Sunday, August 17, 2014

Tuesday Tech Tip: Digital Classroom Tools (Schoology, Google Classroom, and gScholar)

Cherry Creek Schools provides many digital tools for the classroom teacher.  Yet, it can sometimes be confusing to figure out which one to use and why.  With the recent release of Google Classroom, our beta testing of gScholar, and our implementation of Schoology, teachers will undoubtedly have questions about what options are available and how these tools support learning.  All three have their place, so let's take a look at how each would best fit into the CCSD classroom.

We are extremely fortunate to have Schoology (COLE 3.0) as our comprehensive Learning Management System or LMS.  For most of our digital learning needs, Schoology more than fits the bill.  As a CCSD teacher, Schoology is your best option for:
  • Organizing your digital classroom (differentiation, customization, and pacing)
  • Posting class-wide announcements or updates
  • Using online discussion boards
  • Posting links, files, images/video, and pages for units and lessons (including audio support)
  • Communicating with parents
  • Giving online tests/quizzes
  • Embedding interactive learning activities
  • Assessing both digital and non-digital student work (including alignment to standards)
  • Creating digital assignments (work or files can be submitted by students or done off-line)
  • Tracking student mastery with specific standards and learning outcomes
  • Collaborating and sharing with other teachers on lessons, assessments, and class resources
Because Schoology syncs with PowerSchool, all classes are built automatically and students are added and removed automatically.  

Google Classroom was released to K-12 Google Apps domains during the week of August 11th. A good supplement to an existing LMS like Schoology, Classroom helps teachers share and organize Google Drive files with classes or groups of students.  (While students can turn in assignments in Classroom, submitting student work in Schoology has many more options for feedback and assessment.)  As a CCSD teacher, Classroom is your best option for:
  • sending a Google Doc to students for individual editing (like sending out a Thinking Map or another template for students to edit individually which is automatically shared with you)
  • sharing a Google file (presentation, spreadsheet, document or drawing) that you want all students to collaborate on as a group 
Because Google Classroom isn't syncing courses or class rosters, teachers need to create their own classes and manually manage student enrollment and enrollment changes (students can join with a course code or be invited via email).

gScholar is a tool we've been beta testing to help with classroom management when using Chrome and Chromebooks with students.  (gScholar also has a GoogleDrive management aspect, but with the release of Classroom, it will soon be integrating its services with Google Classroom.)  As a CCSD teacher, gScholar is your best option for:
  • sending messages to students using Chromebooks or Chrome
  • "pushing" a website to all students using Chromebooks or Chrome
  • viewing tabs open on devices using Chromebooks and Chrome (and closing tabs remotely, if necessary)
  • taking screen shots of a student Chrome tab (helpful if you want to gather individual student progress on an interactive web site or capture what a student is doing in Chrome or on a Chromebook)
Because gScholar isn't syncing user roles, courses or class rosters, teachers need to have a teacher account created for them (typically by a technology coordinator or other support personnel) and will need to create their own classes and manually manage student enrollment (teachers can add and delete students from their class rosters).

Ultimately, it's up to teachers to decide how and when to utilize these instructional tools in the classroom.  Want to know more about any of these?  Please contact the Office of Instructional Technology -- we'd be happy to work with you!

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