Who do you want as your skydiving training partner? (A lesson in Standards-Based Learning)

Who do you want as your skydiving training partner?

I would really love to skydive one day, and I would also love to tell my kids and grandkids about what it was like to go skydiving. My point is, I want to jump out of an airplane and live to talk about it. Therein lies my fear: choosing the right person to train me.

skydive 2The first time anyone skydives they are paired up with a skilled partner. That partner passed some type of certification program, and that person is still alive, so they must know what they are doing. In fact, every trainer there has the same credentials: they all passed their certification test, and they are all still alive. But I want to know more about the person I am going to trust my life with. Surely they can tell me more about their actual knowledge and skill level.

Pretend that I have two possible training partners standing in front of me. One earned an A in skydiving school, and the other earned a B. It would make sense to pick the one who got a higher grade, because an A inherently implies that the person learned more than the one who earned a B. So that’s who I should go with, right? Not necessarily. An overall score of an A is good, but it doesn’t tell me what areas of skydiving they are good at and the ones that need work. I want more information before I choose my training partner.

Let’s say there were 10 topics covered in skydiving school. I know there is much more to learn than 10 things, but this is just an example so go with it.

  • Jim is the first trainer, and he scored 100% in every area except for “ground landings” in which he got a 40%. He is excellent at everything EXCEPT landing on the ground. His overall average is still 94%. Solid A, right?
  • Felix is the second trainer, and he scored 90% in every area except “water landings” and “flip and barrel rolls” where he scored a 60% in each. His overall average is 84%, which is still a B.

skydiving score 2

skydive 5
Jim scored very low in ground landings. (Not an actual photo of Jim)

So who should I pick? This is my first time skydiving, and we are going to land on the ground. Felix is much better than Jim at ground landings. In fact, I have no faith that Jim can help me land without breaking at least three bones. Felix is not good at landing in the water or doing barrel rolls, but we aren’t going to do that on my first day. I don’t need those skills from him. In this case, I am going to avoid Jim, the A student, and go with Felix, the B student, because of their specific competencies.

The owner of the skydiving place might want to know his employees competencies as well. I’m sure he them to be excellent in all areas. He’s not going to make them re-learn all 10 topics. Instead, the owner will give Jim extra training only in ground landings, and he will have Felix work on water landings and barrel rolls. In fact, Jim and Felix can probably help each other. Students are often willing to help each other, especially if the can identify where they need help.

Skydiving school, like all schools, would benefit from standards-based grading

Like Jim and Felix, all students could benefit from the extra feedback of knowing where their strengths and weaknesses lie. One single letter grade for each class does not tell them where to put their time and effort if they want to improve. One single letter grade on a test does not provide the information needed to go back and review the specific areas that they should go back and review. Traditional grading – one score for every assignment and test averaged together for a single letter grade – does little to inform a student on where to practice, where to reassess, where they need to improve to become proficient in all areas of the subject. With standards-based grading, a student can take one test yet receive feedback in multiple areas of learning. As these learning standards are measured and progress is tracked throughout the year, the student receives continuous feedback as to where strengths and weakness lie. That student has the opportunity to practice learning targets throughout the year and also helps the student to spend more time on the standards where he or she is not proficient while still maintaining understanding of the other standards.

Mark Welchert, tandem parachute instructor, and Derek McMullen, 19, of Old Monroe, Mo., land safely after jumping from 12,000 ft., recently at the Hannibal Airport in Hannibal, Mo. via Rapid Descent skydiving (H-W Photo/Steve Bohnstedt)
Mark Welchert, tandem parachute instructor, and Derek McMullen, 19, of Old Monroe, Mo., land safely after jumping from 12,000 ft. in Hannibal, Mo.
(H-W Photo/Steve Bohnstedt)

When students understand their own strengths and weaknesses they can help each other with their learning, just like Jim can help Felix with water landings and Felix can help Jim with ground landings. Metacognition – knowing what we know and what we don’t – helps the individual to help him or herself, and it also allows him or her to help others. It allows every student to become independent and proficient with his or her learning.

The more feedback we can provide our students, the more they can help themselves become competent in all areas of their learning. Even A students can improve, but without specific feedback, often based on learning standards, they do not know where to spend their time and energy. A standards-based learning approach not only informs the student of their overall learning, but it also helps their teachers, parents, or even classmates provide support as well.

