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.
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. For more information on overdue notifications please read Schoology’s article, “How Notifications for Overdue Submissions Help Students Keep Up.”
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:
Click on Members on the left side of the screen
Click on Parent Access Codes in the Access Code box on the right side of the screen
A pop up box appears allowing you to download the access code for every student in your class – click on Download
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.Browse 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.Choose 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.
Mail Merge Step 4: Write your letter. Start writing your letter, and leave blanks where you specific names or codes will go. Now 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.) You 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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
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.
To edit the name of the Section, click on the gearbox to the far right of the Section name and then click Edit.
Two: Archiving – confirm the accuracy of the grading periods
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.)
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”.
Third, copy the entire URL that appears after “Use this iCal link”.
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”.
Fifth, paste the URL you copied from Schoology (step three) into the “URL” box, then click on “Add 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.
Look for a big blue button in the bottom left corner of your screen the next time you log in to Schoology. This is a real thing: BigBlueButton is an online conferencing system that lets teachers host audio conferences and video conferences with their students.
During a conference, teachers can moderate the flow of the conversation by “calling” on a student which allows them to speak to the group, and students can even take control of the presentation. Students can also participate in a side conversation using the chat box. Documents can be uploaded and users can annotate on them live during the conference.
An interactive white board is also available where students can see what their teacher is writing on the screen and hear the teacher explaining the lesson in real time. Afterwards teachers can post a recording of the conference session to the class page so students can review it at a later time.
A Standards-Based Gradebook, or SBG, is one where a student earns a score for each learning standard based on his accomplishments throughout the grading period. This is different from a traditional grading system where students earn one composite score at the end of each quarter – an A or B, for example. With an SBG, the student instead earns multiple scores – one for each measured learning standard. In a class with nine learning standards, a student might earn five scores of Excellent, three scores of Proficient, and one score of Adequate in the different measures of the class. Instead of getting one composite score (a B for example), he instead earns nine different scores which tells him what he has mastered and what he needs to improve upon. There is a much higher level of detail and feedback within an SBG.
Some teachers want what they see as the best of both worlds: a typical gradebook with percentages that leads to a letter grade which is then combined with a more sophisticated view of whether or not students are meeting each learning standard. Can this be done easily? Absolutely. It is called a Standards-Aligned Gradebook.
What does a Standards-Aligned Gradebook look like?
A Standards-Aligned Gradebook is set up in a typical fashion: there are categories like tests and quizzes, homework, labs, and projects. Each category has a weight (tests 40%, homework 40%, and projects 20%). There is a grading scale such as A 90-100%, B 80-89%, C 70-79%, etc. Your gradebook does not change in any way.
However, every single assignment is tagged with one or more learning standards. As students complete their work and earn points towards an A or a B in class, they are also earning a score in each of the learning standards.
Setting up a Standards-Aligned Gradebook in Schoology
There are really just three steps to take when creating a Standards-Aligned Gradebook. A fourth step is needed if you were going to create a Standards-Based Gradebook instead, and I’ll briefly explain the one big difference later in this article.
Step One: Define the learning standards for your course
The learning standards are paramount to your (and your students’) success. The standards define not only WHAT you want your students to learn but also the LEVEL OF MASTERY you want them to achieve. If you cannot clearly explain to your students what you expect them to learn then you cannot possibly grade them properly. There are national learning standards such as the Next Generation Science Standards and the National Educational Technology Standards which have already been written, vetted, and accepted by others. Your state or your school district might possibly have their own sets of standards, too, and those could be acceptable as well. I strongly recommend against creating your own standards, though, for the simple reason that a widely-used, accepted set of national standards are easier to explain and justify than standards you created yourself.
Once your standards have been chosen you will need them uploaded into your gradebook. With Schoology you can import your own standards for your own classroom or you can ask a tech person to upload the standards so that every teacher in the district can use them.
Step Two: Tag each question of each assessment with the learning standards
Create Question Banks in Schoology to hold every question you use on a test or quiz, and then align each question with a standard.
Every single time that question is used in class, the student’s score towards meeting the standard will be recorded. The same question might be used when they first learn about the topic, used a second time during a review quiz, and then used a third time during a summative assessment. Each time the student answers that question the progress towards meeting the learning standard will be calculated.
Tagging every question is time-consuming, but it is a necessary step for a Standards-Aligned Gradebook. A huge time-saver when creating these tagged question banks is the ability to share your question banks with other teachers. Your entire grade level can pitch in by writing questions or tagging each question with a standard.
