Using Schoology for Project Based Learning in a Blended Environment

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Schoology is not a new tool. Originally created for college students in 2009, for the purpose of sharing lecture notes, Schoology quickly became a staple in the K-12 education learning environment. With its easy-to-use interface and robust grading system, it’s a wonder how we ever survived without it! Teachers in K-12 quickly began to use the schoology platform in order to create blended or fully-online learning environments with their students as well as to distribute assignments, administer assessments, and to collaborate with other teachers and/or students online. Soon, Schoology became a safe place for administration to share information to the school community and staff and used it as a model to house online staff professional development (ISTE for Educators 1, 2, 3, 4).

Another not so new term- Project Based Learning (PBL), has been receiving quite a bit of recent attention since educators, administrators, and parents are discovering that children need another way to learn, other than rote memorization and high-stake testing.

The Buck Institute for Education defines Project Based Learning as:
“Project Based Learning (PBL) prepares students for academic, personal, and career success, and readies young people to rise to the challenges of their lives and the world they will inherit.” (Source)

There has been a great deal of research as of late on the promises of PBL. You can find much of that research here at the Buck Institute for Education.

As a former teacher, {who admittedly taught using PBL not knowing it had an official name} I often tied in a LMS such as Schoology to assist my students (and myself) in the progression of a project.

So, how does one use Schoology in a Project Based Learning environment?

First, it is all about organization. Having your students being held accountable for their own learning is considered to be at the forefront of any 21st century learning technique, {I know it is this century- sorry, I have to say it}, pedagogy, (ISTE for students 1). Using a LMS, since Schoology assists students in a collaborative atmosphere that is measurable; which means, you can track who contributes to what. When you couple that with Google, this blended online PBL environment is a sure-fire way to have students collaborate safely online in one space.

How can this be accomplished? There are two ways to make this organization and collaboration happen:
By creating Groups within Schoology. This way anybody can contribute and add material freely. Click to learn more about Schoology Groups.
Creating folders within a course with specific group names and linking in Google Docs, Forms, and Slides for collaboration. Advantage? Students can see what other groups are working on (ISTE Student 3).

In addition, using Schoology as a tool for PBL can also increase a student’s awareness of being a positive digital citizen. I highly recommend discussing with students about maintaining their positive online interactions, digital footprint, and netiquette. You should also be prepared to lay-out ground rules and expectations for your PBL blended environment, (ISTE Student 2). By allowing your students to freely interact with one another in an online environment implementing Schoology, it will afford them the opportunity to practice their own online presence in a positive way and it will hopefully translate into an out-of-school positive social media interaction. Of course, this means that you need to lead by example. Make sure to check in regularly by participating in the online discussions. Ask questions and check-in on your students both online and in person. Use the Schoology calendar for project checkpoints. Incorporate tools such as Padlet, Google Forms, and Slack to check for student independent and group progress.

Example of Schoology Course

Example of Schoology Course

Modeling of Schoology in an online environment for professional development of PBL can ensure proper use by educators. Typically I would have teachers partake in a face-to-face workshop on PBL, and then go online to reinforce what they have learned and/or build upon their previous gained knowledge. In this online learning environment, I specifically build modules that reinforce my expectations for a student-driven blended PBL learning environment. The teacher then receives first-hand experience living out the online PBL blended learning environment.

Educational Bracket Template

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Over the summer, I spent a few days with The Buck Institute to learn how to build and sustain a program that encompasses HQPBL (High Quality Project Based Learning). It was a wonderful workshop that focused on the administrator side of implementing HQPBL school-wide.

A few months later, BIE returned for a follow-up workshop. This time I attended a teacher training. During this time, we were provided an activity using a bracket (similar to the “March Madness basketball brackets) in which we had to take BIE’s Gold Standard PBL: Essential Project Design Elements and thoughtfully explain why each Gold Standard PBL Element made it to the next round. We continued to do this until we had a winner. The idea behind this process was to ensure our ability to articulate our reasoning behind each selection. It was intense. However, I turn everything int a competition.

BIE’s instructor, Eric White explained how his teacher/professor/instructor {detail that I cannot remember} used this concept to test his students. Wow. Simply wow. Instead of having a scantron sheet with the standardized A, B, C, answer format (when in doubt choose C), he and his classmates had to think their way through a concept! {Insert mic drop… and slowly walk off the stage!}

Months later, I introduced this concept to the faculty at my school via my in-house course that I provide on 21st Century Learning & Teaching. For this module, I used Mentoring Minds, Developing 21st Century Critical Thinkers, and their elements for developing and fostering this skill in students. Here is the video tutorial that I provided for the faculty:

Sample of Critical Thinking Resource

My staff fell in love with this concept {as did I. Big shout out to Eric White for introducing this concept to me!} I decided to then turn this concept into something digital, where it could be shared and be used in collaboration if necessary!

You can get your copy of the bracket here!

Follow these directions to edit it and make it your own!

  1. In Google Slides, go to Slide located in the menu –> Edit Master:

2. Double click each shape to change the label inside. These elements are strictly place holders (starting points) so the user understands how each element on the bracket moved its way down.

