Sunday, January 20, 2013

On Edmodo Global Connections Just a Post Away

While I use Twitter consistently for informal professional development and connecting with other educators, the opportunities for making connections on Edmodo are greatly increased. Unlike Twitter where one has to find and follow others (I follow 982, but only about 550 follow me), the communities on Edmodo provide areas for thousands of educators to congregate and post.  

Ask and you shall receive... just post and wait for a reply!

Global Connections can easily be made on Edmodo with one post.

I was scrolling through the latest posts (today) on Edmodo and came across this post in the Language Arts community from a teacher who was sharing a link to his students' projects. And as you can see from my replies, I seized the opportunity to get my students involved. Mr. McEnaney's students are of the same age as mine and my students have read To Kill a Mocking Bird and have studied other concepts and texts related to discrimination. Little did I know that it would take them "across the pond" for Mr. McEnaney's class is located just off the coast of Scotland.

My students have been sharing their work with their classmates via small groups on Edmodo, but I thought, what a simple idea to share student work with a larger audience and gain additional feedback by posting to the communities page on Edmodo. And imagine how the student authors will feel seeing the comments! Positive reinforcement from thousands of miles away! You too can provide feedback, just follow the link and leave some comments!  AND, what if this starts a chain reaction, and you have your students comment too?! Crazy cool!

To track my students' comments on, I created a screencast using Screencast-O-Matic showing how to comment on a project and copy-paste the web url and then I created an assignment on Edmodo. To complete the assignment  students must choose two projects, post a comment, copy-paste the web url of the project page and write a reflection on the process and connecting to students globally when they turn in the assignment on Edmodo. Since this is our first foray into the wilds of global connecting, accountability is needed. Will I grade this as an assignment for points? Probably not, but it will factor into their overall participation grade on Edmodo (FYI: graded holistically using the infamous OSU rubric). I hope this activity would springboard them to finding other blogs to follow on a consistent basis.

To further our writing practice in the classroom, I'd like to get my students blogging, but I am unsure of the logistics and ways to manage 150 individual blogs. I'm not ready yet to dive into that project without some more investigation and modeling from others, but in the meantime, by having my students apply skills they have learned in their Edmodo small groups, they can get an easy introduction to blogging by commenting on others'.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Gaggle of Google Docs

My district has enabled students and teachers to begin using Google Apps for Education. HURRAY!!!! I know GAFE is old news for many of you, but this is a big deal for my district. The roll out process has been slow and methodical so that issues can be prevented and addressed.  I've been given the privilege of testing GAFE out with my 9th and 12th grade students, and I'm figuring out how to best keep the Google Drive organized.

If you, dear reader, have any additional tips or tricks PLEASE, oh PLEASE, share them!

Creating Class Lists

The first step in getting organized is creating class lists in my Google contacts. We use Genesis as our online grade book system, and by creating a student email report, I made a spreadsheet of students in my class, copy/pasted their email addresses into the groups I created in Google contacts. No need to search through the school directory: a  very quick copy/paste and my classes are listed in my Google contacts in less than 30 seconds. This is very helpful for sharing documents and folders: I just type in the name of the group and all the students are sent the document/folder.

Shared Folders

I created a shared folder for each of my classes for delivering collaborative class or group documents that are to be used during period. The shared folder is just for documents that I create and deliver to the students, not individual documents that they will turn in to me. Think of the class folder as a one way street. I also post the link to the document on the class page in Edmodo.  With multiple ways of finding the document, students have no reason not to get the task completed.

Following the instructions provided, shared folders can be customized to create class and student folders that have viewing and editing permissions automatically enabled.  While I like having the ability to do this, I am afraid of being inundated with folders.  Also, I use Edmodo for turning in all assignments and by having the students link their Google Drive account to their Edmodo backpack, I don't need the various drop box folders for students since Edmodo organizes assignments for me.

Google Doc Assignment Delivery

Using the Autocrat script in a Google spreadsheet, students can fill out a Google form that will delivery a Google doc that has the file name, heading, and sharing permissions already configured (Thanks Cheryl for helping me with the set up!).  For all the years we have been using word processing, my students have never internalized how to appropriately name a file. I have drilled and drilled them on using file naming conventions and there are always a few students who send me files named "Essay" or "English."  The Autocrat script prevents this from happening. Yes, I want students to learn how to properly name files and I'm hopeful that by seeing the process modeled using the Autocrat script that eventually they will internalize the file naming conventions. 

I'm am using Autocrat for two things:
  1. Delivering a general blank Google doc that student can type the assignment on. The Google form that delivers the document can be used infinitely ad nauseum. All student files will be organized in the same folder following the naming convention I specify: Pd Last First Assignment.
  2. Delivering a specific Google doc that includes a template (for example a chart) for the student to complete. A new form/spreadsheet will have to be created and the autocrat script configured for each specific Google doc. All student documents will be in a folder for each assignment and the naming convention is again completed for the students.
At first, I was very worried about having too many files in a folder when it came time to grade the assignment, but having the students link their Google account to Edmodo and then turning in the assignment through Edmodo keeps things organized for me when it comes time to grade.  I can insert comments and make changes on the Google Docs as I can in Drive, but I don't have to worry about searching the Drive folders for the specific assignment.

I'm also exploring how to use the same Autocrat script to provide individualized feedback on student assignments (Thanks Troy for sharing this!). I haven't played with this yet, but I am just realizing the possibilities!

What About Archiving?

What I haven't figured out yet is how to archive all the student files at the end of the year, and do I need to archive them?  I know I can just un-share the folder or delete the assignments within a folder at the end of the year, but the packrat in me is leery of just deleting all the students' work.

What do you, Sir and Madame Reader, recommend when the school year concludes?