Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tuesday Tech Tip: Reading (and Annotating) Library Books in Your Browser

Yesterday, the Denver Post ran a front page article about the shift in Colorado schools from print to electronic resources (you can read it here).  While focus of the article was (unfortunately) textbooks, we wanted to follow up with a post about accessing books using a browser.

Since we're implementing Chromebooks across Cherry Creek Schools, we're using Chrome, but you can use any modern browser to read and interact with books from the library.

Borrowing Library Books to Read in the Browser

If you have a library card, you have access to books that you can read in your browser.  In our district, over 50 of our 60 schools have access to our district's OverDrive catalog, and any staff member in CCSD has access through our District Library & Media Services department.  Steps for borrowing a library book to read in your browser are below, but if you have a mobile device, you can also use various apps to read library books as well.
  1. To read a book in your browser, log into your chosen library's OverDrive site and find a book (you'll need your library card number for public libraries).  If you're a CCSD staff member, your library card number is your employee ID, and if you're a CCSD student, your library card number is your student ID.
  2. For any book, you'll see the available formats, copies owned by the library, and the book's description.  OverDrive READ is the browser version.  (Our district's OverDrive catalog often includes helpful information about a book, including lexile score, grade level, and interest area, but this information is not available for all titles.)  
  3. If copies are available, choose the blue "Borrow" button.  If the book is already checked out, you can place a "Hold" and you'll receive an email when the title becomes available.   
  4. Once you have checked out the book, you will see the option to "Read (in your browser)."  Selecting that option will take you to a new tab or window in your browser where you can read the book.
  5. If you want to have access to the book when you're offline or without an internet connection, you can download the book onto a device (the "offline" copy will be on that device, but you can still use any browser with an internet connection to read the book).

Highlighting, Annotating, and Bookmarking a Library Book in the Browser

If you're reading an OverDrive book in Chrome (this also works in other browsers), you'll see a toolbar like what's pictured on the right.  This provides a linked table of contents, a list of any bookmarks, highlights or annotations, search capabilities, and reading preferences (like text size, font, and background).  The last icon on the right, the cloud, lets you also download the book for off-line reading; however, this "off-line" copy lives on the device itself.  You can still read the book in any browser with an internet connection.

 Holding the cursor on any word will bring up an embedded dictionary and the option to highlight in 3 different colors and add a note.

So, what happens after the book is returned to the library collection?  Those notes & highlights are actually saved for your library card #, so if you check out the book again at a later time, your notes, bookmarks, and highlighted content will be there.

Finally, don't forget about your local libraries.  In the state of Colorado, you can get a library card to any library, which gives you access to their electronic collection (I happen to have 7 different library cards!).   Now that we can access on any device, we can really encourge kids & adults to read more both on and off-line.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tuesday Tech Tip: Using Voice Search in Chrome

Most computers and all current mobile devices today have built-in microphones, and one of the things you can leverage in Chome is voice search and actions.  Giving students the option to speak into the computer for searching or other activities (and hear a verbal response) could add a new dimension for learning, especially for students with accommodations, younger students who aren't yet proficient at the keyboard, students who are not native speakers, or students who just need another method of input.

For those who have used Siri on an iOS device, Chrome gives you similar functionality in a browser.   When you are in the basic Google search page in Chrome, look for the voice search icon, which looks like a microphone.  Clicking on it will activate your computer's microphone, and you can speak your search or action terms into the microphone (you may need to "allow" Chrome to access your computer's microphone).  You can also set it to speak the results of your search (see more info here).

So what types of things can you ask?  You can ask questions about trivia, the weather, sports, mathematical computations, events, translation, etc.  Google also recently released the beta extension for Google's Voice Search Hotword for Chrome.  This just listens for the phrase "OK, Google" and it initiates a voice search without having to click on the microphone icon.  You can get more information here or watch the video below:

While not extensive, voice search isn't limited only to Google Search.  One of our district-wide resources (Encyclopedia Britannica) also lets you use the microphone icon to speak in your search terms.

If you have a mobile device, you can also install Google Now (available for both Android & iOS).  In addition to voice search, Google Now also can give directions, alert you to flight changes, and it even suggests departure times for a Google calendar event based on current traffic.

