Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Class Dojo: A Great Classroom Management Tool

Create a Class Dojo account to help keep track of student behaviors or skills long term. This is a great customizable tool for teachers! See the image slideshow below to to see some of it's features.

Slide Overview:
  1. Teacher Login
  2. What is "Class Dojo"?
  3. Create Multiple Classes (or Multiple Assessment Tools)
  4. It's easy to create a class
  5. Add students
  6. Create Behaviors - Positive and Negative
  7. Start class and monitor behaviors
  8. Look at whole class reports
  9. Look at student level reports
  10. Communicate with parents
  11. Create student logins (if desired - students under 13 should not legally be given this privilege)
  12. Be creative!

Teaching Technologies

Today I attended a book club with a group of elementary teachers. I hadn't read the book; I originally showed up as "tech support" for one of the teachers (and returning a computer I was "fixing" for another in attendance). I stayed and had lunch and talked about the book anyway.

Here are a few things that came up today (and that I helped set up for them in the past):

1. Google Drive for "documenting" discussions
  • One teacher in the book club had asked me to create a template for discussions (prior to their meeting last week). She wanted to print it and pass it out. After some thought, I instead set up a Google Document with the categories she wanted. She shared the document with their principal and with the attending teachers. In the document they record the book, discussion questions, and standards they can teach with it and there's no retyping, nor is everyone required to take notes.
  • Today we used the document - but I got to really help them see how a book can teach so much more than just literacy skills (which is part of their goal for meeting). Many of their social studies standards worked very well with the book, but they were focusing on civics concepts. I showed them how to get creative, how one character's decision really showed the economics concept of "opportunity cost" which is written into the 4th grade standards.
2. Class Dojo for tracking student skills/behavior
  • I haven't used this one, but one teacher mentioned using Class Dojo to monitor student behavior. It is a good tracking tool and you can print reports to share with parents or make it competetive by posting points on a screen or interactive board (SmartBoard or Promethean) so students can see where they stand.
3. Symbaloo
  • Keep track of bookmarks across computers (I have a personal computer and 2 classrooms with their own computers). I like symbaloo better than a traditional bookmarking system because it is more visual (Google Chrome keeps track of links - but not like this). One librarian suggested creating grade level pages and putting this on computer stations in her library with the links readily available for kids to click on and go to different resources. All I know is, if I find a cool interactive at home, I add it to my Symbaloo stuff and when I get to school I can access it with the click of the button (this is my home page on all my computers). I also have a link to my school e-mail and gradebook on here for easy access at school and home.
4.  ActivInspire
  • There is a free personal edition that we can all download and use, but if your district uses this software, chances are Promethean has provided your school with an access code that teachers can use to download the full edition for their home computers. Check with a tech savvy colleague or someone from your technology department to get this code. If not, certainly try the personal edition. Powerpoints be gone. One thing this software allows you to do is draw on websites, your desktop, essentially any file you could have open. Highlight, circle, strikethrough - whatever you might want to do. You just use the desktop dashboard tool.
  • I installed this on one teachers home computer today.
5.  Clickers
  • One teacher and I had a discussion about test taking skills and we realized that it would be beneficial to create an ActivInspire quiz for clickers where students read the prompt and solve it on paper. Then have multiple choice answers appear to "match" to their solved answers. I recommended this to a 3rd grade teacher who said students think that they just get to "select an answer" when it is multiple choice and that they love them because "they don't have to solve it," or so they think. She was totally frustrated.
  • She loved the suggestion because it also means one more thing that is instantly graded.
6. My Classroom Economy
  • Teach personal financial literacy and manage your classroom at the same time! 
  • Okay, this isn't actually technology - but it's great:
  • One teacher and I already do this --> but a colleague sent me this link and now I have materials to infinitely improve on my design.
  • Create an online planbook. Great for keeping track of what you did from year to year and for a teacher like me with multiple classrooms - a nice way to keep your plans with you wherever you are
 I'm sure there was more. We had quite the conversation. Just a few ideas to take into next year.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Teacher As Web Designer

Most of us, as teachers, are required to assemble some form of website in order to advertise our school and interface with students and parents digitally. However, most of us also lack the time to do a great job at this as well as the know-how.

That's where Google Sites comes in. As part of the whole slew of Google Apps available, Google Sites allows you to develop a web page with very little effort. I built a site with multiple pages in about an hour. Then I slowly added and updated to make it better. The nice thing is, they have pre-made sites you can use and fill in, or you can make a very simplistic one from scratch. If you're also a user of Google Drive, you can embed documents, presentations, etc. from Drive into your site for some easy to update features.