3. Click the “White X” to leave the Edit Master screen:

4. Under the normal editing mode in Google Slides, I provided each bracket label element  with 4 pieces (shapes with text) in which your students can move around the bracket. You will need to change the label to each of these shapes. {Double click each shape to change the text label.}

5. Distribute your edited version to your students using the “Make-a-copy” feature in Google Classroom or by adding the word copy in place of sharing. Basically everything past the last / is changed to the word: copy as seen here:

Changed to “copy”

Enjoy! Again, you can get your copy of the bracket here!

Google Cheat Cards for Students (and teachers)

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It’s that time of year again: Back to School! After taking a personal “break,” I am back and ready to share!

As the integration specialist, it is part of my responsibility to make certain that new students are up-to-date and ready to use their newly assigned Chromebook for the school year. Let’s face it, if you are new to using a Chromebook, or Google in general, it may be overwhelming at first to retain all of the information coming your way. To ease the new students into our 1:1 initiative, I created these Google Cheat Cards that they can use as a reference. Some parts may be very specific to my school, so please feel free to take a copy and change what you need!

 

Please grab your copy here!

 

Enjoy!

Using Google Sites for Digital Portfolios

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I have to say that since Google updated their Website creation tool, Sites, I have fallen in love with how easy it is to use. Not only for me, but for my students as well!

Yes. There are some functionalities that are missing as of today; like the ability to change the html code, however, you can not beat the familiarity and functionality of the new Sites.

For the last few weeks I have been working with my first graders as well as their teachers about using this tool to create an online digital portfolio.

So far, the first grade students have:

  • Created a new Site from their Google Drive.
  • Renamed and shared their Digital Portfolio
  • Changed banner image and text to personalize their portfolio
  • Inserted pages and sub pages to reflect their current grade level and academic areas.
  • Inserted their Google Slides project from their Google Drive into the Digital Portfolio.
  • Used a Chromebook to take a first grade selfie, edited using Pixlr Photo Express,  and uploaded the image to their first grade introductory page.
  • Added a written piece describing an “All About Me” statement to their first grade introductory page.

The first grade classes have noted how much it reminded them of Google Slides.

I have been in the first grade classrooms to assist the teachers on implementing Google Sites with their students, and they were very excited to be using this tool as a digital portfolio! Below is a tutorial that I provided the teachers with at my school and how we have built their digital portfolios. You may grab a copy of the tutorial here.

Use Google Keep as a School-wide Initiative

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There are a lot of posts floating out there in the blogosphere about how teachers are using the much applauded infusion of Google Keep within Google Docs. Like this fantastic post about using Digital stickers as seen here.

Seriously awesome stuff.

In my small corner of the world, my principal and I began a mentor- mentee program with our students. We thought it would be of great value if we provided a school-wide mentorship program involving all of our faculty and staff.

I do have to give prompts to the forward-thinking on behalf of my principal.

On the flipside, we also felt that some students would greatly benefit if they became mentors themselves. What a boost of confidence on their part! Some middle school students became mentors themselves under the supervision of elementary teachers…. And then a lucky bunch of students were selected to be with me, as “students under special assignment.”  Under my wings, I had to not only advise them on how to be better organised, but also assist them on a collaborative school-wide initiative: creating an online assignment agenda.

First, I need to address my organizational methods: My desk.

Seriously, I know what goes on here. It is the equivalent to my 5,000 tabs open at once on my Internet Browser. First, we have a pile of things that I have to do because it is my right and responsibility as an educator, coach, and student and technology services coordinator. Then I have a pile of things that I would rather do, like play around with new apps, rewrite computer curriculum, and play Minecraft to create a lesson plan. And lastly I have a pile of things that I really want to get to but can’t because pile #1 takes precedence, and pile #2 is my “mind break” from pile #1. So pile #3 (which is usually me compiling my ideas for this blog) sits dormant. It’s complicated, I know.

Anyway, I was presented with the idea of having students create an online homework board so that both parents and students can easily access daily homework if absent or forgot to write something down. The thought was that it would also alleviate the stress of teachers having to do it all while giving a selected group of students more responsibility. So I thought about it for at least a minute about what tool I could use, and thought: camera, Keep, Docs. And just like that. the photogenic digital collaborative homework board was born using tablets, Google Keep and Docs. Oh and about 10 5th-8th grade students. They’re important too; I cannot forget about them.

At the end of each day these students meet in my room, grab a few tablets, and venture off into each classroom and take photographs of the teacher’s homework boards using the camera in Google Keep. My selected “students on special assignment” then import the photos from Keep into a “shared to the universe” Google Doc that is available on our school Website.

I have to say, the students love the responsibility and take it very seriously. The teachers love it as it alleviates the stress of them having to remember to post it each day and it helps bridge the gap between home and school. As an added bonus, my students on special assignment never seemed to mind my desk. Win-win!

Whether you agree with a school-wide homework board, or homework in general, or not, (whole other post for another day) is completely away from the fact that the students collaboratively come together each day and use two simple tools and turned it into a daily job. Which is really cool.

Think of the possibilities! Go outdoors (my favorite pastime) and have students use the Keep app to take photographic evidence and documentation to later be able to create a collaborative piece in Google Docs! Right? Yes!

I personally have used Keep a lot on my phone when I would go to conferences and/or workshops and was not interested in taking notes if a presentation wasn’t shared with me (yes, that happens occasionally). Now, I can put it all in one, convenient document! You saw my desk- my Keep app keeps me organised. In all honesty, you have to see how organised I am in my Google Drive, calendar and email. Give me paper, and I have no clue what to do with it.

BrainPOP Make-a-Movie Student Created Tutorial

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Since 1999, BrainPOP has been able to turn the not-so-explainable into perfectly explained animated movies. Throughout the years, the company has gone above their theme of movie clips by successfully adding features such as Make-a-Map, GameUp, and Activities in a variety of topics and subjects. Being an advent user of BrainPOP and a proponent of project based learning, it was easy to understand why I quickly fell in love with the concept Make-a-Movie. In a world where we are all about presentations, it is refreshing to see an out-of-the-box perspective on having a student present material. I particularly love the ease of use and the ability to use this tool across grade levels, all while using a character that the students adore, Moby.

Of course, when it first launched, my students and I jumped aboard; and by true Bloom fashion, we learned about this tool together. So, it would be unjust of me to create a tutorial all on my lonesome.

The students (and their awesome parents who allowed them to partake in this tutorial) who assisted me in this tutorial are the 6th graders that are also in my Vex Robotics Club.  Honestly, I am pretty boring compared to the group of students who created this tutorial. Unscripted, these students nailed their explanations of how to use this tool. Edited, because their giggles would have comprised an additional 30 minutes of video.

Additional resources:

The link as to where you can get the Beep: https://educators.brainpop.com/printable/brainpop-sound-effects/

Ten Resources for Making a Make-A-Movie: https://educators.brainpop.com/2017/03/16/make-movie-support-resources/

Make-a-Movie Rubric: https://educators.brainpop.com/printable/make-movie-assessment-rubric/

Enjoy!

Kids Computer Lesson: Business Cards and Social Media Advertising

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It’s been awhile since I shared a Kids Computer Lesson on here; especially since I have changed the name of the site and all that jazz. I feel like this year I have been taking some time to get myself acclimated to some STEM based projects (with a focus on the science and math). It’s been a lot of trial and error and a lot of playing on my part (yay!). I hope to be sharing my insights soon……{run!}

This lesson, in particular, is about going back to my roots. An art educator by trade, I often try to find ways to tie the arts into my curriculum. Honestly, it is not that hard, as a lot of what I teach (game design, web design, Flash animation) are easily intertwined. Even when I teach about Digital Literacy, by creating multimedia posters, movie editing, and blogging, much of the arts are tied to the foundation of those lessons. It is truly hard to escape not even having a basic understanding of the arts while teaching technology education. The big A is there; as it should be.

I teach a lot about Microsoft products in 7th grade. Some of my students who move on to high school have been known to successfully exempt themselves from entry-level computer classes, by completing an exam (where applicable). I’d like to think that I contributed to that. I really try to make the process fun, yet challenging. For example, instead of making a PowerPoint presentation, we create games and/or digitally animated stories. In Excel, my students go out and purchase cars, and receive bills, and pick a job from a hat (ironically how I got mine). I then teach them how to create a budget and what percentage is taken in taxes from your wages, and how much a mortgage costs, and then I hand them a tissue when they realize that “adulting” is not fun. Not fun at all. I also teach Word and Access. But you get my point. Keep it fun, keepin’ it real.

Sample of Advertising and Design kids computer lesson.

I then teach the attached lesson in Publisher. My students are hired by me, Bloom Industries, to be my assistants and embark into the world of advertising and design. We talk about the principles and elements of design. We talk about logos, and keeping the design elements simple. My students get to explore their creative side and, for a moment, it feels like home.

As stated, I use Publisher for this lesson. Canva would be another fantastic choice. Using Google Draw, and perhaps LucidPress, would work as well. I mean, who wouldn’t want to create a business card or a Social Media cover photo for Backstep Apparel, who specializes in one-hooked overalls, mood rings, skater tees, one-leg-up pants, chained wallets, wind jackets, and bandanas?

Sample of Advertising and Design unit for middle school students.

You can view the Slide-Deck Here

Or you can grab a copy of your own here
I hope you enjoy this lesson as much as I do. I have only had one student understand my 90’s references to the companies that I created.

Interactive Whiteboard Resources Infographic

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For one reason or another, I am called to do Interactive Whiteboard (IWB) professional developments quite often. Some are brand specific, while others are just a general overview. I created the below infographic to use as a reference for my upcoming training on IWB for a school that does not have IWB’s in place yet. I tried to be as versatile as possible. Feel free to share and use!

{Please note, if you click it open it will activate the hotpots!}