While not yet a replacement for a fully-featured speech-to-text program like Dragon, voice search & actions could be a very useful tool for students using Chome & Chromebooks.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tuesday Tech Tip: Using Schoology with GoogleDrive

With the Chromebook roll-out and the wider availability of classroom technology, it's a good time to remind our teachers that GoogleDrive is integrated into COLE 3.0/Schoology (our learning management system).

If you are logged into COLE 3.0/Schoology, you will notice something called "Apps" under the "Resources" pull-down menu.  When you select "Apps," you'll see GoogleDrive already added for you.  (While other apps are available for install, this is the only one we've added for all users.)

The first time you click on Google Drive, you will need to "Approve" access so that Schoology can pull up the list of documents in GoogleDrive.  Once you "approve," you won't have to do that step again.

After app approval, clicking on GoogleDrive will bring up a list of the documents and folders you have in GoogleDrive.  From here, you can also create or edit documents, spreadsheets, drawings, and presentations.  This could be useful in the classroom if you didn't want students to leave Schoology to work on a document or presentation.

To add a Google file, click on the "Add Resources" pull-down.  This will bring up a window that asks you to name the file first, and then it stores it into your Drive for you.  To find it, refresh your browser.  Schoology doesn't yet allow for search inside of Drive, but it organizes files by recently opened or edited.

Speaking of editing, if you want to edit an existing file in GoogleDrive, you have two options: you can either click on the name of a file in Drive and it will open it in a new tab or window for you, or you can use the settings wheel to the right of your doc list.  From here, you can choose to edit the file or you can delete it.  This simply brings you to GoogleDrive, where you can also share the file or publish it for the web.

If you want to add a read-only version to your course (kind of like a PDF), you can also check the box in front of a Google file and it will convert it into a docx version that students can view (or download) or that you can move into your personal resources area.  If you would like to add the Google file in its current GoogleDocs version (with updates and editing options), you can add a link to the file in Schoology instead of converting it to a read-only file.

If students will be submitting a GoogleDoc as an assignment (and you'd like it to be a finished version without later edits), they can also convert the Google file and save it into their Personal Resources area.  Once there, students can choose that version to turn in as finished work for any assignment given in COLE 3..0/Schoology.

Having these two services integrated should help teachers and students streamline their work when using both COLE 3.0/Schoology.  If you have more questions about using GoogleDrive with Schoology, contact your school's technology coordinator or your district Technology & Learning Coaches.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tuesday Tech Tip: Extensions in Chrome

Jon recently blogged about web apps in Chrome (and using the Chrome Web store), but we also wanted to mention using extensions in Chrome.  Like web apps, you can find extensions in the Chrome Web Store (under the Extensions category).

While most web apps are links to web applications that run solely in a browser, extensions are things that add functionality to the browser itself. Many web apps can be run in browsers other than Chrome (like Google Docs, for example), but Chrome extensions only run in the Chrome browser.  Like bookmarks and apps, your extensions follow you -- and even install themselves -- wherever you log into the Chrome browser (signing into the browser is needed, though, to see any installed extensions).

What are some examples of extensions that might be helpful as a teacher?

  • Clean.r is an extension that eliminates all of the clutter when showing YouTube videos so that only the video is visible (removes recommended videos, comments, and other items on the page).
  • Readability is like Clean.r, except designed for text and articles.  If you visit a web page with  pop-up adds or other distracting elements, you can use the Readability extension to pull out only the article (text and images).  If you have a Kindle and create a Readability account, you can also send articles to your device in Kindle-ready format.
  • Realtime Board is an extension (log in required, but GoogleApps accounts can be used) which creates a collaborative whiteboard inside your browser.  Realtime Board offers free pro accounts to teachers & students (must submit application).
  • Presentation Remote lets you use a smartphone (app installation required on your mobile device) to control presentations in Prezi, Google Presentations, PowerPoint, Slideshare & Dropbox.   
  • Save to GoogleDrive is an extension that is already installed for our users, but it lets you save web pages, images, videos, or other content directly to GoogleDrive.  Right-clicking on an image or video in a web page will bring up the "Save to Google Drive" option.  Or, you can click on the extension icon in your browser (to the right of the URL bar) and it will save the entire page to Google Drive.
  • Chrome Speak will read text out loud (select text with your cursor and right-click to have it read aloud).  The computer voice isn't totally natural, but it's getting better.  (There are quite a few apps & extensions that provide this functionality).
  • Google Dictionary is what is sounds like.  Double-click on any word and the definition will appear (along with an audio pronunciation of the word).  Several languages are available in addition to English.
If you notice that your browser seems slow or is acting up, you can always disable extensions in Chome by typing chrome://extensions/ into the address bar.  This will bring up all installed extensions.  Remove or disable them here.

