Tech Tuesday #12: What to Do When There’s Not Enough Classroom Tech

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In today’s post, I aim to shatter the number one myth I encounter as a teacher tech trainer: “I can’t use technology if everyone doesn’t have a device.” I can address this myth, because I overcame it in my own classroom, and you can too! My most recent classroom teaching experience was as a high school English teacher. Because our school was overcrowded, I got to live in trailer land, cottageville, or whatever you want to call it. I had twenty-four laptops in a car I had earned years ago, but at this point, they were slow-to-boot and not always the best choice for quick formative assessments. I also had one iPad (more about that later), as well as two desktops. The bottom is that, while I did have devices for some students, I had to rely on student phones for much of what we did in class.

Five Ideas for Using Your Limited Technology

There was never a day I taught that I had 1:1 devices for my students; however, I found a way to use technology with students almost every day in my class. Here are five ideas from my classroom to inspire you to make the most of your devices as well, specifically student phones.

Number 1: The One-Question Quizzer

It was always hard for me to use other people’s lesson plans. However, as a new American Lit teacher a few years ago, I turned to my best friend, Teachers Pay Teachers, for inspiration. One unit I purchased was from Laura Randazzo to teach Huck Finn. She gave me the idea to give students a one-question quiz on each night’s reading. Students came in every day, took out their phones, and followed a shortlink to a Google Form where I had put her questions. If they had read, it was very quick. Of course, I had to walk around while they quizzed, but the quizzers were great for phone-accessibility, and the data was ready for me at the end of the quiz to inform my instruction for that day. What about kids without phones, you ask? My two desktops and my one iPad were both available as supplementary devices, but I honestly had no problem with kids sharing phones; after one kid was done submitting, he could pass his phone to his neighbor for a quick turn answering the quiz. (P.S. If the kids did cheat this way, they were very bad at it ;))

Number 2: Reading Comprehension Checks

Another idea for using the phone devices that students do have is to create short formative assessments. Sites such as Socrative or Kahoot make review fun. In my classroom, I loved using Newsela as a site for nonfiction content related to fiction I was addressing in my class. However, the quizzes were pretty difficult.  By using the more gamified sites, I was able to quiz over those articles quickly with student phones and they thought they were just having fun. Two students could again share if the quizzes were short enough.

Number 3: Lightning Debates with Instant Feedback

One of my final teaching posts entailed me teaching honors 9th grade lit. Those kids loved to debate. They may not have been interested in everything I did in class, but if there was a chance to argue or make their points, they were certainly interested in that. Here’s where their phones came into play and made debating more fun and relevant. I lined students up facing another student in desks. They had previously researched a controversial topic such as euthanasia when I taught Tuesdays with Morrie. As the students went back in a point-counterpoint style debate, the other students had phones out and were able to vote for the winner in the three minutes that the the debate took. At the end, I had a grade on the rubric and was able to add bonus points for the winning student in each team. None of this required computers or iPads, just the devices in their pockets.

Number 4: Video Feedback

I’ve mentioned several times on the blog that the feedback students care most about is not the teacher’s. It’s that of their classmates or the greater world. This next idea for using phones when there aren’t enough regular devices addresses that need. I used Poll Daddy, which allows you to create free polls that are embeddable on a website. When students completed a video project, such as the time I had them present grammar terms or vocabulary words in a fun video, they were able to share the voting link with family and friends both inside and outside the school. Whoever got the most votes was declared the winner of Lolley’s Red Carpet Awards. How did students do their voting? From a phone 🙂

Number 5: Free Phone Apps for Classroom Tools

Finally, a last way to take advantage of non-traditional devices that students already carry is to connect them to free apps that support your learning management system or class digital notebook. The apps I like are OneNote, Canvas LMS, and any of the Google apps. Again, all are free and all are perfectly powerful on handheld devices.

Three Ideas for Getting More Classroom Devices

I’ve talked a lot in today’s  post about how to use hand-held technology, but what if you don’t even have that? What if your classroom is a no tech land? I have three ideas for you. Number one is to submit a Donors Choose Grant. Of course, you need to follow your district’s guidelines on how grants can be submitted, but if this high school teacher who generally didn’t get presents could get donations enough to buy class iPad, so can you.

