The Tech Squad

For the first time in six years, I have a class!

It’s a real class too. Complete with pre and post assessments, assignments, a grade book and I actually take attendance and lunch count. What? Lunch count! It all came about when the school initiated an intervention block Tuesday through Friday during First period. If we’re not teaching interventions we get to teach enrichment courses. I am lucky enough to get to teach a new group of fantastic eighth-grade students each quarter. Of course, I call it the Tech Squad and here is my course description:

In this course, students experience technology in a variety of forms. After a self-study of their individual technology use, students develop the skills to coach others in their own area of interest (hardware, software, code, design, productivity, or communication.). Students also participate in identifying educational technology tools and practice procedural writing by creating tutorials that include visual elements such as screenshots and screencasts. Throughout the course, we also cover topics such as digital citizenship, technology trends, and social media.

It took a little bit getting used to the grade book/attendance part but I love the conversations we are having in this class and the experimentation with technology that is happening. When students ask how to do something, we figure it out. img_1836So far we have identified a variety of educational technology tools and their uses, learned all about Awesome Screenshot, created screencasts on Chromebooks using Screencastify, and designed badges using Canva. We are working on becoming Schoology, Google and Chromebook experts and I’m so proud of their budding technology coaching abilities as they teach each other skills and share their knowledge with their classmates and the school.img_1839

 

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Square, Circle and Triangle

As you may or may not have read in my previous post, we went 1:1 here at the middle school a few weeks ago. Very exciting stuff. It’s been just over 30 days since our students got their Chromebooks and I’m celebrating in a couple of ways. First, a survey! I posted links where I knew students would find them and at the other end of the link is my Google Form Survey about the Chromebooks. I received some excellent data and I’m already planning my next few months from it. The second way I celebrated is by sending home an E-Newsletter via Smore.com. I focused on the last days to accept insurance and make a payment, results from the survey and how to tackle Chromebook challenges in the home, such as helping students remember to charge up every night.

However, the third and most important way that I am celebrating is by sending out a refresher E-mail to staff about the Wireless Device Guidelines we put in place this year. I also created a behavior T-chart since we are a PBIS district and put copies of both in everyone’s mailboxes. This way they can review the guidelines with students and post them in their classrooms. I am leaving it up to teachers to provide guidance and discipline on the matters of device readiness and student behavior. I just lend out school-day loaner Chromebooks if students show up with a pass from their teacher.

Two eighth-grade teachers decided to not only review the guidelines, but two days ago, they completed an activity on the topic as well. I was thrilled when one of them brought all of the activity handouts to me that afternoon to read through. What amazing feedback! It was very thrilling for me to get an opportunity to read what our students are thinking about the Chromebooks and the guidelines. The activity was Square, Circle and Triangle or Triangle-Square-Circle as it is outlined on the Teacher Toolkit website.

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I was so excited that I answered every one of the questions that were “going around” in the students’ minds. I kept a document open while I messaged each student in Schoology and I recorded my responses there so that if a similar question came up again I could easily copy and paste. I individualized every message though. Some of the answers I gave were as follows:

You asked why we can’t have iPads instead of Chromebooks. Great question! We wanted to be able to pay for the devices and provide them to our students instead of asking our families to pay. iPads are way more expensive, breakable, and you have to pay more for every app you install on them. At the high school you get iPads, but you have to pay for them yourself. Chromebooks are FREE for you and your family. I hope this information helps you.

Mrs. Scola

 

You asked why so many things are blocked. Great question. The reason things are blocked is because by accessing them you put you, your computer, or our bandwidth at risk. We need to be able to provide school resources to over 700 people, potentially all at one time. If everyone was streaming music, it would shut down our network. Sometimes we want to access fun apps and games but doing so is causing student Chromebooks to crash. We need to be more careful about what we access on the Chromebooks so things are blocked until they are proven useful in many cases. If there is EVER something that you need for school, you can ask for it and we will do our best to come up with a solution for you. I hope this information is helpful to you.

Mrs. Scola

 

You asked how you can be expelled because of the chromebook. You want an example.

An example would be cyberbullying and harassing someone, repeatedly accessing inappropriate content on the Chromebook by doing something to circumvent, or get around the filter. Also,  doing something illegal with it like selling narcotics or underage gambling. Those are just examples. I hope this information is helpful to you.

Mrs. Scola

 

The next morning I got an email from one of the teachers who gave me these handouts.

Kids are buzzing…

About how you messaged them yesterday and answered their questions! They were excited that you actually answered them. Thanks fo rmaking it meaningul for them so they don’t feel like they did something for no reason 🙂

That’s me! Making it meaningful since 2004…

It is my honor to be working with these kids. They deserve it.

Constitution Day 2016

Our Social Studies teachers are piloting Discovery Education Social Studies Techbook this year and in just the first few days of school I heard about a Virtual Field Trip opportunity. Discovery Education would be hosting a tour of the Library of Congress. I was not sure of what more would be going on, but I thought that even just getting together with the 7th Grade Social Studies classes in the school library that day would be a great opportunity to celebrate the US Constitution and create a memorable event for the students. Plus they were advertising a Twitter Chat and I can’t resist a Twitter Chat!

I contacted the LMC Director right away to see if she would want to collaborate (of course she would) and then we pitched it to the teachers. New Chromebooks, new learning management system, new online curriculum; these guys were up for anything. The excitement kept building as we got closer and our plans for the day started to take shape.