A quick and easy way to get hundreds or even thousands of questions tied directly to your curriculum is to contact your textbook providers and ask them for the latest ExamView question bank. Many textbooks offer about 100 questions per chapter that are aligned directly with your textbook. These questions can be imported into Schoology in a matter of minutes. All you have to do is tag them with your learning standards.
Step Three: Tag each assignment and activity with the learning standards
Similar to tagging each assessment question with a standard, you will also tag each assignment, activity, and discussion board with a standard. Anything that is graded needs to be tagged. This is a much simpler and less time-consuming process than tagging your assessment questions. Each assignment is likely tied to just one or two standards, whereas a ten question assessment has to be tagged to ten standards (one per question).
The difference between a Standards-Aligned Gradebook and a Standards-Based Gradebook
A Standards-Aligned Gradebook still uses a typical grading scale (0-100%) and typical grading categories (homework, quizzes, and so on) with the end result of getting a single letter grade. A Standards-Based Gradebook relies on proving proficiency in multiple standards, with the end result of earning a level of mastery in multiple areas. If you were going to create a Standards-Based Gradebook then there would be a fourth step: choose an appropriate grading scale that can measure mastery. Marzano created a four-point scale for measuring mastery which is shown in the photo below. In an SBG using Marzano’s scale, every assignment is worth between 0 and 4 points based on their level of mastery (Excellent, Proficient, Adequate, Limited, Incomplete). Four point grading rubrics are also typically used in an SBG. That has been an oversimplified explanation and I apologize for that, but to learn more about Standards-Based Grading you will need to read one of my other articles.
Evaluating each standard separately provides each student with more feedback on their learning compared to a single letter grade. Measuring growth within each standard also provides the teacher with feedback regarding his or her own instruction. A Standards-Aligned Gradebook provides easy visual evidence as to what the students have learned and what they have not. Students can easily see where they need more help, and teachers easily see what they should re-teach at a later time.
The examples in this blog were created by Michael Schaffer, a high school Principles of Engineering teacher at Fremd High School who uses Schoology for his gradebook and learning platform. It took him approximately 3 to 4 weeks (right in the middle of the second grading quarter) to switch to this new gradebook. I want to stress that any teacher at any grade level can set up a standards-aligned gradebook. It just so happens that Mr. Schaffer is a motivated applied technology teacher who was the first person who volunteered to make the transition. I am hoping he will present at a teachers’ conference in the near future so you can hear the full story in his own words.
About the author
Keith Sorensen has been a public school educator for 18 years. He is a technology coordinator who provides staff development to his faculty on a large variety of technology-related topics. Follow him on Twitter @keithosorensen to learn more about using technology in the classroom.
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.
Open the Schoology app
Open the Courses and Settings tab in the top left of the screen (the button with three horizontal bars)
Tap the Account Settings button
Enter your personal email address under Primary Email Address
Enter your school email address under Alternate Email Address
Tap the Save Changes button
The steps are very similar if you are using a computer.
Go to Schoology and sign in
Click on the arrow in the top right of the screen next to your name
Click on Account Settings
Enter your personal email address under Primary Email Address
Enter your school email address under Alternate Email Address
It 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.
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.
You 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.
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.
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.
Schoology allows you, the teacher, to send messages to one or more entire groups within your class. Do you want to send a message only to the parents but not the students? You can do that. Do you want to remind your students to bring in a family photo for their Mother’s Day project but you don’t want the parents to see the message? You can do that.
I am a coach and I use Schoology as my web page for the high school lacrosse team. I post updates all the time, and they are viewable by everyone – students, parents, and the entire public. There are some messages that I only want to be read by the team members such as rules for riding the bus, and there are other messages that I want only the parents to read such as asking for volunteers to help with the end-of-the-season party. I can use Schoology to target messages to my specific audience very easily.
To send a message to one entire group:
Go to the course in which you want to send a message (you can only send targeted messages one course at a time)
Click on Course Options in the left-hand menu
Click on Send Message
Choose the group who will receive your message – Admins (teachers), Members (students), Parents, or All Members (everyone I just listed)
Enter a Subject
Type your Message
Add files or URL links to your message (like a class syllabus or a game schedule)
When you send a message to an entire group it is treated as a direct message between you and each person. If someone replies only you will see their response.