Keith Sorensen has been a school technology integration specialist and a district technology director during the last eleven years. He has presented at Illinois Computing Educators (ICE) Conference, Illinois Education and Technology Conference, and Southern Illinois Technology Showcase. He has also participated in several EdCamp Chicago events. Some of the titles of his presentations include “The New Technology Toolbox: Building Your Classroom Around Five Key
Technologies,” “We DO need more stinkin’ badges (to increase student motivation),” “Personalized Professional Development; What, Why, & How,” “Digital Portfolios for Every Learner,” “Empowered Education,
Innovation Made Simple,” and “How Long Does It Really Take to Build a 1:1 Program?”
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.
Standards-Based Grading (SBG) is a monumental shift in the way teachers grade. Instead of issuing a single letter grade based on a percentage of what the student got right and wrong, teachers instead rate a student’s level of mastery of multiple standards. It’s a complex process both in the way teachers view standards-based grading and also in the way they implement it. Some districts require SBG training over a one or two year span to allow teachers to fully prepare for it. Standards-Based Grading might be complex at first, but so is differentiating instruction and using technology in the classroom. There are enormous benefits to grading students based on standards. Teachers who use Standards-Based Grading strongly believe that SBG gives better feedback to students which leads to better performance.
Standards-Referenced Feedback (SRF), sometimes called a Standards-Aligned Gradebook, is a system where increased feedback is given but the grade book does not have to change at all. Standards are aligned to every assignment, discussion board and assessment which allows data to be gathered regarding students’ progress towards meeting the standards. Yet the assignments are still scored the same way, and a percentage or letter grade can still be issued at the end of each term. The standards are only being referenced to give students more feedback towards their progress; the standards themselves do not play a role in the final grade. Using standards as another form of feedback rather than the central focus of a new grading system is much more subtle shift for teachers while still providing students with additional data that can help them self-assess and improve their own learning.
Why should teachers align standards?
Let’s pretend that a boy named Keith is in high school English, and he is getting a B after about a month of class. If Keith wants to raise to raise his grade to an A, what should he work on? What should he study? What type of writing should he improve upon? He needs more feedback from his teacher so he can learn how to take control of his own learning. How many students try to “study everything” right before a final instead of focusing on their areas of weakness because they simply don’t know what to do? I would say quite a few. By aligning the homework and the assessments to learning standards, students can get feedback on their areas of strength and weakness. Instead of Keith merely seeing a B in the gradebook, Standards-Referenced Feedback would tell him that he has done very well in writing narratives (Common Core Writing Standard #3 on page 41) but he needs to work on his overall range of writing (Common Core Writing Standard #10 on page 41).
How do teachers align standards to their assignments?
There are really only two requirements for providing Standards-Referenced Feedback. First, you need an electronic copy of the learning standards for your course. Nearly every school district now has learning standards for every course. You must use the accepted standards of your school district. In addition to the district’s learning standards you might also consider including your subject area’s national learning standards like ISTE-S for technology, Common Core for English and Math, and NGSS for Science.
Second, your gradebook or your assessment software must have the ability to tag learning standards to assessments and assignments. Schoology is an LMS that lets you attach standards to every assignment, discussion board, or individual assessment question. Mastery Manager is an assessment tool (paper-based and online tests) that can also tag learning standards to individual questions.
Once the learning standards have been entered into your gradebook (like Schoology) or assessment tool (like Mastery Manager), then you need to choose one or more standards for each assignment. Open the assignment so you can edit it, then click on Align Standard, then choose the standard(s) that goes with the assignment. If it is a test then you will need to align each individual question to a learning standard by following the same steps: edit the question, then click on Align Standard, then choose the appropriate standard.
Classroom instruction should be overtly focused on the learning standards of the course. The classwork, homework and assessments that follow that instruction should also be connected to the learning standards. The next logical step is to give students feedback based on their progress towards meeting the learning standards. Using Standards-Referenced Feedback helps students take ownership of their learning by giving them specific feedback on their progress towards mastering each of the learning standards.
We are currently offering a new 60-90 minute workshop called “Social Media For Administrators.” It is designed to be an introductory guide for school administrators, and it is focused on how high school students use social media in and out of school. It begins with an overview of social media: which sites are most used by students, what kind of information do students post online, and how can schools use social media to promote a positive school culture. The next segment looks at how social media actually works: what’s the difference between a @ handle and a # hashtag, how do users tag each other in messages, and how do users avoid detection often in cases where they want to insult or harass others. The third segment focuses on how school administrators can control the conversations students are having on social media, especially in times of emergency or crisis. The fourth and final segment is focused on creating a protocol for administrators to follow including when to report issues to the principal, to the social media site, or to the police.
Your gradebook says a lot about the way you teach. After all, it is the measuring stick to which your students will compare themselves for an entire year. Gradebooks should provide much more than a single letter grade, and this article will look at two ways that could improve your gradebook which in turn could improve your instruction.
Part One: Collecting data on the activities students spend the most time completing
What if your gradebook could show you which activities a student was likely to complete or likely to avoid? Knowing what your students spend most of their time doing could help you design better activities in class – activities that students actually want to spend time and energy to complete. Below is an example of how a gradebook could look if you could tag all of your assignments by TYPE. By looking at the data, you can figure out that this student really likes to keep a journal but dislikes creating posters and flashcards. Giving students choices in how they complete their work keeps them more engaged in their learning. Often they are more willing to spend more time completing tasks because they are enjoying them.