Happy browsing!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tuesday Tech Tip: How to Install Google Drive on a Dell Laptop

Installing Drive on your desktop allows you to save/upload files (.doc, .pdf, .ppt, .xcl, .jpg, .mp3, etc.) directly into your Google Drive just like you would with your H://username drive on the district server. The great thing about Google Drive is that you can access files anywhere, anytime, from any device, that you can collaborate on, share, create, edit, and more!

To install Google Drive on your Dell laptop:

1. Start by logging in to my.cherrycreekschools.org using your Active Directory information in your Google Chrome Broswer. (See right)

2. Once your Google Drive opens, look at the bottom of the left column for the option to "Connect Drive to your desktop. (See below) Select "Download Drive for PC." Then, choose the Google Drive icon from the icons presented. (If you don't see this icon, you can search for it by clicking on the magnifying glass at the bottom of the screen and typing "Drive".)

3. Now, the bar at the bottom of your screen should have a download called "googledrivesync.exe" Click on the download file to start the installation process.  (If you do not see the download file, you can always see recent downloads by hitting Ctrl+j and selecting it from the list of downloads that opens in a new browser tab.)

4. Enter your Cherry Creek email address and Active Directory password in the Sign In window that opens. This will be the account associated with Google Drive for your Dell computer. 

5. Complete the installation package instructions as they show up by clicking next as it appears in the window. 

6. Launch Google Drive for your PC from the Start menu. (See left) You can now drag files and folders from your H://drive, flash drive, desktop, or external hard drive into your Google Drive folder to begin syncing items to My Drive (part of Google Drive on the web). Remember, you can always access your Google Drive account by logging into my.cherrycreekschools.org. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

What Works for Me on Twitter: Lists

Does your Twitter timeline tend to overwhelm you from time to time?  Is someone posting random tweets that keep you from accessing the useful information you joined Twitter for?  Do you have a group of people that post tweets regarding a similar topic most of the time?  If any, some, or all of the above situations apply to you it's time to begin setting up some Twitter lists.

Many users aren't aware of this, but you are a mere few clicks away from way more control over what you see and when on Twitter.  Simply click on your settings wheel in the upper right hand corner of your Twitter home page and you're on your way to a less complicated and more valuable experience with Twitter.

The main Twitter list "pane" looks like this.

Click on the "Create list" button to get started.  Here are the options to choose from:

Give the list a name.  Add a description if it will help you or your audience know what information and/or who is included in the list.  Also be aware that the list you create can be private only to you or be shared with others.  Pro Tip: Explore the public lists of the people you enjoy following most to find other Twitter members you may like to follow as well.

If you ever want to go back to a list, rename it, edit the description, or make a private list public or vice versa, simply go to the list and click on the "Edit" button here:

Also, clicking the "Member of" button here,

will allow you to see which public lists other Twitter users have placed you on.  See who may be stalking you because you're awesome!

As seen in the images, I have two lists associated with the Twitter account I use professionally.  One list, titled "IT Team" is there to make sure that I don't miss any tweets the colleagues on my team posts.  I follow them in the traditional way, but if I'm not on my timeline at the right time I could miss an important tweet of theirs and I don't want that to happen.  The other list I created is simply titled "List."  I have reserved this list for a few people that I really want to follow, but they just post too much during the day.  This way I can still see their tweets, but now I see their tweets when I want to see them instead of when they post them.

There are many reasons to create a list on Twitter.  I was speaking from experience in my examples earlier.  Your reasons may be different than mine, but one thing we can agree on is that having a little more control over when you see particular tweets from particular people is a positive thing.

So this should hopefully get you started with lists.  Enjoy the new control you have over your timeline and let your more personal Twitter experience work better for you.