Author’s Note

If you are an active skydiver, please do not be offended by my lack of knowledge regarding what it takes to become certified. My knowledge is in the use of standards to inform learners, not how to jump head first out of an airplane. I respect your expertise, and hopefully you respect mine. Thanks.

Cut the cord (or, how to cancel your cable TV and still be happy)

Cutting the cord

I know a number of people who are considering getting rid of their cable TV package, and most often it is because cable has become too expensive or they simply don’t watch much TV anymore. They want to know what it means to “cut the cord” and live without their cable box. So where does someone begin? The options listed below are listed in order, from less to more, of how much TV you really want in your life.

Live TV
mohuStart with the basics: you want to watch good, old-fashioned television shows during their regular time slots. CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, and PBS are all available for free. Your TV needs to have an ATSC tuner built in. Most TVs have one, but if not you can buy one which is covered in the Hardware section below. You will also need an HD antenna. These new antennas, like the Mohu Leaf 50, are small and light enough to set on a shelf or hang on a wall inside your house, or you can buy larger ones, like the Mohu Sky 60, that get a stronger signal and mount inside your attic or on the side of your house. One thing to look for is the range. An antenna will say that it works up to 25 miles, or 35 miles, 50 miles, or more. Make sure you get an antenna with the correct range. My recommendation is to buy several different antennas from a store with a friendly return policy; test them all on the same day to see which one works the best and then return the others.

Required: HDTV antenna ($30 – $80 with no recurring fees)

Not-so-live TV
If you can wait one day to watch your shows, then Hulu is your best choice. You can watch the entire current season for almost all of your favorite shows that air on the basic channels like CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, and PBS, plus access to some shows from your old cable package like A&E and F/X. While most channels only offer the current season of their shows, some offer all their past seasons as well. Hulu also offers their own exclusive shows and a limited amount of movies. The biggest drawback is that you do not have access to live sports, but that will be covered in the next section. Not all shows are included on Hulu, so my best advice is to check Hulu’s listings to see if it carries your favorite shows.

For an additional $9 per month you can add to your Hulu subscription Showtime’s current movies as well as some of their on-demand movies.

Required: Media streaming device (~$50); Hulu ($7.99 per month w/ limited ads; $9.99 w/ no ads)

Sling.com provides over 20 cable-only channels including ESPN.

Sports (and zombies and HBO)
The number one reason I hear from people who do not want to give up their cable TV is because they want to watch ESPN. If this is the only reason you are hanging onto cable, then you are essentially paying $60 or more per month just to watch Monday Night Football. Now there’s a solution to this dilemma. Sling TV is a service that you gives you more than 20 popular cable channels including ESPN, ESPN2, AMC (Mad Men and Walking Dead!), and the Food Network. It’s a great way to fill in the gaps between live TV and cable TV.

For an additional $15 per month you can add to your Sling TV subscription HBO’s current movies and on-demand movies.

Required: Media streaming device (~$50); Sling TV ($20 per month)

netflix youtubeNetflix by far is the largest movie streaming service, which is evident by the fact that it uses 35% of all peak-time Internet bandwidth in America, but it’s not your only option. Amazon Prime Video is similar in price to Netflix but also lets you rent movies for $2 to $5, gives access to a music library of over one million songs, and provides free two-day shipping on anything bought from Amazon. Both Netflix and Amazon also offer original programming. You might not want either one because Sling TV offers HBO for $15 per month and Hulu offers Showtime for $9 per month. Almost all of them offer a free trial of 7 to 30 days, so don’t be shy about trying them all out. YouTube also offers a great deal of programming as well, including some original shows as well as film clips and music videos. Most media streaming devices include the YouTube app.

Required: Media streaming device (~$50); plus one or more of the following services:

Hardware: Connect your TV to Hulu, Sling, Netflix, and Amazon
Soooooo… how exactly do you get this stuff on your TV? What connects to the television? Some TVs are called “smart TVs”. If you connect a smart TV to the Internet you will be able to access some of these services, but not all of them.

amazon fire stickFor those without a smart TV, including me, you need a “media streaming device” that can connect to your home WiFi. Some of the most common media streamers are the Amazon Fire Stick, Google Chromecast, and the Roku. They’re all very highly rated and cost less than $50.

