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.

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