(For further information about the creation and use of lists on Twitter the great people at Edudemic have you covered.  Click here for a post about how to create Twitter lists and click here for some perspective on how to manage information from your PLN via Twitter lists.)

Note: This is a cross post from my CCSD blog, also under our district Google domain.  A link to my blog is here if you're interested in reading a little more about various topics.  Find me on Twitter here and visit and follow one, some, or all of my boards on Pinterest here.  Let's get connected! 

Copying Courses to Resources in COLE 3.0/Schoology

As some of our courses may be wrapping up (either because we're at the end of Trimester 1 or Quarter 1), it might be a good idea to make sure that course content has been copied to the Resources area in COLE 3.0/Schoology.  This makes it easy for teachers to use that same content for other courses that may be starting with a new grading term.

Unlike COLE 2.0/Moodle, once a course term ends, the course goes into "Archived" status in COLE 3.0/Schoology.  It doesn't go away, but it isn't available via the drop-down list any more.  A teacher can still access the course by going to "See all" under the Courses drop-down and then clicking on the "Archived" tab in the "My Courses" listing.  Students and parents, though, cannot access the course once it's been placed in the Archived area.

Best practice, though, is to have all course information and materials in the Resources area for later use.  If teachers have been placing materials into a course vs. Resources, s/he can copy all contents into either Personal or Group Resources.

In any course, a teacher can use the "Options" pull-down to get to the "Save Course to Resources" option.  If a teacher wishes to save the course content to a group for sharing with others, s/he can just select the Group as the destination.  After choosing a destination, a folder will be created in that location with all of the course content inside.

As we continue with the school year, it's best to build content in the Resources area instead of  a course as it simplifies this issue and makes copying to other courses or sharing with others much easier.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tuesday Tech Tip: Chrome Web Store

Google Reader may be dead, but the Chrome Web Store is alive and kicking with plenty of great educational apps for teachers and students.  Many of us use web apps already and may not even know.  A few of the more common are GMail, Google Docs, Lucid Chart, or even WeVideo. 

 What is a web app?

Web apps are applications that are designed to be used completely in a web browser.  This means, no more installing software on a computer and no more reinstalling recent updates.  Just click on the app and go.  Apps install in seconds, with one click of a button. You don’t even have to restart your browser or computer.



Where to find Chrome Web Store and Apps

You must be logged in to your Cherry Creek Google Account in order to install apps from the Chrome Web Store.  Not logged in?  Login here.

You can get to the Chrome Web Store by clicking the Web Store icon in the Apps section of the New Tab page.
  1. Search for the app you’d like to install or click apps you would like to learn more about.
  2. Free apps show an 'FREE' button on their details page. Click the button to install the app.
  3. The app automatically installs and its icon appears in the “Apps” section of the New Tab page. 
Note: Some apps will have a free trial so be careful when reviewing apps that you think are FREE.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Professional Learning, Anytime and Anywhere

Early to an appointment at a school?  Potential for professional learning.

Waiting to get my haircut?  Potential for professional learning.

Waiting in line at the grocery store?  Potential for professional learning.

Anytime I have access to my phone, iPad, and the Internet in general I have almost direct access to professional learning sources.  How is that?

I am putting this out there because I truly believe it (and I'll even type it in bold font to show that I'm totally serious): There is no better place for asynchronous/self-paced professional learning than Twitter and Twitter helps me be more effective at what I do.  Period.

October is Connected Educators Month and I wanted share the tool that continues to shape my passion for what I do while, at the same time, allowing me the potential to connect, talk, and share with people across our school district, our state, the United States, and potentially the world.

It's a fact that Twitter itself has useless things on it.  There isn't much on the Internet, especially social media, today that doesn't.  Twitter though, along with many other places, allows users to filter the "noise" by providing the chance to follow and highlight who you want.  Also, with Twitter lists, users can control when they see tweets from other Twitter users while potentially making sure that tweets about like subjects can be found all in one place.  Weekly Twitter hashtag chats allow users to tweet about like topics during particular days and times with people who have similar interests and passions from around the world.  Twitter can very easily be leveraged as a one-way tool as well.  Users don't need to or have to post personal tweets.  Just follow users that share information that's useful to you and that can be it.  These are just a few of the many benefits of using Twitter professionally in some way, shape, or form.

Quite frankly, and in my humble opinion, the excuses for educators/educational leadership for not being a participant on Twitter for professional learning are beginning to dwindle.

I am planning a post series entitled "What Works for Me on Twitter" in the near future that will help you get started and going on Twitter.  I simply wanted to set the stage as a whole with this post.

Stay tuned...

Note: This is a cross post from my CCSD blog, also under our district Google domain.  A link to my blog is here if you're interested in reading a little more about various topics.  Find me on Twitter here and visit and follow one, some, or all of my boards on Pinterest here.  Let's get connected!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tuesday Tech Tip: Creating and Managing Bookmarks in Chrome

With the plethora of information available to educators on the internet, it's difficult to remember where you found that great article/lesson plan/education blog etc. By using the bookmark tool in Google Chrome when you are signed in (see "Signing into Chrome" from last week's Tuesday Tech Tip), you can easily access all of your favorite bookmarked sites without having to worry which computer you have them saved to, or where you wrote down the url. Google Chrome will automatically sync and update your bookmarks for you making them available to you wherever you are signed in to Chrome.

Creating a bookmark in Google Chrome

Bookmark Star in Google ChromeWhen you are signed in, you can either bookmark the page you are on or simply enter the web address for the site you would like to bookmark. Then, click the star icon located in the address bar on the far right side.  Once you've clicked the star, you'll notice it has turned yellow, and the menu of options for where to save the bookmarked page appears. From the drop down Folder menu, you can choose to save your bookmarks either to your bookmarks bar across the top of your browser window below the address bar, into the "Other Bookmarks" folder, the "Mobile Bookmarks" folder, or you can create a new folder to hold specific types of bookmarks (by content, grade level, resource type, etc.) Tip: To add a new folder at any time you can right-click the bookmarks bar and select Add folder.Bookmark added in Google Chrome

Other ways to add bookmarks in Google Chrome

  • You can use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+D on a PC, or ⌘-D on a Mac
  • Import bookmarks from other browsers (Internet Explorer, Safari, FireFox, etc.) using the Chrome menu Chrome menu.
  • Manually add a bookmark by right clicking in the bookmarks bar and selecting "Add Page" 
  • Drag a link from the page you are viewing to the bookmarks bar or a bookmark folder. Also, you can drag the globe or lock icon in the address bar (to the left of the url) to create a bookmark for your current page. 

How to find your bookmarks

You can view all of your bookmarks in 3 places:
  • Bookmarks bar: Located directly below the address bar. You can toggle the bar to be visible or to not appear below the address bar. This can also be accomplished with the Ctrl+Shift+B shortcut on a PC, or ⌘-Shift-B on a Mac.
Bookmark Menu in Google Chrome
  • Bookmarks menu: Click the chrome menu (see left) on the browser toolbar and select Bookmarks.
  • Bookmark Manager: This makes it easy for you to organize your bookmarks. 

Edit or delete bookmarks

To organize your bookmarks, you can drag and drop bookmarks to move them around on the bookmarks bar. If you do not want to see a bookmark on the bookmark bar you can store it in the "Other bookmarks" folder. This folder cannot be deleted, but it won't show on the toolbar if it is empty. When it's hidden, you can still add bookmarks to the folder using the bookmark manager. 

To edit the details about a bookmark, find the bookmark either on the bookmarks bar or in the bookmark manager and right-click on it, select Edit from the menu. Then, you can update the bookmark's name, url, and folder. 

To delete a bookmark, find the bookmark either on the bookmarks bar or in the bookmark manager and right-click, select Delete from the menu. Note: If you delete a bookmark folder, you also delete all of the bookmarks inside the folder as well. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tuesday Tech Tip: Signing into Chrome (Synced Bookmarks, Apps, etc.)

One of the great things about using the Chrome browser is accessing your tabs, bookmarks, and apps across all of the devices you might use.  And, since students across our district will soon be using Chromebooks, we should be aware of how to make their browser experience consistent, regardless of the device.

Signing into Chrome

If you log into a Chromebook, you are automatically logged into Chrome; however, if you are working on another computer (like a PC or Mac), you need to log into Chrome to get access to your bookmarks, tabs, and apps.  You should only sign into Chrome on a computer that you log into with your username & password.  If you sign in on a shared or public computer where you don't log in with your account, the next person who logs in will see your synced bookmarks, apps. etc.

Here are Google's directions for logging into Chrome on a computer (other than a Chromebook):
Follow these steps to sign in:
  1. Open Google Chrome.
  2. Click the Chrome menu Chrome menu on the browser toolbar.
  3. Select Sign in to Chrome
  4. Sign in to your Google Account in the dialog that appears.
Once you have signed into Chrome, your bookmarks, extensions, and apps that you have added will "follow" you wherever you go.

As a reminder, this is really designed for computers that you log into with a username & password (or a personal machine).  If you're on a shared computer and you aren't logging into it with your credentials, you won't want to sign into Chrome.

Signing in on a Mobile Device

If you're using an Android or iOS device, you can install the Chrome browser for those systems as well and get to your bookmarks.  When you launch Chrome, it will ask you to sign in.  That will give you access to any bookmarks you've saved, tabs you might have opened on other devices in Chrome, and your history from signed-in devices.

If you want to know more about signing into Chrome (or why you would want to), check out Google's help area.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tuesday Tech Tip: Accessing COLE 3.0/Schoology on a Mobile Device

We've spent most of our time as a district talking about using COLE 3.0/Schoology in its web-based version, but teachers, students, and parents can also access our digital learning environment with Schoology apps for iOS and Android (available in the iTunes App Store for iOS and the GooglePlay store for Android).

How to Log In Using the App: 

Because we are using Single Sign-On (SSO) as a district to manage usernames & passwords, logging into the app version requires that we choose "Username Login" instead of "Email Login."  This is true for all users (parents, staff, & students).

Regardless of which mobile operating system you're using, you'll be presented with a screen like the one on the right. Once you click on the "Username" option, it will ask for the school name. Hint: Typing in a zip code will bring up a more relevant list, but you can type in a school name as well (just be aware that this searches for all schools in the entire Schoology system, including international locations).  After choosing your school, you'll be re-directed to a login screen for my.cherrycreekschools.org.  Staff and students will log in using Active Directory while parents will need to use the email account that they used for CCSD Online Parent Forms.

Using the App:

iOS View
Once the app launches in either Android or iOS, you'll see the "Recent Activity" and "Upcoming Events" feeds.  To access other areas of COLE 3.0/Schoology, click on the icon in the upper left-hand corner (looks like 3 lines in iOS, the Schoology logo in Android).  Currently, the Android app doesn't have a separate calendar view, but iOS does.

One of the nice things about using the app is that you can upload photos or videos from the Camera Roll (iOS) or Gallery (Android) into assignments & posts and you can also record directly into assignments or posts using the built-in camera.  When in a materials area (like Assignments or Discussion Boards), a "+" sign in the upper right hand corner of the screen allows you to upload, take a picture/video, or add items from resources.

Functionality differs slightly between Android & iOS, but students can do most things using the app (including taking assessments).  If you're a teacher, it's a great way to post a quick update or add video or photos from a mobile device.

Logging out of the App:

Android View
When using shared devices (like a cart of iPads), it's important that you log out of the app on the device.  On the Android, you can do this by getting to "Settings" in the left menu and choosing "logout" (using the icon in the upper left hand corner to view the different areas in the app).  On an iOS device, you'll see "Logout" at the bottom of the left hand menu list.  If students are in a 1:1 environment, they can either log out or leave themselves logged in.

If there are things that don't work the way you need them to work in the app, remember that you can always access COLE 3.0/Schoology on the mobile device browser.  Certain things in a course are probably easier to accomplish using the web version, but there are definite benefits to having access on the go.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tuesday Tech Tip: Differentiation using grading groups in COLE 3.0/Schoology

One strategy that we often use in the classroom for differentiation purposes is grouping, ideally in a flexible and dynamic way (Heacox, 86-90).  Teachers have different ways of accomplishing this in the face-to-face classroom environment, but we also need to consider how to best utilize groups for differentiation in our online or digital classroom environments as well.

When using COLE 3.0/Schoology, this strategy can be employed using what Schoology calls "grading groups."  In the "Members" area of any course, you'll see an area on the right hand side of the screen for "Grading Groups."
You can create as many groups as you want, and students can be in more than 1 group to allow for flexibility.  Upon creating a group, you will see a list of students in your course.  Clicking on the student names will add them to the group.  If you need to edit the group after it's been created (like if you need to add new students), you can edit the group using the settings wheel pull-down.

Once groups are created, you can really start to differentiate the content in your course and do progress monitoring, either on an individual or group level.  

When making an assignment, an assessment, or a discussion board look for the icon that looks like 3 dots in the triangle -- it's the tool that allows you to assign something to a specific student or to a grading group.  Students in that group will see the item while others will not.  If you create different assignments for different groups, COLE 3.0/Schoology will create each assignment in the gradebook for you.

And, speaking of the gradebook, creating grading groups also allows you to filter your gradebook assignments to see how different groups are doing on assignments.  Using the pull-down where it says "All users" will let you choose to view only certain students in a group.  If, for example, you have students who need accommodations due to a 504 or IEP, filtering your gradebook can help you see just that group.

For those schools using PowerSchool's gradebook, you can also create groups in PowerSchool for similar purposes;  however, COLE 3.0 and PowerSchool don't communicate with each other in terms of groups.  But, if a group assignment is created & graded in COLE 3.0/Schoology and pushed to PowerSchool, it will only record grades for students in that group.

* from Differentiating Instruction in the Regular Classroom, Diane Heacox, 2002

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tuesday Tech Tip: 3 Ways to Support Writing Instruction with Schoology

As we begin to think about ways to address the Colorado Academic Standards for writing, conversations are naturally turning to digital tools that can help support the writing standards.  As our students are supposed to be writing routinely in varied time ranges, we have several options for doing this in a digital learning environment.

Assignment Activity: Online Journals or Reading Logs

Whether your students are writing shorter explanatory pieces, arguments, or narratives, you can use Schoology/COLE 3.0 as a way for students to submit their ideas in a digital format.   One option for this is to use the Assignment activity.  
  1. Add an "assignment" to your course, being sure that the dropbox option is enabled in the settings.
  2. Type the prompt in the description of the assignment.
  3. Have students use the "Create" tab in the dropbox area to compose their writing and submit.
  4. Assess and give feedback, using whatever rubric or grading scale you wish.
One of the best parts is that you can assess the writing using assignment-specific rubrics or common rubrics (like for 6 Trait Writing).  This gives the student specific, criterion-based feedback which can be used to refine writing, even through several drafts.  All student revisions are captured digitally for the teacher, and separate feedback can be given on each revision.  Drafts can also be saved and revised before final submission, giving the student a chance to edit and refine.

Test/Quiz Activity: Essay or Short Answer Response

If you want students to respond in writing as part of an assessment (either as a standalone question or as part of a larger, mixed assessment), you can create a question type for short answer/essay responses.  
  1. Add a "test/quiz" to your course, and add a short answer/essay question to the assessment by writing the prompt into the description area for the question.
  2. Decide if you want students to have a character limit or a time limit (helpful for helping students get used to these types of assessment situations).
  3. Make the quiz available or visible.
  4. Assess and give feedback.
Unlike the journal activity mentioned before, grading based on a rubric is not as easy with an assessment.  However, like other activities in Schoology, the individual test question can be aligned to CAS (Colorado Academic Standards), or teacher-created Learning Outcomes.  Submitting multiple drafts is also not as easy with an assessment, but this is a great way to add shorter writing components into tests and quizzes.

Discussion Board Activity: Online conversations and group interaction 

In addition to individual or private writing opportunties, our students are also supposed to use technology to collaborate, interact, and publish.  Teachers can use a Discussion Board to create an activity that supports this standard.
  1. Add a "Discussion Board" activity to your course.
  2. Type in the expectations for the Discussion Board in the description area.
  3. Decide if the grading will rely upon a rubric or another point scale.
  4. Create a "post" under the Discussion Board for student responses.
  5. Assess and give feedback.
Students can include pictures, audio, and other rich formatting options in the response, making this a more dynamic experience than your typical blog comment or response.  Teachers can also make sure that students cannot see each other's responses until posting one of their own.  