There are more expensive options, and they have benefits that some will find worth the price. If you live in an “Apple house” where most of you have iPhones or use iPads, then an Apple TV might make sense for you. It connects to the songs and videos you have purchased with your iTunes account, and the new models allow you to play some iPhone and iPad apps. The one drawback is the Apple TV doesn’t include all media services, most notably Amazon’s video streaming. Cost: $150-$200

The Xbox One is a gaming console, media streamer, and can act as a TV tuner for free, local over-the-air HD television.
The Xbox One is a gaming console, media streamer, and can act as a TV tuner for free, local over-the-air HD television.

The Xbox One is a video game console, a media streamer, and much more. It has all the video streaming apps listed in this article, and with a small adapter you can also use it to view the TV listings and pause, rewind and fast forward live TV. It is anticipated that a DVR app will be added in the next year, allowing you to record all your favorite live shows and sports. I don’t recommend buying an Xbox One as a media streamer alone, but if you were trying to convince your better half that you need to get an Xbox for the house then maybe this will help your argument. Cost: $350.

Read the USA News article for one opinion on different media streaming options.

Total Cost
The total price of watching TV is going to be less than cable, but will still depend on what you like to watch. You can get live TV for free. For $28 per month you can get something pretty close to a typical cable TV package. Add HBO, Showtime and Netflix and your bill is still under $60. None of these services charge tax unlike cable, so that saves about $10 per month. See the charts below for a breakdown of the costs.

Cost of Live TV and Cable Channels

Service Initial cost Monthly cost
Live TV $50 $0
Media streaming device $50 $0
Hulu (one day delay of live TV) $0 $8
Sling TV (ESPN, AMC) $0 $20
Total $100 $28

Cost of Movie Channels

Add Ons Monthly cost
Netflix or Amazon Prime $8
HBO (needs Sling) $15
Showtime (needs Hulu) $9

If you’re still unsure of where to start, follow these steps:

  1. Buy a $35 small indoor HD antenna, connect it to your TV, and test it out to see what channels come in and which ones do not. In Chicago it is very hard (but not impossible) to get CBS because of the location of their antenna.
  2. Buy a $25 media streamer, like the Amazon Fire Stick or the Roku SE. Connect it to the Internet and connect it to your TV. Test it to see what you can watch for free.
  3. Start a free trial of Hulu. View their entire channel lineup to see if your shows are available and how many past episodes you can watch. Typically you can only watch the current season, but some have all prior seasons.
  4. Start a free trial of Netflix. View their entire movie and television show listings to see if it’s something you’d like to watch month after month.

Try this for one week. If you don’t like it, if it doesn’t work in your house, or if it’s too confusing, then cancel your subscriptions and return the antenna and media streamer if possible. It could take some getting used to, but if it works for you then you might save $50 or more per month by eliminating the cable TV bill.

How football can explain standards-based learning

Most teachers continue to issue overall letter grades based on a student’s overall average; the teacher takes the average of every score on every assignment over the course of an entire semester then issues a single letter grade to show the student’s accomplishments. The letter grade becomes the goal of going to school, not how much a student learns or how much a student grows.

One of my biggest issues with traditional grading (I have many) is that averages, in my opinion, are meaningless. It’s the results at the end that matter more to me. My usual argument uses a sports reference from when I ran the 100m dash in track in high school, and it goes as follows:

  1. I never earned a medal based on my average times from all my practices; practice helps me prepare but practice itself is not counted
  2. I never earned a medal based on my average times from all my races; each race was a chance to earn a medal
  3. If I lost a race on Monday it had no bearing on my next race on Friday
  4. My times got better throughout the year; my coach really only looked at the last race or two to decide if I would be entered in the next meet but he never took the average of my times to make that decision
  5. I qualified for the state finals because of my time in the final qualifying race of the season; no other previous times mattered

Don’t take my word for it, though. I will turn to Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots and winner of four Super Bowls in the last 15 years. At the halfway point of the 2015 season, a reporter told Belichick that his quarterback is the mid-season MVP. Belichick’s reply was,

“That’s great, but honestly I don’t think anyone is really focused on that… Some midseason report card, who cares? What difference does it make? Give me an F. Give me a C+. Right now we’re focused on the Giants [their next opponent]. That’s all I really care about.”