Here's a few of the basics.
Choose a template.
  1. Go to
  2. Create an account, login with an existing google account, or use a school account linked to google if you have one.
  3. Click the "Create" button.
  4. Select a template. I prefer the blank template and editing on my own, but there are some great pre-made educator templates.
  5. Select your site name.
  6. Click the "Create" button.
  7. Click the "Edit" button (it looks like a pencil) to update the page.
  8. Or click the "New Page" (looks like a page with a plus sign) to create another page.
Sample page with "edit" and "new page" buttons.

 Some advice about your site: This sample site looks beautiful. However, most of us don't want to get locked into updates like "word of the week," "student of the month" or any fancy editing needed to update homework or announcements.

Try to keep your commitments to your webpage low and easy to accomplish. What is the best bang for your buck? What is the most useful to you, your students, and their parents? Depending on what we teach, these things can be different for all of us. You can Google search lists of what to include for a slew of ideas. Here are a few things that I find relevant:
  • Parents struggling with disorganized, non-communicative students can use my website to help keep their kids on track. Here's how I help them:
    • "How can parents help?" page which provides ideas for guiding a student through homework without giving away the answers or needing to know them.
    • "Communication" guidelines suggesting how parents can prompt students to talk to their teachers and how to let me in on it so I can help make sure it happens (and we can secretly make sure they are getting the right information back to their parents).
    • Most important: the "Homework" page updates my homework daily (without me ever entering my website structure).
  •  Resources: What extras do parents or students at your level need?
    • Parents of avid middle school readers struggle to keep up with what their kids are reading, but want to know they are reading safe materials - I have linked the "young adults" section of my Goodreads account to my school website with some embedded gadgets. When I read a book and update my Goodreads account, it automatically updates the information on my website.
    • Websites - textbook access, games, research resources, etc. are all beneficial to include on a website
    • At the elementary level a weekly schedule is a nice thing for a parent to have access to.
    • My mother, who teaches elementary, includes a weekly spelling list on her website.
    • Many teachers these days find it beneficial to post some version of the standards they teach on their website.
If you want to get a little fancy with your website, here are a few considerations:
  • Get a Picasa account (free) and make edit some pictures to give your website some flashy images.
  •  Embed web gadgets using the insert feature and an "embed gadget" tool or the "html box" you can insert directly from Googles searchable list of gadgets.
  • Embed documents, forms (for quizzes or surveys), presentations, etc directly onto the webpages (I use an embedded document for my homework page - I update the document and my website is updated, without having to even login to my website). If I embed a Google documents version of an assignment instead of uploading a document, I can edit it and those fixes will be automatically available to my students, no uploading new versions necessary. Google Sites makes this as easy as "insert document."
  • Create some different link functionality or link to outside websites using the "edit layout" function under the "more" button.
Note: make sure to link back to any district purchased websites, so parents and students can find your site!
My science website.
The sky is the limit! Keep playing and let me know if you discover something cool!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Google for Grading

As many readers already know, Google has a slew of tools that help us as teachers. Well, today I challenged myself to do a little work with Google Forms with great results. Thank goodness because Sharpschool's exported results were completely useless to me - I gave 2 quizzes this year through that system and it was more work than it was worth (as was designing a class website through them - I now have a Google Site as well).

So here are your steps:
  1. Open Google Drive (
  2. Create Form
  3. Write your quiz questions
  4. Click "add item" for additional questions.
  5. Send form. (see note below)
  6.  Choose response destination: new spreadsheet.
  7. Insert Script.
  8. In the script gallery, search "Flubaroo."
  9. Install Flubaroo.
  10. Take quiz and input correct answers.
  11. Use Flubaroo with your quiz as the answer key.
Steps 3-6.

Response Spreadsheet.

 Basic Options:

You may choose question type: (text options require student answer be spelled exactly like yours for grading purposes*)
    •  Multiple Choice
    • Text
    • Checkbox
    • Paragraph Text
    • Scale
    • Insert Script
    • Grid
*My solution to the text issue is to provide a word bank somewhere on the quiz.

You may "require" questions so students can't skip them.

Challenge Options: (for the brave and tech savvy)
You may embed images in your quiz for additional materials (a primary source to interpret or a data table/graph to analyze).

Install Flubaroo.
If you want to use 2 different forms for progress monitoring purposes (say variations of the same quiz), you may have the answer data saved to one spreadsheet. When choosing your response destination, simply choose to send responses to an existing spreadsheet and select the spreadsheet your would like to use.

 Getting feedback:

 Flubaroo shows individual student scores and percentages, shows student scores for individual answers.
Grade with flubaroo.
Flubaroo also highlights questions that a majority of students did poorly on. This pattern recognition can help you go back and reteach tough concepts.

In addition to Flubaroo, Google has a response summary under their "response" heading that allows you to see graphs of answers to help you look for patterns as well. This is better for seeing specific misinterpretations because the information is divided by answers.

Give Feedback

Reteach to the whole class, reteach to small groups, reteach to individuals. Or graph success over time in a portfolio folder. Other ideas?

Sample grades by Flubaroo.