Finally, for longer selections that are composed using another word processing tool (like MS Word or GoogleDocs), students can upload (or link to) their work electronically in the dropbox area for assignments, where teachers can grade against a rubric, provide audio comments or feedback, and collect further revisions or drafts.  This means that work can be created outside of Schoology while employing some of the powerful feedback tools provided in COLE 3.0/Schoology.

If you are looking for options to provide varied writing experiences for your students in a digital format, COLE 3.0/Schoology is an easy way for both teachers & students to use digital tools as part of the writing process.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tuesday Tech Tip: Recording Audio and Video in COLE 3.0/Schoology

Using audio and video to help students understand or explain concepts or give feedback is something that is being utilized with increasing frequency as technology becomes more widely accessible in our classrooms or even outside of the school building.  In addition, the inclusion of speaking & listening skills in the CAS for English Language Arts means that we should be providing multiple opportunities for students to practice these skills, both in face-to-face and digital learning environments.  If you wanted to record your own audio or video (or wanted students to have that ability), you can use COLE 3.0/Schoology to do so.

COLE 3.0./Schoology has its own built-in tool for recording directly into the system, and it's available for almost anything you want to create.  For example, when creating an update, you'll see a microphone icon, which lets you either record audio or video into your update.
You'll see that icon in a variety of activities, including assignments, test/quiz directions, test/quiz questions, and discussion boards.  This means that you could record an audio or video version of your directions or questions for students who need audio in addition to written instructions or directions (and it's a great tool for students who are just learning to read).

Students can also record directly into the system, either in response to discussion board topic or as part of an assignment or quiz.  They will see the same icon when that option is available, and they can either choose audio or video.  Giving students a choice in how they respond best is a great way to differentiate how kids can show what they know.

Finally, teachers can also give audio feedback to students who submit an assignment digitally into COLE 3.0/Schoology.  In the assignment dropbox area, you'll see a way to add audio or video comments as a feedback method.  Clicking on the microphone icon will work in the same way as it does for other items in the system: you can choose video or audio.
Keep in mind that audio responses are limited to 11 minutes and video responses are limited to 10 minutes.  If you find that those times are not sufficient, you may want to explore another web-based option that you can embed into your Schoology items or create something on the computer and upload the file (.mp4 is best for video, .mp3 for audio).  As long as the files are smaller than 512MB, you can upload them into COLE 3.0/Schoology.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tuesday Tech Tip: Parent access for COLE 3.0/Schoology

One of the great things about our updated version of COLE is the parent interface and some of its potential for communication and group interaction.  However, unlike COLE 2.0 (which used Moodle), parents will not access using the PowerSchool login.  And unlike Edmodo & Moodle, parents will not need a code to create an account or join a course.  

As we posted earlier, courses & groups can be made public, which means that a login wouldn't be required.  However, if you want parents to see specific information about their student, including work submitted and assessment feedback, how do they access COLE 3.0/Schoology?

Like teachers and students, parent will access COLE 3.0/Schoology using http://my.cherrycreekschools.org.  When they get to the login screen, s/he will log in using the account created for online parent forms.  (If you have a parent who logs into my.cherrycreek but can't get to COLE 3.0, it is likely that the parent has an existing account with that email somewhere in Schoology's system.  Disassociating their CCSD parent forms email from their existing Schoology account should solve the problem.)

Once logged into my.cherrycreekschools.org, parents will see several "tiles" that pertain to them. Clicking on the COLE 3.0. tile will take them directly into Schoology.  

Parents should be automatically associated with their children, so they will not need to enroll in courses or groups.  All children associated with the account can be selected using the pull-down arrow in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.

For parents who don't have a parent forms account or need to create another one, there is an option on the my.cherrycreekschools.org login page to "create a new account."  

To create a new account, parents need to know some specific information about his/her child, including the student  ID#.  Admissions will verify that the parent is one of the legal parents listed as a contact for that student.  If the information provided matches exactly to the Admissions system, an email will be sent to the parent’s email address.  The parent will need to click on the link in the email to finalize the creation of their my.cherrycreekschools.org account. 

New parent accounts will be able to access Schoology using this account within 24 hours, provided that they followed the steps above and Admissions was successful in verifying the parent.

Schoology Help has a section specifically targeting parent users, so this would be a good link to pass along as questions arise.