Tech Tuesday #11: Acclimating New Students to Class with Ease

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If I haven’t shared it before, I struggle with forgetfulness. They say it’s a sign of creativity or even genius; that’s what I’m hoping for, but as a teacher, forgetfulness, whatever the indication, isn’t generally considered a positive trait. Welcoming new students into a classroom, especially a high school one, where the students notice everything, takes enthusiasm and finesse. It also takes a lot of organization to get the student caught up and familiar with class procedures. That’s why I developed a procedure I used in my classroom and want to share with you: the new student welcome packet.

Why do teachers need a new student packet? I can think of three reasons.

  1. Your class has been up and running the whole time this student has been elsewhere. You have procedures, policies, and content that is crucial for students to know if they are going to catch up and have success in the class. The packet gives them that information in one place.
  2. In addition to these procedures, it’s easy to forget what the new kid doesn’t know until you assign homework for which he doesn’t have the information. He might need a copy of the syllabus, the LMS login, the Remind code, etc. Having this information for future reference takes stress off both student and teacher.
  3. By using the folder, the teacher can give new students purposeful activities to do the first day they join the class or for homework that night, especially if the class is finishing something they don’t have time to catch up on.

How was the folder structured?

I gave my students a colored pocket folder with prongs, instead of just a packet, because it was reusable. It was labeled with “New Student Packet” on the front and copied the elementary use for the two pockets–one pocket labeled “read and keep” versus the other labeled “sign and return.” Students were instructed to return the folder to me when they were finished with it,  as well as the returned contents.

Let’s look inside now at the folder contents. I provided a list of these requirements on a cover sheet, which I have attached a copy of in the resources section below.

  • Student number and directions for self-reported attendance
  • Syllabus plus directions for syllabus quiz to get them a real grade
  • Literary essay handout–adapt for all courses (background knowledge)
  • Account setup or orientation for LMS
  • Sign up for accounts: Remind, Turnitin, Noodle Tools, etc.
  • What the kid does need to do along with the class and extended deadlines as necessary
  • Contact information for the teacher and a reliable friend
  • Procedures list and coping strategies:
    • How to find help at home: friend, read directions again, teacher (email shows me you tried)
    • Absent work policy

The Making of a More Modern “Packet”

When I last taught high school students, I did use Edmodo as a mini-LMS, but that platform was more project-based for my class. It was not as robust as the Canvas LMS our district has now adopted. If I were to take my packet into the modern era, I would make these two changes:

  1. The information would not be a packet at all but would instead be an interactive module in my course that students and parents could access repeatedly and from anywhere.
  2. Instead of just listing the assignments the student had to go back and complete as prerequisites for the course, I would assign those to him with a different due date than the rest of the class as needed.

Want a more robust tour of my strategy? You have two ways to hear me share more about the content!

Love a good podcast? Listen to the episode of The Suzy Show where I describe even more about my new student strategy. Click to play below, and make sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast player app.

Want to watch me talk about it? Tune in to this episode of Tech Tuesday, which you can join every week at 8PM EST at https://www.facebook.com/techlolley/. The episode about my new student packet is embedded below.

Below, I’ve linked my resources for you, but I would love to hear the resources and tips you would add to my list. Be sure to leave a comment!

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

Related Resources:

  • New student packet
  • Online learner module–If you’re a Canvas LMS user, search the commons for “Suzy Lolley” to find and add this resource to your course.

Organize URLs and Enhance Productivity using Excel Spreadsheets and OneDrive

I crave organization. I’ve written several articles about my love for Alejandra, my favorite organizing guru. However, I’m one of those people where you have to give me warning if you’re coming to my house. I’m just telling it like it is. As much as I crave that level of organization, I don’t always do it.

I do, however, try to organize my online life. I have folders and I know what’s in them. I keep files alphabetized. My desktop is generally pretty clean. But links are one of those hard things to get organized. I used to use tools like Delicious, and of course there’s Pinterest, but what if I want my links organized natively with all my documents related to the same topic?

One hack that I’m sure we’ve all done before is to create a Word document and to put the link on it. I don’t really like that, though, because then you have to go open the Word document and click the link. It’s not intelligent enough for me.