Tip number two is ask parents to send in old phones. I don’t know about you, but I have at least one or two phones sitting in a drawer at my house. They’re not in service either because we upgraded or because they weren’t functional for what we wanted to use them for. However, if they can connect to Wi-Fi, the pared-down versions may be perfectly good for what needs to happen in your classroom. Tap those parent resources.

Finally, as I tell some of my schools that are not one to one, use what you have. Even if it’s small, if you can prove to your district or your parents or whoever is holding the purse strings that you are determined to use technology in your classroom despite the limitations, it’s going to send a message to somebody and when there is technology to give, I’m sure it will come to you.

No man is an island, and neither is a classroom teacher. Though I thought of some ideas for using the tech you have and even getting more, I would love to hear yours. Share something that will rock my socks off in the comments below.

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

Check out the video below, which is embedded from the Facebook Live Tech Tuesday session I host every week at facebook.com/techlolley at 8PM EST.

Automate Your Life by Connecting Favorite Online Tools with IFTTT

I am just slightly hyper, as anyone who knows me can attest. However, I still need help. I can’t possibly get everything I want to do done in the day, and I’m sure you’re the same way, right? Enter a really cool product called, “If This, Then That,” or IFTTT for short. IFTTT provides a way to have two tools in your online life talk to each other and allow automation you never thought possible. For example, your Twitter account can send photos to Facebook, or Facebook can send tagged photos of you to your Google Photos account. Cool, right?
Watch this video to see how other IFTTT applets just could be work-life changing.

Tech Tuesday #9: Four Powerful Tools for Student Engagement

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I’m what you might call a free spirit. For that reason, I probably should never commit to doing a blog series, because if something more interesting catches my attention, I will definitely abandon the series to go to that topic. That’s just what happened when I paused to talk about blended learning and email/file straight-up strategies. Anyway, here is the long-awaited conclusion for my series on choosing the right tools for your classroom. In previous weeks on Facebook Live and in this blog, I have addressed how to choose assessment tools as well as content delivery tools and my favorite recommendations for each. If you missed those parts of this series, go back and read them or watch the videos. So with part three, we’re going to talk about student engagement tools. No matter what grade you teach, you probably struggle at least some of the time with your students’level of engagement. I know I did and still do, even with my adult students. And we’re only making the problem worse when we lecture or do worksheets or even show videos for extended amounts of time with no application. I’ve referred to the 10-2 method as I’ve discussed benefits of blended learning and other best practices. What do you do, though, with those two minutes of application? Well today, I have four tools I’d like you to try when you’re ready to engage your students. But before we get down to the tools, let’s talk my favorite topic: pedagogy. How do you know what tool to choose? What if the tools I recommend don’t work in your school or those companies go out of business? You can’t get too attached to a tool. I’ve learned that as one of my favorites, Office Mix, is retiring in a couple months. I have to instead get attached to what the tool does, and that’s what I want to help you learn as well. So without further ado, let’s dive In.

 Choosing the Right Engagement Tools

 What are the best features you should look for when you’re trying to find a tool to engage your students mid-lesson?
  1. First of all, look for live response. There’s nothing that excites a kid more than to see his or her name or nickname pop up on the board with a response. It could be exactly the same thing that we previously would have had them put on a sticky note, draw on the dry erase board, or write on a piece of paper. It’s not the topic. It’s the methodology.
  2. Next, you will want a tool that will allow you to have either anonymous or name-associated posts. Sometimes you need your students to be accountable for what they write. At other times, though, you might be looking for survey tools that will allow your students to do a response, especially if you’re expecting honest answers. Make sure what you pick is appropriate for the job. You could use a tool that allows anonymous or named posts, or you could use two different tools for either one. That might add some nice variety anyway.
  3. Number three, and this is basic, is to choose a tool kids like. Referring to what I just said in tip two, that pursuit of the elusive student interest might mean that you have to change things up every once in awhile. I showed the tool Sway, which I’ve discussed in a separate post, to a sweet male teacher a couple years ago. He fell so in love with it that he said, “Suzy, I’m having my kids make a Sway every week!” While I shared his excitement about loving this tool, I’m sure the kids did not enjoy working with the same tool week after week. So pick a good one, but don’t be afraid to change it up.
  4. Number four is to make sure the tool is free or affordable. You are the boss of how you spend your money, and maybe you’re still in one of those blessed school districts that still has classroom budgets to give out. Or maybe you can talk PTA into giving you some money. But if not, free is the way to go. If you do decide to pay for a tool, look at how many times you’re going to use it and divide that up from the total cost. That way you can see if you’re really using a tool that’s worth it.
  5. My last tip before we go diving into some of my favorite tools is to make sure that the tool does not mine student data. I am loving the new Common Sense Privacy Evaluation Initiative research. I was at ISTe when the organization launched this initiative to a small group of us at dinner, and the project asks companies to evaluate and provide evidence of their abilities to protect student privacy. I know it may not come to our minds all the time, which is why I’m sharing this tip here, but you really should care about what the cost of free is. Make sure the tool does not give away more than you would want to share about your classroom and the students in it.

