Monitoring Progress in Schoology

I spent time this week working my way through Monica Burns’ new book #FormativeTech: Meaningful, Sustainable, and Scalable Formative Assessment with technology.

In this book, Burns’ writing meets the needs any educator, be it the new teacher wanting to get a handle on the importance of formative assessment, the teacher new to technology looking to leverage the power of apps, or the teacher who sees themselves seasoned in both formative assessment and technology’s power to get feedback from his or her students.

I’m leaving this book with this thought: We cannot talk about formative assessment enough. According to Fisher and Frey, we need to engage in formative assessment every five to ten minutes (qtd. in Burns loc. 246). I’m staggered by this.

As I’ve written about before in my blog, as a technology integrator, I’m working to find ways to continue to use the tools we know how to use to do the things we want, rather than find new tools that we have to learn, purchase, and use with students. At Canandaigua, we’re continually finding new ways to put Schoology to use to help us with this.

Below is a short Tech Tip I made to help teachers see how we can use Schoology as a formative assessment tool when working with them on long-term projects.

It’s no new news that to use technology effectively, it needs to be driven by solid pedagogical objectives. When I said, above, that we can’t spend enough time talking about formative assessment, I mean it. We can help teachers see the power in tools like Schoology, Schoology assessment, Kahoot, Quizziz, Recap, Mentimeter by reminding them that constant check-in with students is necessary.

 

 

Helping Them Navigate the Fake News Conundrum

Part 1: The Instructional Stuff

So, I came to the part of English 103 when we teach evaluative writing. This culminates in students creating Annotated Bibliographies on the sources they’ve been reading for research.

Leading up to this, we examine criteria associated with evaluation of sources, and how authorship, currency, domain, evidence impact the validity of sources and arguments.  We explore various resources on the web for collecting source material–students compare Google, online databases accessed through our library, the DMOZ, and Google News. They consider the kinds of information they find in each of these spaces and how each of these tools might be valuable in different research contexts.

These activities are par for a course on research. But, I had a couple of other things in play this year that forced some additional class time, but opened up some powerful conversations. More on this in Part 2, below.

First, I am working on my Common Sense Media (CSM)Teacher Certification, so I was looking to bring in instruction in that focused towards this end, and incorporated some parts of the vast wealth of resources found at commonsense.org. I would say this is one of the go-to places for developing media awareness and literacy. As an educator, if you are trying to figure out how to work with your community, you have to start here.

Second, I wanted to do work with students around the concept of fake news. I wanted to help them define what this is, how to spot it when it’s happening. I wanted to bring into the conversation words like perspective and bias. At the start of this conversation, students let me know that this was a topic that they were very much interested and concerned about. Many felt the inability to detect fake news or how to separate inaccuracies and falsehoods from

At CSM, they have a set of pre-created lessons on Fake News, which culminate in student making web-based products called “Digital Bytes.” I found one of these units on Fake News. However, I wasn’t too keen on just sending my students there, so I borrowed their material and repackaged and organized it in Schoology.

Screenshot 2018-03-23 at 10.37.21 AM

My

This allowed me to be guided by the CSM materials, use their ideas and videos as a jumping off point while giving it to students in a format they were familiar with.

What we did:

  1. Watched videos on internet hoaxes, and then had a discussion in Schoology focusing on our own experiences with sham stories and the internet.
  2. Did close readings and analysis of “fake news stories,” and students generated lists of characteristics of fake news. We combined these lists into a master list of “fake news” characteristics.
  3. Created Google Sites of fake animals, like this one about the Northwest Pacific Tree Octopus, and students had to use a required number of “fake news” characteristics. They published these sites so that peers could read them. These are available for world-wide consumption, because Sites allows for the audience to be inside of our school domain.
  4. Students went on to engage in evaluation of sources.

Looking back on this, I feel like this is some of the most important work I did with students all year, and I’m getting to the part that was super important. Students started this exploration saying that they weren’t sure how to identify fake news, to creating lists of characteristics, to producing it.

Part 2: The Interesting Part

The instructional stuff came a week after the mass shootings in Parkland, Florida. The media was full of debate about school shootings, gun control, school safety, arming teachers with firearms.

It’s easy in the midst of all of this washing over us, to forget that children are getting the same exposure.

Our superintendent, Jamie Farr (@BravesSupt), was interviewed by local TV as part of coverage of how schools were operating in the wake of what happened in Florida. Shortly after the story aired, Farr wrote to community members, expressing dismay at how the coverage was inaccurate to his interview.

We were directly in the midst of fake news. My colleague, Tallie Giuliano (@TallieGiuliano) suggested we invite Farr to our classes to discuss the media coverage and his reaction. We did.

What followed was a day of kids asking really good questions about media, school safety, mental health. Their questions were thoughtful, concerned.

mediastudy

What started as an intended look at source evaluation and writing an annotated bibliography, turned into an experience of critical reading on the web, media creation, real-world connection, working with adult-expert speakers, and thinking about our consumption.

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)


Drawbacks:

  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.