The Beauty of Doctopus

screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-9-12-02-amI’m sure I’ve written about this topic before but it bears repeating because this tool is a game-changer…what am I talking about? Doctopus, of course! One of the best ways to determine what a student is thinking is by having them write it out. Our students have multiple opportunities to share their thoughts:  online discussion forums, collaborative GoogleDocs, F2F discussions (er, debates), and written assignments via GoogleDocs.

Let me be straight. I’m not a fan of grading. I love the creation aspect of teaching, the designing, the planning, the execution of activities and projects…but the assessment part? Not so much. As for grading essays…<sigh>….seriously not my cup of tea.

My department is extremely collaborative. We talk all.of.the.time. It helps that our classrooms are next door to each other and that we’re great friends to boot. During collaboration, we discuss student progress and grades. Needless to say, our grading procedures and process are closely aligned. And then Docuptus happened.

I can’t remember exactly when I first heard about Doctopus, let alone tried it…but once I did, I realized that this was going to revolutionize collaborative writing for students and grading for us. We give students the option to have a writing collaborator for the end of the unit essays because we see value in students working together towards a common goal. It helps that GoogleDocs gives us a sneak peek into their writing process and comments. 😉

To start, my department created several Goobrics (a.k.a. rubrics) for each of the assignments. We have Goobrics for Level 4 short essays, Level 5 essays, and various other projects (e.g., Crusades memes, Open Minds).

Once those assignments are submitted through Google Classroom, we use Doctopus (an Add-On) to ingest the assignment into a ready-made spreadsheet (I usually title it with the unit name+semeter&year+period –> China Unit F16P1). I choose the class and the assignment and then wait for the magic to happen. Doctopus gives you the option to ingest all student projects or just the ones from students who clicked “Turn In” in Google Classroom (I usually choose the latter).

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There are two ways to view the Goobric…this is the default. The other view allows you to scroll through the Goobric instead of clicking on the tabs at the top.

Once the assignments are ingested, all you need to do is choose the appropriate Goobric and then you’re off! All of the assignments are there…tied to a specific rubric…all that’s left is for you to assess student work based on the Goobric. Doctopus+Goobric gives you the option to click right on the Goobric, add comments to the GoogleDoc, as well as leave comments that can be emailed to students (I highly recommend this last option). But the best part?! Doctopus puts the Goobric right on the GoogleDoc with your comments. Students can see where their worked landed within the Goobric. Brilliant!

However, if I could change one thing…it would be the ability to easily notify the writing collaborator/partners that the document is graded. Of course, all students could go back to the original GoogleDoc to see the rubric and comments, but only the owner receives the email with the rubric attached. It’s not a deal-breaker and it’s certainly not something that would make my department stop using this easy way to assess student work.

Having said that, if you’re looking for a new tool to try in 2017 might I suggest giving Doctopus a whirl? You won’t regret it. Trust me. Game-changer.

A Time to Reflect

“We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.” – John Dewey

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This year my department rolled out a fully blended learning program for both World and U.S. History. Each member of my department was given an iPad cart to use with our students. We met over the summer to design our courses using Haiku Learning as our learning management system. The conversation flowed as we threw out ideas about how to make learning more student-centered while staying true to our philosophy of providing a rigorous learning environment with student choice. Integrating technology at this level with varying degrees of techxpertise (thanks @MisterCoyle for the nomenclature) was certainly something that kept us on our toes all.year.long. It forced our department to take collaboration to the next level. On a regular basis (i.e., daily, before school, in between classes), we discussed how technology could help our students practice historical thinking, reading, and writing skills. Luckily, we are all veteran teachers who know the value of flexibility and having an open-mind. Because in the end it’s the students who benefit from all of this work…we’re just the care-takers of the process.