Four Powerful Tools for Student Engagement

Now let’s get into the fun part and the reason that so many teachers go to conferences. I get it. You want tools you can use today or tomorrow. So let’s get down to business.
  1. Have you heard of Mentimeter? It’s a great pulling tool that allows you to collect student options in word clouds and eleven other ways. From their phones or devices, students simply go to menti.com and put in a code for your presentation. Preparation on your part is minimal, and students can respond to form a word cloud, take a poll, take a quiz, and more. If you’re using the tool to have students vote or give feedback to each other, I also love the ability to present only the winner, complete with a confetti celebration. Here’s a video that shows how the tool works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfKj2s69nio   Mentimeter has been the go-to tool at many conferences I’ve attended recently, so it definitely merited a place on my list. However, I don’t want to ignore the tried-and-true.
  2. Poll everywhere is a tool I’ve used for years. Though I’ve been out of the classroom for 5 years, I’ve still found use for this tool even in church camp settings. It allows students to respond to an open poll, again in word cloud or graph style. A practical classroom use I had for Poll Everywhere was the ability to have my students instantly vote on debates. I matched my freshman students in mini one-to-one debates for three minutes. At the end of each debate, other students were instantly able to vote for the winner. Though I graded everyone individually, the winner received bonus points. It was a great motivating factor. Any time that students can give instant feedback, that feedback is going to be more valuable. Also, the fact that the feedback comes from peers makes it ten times more exciting for students than if the teacher had just graded them.
  3. My third tool is Today’s Meet. Again, it’s an oldie but a goody, and I don’t want to assume that everyone’s heard of it. Today’s Meet allows you to open up a temporary room where students can chat or answer question you’ve provided. After the amount of time that you selected, the link deactivates, but there is a transcript feature while it’s still open. When I was first introduced to back-channeling, maybe ten years ago, this is one of the tools that caught my attention, and it still works well. A neat little feature that it has also is that students can’t put their full name in. When they start to type more than one word, it limits them–the tool respects student privacy. Try this fun little tool for shy kids in your class who may need to have an ongoing chat with you but don’t want to ask questions in front of everybody. You can also read any questions at the end of the lesson and answer them.
  4. Finally, Microsoft Forms is definitely a favorite. It replaced Excel Survey a few years ago,and has a beautiful layout that I was missing with the older tool. You can give surveys and graded quizzes. It also embeds beautifully in your learning management system or in a Sway. If you need to collect easy data and have beautiful visuals at the end of it, Forms is worth checking out. I actually did a whole webinar on this tool. Though some of the interface has updated, the basics are the same and I think you might find the webinar helpful.

Want to know more? Watch this video for a quick sample of all four tools in action.


So those are my tools and tips. I want to end, though, with two other little tidbits you might find valuable. First of all, try taking your link from one of the tools and pairing it with either a QR code or a short link or both. Any way that you can make the student link more accessible will just speed up the ability for students to get there quickly and to interact with you. You don’t want to waste the two minutes out of the 10-2 method just getting to the link. Also, as I stated earlier, you want to make sure your students have each other as the audience as often as possible. In addition to the debate idea I gave you, here’s another idea: two groups of students who need to give speeches could do so over Skype or video conference. As one student is speaking, the students in the other class are giving compliments and critiques via one of the tools we suggested above. These are just two more ways to get your students flowing with technology and engagement. 

Do you have other engagement tips or tools? I’d love for you to share them in the comments below.
With Tech and Twang,

Interactive Student Review with Better Flashcards: Pear Deck Flashcard Factory

Every year, I go to a technology conference here in Georgia that has about 4,000 attendees. It’s no ISTE, but it’s nothing to sneeze at either. There always a ton of new ideas, and I never can get to everything I want to see. Especially when I’m nervous about presenting.
However, there are some years when I feel like I don’t learn much that is totally revolutionary. This year was that way. My one standout was learning about Flashcard Factory. It wasn’t even its own session but really just an ear-catching moment in another session. But it’s stuck with me because I thought the concept was so cool.

