Friday, January 27, 2017

New Feature to Google Classroom for Differentiation

For those of you that use Google Classroom, you may have noticed a few upgrades. Today, I want to highlight a feature that (FINALLY) allows teachers to assign individually or to small groups. This feature can be found when you are in the process of adding a new assignment. When you get to the assignment setup page pictured below, click on the drop down arrow next to "All students". This will allow you place a checkmark next to each of the students you want to see the assignment. Then, all you need to do is schedule the assignment as normal.

I can see this being useful for assigning readings that will be discussed as a group in a jigsaw-style reading session, as well as assigning different projects to different groups of students. Also, this is great for assigning readings and assignments that are for students with different reading abilities for special needs students.

This is one of the best upgrades to Google Classroom I have seen so far. It is nice to see that Google is listening to the needs of teachers and constantly improving their product.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Uploading Grades from Google Forms to eSchools' Teacher Access Center (TAC)

"Double Entry" is one of the new buzz phrases I hear from teachers when I introduce any new tool that has a grading component built into it. The idea that the grade doesn't automagically go directly in a teacher's gradebook is a signal that many teachers are ready for all these programs to play nice together instead of taking a bunch of grades from one place and manually transferring them to another. Some gradebooks play nicer than others, but in my district we use Teacher Access Center (TAC) as a part of the eSchools platform. Up until now, I didn't think that TAC was capable of playing nice. But, as any good teacher does, I found a way to make it behave for the good of all.

The information below is related specifically to how a Google Forms Quiz can work with TAC, but it could apply to any application that is capable of creating a .CSV (Comma Separated Values) form. The basic principals could apply to another gradebook as well.

So, without further ado, here we go!

Google Forms has recently added a quiz feature that will allow you to use it as an assessment tool. Read this setup guide to help you get started. The purpose of this article is to guide any TAC user through the process of transferring grades from Forms to TAC.

But, in order to transfer grades successfully, teachers must set up their quiz correctly. Teachers MUST have students enter their Student ID and their name (for easy retracing if something goes wrong) as required short answer questions at the beginning of your quiz. Failure to do so will actually create more work for Teachers, but I suppose you could retroactively add student ID numbers (But I don't recommend it).

After you are finished creating your assessment, watch this video and/or follow these directions to import grades from the quiz to TAC.

Written Directions for Video

1. Set up an assignment on TAC just like you would normally.

2. Create a Google Sheet of your student results.

  • Open your Google Forms Quiz
  • Select tab located at the top center of the quiz page next to the “Questions” tab. 
  • Once the “Responses” tab is selected, click the button in the top right corner of the page. 
  • Select “Create a New Spreadsheet” then change the name to the filename you want or leave it as labeled. When you are ready to create your Sheet, click “Create”. The sheet should open immediately.

3. Create a usable CSV file from your Sheet.
  • Highlight the column with “Score” as its header. 
  • Type Ctrl+H (or Command-Shift-H on a Mac), make the box look like the box below, then click “Replace all”.

Note: The value you enter in the find box should match the number of points the quiz is worth. I just used 10 as an example. YOU MUST put a space before and after the forward slash (/).

  • Then, Click “Format” in the menu column, then hover over “Number” in the drop-down menu with your pointer. Then, select “Number” in the next menu over until it is checked. This will put the score in the right format for TAC.

  • Finally, to create the CSV file, select:  File>Download as>Comma-separated values

4. Upload CSV file to TAC assignment.

  • Go back to your TAC assignment and click the button above the point entry column in your assignment that looks similar to the column to the left. 
  • Click “Import Score From File” in the new dialogue box. 
  • Next Click and find your newly created CSV file. (Which should be located in your downloads folder) 
  • Then, select “CSV” as the File format. 

  • Next fill in the “Student ID Column Number” and “Score Column Number”. These will correspond with the Column Letter for the Student ID column in your Sheet (A=1, B=2, and so on). The only exception is any column AFTER the name column. Since the name is in the format “Last Name, First Name” the comma makes this column count as 2. (e.g.- if the Name column is letter D and the Student ID Column is letter E, the name column would count as columns 4 AND 5, with Column E being column 6) 
  • Lastly, check the box next to “File has Header Row” and then click .

