Sunday, March 31, 2019

Collaborating with Maslow

When I was in teacher prep classes 20 years ago, I remember being frustrated with the focus on philosophy and educational psychology without understanding the practical applications. I remember thinking, "This is great Skinner and Maslow, but HOW do I implement this in the classroom? HOW do I teach a novel? HOW do I teach grammar? HOW DO I TEACH?" Now, 20 years later, I understand the foundation educational psychology serves for instructional practices.

When a student acts out in class, I return to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and ask: what is this student lacking? What does the acting-out student need?  Educators cannot expect students to to put aside their basic needs for the sake of today's worksheet or test. Poor performing students do not have the capacity to set aside their basic needs so that they can focus on higher-order thinking tasks. And those same students may also lack the capacity to advocate for themselves and state what they need. While the teacher in me may initially want to reprimand the acting-out student and unnecessarily escalate the situation, the mom in me recognizes the opportunity to diffuse it with a question to the student: "Are you cranky because you are hungry?" There's granola bars in my desk drawer for that reason.

As I integrate technology in my classroom, I again return to Maslow. Akin to a checklist, my adaptation of Maslow's hierarchy looks at it with a digital lens. Without meeting the physical needs of hardware, wifi, and battery, educators cannot integrate technology. Without addressing the safety needs of digital citizenship, filters, and firewalls, educators and students cannot safely interact in a digital realm.  But where educators primarily need to focus their energy in effectively integrating technology is using technology so that the needs of belonging and esteem are met. Students need to feel that they belong to something greater than themselves, and they need to feel good about the learning that is happening in that space. Educators can leverage the power of learning management systems such as Edmodo and Google Classroom to create online learning communities, and use badges, comments, and awards to positively reinforce, a la Skinner, the interactions that occur in the learning community (badging will be another blog post coming "soon"). All of this is so that students will become self-actualized, intrinsically motivated learners who realize the strength and aptitude of their talents.

This will sound repetitive (which it is), but Maslow's Hierarchy is also foundational for collaboration. What do people need in order to be proficient and effective collaborators? Look to Maslow for the answer:

This is a no-brainer. In order for effective and efficient collaboration to occur, first, physical needs of people, equipment, and resources need to be met. Then training, certification, and group norms will aid creating a safe and prepared space for collaboration. So that individuals feel that they belong to something greater than themselves, leaders need to allow for team building activities and mentorship. And throughout this how process, feedback, affirmations, and accolades will build the esteem of the group. Google's study on the effectiveness of teams revealed that the single most important factor in determining team success was trust. In order for team members to trust one another, their needs, as identified above, must be met.

I posit that we take Maslow for another spin (he is probably rolling in his grave right now) and examine how the meeting of needs can also expand our sphere of influence by pairing the Hierarchy of Needs/Collaboration with a hierarchy of choice and decision making.

As a person's needs are met and they move up the hierarchy to expand their focus from self to group, the person is also increasing their sphere of influence. Whereas basic, physical needs were initially decided and completed by others, as people and teams move up the hierarchy they can begin to shift from a position of passive consumer to active decision maker for not just themselves, but also the greater group. Albert Bandura's Social Learning Theory also plays a part as individuals move the self space to the group and society realms.

If you would like to learn more and take inventory of your own needs and the needs of your organization for collaboration, take a stroll through the slides below.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Screencasting: Pick the Right Tool for the Job

Screencasting is an integral part of my flipped classroom as I can record videos for a variety of purposes that include (but certainly not limited to) informing parents and students about class expectations, providing answer key videos, documenting directions and the steps of a project, and informing support staff of technical glitches, but I recognize that I am not a Hollywood cinematographer. So, the screencasting tool I choose depends on the type and length of video I need to create.