The reporter then asked the coach what grade he would give his quarterback. Belichick’s response was, “I don’t give grades… We’re trying to beat the Giants. I don’t really care about some midseason midterm grades. Give me whatever you want.”

In football, nothing really matters except winning the Super Bowl at the end of the season. It doesn’t matter where you stand at any point during the season except for the fact that you need to make the playoffs and win the championship. Let’s look at the 2007 NFL season as an example of whether or not a team met the standard. The Patriots were 18-0 going into the Super Bowl; their average was 100%. But they lost the Super Bowl, dropping their average to 95%. Yes, they performed well all year, but they did not meet the standard of winning the Super Bowl. A teacher would still give them an overall grade of 95%, which is an A, yet they didn’t prove they knew what they needed to know.

patriots lose super bowl the catch 2
David Tyree of the New York Giants trapped the pass against his helmet and held on to get the first down. The Giants scored on that last drive and beat the 18-0 New England Patriots to win Super Bowl 42.

Their opponent was the Giants, who entered the playoffs at 10-6 for an average of 63%. They won the next four playoff games to win the title. What was their new average? 70%. For a teacher issuing traditional grades, the Giants would get a C-. But if you look at the STANDARD, which is winning the Super Bowl, they met the goal that everyone is striving for.

Averaging scores for an entire semester just doesn’t make sense to me. It penalizes every student if they do not understand a concept during the week it was taught, even if the student learns later in the year and remembers it forever. Is the point of grades to measure learning at the exact moment that something appears in the curriculum, or is it more important to fully understand the concept before the course ends? Providing students with meaningful feedback throughout the semester – telling them where their strengths and weaknesses lie on a continuous basis – is far more valuable in helping a student meet the standards by the end of the year than issuing a final, single letter grade based on the average of how their scores from assignment.



Curran, Tom E. “Belichick’s Report Card? ‘Who Cares? Give Me an F'” Comcast SportsNet New England. Comcast SportsNet New England, 11 Nov. 2015. Web. 11 Nov. 2015. <http://www.csnne.com/new-england-patriots/belichick-report-card-who-cares-give-me-f>.

Voice-annotate anything on your screen with Microsoft Snip

Microsoft Snip is new, free screen-capture software that allows the user to save the image as it is or add written and voice annotations to the image. The user draws a box around what they want to save. Snip opens a toolbar that allows the user to write, highlight, or draw on the picture.

Snip Editor

The best feature of Snip is the ability to add your voice to your annotations which plays back like a movie.  What you say and what you write play back in real time, so that the viewer can see the ink appear as you write and also hear your voice as you write. See this example of someone explaining to his friends how to get to his house.


When your Snip clipping is complete, you can easily share it via email or blog. Soon it will connect to most social media apps including Twitter.


Go to Microsoft’s new Office Mix website to learn more about Snip.

Students: turn on “overdue homework” notification in Schoology

Keeping track of homework can be challenging for any student. Once an assignment is late it becomes even harder to remember because it drops off the calendar. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

Schoology offers a way for students to get notifications if they miss their homework deadline. Turning on “Course Materials Overdue” offers multiple reminders of the missing assignment.

Turn it on by opening your Account Settings and choosing Notifications. In the section called Academic you will set Course Materials Overdue to On.  This will send you an email whenever an assignment is overdue. You also have the option of getting a text message sent to your phone.sch course mat 1

The Course Materials Overdue feature is a great way to stay on top of your homework, because most of us turn something in late once in  while. But what if you are still getting overdue notices from a class you were in last year? If a course has not officially been “turned off” by the teacher it will continue to appear in your course list and you will continue to receive overdue homework reminders. To turn off reminders from an old class, choose Custom in the Course Materials Overdue option.  You will see all your active courses, including the old course, and you will be able to turn off notifications from that old course.sch course mat 3
For more information on overdue notifications please read Schoology’s article, “How Notifications for Overdue Submissions Help Students Keep Up.”

