Screencastify for Feedback

I’ve done a number of posts about Screencastify, but recently I was reading a blog post that presented an idea that I had not previously thought of.  In it, the author talks about using a screencasting tool to give both visual and auditory feedback on a student’s work.  It seems to me that this would be so much more useful for a student than just comments on the doc.  Plus they’d be more likely to view it.

Add in the ease of use with Screencastify – quickly sharing in Google Drive – and you’ve got a win-win.  Below is a GIF I made to share the process.  In the GIF, I am giving (fake) feedback on a Google Doc, but it could be anything.  I could even show how it falls on a rubric within the video!

You could even have students give each other feedback this way!

One last note – if you start doing this regularly, you could create one folder in your Drive for each of your students and then drag the videos into those folders for the students to view.

Screencastify for Feedback Animation

Captain Doofus & the Traffic Circle

We all have our irrational pet peeves.  Our things that are “small potatoes” but make us want to gouge someone’s eyeballs out.

One of mine is people who don’t know how to drive in a traffic circle.  You know the guy.  That doofus that stays on the outside of the circle even though they’re going 75% of the way around the darn thing.  Everyone sits waiting in suspense at the entrances to the circle, wondering “Will this be the lucky street that this fantastic driver turns on?”  No one can tell.  It literally could be any exit.  And we all have to stay out of Captain Doofus’ way because you just… don’t… know.

“Hey Kids, Big Ben! Parliament!” – GIF from giphy.com, originally from the 1985 movie National Lampoon’s European Vacation

Anyhow, I digress.  One day I was entering a traffic circle and there he was.  Captain Doofus.  I started to mutter driving instructions for him.  “Stay to the inside until you near your exit, dude!”  At one point, while starting to yell out, “How do you not know how a traffic circle works, doofus!?” I realized . . . a lot of people do it wrong.  And if that many people don’t follow the same process that I follow in a traffic circle, are they wrong . . . or is the traffic circle itself wrong?

If like 25% of users can’t use something correctly, the design itself needs to be reevaluated.  This reminded me of education (as things tend to do).  I can remember grading tests and groaning “ugh, they all got this question wrong!”  After further reflection, I’d often realize that either the question was unintentionally confusing or my instruction had led them astray.

That’s an oft-forgotten reason that we do formative assessment.  Not just to assess our learners, but to assess our instruction and content.  If a large portion of our learners are confused, we need to re-think our strategies, design and assessment.

Unsurprisingly, there are a few recently built traffic circles in my area that have signs, lanes and arrows painted in the lanes.  If the drivers were using the traffic circle wrong, you’ve got to change the traffic circle . . . because you can’t change all of the drivers!  And these newer circles changed to accommodate the users.

The moral of the story – Captain Doofus may not be a doofus.  You may have just designed a really confusing traffic circle.  Or he may have attended a crumby driving school.  But your best move is to design a more doofus-friendly traffic circle.

Schoology – Requiring Assessment Mastery Before Moving on

In Sal Khan’s phenomenal TED Talk Let’s Teach for Mastery – Not Test Scores, he illustrates the lack of focus on mastery in most classrooms with this metaphor:

To appreciate how absurd [teaching based on a pacing guide, not mastery] is, imagine if we did other things in our life that way. Say, home-building.

So we bring in the contractor and say, “We were told we have two weeks to build a foundation. Do what you can.”

So they do what they can. Maybe it rains. Maybe some of the supplies don’t show up. And two weeks later, the inspector comes, looks around, says, “OK, the concrete is still wet right over there, that part’s not quite up to code … I’ll give it an 80 percent.”

You say, “Great! That’s a C. Let’s build the first floor.”

He continues with this great metaphor, but I’ll stop there because the point is clear: it’s silly to have students move to the next topic or skill before they’ve mastered the one they’re on.  With technology, we have tons of ways to ensure this mastery.

In Schoology, you can require students exceed a minimum assessment score prior to moving on to the upcoming content.  And, if they don’t do well enough?  Have them learn from their mistakes, get better, re-take the assessment and then move on.