Screencastify is a Chrome extension that I use for quick recording of videos that are saved to my Google Drive or uploaded to YouTube. As editing capabilites are limited in the free version, I record quick, raw videos on the fly with Screencastify. If I need to quickly record the steps for using a specific edtech tool or need to record a quick video documenting a technical glitch, I will use Screencastify and share the Google Drive link to the video in an email, Edmodo post, or support help ticket. While I can upload Screencastify videos to YouTube, it is quicker and easier to just send the videos to Drive for fast distribution.

For screencasting with students who use G Suite for Education and for schools that block YouTube, Screencastify is the easiest edtech tool for students to use to create their own screencasts as the video can remain in the walled garden space of Google Drive and shared with those who need access. Videos can be embedded in Google Slides or the links turned in to assignments for quick assessments.


I love Screencast-O-matic for making longer demonstrations or informational videos that are under 15 minutes. To mitigate the need for post-production editing, I will have open on my desktop or browser all materials I plan on recording.  Every video will begin with a title slide and a short introduction ("Hi, this is Mrs. Baker and today I will show you..."), and as I record, I will hit the pause button and switch tabs as needed. The video may conclude with a closing slide or a simple statement, "Thanks for watching! Please contact me if you have additional questions." Videos are uploaded to YouTube and later pulled into Edpuzzle, Actively Learn, or posted in Edmodo and Google Classroom. 


If you are serious about video production and need advanced editing tools, then Camtasia is worth the $$$ investment, but be ware, videographers, that post-production editing can take up more time than the actual filming. There are some great flipping educators out there who can quickly whip up a screencast with cool transitions and special effects, but I haven't built up that level of proficiency with using Camtasia.

Interesting in Learning More?

Recognizing that we do not have Hollywood's budget nor the equipment to create a blockbuster screencast, I created this self-paced lesson embedded below which is modeled off of the Explore-Flip-Apply instructional method of Flipped Learning. Navigate through the slides, examine the examples provided, accesss the resources, and take a spin at creating your own. If you send me your creation, I'll add it to examples provided.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Teaching (Digital) Literacy: Driving Students to the Intersection of Reading, Writing, & Discussion

Part of my job as an English teacher is to teach students how to read, analyze, talk, and write about texts in both paper-based and digital formats. According to the American Psychological Association (APA) in article published in August of 2018, "In recent years, less than 20 percent of U.S. teens report reading a book, magazine or newspaper daily for pleasure, while more than 80 percent say they use social media every day." Furthermore, “Compared with previous generations, teens in the 2010s spent more time online and less time with traditional media, such as books, magazines and television,” said lead author Jean M. Twenge, PhD, author of the book iGen and professor of psychology at San Diego State University, “Time on digital media has displaced time once spent enjoying a book or watching TV.” While students are reading plenty of digital texts, I wonder how well they are able to analyze, talk, and write about them.  By integrating such edtech tools as Edpuzzle, Formative, Actively Learn, and the G Suite for Education in to teaching practices, we can drive students to the intersection of reading, writing, and discussion so that they can practice skills that they can use both in and out of the classroom.

I had the opportunity to collaborate with the venerable and uber-intelligent Natalie S., the senior researcher from Actively Learn on a workshop session that we gave at CUE and NCTE-CEL in 2017. The above linked article from APA reinforces the importance of teaching digital literacy skills to my students. We cannot assume that student are proficient digital natives.  The activities showcased in the slides provide teachers with lesson examples that cover a range of assignments:

  • Quick, Do Now annotation of an image with Formative
  • Flipped Learning style audiobooks that include checks for understanding with Edpuzzle
  • Daily reading lessons that include checks for understanding and opportunities for annotation and digital discussion with Actively Learn
  • Extended writing tasks that integrate annotated texts with Google Docs

Check out our slides and learn how you, too, can drive learners to the intersection of reading, writing, and discussion.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Quick, Paperless Lesson Planning with Google Calendar and Sites

I integrate technology into my personal and professional practices so that I can save time and function efficiently. For many teachers, lesson planning can be time consuming and cumbersome as they write, execute, and send the plans to administration. Utilizing Google Calendar and a class Google Site as part of G Suite for Education, lesson planning can be quick and efficient. And, as everything is curated online, I do not need to print out reams of paper when submitting my plans to administration or keeping parents and students informed of events in class.

