Why do I blog? Simply stated, I blog to both reflect and to share. However, in recent days, weeks, months… heck, we’re almost to the point where I can say for a whole YEAR it has been tough to just sit down, center myself, and reflect or share. My heart has been in a constant state of heavy for almost a whole YEAR, and I pray 2021 will turn around (SOON PLEASE) for the better in EVERY possible way…!
We began our 20-21 school year 100% remote. I’ve been back “in person” teaching since mid-September, with what began as roughly 60% of my students “in-person” with me and 40% joining synchronously from home on Zoom. As the year has progressed, I’m closer to 75% “in-person” and 25% on Zoom now. The numbers change daily because the circumstances change daily. We’re working one day at a time, masks, plexiglass, and all.
It’s taken some time to figure all of this out. Workflows have become more important than ever, and I’ve come to realize that workflows can vary greatly even when folks use the exact same tools. While my timing is likely waaaaaaay off here, as many of us have probably established things by now, I’ll share and hope that you’ll share back, so we can all be better!
One thing I’ve realized is that saying one “uses Google Classroom” doesn’t always mean we’re using it the same way. I’m not sure many people use GC the way I do, and I’m sure I’m NOT making the best use of GC’s capabilities! However, my students have expressed appreciation for the way I keep things organized, so this has sort of been working, even if it’s unconventional.
My Classwork area uses each math unit title as the GC Topic. Each day, I use a Material under the current unit Topic to create a brief daily agenda. In this agenda, I include the day’s objective, and any links / codes / PDF resources students need. I schedule the daily Material agenda to post each school day at 8:10am, roughly 30 minutes before the school day actually starts. Students only receive one e-mail & one post from me per day. Each Material I post is initially organized by lesson topic, but includes the date as well since it is scheduled to post on the relevant day… so it’s organized for students both by lesson topic AND by date.
Essentially, we visit Google Classroom to start each class and see our objective(s) and agenda, and then we swiftly leave Google Classroom…! In general, students are leaving GC to participate in a Desmos Activity or Nearpod or Socrative or ThatQuiz… and all of these tools already have a built-in workflow. I’ve never really invested in Google Forms or Google-y assessment tools, so, I need you to help me in this area!
Speaking of Desmos Activities, they are A-MAZE-ING for in-person and remote students! I created Desmos Classes when the option became available in recent months… and again… I don’t think I’m using these classes in a conventional way either, ha! I created my Desmos classes by class period, but I do not “assign” Desmos activities to integrate with Google Classroom because I don’t “grade” Desmos activities… we use these activities to learn and explore during live lessons together, not for grades… so, as a part of my daily GC Material “Agenda” I include the already-assigned Desmos student activity link(s) each day. Farewell to sharing codes students must type in, they just click the link and go!
My students don’t even know that there is an actual class code or link that gives them access to all of the assigned activities (at least YET… I imagine I’ll share this at the end of the year, if not sooner…) they just click on the link(s) each day in GC, and I get the blessing of having activities organized by class period… and even better… seeing that precious ROSTER of student names in real-time to ensure everyone is logged on with me, in the room AND in the Zoom…!
Graded Stuff and Not-Graded Stuff
During live lessons, we use Nearpod and Desmos Activities to drive our lessons. Students participate in the lesson activities every moment of the class period, and their thinking/work (often anonymous) is shared to promote dialogue and exploring multiple methods. I’m able to keep tabs on student progress in real time, and intervene just-in-time. Sometimes, student-paced Nearpod and Desmos Activities are assigned for homework as well. These are also not graded. (Note: I’ve created and collected resources for both tools and shared them in the sidebar to the right on my blog here, or you can visit my editable Nearpod lessons here and Desmos Activity Collections here.)
Additionally, sometimes we’ll play a live Kahoot! to review and reinforce concepts, and often, I’ll post Kahoot! challenge codes in Google Classroom for some asynchronous optional practice, review, and competition as well. (Note: I’ve created standards-aligned Kahoots! and shared them in the sidebar to the right on my blog here, or you can visit this link for Math 8 and this link for Algebra 1.)
Our “graded” assessments this year mostly live in two tools – ThatQuiz and Socrative Pro. While ThatQuiz’s platform is a bit dated, lacking bells and whistles of any sort, I really like this platform for assessing along the way. ThatQuiz can generate a skill quiz based on constraints set by the teacher, teachers can visit the Browse option to edit and assign assessments created by other teachers, and teachers can create assessments from scratch under the Design option. At the start of the school year, I create password-protected classes where each student logs in to find ThatQuizzes that have been assigned at whatever date and time the teacher chooses. There’s a running dashboard of student progress that can be viewed by any date range chosen, and the teacher can hammer down into each score to see precisely which questions students missed. One can even decide options like, do we want ThatQuiz to save student work/progress along the way, or not? Do we want students to receive feedback upon submission, or the grade only? Do we want to give students only one attempt, or let them redo the assignment with a set a threshold, such as earning 80% or higher? I love the flexibility ThatQuiz provides! (Check out my tag cloud for lots of ThatQuiz posts and ideas —->)
For summative end-of-unit assessments, we use Socrative Pro. While we are limited to having open-response and multiple-choice questions, we use our class time with Nearpod and Desmos to dig deeply into student work, taking our time as we progress through each unit of study. When it’s time for a summative assessment, we’ve taken the philosophy that students should have the freedom to choose the methods they like best, and complete exams that mimic the ultimate summative assessment *that they will still have to take this year ahem* the STAAR test. Summatively assessing an entire unit with roughly 45-minute class periods is a challenging task… and creating unit assessments using Socrative Pro makes things a bit more feasible. I also like that questions can be scrambled, and answer choices can be scrambled, to encourage the “integrity factor”. 🙂 And just like Classes in Desmos Activity Builder, Socrative Pro permits that oh-so-valuable class roster for each class testing room, so the teacher can see at-a-glance who has and has not logged in to the assessment at hand.
All of this being said, in an effort to streamline things for students and families, we’ve narrowed down our tools to this bunch:
Google Classroom —> Daily agenda and materials
Nearpod & Desmos Activity Builder —> Live lessons and occasional asynchronous homework
ThatQuiz —> Smaller assessments along the way
Socrative Pro —> Summative unit assessments
Kahoot! —> Optional practice & review
What am I missing?
If the activities and assignments students complete are in tools with built-in work flows already, convince me why I might use GC Assignments rather than only Materials in my Classwork? Or, is this an instance of… if you started using Google tools initially, and have invested time creating goodies there, you’re more apt to use them…? As you can see, I don’t use Assignments in Google Classroom at all… and perhaps that’s okay…?! Or, maybe, YOU know something I’m not seeing, and you can help me see it…? 🙂
I’m honored to have had some unique opportunities to share about teaching and learning with technology the past few months. Check out some highlights below.