A few days before our event we actually took some time to get together to plan instead of just shouting our excitement through the hallways. Discovery Education had posted some resources for teachers so we looked at those first. We knew we would not have a lot of time for extra activities once we knew how long the “Live” Virtual Field trip would be. We came up with a couple of questions we wanted the students to answer and we decided on the right Kagan activities to accompany the activity.

We created Padlets for each question and put all of our resources into Schoology as a lesson and shared it with the teachers. Finally, we created a visual presentation to go along with the lesson. The teachers then shared our lessons in their Schoology courses. We were all ready to go.

On Friday, September 16th, students came straight to the LMC instead of going to their classroom. They brought their Chromebooks and something to write with. Our Constitution enthusiast even dressed up in a colonial style wig and outfit. This was definitely about to be an event our students will remember.

Students sat four to a table and began by discussing the purpose of the Federal Government, the US Constitution, and Libraries. Discovery Education had provided a handout that we asked students to complete as they watched the Virtual Field Trip to the Library of Congress. We quickly decided to ditch that in favor of pausing the video and discussing the content with our students to make the lesson more engaging and easier to follow. After the video, we used mini-Constitution pages our LMC Director had made for each student as talking chips for another Kagan activity.

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We were thrilled to see all the learning happening and we were even getting requests from other grade levels to host classes during our off periods. The more the merrier. We are looking forward to more exciting opportunities like this.

Photo Credits

CONSTITUTION. – Page one of the Constitution of the United States of America, 1787.. Fine Art. Britannica ImageQuest. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 25 May 2016.
http://quest.eb.com/search/140_1642480/1/140_1642480/cite. Accessed 4 Oct 2016.

All other images are my own.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Schoology Calendar

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The Google Calendar export and Schoology Calendar Import process could not be easier. I sweetly added over 400 events to our school calendar in under 2 minutes. That’s the kind of speedy I’m looking for.

From my Google Calendar, I went to Calendar Settings>Export Calendar. Then in Schoology, I went to the calendar page and chose Import. I navigated to my exported file and that was it. I got the details from the Schoology Help Center, my new best friend.

Yes, a two-way sync with my Google Calendar would be even sweeter and this is a much requested feature in the community forum. I can’t complain though. This was much simpler than calendars I’ve used in the past and it nicely color codes the types of calendars for you. So students can see the difference between school events and course events, personal events, and group events.

 

 

Team Pages on Schoology

It was mid-summer when I got an email from our new middle school principal. He explained that he wants grade-level teams of teachers to have a team web page so that parents can look in one place and know what the students are doing. I immediately realized that I had not even gotten the opportunity to show him Schoology, the amazing all-in-one that is going to revolutionize our school! Once we have our parents looking at Schoology, they won’t need to go to any teacher web pages to see what’s going on. They will be able to see all assignments, class updates, grades, events, groups and comments and everything else that their student is seeing and interacting with without creating double work for teachers. Even better, parents can set email notifications so that the news will come directly to them instead of having to remember to go check themselves. Genius!

So what do we do until parents can see what’s going on? We had decided to wait until the first set of parent conferences before we rollout Schoology Parent Accounts. Why? We want to make sure all of our teachers are good and comfortable with the Schoology grade book and the whole new digital classroom thing we’re going for this year. I got invited to a team leader meeting so we could talk about what the principal wanted for these team web pages and I showed everyone Schoology. Our big official intro-to-Schoology training would be taking place the very next day and everyone in the room was already invited to attend. So I just gave a small preview to set up my next suggestion:

Let’s use public Schoology group pages for each team to introduce the teachers on the team and post the weekly assignments until we get parents their own accounts. This will give parents the chance to see Schoology, even if they don’t know that’s how they’re getting a peek into daily student activities. Then, once the parents have their own accounts and are connected to their students, these team pages can transfer into teacher-student grade level team pages. Teams can post about everything going on. Reminders about field trips, testing events, award ceremonies, students of the month, homework clubs, etc.

The whole idea of the public team pages was well received so I ran home and created these team pages right away. I linked them on our website under a new link… Teams!

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I made each team leader an administrator of their group page and asked them to send group invitations to each member of their grade-level team. Then, at our very first staff meeting on August 23rd, when I introduced Schoology to the whole staff,  I asked everyone to join their groups if they had not already done so. I gave the instruction that everyone was to go to their team page and post an update that included a welcome message with their name, what they teach and what they are looking forward to this school year. Every teacher in the room learned at least one thing about Schoology in that activity and in the process of doing so they communicated and made connections with students and their parents/guardians.

The Glenside Raider

I would like to introduce you to the Glenside Raider!

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Of course, THE Glenside Raider has been our mascot since I don’t know when, but I created a Glenside Raider account in Schoology for posting school-wide updates.

I didn’t think these types of updates should come from me. I’m the technology coach and I have my own updates that are technology related (more on that in a later post). I want a way to keep things separate for our students and I also want to promote school spirit and culture. We’ve been using these cool graphics that Aaron, another coach in the district had made for our Digital Citizenship Agreement and I thought it would be perfect to use one of these images along with our mascot name to represent the school.

The Glenside Raider posts updates on Schoology that mirror the announcements that run on our digital displays, but he also attaches files and more detailed information when necessary. Students know to look out for updates from the Glenside Raider and so far he’s gotten a very positive response.

Some of our grade-level teams have followed suit by asking me to create similar generic accounts for their teams so that their team updates do not come from one specific teacher. By linking these accounts to their teacher account, they can easily toggle back and forth between users when posting. They have even used some of the other mascot graphics to which we have access. It’s really gaining a lot of momentum and unity while creating a buzz of school spirit!