Using Schoology as a Collaborative Blogging Platform

Every school year I go through the same action of scouring the web for a new, free blogging service for teachers to use with their students. It seems that everyone and their brother will offer a free blogging platform for individuals, but once you start wanting to add students to your blog you have to start shelling out the money.

We want to be able to involve all of our students in a blog that they can participate in through their ELA (English Language Arts) classes. Teachers will decide upon a theme for each month and students will contribute writing pieces for others in the school to view after teacher moderation. This gives students a chance to see what their classmates are writing and an opportunity to publish their own work.

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My solution is to create a Group in Schoology. We’re already using Schoology and we have the Enterprise edition so we could turn on blogs for our students as individuals, but that’s still not what we need. By creating a Group in Schoology, participating students can be invited to join the group and topics can be posted as Events and Discussions. Classes can be welcomed via Updates. Students can reply to the discussion topic with their final blog post (after rough drafts are reviewed and critiqued by teachers via Google Docs). Posting blogs in response to discussion topics will automatically categorize student writing by topic and teacher if necessary, keeping it very organized for readers.

Originally I wanted to have students posting their writing as Updates, but when I found out all students in the school could potentially be contributors, I changed my tune. I did not want every piece of student writing to end up in the Recent Activity section on the homepage. That area should be reserved for announcements and reminders we don’t want our students to miss.

We are getting started with blogging through Schoology this week. I’m excited to see how it goes and I’ll post an update soon!

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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!

Teams   Glenside Middle School.png

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 Day I Made History

I’m a wife and a mom to two fabulous little girls. So anyone could probably guess that I have had at least three life-changing days in my life. Graduating middle school, high school, and college were all big days too. Becoming a big sister was pretty epic as well, and even though I was only a month away from turning four, I do have my own memories from that day.

I had another day worth remembering this week. It was the day all my hard work was realized. Hard work that started with a vision and continued with research. I visited schools that were early adopters, noting their successes but also their missteps. I pitched and waited. I waited patiently and when my bosses picked up the bat, it was a home run. I shared my findings to stakeholders and created presentations full of plans. I collaborated with experts, developing a system for success. Then there was paperwork. Writing and revising packets of information, narrowing all of it down to something our families could (and would) digest. I recruited amazingly hard workers who took the reigns on translating every word for our Spanish speaking community. I was lucky to have a colleague who bent over backwards to produce instructional videos that our students could view to learn about our new initiative. I am blessed to be teamed up with a driven crew of teachers and staff who have delivered this content to our students. The whole process took over five years. Now, every student in our middle school is showing up to class with a personal, school-issued Chromebook.

Thursday, August 25, 2016 is the day that Glenside Middle School began its 1:1 Technology Initiative. I am honored to say that they believed in me and my dreams for our students.

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Retelling Greek Myths via ThingLink

Our 6th graders are studying Greek Mythology in Social Studies and I was trying to come up with a new idea for retelling myths. I know our students enjoy searching for images in Britannica Image Quest and learning from the information they find there so I wondered if ThingLink would be a good application to use in this project. I heard about it at the ICE Conference last week and it was all the rage, so I knew I had to at least take a look at it. Just kidding, I emailed a teacher about it the second I heard it mentioned. Interactive images? Uh… YES!!

So for this project, I anticipate having students read articles in Britannica School to get background knowledge before searching for artwork that will help them retell their assigned myth in ThingLink. The application has a free Education Basic option that would be more than enough for this one class of students to use with their teacher this year. The possibilities that I can imagine for this app are endless, though, so it might be something worth exploring a subscription for in the future.

I like to provide alternates to any project I plan and in this case,  Padlet could be used in similar ways. Students could upload an image as a background and add content to the page. However, ThingLink is unique because each link or annotation pops up from a dot on the page so it is not overrun by information and the viewer can better enjoy the image they are interacting with.

Other student artifacts that could be produced with this app include:

  • Annotating a photo of self
  • Labeling a map
  • Summarizing an event
  • Demonstrating knowledge of a biome
  • Other

Oh, and look at this! I found a Thinglink Rubric on Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything.