**Update: Schoology has added a Google Drive Assignments application that allows students to work from Drive within the Schoology site itself. Thank you Schoology!
Details can be found here.
Quick post here – In the spring I wrote about how much I was enjoying writing instruction with Google Docs. I began this school year at a new school anxious to support my sixth graders during the writing process but hit a small hurdle when I learned that the LMS in middle school was Schoology. Schoology does have a Google Drive app that allows students to submit work from Drive. It does not, however, provide a way to collaborate on documents.
I manually went through the steps that Google Classroom automates and was happy with the results. Here are the instructions I gave students:
The document titles tell me the period, student name, and assignment name – as it would be in Google Classroom. I used five minutes in the beginning of class to get this set up. All of the files that students share with me are easy to copy and move from ‘shared with me’ to a specific folder for this assignment. This makes it simple to organize assignments by period or class and assignment.
At this point, all of the collaborative writing with synchronous feedback that I love so much is possible.
Google Drive and its integration with Google Classroom has made a huge difference in my classroom. One of the biggest advantages I have seen so far is the opportunity to provide differentiated corrective feedback on student writing synchronously. This means I can give students (a whole class of students) comments and suggestions, and highlight errors as they write. The comments below show the range of support a teacher can provide based on the level of each student. Each comment asks the student to self-correct or clarify, though the effort required to make the correction varies in each comment, matching the ability of the student. As you look through comments, ask yourself what each comment requires the student to do to make the correction. In the past, differentiating writing feedback was a time consuming, ink-draining process that seemed to have little or no effect. Now, I feel like I can support the students appropriately while they are in the process of creating writing. Going through these processes with the teacher will help students retain what they learn.
I was really excited a few weeks ago when I first heard that my school had signed up for Google Apps for Education. I’d been waiting since the first half of 2014 to get my hands on Google Classroom. Back then, my social media outlets were abuzz with news of all that classroom was and is, and I ate it up. The snip on the left shows what I saw every time I turned on my PC or looked at my device. At the time, I was running classes with Google+ communities and Drive, so I was a bit bitter watching the GAFE train roll right on by; it was torture – until a few weeks ago. To learn more about Classroom, I joined a Google+ community and spent a few hours reading posts and watching videos. After that, I was ready.
In this post, I’ll share the things I like most about Classroom and some examples of how I started using it in my classes.
Coming from Drive, where managing assignments is a challenge, Classroom is a breath of fresh air. Setting up the class is simple. It begins with naming and editing the ‘about’ page of the class. On the about page, I’ve added a Youtube playlist, a doc of links to the class topic (deforestation), and a link to the class blog. All the resources are here and it is visually pleasing.
After setting up the ‘about’ page, I went straight to the good stuff – assignments. What separates classroom from anything I’ve used in the past is the way that it manages student work. Before creating an assignment in Classroom, I write the directions in a Doc. Once the Doc is done, I can create the assignment in Classroom. In this example, I give students brief instructions and leave the rest of the page blank. When I create the assignment, I add the Doc.
The assignment shows up in the class stream where students can click on it and begin working. In the stream, the assignment serves as a jump off point for a few different things. Once the student submits the assignment, they can return here to see the grade or get back into the document should they need to edit and resubmit.
As an EFL teacher, feedback on student writing has always been a challenge. For a good summary of the challenge and suggestions, click here. Classroom provides the teacher more feedback options for student writing. Over the last few days, I tried synchronous corrective feedback (SCF). SCF is immediate corrective feedback that happens online as students are writing. In some ways, it’s similar to oral recasts. This is a gamechanger, in my opinion. Here is an example.
Within Drive, the teacher can give comments on student writing. What Classroom adds to this is the ability to return the assignment to the student. The submission history below shows exactly what the student did. In this example, the student revised and resubmitted several times, getting more feedback from the teacher each time. This could happen over the course of one class period, or several days. This type of feedback is called asynchronous corrective feedback (ACF).
Another great thing about Classroom is the way that it organizes student work. Classroom creates a folder for every assignment a teacher creates and a doc for every student that completes the assignment (click ‘make a copy for each student’). Gone are the headaches that came with the moving, sharing, and saving in Drive.
While I think there is still a lot to improve, Google Classroom does a lot to simplify the way teachers and students interact. As an ESL teacher, the ease of interaction with students outside of class makes this an extremely valuable tool.
For more information on computer-mediated corrective feedback, have a look at the following article.
Shintani, N. (2015). The effects of computer-mediated synchronous and asynchronous direct corrective feedback on writing: A case study. Computer Assisted Language Learning, Online first.
In my most recent post, I outlined the steps necessary to set up online literature circles using Edublogs. Since then, the literature circles have begun, and we’ve just finished the fourth week. In this post, I’ll share some samples to show what is actually happening in the circles, and discuss the challenges and issues that have come since they started.
As you read, keep in mind that the students are already maintaining their own personal Edublog and are familiar with all of the procedures and tools necessary to post on the class blog. As a precaution, I made a short tutorial (click here for video) and gave a short reading assignment (chapter one of The Giver) to practice posting and commenting. I didn’t spend the entire weekend reorganizing student posts, so I have to say they were successful.
