrees, over topics, voice, products, content. Teachers should work whenever possible to create such environments. However, student-responsibility should always be at play. It’s the student responsibility to know directions, expectations, outcomes, and the details of the course once they are provided to them. Schoology pages makes it possible to create an environment where student-responsibility is always possible.

I won’t say anything else here about Schoology page, but I do want to comment that podcasting and creating videos is brand new territory for me. I don’t know if what I’ve created above fits the definition of podcast, it was longer than the tech tips I’ve been creating for teachers I work with, and thus I landed on this word. I’m also tired of the phrase “Work Smarter, Not Harder.” In terms of videos and podcasting, I hope to do some more and I hope to get way better.






10 Easy Approaches to (Start) Using Schoology

I’m always looking for ways to maximize the tools that I have at my disposal. Schoology is one example of this. As an LMS, it’s so rich. I’m always finding new ways to put it to use.

While there are a lot of great web-based, tech tools out there, I find it better when I don’t have to learn something new, when something that I already own will do the trick. That way, I keep my students where they have comfort and a degree of literacy, my technology director is happy we’re getting the most from what we’ve paid for, and those I coach don’t get overwhelmed with another new thing.

No matter if you are a seasoned Schoology user, or perhaps looking to get a foothold, this post has something for you.

1. Updates

Updates is probably the feature I use most in Schoology. These are quick reminders for students about a homework assignment, a poke about a field trip permission slip, or a clarification on a project that you want to make sure everyone gets.

Screenshot 2018-03-06 at 4.33.07 PM

I like to keep a running list of updates so that I have a record of what I’ve posted, and when I use the announcement button, which is defaulted in Schoology so that parents automatically see the update, I know that all my stakeholders are getting the information.

Here’s my weekly “Tech Tip” on course updates:

2. Course Options Menu

Most teachers seem to overlook this juicy little nugget. That’s too bad. It’s got great stuff in it. Take some time to orient yourself to what’s there.

Screenshot 2018-03-06 at 4.43.04 PM

3. Send Message

This feature is relatively new to me. Mistakenly, I thought that “Send Message” did the same thing as the message button on the main toolbar. When I use “Send Message” everyone in that class–students, parents, other admins–get an email message. For years, I’ve been using the Campus Messenger feature in Infinite Campus to give updates to parents. Now, I’m going to start to switch over to “Send Message.” You can see this feature under “Course Options” in the image above.

4. Messages

This is probably the second most used feature. All of my outside of class communication with students now goes through these messages.

5. Hyperlinks

Using hyperlinks, and teaching others to use hyperlinks, is my mission on earth. Here’s why: hyperlinks create a user friendly design experience. Your audience doesn’t need to be told to go and look at something, because when you hyperlink, you give them direct access to what you want them to look at.

The link to my YouTube video gives some instruction on using hyperlinks.

6. Embedding

Like hyperlinks, embedding content creates a slick looking design and keeps your students inside of your assignments and pages. You can embed almost anything into Schoology: Youtube videos, Google Docs and Slides, even Smore newletters! (Click here to see my post on this).

7. Shared Folders

Do you work on a grade-level or subject area team? If so, as you are creating course materials and content, you’ll want to share this with those you collaborate with. Don’t make a group to share materials.

That’s an okay solution.

Schoology Groups are great when you want to have discussions online and in an asynchronous fashion, but when you want to share, it’s hard to find where these materials are in resources. Instead create a shared folder in Resources. Watch my “Tech Tip” on how to get this done.

8. Public Resources

Looking for something new to do with your students when those March doldrums hit? Check out the wealth of materials that teachers share in Public Resources. While there’s a lot of junk in these resources, you can find gems that will give you ideas about how to use Schoology to work for you.

9. Links

Schoology doesn’t do it all for me. I use tools such as Padlet and Flipgrid in my classes. To get my students to the right place on the web, I share links to these spaces, so they post, create or share where I want them to.

I use Padlet quite a bit when students are submitting digital media or web-based projects. They simple provide a link to these projects, and I can access them. Why don’t I have them turn these links in as a Schoology assignment? Sometimes I do, for sure! But, when I want students to look at their peer’s digital making, I have to have a way that they can access these creations easily. Padlet provides this affordance.

10. Publishing/Unpublishing

Remember that Schoology is an LMS or Learning Management System. You control how your students are going to consume content. To help with this, use the small, green circle in the editing windows to hide or make available materials.

In closing…

There are a lot of great tools out there, but an LMS such as Schoology provides a number of simple tools that will provide teachers with great ways to connect with students and families, provide ease of access to course materials, and collaborate with peers.