I can think of two better ways to handle such a linkage conundrum. In this video, I show you how to take either an Excel spreadsheet or your OneDrive and save links there the same way that you would save documents, so that when you go to teach a lesson, everything is in one place. Check it out.

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.

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

I don’t know if I hate it or love it more when I find the product I’ve been using for years has hidden secrets I knew nothing about. I think I love it. I owe this tip to the illustrious Susan Dreschel, who was my unintentional mentor for my first three years as an Instructional Technology Specialist. She has now retired and left me alone, but that’s a subject for another day 🙂

Anyway, just such a hidden treasure exists in both Outlook and Microsoft Word, and it’s called Quick Parts. Did you know that you could have both of those programs save text that you frequently use and spit it back out at your command? Did you know that you could send fully-formed emails with just a click of a button? Or that you could generate your recipes and related shopping list with just a couple clicks as well?

Not only will the tip I’m about to show you save you time, but I also love when the process of giving you the tip is quick. Check out this post on creating your own embed codes if you like quick-to-receive tips.

But now on with the show…if you’re intrigued about Quick Parts, watch the video to learn how to use them.

Creating Your Own Free Embed Code

Raise your virtual hand if you’re one of my fellow YouTube fans out there. If you’re not, I assure you you’re in the minority. I can learn everything from hobbies to teaching ideas to organization tips from quick videos hosted there. One of the coolest things about YouTube is that it offers embed codes. That means that their content can live on your site in a more native view.

I don’t know about your students, but mine would probably have gotten lost traveling from tab to tab. If you’re a district that uses some kind of learning management system, you want your students to realize that everything they need lives in that LMS. You don’t want to send them out everywhere, at least in a way that they recognize it.

The embed code… YouTube is great for that, as I said. But what about sites that don’t provide an embed code? Or ones that charge for it? I can’t promise that the process I’m about to show you on this video works for every site, but I was pretty proud of myself for finding that it did work on several sites where I tested it with teachers and students. When I came up with this idea, I felt like a real hacker, albeit a safe one. So if you have a site where you would like to generate an embed code, watch the five-minute video below and learn:

The Best Six Podcasts for Teachers and Teacherpreneurs

I took a podcasting class maybe eight or nine years ago. I don’t remember exactly when, but I know it’s been a while. I hadn’t thought about podcasts in years, and unitl my husband and I started listening to one of a faraway church we like, they were just a distant memory. Who knew they were still alive and well?
Since I’ve rediscovered them, I haven’t been the same. I really enjoy my commute because I always can listen to something in the car. Why would you want to listen to podcasts if you haven’t already? I think can think of three reasons.
Number one: you can learn while you drive. If you’re a teacher, it’s because you like to learn first. Obviously you can’t read books and take notes in the car, so podcasts provide a great way to learn and listen, and good podcasters also provide show notes that you can refer back to after your drive is done.
Number two: Twitter is also a great Professional Learning Network (PLN) for me. But I can’t tweet while I’m in the car. Podcasting allows me to participate in that great PLN in the car. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been listening, and I’ve been referred to another great educator with whom I can connect. Or have heard someone I already knew being interviewed on the podcast. There was even the one time I got to be on Vicki Davis’ show. Very cool 🙂
Number three: Finally, podcasts are great because if you make one in your classroom featuring your students, you’re giving your students an authentic audience. We all know that, beyond elementary school, students don’t really want to write for their teacher. Or they don’t write authentically for their teacher. But if they know someone else is listening to their work, they will be more likely to write and produce good content.
I hope the reasons are convincing enough, but if you want to hear what gets me excited about the particular podcasts I follow, watch the video below, where I feature these six favorites:

If you’re looking to get into the podcast game for the first time or the first time in a while, push play on the video below now:

Favorite Chrome Extensions for Teacher Productivity

People have all different kinds of favorites. Some have favorite shoe brands or favorite jeans or favorite stores. You know I’m a technology nerd, because I have favorite… browsers 🙂 if you’ve been a teacher for a long time, you might have been totally addicted to Internet Explorer for years. The problem is that it hasn’t been updated in at least four years. Even Microsoft, who created the browser, has changed over to Edge. I’m getting my feet wet with Edge and there’s a lot to like about it that I can show on another day, but Chrome is still my favorite.

