Thursday, September 26, 2013

What Am I Crazy? Moving My Class Website to Google Sites

Some History

When I first started using the Internet with division one students many many many years ago, it was quickly apparent that too much time was spent having them type websites into the address bar. Initially I created a Word document with hyperlinks and saved it in a shared folder on our server. I taught them how to open that document and all they had to do was click on the hyperlinks. I just changed the content of that document for each technology lesson. Eventually I made my first class website on Tripod way before it was Tripod.Lycos! Later I moved it to Wordpress as I did not like the banner ads Tripod had.  

I Like Wordpress

I like Wordpress and have used it for over five years. It was relatively easy to learn and use. The URL for my site is which meant when students searched "msmondor" my site was the first thing they found. I made Ms Mondor a spelling word in the first weeks of school. Things I like about Wordpress:

  • You can schedule posts.
  • It is user friendly.
  • It is free without a lot of annoying ads.
  • You can customize an easy to find URL.

So Why Move?

When EPSB first "went Google" I tried Google Sites and I hated it. It was clunky. So I pretty much ignored that part of Google Apps for Education. Last year I made a landing page for my former school using Google Sites. My, had things changed. It had all the things I liked about Wordpress plus I could make the interface more division one friendly than I could with Wordpress. I will miss my short and convenient URL. Things I like about Google Sites:
  • You can schedule posts.
  • It is free without annoying ads.
  • Can upload files for parents. For example on my math page I have math games that we've played at school.
  • Division One friendly interface.
  • Can integrate other aspects of Google Apps for Education easily.
  • It is easy to use after some initial trial and error/instruction.
  • There are templates to use create class websites.

Links to Consider Viewing

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Student Profile Template

Multiple Intelligences Survey

I used multiple intelligences surveys this year as part of working toward integrating Universal Design for Learning (UDL) into my teaching and in my grade two classroom. I initially sent home the survey for families to do with their children. My intention was to give students a simple half page summary of their strengths and areas for growth based on the survey. However, while most families completed the survey promptly, not all of the families handed them in. I did not want to have any students left out of the next step which was to discuss goals for a strength and an area for growth. So I decided to administer one in class as well.

Home Survey 

As a part of the collaboration my staff is doing with a number of other schools, the grade two teachers decided to not include the existential component. I found a survey that did not include it and modified the language  very slightly to make the format a little more accessible. The grade one teachers in our school drafted a parent letter that explained the survey. 

School Survey

When I decided to do a survey in class I wanted something would not be too time consuming but have grade two wording. The survey I used was short and on one page. We completed this as a class. I read the statement and gave examples of what a 0, 1 or a 2 might be. 

The formatting was not very user friendly for grade twos. Next year if I were to use this in class I would number them and make the font larger. I did change the scoring from 0-5 to 0-2. I also only had students put the number beside the question. I later put their numbers in the bold boxes and tallied them. Actually, I delegated that to my husband! :)

What Next

After these two surveys I was left with a lot of paper but still not the overall picture I was looking for. So I decided a one page summary of each student would be more useful. Alberta Education has a document called Developing Learner Proļ¬les. I found this very useful and from it I created a Google Doc called Student Profile Template. I have set the settings to view only but I would love comments on the document for suggestions about how you would use it.

I will also give my students a short summary of their "smarts" so that we can discuss goal setting next.

Microsoft Word? No! Google Docs! A Habit Shift.

As I have begun to research UDL more this year, I have tried to use as many available resources as possible. I have also tried to share things that I am creating. I almost have always exclusively used Word to create documents for planning, parent letters and student work. I still like Word better for creating student activities. However, I have started to make a mental shift to creating new planning documents and parent documents using Google Docs. It is much easier to share what I am doing. I encourage others to make the shift and not just create in Google Docs but share what you are doing with others. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Making Your SchoolZone Parent Resource Page Easy To Navigate

A Paperless Lesson

Two years ago I decided to go paperless for class communications*.  Instead, I started posting the PDF or Word versions of the documents in class news of SchoolZone for a set period of time. Then I would also post it for future reference in the reference section. What I ended up with was not very user friendly. 

* I do provide paper copies for families who request them.

Using Headings 

Last year what I decided to try was to create a heading for each subject area at the start of the year. I even colour coded the headings. As I had something to add to that subject area, I would go back to the date that heading was created on and edit that post or insert an additional document. So, for example, all math items would be together and easy to find. I set the end date for the end of the year for each category/post. 

The Category and Date Matters

I set the the "class" for each heading as "home room" otherwise SchoolZone will be helpful and order the topics alphabetically (art, English LA, etc.). I prefer to have my school start up information first followed by the core subjects. 

This led to another discovery. If you catgorize everything by "home room" the date you set as your start date matters when you set your resources page up this way. If you want General Information first, make sure it has a start date that is the LATEST. I found it useful to put all the information I sent home the first few weeks of school together under General Information. Then I had the core subjects, followed by everything else. 

You can have all the items under one "start" date but if you change your mind about the order you want them to go in, there is no easy reordering solution. Assigning each item/topic area a different start date was an easier way to manage the Resources page for me.

Don't Forget

I am surprised at how many teachers still do not know that they can assess their Discovery Education (formerly United Streaming) through the staff resources section of the resources tab. You no longer have to remember that username or password! 

Parents and students also have access to Discovery Education through SchoolZone as well as access to LearnAlberta

While We're Talking About SchoolZone

On August 19th a new version of SchoolZone was released. Two of the most significant changes for teachers were:

  • no more workspace tab for schools that use Google Apps.
  • SchoolZone News said: "When teachers make changes to student files shared through the Hand In box, students will now get a flag alerting them of the change.  Click here to learn more."

Your Turn

Please post your September SchoolZone tips in the comments!