How & Not What

Part 1: The Request:

The following hit my Outlook in-box yesterday morning from our district Public Relation specialist:


I have a tough ask, but I hope that you can help.

Due to the concerns of our students, staff and community around school safety and security, Jamie [Canandaigua District Superintendent] has authorized me to draft a Digest [Our District Community Newsletter] publication that will focus on the District’s response to the tragedy in Parkland, Florida and the difficult issues brought to the public debate in the wake of that crime. We know this is a very sensitive issue that requires real care from us.

Thus, the theme of the publication is that the Canandaigua City School District’s mission is to “teach kids how to think, not what to think”.

I want to develop a central article entitled “How, not What”, so I’d like to gather your perspectives on what “How, not What” looks like in the classroom. What are your thoughts on how skills such as research, inquiry, argumentation supported by evidence, etc. are taught as they relate to how to think, not what to think?

To help you, maybe you could include some concrete examples around such items as [And you’ll see these in the questions below]:

Part 2: The Q& A:

Andy’s questions gave me a lot to think about, and helped me to reflect on my practice. I’ve put his questions below and my responses to his request in red.

How appropriate research technique is actually taught?

If we are really going to emphasize “How, not What” then classroom spaces need to start with questions. Questions that come from teachers to model what good questions look like and then working with student’s to foster curiosity around topics, and develop questions that they want to seek answers to. This is the foundation of the curriculum in the IB, where all courses are driven by inquiry approaches where students are expected to ask questions, and work together to find answers. It culminates in the capstone project, the Extended Essay, which is supposed to expose the student’s ability to engage in sustained, independent research, and reflect what the student has learned about asking important questions and finding answers.

In English 103, students engage in semester long research projects developed around topics they are passionate about, and perhaps more importantly, we ask that these students take their research and work to make it authentic by sharing through creating informative websites, and then ultimately developing arguments written as, again, authentic texts: blogs, wikis, editorials, op-eds, speeches, problem-solving proposals. In this course, students are guided through research—preliminary phases, information collection, evaluation (more below), synthesis, creation. These students get something very similar in approach to what the IB students get. A course in how to conduct college-level research.

In “Media Maker,” student generation of topics and writing is at the center. There is no “content” in the course other than what the students bring. They are asked to ask questions, and then answer them in their blogs and 20-time projects. All of what students create in the course is driven by their own interests. Thus, they are “researching” all the time—through listening to podcasts, reading others blogs, newspapers, articles, following You-tubers.

Another important part of this, and one that I don’t think we do a good job at, is modeling our own curiosity, learning and research. Teachers need to show their students how they authentically learn.

  • how we have students learn about and develop primary and secondary sources?

I think we do a lot of damage with students when all we focus on is primary and secondary and tertiary.  These distinctions are only somewhat helpful to students when we are trying to get them to think about collecting information. Another damage we do is when we get students to think about sources as objects—when a teacher says I want you to collect 5 sources—an article, a website, a newspaper source—we’re having students think about information only in terms of where the information resides.

We need to get kids to think about sources as PEOPLE. Who is giving us this information? What is the person’s bias or perspective? Who does this person work for? What platform is this person publishing on? Who asked this person to create?

Additionally, we need to get students to think about sources not as primary or secondary or article or database, but in terms of their functionality. How is this source being used? How can I or how should I use this source? What about this source must be included or discarded from my work?

Tomorrow Jamie will be talking to all English 103 classes about his recent encounter with Channel 13. We want our students, who are currently working with evaluation of sources and thinking about fake news, to see what happened between what information he had and how it was portrayed. Their story changed the reality of the situation—they created something that is different from what is actually.

  • what we require in the way of “papers” and where those fall on the developmental scale?

Certainly, for many of our students, the academic essay is an important document to learn how to produce. However, we do a disservice to students when all we ask them to produce is a “paper.” When was the last time you wrote an “academic essay” or a paper. Your writing for Gradudates of Distinction, the article you are producing for the digest move outside of the boundaries of this genre. The pieces that Jeanie writes for the first day of school, the BOE presentations that Matt or Jamie create, the emails that come from Jamie—none of these are academic essays or papers. Many of our students are going to need to write leaving CA, and they’ll make arguments—in editorials, presentations, cover letters, blogs…when we think about the product of research only as a “paper” we’re doing damage.

  • how assignments/projects build to mastery and how that skill is reflected/assessed in subject examinations and short answer essays?
  • How we handle the specifics of the Bill of Rights?
  • How we handle discussion of current events in class?

I didn’t answer these questions. I won’t go into that here, but perhaps there’s another blog post in thinking about making some responses as these questions apply to the English classroom.