Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Digital portfolios for learning

All teachers would agree with the statement test scores don’t tell the whole story of a child.  It doesn’t matter if we’re referring to teacher made assessments or state made assessments, there is so much more to our students that could be shared.  But how can teachers allow for that process?  Portfolios.  Portfolios are also a great opportunity to apply the concepts from our Think Before You Post blog in the classroom.

Portfolios to demonstrate the learning process of a topic are certainly not new to education, especially when it comes to assessment in the arts.  This style of assessment tool has long been appreciated to allow an opportunity to show progress in a student’s growth over time and provides a greater context for the student’s learning.  With the prevalence of devices such as Chromebooks equipped with cameras and microphones, virtually any subject can now be documented in a portfolio method which can be highly engaging and full of reflection for students.

Teachers have various options when deciding how to implement portfolios for learning in the classrooms.  Some teachers keep things simple by using a Google document that students update periodically during their learning journeys.  Other teachers ask students to create Google Sites to organize their learning and curate resources to support topics covered in class.  A YouTube channel may even be a great opportunity for students to catalog performance-based learning.  Using a tool that is widely known outside of the education world allows the students to both document their learning and gain competency in web platforms which is certainly a skill that can be added to the student’s resume.

Of course, there are benefits to using a portfolio tool specifically created for education and SeeSaw is a great example of a simple, easy to use, portfolio building app that allows for protected student information and sharing with teach individual student’s guardians.

Portfolios not only allow for an opportunity for authentic writing and reflection, but also can serve as a study guide of sorts for students to continually reference as needed.  Working with digital portfolios also allows students to practice digital citizenship in authentic ways, deepening their understanding of content that is appropriate to share on the web.  It also allows students to think about the subject that is the focus of their blog in a well-rounded way.  Knowing the answer to a problem and knowing how to explain how the problem was solved require two different levels of thinking and both are valuable in student learning.

So, how can you get started with digital portfolios?  Here are some quick steps:

  • Pick a platform.  
    • Consider how public you and your students would like their learning to be
    • Consider longevity of the portfolio - a website can endure beyond grade levels and classes while a teacher-controlled app may not
    • User friendliness - you don’t want to spend time troubleshooting.  What sorts of media needs to be easily incorporated by students?  Reach out to tech experts you know for their advice.
    • Decide portfolio benchmarks
    • Will students contribute daily, weekly, monthly or at the end of a unit?
    • Will students contribute WHILE they learn or reflect on WHAT they’ve learned?

Most importantly, be transparent that this is a learning process for everyone and approach the project with an open mind.


Friday, August 24, 2018

Google Classroom 2018 updates

Google does a great job of responding to feedback on its apps and regularly updating platforms to reflect user requests.  This fall, Google redesigned some key features of Google Classroom, a commonly used learning management tool in our district.  This blog post will provide the reader with some resources highlighting the major changes to Google Classroom as well as highlight some tried and true tips for distributing and collecting work using the tool.  

Key feature updates, as outlined in Google’s blog, are as follows:

New Classwork page—Teachers and students have a new Classwork page. Teachers can post assignments and questions on the page, as well as group them into modules with the topics feature.  This means that the stream page is the best place for announcements and posts that are not related to a specific assignment. Teachers and students will likely spend most of their time in the classwork tab.

  • New grading tool in Classroom—Teachers have a new grading tool where they can switch between grades, student submissions, and comments while grading and save common feedback in a comment bank to use later.  This streamlined approach saves the teacher time.

  • New People page—Teachers can view class member information on the People page. Teachers can also invite and remove students, co-teachers, and guardians on the page.
  • New Settings page—Teachers can edit the class description, change the class code, manage guardian summaries, and control Stream settings on a consolidated Settings page.
  • See updates—Teachers and students can see updated labels (assigned, turned in, graded) for the status of a student’s work.

More resources:

Eric Curts, our SC Midlands Summit fan favorite, has written a comprehensive and clear overview of key changes.

Alice Keeler has a great 20-step checklist for getting started with the new Google Classroom.  She is also a great source for maximizing the use of GSuite in creative ways.  Bookmark her blog to discover new and different ways to use Google Slides, Drawings, and more across content areas.  Here are 32 videos Alice created to get you started with the New Google Classroom.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Do you know DyKnow?

