Seesaw Improves How Students Interact with Teacher-Created Assignments

Back in March, Seesaw announced a set of updates that I’m pretty excited about.

For those of you not familiar with Seesaw, I often compare it to a combination of an LMS, a digital portfolio tool, and a parent/guardian communication tool.

Screengrab from Youtube Video showing the Seesaw app interface and the new updates for locking and unlocking items

It’s most often used by elementary teachers – case in point, 29.2% of the people who responded to my podcast survey use Seesaw, and of them almost 37% of them were PreK-6th grade teachers, and 0% were 7th-12th grade. (The other 63-ish% were in other roles like tech coaches etc.) It’s crazy though because it’s great for all ages.

Let’s talk about the updates!

  • In the past, if you sent an activity to your students, they were able to delete pages from the template. Now, students cannot delete the teacher-created pages, but they can create pages that they add.
  • In a similar vane, students were previously able to unlock parts of the template that the teacher had locked in place. Now, that option has been removed. If you lock it, your students cannot unlock it.
  • Previously, students could also reorder activity pages—typically by accident when scrolling—this has now been fixed. As the release says, they have ”adjusted the sensitivity of the reorder action in the Pages menu and disabled page reordering on drag gestures to prevent this issue..”
  • In the past, there were also problems with students accidentally creating new pages while drawing. They have now fixed that issue as well. 
  • And, finally, while many activities require students writing or drawing, some involve manipulatives that need to be moved around the screen. Previously, when opening one of these pages, the pen tool was selected and students ended up drawing on things instead of moving them.  Now, the app intelligently starts with the move tool if there are movable shapes and the pen tool if there are no movable shapes.

[Image Source: https://youtu.be/ax5EzL1iCDE?t=280, featuring the app interface from https://web.seesaw.me/]

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Microsoft’s Reading Progress tool – New Features!

Microsoft has added a set of additional features to its Reading Progress tool, and you’ll want to use them…

For those of you who haven’t heard of it, Reading Progress was originally launched in July 2021. It is as their site says, “a free tool to help teachers improve the process of creating, collecting, and reviewing reading assignments with powerful data and insights.

I remember about 10 years ago being a part of a big RTI (Response To Intervention) push at my old school. It’s probably partially because my wife was the school psychologist there and was in charge of the RTI program, but anyhow… we were doing lots of reading fluency and comprehension assessments and then putting interventions in place to support students. 

Reading Progress is a tool that seems to digitize all of that. It’s been around since July, but the real news is they have now added new features. The first, to quote the announcement, is “Actionable Insights [to help] educators quickly generate assignments based on the words that students struggled with most.” So, when an issue appears, the teacher doesn’t have to put in as much legwork to create practice assignments: the tool does it for them.

Teachers can now also return assignments “for revision so students can see fully marked-up passages . . . to learn from their mistakes” and then the students can do the assignment over again. You can then see if they have improved.

Back in November, they also added a “Return to Student” feature which allows educators to send a report back to students about their fluency passage performance. They’ve now added additional options for the teacher, letting them fully customize that report so that the students receive the information that you think is best for each of them.

Do you want them to see their correct words per minute? 

Their accuracy rate? 

Their mispronunciations? 

There are 10 different pieces of data that can be included and you can pick which ones your learner sees!

They’ve also added the ability to pick a page from a OneNote Class Notebook as a Reading Progress Passage – so the passages that they do for practice and for measuring their progress can be out of a OneNote Class Notebook. Prior to that addition teachers could add passages from ReadWorks, from a Teams file, from a OneDrive file, or from a file uploaded from your computer. Now, you can also grab a passage right from a OneNote Class Notebook. 

Finally, part of Reading Process is students recording videos of themselves reading the passages.

Previously, they could do that on desktop and web versions and, I assume, Windows devices, but now they’ve added the ability to do this on the iOS and Android apps as well.

 

 

 

[Image(s) Source: https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/education-blog/what-s-new-in-microsoft-teams-for-education-march-2022/ba-p/3249480#:~:text=use%20onenote%20class%20notebook%20pages%20as%20reading%20passages Continue reading Microsoft’s Reading Progress tool – New Features!

Google Classroom “Practice Sets”

Google is beta testing a formative assessment tool…

Illustration of students using Google Classroom's Practice Sets

Back in March Google announced a new Google Classroom feature called Practice Sets. Before I get too deep into this one, I want to point out: it’ll only be in the Teaching and Learning Upgrade or the Google Workspace for Education Plus (i.e. part of the paid plans).  It’s still in beta at this point, but I think it’s something that, if you have access to it, you’ll probably use. It’s a tool that combines formative assessment and automated feedback right inside Google Classroom

The teacher starts by adding (or typing up) a question, or set of questions. Practice Sets jumps right into gear by scanning the question using AI, tagging the content and skill, and preparing automated chatbot style hints and resources. I’m skeptical of this part – I mean, haven’t we all had that chatbot pop up on a site that we really needed help from and suggest irrelevant resources to us when we just wanted to talk to a human? We’ll see what we think of this!

Anyhow, it looks like it’ll have multiple choice, short answer, and extended response and will provide a math keyboard as well. Plus, students can respond with text or a drawing tool and, check this out math teachers, if the kids show their work, you’ll be able to see that too.

