Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Paperless Assessments

So, as I mentioned before, I got to play quite a bit with Google Chrome this school year. That came in handy when a group of us went to the CUE Conference in Palm Springs in March and learned that "Chrome is the New Black." I am very far from being an expert, but it was nice to see the incredible places that educators have already gone using this system!

The first place my mind went involved getting rid of some of the paper in my room. I am the queen of piles. As the year goes on and there is more to do, the piles get bigger and bigger. Once those little chromebooks arrived, I immediately knew what I wanted to start with.

Some of you may have the same thoughts: this whole common core thing is killing my students with writing and explaining! We transitioned this year into comprehension questions for each Houghton Mifflin story that involve collaboration and communication. They encourage the students to think more critically and, in some cases, creatively (see what I did there??). The problem we found with these questions was that they took the students forever and a day to write down the gist of what they discussed with their table groups. Enter: Google Forms.

I had dabbled in the basics of Google Forms and sort of knew what to do in terms of setting one up. So, I took the comprehension questions for that week and began to enter them into the Forms template (which provides options for longer/shorter responses, multiple choice, etc...)

*Note, make sure to include a name section when you create a form so that it will tell you who owns each response. Google creates a spreadsheet of the answers.

The confusing part became sharing the completed piece with my class. At first, I shared the form with all of them but immediately realized my mistake: they were all working in the same document. After some trial and error, I settled on creating a Google Doc that contained the links to each set of comprehension questions. I shared that doc with my class and they were able to access the links from there. 

I feel that there is a lot more that I can do to utilize this technology, but for now (and for computers shared with about 8 other classrooms) I am living in a very basic world in order to downsize my counter piles. Plus side: handwriting is much easier to read when it is typed into a spreadsheet!

Monday, July 7, 2014

It Only Took Till July...

Hello, my friends!
I welcomed myself back what feels like ages ago, but here I finally am!
The moment school got out, I jetted off to vacation and left behind all of my classroom thoughts! While all sorts of things happened over the course of vacation and the time following, I have finally found my brain again. I know you're all very excited!

I have not yet begun all of the crafting that summer will entail. It is coming, but for the moment I am fairly preoccupied with the fluffy rug that came home with me a few weeks ago:
I don't quite trust Miss Puppy-Head enough for me to bust out the paint or the glue gun yet. For now, I thought I would chat to you about my technology experience this year. It was sort of a doozy for me.

Back in August, I was asked to be a technology representative for our school site. This job entailed attending meetings and discussing district tech needs and the future of this crazy world we've created. Alongside of that job, I became the go-to on our school site for basic troubleshooting needs. Ironically, much of the tech that I was being asked to help with was not even installed in my classroom! But everything changed during the winter with the arrival of....a whole cart of ChromeBooks!

I'm sure most of you are familiar with the teeny tiny lappy computer that runs primarily as an internet delivery system. 
The device runs Google Chrome and is incredibly simple to use...and I suddenly had 36 of them in my classroom! 

Chromebooks offer the option for users to log in as a "guest," (which we utilized in our upper grades more when time was of the essence) but the students were all given individualized Google accounts that had the social components deactivated. This meant that we could create digital portfolios using Google Drive! We could build presentations using Google Sheets! I could assess my class using Google Forms! We could make spreadsheets about the school's track team using Google Spreadsheets!...oh, that was just me.

Suddenly, amazing doors were open to me! I had always been a Safari user, so these devices gave me the motivation to begin playing with the Chrome Browser and research ways to use it in my class. I can't tell you how exciting it was to have the opportunity to play with these things for a couple of months before having to share!

The thing that was the easiest to play with and is so nice to incorporate even without personal computers in your classroom was KidBlog. This website gives classrooms the opportunity to build a blogging community and teach students internet rules and etiquette. A usual morning in my room would include the assigning of a high-interest informational article (lengths varied) and giving a free response question on the blog. The students were always given the opportunity to positively comment on each others' writing; however, in the early stages of third graders having computers...typing skills are minimal and responses generally took a very long time.

I would encourage you to try out the site. It was very easy to set up and it offers a certain level of security. Students can only enter your blog with a specific password to your specific blog URL. That limits their ability to have things widely read across the wide, dark interwebz. 

Cosmetically, KidBlog has some work to be done, but the fidelity of the idea is there.