Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Google Classroom - learning in the virtual classroom

Most educators would say that they are learning all the time.  This is certainly true for me; I love reading about pedagogy, sharing teaching ideas and collaborating with colleagues online via Twitter or in the real staff room where I teach. This term, I have been pioneering the use of Google Classroom with a number of my classes. Our approach has very much been bottom up as opposed to top down and I have been at the heart of the push to bring this tool into our classrooms.  To ensure success I have been moving slowly so that, for my colleagues, I can instill confidence in the benefits provided by this excellent online tool.

Here's a brief account of how I have used this tool so far and why I think it is so effective.

So far I have only really used Google Classroom to set an assignment where my students can complete some extended writing in readiness for their controlled assessment.  I use the word 'only' quite loosely as this has, in fact, been an excellent way for my students to work and for me to provide fast feedback.  As you can see from the image below I have not simply corrected work, I have asked questions and given feedback in a way that encourages my students to reflect and take on board advice.
Once I have given feedback I am then able to send each student an individual message and they can then correspond with me.  

All of this interaction and feedback takes place without the need to print any paper which is, in my opinion, a massive bonus.  For students, no more lost work and for teachers no more books to cart around and, crucially students can build a growing body of work that they can take with them as they move on through each stage of their education.  
For me, another plus is the ease with which I can create a document that can be shared with each student in my class.  I am also able to send a message to the class along with the document.  Students then work in their document which I can view, at the click of the button even before the work is due to be submitted.  
I have not, yet, tried a class discussion but I have one set up ready for January.  I am looking forward to 'crowdsourcing' a set of good expressions and structures from my Year 10s.  In addition as you can see from the image below, I can embed videos and I can easily see who has completed the task (one of my students even responded today - Wednesday 23rd December!).
Here's her response. 

I think this is all powerful stuff and I know that at the moment I am only just scratching the surface.  I am looking forward to setting group tasks where students can collaborate with each other and using EDpuzzle to set quizzes for the videos I embed.   For more information on @Edpuzzle click here for my previous notes on this excellent tool.
I am enjoying learning to use Google Classroom and I think my students are enjoying using it too. It seems to be a win win situation.  As you can probably tell, I am by no means an expert.  Nonetheless, I am looking forward to helping my colleagues set up their own Google Classrooms.
I intend to write some more about this tool as I learn more.  Undoubtedly I will be in touch with Rachel Smith who tweets at @lancslassrach.  She tirelessly answers my numerous queries and I am indebted to her for her help in setting this up with my classes and for tips on how to use the tool effectively.  For more info you could also check out Teacher Tech Alice Keeler as she is the Google Classroom guru.  
If you are already using Google Classroom, let me know how in the comments box below.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Idoceo - revisiting the 21st century markbook

I have been using idoceo for over a year now and have posted a blog about it here.  This is just another short post to sing its praises again and to highlight how this excellent tool can be used. I do not propose to go over features I have already explored in my previous blog but to share some other features I have used this year.
For me, one of the best features of this app is the ability to get so much information about a class as a whole, about particular tasks and about pupil progress.  Surely, details that every teacher needs at the touch of a button? 

Take for example this infographic taken from my Year 9 class.   
At a glance I can see how the class have fared on a verb test or an adjective worksheet.  Indeed, whatever the task I can work out the average, mean or mode and see at a glance the highest and lowest value in the class and how many did not complete a task.  At the top of the infographic there is 
a graph that tells me about class attendance which is information that also comes in very handy when reviewing class progress and of course when writing reports.
The level of detail that I can store in this electronic mark book is one of the features that I like best.  When work is submitted late it is easy to input and store this information and thus build up a record of student' performance. 

I have mentioned the seating plan feature before but I want to revisit it now.  Here is a tool that allows me to organise my classroom seating plan based on a variety of information.  For example my students' average marks or their baseline data or, as in this image, their most recent exam marks.  

Not only that, I can create a variety of seating plans depending on the activity I am doing.  So as a linguist I might organise my seating plan using listening scores, speaking scores and so on.  In all, it is possible to make up to 5 different seating plans per class.  
Other features are that I have made use of this term is the quick attendance feature.  Very quickly I am able to record attendance and note tardiness as well. 

It is clear to see from the image above who is in, who is out and more importantly who is late. With all this information now easily at my fingertips I am able to peruse whatever I want and need to know and I can carefully organise my information with the handy tabs at the side.  In the old days when I wanted to look at last terms exam results or some other information from the previous term I had to turn back the page or rewrite out the information again.  These days, I can use the copy feature on idoceo to embed into my new tab (I use a two new tabs per term - one for results and feedback and the other for attendance). 

I think idoceo is a great tool and if it have a tablet I would thoroughly recommend that you check it out.  You will not be disappointed.  
Let me know your thoughts in the app in the comments box below.