Friday, December 4, 2015

No More Index Cards for Student Information! (Vlog: Google Forms)

How many of you are still having students fill out index cards the first day or week of school so you have their information handy when you need to contact a parent, or need to check in with some background information?

How many of those index cards spend time on a shelf collecting dust, or stashed somewhere you might not even remember off the top of your head?

For the past several years, I have been using Google Forms to collect student information electronically, eliminating the need for dog-eared, easily misplaced index cards.  If you're not lucky enough to be in a one to one school, a few minutes in the computer lab is enough to send students the link to your Google Form, and collect all the same data, in about the same amount of time, but giving you much easier access and the ability to do much more with your data.

Here's the sample form that I used with my Spanish 1A class this year:

But the form itself is just the tip of the iceberg.  The vlog below will show you what you can do with the data you collect.

How do you use Google Forms to collect data in your classroom?

Let me know!


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Vlog: Google Docs for Student Collaboration -- Peer Editing

Google Docs is SOOO much more to a World Language teacher than just a word processor!!  The vodcast below is an example of how I have used Google Docs to enhance the peer editing process in my classroom:

Back in the day...(when I student taught, my hands were stained at the end of every day with overhead marker.) it was like playing whack-a-mole going from group to group, trying to keep them on task, trying to troubleshoot all the groups at once, not feeling effective, correcting the same mistakes over and over and over.  Students were frustrated, because if I was helping another group, my back was to them (horror!!) and some students simply have difficulty delaying gratification.  It didn't help that I was so easily distracted, that I lost my train of thought every few seconds.  

No, it's not a silver bullet.  (THERE'S NO SUCH THING!!) But it does allow for a much smoother and more effective process.  My explanations are in writing, so if they forget what I said three or four seconds after I've moved to the next group (please, tell me you understand) they can refer to the comments.  Classroom management can be deferred -- they know in advance that Google tracks EVERYTHING, and issues will be handled, and I always follow through.  The edge is that none of those issues need to be handled immediately, in front of classmates.  No power struggles, no risk of losing face (you or the student...interpret as appropriate...) Most of all, no room for denial, so no emotion needs to be involved on your part.

Pedagogically, we have collaboration and critical thinking, and without having to decipher their classmates' handwriting, they are able to focus fully on developing their writing skills.  As I move from screen to screen (group to group) if I notice common struggles, it is much quicker and easier for me to address the class as a whole.

As technology tools go,  This one is a keeper!

Let me know how it works for you!!


Friday, November 27, 2015

Back Again: LessonPaths

If I could only get into a more consistent blogging schedule like a REAL blogger, I might not have to post these "I'm back again" posts every couple of years! (sigh...)

But let's face it, teachers are humans too, and there are only so many hours in the day!

So, it's been so long that I actually had to go back through the archived posts and see what I've already written about.  Let's face it, I started this blog in 2011, and in the edtech realm, that's an eternity!  So long, in fact, that this tool has changed names since I started using it years ago.

LessonPaths (formerly Mentormob) is a cloud-based tool used to create playlists of websites, documents, images, and quizzes.  With an available Chrome extension, Lessonpaths makes it easy to gather materials on a specific topic, or for a specific student with the click of a button.

Here's a sample playlist:

Create your own Playlist on LessonPaths!

This particular example is where I keep my "Brain Breaks" for easy access.  Most of them are YouTube videos, which are particularly easy to organize and access with LessonPaths, but the advantage that YouTube playlists don't have, is that I can also add blogposts from other language teachers whose Brain Breaks might need more explanation, so I save the whole page for reference.  I can add links to Google Docs -- my own or others', images, or even create quizzes and articles, although I don't use those features very frequently (read:  at all).

I think of LessonPaths as a simplified internet filing cabinet that is student accessible.  I have playlists for subtopics, cultural points, individual students -- basically whatever comes along that needs quick organization and quick visual access.  Students like that they can move through the steps at their own pace, see what's ahead, and even skip steps that they may not need -- great for differentiation!

Give it a try, and let me know what you think!