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Classroom management

4 Great Alternatives to Google Classroom

[caption id="attachment_57132" align="alignright" width="300"] Designed by Freepik[/caption]

In today’s K-12 education ecosystem, most classroom management tools have moved online. This includes typical LMS (Learning Management Systems) functions like homework, classwork, schedules, quizzes, resources, and gradebooks so stakeholders–teachers and students–can access them from any location and any digital device. Because LMSs have a reputation for being complicated to understand and daunting to set up, lite versions that give up some of the robustness in favor of a more pleasant user experience have become popular. The first ‘lite’ option that most educators think of is Google Classroom. It’s easy to use, accessible from all devices, collaborative, and integrates with lots of education apps. You will find yourself most comfortable in the Google Classroom environment if the tools you use are aligned with Google Drive, your browser of choice is Chrome, and your digital device is a  Chromebook.

It turns out there are lots of other reasons schools and teachers don’t want to use Google Classroom:

  • It lacks many features that teachers want in classroom management such as syncing with popular non-Google apps and tools.
  • If you have an LMS you love, Google Classroom often won’t work well with it because it isn’t well-aligned with industry standards.
  • It’s only free if you have a G Suite for Education account.
  • It’s not well-suited if you use Microsoft Office programs.
  • It doesn’t allow a lot of customization. That makes it simpler to use but less adaptable to unique needs.
  • It’s too “googlish”. Toolbars and symbols are easy to understand if you’re into Google, not so much if you aren’t.

The biggest for many people: Privacy concerns continue, despite Google’s efforts to put them to bed. If you’re looking for a non-Google Classroom alternative, here are four:

Microsoft Teamsmicrosoft teams for education

Microsoft is late to the classroom management party but its Microsoft Teams is a worthy consideration. Its name doesn’t scream education though it is the sequel to the since-retired Microsoft Classroom preview. Once set up, the platform works hand-in-hand with OneNote Class Notebooks to provide a digital workspace where teachers can create collaborative classrooms, connect in professional learning communities, communicate with school staff, plan lessons, assign and grade homework, comment on work, and differentiate for student needs. Students can find and share assignments, receive feedback, and collaborate digitally. Overall, it offers similar features to Google Classroom in a different environment.

Free to schools who have Office 365 for Education, it is considered more user-friendly than Google Classroom by some while others disagree. What no one argues is that it works better with Office documents. If your school uses Word, PowerPoint, or Excel on iPads or PCs, this might be a better choice.

kiddom logoKiddom

Kiddom is a free standards-based classroom management platform designed to help teachers curate individual learning experiences. Its pages are visual and easy-to-understand, intuitive to set up, and agile in their responsiveness to varied student and class needs. With its rich analytic features, teachers can quickly determine how students are doing and where remediation is needed. Because many of the statistics are linked to foundational detail, teachers can quickly dig deeper without having to click around trying to find where that particular data lives.

If you are a Google school, you’ll like that Kiddom integrates with Google Drive. Teachers can share docs, sheets, and forms directly with students without leaving Kiddom’s ecosystem. In fact, with Kiddom, you get everything you love about Google Classroom as well as the features only Kiddom brings to learning such as:

  • the ability to plan, assess, and analyze via a free library of standards-aligned resources
  • quick lesson planning using an integrated curriculum planner that can personalize instruction
  • unlimited possibilities for student ownership as they submit work, track their own progress, and solicit feedback from teachers
  • standards-based lesson plans which allow teachers to track completion of skills
  • easy-to-read, actionable reports that help teachers understand individual student performance
  • a flexible curriculum planner that allows teachers to modify individual student learning pathways
Because Kiddom works with Google Classroom, this may be the best option for schools that like Google Classroom but need more.

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Categories: Classroom management, Online education | Tags: | Leave a comment

169 Tech Tip #126: 7 Tips to Differentiate with Tech

tech tipsIn these 169 tech-centric situations, you get an overview of pedagogy—the tech topics most important to your teaching—as well as practical strategies to address most classroom tech situations, how to scaffold these to learning, and where they provide the subtext to daily tech-infused education.

Today’s tip: #126–7 Tips to Differentiate with Tech

Category: Differentiation

Sub-category: Teaching, Pedagogy

Here are seven ways to differentiate instruction every day:

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Categories: Classroom management, Problem solving, Tech tips | Tags: , | 5 Comments

Tech Ed Resources–Certificate/College Credit Classes and Coaching

tech ed helpI get a lot of questions from readers about what tech ed resources I use in my classroom so I’m going to take a few days this summer to review them with you. Some are edited and/or written by members of the Ask a Tech Teacher crew. Others, by tech teachers who work with the same publisher I do. All of them, I’ve found well-suited to the task of scaling and differentiating tech skills for age groups, scaffolding learning year-to-year, taking into account the perspectives and norms of all stakeholders, with appropriate metrics to know learning is organic and granular.