Tim Swick, technology and learning coach at Jackson Creek Elementary School, contributed the following content regarding DyKnow, the district's newest tool for monitoring student activity on Chromebooks.  Tim blogs at  and can be found on Twitter at @itecswick.  Thanks Tim!

Last year, one of the biggest requests teacher made across the school as well as the district was to have some sort of digital classroom management software. Prior to last year, our district used a system called Hapara, however, due to escalating costs and some other concerns regarding to actual classroom use this system was abandoned. I am happy to report that this year, our district has made the decision to once again offer a digital classroom management system called DyKnow.

Dyknow is designed to be a simple device monitoring platform that will assist in keeping students on task. At a basic level, it is designed to record classes and create usage reports for teachers, but it also offers a number of other resources as well. Teachers will be able to monitor device use, prioritize content, and get attention when needed.

You can access DyKnow using this link, and by signing in using your district Google Account. Teacher rosters will be auto-populated, but this will not occur until August 22. Right now you will not see much of anything. Once school starts all you should need to do to get started is click the “start monitoring” button for your class. You will see devices in a thumbnail view, and tab changes will be seen in real time. Thumbnails only update every 60 seconds, but actual data is reported at the end of the class. At the end of the class or device usage period the teacher will end the recording.
The idea is that teachers should not need to sit and watch thumbnails when they are busy giving instruction. The focus is not about catching students, but collecting data to develop a conversion about improving digital citizenship and removing the distraction of devices.
Class analytics can be accessed at the end of a session. In analytics a variety of ranges and data can be accessed by the teacher. Student use can be viewed for individual students, and a teacher can see a report of what sites a student has visited. You can also track class trends which allows you to facilitate class and parent discussions about classroom usage.
 Based on the data collected from analytics, teachers can develop individual blocking plans. Extensions can be blocked as well by using the allow only web browsers blocking plan. You can also create “allow only” blocking plans and limit use to only the specific sites your lesson requires. Plans can be names and saved for later use.

Blocking plans allow individual teachers to determine what sites students can and cannot have access. Blocking can be done as either “allow only” or “block only.” This is done using the blocking tab. A variety of plans can be developed and used for different classroom activities. Plans can be personalized based on the type of assignment. When students attempt to access a blocked site they will get a “Blocked by” landing page. There is no limit to the number of plans, but only one plan can be used at a time.
Another nice feature is that enforcement plans can be made for specific students, which allows the teachers to develop different blocking groups for individual monitoring if needed. Instead of blocking sites, the tool also allows teachers to push out websites as well. Also, teachers can focus student attention using messages. Teachers can developed locked messages using pre-made or custom messages. Locking messages turn student screens black and keep students from seeing anything else. Unlocked messages are similar to locked messages except
DyKnow includes two formative assessment features as well. Teachers can collect anonymous feedback from students using the Understanding feature that creates polls for students to respond. The other tool called Questioning allows teachers to administer MC and T/F questions while collecting info about each student’s level of understanding.
A few items to keep a note of:
  1. This is about classroom management not catching kids, remember to not just sit and monitor. DyKnow is designed to allow the teacher to focus on instruction and not device monitoring.
  2. Right now only 1-1 classrooms will receive access, so only Grades 3-5 will be using DyKnow for right now.
  3. Rosters will not actually populate until the first day of school, so if you check your account early you will not see any class as of yet.
  4. Class names can be edited.
  5. Additional teachers can be added to classes.
  6. Teachers can monitor students remotely! (Nice if you are absent or out of the room)
  7. Students can be added if needed. For example: if a student joins the class for a day.
  8. Classes be joined if needed as well. For example: if a teacher has multiple classes meeting at the same time.
Here are some tutorial videos you may find helpful:
Getting Started
5 Minute training, part 1 and 2

Attention Getting features 

Blocking plans

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

"THINK" Before You Post

Are you aware of the digital footprint you are leaving when you go online? Think about the last thing you did on the internet. Was it a post on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram? Were you shopping on Amazon or another online store? Maybe you were searching for a recent news story that you had heard about on your way to work/school this morning. Whatever the action was, it left a digital footprint that can be traced, searched, copied and shared by anyone.

