Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Tools of the Trade...So Far

I'm excited.  The grant check came Wednesday night; I deposited it Thursday afternoon; it cleared yesterday morning, and I ordered 20 more Chromebooks, a cart, and a printer.  One leg of the journey is almost complete.  And...then came some issues in trying to order them that hopefully have been ironed out (fingers crossed).

I feel (hope?) that once every student has a Chromebook, it will be easier to integrate the technology as thoroughly as I would like.  I'm hoping it will help students get better with turning their digital work in more consistently.

But, on to the topic at hand:  What am I using?  In case you were wondering.  I hope you were wondering.

Let's start with the Chromebooks themselves.  I (will) have 4 different types of Chromebooks.  This isn't a big deal to me because they run the same way and off the same operating system (Chrome).  I simply got the cheapest I could get, when I was ordering them.

I have 2 HP Chromebooks  that have a great screen, but the battery life doesn't always stand up to the other brands I have.

I have 8 Samsung Chromebooks that are really great.  They have a nice screen, are the lightest in weight, have a great battery life, and are the easiest to get out of the cart I currently have (but that's about to change).  They were the most expensive (I got these through when I ordered them, but are currently the same price as the HPs and 9 of the Acers were when I purchased them.  I should have done this blog post before I ordered the books I did today. Or maybe not.  A friend forwarded some information about the trackpads essentially becoming useless and needing a mouse.  We'll see.

I have 11 black Acer Chromebooks not including the one I bought myself that I use for travel and my own Master's program.  These aren't as pretty to look at as the Samsung or HP books, but they are almost always affordable and have the best battery life of the three brands so far.  They are currently the biggest pain to get in and out of the current cart, but they will become the easiest to deal with in the new cart (I assume).

I will have 20 white Acer Chromebooks, hopefully, next week.  I was torn between the black Acer and these, but I decided that they were essentially the same price so why not go with the prettier ones.  They are supposed to have the same battery life as their older sibling, but we'll see.  I'll let you know what I discover about them.


Now onto the Learning Management Systems (LMS) I use.  

I used to use Edmodo, and I hope to one day go back.  But, after listening to Alice in Wondertech at the CUE conference last year, and doing some research, I switched to Schoology.  The things I like about Schoology that I can't get with Edmodo are:  the abiity to create discussion boards and the analytics that go with it, the ability to automatically push posts to my Twitter if I click the correct box, the ability to format text (As an English teacher, it would drive me crazy when I couldn't italicize book titles on Edmodo, I can with Schoology), and having Remind built in (though this is something new I'm trying out this year).

I never used and still don't use, the quiz features and gradebooks that are on both Edmodo and Schoology because our district has an online gradebook that we must use and assessment software built into another district-wide information system.

The other LMS I'm using this year is new from Google and it's called Classroom.  Your school has to be a part of Google Apps for Education (GAFE), but if they are it's free.  Your students and you also need to be on the same domain.  Classroom is in its infancy, so it's not as complete an LMS and doesn't compete if stacked up to older LMSs.  But you can send feedback on what you would like to see, and get ideas on GoogleProduct Forums.  

Where Classroom rocks my socks is in it's organizational aspects.  If you are going to have students do work digitally and collaborate with each other and you, you want Google Classroom.

When you sign up for Classroom, a folder appears in your Drive (with the obvious title of Classroom).  When you create a class, under the Classroom folder, subfolders for each class appears.

Then once you start creating assignments for each class, folders for those appear as well.

And finally, as students either create or add documents to their assignments, the folder for the assignment populates with the students' work.

That alone is worth using Classroom, but I don't think I'll be using Classroom on it's own unless it gets to a point where it's on par with Edmodo or Schoology.  Both Edmodo and Schoology also have a parent component that Classroom does not.


I think we'll leave it there.  The post is long enough and I don't want to bore you.  If you have any questions about what I'm doing or using, feel free to contact me or comment.  Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Feeling like a Failure

Only my second post and it's already got the word 'failure' in the title.

Today is one of those days I feel like a failure as a teacher.  My three 11th grade classes took a test on Rhetorical Devices today.  Obviously, they didn't do too well, so that means that I didn't do too well. So, together: We suck.

I don't know if it's truly my fault they did poorly or if it's actually the fault of the test because I won't have other teachers to compare myself to until next week.  Ultimately, it doesn't matter because I feel I should have better prepared them regardless.

I've been questioning myself all day.  Should I have stood up and done a PowerPoint with the rhetorical devices on it and had the students take notes, or fill in a skeleton guide like many of the other teachers?  Or, was the fact that I put together the slides and titled them with the names of the different rhetorical devices and had the students find the definitions and examples to place on it the right way to go?

So the next step is to wonder.  Is it me as a teacher in general, or does this transition into blended-learning and inquiry-based/guided-question style of teaching the culprit?  Maybe it's a combination.

I've set up a form for the students to take a survey, so I can get some feedback from them.  I think I need to evaluate what and when I should allow students to discover answers on their own and through their own searching and when to get up and be a 'sage on the stage'.  Maybe we jumped off into the deep end when we should have used the steps in the shallows.

Trying to make this shift and beginning my Master's in Educational Technology is both a blessing and a curse as I am learning about things that definitely help in this transition, but I feel very overwhelmed and like I'm leaving friends and family behind.