Top 10 Things We Learned This Year

  1. BaiBoard is a awesome app for collaboration – to make it easier to follow along (and hold students accountable), have students fill in a Google Form with their BaiBoard name + password; use the desktop app to monitor progress
  2. Google My Maps though it has great potential in the history classroom, the UI on the iPads is still severely lacking – it’s a bummer to have students create slideshows on a pin only to have it show up on some iPads but not others #csuftcs
  3. Padlet is an easy way for students to display their work – to prevent cheating or stealing of ideas, we found that it was better to require students to post their work first in a discussion forum in Haiku Learning to time/date stamp the entry and then post the assignment in Padlet
  4. District’s default password for GAFE accounts needs to be changed right away – birthdays are a big deal at the middle school level…hence it’s pretty easy to figure out the default GAFE password (mmddyyyy) #duh
  5. Haiku Learning is an easy way to create a blended learning environment for students – use a linear format (e.g, Task 1, Task 2) because it helps students know what to do next and they can progress through the tasks at their own pace
  6. Memes are a fun way for students to practice critical thinking skills – students not only used memes for historical writing but also to demonstrate their creative side; middle schoolers speak memes #truestory #funnestprojecttograde
  7. Student choice is one way to personalize the learning process – using a revised version of Marzano’s learning scales, students were able to chose their learning path: Level 3 (describe/define), Level 4 (analysis), Level 5 (synthesis, evaluation) #leveledlearning #studentchoice
  8. Collaboration is key – having an open-mind is just as important
  9. Technology will work when it wants to, not when you want it to #murphyslaw
  10. Middle schoolers are inherently curious and to a large extent fearless – give them a challenge and they will rise to the occasion…how do you think we’ve learned various tips and tricks of the apps that we use?

 

Purpose Driven Meetings

Faculty meetings. Department chair meetings. Meetings, in general. We’ve all been there. But how many times have we walked away from those meetings inspired for the rest of the day? How many times have we engaged in active discourse with our peers? How many times have we said, “That was fun, I can’t wait for the next time!” I bet that you and I could count those times on one hand…together. And if you cannot, consider yourself lucky because you are not the norm.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more possessive of my time. You can never, EVER get back lost time. So I have very little patience for things that do not add value to me, to my craft, to what I do with my students, or to my professional goals. I fail to see the purpose in coming together to simply be talked at. Dissemination of information does not need to be done face to face. 
I mean, we’ve spent all of this time and energy discussing ways to make learning engaging for our students. In fact, it’s an expectation in my district that the teacher is not the center of the learning process. Sure there’s a time and place for DI but that’s not what I’m talking about. In a 21st century classroom, learning is student-centered not teacher-directed. And for those of us who conduct PD, engagement is an instrumental part of the PD process otherwise all you will have are a bunch of angry teachers giving you dagger looks as you waste their time. The whole idea of bringing 21st century learning into the classroom can and should have a place in meetings. We shouldn’t simply be talked at, but rather this valuable face to face time should…no must include some of the very skills that we want our students to acquire: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. 
Sure communication may be in the form of talking…but productive communication is a two-way street. Why not approach these meetings with the intent that teachers will be active participants? Why not bring in topics that foster collaboration between teachers and admins? Why not take the time to introduce a topic that might elicit some type of problem-solving or maybe some type of task that involves creativity?
I don’t have my administrative credential for a reason. I like being with my students but I do consider myself a leader. In fact, I’ve served as department chair for 19 years (at two different school sites). Needless to say, I’ve conducted my share of department meetings and collaborations. But when I create the agenda, it’s done after talking with department members. I take what we’ve discussed in emails or in passing and put that on the agenda to discuss when we have a formal meeting. But the key thing is…these are mutually determined topics. Anything that is purely informational is written on the agenda and my colleagues can ask for clarification (or not). The majority of our department meetings are spent working on lesson ideas, discussing common grading practices, reviewing student data/achievement, etc. We utilize our entire 60 minute collaboration meeting time and then some. And I can honestly say that when we leave, we’re revved up, inspired, and usually still discussing topics as we walk out the door to start our day. Our meeting time is collaborative, includes a great deal of communication (sometimes it’s even a bit spirited…we’re history teachers, what can I say?) and problem-solving as we continue to develop lessons and activities that are not only rigorous but engaging for our students (and to the same extent, us). 

Can “other” meetings be run the same? I ask, “Why not?” Why can’t faculty or department chair meetings be conducted more like an opportunity for PD? There’s an increasing amount of research out there about adult learning theory which is why there is a such a huge need for personalized PD. But since there’s never enough time in the day for all of the things that we want to do…that we need to do…why not change the purpose of those meetings so that we leave feeling that our time together added value to what we do with our students (Barth, 2013)? Information can be relayed via email. It’s done all of the time. And sometimes too much with the “reply all” feature, if you know what I mean. But I digress.