Quick Steps:

1. Create a calendar for each prep taught.
2. Create an all-day event for the lesson plan of the day.
3. In the description area of the event, type in the plan and links for the day.
4. Set the calendar to public and share with appropriate administrators.
5. Create a Google Site with pages for each prep taught and embed the calendars.
6. Share links to the Google Site as needed.

Calendar Organization & Settings

The longevity of Google Calendar makes it an ideal platform for paperless lesson planning. I have been writing my lesson plans in Google Calendar since September of 2013 and can easily access a specific day, month, or year with a few clicks. I do not organize and name my calendars by period as my schedule from year to year may differ. Nor do I need multiple calendars for the same level or prep, as I will have the same plan for each. Instead, I name and color code my calendars by the title or level of the class and use the same calendar every year I am teaching that prep. I can compare previous years' plans to the current school year, as well as copy/paste/edit descriptions of plans I reuse.

Here is a quick screenshot of my English 9 February 2018 and 2019 calendars. I can see that last year, I did not begin my Odyssey unit the end of the month, whereas this year, I am ahead of last year's pacing.

Writing the Plans

The day on which an event takes place is much more important the time it takes place. For each day I write plan, I create an all-day event. The time of event is irrelevant. I do not need my plans to be posted to a specific time because I am following the same teaching schedule every day, and it would be a waste of my time and energy to post the same plan for multiple times on a given a day since I am teaching the same plan for each class/prep period.

In the title area of the event, I will state what topic we are covering that day and be sure to select the appropriate calendar for that prep/class.  In the description area, I will type out an outline of the plan and include any links to resources. I keep the structure of the plan consistent with four main areas: Objectives, Tasks, Assessments, and Standards.

I can easily copy/paste the description and post it as a note in my Edmodo groups or Google Classroom (or other learning management site) for students to access at home. By posting it to my LMS groups, students can access any attachments and ask follow-up questions if needed. While I can add attachments to the event, I prefer to post the attachments in Edmodo for students to access as the Calendar is more of a static landing page to see classroom events and not an arena for discussion.

Publicizing the Calendar

In the settings of each lesson plan calendar, set the calendar to PUBLIC. This will make it visible when you embed it in a Google Site that will be visible by students, parents, and administration.

The new and updated version of Google Sites is ridiculously easy to create a class web page with an embedded calendar: create the site with a page for each class/prep taught, and from the Insert menu in the Site editor, simply click CALENDAR to embed a calendar on that page. Be sure to hit PUBLISH so that your site goes live!

I provide the link to the class Google Site to parents at Back to School Night as well as demonstrate how they can see the day to day plans by clicking on the event for that day. I also email the link to the Google Site to my administration when I am submitting lesson plans rather than printing out pages of plans.


Lesson planning with Google Calendar and Sites is an efficient and quick way to track and publicize your day to day teaching from year to year for students, parents, and administration.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Quick Fix: Edmodo Quiz Timed Out

Edmodo is the hub of my virtual classroom, and the Quiz feature has been a time saver: from quick quizzes to final exams, Edmodo Quiz is my go-to assessment tool because all questions and quizzes are banked, the quiz feature has versatile security features, and feedback is delivered in a timely fashion to students. If you want to learn more about creating Edmodo quizzes, check out this post. But what do teachers do in the moment when students do not complete an Edmodo Quiz in the assigned time?