One reason I love the Google Chrome browser is that it’s customizable. Not only do you  have a great modern browser, but you can also tweak it to make it enhance functions that you do on a daily basis. I thought it might be worth our while for me to show you some of my favorite Chrome extensions, how to find them, and how to make sure that your extensions travel with you from machine to machine.

The extensions I love and share in the video are:

  • Colorzilla
  • Crafty Text
  • OneTab
  • The QR Code Extension
  • Bitmoji
  • Emoji for Google Chrome

Ready to get started? Watch the video below. P.S. The quality of this video is terrible–I was trying something new and it was a fail:( However, the info is good…my apologies.

ADD LINKS TO OTHER POSTS HERE!

Pretty Up Your Online Life with Colors and Emojis

Can I get a shout out if you’re one of my fellow Pinterest addicts? If so, see the article I wrote before about that. But seriously, what draws us to Pinterest is the beauty of it. If we’re girls especially, we like pretty things…even if we can’t necessarily replicate them ourselves. Anybody else out there a member of the Crappy Craft Society?

Anyhow, prettying up our online life fulfills the same drive as looking at Pinterest. As a matter of fact, it also makes things better for a student’s life. How? I’ll give you four reasons.

Number one. There’s the fun factor. Teachers and students could all use a little bit more fun, right? Taking the time to make our OneDrive, our Google Drive, or our LMS look attractive holds the students’ attention just a little bit longer.

Number two. Color coding helps everyone find what they’re looking for faster. In the video below, I’m going to show you some tips on using color-coding to ensure that your organizational structure is obvious to you and your students. And that makes for more classroom efficiency.

Reason number three is that colors and emojis, which we’re definitely going to hit in this video, are great for young readers, struggling readers, and English Language Learners. If they can’t exactly read what they’re looking for, seeing it will help them access the material just like everyone else.

Number four: Lastly, symbols and colors also give a preview of what’s in the folder for everybody. That includes you, the teacher. I don’t know about you, but at the end of any given workday, my brain is fried. If I’m looking for something, and I can quickly recognize it by its color or its symbol, I will be more likely to find it so that I can go home :-).

See what I mean about the benefits of prettying up your online life?

So without further ado, let’s dive into how you can make your OneDrive, your Google Drive, and your learning management system more beautiful and more actionable for you and your students. Click on the video below.

Using QR Codes in the Classroom

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Links have been around for how long, now? At least in popularity since the 90s. And barcode scanners have been around much longer than that. But there’s something about a special type of barcode that makes students get excited. It’s called a QR code, and it’s a square code that corresponds to a certain web address. There are so many ways to use these codes creatively in the classroom that I want to share with you.

Looking for a good QR scanner for students? I like Inigma. It is free and ad-free. Some of the others have annoying games that pop up at the bottom and are fodder for already-distracted students to accidentally click on.

Here’s one I’ve used recently and that you might want to scan for a special treat from me!

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Below you will find a slide deck with my best ideas, but if there’s something  you can’t figure out, or if you want to know more, please feel free to leave a comment below. I would also love to hear your innovative ideas for using QR codes, so share those too!

QR Code Ideas for the Classroom

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

Creating Custom Breakout Edu Games

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My husband and his friends paid to get locked in a room a couple years ago…and they didn’t escape…and well, look below:

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I still call Twitter the ultimate PLN, and you know why? It’s because of things like Breakout Edu that I discovered there. I always explain the game this way: we can’t lock students in a room, so instead, they break into a box. Classroom content is key, and with so many games available, it’s highly likely that the game you’re looking for is already available.

Custom Breakout Games

With that being said, I like to give creative gifts, and I also like to help teachers to be creative in their classrooms, especially with gamified lessons. So, I have had a need several times to build my own game. I’ve built at least three for friends’ birthdays and hangouts, and there couldn’t be a more exciting gift, in my opinion. With the advent of the new Breakout Edu Platform Digital Game creation tool, I’m not going to get too technical on how to build the games themselves, but I would like to share a couple games with you. When you push play on the video below, you’ll hear about the Clue-themed game I made for my brother’s birthday and a couple other fun ideas.

Here are the resources I mention in the video as well:

Happy watching!

One more thing! I would love to send you my tipsheet for my top ten favorite Breakout Edu puzzle ideas. Want to grab it? Click here!