Thursday, September 28, 2017

Using Google Classroom and Google Sites Together

I use Classroom and Sites in conjunction with each other, for my Tech Draw class. I started out just using Google Classroom my first year of teaching. It was helpful in some aspects, for posting announcements or files really quickly. I hadn’t figured out yet how to use it for assignments and grading. After digging into it more as the year went on, I decided it was not the best setup for me, as my main platform. Maybe there is more to it that I am missing, but I really didn’t like the endless “feed” layout of the whole thing. I needed more grouping and organization.

That is why I started using Google sites this year. Being able to create pages and subpages and group different topics and units together, made my organizational part of my brain much happier. So now I use Sites for all of my daily objectives and resources like PDF’s, videos, and Slides. Then I use Classroom strictly for submittals, so I can keep track of who has turned in what and when. I can also mark up drawings using my tablet and Classroom app very quickly, and send comments back to students. I don’t think there is a one-method-fits-all approach to these sites. It all depends on what you are doing. I also feel like this has prepared me for when CHHS goes to a LMS, as Erin has mentioned in previous posts. I will be able to transfer all of my digital content to the new platform and already have my sequence laid out.

Grant Hunnicutt

Monday, September 25, 2017

What is an LMS?

Going 1:1 in secondary schools is an exciting endeavor for our school system. With that comes the need to make teaching and learning as unencumbered as possible. Often, an LMS is the solution.

LMS is the initialism of Learning Management System. So, what exactly is an LMS? An LMS is usually a web-based application that delivers content to students via a computer, tablet, or phone. Students can then access and interact with class content, classmates, and the instructor(s) in order to learn material. Often, students complete assignments and assessments through the LMS so that teachers can grade and provide students with feedback. An LMS that is integrated with a school's student management software can mean that any grades in an LMS will automatically transfer to the online gradebook.

It might be helpful visualize where LMS's have come from and what they are today. Check out this awesome infographic that I am totally allowed to embed in this blog (!):

(There's more to read underneath the infographic.)

History and Trends of Learning Management System Infographic

Certainly, reading all this information is not intended to fully prepare any teacher to incorporate an LMS into his or her class, but hopefully you have a little bit more background knowledge as CHPS moves forward in searching for an appropriate LMS.

While many instructors may argue that the value of a Learning Management System is the fact that the teaching and learning process is streamlined (everything is in one place), I and others would argue that the real value comes with the ability to truly differentiate and customize learning for all students.

Within many LMS's teachers can provide different materials to various students. For example, students needing extra practice and daily remediation can have a completely different LMS screen from their counterparts who may be able to complete an extension project. While this scenario is certainly possible in an "analog" classroom, students having 1:1 computing access helps teachers aggregate appropriate digital materials much more efficiently than they could before. The learning management system becomes a place for teachers to disseminate various lessons, assessments, and projects and then grade and provide feedback within that system.

The possibility of an LMS is a little scary. As a teacher, I thought, "If I just slap everything up in Google Classroom, am I really teaching? If these kids have their faces buried in a screen for most of the class, are they really learning?" I learned through my short 1:1 time, that I was doing something very powerful for my students. I created unique learning experiences for my students. It was rare for me to instruct the class as a whole; instead, I was providing a lot of 1-on-1 instruction. I read a couple of The Canterbury Tales in small groups with students who needed me (a live person) to break down chunks of information; other students had supplementary reading and videos within Google Classroom to provide the scaffolding. Students got what they needed because I was an engaged teacher who finally recognized what an LMS could do for individual student. My existential crisis of thinking I was making myself obsolete by using an LMS was a little ridiculous--kids still needed me just as much as before.

While I have focused on the positive aspects of a learning management system, there were some drawbacks. For example, initially curating new, digital content was not a quick and easy process. I spent many hours each week locating and organizing resources for students. I had to do a lot of showing students how to use not only their Chromebooks, but also certain web-based tools. It was certainly exhausting, but I do think all that time and effort was worthwhile.

A learning management system does not make teaching any easier, but when used with fidelity, it can make a student's learning more personalized and possibly more meaningful.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Google Classroom or Google Sites

As our district starts going 1:1 with Google Chromebook devices, it makes sense to start moving some assignments and resources online and in the cloud! 

A common question is whether a teacher should use Google Classroom or Google Sites to provide the best source of information for students and parents. The answer is... it depends.

Below are a couple of charts to help you start thinking about how you want your students to interact with material in your classroom. Once you have an idea about what you want your classroom to look and feel like, you will probably have an idea of whether you'd like to create a Classroom or a Site (or if you are extra ambitious--both!).

Monday, September 11, 2017

Google Classroom and PowerTeacher Pro Workflow

Last semester I became more intimately familiar with Google Classroom. The students having Chromebooks and having access to Google Classroom have been game changers for me in a good way, but having such a positive experience has not come without some logistical hurdles to jump.

I've been working out the kinks so that your class might be able to transition more smoothly into using Google Classroom. 

1) Assignments

I make everything into an assignment whether there is an attachment for the students or not. When you make a post an assignment and give it a due date, students have to interact with post. For example, if I simply post an agenda, I make it "due" at the end of the class period. Students who are absent will see that they have a "LATE!" assignment, forcing them to read what they missed, "open" the assignment, and then "mark as done."

2) Numbering Assignments

Alice Keeler's ideas have been very helpful with the Google Classroom endeavor, including her post about numbering assignments. I took her approach and modified it a bit. Below is a picture with labels describing how I organize my posts.

3) In PowerTeacher Pro

When I input assignments into PowerTeacher Pro, they also start with the same number and include the posting date so that students and parents can find assignments posted on Google Classroom easily. Below you can see that I number Daily, Quiz, and Test grades according to what day they fall on in Google Classroom.

4) Paper Gradebook

I use the same system in my paper gradebook. Each assignment gets a date and a number that was used in PowerTeacher Pro.

Performance Matters

PowerSchool's purchase of PeopleAdmin has meant that it is no longer supporting or investing in Assessment and Analytics (formerly know...