Today: Classes

Ask a Tech Teacher offers a variety of classes throughout the year. These can be taught individually (through coaching or mentoring), in small groups (of at least five), or as school PD. All are online, hands-on, with an authentic use of tools you’ll want for your classroom.


online classesThe Tech-infused Teacher

Certificate

Group enrollment

The 21st Century teacher blends technology with teaching to build a collaborative, differentiated, and shared learning environment. In this course, you will use a suite of digital tools while addressing overarching concepts like digital citizenship, internet search and research, authentic assessment, digital publishing, and immersive keyboarding. You will actively collaborate, share knowledge, provide constructive feedback to classmates, publish digitally, and differentiate for unique needs. Classmates will become the core of your ongoing Personal Learning Network.

Assessment is project-based so be prepared to be fully-involved and an eager risk-taker.

Price includes course registration and all necessary materials.

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Categories: AATT Materials, Classroom management, Online education, Teacher resources, Videos | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Curriculum Companions Start September 10th!

curriculum companion

Curriculum Companion Wikis (K-5 only) follow a tech professional as s/he teaches each lesson in the SL K-5 curriculum textbooks.  Presented via video (10-15 minutes each), you can ask questions, start a discussion with other teachers using the curriculum, and access additional resources. It’s your mentor, your sidekick, your best friend in the tech ed field.

If you own any or all of K-5 Structured Learning technology curriculum (6th edition), you have free access to the grade-level wiki. If you don’t own the curriculum, you can purchase access on a yearly basis here.

K-5, 32 webinars per grade (192 webinars), 9 months

Curriculum Companion Wikis not only include weekly videos, you also get:
  • comprehensive tech vocabulary
  • how-to skills used in lessons
  • a class Discussion Board
  • shared resources

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Categories: AATT Materials, Classroom management, Freebies/Discounts, Teacher resources | 1 Comment

Tech Ed Resources for your Class–Lesson Plans

lesson plansI get a lot of questions from readers about what tech ed resources I use in my classroom so I’m going to take a few days this summer to review them with you. Some are edited and/or written by members of the Ask a Tech Teacher crew. Others, by tech teachers who work with the same publisher I do. All of them, I’ve found well-suited to the task of scaling and differentiating tech skills for age groups, scaffolding learning year-to-year, taking into account the perspectives and norms of all stakeholders, with appropriate metrics to know learning is organic and granular.

Today: Lesson Plans

There are lots of bundles of lesson plans available–by theme, by software, by topic, by standard. Let me review a few:

  • bundles of 5 lesson plans–Themed; great when you want to cover a software program, a tool, a grade, or a standard. Each calls out the higher order thinking skill engaged. Pick the one that fits your need. They’re affordable, focused, and often completed in just a few class sessions.
  • bundle of bundles–15 for about $15 (less if you use a discount coupon). Stock up! Buy three bundles of five lessons to cover a wide-range of needs.
  • 30 K-5 Common Core-aligned lessons–5 per grade level
  • 110 lesson plans–integrate tech into different grades, subjects, by difficulty level, and call out higher-order thinking skills. These cover everything and are discounted this month. Check them out. They could be exactly what you need.
  • singles–for as low as $.99 each. Genius Hour, Google Apps, Khan Academy, Robotics, STEM, Coding, and more.
  • Holiday projects–16 lesson plans that theme to holidays and keep students in the spirit while learning new tools.

Who needs this

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Categories: AATT Materials, Classroom management, Lesson plans, Teacher resources | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Tech Ed Resources–Organize Your Class

digital classroomI get a lot of questions from readers about what tech ed resources I use in my classroom so I’m taking a few days this summer to review them with you. Some are edited and/or written by members of the Ask a Tech Teacher crew. Others, by tech teachers who work with the same publisher I do. All of them, I’ve found well-suited to the task of scaling and differentiating tech skills for age groups, scaffolding learning year-to-year, taking into account the perspectives and norms of all stakeholders, with appropriate metrics to know learning is organic and granular.

Today: Organizing your classroom

Overview

18 webinars (more added as they become available), approx. 30 minutes each, show how to set up your classroom to be tech-infused.

