21 November 2013

Because Weighted Averages - Fighting Back the Points Hounds

Although we're continuing the conversation and including more teachers in standards-based grading training in my district, most all of the classes remain traditionally graded with categories for homework, formative assessments, summative assessments, and finals that were agreed upon by each high school.

It seems like most every class I grade on our traditional grading scale, I'll have kids who start to get homework bugs by November. "I'm doing all of my homework - how come I'm still failing?" is what they'll ask me. No matter the number of times I tell them that those 2 missing homework assignments are not the reason they don't have the grade they want, they insist that "every little bit will still help." While that is technically a true statement, it misses the point. Although we've devalued homework to 10% of our averages to stress assessments and projects in grade calculation (to stress evidence of learning), as long as we have a category that includes homework, the point hounds will be scrounging at the table for their point scraps.

Here's what I conclude:
As long as I include homework in the calculation of grades, I will always fight the students and parents that want to squeak out every homework point "just in case."

It takes persistence and perseverance through the first several weeks as students adjust, but I always feel most successful evaluating my students' learning the more I stress mastery, and I devalue points through standards-based grading.

In the meantime, I created this video to as a resource to my students who want to set goals and track their weighted averages.

06 November 2013

10 Free Tools for your #Flipclass Videos

"We're making a video tomorrow, and I don't even know what we're using to do it, or where we're saving it, or what we're doing after we save it..."

We had the honor of hosting +Jon Bergmann in our district last week, so my colleague is really motivated to begin flipping her classroom, but she's feeling overwhelmed to say the least. So where can she begin?

The Basics: No Frills Approach to Jumping In

  • Shoot video of you and/or a co-teacher in front of a whiteboard with a digital camera, webcam (we have really handy iPEVOs in our district), smartphone or tablet. Upload video to YouTube. Link to that video on your class website, email students the link, or send them to the url for your YouTube channel
    • Features: 
      • Easy to implement
      • tools probably already at hand
    • Cons: 
      • Hope you get it in the first take! :) If you're not going to edit, you'll have to rehearse once or twice to hone your timing and scripting.
      • Sound quality dependent upon built-in microphone
  • Take a screencast of your SMARTboard using the SMART recorder. This "SMART tool" is included with the install of SMART Notebook on your Windows or Mac machine.
    • Features: 
      • Because its a screencast, you can focus on what you say rather than how you look
      • Your students are probably already comfortable with the look of the video
      • Pause button is always on top, so you can pause to change colors, insert images, etc., without adding to the length of your video
    • Cons
      • Some students may miss the personal connection of seeing your face and inflection unless you pair with a webcam in the recording area
      • Similar to shooting with your smartphone or tablet, you'll need to rehearse or end up spending a lot of time editing (which you probably don't want to/know how to do, which is why you're using SMART recorder)

  • Screencast-o-matic: This is my go-to screencast utility. You can use it as a web app or native application. 
    • Features:
      • All of those listed above for SMART Recorder
      • Can layer recording window on top of Notebook, but also over a web browser, PowerPoint, or content-specific software for demonstrations. We have a teacher in our department who loves using Geometer Sketchpad that could really take advantage this point
      • Multiple save options. Save directly to YouTube, Screencast-o-matic, or just to your file on your machine
      • Can scale recording window however you like, hiding other applications you have running without closing them down.
      • Clip, trim, and review clips before saving or continuing
Free iOS Apps:
  • ShowMe - easy to use screencast whiteboard, import images, search library of other teacher's videos 
  • Educreations - easy to use screencast whiteboard, import images, search library of other teacher's videos
  • Touchcast - Can be used as a screencast whiteboard, a camera of you in front of a whiteboard, or you picture-in-picture in front of website/image
  • Ask3 - easy to use screencast whiteboard, import images, classroom community and message board built in. "Ask3" is derived from the strategy "ask three, then me," so the app is designed around students collaborating and answering each other's questions from your video.
  • Vittle Free - import photos, limited to a minute recording in this free version

Other Free Websites and Software with Extra Features
  • Present.Me
    • Features:
      • Easy to set-up
      • Video of you along-side slides or of you alone
      • Trim/clip/review recording if you make a mistake
      • Link to your Google+ account
    • Cons:
      • Requires flash, so not an option on iOS 
  • Jing (from the creators of Camtasia Studio)
    • Features:
      • Available as a native app, so it will be available even when WiFi is not
      • Videos stored at screencast.com
      • Restart a recording if you make a mistake
      • Pair with webcam to shoot yourself, too
Use a tablet to annotate on whiteboard software, or just present alongside a slideshow
Try out several tools. Find the right combination between polish and ease of use. Give yourself permission to grow in your skills presenting and editing. 

You're more likely to persevere through hiccups of your implementation of the flipped classroom if you'll allow yourself to fail every once in awhile. (So that you know what to improve upon.)

01 November 2013

Google Apps for Education: The Secret is Sharing

As we get further into our second year as a Google Apps for Education district, (and Google continues to refine their product), I see the advantage of using Google for all of my office needs over MS Office is the integration of most of my online life that Google affords me.

We do not have the Office 365 tools that level the playing field, so anytime my ultimate goal is to share, collaborate, or publish to the web, I open up a web browser, not my Microsoft Office task wizard.

The presentation below very briefly reviews most of the Google Apps products that we have enabled for our district, and the bulk of the slides are filled with common teacher scenarios that can be served more efficiently or effective by a Google Apps product.

Other Google Apps Resources

Google Apps for Ed - a weekly digest of links, blogs, video and tweets with Google Apps tips and tricks)
Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides Troubleshooting Tool
Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides Help Center - step by step instructions for many tasks
Using Google Docs with your Students - Training Module

5 Questions for Every Standards Based Grader

I've dabbled with standards based grading in my high school math courses to varying degrees since January of 2010.

If you only read this far, allow me to share one piece of advice so you'll stop being scared, and just get started.

The only "right" way to do standards-based grading in your classroom is the way that is most fair to your students and gives you the best information about their learning. Most other variables will align with district policies, course structures, or personal preference.

Smart people like Robert Marzano and +Shawn Cornally would totally agree. I think. :)

That said, here is my guidance for implementing standards-based grading in your classroom.

Other Resources:

Standards-based Grading FAQ sheet (for students and parents)
Standards-based Grading Digest (weekly links, blogs, videos, articles)
PPT "syllabus" explaining my standards-based scoring
#sbgchat on Twitter (discussion, support, links)