After this step, you should be able to see your student scores in the column and a pop up screen saying “# of # scores successfully uploaded.” Then you just need to save as normal. Congratulation if you read through this whole set of instructions. It's all downhill from here! I hope this helps save you a little time with pesky "Double Entry" situations.

If you have any problems or you just can't contain your enthusiasm for this awesome timesaver, leave a comment below.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Student Email: 5 Suggestions for Successfully Integrating Email Into Instruction

I think I can safely say that one of the most important skills for students to have in the real world is the ability to communicate. Communication is not only a great life skill, but it is vital to success in the career world, especially with regard to email communication. Our district has recently provided students with an email address. By providing an email address for students, our educators are now tasked with the challenge of teaching responsible and efficient use of this tool to our students.

But what does that look like in an era of social media and texting? How do we convince students of the benefits of understanding this platform? I admit, that it's a hard sell. Email has been around for a long time, and it is probably seen as an archaic or "old person" way of communicating.

image courtesy of
That being said, I don't think email is going anywhere for a while. I don't see Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram taking over for email service, mainly because that is not what those services are designed to do. While email is not as personal as these other communication platforms, it certainly is the most effective way for large groups of people to organize and communicate daily within a business or organization (if used properly). While students already understand that email isn't the entertainment and communication tool of choice among their social circles, they need to have understanding of what it can do for their career future.

The only way for that understanding to take place is to see it in action, which is why I suggest implementing the use of email in the classroom for the purpose of familiarizing students with the importance and place of email in institutions, such as school and business.

So I have a few suggestions on ways email can be implemented in your classroom. Any one of these would be beneficial for student understanding and may inform them of the writing style necessary to communicate in this way.

1. Create Opportunities for Student Use

Think about ways of incorporating the use of email in a real life scenario. That can be done in several ways. Students could contact an expert found in their research for information about them or to request a meeting. Or perhaps progress reports can be emailed from a project leader to the teacher, carbon copying others in the group. Students could also send resources or cloud based shared documents to each other to get a project started. Most importantly, if you have a question for a specific student or group of students, just email them. Getting students to write in fully developed complete sentences is important to a student's development.

2. Share Best Practice Concepts

image courtesy of
It's important for students to realize how professionals use email, so share your own email practices, including pitfalls to avoid or ways to increase efficiency with the many emails that come in daily. Explain how you expect email to be used in your class and be consistent with it. Services such as Boomerang for Gmail can help students organize their own best practice and even help them determine if an email is written in such a way as to prompt a response, which is an important skill in the email realm.

3. Identify Student Apps/Websites That Require Email Authentication

Many different web services require an email. As a former music teacher, I used the web app Noteflight with my students to teach them how to read and write music notes. I discovered that students needed to confirm that they have a valid email address in order to have the full features of the app. Since not everyone had an email at that time, it become a hassle.

 If your student email system is completely open (can send and receive from any address), students will be able to confirm registration through their email. Even if it is filtered (emails only from teachers/peers at your school), you may be able to talk to your school IT department in order to allow students to receive emails from a specific address. Either way, it is worth checking into with any web app that you plan to use.

image courtesy of

4. Create Groups by Class

Teach your students how to successfully organize their email to fit their needs. Whether that is through creating labels in their email for classes or creating groups from their contacts for group work, teaching these digital organization strategies can save them time every day of their life.

5. Send Weekly Class Updates

You may use some other service such as Remind for this type of information, but sending it through email instead may help your students learn to create habits of checking email, especially if there is exclusive information in the email that is not shared elsewhere. You could talk to your students about downloading an app on their phone for email or connecting their email to their phone and allowing notifications. I know that accommodations would need to be made for some students in this area, but creating an environment where email must be checked at least weekly (perhaps daily) will set up successful habits for their working life.