Each student receives a schedule, like the one here, which tells them what they are responsible for each week. It includes their role and a checklist that describes the three things that need to happen every week.
Throughout the week, students read the text and develop the post for their specific role. Posts are due at the end of the week, and the summarizer in each group has up until the day of class to complete their assignment. This gives them a few days to read through all of their group’s post and summarize.
The links here are to the documents that are embedded in the class blog. These documents describe the overall assignment and the specifics of each role.
Example #1: Discussion Director
This example shows the five questions that a discussion director asked their group. It also highlights one of the mistakes many discussion directors made in the first few weeks. While it looks like there are five questions here that cover the main points of the reading, the student failed to follow the specific instructions that come with being discussion director. Each question is supposed to serve a different purpose. For example, question one should be a closed question that makes sure everyone noticed an important plot detail. Question three should be a a question to the author, Lois Lowry. This question is supposed to spark discussion about something that would help readers better understand the text. In this example, the student is on the right track, but the way the question is formed is incorrect as the author would know who the old are.
In the future, I know I have to spend more time going through each type of question and provide more examples. Now that we’re in week five, most discussion directors are getting it right, but the confusion could have been prevented with clearer instructions. The response below shows that the questions did get the student to pull things together and draw some conclusions, but the product will be much better when the right questions are asked.
Example #2: Word Wizard
This is a good word wizard example. Each word comes with a sentence to contextualize it, a page number, the student’s own definition, and the dictionary definition. Many students comment on Word Wizard posts and say that they also didn’t know the selected words.
Example #3: Visualizer
Visualizer posts with Fotobabble are going really well. Students are using the sentence frames provided in the instructions and are getting creative with their drawings. Students that don’t feel comfortable drawing can use another image or group of objects to depict a piece of the text. Last week, a student used his younger brother’s Lego figures to set up a scene from the reading instead of drawing a picture; it was well done and the class enjoyed it.
Example #4: Connector
So far, the connector seems to be the most popular role as it receives the most comments. Students are doing a good job of making real world connections; however, in the future, text-to-text connections need to be a requirement. They are by far the least common connection that I’ve seen so far. Here are some comments to the above post.
Example #5: Reflector
This example shows the reflector commenting on big ideas as they work their way though the text. Page numbers need to be included so that the group members can follow the reflector’s thoughts as they read specific parts of the text.
Example #6: Summarizer
The last student from each group to post each week is the summarizer. The summarizer’s job is not to summarize the reading, but to summarize the discussion that happened online. In this example, the students discusses the group’s response to the discussion director’s questions and the vocabulary selections. I would like to see more substance in the post and less listing. Students will often list all of the director’s questions and the vocab in a effort to lengthen the post, which is unnecessary. There is enough material in the posts and comments to write a good summary that highlights the most interesting material.
Though there are many small things that need tweaking before the next time this happens, the literature circles are making the reading that happens at home active and promoting a deeper understanding of the material through discussions and peer feedback. In our school, where many of the students need language support and lack the confidence to speak during classroom activities, the online literature circles are providing opportunities to request clarification, check comprehension, and to demonstrate understanding prior to class. This results in more participation and interaction and ultimately, more language development.
Last year in our 8th grade Language Arts class, we used literature circles to read The Giver by Lois Lowry. We are using the book again this year, and to increase the amount of student talk that happens in the classroom, I am moving a lot of the discussion online. Since I have a large number of non-native speakers in the class, the online discussion serves as a primer for the discussion that will happen in class. If each student does their homework, they will be able to contribute to the group discussions in class. If you are unfamiliar with literature circles, here is a crash course.
To set this all up, I am using Edublogs (Pro). I put a lot of thought into finding the easiest way to get everything organized online in a way that is easy for students to navigate. This is what I’ve come up with. If you know a better way, please share ASAP!
First, I thought about what I needed to make available online.
- Literature Circle Instructions
- Role Instructions
- Reading/Discussion Schedules
- A place for students to post
I started by creating a page named ‘Literature Circle’. This is the main page for all of the work we’ll do in the unit.
I used a page and not a post so the content is always there, in the same place. Here, I will put up the general literature circle instructions.
Next, I created two more pages called resources and groups. These pages have the parent page Literature Circle. On the resources page, I will put up the role instructions; the groups page will have group lists and reading/posting schedules.
Now for the part that took the most thought. I’ve decided on categories as the way student posts will be organized. I chose this because selecting a category when you post is simple. Also, I can create the categories myself.
First, I created nine categories (Groups 1-9). Then, I added those categories to the menu below the groups page.
Now, here’s what I imagine happening when the assignments begin. Each group has one member that will start the discussion (summarizer). When the summarizer posts, they’ll have to click the category for their particular group. Once they do this, their group members will be able to find the post easily by clicking on their group from the drop-down menu. From there, the rest of the group can comment and add their own posts the same way.
Here you can find copies of our presentation and all assignments/handouts that were shared during the presentation.