So why is knowing your digital footprint critical? Because it can impact your future no matter your age. The content you post or share online can potentially change a person’s perception of you. Students who apply to join school clubs, athletic teams or even moving onto college could lose an opportunity if a digital footprint was misconstrued or misrepresented their personal image. It can impact a new job whether you are trying to advance in your current career or change careers altogether. Future employers can search your name and learn about you even before your first interview. What your footprint says about you could either land you your dream job or cost you that first interview. We all need to be mindful of what we are posting as far as pictures, videos, comments or ideas. These all leave traces of who we are and can be perceived differently by anyone, potentially ruining your reputation. However, it can certainly help you land that perfect job or get you into the top college if you leave the right digital footprint. Let’s go through a few tips for creating that positive digital footprint.

Tip 1 - Teachers and parents should discuss, model and teach proper posting on the web. Discussing digital citizenship and internet safety should be a daily conversation if students are using the device every day.

Tip 2 - Provide students with opportunities to practice posting online. This could be on social media, blogging or commenting or adding videos to YouTube. As an educator, it’s good practice to inform your parents about what they will be doing in class and the purpose. It is also good practice for teachers to read the terms of service and privacy settings in order to inform your parents of what can be seen or shared on these social media sites. I encourage you to talk to your administrator or Technology and Learning Coaching to see if there are social media guidelines, consent forms or opt-out forms that are currently being used to ensure you are following proper procedures and policies. Common Sense Media has created a “Family Media Agreement” for each level. This may help in starting the conversation with school and parents.   Getting parent permission for students posting/sharing online is a safe habit. If you have younger early elementary students create a safe space to practice, such as SeeSaw. This platform builds a digital portfolio for each student to showcase their work, express their understanding of content, reflect on their learning and have it “closed” to just the specific classroom and respective parents can see the work and leave comments for their child.

Tip 3 - While I taught 5th grade I coached my students to “THINK” before they spoke. If you teach elementary, you have a lot of tattle tailing that can lead to bigger issues. I just helped my students to process what they were going to say before you say it because once it is verbal, you cannot take it back. This is absolutely true in the digital world. I think it is a strategy we could use for reminding ourselves and students to “Think” before they click/share.

T - is it true?
H - is it helpful?
I - is it inspiring?
N - is it necessary?
K - is it kind?

Tip 4:  So, what happens when an incident comes up in your classroom about an inappropriate post on a social media site or you see it in your Google Classroom? Have a conversation with the student about the post and its repercussions on their reputation. The fact that one negative comment or post made will now need to be replaced by positive ideas, that student should start with a public apology to learn from his or her mistake.

Social media is becoming an integral part of our students' lives. I’m not sure they truly realize the significance of what they say, post or share online impacts them now AND follow you for life. So, as educators and parents, we need to be true digital citizens and discuss, model and teach responsible use of any and all online behavior. This year make a pledge to provide your students with opportunities to practice and learn so they can grow to be good digital citizens.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

6 reasons you need a technology coach

Recently we read a blog post from Corwin Connect entitled “Six Reasons Why You Need an Instructional Coach.” We thought the article was great and began applying the concepts to our teachers. As we thought through the value of our technology coaches, we developed our own reasons why we believe you need your technology coach (TLC).

Technology, including updates to current apps and newly released apps, increases at an amazing rate. With all your time spent on the work of teaching, it is hard to stay on top of the latest technological possibilities. Your TLC may know of just the perfect app to meet your instructional needs.

Coaches are in and out of classrooms all the time. They know the amazing work of your colleagues and can help you imagine the possibilities by looking to your own colleagues for inspiration. Teaching can be an isolated profession and it is hard for teachers to observe one another but coaches have the great privilege of seeing many teachers work to provide learning experiences for students. 

Coaches can anticipate glitches in the technology. Technology coaches have sort of ‘been there, done that’ with lots of technology tools. They can turn their failures into learning opportunities before you even launch an app in your classroom. Consider collaborating with your technology coach to help prevent classroom management issues or glitches with specific instructional tools.

Technology coaches can facilitate your thinking about your technology choices. Sometimes teachers jump to implement a newly learned tech strategy and that can be great! Sometimes it is helpful, though, to slow down your thinking with the use of a technology coach to allow you to really strategically choose the best tool for your need. For example, Kahoot is fun and kids may love it, but should this timed, game-based quiz really replace your weekly formative to ensure students have learned the foundational knowledge? The technology coach may highlight on the nature of some students who may disengage during competitive activities and therefore this activity may not fully inform the teacher of all students’ progress in the learning.

Technology coaches can help you set goals for improving your teacher practice. Whether your goal is specifically focused on a technology tool or a broader instructional strategy, your technology coach can help you develop and implement strategies for reaching your goal. This collaboration also encourages accountability for a teacher’s continuous improvement.