If the student is willing to take practice tests over and over which leads to improved performance, then it makes sense to try to create a larger bank of questions for your students to practice with. If other students really enjoy (and learn from) discussing topics online with their peers, then it makes sense to create more discussion boards whenever they are appropriate for the topic.
Part Two: Standards-Based Grading (SBG)
Okay, maybe you aren’t really in a “give the students a choice” kind of mood at the moment. You know what your students need to complete, and they are willing to do it. Excellent! Here’s a different question for you. What if your gradebook could show each student’s progress towards mastering each of the learning standards within your course? Instead of just seeing an A or B, what if your gradebook could show you where your students are really excelling and where they are falling behind? That’s called a Standards-Based Gradebook (SBG). This photo below is modified to look like one example of data in a Standards-Based Gradebook. The numbers to the right show a student’s progress towards mastering each of the standards, with 100 being the highest they can achieve. The standards listed come from the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts <http://www.corestandards.org/wp-content/uploads/ELA_Standards.pdf>.
When data is aligned to multiple standards instead of a single letter grade it explains the progress a student is making towards mastering the reading and language skills of a course. In the example above, the student shows a high level of skill in determining the key ideas of what he or she reads, but a very low level of skill in trying to integrate the ideas of multiple authors into one coherent theme. This standards-based data provides much more detail as to how the student is performing in class which helps the teacher to inform and modify his or her teaching, and it provides the student (and the parents) with information as to which skills are advanced and which need additional work.
Part Three: Destiny (and how video games could teach us something about providing data and feedback)
The idea for this article came from a combination of two things that are taking up a great deal of my time: helping teachers create a Standards-Based Gradebook, and playing hours and hours of the video game Destiny. Video games provide constant feedback to the player which can lead to greater engagement in playing the game, more time playing the game, and better results when playing the game. If teachers could provide the same type of instantaneous, high-level feedback that video games provide then we could really help our students learn. The photo below is an actual screenshot from Destiny. The data listed in the image includes:
Overall skill level of 27 (top right)
Total time spent playing the game (over 86 hours)
The number of times the player spent in each type of game mode (He played 129 “Control” games which are 5-10 minute mini-games, but only played 5 “Raids” which are 30-60 minute adventures that require a great deal of skill and teamwork)
The more data we, as teachers, can gather regarding student performance, the more informed we can become in our instructional practices. Providing a variety of data related to the TYPES of academic activities students complete and/ or the level of mastery students demonstrate towards the learning standards will only help teachers to teach better which in turn will help students to learn more. Video games are effective in providing data and feedback which teachers could adapt to fit their classrooms and their gradebooks to help make learning more meaningful and engaging.
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.
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!
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.
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.
In my opinion, the highlight of the event was their 8 For 8 session. What is 8 for 8? It is a presentation where 8 people discuss their big ideas for impact on education within a time limit of 8 minutes. In a little over one hour the audience heard eight well-known Harvard professors present eight diverse ideas for improving teaching and learning. The topics covered a wide variety of topics, with titles such as, “Getting Unstuck,” “The End of Average,” and “Linking Family Engagement to Learning.”
I want to see the 8 For 8 format at a future teachers’ conference. Most conferences have sessions that explain how to implement a program or how to use technology in the classroom or how to reach a certain student audience. What is often missing is the science behind WHY these things work in the classroom. I want to know the research behind what these teachers are doing. Another absence from most conferences is plain-old inspiration. The people I remember the most after leaving a conference are the ones who inspired me, who had that one story, one video, or one quote that makes me want to go back to school and do something – ANYTHING – that is going to make a difference. Inspiring people make me want to change everything I do and start over from scratch.
Forget just seeing the 8 For 8 format – I want to mimic it at the next conference. I want to make it happen. Maybe we can cut it down to a 5 For 5 session that lasts just 30 minutes. I want to poll all 200 teachers in my school and ask them who from our school they want to hear, and then ask those top five people to talk about something heartfelt and meaningful and personally important when it comes to teaching and learning. I want our five speakers to just pack those five minutes with as much data and research and quotes from students, but most importantly I want each five minute segment to be filled with heart and conviction and inspiration. I know we have five people who can do this. I bet we have ten or twenty people who could do this. I think a homegrown 8 For 8 is just what our school needs right now. So tomorrow I’m going to go to work on this. I’ll keep you updated as to where it goes…
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
If 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.
Back up Notability to iCloud and Google Drive (you can lose Notes from an iOS update)
Open Notability app -> Settings (gearbox in bottom right) -> iCloud -> Move slider to On
Open Notability app -> Settings (gearbox in bottom right) -> Auto-backup -> Google Drive (log in using your school Gmail or personal Gmail account)
Update iPad to most current iOS
Go to Settings -> General -> Software Update
Update all apps
Go to App Store and install all updates
Backup up photos to Google+ (auto backup) or Google Drive (manual backup)
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
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
Back up iPad to iCloud
Go to Settings -> iCloud -> Storage & Backup then turn on iCloud Backup
Do not back up: Mail, Photos (which includes videos), and Music
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.