Create A One Page Schoology Handout For Parents At Open House

Parents can view valuable information about their child’s performance in school when they have their own parent account in Schoology: grades, due dates, class calendar, and teacher-class communication. They can also view any assignment turned in by their child, which means parents can see the assignment, see what their child turned in, and see the grade on the assignment.

Our teachers give parents the access codes to their classes during Open House, and our coaches provide the access codes to their team pages during Sports Night. The hardest part is getting those codes into parents’ hands, and these directions will help you do that.

PART ONE: Download the Parent Access Codes for each course

Start by signing into Schoology and opening one of your courses (You will have to follow these steps for each course). Then follow these steps:

  1. Click on Members on the left side of the screensch01
  2. Click on Parent Access Codes in the Access Code box on the right side of the screensch2
  3. A pop up box appears allowing you to download the access code for every student in your class – click  on Downloadsch3
  4. A .csv file named Parent-Code-Export will download to your computer. You will need to know where this file is! If you have trouble keeping track of documents, take time during this step to rename it and place it in a new location. sch4
  5. The .csv file will look like the one below. Pay particular attention to the title of each column in the top row. These are the terms you can use in your document. The ones you will use in this document are First Name, Last Name, Unique ID (school ID), and Parent Access Code. sch5

PART TWO: Create a Word Document and use Mail Merge to create an individualized letter for each parent

Start by opening Word and creating a new document. You will then begin the mail merge. In your new document, choose MAILINGS in the top menu, then choose Start Mail Merge, then Step-by-Step Mail Merge Wizard.


  1. Mail Merge Step 1: Select document type. Your first decision is to choose whether you want to create individual letters or individual e-mails. You could actually email each parent their personalized letter if you have their email addresses! It takes a little finagling to make it work. Instead we will create individualized, printed letters that you can hand out to parents during Open House. Choose Letters for the document type. Then choose Next in the bottom right of the Mail Merge Wizard.Word2
  2. Mail Merge Step 2: Select starting document. Decide if you are going to use an existing document or if you are going to write your letter from scratch. In this case we will write a new letter, but if you’d like to use my example Schoology Open House letter you can download it here.  Choose Use the Current Document. Then choose Next in the bottom right of the Mail Merge Wizard.Word3
  3. Mail Merge Step 3: Select recipients. Start by finding the Parent-Code-Export file you downloaded. Do you remember where it is? You’ll need to find it. Choose Use an Existing List, then choose Browse.Word4Browse your computer and find the .csv file. It is probably in your downloads folder unless you renamed it and/ or moved it. In this example I renamed it “1st per parent access codes” because I am going to do this for multiple classes. Each file needs a unique name.Word5Choose your Mail Merge Recipients. All of the names should already be checked. Choose OK. Then choose Next in the bottom right of the Mail Merge Wizard.Word6
  4. Mail Merge Step 4: Write your letter. Start writing your letter, and leave blanks where you specific names or codes will go. Word8Now place your cursor in the first empty location, choose Mailings, then Insert Merge Field, then choose the field that belongs there (first name, last name, ID number, etc.) word13You will do this in every blank space where you want the individualized information to go. When you are done it will look like the screenshot below. When you see a <<word>> like this it means that the field will be filled in with information from the .csv file. When you are done, choose Next in the bottom right of the Mail Merge Wizard.Word10
  5. Mail Merge Step 5: Preview your letters.   You can see what each letter will look like by clicking the forward and back button in the menu on the right. Each letter will be unique. Larry’s page will have his name, ID number, and Parent Access Code. Bill’s page will have his name, ID number, and Parent Access Code. Click through a few of yours to make sure the data looks correct (which it should because it’s coming from a spreadsheet). Then choose Next in the bottom right of the Mail Merge Wizard.Word11
  6. Mail Merge Step 6: Complete the merge and print your letters. This is the last step. Click Print and each letter will be sent to your printer.  If you had chosen Email-messages instead of Letters in step one then it would open Outlook on your computer and email the letter to each parent. The email feature only works if you can enter the parents’ email addresses into that same .csv file you downloaded earlier. Word12

Final piece of advice

I work with teachers who have been using this method for three years. Their advice is to hand the letters out as parents walk in the door so you can make personal contact with each parent: shake their hands, ask them their names, or to simply tell them to hang onto the sheet until you mention it in your presentation. Better connections we make with students and parents will make for a better year. You only need a minute to tell them why they are signing up for Schoology, and then it’s up to them to do it. Your letter should include the instructions to help parents sign up. Again, look at the sample letter. The easier you make the task, the more likely they will sign up.