We can also be reached at:
Hi guys, in this post I’ll describe how to set up the menu in your blog just the way you like it. It probably looks something like this:
This is boring! It doesn’t give visitors to your blog an opportunity to easily explore all the great content you’ve published.
It will take a few steps get everything organized. Here they are:
- Add new categories: Categories are a way to organize your posts. Each time you post, you will select the most appropriate category, or create a new category.
- Create a menu: We will get rid of the default menu and create our own.
- Add categories to the menu
The categories are a bit hard to find in your dashboard. Drag the mouse over ‘posts’. This will present you with a series of options (all posts, add new, categories, and tags). Click on ‘categories’. From here you can create your categories.
Add new categories for whatever you like. For most of you, you might just want to add subject specific categories like Art and Language Arts. It all depends on what you’re going to publish on your blog.
The next step is putting the categories on the actual menu that shows up at the top of your blog. First, click on ‘appearance’, then ‘menus’.
To start, your menu editor will look like this. The first thing you want to do is remove the ‘sample page’. Click the drop-down arrow in the ‘sample page’ box, then click ‘remove’.
It’s important that you click ‘view all’. Now, check the boxes next to the new categories you’ve created and then click ‘add to menu’.
Now that we’ve added your categories to the menu, all that’s left is to organize the menu structure. If you look at the structure of our class blog below, you can see how I’ve divided up menu items and sub-items. Home, Who We Are, Gallery, Our Work, and Forums are the main menu items. These are what you see at the top of all pages within the blog. The other items here appear when the mouse is dragged over the item above it in the hierarchy. For example, if I want to see pictures from art class, I must drag my mouse over ‘Gallery’ first, then ‘Photos’, then ‘Art Class’ will appear for me to click on.
For right now, you do not have to create a menu like this. All you need to do is remove the sample page and replace it with language arts. Here is an example of a simple menu structure and the actual menu:
Once you have the menu set up the way you like it. Click ‘create menu’. Also, click the two check boxes and save it all one more time.
This is the first step in customizing your blog menu. Please ask any questions you have in class, through email, or tweet them to me @tesolwar.
Edublogs provides a massive amount of support through its support blog, TheEdublogger. Recently, I used it as a resource when setting up my class blog. While it provided all of the information I needed, a lot of it was scattered around the site, which resulted in me searching for things within and outside the site. In this post, I will explain some of the difficulties I had, and how I worked around them to set up forums on my blog.
A few notes before I start – I used the forums plugin, which is available with Edublogs Pro only. I found that it’s much easier to work with than the forums described here.
First, make sure you’ve actived the plugin, then you should see a forums label on your dashboard.
What I found most challenging while setting up forums for my class was the hierarchical structure of the forum. What I originally wanted was a menu item ‘forums’ that would drop down and show individual forums, which could house topics and replies. I also wanted a list of forums to come up just by clicking the ‘forums’ menu items as shown here.
Initially, I tried creating a page called ‘forums’ that I could post my forums inside, but it left me with an empty page. What I learned through trial and error was that the forums plugin already has a ‘home’ for forums (in the above picture) and there is no need to create a ‘page’ that stores the forums. The forum home is located at http://yourdomain.edublogs/forums
In my case, it’s here: http://thegreateights.edublogs.org/forums. This is exactly what I unsuccessfully tried to create as a page. I found that adding a link to the blog’s main menu was much easier.
To get the forum in the blog’s main menu, you first need to add a link to the forum home. Since it’s a link, it has to be done manually. To do this, click ‘appearance’, and then ‘menus’. You’ll see options to add pages, links, and forums to the menu. First you want to add the forum link.
You can see that I pasted the forum link into the url field and titled the link ‘Forums’. Now, when I add this to the menu structure, it will show up as ‘Forums’.
When you drag the forum into the menu, make sure it is the placed all the way to the left and is not a sub-item of another menu item. You can see what I mean in the picture. NOTE: You will not see any sub-items in the menu structure as you see in the pic below).
Now the menu on the actual site looks like this:
Since ‘gallery’, ‘our work’, and ‘forums’ have sub-items, a drop-down menu opens when the mouse is dragged over them.
Creating the actual forum that students will use is much easier than all of this. All you have to do is click on forum from your dashboard and create a new forum. In my class, we wanted students to add their own creative writing examples as replies to specific topics. To do this, I created one ‘creative writing’ forum, and then added four topics to that forum.
First, create the forum.
All I did here was give the forum a name. After this I added the topics.
Don’t forget to add all topics to the correct forum. You can do this by clicking the drop-down menu at the top right of the page in the topic attributes section. I did this to create four topics.
The day before spending a class in the computer lab, we had students begin to write short stories based on prompts that gave them opportunities to practice writing the four topics in the forum. While in the lab, they were able to revise, develop, and add their stories as replies to the appropriate topic. The final product looks like this:
In my next post, I’ll go over the steps we took to have all of our students join the class blog, and create their own. This is my first time using forums in edublogs and would love some feedback, positive or negative.