schoology

Microsoft Sway

amadeus

So, it’s only January 3rd but it’s too hot to go outside so I am having a look at some new online tools, trying to figure out the best way to work with my students in Year 12 Literature this year.

I’ll certainly continue to make OneNote the basis of the notes, and am looking forward to the new OneNote Notebook Creator and the possibilities of Office 365 which we’re introducing this year, but will I continue to use Schoology and what else could I be bringing to the classroom?

One new tool I saw is Microsoft Sway, which claims to be a bit of a cross between PowerPoint and other tools like Prezi (Prezi makes me a little dizzy!)

Still in development, I played around with using Sway to introduce the task conditions for the first text, Amadeus by Peter Shaffer. It allows you to create a ‘storyline’ of images, text and share that via a weblink which is scrollable and looks pretty good. More features are coming.

You can see the result HERE (I don’t think you can embed it yet) Looks pretty interesting. Here’s the promotional video from Microsoft:

Advertisements

A deluge of possibilities

When you come back from some time away, particularly when you’re wandering around beautiful landscapes like I was, you do get out of the pace and rhythm of a school. So, it’s been a bit of a jolt coming back and getting used to timetables, bells, hundreds of daily interactions and the pace of the day.

And, one thing that has particularly struck me, in an area I’m very keen about, is technology. Schools seem to be at the center of a perfect storm of change, particularly in terms of ed-tech.

At my own workplace, for example, we’re grappling with the virtues of OneDrive and Google Apps for Education and probably going to opt for some of both. The OneNote notebook creator (see video below) looks like a great leap forward to this product that is so powerful, but so tricky for setup at times. We’ve been a school that uses Outlook and Office, so the collaborative features of OneDrive will be welcomed, but the sites and the survey tools in Google are excellent.

At the same we’re weighing up options for an LMS that might supplement or replace our current wikis, with teachers looking at things like Blackboard, Schoology, Edmodo and others. It’s an arms race of features out there. I’ve been using Schoology with my own teaching, and I think it’s terrific, but what about a reporting tool? And how’s the mobile app look?

Finally, we’re talking a lot about ebooks and replacing / supplementing the paper text books with e-book versions. Do we go with a single vendor, try to accommodate a range of vendors and portals or look for an aggregator? And how do we transition our teachers and parents to that model?

Lots to think about. Sometimes I think back to the simplicity of a day’s walking in Skye last term, but it sure is an exciting time to be a teacher. I’m pretty sure that OneNote will be part of my teaching next  year. Here’s that video:

First look at Schoology

So, it’s one week into using Schoology and pretty impressed so far. It has all the essentials you’d want to see in an LMS including flexible resources and management, assignments, discussion forums, file submission, even badges.

I’d like to see a better looking update system that’s not so teacher-centric, like when a student posts a discussion post or not so m manual. Students shouldn’t have to dig down through the folder list to see if there’s something new, and I shouldn’t have to manually tell them either.

This is how the resources are organised;  there’s folders that can contain a range of resources.

2014-02-07_13-45-04

In this folder there’s some PDFs, a JPG and a homework assignment. Assignments get reminders on the front and I get an email when a student has submitted some work.

2014-02-07_13-46-16

Early days but the rubric section looks pretty powerful. I set up a homework assignment with four criteria and a simple rubric and you can see here that one student has already submitted it. It was easy to mark, but the in-house editing and annotating tools were pretty clunky. It wouldn’t highlight where I pointed, and a comment spread over the whole document . In the end I chose the option of downloading the file, annotating in in Word, saving it, then uploading it again. A bit of a disappointment as far as work-flow goes.

Also, I haven’t found yet whether I’m able to just tick that something has been submitted (like a bit of homework) without assigning a grade.  It wants a number of letter. I’ve tinkered around with a simple rubric that says Done/Not Done, but even that wants to assign some points or grades.

 

2014-02-07_13-47-11

 

 

I did have a quick go at a class quiz and that does seem to have some pretty powerful features with a range of question types available like multiple choice, true/false, short answer and match-up the answers like here:

2014-02-07_14-19-58

 

 

In the end, whether Schoology works will be in the workflow for me and my students.  It’s got to be better than email, or a shared Dropbox folder. So far, it’s promising, but the fact that new resources don’t automatically create an  update, and that the in-house annotating tools are so bad, it might not last for me or my students as a tool beyond our initial semester trial.

 

The Tools I Use

Inspired by Darcy Moore’s round-up of tools he used this year on a regular basis, I thought it’s been a while since I wrote about the software and hardware I’ve been getting the most value from this year. Lots of similarities with his list, and some differences and lots of changes since I last did a list like this.

OneNote and Evernote

I can never really finally decide between these two great note-taking tools. Evernote is friendlier but OneNote is so tightly integrated into the Microsoft Office ecosystem that you can’t ignore it. Basically I use OneNote as my main teaching tool and meeting notes tool and Evernote as my collection of random snippets, how to guides, instructions, manual and web links etc. The nicest thing about Evernote is how beautifully it works on my iPhone, my iPad, my iMac and my notebook PC

Ulysses and Scrivener

For writing articles, blog posts, poems and just notes I’ve moved to Ulysses on the MAC and to it’s IOS counterpart Daedalus Text Editor on the iPad and iPhone. It’s one of the nicest iterations of that minimalist writing interface that is so popular these days and I’ve moved from iWriter and WriteRoom this year, which I both like. Please note, the new version of Writer (Writer Pro) is terrible and a rip-off at $20. I also like SimpleNote a lot, for putting some text somewhere and being able to work with it in multiple places.

Twitter

As for many teachers Twitter is my de-facto personal learning network. It use TweetBot on the iPad and generally check Twitter twice a day and email useful links around; to Evernote or to …

Pocket

Pocket is a fantastic off-site reading app. I save interesting articles to Pocket to read later, on any platform.

WordPress

I moved this blog from Blogger to WordPress a while ago and haven’t regretted making that change. The ads can be a bit annoying, but you get what you pay for I guess.

Diigo

I’ve been putting my bookmarks in Diigo for years. When I get a new computer, or change computers, I just login and they’re there. The tags are the things that make it work. I often use tags or specific lists to share with students. Here’s an example of a list, for my Literature class.

Feedly

Though I use Mr Reeder on the iPad mostly, all my RSS feeds are now powered by Feedly. Some folk say that Twitter has replaced RSS, but I still find the ability to subscribe to blogs and pages invaluable. For example, I can’t imagine how I’d cope with keeping up to date with my students who are blogging if I had to go in and check all those blogs individually.

Dropbox

I’ve used this for syncing my stuff between work and home for ages, but this year I set up a shared folder for my students to upload their essays and writing practice as they were mostly scanned and too big to email. It worked a treat.

Skydrive

This is Microsoft’s Dropbox, and getting better. I migrated all my PC files to Skydrive so I can access them from the Mac at home. It’s not failsafe yet, but has improved a lot.

GoogleDocs

Lots of teachers at my school are getting excited about Google Docs and I’ve used it for student and teacher surveys, for student group work annotating key passages and for collaborating with other teachers on joint presentations. It still feels a bit clunky to write in a Google Doc, but I can’t imagine where this will be in three years time.

Text Expander

This little text utility has saved me heaps of time. For example I type /lacg and out pops Learning and Curriculum Group. Multiply that saving a zillion times!

GoodReads

I keep my reading list on GoodReads and encourage my Literature students and writing students to do the same. I’ve vacillated between this and Shelfari over the years so I guess it mostly depends on where your friend are. I think they’re both owned by Amazon now.

Schoology

We don’t have an official LMS at school and use blogs and wikis extensively. Last year I had a look at Edmodo for a while but this year I’m going to try Schoology as the learning ‘hub’ for my class and see how that works. Will keep you updated.

Chrome

My favourite browser, especially with the number of great extensions like Evernote clipper, LastPass (password manager), Pocket, Readability,

Things

Things has replaced all my old to-do apps this year. It looks and works great on Macs and IOS but not on Windows. I used TaskPaper and liked it a lot but the lack of reminders finished that for me in the end.

Filemaker Pro

I’ve been using this database for years, sometimes for keeping track of student record keeping, my own writing or wine collection (!) or just a Christmas card list. It’s more powerful than any of those purposes but that’s okay; I’ve invested so much time in learning how to use it, I’m not going to stop now.

Day One

About eighteen months ago I started keeping a daily journal in Day One, available on Mac, iPad, and iPhone. It’s a great little app with photo, location and weather data built in and it’s helped me write and reflect every day.

What are your favourite tools? I wonder how different this list will look this time next year?