One last thing: if you use my actual Schoology Open House letter, you will get error messages that make it look like it’s not going to work. That’s because it is looking for my .csv file which you do not have. Just open the letter and start the Mail Merge Wizard from the beginning. When you get  back to Step 3 of the mail merge it will let you pick your own .csv file, and then the letters will print out properly.

Written by Keith Sorensen

Copying a Schoology course from one year to the next

The end of the school year is coming, and you want to make sure that everything you created in Schoology will be safe and sound when it’s time to copy and paste your entire course for next year. What should you do right now to make sure you are ready? Follow the three steps below to prepare for next year.

One: Confirm the Naming of Courses and Sections

T-302 POE is the Course; Period 2 and Period 3 are the two Sections of the course

Make sure you have named your Courses and your Sections properly. What’s the difference between a course and a section? A course is the official name of a class that might be taught multiple times per day and/ or taught by more than one teacher.

A typical COURSE NAME might looks like one of these:

  • T302
  • Technology 302
  • T302 Principles of Engineering

A section is just one offering of a course with the same students and teachers assigned to it. A teacher might teach T302 during second period to one class of 25 students and teach the same course again during third period to a different class of 25 students. There is one course (T302) that is offered in two different sections (2nd period and 3rd period).

A typical SECTION NAME looks like one of these:

  • First Period; Second Period; Third Period
  • 01; 02; 03
  • 2014-2015; 2015-2016
  • Semester 1; Semester 2

To edit the name of the Course or the Section, go to your Course Listings. Start by clicking on Courses in the top toolbar, then click on See All.

All of your active Courses are now listed.  To edit the name of the Course, click on the editing tool (the pencil) to the far right of the Course name.

Editing the name of a COURSE in your course listing in Schoology

To edit the name of the Section, click on the gearbox to the far right of the Section name and then click Edit.

Editing the name of a SECTION in your course listing in Schoology


Two: Archiving – confirm the accuracy of the grading periods

Your course will automatically archive after the last day of the grading period passes. If Quarter 4 is your last grading period and it ends on June 5, then your course will go to the archives on June 6. This keeps the active course list manageable and quickly accessible.  You and your students can always go back and view an archived course including all homework submissions. Nothing is lost! Active courses remain displayed in the Courses drop-down menu, and courses that have passed their last day can always be found in the archives. “Schoology never deletes anything you don’t want it to. In fact, Schoology automatically saves all your past courses so you can access them later.

Now it’s time to check the grading period of each of your current courses to make sure each course ends when the course is over. There are two ways to edit your grading periods:

  • One way to check your grading periods is through your course listings page.  Click on Courses in the top toolbar, then click on See All, then click on the gearbox to the far right of the Section name and then click Edit.  Select the correct grading period(s), then click Save.

    The Edit Course pop-up box in Schoology allows you to edit the Section Name, Subject Area, Grade/ Level, and the Grading Periods. The grading periods show the exact start and end dates of each period.
  • Another way to check your grading periods is from within each course’s settings. Open the Course, click on Gradebook, then click on Grade Set Up. Your grading periods can be found within the section titled Grading Periods & Final Weights. Click Edit, select the correct grading period(s), then click Save. The one small drawback to this method over the first one is that you cannot see the actual dates of each grading period until you click the Edit

    Grade Setup -> Grading Periods & Final Weights in a single Schoology

Three: Copy your section(s) for next year

You are going to make a copy of your course RIGHT NOW which is going to copy over all your folders, materials, quizzes, rubrics, badges, and your entire gradebook setup like categories and weights. It will NOT copy data related to last year’s class like students’ names, students’ grades, homework submissions, and class updates or announcements.

