Turn up the Quiet with TodaysMeet

Allowing students to make comments and ask questions in real time reins in the loud ones and turns up the quiet.

Why TodaysMeet?
TodaysMeet is a backchannel that gets students chatting via an easy-to-use interface. It's a free Web 2.0 tool that requires no logins and works on any Internet device. Teachers create a virtual room for students to contribute. The tool can be used for discussions, brainstorming, reflecting, formative assessment, and even exit tickets. Responses are limited to 140 characters or less (much like Twitter).

Create a Room

  1. Click the Name Your Room button (Name Example: demographyA2)
  2. Choose the amount of time you want your room to be active: 2 hrs, 8 hrs, 12 hrs, one day, one week, one month, or a year.
  3. Select Create your room.
  4. Enter your name and click Join.
  5. Next, enter a guiding question and click the Say button.

Join a Room
TodaysMeet 2.png

  1. Share your custom TodaysMeet room URL  with your students.
  2. Instruct students to enter their name and click Join.
  3. Next, enter a message and click Say.

In the Classroom

  • Set specific rules on how students name themselves in the TodaysMeet Room.
  • Use as a "parking lot" for questions that come up during the lesson
  • Send links to all students in the classroom quickly
  • Use guiding questions before students watch a video
  • Create Wordle from transcript after discussions to analyze what students understand as most important
  • Use transcript to give daily grade based on participation
  • Two or more classrooms engage in a conversation as they listen to the same content at the same time.
  • Students record responses/reflections after completing an activity.
  • Before a science lab, students record their hypothesis. After lab, they respond about the conclusion.
  • Conduct silent discussion with students instead of oral discussion

Tip for Tuesday: Snagit

Snagit works well if you're using Chrome and you like to have the same settings on any computer you sign into. I particularly use it to capture pieces of things to access quickly via the folder Tech Smith automatically creates in your drive. http://goo.gl/upl6ts

 Click or Touch

5 Helpful History Sites

These are some of my favorite, not in any particular order. Click or touch each image. 

Feedback and Our Classroom Workflow

This year, my students and I experimented with some new apps to produce, collaborate, and share in ways that increase providing feedback during the learning process. 

One of the most important lessons I learned from trying some new things was the authenticity that occurs when all stakeholders (students, teachers, parents, administrators) can observe learner progress before the deadline, before the assessment, before grades are reported. It nudged our classroom culture toward working to learn and achieve goals instead of being distracted by the grades. The more consistent I was with providing critical feedback, the more the grades became a side note.  

3 URL Shorteners

Short. Neat. Trackable. Analyze. Plan.

Also look for Chrome extensions to make your work much more efficient. I prefer the native URL shortener.

No Teacher Left Behind

My first year as a department chair was eye opening. I was fresh out of graduate school where I studied secondary education, had two years experience, and was working at the school where I did student teaching. It was difficult learning how to lead teachers who, in many cases, had been educators longer than I've understood the concept of schooling. But none if this bothered me because I was lucky enough have the beginnings of an active professional learning network to support me through the challenges.

The most important lesson I learned that year came from a series of conversations with a very special teacher. His ability to work for kids was second to none. My interest in him came from the alarming number of failures on his previous year's role.

The first conversation we had was about the new scope and sequence. He asked me if we were getting new textbooks. I kindly replied, "Do you need one?"

With a smirk on his face, as if he was taken back at the fact that he needed to field a question like that from a department chair, he replied, "Well, how do we teach the new scope and sequence with the old book?" Not wanting to be rude, I offered some of my resources and lesson plans, which led us to the next conversation a few days later. This time it was about reading.

"I was told that reading is important," he said, "so I have the students read the chapter before class. But they aren't doing it." To that, I suggested that he teach them how to read.

He gave his usual contemplating facial expressions -- head cocked, cheeks high and wide -- as to avoid losing hope in the effort to change how he had taught for several years. After all, his success at preparing students for state exams was still filling him with validation. My empathy, however, continued to grow through his willingness to try another new thing. 

His understanding of reading and mine, however, were on separate tracts. I encouraged him to teach his students pen-in-hand, active reading, thinking, and writing strategies. After taking about a minute and a half to demonstrate how to search the textbook for a good chunk of content, he knew what he needed to do. Add a few ideas about the kinds of activities that can help learners deepen their knowledge, and he was ready to go at it from yet another direction. 

We didn't talk much more about it because it was closer to the end of the year and he ended up taking a job at another district in the area. 

To no surprise, he came back to visit the following year. I had a class at the time, but I walked him out and offered my support. He mentioned that his new district was focusing on writing, so I left him with a few suggestions on how to adapt strategies used in English classes to the needs of writing for social studies. 

I am sure he is doing well because he was the kind of teacher who wasn't afraid to ask the right question, even if it meant exposing that he had to change some of his ways to better support his students.

We all know a teacher like this one. They're my biggest heroes.  

5 Steps to Google Forms in Lieu of Twitter

After watching other teachers successfully use Twitter in the classroom, I recognized the value, especially since it leverages a tool many of the students use everyday. Well ... most students, anyway.

About five to ten percent of my students don't use Twitter and about two percent of them are outspoken about it. The fix was simple: make a Google Form. Here's how it goes.

1. Paragraph Text

2. Set Character Limit (Advanced Settings)

3. Add Hashtag Field

4. View Response Sheet

5. Share Response Sheet 

Rethinking Old School: What are Zeros?

Zeros are one of the first things educators discuss when it comes to updating grading practices. Many of us can agree that the kids who receive zeros, continue to receive zeros.

Does this not say that the consequence is ineffective?

The context of the blog post from which the image above originated is about assigning minimum grades, such as 50s in place of zeros. The purpose of that practice is to adjust summary grades calculated with mean averaging by reducing the impact of missing data (outliers). I don't agree with zeros, but I certainly can't agree with: 
(1) Scores assigned to nothing (no work, no proficiency demonstrated), and
(2) Teachers being expected to assign minimum grades. 
Mathematically, using 50s does increase the accuracy of the reported grade. Philosophically, it misses the mark in terms of what we are trying to do with grades – communicate student achievement relative to standards. The fact that some schools have used minimum grades says that they value the evidence and don't want grades to be distorted by factoring the lack of evidence. 

Well, if that's the case, go all the way. Commit to no zeros. Otherwise, use of zeros says that none of work is important – (1) work the teacher assigns and (2) work the student has already done.

Let's hear from the #sblchat on this matter.

Google Basics 1.0

This document is the first in a series of one-sheets intended to help new users become more acclimated with Google Drive and the other applications offered with a Google account.   


Feedback on Google Drive

Introducing Google Drive to my AP World History classes has been a lot of work and risk. It pays off when you see the students driven by feedback instead of the points game. 


3 Helpful Blog Posts About Using Twitter to Build Your PLN

twitter networking

Twitter can be a useful tool if you're aware of the possibilities. Educators are some of the best users to observe and learn from to become more connected with the most relevant information and resources.

1. How to Use Twitter to Grow Your PLN 


Betty Ray addresses initial setup and some pro tips on how to get a lot out of your experience, while being sensitive to less tech savvy learners.
"Twitter is a powerful tool, but it can be a little confusing."  

2. Using Twitter to Build Your PLN


Kathleen Morris likens Twitter PLN to a virtual staff room.
"It is a place where I can find advice, give advice, find great links, share my work and engage in general musings about education."

3. How to Get More Out of Your PLN Using Twitter 


Denise Scavitto explains hashtags for beginners / intermediate, chats, and curating.
"I quickly skim the titles and hashtags and decide what to mark and retweet and follow up on."