Here’s how to do it, first in GIF form and then in step-by-step form.

Requiring Test Mastery in Schoology Animation

  1. Go to the Materials Page for your course.
  2. Click Add Materials > Assessment.
  3. Create your Assessment.
  4. Include in the instructions a note about the minimum score and their ability to retake the assessment.
  5. Go to “Settings” inside of the assessment.
  6. Change the Attempt Limit to Unlimited (or some other greater than 1 option)
  7. Decide how you’d like it to be graded.  I go with “highest score.”
  8. Turn on Submissions (if you’re ready)
  9. Go back to your materials page.
  10. Click on Options > Student Completion.
  11. Set up Student Completion for your pages and assignments.
  12. For the Assessment, Select “Member must score at least” and enter the minimum score you’d like students to obtain.

We can’t take offense to them ignoring it before if they hear it NOW!

In a past school year, a colleague and I were trying hard to sell the teachers in our building on a certain technology tool.  The name of the tool doesn’t really matter.  All that mattered is, we considered it a top priority – a tool that could really benefit students.  So, we shared about it in emails, in team meetings, in staff meetings, in more casual conversations, anywhere that we could get an audience for it.

Later, one of the teachers attended a technology conference.  They came back and were super-excited about a fantastic, exciting, new technology tool.  They planned to use it the next day and couldn’t be prouder to have discovered it.

Yup, you guessed it: it was the same tool that we had been beating the drum for all year long.

My colleague was mad.

Colleague: “We’ve shared about this tool so many times and [this teacher] ignored us each time . . . and now she sees thinks she discovered it!?”

Me: “Who cares.

Colleague: “What!? How does this not make you mad?  You recorded videos, you wrote emails, you presented about it in meetings . . . “

Me: “But . . . what was our goal?”

Colleague: “To get teachers to use it.”

Me: “Then we’ve met our goal and the students will benefit.”

The truth is, it’s hard not to be frustrated and offended in this situation.  You pour yourself into your role as a tech coach (whether it’s official or unofficial) and work your tail off to try to expose teachers to the ideas that you believe in.  And when they ignore it, it hurts.  And when they discover it elsewhere and don’t even recall you sharing it, it hurts more.

But . . . it doesn’t matter.  As long as the improvement happens, as long as the students benefit, as long as they hear the message from someone – even if it’s not you – you’ve met your goal.  Take a deep breath and offer to support them in implementing that new tool!

We can’t take offense to them ignoring it before if they hear it NOW!

How Many Hot Dog Topping Combinations?

It was 6:12 PM EST.  We were eating dinner on our deck.  My sister messaged me.  She had a very important question.  Her and her colleagues were in a heated debate.  Just how many topping combinations were there at Cleveland’s fun hot dog restaurants Happy Dog?  I know, right?  This is a big deal.  Could I swoop in and save the day?  Yes.  Er, well, with the help of my trusty sidekick Google Sheets I could.  (Excel would have worked, but what if I need to access the calculations on the go?  or share them?  Yup, I made the right choice.  gSuite’s trusted cloud-based spreadsheet is the way to go here.)

So, I got the details.  There are 50 toppings possible.  No limits (you can do all 50, as my oldest son might choose) or minimums (0 toppings, as my youngest son prefers them, counts too).  Variations on the dog (veggie?  black bean!?) or bun (bleck, wheat?) were to be ignored.

I set right to it.  I picked a trusty Google Sheets formula – Combin – and got to work.  That formula deals with a common mathematics formula that finds the number of combinations of something.  You need only know two things – how many possible things and how many are to be chosen (i.e., 50 toppings choose 1, 50 toppings choose 2, etc.).  Now, don’t get this mixed up with permutations where order matters, because no one cares if you go peanut butter, sriracha, alien relish or alien relish, peanut butter, sriracha or … well … you get it.

COMBIN(nk) where n is the size of the pool of objects to choose from and k is the number of objects to choose.

The rest is history.  Check it out in the GIF below.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to tell you the answer: 1,125,899,906,842,620 – one quadrillion, one hundred twenty-five trillion, eight hundred ninety-nine billion, nine hundred six million, eight hundred forty-two thousand, six hundred twenty combinations.

