Category Archives: How To

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 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 or email account, you will choose “” 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 “” 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.


Tired of getting unwanted AirDropped photos? Turn it off!

AirDrop is a great way to share files and  photos with other iPad users sitting close by.  One person “pushes” the photo to another iPad, and the other person simply clicks on the Accept button to get a copy of it. Simple!

From Apple’s web page “iOS: Use AirDrop to wirelessly share content”

But what happens when someone you don’t know drops a file that you don’t want? What should a student do if they are getting photos that are offensive? Whether you like it or not, you will see a preview of the photo someone is trying to send to you through AirDrop.  If that picture is inappropriate and you want to reject it, you are still going to see a small glimpse of the photo first.

So how do you deal with unwanted AirDropped photos? Turn off the AirDrop feature. You can turn AirDrop on and off very easily. Turn it on when your friend wants to send you something, and turn it off when you are not using it. AirDrop is not like email – it only works when  someone is close by.  You won’t miss a message because AirDrop is turned off.

Turn off AirDrop by clicking on AirDrop and choosing Off.

So how do you turn AirDrop on and off? Open the Control Center which is the hidden menu you can get to by swiping your finger upwards from the bottom of the home screen. Tap on AirDrop to open the menu, then tap Off (which prevents everyone from trying to share files with you) or Contacts Only (which lets anyone in your contact list to still share files with you.

Go to Apple’s support page “iOS: Use AirDrop to wirelessly share content” to read more about how to use AirDrop  to share files with people you know. Teachers and students can easily share files using AirDrop.

Sign In To Schoology With Your Personal AND School Email Address

Have you ever forgotten which email address you used when you signed up for an account? When you have multiple accounts keeping all the usernames, email addresses and passwords can be difficult. Our students are issued official school accounts for their email (Gmail), their online storage (Google Drive), the school LMS (Schoology), the site to check their grades (Infinite Campus), a site to take online tests (Mastery Manager), and an app to borrow e-books from the library (Overdrive). It can get confusing fast.

Schoology is our official LMS. One really great feature of Schoology is that users can enter two email addresses for the same account. Students and teachers can enter their personal email address and their school email address ahead of time. When they try to sign in they do not have to remember which email address is tied to Schoology – both email addresses will work.

Here’s how to add a second email address to your Schoology account on an iPad.

  1. Open the Schoology app
  2. Open the Courses and Settings tab in the top left of the screen (the button with three horizontal bars)
  3. Tap the Account Settings button
  4. Enter your personal email address under Primary Email Address
  5. Enter your school email address under Alternate Email Address
  6. Tap the Save Changes button

schoology add second email w arrow

The steps are very similar if you are using a computer.

  1. Go to Schoology and sign in
  2. Click on the arrow in the top right of the screen next to your name
  3. Click on Account Settings
  4. Enter your personal email address under Primary Email Address
  5. Enter your school email address under Alternate Email Address
  6. Click the Save Changes button

Backing Up Your iPad Before You Turn It In For the Summer

2048_ScreenshotIf you are reading this then you probably have enjoyed a full year of learning with a school-issued iPad. You’ve had thoughtful discussions with your class on Schoology, won the final class Space Race on Socrative, beat your teacher’s best Scatter time on Quizlet, and created a “See You Next Year” video with iMovie. Maybe you even got to tile 2048. Your iPad has been your friend this year, but it’s time to turn it in for the summer. Get ahead of the game and back up your data right now! It will make the collection process easier.

Here are the steps you should follow to back up all your files, photos, videos, game data, and everything else you created this year.

  1. Back up Notability to iCloud and Google Drive (you can lose Notes from an iOS update)
    1. Open Notability app -> Settings (gearbox in bottom right) -> iCloud -> Move slider to On
    2. Open Notability app -> Settings (gearbox in bottom right) -> Auto-backup -> Google Drive (log in using your school Gmail or personal Gmail account)
  2. Update iPad to most current iOS
    1. Go to Settings -> General -> Software Update
  3. Update all apps
    1. Go to App Store and install all updates
  4. Backup up photos to Google+ (auto backup) or Google Drive (manual backup)
    1. Google+ (for use with personal Google accounts only): Open Google+ app -> Settings (gearbox in top of menu) -> Camera and Photos -> Auto Backup -> Back up all photos and videos
    2. Google Drive (for personal account or school account): Open Google Drive app -> Add to My Drive (+ button in top right) -> Upload Photos or Videos -> Camera Roll -> Select the photos you want to keep and then tap the blue checkmark
  5. Back up iPad to iCloud
    1. Go to Settings -> iCloud -> Storage & Backup then turn on iCloud Backup
    2. Do not back up: Mail, Photos (which includes videos), and Music


Use Your LMS Profile As Your Staff Information Website

underconstructionIt is fairly common that in any given school 50% of teachers have not updated their staff profile web page in the last six months.  When parents are trying to find you on the school web site your information should be current and look good! Instead, links are often broken, information is no longer valid, or the overall look is just plain dated. Is there anything worse than seeing the “under construction” sign on a web page?  It’s like finding an AOL disc in a desk drawer – it’s telling you that it’s time to clean up your profile.

Your profile page should consist of three things: accurate information about you and your classroom; links that take the user to even more resources and information; and it should be so easy to keep current that it practically updates itself.  The best place to find all three of those is to look for the online profile that you use the most. If you are big into Twitter then you can consider linking your school info page to your Twitter profile. Do you use Google+ every day? Consider using your Google+ profile.  For most teachers, though, the profile you use should be the one tied to something you use with your students every day. That would be your LMS. It doesn’t matter if you use Schoology, Blackboard, Course Sites, Haiku, Canvas, Edmodo, Moodle, or any other LMS – whatever you use with your students already comes with a profile page, and that page will be accurate and current.

I am a huge fan of Schoology, and all of the professional development courses I have created or taught are stored in Schoology. I even have a Schoology page for my freshman lacrosse team. Since I use Schoology every day, it’s only natural to use the Schoology profile page as my official school web page.

The directions below will show you how to update and link your Schoology profile as your official school web page. If you use a different LMS the directions will be similar and should still be able to help you. Let’s get started.

Start by logging in to Schoology. Click on your name in the top right of the page. This will take you to your profile page.schoology1

Most of the information that parents are interested in seeing is in the Info section of your profile. Click on the Info button in the menu on the left side of your profile.

schoology 8You are now viewing your profile page. Some information you will need to enter once and rarely update unless your teaching assignment changes. Subject taught, grade(s) taught, teaching position, contact email , and school phone number probably will not change very often. Only add information you feel comfortable with the whole world seeing! This is going to be linked to the school web page, after all.

Other information will update automatically, and that’s why your profile on Schoology (or some other LMS) works so well for you. The courses you teach, the groups you belong to, and the professional development badges you have earned will not only be displayed but they will update automatically each time something new is added. See the example of my Schoology profile page below.schoology 2

After you edit your information and save it, view your profile page again to review it for accuracy. Once you are satisfied with it, go up into the URL (the Internet address bar) and copy the entire address. It should end with the word “info”. If the URL ends in something else like “updates” then all you have to do is click on the Info button in the left hand menu of your profile like you did earlier to go back to your Info page. Copy the Schoology URL and send it to your school webmaster and tell him/ her that you would like to link it to your school profile page.

schoology 7

Your Schoology profile page looks very clean, the course and school information is always accurate, and you can add other links to take users to other pages like your Twitter page or class Google Calendar.

At a minimum, go to your school’s website and find your name. Click on the link and see where it goes. If you don’t like it you have two options: update your page, or link it to a different profile page. Whether it’s your Schoology, Twitter, Google, Pinterest, Facebook, or Instagram profile page just make sure that it is accurate, professional, and it is a good representation of you as an educator.

Go to the article on editing your profile settings to give yourself even more control over what people can see on your profile page. You have many options to help protect your privacy.

Storing Your Usernames and Passwords In One Place

If your high school is like ours, then your students probably have several different usernames and passwords to view their grades, check their email, store their documents, or download an app.  Who doesn’t forget their password from time to time? We all do.

One very easy way for our students to keep track of all of their passwords is to write them down once and then take a photo of them with their iPads.  Our school issues iPads to every student which makes this our best solution. Other schools might have their kids type their usernames and passwords into a single document and save it to their Google Drive account. The most important thing to remember is that the passwords need to be in a safe place where no one else can see them, and they need to be stored in one single place with a password or passcode that you will not forget.

Take a screen shot or photo of the following chart. Open the chart in Notability, write or type the answers to each of your accounts, and then save it someplace safe like your Photo collection, your notebook in Notability, or your Google Drive.

  Username /
Log In Name
School Computer Sign In    
Google Drive / Gmail Account    
Schoology Account (to access your courses)
Infinite Campus Account (gradebook)
Mastery Manager Account (for tests)
Apple ID (for downloading and updating apps)
Amazon Kindle Account (optional – to download 300,000 free books)
Public Library Overdrive Account (optional – to check out eBooks)