Discover this Cool Tool!

If you’ve heard of Pear Deck, which integrates with Google products, you may not know that they just came out with Flashcard Factory as well. The teacher generates a list of vocabulary words and correct definitions for students. Just that fact makes all the difference. If you’ve ever had your students look up words in the dictionary, you know that, without fail, they find a definition that has nothing to do with what you wanted them to learn. Not so with Flashcard Factory. Using your provided information, they are assigned to a day shift or night shift team in the factory. They sit together in small groups and come up with illustrations and examples for the words and definitions. You then are the quality control to accept or reject definitions that later go into a master set. Intrigued? I was. Watch the video below to see how some real teachers helped me practice this process that you will love using with your students.

Want more cool tools? This video was part of the Twelve Days of Tech-mas, originally hosted at my Facebook Fan Page. Go follow and like it now so you can be in the live audience every Tuesday when my newest tip goes live. But don’t worry if you missed a few. They’re all linked right here:

Day 1: Digital Writing and Drawing

Day 2: Creating Custom Breakout Edu Games

Day 3: New Ideas for Using QR Codes in the Classroom

Day 4: Pretty Up Your Online Life with Colors and Emojis

Day 5: Favorite Chrome Extensions for Teacher Productivity

Day 6: The Best Six Podcasts for Teachers and Teacherpreneurs

Day 7: Creating Your Own Free Embed Code

Day 8: Interactive Student Review with Better Flashcards: Pear Deck Flashcard Factory YOU ARE HERE! 🗺️ 🌍

Day 9: Recognize Incremental Learning and Increase Motivation with Badging

Day 10: Create Recipe Lists and Auto-Populated Emails with Office Quick Parts

Day 11: Automate Your Life by Connecting Favorite Online Tools with IFTTT

Day 12: Organize URLs and Enhance Productivity using Excel Spreadsheets and OneDrive

 

Tech Tuesday #5: Ten Tips for Blended Learning Done Right

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Blended learning is a relatively new concept to me. I certainly was implementing some online or technology-driven learning in my classroom a few years ago. However, the concept of blended learning was just really a phrase in the back of my mind. Thus, with my district implementing a Learning Management System (LMS) which allows for blended learning for the first time on a widespread basis, I thought it would be important for me to learn more about it.

I just got back from the TCEA Conference in Austin, Texas. At that conference, I decided to change my normal pursuit of gamification strategies to a two prong attack on a different subject line. I followed the track of blended learning, and then also within that subgenre, using an LMS with little children. I hope to share some of those second ideas more in a further post. Today’s post, though, is all about the logistics of blended learning, specifically my top ten tips for those who want to start it off right.

Ten Tips for Blended Learning Done Right

Number one. Use your learning management system as a one-stop-shop. Again, I want to go further into LMS for Littles in a further post, but suffice it to say here that you need your students to believe that everything they need to be successful in your class is found in one place, and that’s the LMS. Now, blended learning means that students have face-to-face and online learning. Thus the blend. However, the learning management system is certainly an integral part of the operation. If you don’t send your students there frequently, they don’t have a habit, and they don’t know how to login. They need to know that you are putting all of your best resources there for them to use. Forming a habit with students and parents will strengthen your ability to blend in one of the four situations I’m about to discuss.

Blended learning involves student control, at least part of the time, in each of the four areas which I will specify as blended learning tips 2 through 5.

Time, Place, Path, and Pace

Number 2. Students need control over their path. Maybe some students need to navigate through video content while other students need an article or a worksheet. The bottom line is that students have different needs and thus, they need different opportunities to learn. We call that paths in blended learning. Some teachers get as detailed as making personalized playlists for students. Maybe you’re not ready there yet,  but it’s important that students are at least beginning to exercise choice over the path of their learning.

Tip three. Students also should have some control over their pace. Give me a literature passage, and I can dissect it in no time. I can give you brilliant insights on the metaphors and the symbols and the characterization. But give me a calculus problem, and you will definitely see my pace become different. It should be all right for students to master content when they’re ready, whether that be faster than everybody else or slower. Pace is a huge component of a successful blended learning.