Before we even address the solution, let me provide some preventative measures:

  • First, I train my students to answer all of the automatically scored questions first. This includes multiple choice, true/false, fill in the blank, and matching questions which Edmodo automatically scores when the students submit their quiz. Students can track their progress through the quiz by paying attention to the icons next to the list of question numbers. When students return to their quiz results, they will be able to see their correct/incorrect answers, so there is not an opportunity to finish the automatically scored questions later.
  • Second, when setting the time limit for the quiz, I always build in extra time. For example, my class period is 43 minutes, so I set an Edmodo Quiz that is expected to take the entire period to at least 60 minutes. 
  • Third, if the students need to finish typed-response questions, I direct them to type in the words NOT FINISHED in the response box. This small step will come in handy later when it comes time to score the responses.
By teaching students test-prep skills and allowing for some wiggle room, I can mitigate issues.
But, what do teachers do if the preventative measures did not work? Here is what I recommend when students get timed out of an Edmodo Quiz:

  1. Reset the Quiz:  this requires the least amount of work for the teacher.  With a quick click, teachers can reset student quizzes easily. Students restart the quiz from scratch as all of their previous answers have been deleted. 
  2. Typed Responses Only: this requires more work on the teacher's part and dependent on the types of questions asked because students will be able to see the correct/incorrect answers for automatically scored responses when they view their quiz results. If the student needs to finish typed responses, the teacher allows the student to view his/her results and can either finish writing their response on paper or a Google Form. The teacher can then either grade the responses on paper by hand or copy/paste responses from the form's Google Sheet and copy/paste answers to the comment area of that question on the student's quiz.

When we concluded our film study unit of West Side Story, my 9th grade Honors students were assigned to complete a summative test using the Edmodo Quiz feature.  This "quiz" is a doozy and worth a substantial amount of the marking period grade: students are asked to complete 27 automatically scored questions and three typed responses that ask them to analyze and synthesize information into a cohesive and concise paragraph response. I anticipated that students would spend about 10 minutes on the automatically scored responses (20 seconds per question, if that) and about 10 minutes per typed response for 30 minutes total on that section.

As first period started taking the test, I realized that some students were taking much longer than 10 minutes on their typed responses. Now, I could have been a stickler and said to the straggler students that they must finish in the class period and they will only be graded on what they complete, but I prefer to assess my students' understanding and not their time management skills in this case.

So, as we neared the end of the class period, I reminded students to answer all of the automatically scored questions and to type NOT FINISHED at the end of any responses that were incomplete or in the response box for any typed-response questions that were not started. At the end of the period, students submitted their test and moved on to their next class. Students who did not finish were directed to return to my room to complete their test during their studyhall period or after school.

So that students can complete their typed-response questions, I created a Google Form.

When students returned to my room, I opened the results for the test so that students could copy/paste from the responses that they had partially completed to the Google Form if needed.

By typing in NOT FINISHED, I knew to not grade the response just yet and to check the Google Sheet for the students response. I then copy/pasted the completed response from the Sheet to the comments area on the Edmodo Quiz question.

By having students complete their responses via a Google Form, I can sort their responses alphabetically and by class period on the Google Sheet. As I transferred students' responses from the Google Sheet to the comments area on the Edmodo Quiz question, I would change the color of the students' name on the Sheet to denote that I had completed the action.

As long as a student typed something in the response box, I would be able to complete the above listed actions and score the response without issue. I copy/pasted the students response to the comments area, typed in my scoring comments under their response, and updated the scoring box with the score.

The only snafu with this process is when a student leaves the answer response area blank. Edmodo will automatically score this as incorrect and not allow the teacher to adjust the score with partial credit.

While I can still copy/paste from the Sheet to the comment area of that question, I will need to manually adjust the final score of the quiz in my district gradebook.

While this fix for allowing students to finish Edmodo Quizzes beyond the assigned time may seem multi-faceted, it is fairly quick and allows me to authentically assess my students' understanding without their scores being comprised for poor time management skills.  The hope is, that while some students may initially struggle with time management, with continued practice students will become more adept at composing responses in the time allotted.