You want personalized PD? You’ve got personalized PD! We know that teachers are often at different places in their professional learning. Using a technology coach allows each specific teacher’s professional learning needs to be met. If whole school professional learning is leaving you wanting more specific support, look to your technology coach to provide just-in-time learning and the opportunity to receive feedback on your progress.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Talk to Your Kids about Internet Safety

This post is going to be a bit more personal than other ones we have written because of the topic-internet safety. I am a mother of 2 children, a   daughter and a 10-year-old son who LOVES to play on his PS4. At first, the notion that my child can be playing games with anyone in the world, at any time, freaked me out and I work in the world of technology. In the classroom, I always embraced the idea of seeing my students have opportunities to connect with like-minded people who could challenge their thinking, dig deeper into their thought process and have a more meaningful authentic learning experience. I truly believe the best ways for our students, and even my own children, to learn internet/online safety is to give them opportunities.

While we set up my son’s account, and you better believe we did this together, I talked through and modeled the process of setting up his account. We used a fun screen name...not his real name. We used his personal email that is attached to mine so anything done with his account/email is linked on my phone. By the way, I don’t see this as being a hovering or “helicopter” mom. I see this as a way of me knowing what he is doing so I can openly discuss his usage.

  • Finding friends: We talked about who he can and cannot friend on the gaming system and how to determine whether it was his friend’s account and not someone else’s.
  • Interacting with gamers: We chatted about what is appropriate talk online with friends. For example, the games he plays you either want to help each other as a team or maybe do some trash talk...but you have to keep it clean and fun.
  • Communicating with unknown gamers: I knew there are open games within the PS4 world and anyone can be playing in the same game as him. So, we did discuss what topics are ok to discuss with the “stranger” and information to not share with the person.
    • Information to NOT share with a’s your full name, address, school, and phone number.
  • Strategies for when you feel uncomfortable: We also talked about if he was in a situation that made him uncomfortable. You either
    • Do not to answer any more questions
    • Ignore the conversation/person
    • Leave the game.
  • Online Predators: I did have the hard conversation in regards to people who try to contact young kids who do want to try and have inappropriate online relationships. I did not go into depth with that topic, however, I wanted him to know there are reasons for keeping the information a secret and protecting yourself.

Friends, it got real! One morning he came down and asked to talk about something. He began telling me about a person who was in his game that he did not know. The person kept asking questions. It was the typical questions of what’s your name, where do you live, what grade are you in and so on. My son told me he began having an uncomfortable feeling about the person. Yes, my heart was sinking, but I had a sense of relief that I had already had the conversation and hoped he remembered our talking points. I asked him what his responses were and he emphasized he only shared his first name and the state he lives in. He continued telling me that since he was not feeling comfortable about it, he decided to leave the game and delete the friend request. *Proud “Mom” moment. I sang his praise and told him he did what was best. I reflected later on and told myself that I was happy we had those previous conversations because he knew what to do. I just wonder what could have happened or developed had I not talked to him. Now I will tell you my other child is 5, who uses my phone, a Kindle Fire, iPad and computer to play games and can navigate through the various apps like a champ. Our conversations are a bit different now, but she will also learn early on about appropriate online use.

Parents and teachers, we have to monitor what our students are doing and who they are communicating with frequently. Please do not assume they are going to tell you. Take these tips and use them with your family and in your classroom.
  • Offer opportunities for students to practice online conversations on safe websites and gaming systems.  Here are a couple of links that lists some popular apps that our students are recently using.
  • Determine who is appropriate to friend and appropriate topics to discuss.
  • Remind your child to not share private information with people they do not know.
  • Discuss ways to avoid or get out of a situation that makes them uncomfortable
    • Ignore the person
    • Leave the conversation
    • Block the person
  • Look for some possible warning signs of inappropriate online relationships
    • Child seems withdrawn
    • Child spends many hours online
    • Appears to be hiding something.

These conversations can happen anytime. Start by asking how much time they spend online. You may be surprised as to how much time they are online.  Ask them what they do online. Ask your students who they talk to. As adults, we cannot ignore the topic, but be open to talking so our children and students know.  

The Influential Parent - Episode 9

  The Influential Parent - Episode 9, Summer Care Tips   With devices going home for the summer in our district, we wanted to take some ti...