I think we need to move beyond bringing people together for a sit and get…and utilize that valuable time together to help each other grow professionally (Hagan, 2014). To figure out how to solve-problems that may be plaguing our campus. To discuss ways that we can help our students attain 21st century skills. Those are all value-added options and something that would give us (the participants) a purpose. 
Here’s to purpose driven meetings.
References

Barth, R. (2013). The time is ripe (again). Educational Leadership, 71(2), 10–16.

Hagan, D. (2014). Catholic school faculty meetings: A case study linking catholic identity, school improvement, and teacher engagement. Dissertations. Paper 58.

Easing Back into the Fray

Monday morning back from a holiday is just as hard on the teachers as it is on the students.  As a veteran teacher, I know that it’s best to ease back into the routine.  We started a new unit today which was a perfect introduction back into a schedule ruled by bells.  The task for today was for students to analyze a secondary source and compile notes utilizing the Thinking Tools:  details and unanswered questions.  Today’s task focused on giving students the choice to work together or independently (my morning classes were half asleep) as they used their analysis skills and background knowledge to make inferences about life on the manor in feudal Europe.
I usually tweet this…but today I really should have done it…I really should have recorded their conversations because they were so interesting, thought-provoking, and in some cases, downright hysterical.  In analyzing a picture of manor life, most students struggled with an object that looked like an elephant (not likely in Europe), a rock (not a significant factor for describing a place), or a person taking off their clothes (to which they wondered…why is someone taking their clothes off in the middle of the manor?!?!).  Then there was an object in quadrant two…is it a guy doing pull-ups (seriously?), committing suicide (well, we did just finish our study on the Bushido Code), or was someone hanged for a crime (what kind of crime required hanging as a punishment? how long did they leave the guy hanging? what is that hanging thing called?!).  One of these days, I’m going to record their conversations because the pictures on Instagram only told half the story.  When students verbalize their thinking, it is truly something to behold…

Where Learning Matters

Like last summer, I was brought in as part of the technology team to plan, present, and facilitate professional development for teachers in my district.  Because of the size of our team, we were able to host a variety of technology PD for all teachers in our district K12.  However, we were not able to host as many repeat sessions this year because we simply did not have the man-power or space to do so.  In fact, I was told that the sessions quickly filled to capacity when Super Week sign-ups opened at the beginning of June.  This was a good sign.

Last week was the start of Super Week (#superweek2015) for our district.  I’m not sure how other districts run their PD, but in my 20 years we’ve always had PD before school starts.  Some years it’s a full week, last year it was a week and a half (dubbed Super-Duper Week, no hashtag).  But what I really enjoyed about this year’s Super Week was the addition of K6 teachers to the mix.  Prior, we only concentrated on secondary teachers (7-12 Instruction) which made sense since we were all from the secondary level.  But this year we added a few elementary teacher presenters and facilitators which brought new insight into how technology could effectively be integrated into the curriculum.

This year, I presented on a variety of topics:

  • Presentations that Inspire – Slides, Prezi, PowToon, HaikuDeck
  • Advanced Flipped Learning – EdPuzzle, Movenote, Educreations, Camtasia, Screencastomatic
  • SAMRai – UpLeveling the Learning
  • Let’s Get Appy – Web Apps for Everyone
But what I love most about presenting is the learning that occurs on my own end.  I enjoy lively dialogue with teachers about how best to use technology with their students.  It is exciting to see the passion reignited in teachers when they see the power that technology can bring in order to transform the learning process.  But it’s not just on their end.  I always pick up several cool ideas that I could bring back to my own classroom which will not only benefit my students but my department as well.  Learning is a two-way street and delivering PD is one avenue to the process.  

What Makes an Educator?

Connectiveness.  Collaboration.  Community.

It’s interesting because one might think that the moment school is out for summer, teachers shun anything that has to do with work or education.  But you’d be wrong.  This is the time when educators come alive…we don’t have to worry about faculty meetings, after school tutoring, papers to grade, lessons to plan…we finally have the freedom to do whatever WE want to help keep us charged and amped up about being part of the best profession in the world.

This week, I found myself added to a group on Twitter comprised of tech leaders in the OC.  We were lamenting on the fact that we needed to create some type of cohesiveness among the educators in OC…if anything just to touch base but I think more importantly to build stronger connections between districts.  I know that there is a lot of good stuff going on around the county…and we have some remarkably creative and talented teachers who are touching the lives of countless students.  We know that working in isolation is not going to cut it anymore.  The digital society that we live in is interconnected.  We feed off of each other’s triumphs and learn from each other’s trials.  And what better way to build a stronger sense of community than to create a group that commits to getting together on a regular basis?

People were throwing around ideas like game night, getting together for sports events, even using someone’s garage as an informal fort, er meeting place…I’m also thinking that the upcoming EdCamps will be more fun since we’ll already know each other (even if we haven’t met F2F, yet).  And then watch out CUE…#ocXed will be in.the.house.

Needless to say, I’m stoked.  I love our hashtag and our t-shirt design (see above). If you’re an educator in beautiful Orange County, California…join us!  We don’t bite.  Well, not all of us anyway.  😉

Online PD. Heck Yeah!

This post is a bit late, but that’s what happens when the end of the year is fast approaching and there’s still so much still to cover from the pacing chart.  So I apologize for the delayed post.

I totally concur with the tweet from @mrhousepian.  We were taking one giant leap for #GGUSD…both feet in…wheels up…whatever you want to call it.  And I loved every minute of it.

Here’s the backstory…

One of the TOSAs in our district (@teacherlucero) and I have talked quite frequently about online PD and what that might look like.  He was able to convince our director to give it a shot.  So instead of our Blended Learning group meeting F2F for our last session in June, he scheduled two GHOs and had us sign up via a GoogleForm.

I chose to attend the first online PD.  I was joined by five other colleagues, in addition to @teacherlucero.  As soon as we logged in, we “signed in” using our GAFE accounts via a Google Form as proof that we were in attendance (our district is big on accountability).  The GHO started at 4PM with the intent that we might end up spending the first 20 or so minutes getting everyone online, setting up their lower thirds, playing around with the various Google effects, etc.  We took the entire 30 minutes to play around.  =D

We were patching in from all over…some of us were at home in our office, at the kitchen table, or even outside.  Several teachers joined us from their classroom/office.  I will start off by saying that it was nice to be at home, sitting in my comfy chair…talking tech and reflecting on our year.

At 4:30 @teacherlucero started recording our session.  He had prearranged questions for us to discuss.  The most engaging one being the technology tool that made the biggest impact on our teaching this year.  Everyone shared a different tool…and we started keeping a list of tech tools and websites in the chat window for future reference.  The intent was that this session would be recorded, edited, and posted for other teachers to view if they liked.  Where the view is currently being hosted, I don’t know…probably on @teacherlucero’s YouTube channel.

Will other teachers view our GHO?  Not sure.  But if they do, I’m sure that they’ll find it beneficial.  We all shared our favorite technology tool and how we used it with our students.  We talked about troubleshooting, lessons learned, best practices.  Everyone chimed in on the discussion.  We left links to websites and apps for future reference.  This type of curating of information is not something that happens in a F2F PD.  I mean, I know that people take notes during workshops, but it’s not collaborative and people who are not in attendance do not know what actually happened.

But with our GHO, it was recorded and there’s notes included.  So the impact of this PD has the potential to go beyond just the seven of us.  It’s basically saved for posterity.  😉

I was excited to participate in our first online PD for our district.  What makes this GHO different than others is that because it was recorded and because we signed in, we’ll receive the stipend that is normally only reserved for teachers who physically attend a PD.

Is this the new way to conduct PD?  I think so.  I can totally see this type of PD working in a similar way to EdCamps or an unconference.  We’re all so busy right after school…and most of the time I find myself rushing to the PD.  But when it’s scheduled at 4PM (or even later)…I have time to breathe.  I can relax a bit, eat a snack…and then engage in what I find most exciting…talking tech with like-minded educators.

I hope that our Director likes what she sees and hears about our sessions.  If we can move forward with this type of PD, I think it has the potential to have a larger impact beyond just the teachers in attendance.  Huge leap.  I’m ready for more.

#goodstuff #futureready

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