What’s Included

Do you wonder how to set up an effective, exciting, motivating classroom to teach tech? It’s not difficult–but there are steps you must take that are different from a grade-level or subject-specific classroom. Watch these videos at the start of school and often throughout the year to understand how to integrate tech into your classes and how to help students use tech to get the most from their education adventure. Webinars included:

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Categories: AATT Materials, Classroom management, Education reform, Teacher resources | 2 Comments

Is Whole Brain Teaching Right for Me?

If you have challenging students in your classes, there’s a good chance someone has suggested that you look into Whole Brain Teaching (WBT). Whole Brain Teaching is an active teaching method designed to maximize student engagement in lessons, positive interactions with classmates, and educational fun. Instruction includes vocal directions mixed with hand gestures, inflections, full body movement, head motions,  and chants. Studies show that this multi-sensory approach is how the brain is intended to learn and will result in a much greater probability of reaching teaching goals.

Where it might have originally been intended for challenging classes — much like Orton-Gillingham started as a multi-sensory learning system for dyslexics — WBT has matured into a strategy that works for lots of learners, even the quiet ones. It uses “model and repeat” as ways to join the right and left sides of the brain (such as the hippocampus, the prefrontal cortex,  and the motor cortex) in student learning with the idea that if the entire brain is engaged in learning, there is nothing left over for misbehavior or distraction. For many K-12 teachers, WBT has become their primary teaching strategy.

WBT is based on four core components (called Core Four — part of a longer list of techniques):

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Categories: Classroom management, Teacher resources, Teaching Strategies | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Moodle: The Unsung Hero of LMS Options

moodleA Learning Management System (what is often called an LMS) has become foundational to blending technology into education experiences. Without its one-stop curation of class management activities such as attendance, homework, grading, discussions, resources, and more, each with their own separate website, login, and password, technology use in education would be defined by chaos. There are many LMSs to choose from, but none as flexible, scalable, feature-rich, and affordable as the open source ecosystem of Moodle.

Moodle got its start years ago as a method to organize blended learning and online classes. Now, it provides over 90 million educators, administrators, and learners in over 200 countries with a single robust, secure and integrated system to create personalized learning environments. Besides thousands of K-12 schools, users include the State University of New York, Microsoft and the Open University, and the London School of Economics. Because it’s Open Source and platform-agnostic, it has few limitations, but this flexibility and scalability comes with a price. Setup and use are reputed to be more challenging than other LMSs. In fact, I can attest to that from experience.

There is help, though. Following “How to get started” (the next section), I’ll share an easy way to unpack Moodle in your school.

How to get started

With a reminder that Moodle is Open Source, which means the basic framework can be augmented with just about any addition conceivable (as you’ll see in the section, “23 Ways to use Moodle”), here’s how to start:

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Categories: Classroom management, Online education, Teacher resources | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Sown To Grow: Easily Blend Goal-setting and Reflection into Classwork

Many of the existential guides for teaching (such as Habits of Mind, the Socrative Method, and Mindfulness) promote a student-driven growth mindset as fundamental to successful learning. This means students take an active part in achieving education and personal goals. The problem is how to persuade students to voluntarily reflect on their progress, rethink goals, and make the required adjustments to achieve success? There’s also the problem of assessing this sort of non-metric thinking. Students and teachers are accustomed to checklists and grading scales. Few have the background to include subjective traits.

I found a solution: Sown To Grow. It is an online student-driven performance tracker that uses the metrics of goal-setting and reflection to assess progress. The expectation is that students learn how to learn by assessing their own educational experiences as a way to determine their best strategies to become lifelong learners. Students set their goals, track their progress, and ultimately see what worked and what didn’t. Because this is entirely student-driven, students care more about their work and doing their best. For example, if notetaking worked well as a method of achieving goals in one instance, they can transfer that successful experience to other academic endeavors.

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Categories: Classroom management, Reviews, Web Tools | Tags: | Leave a comment

Is Orton-Gillingham Right For Your Students?

Orton-Gillingham started over seventy years ago as an instructional approach intended for those with difficulty reading, spelling, and writing, like what children experience in dyslexia. Sometimes, teachers recognized the special needs of a reading-challenged student, but just as often, it was blamed on disinterest or lack of effort, leaving the child to conclude s/he “just wasn’t good at reading.” When those same children were taught to read using the Orton-Gillingham (O-G) approach, many felt like that child who puts glasses on for the first time and his/her entire world comes into focus.

Since then, the Orton-Gillingham Method has enabled thousands of children to access worlds opened to them by reading, something they never thought would happen. In fact, it has been so successful, O-G is being mainstreamed into the general education classroom, as a way to unlock the power of reading for more students.

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Categories: Classroom management, Reading, Teaching Strategies, Word study/Vocabulary | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments