Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Check out Chalkup!

This month I taught a PD class called "Using Blended Learning to Enhance Vocabulary Instruction." I was looking for a FREE simple service to host the materials and serve as a digital classroom for my face-to-face class and I found it in Chalkup. Chalkup calls itself a "class collaboration platform" and it is very easy to use.

Log in (with Google single sign-on or create an account with an email address) and do the typical new account stuff. Click "my courses" to join or create a class. After you create a class, you can invite students to join with a class code. The picture at the left shows most of the options for the class once you are ready to get started.

Click on Materials to add links, files, videos and more to your class. You can organize it all into folders to make everything easy to find. It is very intuitive with drag & drop functionality.

Creating assignments is very easy. Click Assignments and fill out the particulars. Upload a file or attach a document from Google Drive. You can also create a rubric in the assignment tool that you can use to grade the assignment within Chalkup.

If you click on the assignments, a pop-up pane shows at the left. Here you can see the details of the assignment, including how many students have turned the assignment in. Turning in an assignment in Chalkup is as easy as attaching a file to an email. 

When students click on the template (see above), they will have two options - either download it as a PDF or Chalkup makes a copy of the template and places it into their Google Drives. That is slick - it automatically makes the copy for you!

We used the Discussions feature quite a bit. Discussions can be what you think of when you hear the word, but in Chalkup they can also be a quick poll or single question or a reaction to a video or link. Chalkup uses "upvotes," a little arrow to the left of posts, for participants to "like" each other's ideas.

Other features I really liked: 

  • Chalkup includes notifications that you can turn on and off as you like. You can get emails (or opt out) when people comment on things or turn in assignments. Chalkup also sends an email reminder when assignments are due. 
  • There is a flashcard feature that allows you to create and practice with a flashcard deck that you make within Chalkup. I made a sample deck in fewer than five minutes. Very easy! 
  • You can message the whole class or just one person with the click of a button.
  • There is an iOS app that works just like the webtool.
  • There is a PRO version for whole schools to use with "custom data syncing, expanded messaging features, analytics, parent access, and more." 
Two things about Chalkup really stood out for me. I loved the clean looking interface with just the right amount of bells and whistles but not so many that it becomes overly complicated. It was very easy to get started and did nearly everything I was looking for (and some things I didn't know I needed until I found them there!). The other thing that caught my attention was the terrific tutorials and support materials available at Chalkup. I especially liked the Guide to Engaging Digital Discussions. With a low barrier tool and many great supports in place, Chalkup is a great way to try out a collaboration platform.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Introducing . . . Vocabulary

Here's a fun thing to try. Make a list of vocabulary words. New ones. Ask students to write short definitions - one-word definitions if possible. Assign each person one of the words and ask them to introduce it to the class by acting it out. After each student portrays the word, everyone else can guess at which word is being acted out.

I tried it last weekend during a vocabulary class with a list of challenging adjectives. Participants wrote one-word definitions for each word. Then class members introduced themselves while trying to portray themselves as the adjective they were assigned. While listening to the introductions, class members tried to guess each word. When we were finished with all the introductions, we reviewed the one-word definitions and our guesses. Some were very easy to guess; others were more difficult.

Here is the list of adjectives we used:

affable, capricious, diffident, disconsolate, ebullient, erudite, garrulous, incisive, insipid, jocular, languid, loquacious, mundane, munificent, officious, ostentatious, pedantic, perfidious, perfunctory, querulous, reticent, somnolent, sonorous, terse

Though we used the activity for introductions on the first day of class, this could also be used on the first day of a unit with new vocabulary. Maybe each student could talk or pantomime a word while others watch and guess. Or at the end of a unit, the same idea could be done for review. Perhaps one person acts out a new word every day. One of the Marzano vocabulary strategies is using games to practice words; this was a fun one to play.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Story Impressions Made an Impression on Me

Last weekend a colleague and I taught a professional development class about teaching vocabulary. He suggested a technique called "Story Impressions" to introduce a reading assignment. Here's how it works: 

  • Give the students a list of words in the order they appear in the reading.
  • Ask the students to write a story that includes these words in the order given.
  • Ask the students to share their stories.
  • Students read the assigned reading.
  • Talk about the use of the vocabulary in the stories and the reading assignment.

Since we were teaching a class about vocabulary, our assigned reading was an article about vocabulary. Our list of words was:

Systematic, Principled, Cornerstone, Comprehension, Element, Methodology, Consensus, 
Condensation, Indirect, Receptive, Exposure, Facilitators

Our participants wrote wonderful stories. Five people shared their writing in class. Each story was different from each other story, but they were all great. Like so many activities, when you leave room for creativity, you get a great variety of responses. I never would have dreamed that we would hear so many different stories from this pretty boring list of words. Here is my favorite one (S/O to Megan McCann for letting me share it!):

After sharing stories, our participants went to this site to read about the research about the importance of teaching vocabulary. If you read this article, watch for the words above. Are they used in the same way in both Megan's story and the article?

The activity was a great previewing strategy for the reading assignment and a lot of fun to use in class. I definitely want to try it again in my classroom!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Good to Great 2: Quizizz keeps getting better and better!

I first wrote about Quizizz almost a year ago. I saw a tweet and was using the tool in class about 5 minutes later. It is about the easiest tool I have ever tried and I was able to test it out with a class without even having an account. In short, I love this tool. I reread my original post tonight and wanted to update because so many things about this great tool have gotten even better:

1.  Homework Mode - you can play/use Quizizz LIVE in class, but as of last fall, you can also assign a Quizizz for HOMEWORK. What I love about that is that you can assign it for homework, but also that you could use it in a classroom as a station and by the end of the class or day you will have data for all students without leaving a LIVE session open all day. Want to try it? Just click on the quiz title and then click on LIVE or HOMEWORK for the pin you give to students. Easy! Plus, a student can start a game at school on one device and resume it after school.

2.  Google Classroom integration - Another great addition is Google Classroom integration. After you click on the quiz title, you have the option of sharing to Google Classroom. Kids can get an assignment to play for homework or an announcement to play. They join the Quizizz with their Google accounts. Then, and this is so great, they join the game using whatever name they want, but the data gets recorded for the teacher with their Google account names. Kids get to be silly; teacher still has great data and accountability!

3.  Play-by-play action - When I tried it out last April, you could see the total number of right and wrong answers, but not now each student was doing. Now you can see both which is great whether your approach is  big picture or minute details.

4.  Review Questions - As of 2016 you can click through each question and talk about the answers and results. I used that feature in March when my students were reviewing equilibrium chemistry following a reading. It was great to explore misconceptions in the moment by reviewing the questions.

5.  Custom meme creation - I just discovered this one today. Every time I use this tool, people ask me how long it took to import all the memes. The answer - no time because they are built in to the tool. Memes are still built in to the tool, but you can also create a custom meme library. Either choose from their images and add your own text or import your own images and add text. I can't wait to try this one out. Wouldn't it be great to have memes of administrators and teachers for a building to celebrate right answers during the quiz? I think kids will love that!

It's easy to create a meme. Click the "My Memes" button. Then create a title for your meme set. Click on Correct Meme or Incorrect Meme.

Click the plus sign and a pop-up window opens. From this, you can choose an image in the tool or import your own image. Then add text and click save. Below is one I made with an image in Quizizz. The one above is a meme I made with a picture of me.

Quizizz, this meme says it all. You did great! With this many great changes (and there are more than I have listed here) in one year, I can't wait to see what the next year brings!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Good to Great: Use Goobric for Peer Edits and Student Self-Assessment

This weekend I wrote about three rubric add-ons for Google Apps. Today I used one of them, Doctopus and Goobric, to grade lab reports. I first wrote about Doctopus and Goobric two years ago when I started using them to grade lab reports. There have been a number of improvements since then and I have wanted to highlight them here for some time.

If you haven't used Doctopus and Goobric, they are definitely worth a look. Doctopus, an octopus for your documents, is an add-on for Google Sheets. With a little bit of work ahead of time and by following the excellent instructions in the tool, you go from a spreadsheet to every member of a class having his/her own copy of an assignment. Along the way, you can also create folders in your students' Google Drives where you can drop things for them to view or edit. Doctopus does lots of other spectacular things too - like allows for group assignments to be copied, allows you to turn off student access to documents, and allows you to see from the spreadsheet how many times a student has edited an assignment. It also allows you to attach a rubric for grading. This is where Goobric comes in.

Goobric, a rubric for Google, is a web application that facilitates paperless grading with a rubric. You create your rubric with your own specifications (or get one from Goobric's public libraries) and attach it to the document. Like magic, a link to grade it appears in the Doctopus-enabled spreadsheet. Click the link and you see a view like this:

The rubric appears across the top and you can enter scores or click in a box containing the description. The rubric remains stationary while you scroll through the paper so you can read and grade at the same time. You can comment through the document or leave comments in the box at the top. When you are finished, click the blue submit button and you can automatically advance to the next student in the spreadsheet.

As of 2016, Goobric got even better! Now there is a Chrome Extension called Goobric for Students that allows students to self-assess their work with the rubric or conduct peer evaluations. 
When the students have this extension installed, they will get a pop-up while they work that reminds them that a rubric is attached to a assignment. Hopefully, they view the rubric while they work!

In order to access this terrific feature, you will need to check the middle checkbox seen in the screenshot below when you attach the Goobric to an assignment:
When students open the assignment and complete their work, they can also access the rubric to do a self-assessment before handing it in. They will be able to see feedback from the rubric, but a teacher's scores will override these peer evaluations.

The first time I graded reports paperlessly with these two terrific tools, it took me a long time. Part of that was probably getting used to the tools, but part of it was also all the clicking and typing too. Now that Goobric automagically advances to the next student and I have gotten swifter at paperless grading, the extra time has been eliminated for me. With Goobric's new and better features, students can receive better, focused feedback for a learning advantage.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Goobric or Orange Slice or JoeZoo: Which Rubric Add-on Should I Use?

One of my most popular posts is a comparison of three quizzy webtools - Kahoot, Socrative, and Quizizz. For a long time, I have been meaning to write a similar post about Google rubric add-ons. As my spring break is winding down, this seems like the right time to do it.

First, a word or two about rubrics. I am a believer. Big time. There aren't many things that I go all preachy about (I hope), but rubrics are a non-negotiable with me for several reasons. When they are well-designed, they help students understand the expectations of an assignment and how they can improve the skill that is being assessed. Rubrics also can standardize the grading of a particular type of assignment so that all students completing the assignment can expect the same grade no matter who holds the rubric. That said, I love these great Google add-ons that allow teachers to use rubrics in a paperless way.

In this post, I will describe three add-ons briefly and compare them in a chart below. I like them all very much and, which one you might choose probably comes down to how you will use it and personal preference.

Doctopus & Goobric are a 1-2 punch that I use all the time. Doctopus is an add-on to Google Sheets and creates copies of assignments for students on a roster. Doctopus also lets you turn on and off a student's editing access to a document by "embargoing" it for grading. Once you attach a rubric to an assignment in Doctopus, you can grade it with Goobric, a web application that automatically records the scores into the Doctopus spreadsheet. There is also a Chrome extension (Goobric for Students) that allows for self or peer feedback. 

Orange Slice is an add-on for Google Docs. There is a teacher version and a student version. The student version allows for self or peer feedback, but the teacher version overrides these and gives an actual score. It looks very slick and is easy to use. It has several categories for rubrics all set to go, but they are completely editable so you can create the exact rubric you need.

JoeZoo Express is also an add-on for Google Docs. Like Orange Slice, it walks users through the steps of rubric creation and grading. In addition to the rubric tool, it is also a feedback tool that can be used to give students targeted feedback beyond the rubric. It has several pre-loaded categories of statements that can be easily used. They have many tutorial videos for help as you get started.

Here is my comparison chart:

If you are already using rubrics, or especially if you're not, I hope you will give one of these great tools a try!

Did you like this comparison post? If so, check out these others:

A Comparison of 5 URL Shorteners (including bit.ly and goo.gl)

Nearpod vs Pear Deck vs The AnswerPad