Number 4: students should also have control over time. Now I’m going to go ahead and discuss the big elephant in the room. I don’t mean that your students should be doing all their work at home and then coming to your class and acting like maniacs in their free time. What I do mean, though, is that if they work better in the morning or in the evening, we should account for that preference at least part of the time. I definitely work best in the early morning hours. As a matter of fact, I’ve often thought I would be just as productive if I only worked half the day 🙂 Training students to prioritize their most important tasks at their most productive times is also valuable life skill and one that is perfect for blended learning. If they have a playlist or a hyperdoc or a module in a learning management system that they can attack in their preferred order, that prioritization really will go a long way in their success.

Tip number five. The last area in which students should have control in blended learning is over place. This concept can range from flexible seating in the classroom to being able to do some work in the media center or at home or in a blended learning period. Blended learning makes possible this flexibility and place that is crucial to success.

Three Benefits of Blended Learning

My 6th tip is that blended learning done well should allow you to buy back time. Imagine all the processes that you explain over and over or the concepts that are something that students need to study in review. If you’re able to turn those into your online modules and then work with students who still don’t get them after repeated exposures, you are buying back both students’ time and your own time. The video content is doing the work that you might have had to do in twice as much time.

In the same vein, tip number 7 is it blended learning allows you to clone yourself. You may have students on multiple learning paths, but there may only be one teacher in the room. I know when I taught high school that was usually the case. Even students who were on special ed consultation didn’t necessarily have a caseworker or co-teacher in the room. Blended learning allows you to create content for most of the students most of the time so that you can pull small groups of students that you need to either enrich or remediate to your desk while the others are getting high-quality instruction.

I hope that those of you who are teachers and parents will appreciate tip number 8. It is to make blended learning, in both its explanation and its execution, simple enough that parents can help. We can pretend that parents won’t access the learning management system from home on behalf of their students, but instead, let’s find meaningful ways for them to participate. Let’s create videos that show how to navigate our system. Let’s eliminate options that are unclear in our menus or on our settings. Let’s make sure that parents who want to help their students to be successful can find what they need, and thus that students will truly be more empowered in their quest for time, place, path, and pace.

Number nine is crucial for every type of learning, not just blended. In addition to strong content, engagement has to be a priority. Just slapping some resources up in a module is creating a $1,000 pencil or another boring digital textbook. It’s not going to further the learning like blended learning is meant to do. It’s important to put interactive resources and formative assessments throughout the content.

Finally, tip ten is that blended learning is a perfect opportunity to build in differentiation with high-quality resources. One workshop I went to in Texas suggested that for every standard, the teacher has at least two learning options available. You could create those by learning style or by readability or whatever method you choose, but building in two options is auto-differentiating and also increasing the quality of the content we’re putting out there.

 

Tech Tuesday #5: How to Choose the Best Content Delivery Tools for Your Classroom

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Content delivery is not what it used to be. I think of the teachers in both Ferris Bueller and Charlie Brown’s classrooms–monotone, dull, and definitely not engaging anyone. It would certainly be easier if we could be like those teachers. In this modern age, we still want our students to learn, and it just simply takes more to engage them. In today’s episode, for which you can see the video at the bottom of this post, I want to share my favorite strategies and tools for content delivery. We are continuing our series on connecting pedagogy with technology. Remember that it’s not just any tool you’re choosing for your students. It has to be a tool that’s a good fit for both what you’re wanting to accomplish academically and what your particular students need.
What features should you find in a content delivery tool? I have four of them I’d like to share with you.

Features to Find

Number one. As I mentioned in my post on assessment tools last week, you want a content delivery tool that is device-agnostic or unnecessary. Even if you’re in a one-to-one school, there will be many days when a student’s device is in the shop for repair. That means that they either have no device or they have a phone in their pocket to substitute for the original. You have to have a tool that can deal with all of that.

Number two. As I mentioned before, you need content delivery that is engaging for students. What we used to think was engaging is no longer the case. I remember when I first started student teaching that foldables were all the rage. And the mentor teacher that I taught with had kids glue everything in their notebooks. She was interactive notebook before that was cool 🙂 With the tools I’m going to discuss below, you will find that engagement element. But let me also say that what engages today may not work tomorrow. We should not make our students feel like they’re at a dog-and-pony show, certainly–that we have to have a new tool to entertain them with each lesson. But it does help to have several good and reliable tools in our toolboxes, so I’m going to show you four favorites in the video below.

Number three. Remember the 10 and 2 rule. In my former life, I was the Learning Focused Schools trainer for my middle school. One of the best things I got out of that training was this rule. You should always teach for 10 minutes and then have students apply or respond for 2 minutes. Lecturing for a 45-minute period with no time for student response just is not going to be functional.

Finally, when looking for a content delivery tech tool, make sure that it looks good and is big enough on any screen where it might need to be seen. I’m talking about responsive design. Tools like Sway that I’m going to show you tonight are made to look great on any screen from handheld phones all the way up to a giant interactive whiteboard. They maintain their perspective and aspect ratios, and kids aren’t distracted by something that looks wonky on the screen.

Tools I Recommend

In the video below, tune in to an episode of Facebook Live where I share four of my favorite tools:

  • OneNote,
  • Office Mix,
  • Sway, and
  • Nearpod.

I’m going to give you a tour of each and tell you about the best features that make them fabulous for Content Delivery. PowerPoint might have been cool when it first came out, but it’s even cooler now. Check out the video to see what I mean.

A Final Word

Finally, remember that strong content delivery is not just about using technology all the time. Everyone, including the teacher, needs a break from screen time. It’s finding that perfect blend between phone-or-laptop-focused and hands-on interactive. People are still the key, and that means the teacher is the hub of the classroom. That’s why it’s so important for you, the teacher, to have your content delivery arsenal armed with the right tools to pull out when your students need them most.

Which of the tools is your favorite? Which would you add to my list? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below, and if this post helped you to engage students in your classroom, I’d love to hear that for sure.

With tech and twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

Tech Tuesday #4: Using Good Pedagogy to Choose Effective Assessment Tools

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I want to begin a series on the pedagogy behind the tools. I work with a lot of teachers who go to conferences and return excited about great tools. As a matter of fact, when I work with them in their classrooms, they love anything I can show them that’s practical. However, and we’ve all done it, they often miss the most important thing, which is student learning. Pedagogy and best practice are how we do what we do. As much as we think certain tools are fun, the engagement factor will never be for students what it is for us, because we come from the digital immigrant generation. That’s why our assessment tools can’t only be chosen based on what’s newest and shiniest. So with this series, I want to delve into different categories of technology tools and how you can make a good choice for which ones will be incorporated into your classroom.

Assessment Tools: Seven Features to Find

Let’s start by talking about assessment tools. As much as we often think we hate assessment, it is what gives us that cold, hard data that we can use to make informed decisions about future teaching plans. In an assessment tool, these are the features you should try to find:
  1. Auto grading. You want something that is going to take some of the grading load off your plate. Trust me, I was an English teacher. I often rewarded myself with cleaning or working out, both of which I hate, as a result of accomplishing the grading of just two essays. Thus, if I’m going to look for a tool, I want it to do some of my grading for me.
  2. Multiple types of questions. There are some things I machine just can’t grade. For those, I want to make sure that I have robust choices for what data comes back to me. In addition to auto-graded features such as true/false, multiple choice, or drag-and-drop, I want a feature that allows students to respond to a prompt of my choice and that I can grade, preferably with a rubric.
  3. Exportable assessments and data. Thirdly, I want data that I can take anywhere I want it to go, even after I move on from a certain product. As much as I used to love Quia, the only thing that is exportable is their data. Quizzes I built there I can’t load anywhere else. I’m forced to start over. Plus, I want data, preferably in Excel form, that I can take and manipulate and load into other systems. Many modern tools provide that, and it’s definitely a feature I would look for before making a commitment to a tool.
  4. With that data should come easy reports. One of the tools I discuss in the video below is a favorite for assessment because of the beautiful pie charts it creates. I love to read. That’s why I taught English. However, when it comes to data, I want visual, differentiated reports. So that’s another item you should look for when you are trying to find an assessment tool.
  5. Included Survey Tool. Next, with assessment comes surveying as well. I like a tool that will allow me to do formative feedback in the form of surveys, not just graded or summative quizzes. I don’t want kids to think my “cool tools” are really just a mask for punitive, serious grading, at least not all the time, and as any education grad student knows, much of our data is qualitative.
  6. Price Plus Privacy. Next comes a conundrum. I like free tools. After all, I’m a teacher with a limited paycheck. However, I also care if the tool mines student data. I’m linking here to Common Sense Education’s new initiative on vetting different educational technology companies for privacy. As you’re considering a tool, consider the cost, but not just in monetary reasons: also consider the cost to your students’ privacy. Never use a tool that gives away so much you wouldn’t want your own children to use it.
  7. Finally, and I will use this factor for a lot of the tools I share, make sure the tool you pick is device-agnostic or device-unnecessary. You have some students with smartphones or the latest affordable tablet from Walmart. You might be in a one-to-one Chromebook or Surface school or have iPads. Whatever the device the student has, you want to make sure the assessment tool works on all of those student technologies. Especially if you’re going to invest money or have your school do the same, please do a thorough trial with different devices that your students may bring to school, to ensure that they work with your integral tools.

Suzy’s Favorite Assessment Tools

The video at the bottom of this page comes from a Facebook live session that I do every Tuesday. I call it Tech Tuesday and it happens at 8 p.m. on my Facebook page, linked here. The tools I’m covering in this video for assessment include some of my favorites, which are:
  • Microsoft Forms
  • Kahoot
  • Quizizz
  • Socrative
  • Plickers
  • the Canvas Quiz builder 
I’m not going to repeat all that I say in the video about each one, so you’ll have to tune in;) Click Play to watch.
Here’s how the tools in the video stack up on the features I mentioned:
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More To Think About

Let me leave you with these final thoughts when it comes to choosing an assessment tool. Although many of us were raised in a generation when the teacher didn’t even know what formative assessment was, we definitely do. As you’re choosing a tool, make sure that it’s casual enough to allow students not to feel stressed out when you’re doing an informal assessment but then robust enough to give great data when you’re doing a summative.
Also, to curb the cheating concern on devices, here’s a little trick I used to use. I bought lots of resources for my 11th grade classroom from Laura Randazzo. One of her ideas that I thought was very helpful was the one-question quizzer. I’d love to hear how you adapt this for your classroom, but in the literature classroom, I would ask one assessment question from the chapter students read the night before. Students had an according number of minutes to answer it…usually two or three. They knew it or they didn’t, and they didn’t have time to cheat. It worked really well, and if my students were cheating, they were doing a terrible job of it 🙂 I definitely knew who the readers were.
Also, if you are going to be quizzing on school provided devices, have students put their phones face down on their desks or in phone jail. It’s not that phones aren’t amazing tools. As a matter of fact, I tell you several ways they are used in this post.  But allowing students to use two devices during a test or quiz is just asking for trouble.
Finally, if you’re going to do some of the short answer grading that I mentioned in the first section, make sure to show students the rubric. In tools such as Canvas Quiz Builder, you can attach the rubric right there. If you don’t use such an LMS, maybe you want to provide a paper copy of the rubric or a link to it. Letting students see the grading criteria is a great idea if you want better answers.
 
I hope these tips help you choose a better assessment tool. After all, there are so many flashy tools out there that I I’m sure have not even named half of them. As a matter of fact, here’s what I’d like you to do in the comments below:
  1. Please share your favorite tool. It could be one I listed or not. Tell why you like it.
  2. Also, share an idea with our readers about how you choose assessment tools or manage them in your classroom.

I would love to hear from you!

With tech and twang, 

Missed the other episodes?

Check them out here:

Tech Tuesday #1: Visual Goal-Setting with Sway

Tech Tuesday #2: Creating an Excel Habit Tracker

Tech Tuesday #3: Classflow, a Device-Agnostic Tool for Lesson Delivery

Tech Tuesday #2: Creating and Using a Habit Tracker to Reach Our Goals

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Hey Friends,
I’m so glad that we’re together again for another Tech Tuesday. This is, in fact, the second Tech Tuesday. I hope you were able to tune into Facebook Live this week, but if not, you might have missed the fact that last week we talked about how we could make our goals visual and more compelling, so would be we would be more likely to do them. We used a free tool called Sway. I walked you through the process for creating a Sway and adding great visual content automatically. So if you did miss that, I invite you to go back and check it out.
But onward and upward as they say! This week, I want to break down the process for creating and embedding a habit tracker into your Sway. By having the tracker alongside your goals, you can see if you’re actually meeting them. Now I know it’s you holding yourself accountable, but there’s something about seeing and writing our goals that helps us to be a little more motivated.
In that vein, let’s talk about four reasons why you might want to track your habits:
Number one: I don’t know about you, but I’m still a sticker girl. Yes, I mean literal stickers like you got when you were a child. The “gold star” method, you might say. For some reason, stickers motivate me. As a matter of fact, last time I was trying to meet my exercise goals, I was in love with them. Every time I did physical activity for thirty minutes, I would give myself a sticker. It’s always fun to see if we have a streak going, and stickers make that streak more colorful and exciting.
Reason number two. We don’t know what we don’t track. I know that in the education world, people say that testing students is overdone, and I’m sure that’s the case. However, measurement also helps us to know what we know. If we write down and track what we’ve accomplished, we have a record of it so that we know it now and we know it later.
Reason number 3 is that there’s a problem if there’s a habit we never do. First of all, I guess we really couldn’t call it a habit at that point, right? But if there’s something on our tracker that is never getting done, we need one of two things: we need either an intervention or we need to move on. We might need someone to step alongside us and help us do that habit, especially if it’s one that’s important to our health and well-being. Or, the “undone-ness” might be a wake-up call that we have been a little unrealistic with ourselves and need to abandon that habit in favor of one we might actually do. Looking at a blank box we never attend to is going to just lead to discouragement anyway, so we might as well re-frame what we’re doing.
The fourth and best reason that we need to track our habits is to get results. Maybe we’ve been using stickers or an online tracker as a dangling carrot, but if we think about it, the completion of the list is not the result. The new habit and the better lifestyle are the results. So if we really want to meet our goals, we definitely need to track them.
My Habits
Let me give you a few of the habits I plan to track this year. If nothing else, they will at least make you laugh about how your habits are so much more serious than mine 🙂 I have a sweet tea addiction. The problem is that every time I drink it, I start to feel anxious and I get a headache. But it’s so good. It’s the South’s version of the nectar of the gods, you might say. So every time I know I shouldn’t have it (especially if the meal includes a free drink, hello!), I still struggle and have it anyway. So that’s why one of my habits I want to develop this year is avoiding sweet tea.
Along with that, I want to avoid desserts and potatoes. I could eat a potato any way you make it, except sweet. (Isn’t that ironic but I like sweet tea and desserts but not sweet potatoes? Probably because they’re too healthy for me.) Anyway, I was not a dessert person until I met my husband, but now I feel like I have to have a little something sweet every time I have something salty. You see the issue. Thus…two more habits.
I definitely need to move more because of all this food that I love, so I’m making a small goal for myself in hopes that I will keep walking longer. I wrote it down as walking 10 minutes a day. My thought is that once I get halfway around the block in that ten minutes, I won’t just sit down in the road, but I will continue walking, ha ha.
Next, I want to drink enough water every day. My currently-chapped lips are just one sign of the fact that I live perpetually dehydrated. As a matter of fact, my husband Dusty once said he would call the cops on me for attempted suicide by dehydration. I replied that many teachers don’t get to drink water because they never have time to…well, you know.
Finally, I really need to buckle down and make sure I’m spending time with the Lord every day. That includes reading my Bible and praying, but I’m an intense kind of person when it matters. I don’t just want the little check off that I read five minutes. Or I threw some words God’s way. I want to really encounter Him every day. And if it takes me writing that down on the list to do it, I’m going to do what I have to do.
Creating Your Habit Tracker
So what about you? Do you have certain goals you’d like to track? Well if you do, I have good news. If you will watch my video below, you will learn how Excel online, a free tool, can be your perfect accountability partner. We will use conditional formatting, which is just a fancy way of saying that we will turn some of the cells green when we do them, and optionally, you can turn the ones red that you don’t do. The process is really easy, and you can have the whole sheet set up in ten minutes or less. What a great, quick accomplishment! So if you’d like to know how to do that, how to access your habit tracker on your phone, and even embed this habit tracker into a visual goal sheet on Sway, just click to play below.
 As always, I want to hear from you. It gets kind of lonely on the blog when I don’t know if anyone’s reading what I write. And the writing is kind of witty if I do say so myself 🙂 So do me a favor–leave a comment below if you’ve created and used the habit tracker. Even better, why don’t you share a link to yours so I can brag on you and be proud?
With Tech and Twang,
Suzy Signature Pink