The best practice is to make ONE copy of your course right now. You can then add materials at any time throughout the summer. A day or so before school begins, you can then make additional copies of the course as needed. For example, if you teach T302 Principles of Engineering to three different classes, then you would copy your current course ONCE right now and name the section something like “MASTER COPY 2015-2016”. You can make changes to the course all summer at any time – new materials, quizzes, photos, etc. Then the day before school begins, you will copy your “Master” course three times for each of the three periods you teach and name each section accordingly: “2015-2016 Period One”, “2015-2016 Period Two”, and “2015-2016 Period Three”.

To copy your course, click on Courses in the top toolbar, then click on See All. For the section you want to copy, click on the gearbox to the far right of the Section name and then click Copy Section.  Do NOT click Add Section!

Copy a Section from the course listings page in Schoology
Copy a Section from the course listings page in Schoology

You will be prompted to add the following information to your copied course:

  • Course name (T302, M308, etc.) will remain the same.
  • Section name needs to be changed. Again, use something that indicates it is for next year like 2015-2016 Master Course or 2015-2016 Period One.
  • Section Code can be used if you want every course and section to be truly unique. In my high school there might be 15 sections of the same course.  Each section has a unique number. If you want to be very specific then you can enter a number. I always skip this step, though. It is not required.
  • Grading periods can be chosen at this time. If you want to divide your year into four grading quarters, then you should add four different grading periods to your course. You can skip this step and add your grading periods later but it’s recommended that you add them now. They can always be adjusted at a later time.




Import Your Schoology Calendar Into Google, Outlook, or iCal

Schoology is a powerful Learning Management System (LMS) used by teachers to help organize their materials and lessons online, communicate with students and their parents, and distribute and collect homework electronically. A very basic feature of Schoology that is extremely helpful for students, especially high school students, is the calendar. Keeping track of eight classes’ worth of homework, the lacrosse team’s 17-game schedule, and school events like dances, plays, and awards’ nights could be overwhelming if it weren’t for the fact that students can see only the events that pertain to them, and they can all be found in the Schoology calendar.

Schoology Upcoming Calendar


One way to make the calendar more useful for students and parents is to import that Schoology calendar into a calendar system you already use like Google Calendar, Outlook, or iCal. Why? If you keep another calendar system for personal or work-related reasons, then adding your Schoology events and due dates to that same calendar lets you keep all of your appointments in one place. It also gives you access to your Schoology due dates on your computer, phone, and iPad – any place you already use Google Calendar (or Outlook or iCal). You also have the ability to share your Schoology Calendar with others, which means parents can add their child’s Schoology calendar to their own phones. This is a great feature when a student is heavily involved in clubs or sports.

Adding your Schoology calendar to Google Calendar

The directions below describe how to connect a student’s Schoology calendar to their Google Calendar. (These steps will work with Outlook and iCal, too, but they might differ slightly.)

Account Settings in Schoology

First, go to the Account Settings inside Schoology. You can find that in the top-right of the screen next to your name. In this example I am using a fake student account named Baby Bill Bixby.

Second, scroll down to “Share Your Schoology Calendar” and click on “Enable”.

Enable sharing of your Schoology calendar



Third, copy the entire URL that appears after “Use this iCal link”.

The calendar feed for a Schoology calendar can be imported into Google Calendar, Outlook, and iCal


Fourth, go to Google.com and sign into your Google Calendar. All of your calendars are listed at the bottom-left side of the screen. Click on the small arrow next to “Other calendars” and choose “Add by URL”.

Add an existing calendar (like your Schoology calendar) into Google Calendar by clicking on “Add by URL”


Fifth, paste the URL you copied from Schoology (step three) into the “URL” box, then click on “Add Calendar”.

Paste the URL of another calendar into Google Calendar


That’s it! Your Schoology calendar will now appear within your Google Calendar. You will be able to see the most important information: title, day, and time for all of your due dates, homework, games, practices, ACT Prep days, and other events entered into Schoology by you or your teachers. If you want to see the finer details, like the handouts attached to your homework, then you’ll still need to go to Schoology to see them. The basic overview is extremely helpful, though, especially when you’re just keeping track of what’s due over the next day or two.


Signing into the Outlook iPad app for the first time

The iPad-version of Outlook is a superior experience when it comes to your mail and calendar needs. It has a clean look, it is very efficient and easy to use, and its integration with Office 365, Google Drive, and Dropbox makes it unbeatable. If you want to read more about the features of the Outlook app, read the article titled, “Outlook: The Best Mail App On the iPad.”