Most importantly, this tool auto-grades for you right inside Google Classroom, and your students will see if they were correct right away. Those built in hints and resources will pop up automatically if they’re wrong—or kids can click a button to see them if they need them.

On the back end, teachers get good data, a view of what students did, and automated insights. Again, it’s still in beta and it’s part of the paid plans, but it looks like it’s going to have lots of potential when it comes out! 

[Image Source: https://blog.google/outreach-initiatives/education/introducing-practice-sets/]

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Record your screen anywhere, with Chrome Extension ScreenPal

There’s a new free tool for video comments and video emails…

Screencast-o-matic recently announced a new Chrome Extension called ScreenPal, and it may just be a perfect addition to your edtech toolbox!

It is FREE, it lets you record your screen or webcam (or both) for up to 5 minutes, and it lets you do it from just about anywhere on the web.

You might be thinking, Jake, that sounds kinda like regular Screencast-o-matic or, for that matter, Screencastify or Loom. What’s different, though, is that it’s built to work in comment boxes and text boxes. 

ScreenPal Chrome Extension allows cropping of recordings and inserting screen recordings into comment and text boxes as an Edtech tool.In those boxes, you’ll see a tiny ScreenPal button—Grammarly users will be reminded of the Grammarly button. Anyhow, you click the button, select screen, webcam, or both, and then press record. You then preview the video to trim or crop it, and finally, insert that recording into the text box or comment box you were in.

I can’t believe that you can actually crop the video in this simple little tool!

Want to give a student feedback? Click the extension and pop it right into the comment box in Google Docs, Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, or whatever LMS you use. Now, it won’t work IN your Google Doc or Google Slides, for example, but it’ll work in the comments within those platforms. It also works in tweets within your email window so that you can explain with video (when you don’t feel like typing). You can access all of your recordings, too, which means you can reuse them later if needed! 

The only issue I see (so far) is that if you have both Mote and ScreenPal running, the buttons are on top of each other in some platforms—I’m going to send them that feedback.

Otherwise, this looks like a great tool.

And, elephant in the room, this tool is really similar to Mote – the major difference, of course, is audio vs. video. But, as I always say, there’s not one right tool for every person, or every situation. This one is definitely worth checking out.

BTW, if you have Screencast-o-matic Premium you’ll also be able to edit those ScreenPal videos later within the Screencast-o-matic site. I should note – since the videos are stored on their server, you’ll want to look into how that fits with your privacy and data regulations in your school.

[Image Source: https://screencast-o-matic.com/screenpal]

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New changes to the Gimkit Pro Plan

Gimkit is letting us play games with more students for free . . . 

In a recent post on the Gimkit blog, Josh Feinsilber, creator of Gimkit, announced changes to the Gimkit Pro plan.

I’m really excited about this, because the previous iteration of their Pro plan limited free users to only 5 players per game. It let you play any game, but only with 5 students. 

Gimkit DashboardNow they’ve announced in the “new free plan you’ll get unlimited access to our currently featured modes.” Those featured modes will change throughout the year, but other “modes are available to you, but with a 5 player limit.”

 

Gimkit Pro users then have unlimited access to every mode. There are a lot of fan favorites out there – like Trust No One, Floor is Lava, and Draw That – that you’ll be guaranteed access to

According to the blog post, Gimkit Pro users will also be able to upload images, record audio, & create assignments.

(Gimkit Pro costs $9.99 a month or $59.99 a year)

Continue reading New changes to the Gimkit Pro Plan

A new Social-Emotional Learning Tool: Microsoft Reflect

Microsoft is giving us an amazing new learning tool . . . 

with their recent launch of Reflect in Microsoft Teams for Education.

Reflect prompts students to check in about how they’re feeling, and even uses emojis and little monsters to connect facial expressions and body language to emotional vocab. This might help students with limited reading respond, but may also help students who are working on understanding social cues like facial expressions and body language. 

Reflect is a FREE tool!

The tool also lets students see their responses over time to look for patterns. Of course, another key step is teachers following up on concerning responses.

In March, they added the ability to build these self-assessments into OneNote. Reflect has increased functionality in One Note. As the blog post says, it lets students self-assess their “Progress and satisfaction in learning, motivation to learn, confidence, and effort.

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Scheduling for Multiple Classes in Google Classroom

Google has rolled out a long-awaited Google Classroom feature . . . 

On St. Patrick’s Day (better known as my birthday), Google for Education announced on the Google Workspace Updates page that, after a long wait, the ability to schedule stream posts, assignments, and materials for multiple classes in Google Classroom was available

It’s even better than I could have imagined because it also lets you select different due dates and different topics for your assignments!

I also really like the “Copy settings to all” option which lets you set it up for the first class, then copy those settings to all of the classes, then make changes. 

Let’s go over an example:

Say I want the assignment to launch simultaneously for all classes, but have different due times based on when I have that class period. Or maybe I just want to put them all in the same topic within the classes first, copy that, then modify the post times. I also like that I can select “post now” for some classes, but schedule for others.

Tutorial example in Google Classroom of scheduling posts for multiple classes.

I’m really happy with how this came out! Assignment and post scheduling is available in Google Workspace for Education Fundamentals, Education Standard, the Teaching and Learning Upgrade, and Education Plus customers (it can also be seen in my gmail account.)

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