Side note to math teachers: I love how the numbers are symmetrical (i.e., there are 1,225 different 2-topping dogs and 1,225 different 48-topping dogs).  Could be a great discussion with math students.

Now, here’s how I did it:

Happy Dog Combinations Animations

Screencasts in Math Class

Years ago, as a middle school math teacher, I had a dilemma.  My 51 minute math classes had been shortened to 43 minutes.  As any teacher knows, this is a big deal.  After wrestling with a lot of ideas for how to handle here’s what I landed on:

Each day, during my planning period, I pressed record in a screencasting program called Jing, stepped up to the SmartBoard and went over the day’s homework as if my class was there.  (I’m sure I looked like I had lost my marbles to any passerby) I did it quickly, forcing myself to keep it under 5 minutes.  Any longer would mean 2 things: my assignment was too long and I was using to much class time to explain content that my students had already done.

The next day, I would play that video while taking attendance, checking to see who did their homework and meeting with any students who had been absent.  This allowed me to combine two sets of things that I had previously done–going over the homework and doing the beginning of class teacher stuff–at once.  It made up for those 8 lost minutes, and then some.

Nowadays, my philosophies about homework and classrooms where all students are doing the same thing at the same time has changed, so I wouldn’t repeat this format.  However, I think these recordings would still be valuable in a blended learning setting.  When students finish certain assignments, they could view the videos to self-assess and learn more.  Learning Management Systems and websites really open up the possibilities on this.

Here’s a sample of one of these videos:

The Problem with Fidget Spinners . . .

The Problem with Fidget Spinners . . . is not the distractions.  It’s not the noise.  It’s not even the obsessive collecting.  It ain’t the disruptions to classmates.  It’s not the who’s-got-the-best-spinner drama either.  It’s definitely not that they annoy some teachers.  And it’s not that they may cost parents a lot of money.

It’s that kids need them.  It’s that our youth – and our society in general – see school as an experience that is so mind-numbingly, torturously boring that we assume that kids need something to fidget with during it.  It’s that learning, in many classrooms, is seen as a passive behavior and that students need something active to do with their hands while it happens.

Make learning experiences that make your students want to put their spinners away.

Mimic Movement in Scratch by changing “costumes”

Scratch is a great tool for students to tell stories, prove comprehension, practice language skills and . . . well, be creative.  Here’s an important skill to master:

Figuring out how to make things move is pretty easy.  Often, though, they look like they’re sliding or gliding. How do you make them seem animated? Most sprites in Scratch have costumes. By using the “next costume” block with a “repeat” block, you can make them appear to be running, jumping, walking, heck, even dabbing.

Scratch - Change Costumes Animation

Important Tip: if you don’t put a “wait” block in there, the costume will change repeatedly without you (or your viewer) seeing it.  To Scratch, it’s changing over and over instantly – to us, it’s just the same costume the whole time.

Another Tip: if your sprite doesn’t have a second costume that makes it appear to move . . . make one!  Duplicate the 1st costume and edit it to make a 2nd one!

 

Comparing & Contrasting College Admissions and the NFL Draft

Every April, executives and coaches from the 32 NFL Teams prepare to select the college football players that they will add to their roster. For months leading up to this event, their scouts pour over every morsel of information that they can find on the hundreds of players available for the picking.  And talking heads at ESPN and other sports media outlets talk about all of it.  Anyhow…. how does this relate to school? Continue reading Comparing & Contrasting College Admissions and the NFL Draft

Scratch as a Content Area Tool

Scratch, developed by a group at MIT, has a tremendous reputation as a computer science learning & creation tool.  But, I believe it is under-appreciated as a tool for the content areas.

It is a great way for students to show their mastery of content standards, while honing their computer science skills and practicing the 4 C’s.  It’s also a great way for educators to create content for their students to interact with.

This summer, I hope to make some examples of how Scratch can be used in content areas.  For now, here’s a little taste:

Scratch in Edu Animation