Installing Outlook on your iPad and signing into it using your existing email account is very simple. The Outlook app will work with Google, Yahoo, iCloud, and of course your current Outlook-based school or work email which is often called Exchange.  Start by installing the app on your iPad or iPhone, then open the app.


The next step is to choose your current email provider. IMG_0077One thing to keep in mind is if you use Outlook at school or work then you will choose “Exchange” which is Microsoft’s business-class communication software. If you have a @Hotmail.com or @Live.com email account, you will choose “Outlook.com” which is Microsoft’s brand name for personal email.  These directions will show you how to set up an Exchange email account, which is what we use in the school district where I work.

After selecting Exchange (again, we use Outlook on our school computers but it is called Exchange for this app) you will be asked to enter your email address, email password, and a description (name) for your email account that only you will see. The description is useful if you add multiple email accounts to Outlook so that you can view all your mail in one place. In the example below I named my email account FHS Mail because I work at Fremd High School. IMG_0078

Sometimes your school or work’s email server has some unique security settings that require you to add a little more information before your mail actually works. If you tried to enter your email address and password but it did not work, click on Show Advanced Settings and fill in the remaining fields. You might need to contact your tech support people to find out what goes in each box. For Fremd teachers, you would enter “owa.d211.org” for the server name, “d211” for the domain name, and your school username (like you were signing into a computer) for the username. Then click OK.

Advanced settings for signing into Exchange which is the server used to run Outlook for our school email.

The last step is to tap OK to accept notifications whenever an email arrives or a meeting is about to begin. IMG_0080

Now that Outlook is set up on your iPad, don’t forget to drag the icon onto the Dock in the bottom of the home screen so you can quickly access your email and calendar at any time.

The iPad Dock holds five apps to give you quick access to the apps you use the most.


Outlook: the best mail app on the iPad

IMG_0076Whether you use Google, Yahoo, iCloud or Outlook for your email, there is one iPad mail app that stands taller than all the others: Outlook. Its integration of mail, calendar, contacts, and file storage in one single app will help you be more productive and efficient. Who wants to spend MORE time responding to email? No one.

What makes the free Outlook app different than Apple’s built-in Mail app? For one, your email and calendar are integrated into one app. You can switch back and forth between your mail and your calendar by choosing Mail or Calendar at the bottom of the screen. This  might not seem like much, but when someone emails you to ask if you are free on a given day and time you can switch back and forth with one tap instead of leaving Apple’s Mail app, going back to the iPad home screen, tapping on the Calendar app to see your availability, then closing the Calendar app, going back to the home screen, and then opening your Mail again. One click is faster than four or five or six.


Because your mail and calendar are contained in one app you also save space in the iPad Dock, which are the five main apps you always use. You can only choose five, so being able to use up one space with Outlook instead of two spaces with Apple’s Mail AND Calendar is quite useful.

The iPad Dock only holds five apps. My five are Outlook (mail and calendar), Chrome (Internet browser), Schoology (LMS), Drive (document storage), and Settings (iPad).
Outlook integrates with online document storage: Office 365, Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box

Second, Outlook integrates your online documents with your mail.  You can send a document saved to Office  365, Google Drive, or Dropbox account from within the Outlook app. When someone emails you to ask for a file, you can find it and email it without leaving Outlook. Again, fewer clicks, less time, and fewer mistakes. Document integration is by far the best feature of Outlook.

Third, your entire contact list is easily searchable. It combines the contacts you have added yourself with your entire school district or company’s global address list which is the list of every person you work with.

Fourth, and this is for people who use Outlook for their work email already, is that the email on your iPad now looks the same as it does on your computer.  Email looks clean and is easily sortable, conversations can be grouped into threads, and the button layout is pretty much the same whether you use the app,  the online version of Outlook (OWA), or the desktop version of Outlook 2013. The Outlook app is simply easy to use, especially for people who use it daily.IMG_0086

For directions on how to add your email account to Outlook on the iPad, read the article titled, “Signing Into the Outlook iPad App For the First Time.”

(I use Pixlr.com to do quick image editing including smudging out names and adding text. It’s free.)