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News

A Pilot Test of Revision Assistant and What We Learned in the Process

Revision Assistant, part of the Turnitin family, is a comprehensive virtual writing assistant for students that allows them to digitally edit and rewrite documents for any class. Last year, Sammy Spencer, a High School English teacher in Southern California, ran a pilot program using Revision Assistant in her school. Here’s her story:

pilot programLast Fall, my El Camino Real High School colleagues and I set out to change the way we teach writing. We wanted to redefine effective standards-based instruction and assessment. By the time we were finished with a pilot test, we discovered that a technology tool helped us and our students in some unexpected ways. It changed our day-to-day writing instruction practices, gave students more power over their own learning, and happily, made writing exercises more real and applicable for other departments like social studies.

In 2016-17, I was the new English department chair at ECRCHS, which is a large public charter school in Los Angeles. We are fortunate in that we have a lot of academic freedom, but since this is an accreditation year, we have to be sure we have data to prove we are meeting our learning objectives.

This year, I needed to help our English department implement shifts in writing methods directed by the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). We also needed new pedagogical approaches that would yield data to measure progress. Our literacy coach and English teacher, Heidi Crocker, found a product from Turnitin – Revision Assistant – that used a powerful technology to assess writing and would turn the data it uncovered into feedback that students could apply to their essays immediately. We decided to give it a try.

We took a measured approach and piloted Revision Assistant in August 2016 with a small group of English and History teachers. At around the same time, our administration department asked us to align department objectives so that writing instruction reflected CCSS and the Smarter Balanced-style prompts. We needed benchmark assessments that would not only measure student achievement, but also able to drive instruction.

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Categories: News, Writing | 2 Comments

A new resource guide from Kiddom: Standards-based Grading for ELA and Social Studies

Kiddom is a free standards-based platform designed to help teachers curate individual learning experiences (see my review here). Now, they’re giving away their Standards-based Grading Guide–for free:

Humanities Teachers, Rejoice!

English Language Arts and social studies standards are often tangled webs of both skills and content, not so easily separated. This guide clears common misconception and offers best practices.

Click here for free download of Standards-Based Grading for ELA and Social Studies

Click here to book a PD Consult.


Standards-based grading (SBG) is a paradigm shift for teachers accustomed to traditional curriculum frameworks, but that transition can be more extreme for ELA and social studies. While conventional STEM courses are planned around sequential, discrete standards targeting easily-isolated skills, language arts and social studies standards are often tangled webs of both skills and content, not so easily separated.

This inherent challenge further amplifies common misconceptions about standards-based (or competency-based) grading. This guide clears those misconceptions and offers best practices for language arts and social studies teachers seeking to adopt the standards-based grading practice and mindset.

Download our Standards-Based Grading guide

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For more on how to use Kiddom in your classroom, check out their website and other free resources available for educators.

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Categories: News | Tags: | 2 Comments

Technology and Explanation in Modern Education

mysimpleshowToday’s guest writer is Finja Kruse, a teacher experienced in different educational tools and engaged in creative writing activities in school. You can contact her via LinkedIn. Her article today can be summed up by a line in the last paragraph:

Technology is not your enemy…”

Educators aim to equip students with an understanding of the world, its fragility, & opportunities, by teaching them various common subjects like math, language, or science. By learning various subjects simultaneously, integration between them and relativity to the world outside of academia can sometimes get lost in translation. Luckily, this is where effective explanation comes in, and thanks to 21st-century technology there are plenty of ways to explain just about anything.

Topics like health, history, geography, music, etc. are often integrated on the web, whether lessons are on the same video hosting site, LMS system, or free online academy. So, the emerging approach of blended learning is becoming more bound by technological glue per se, and tools that provide a broad spectrum of knowledge intake or creation and allow for a wider range of application opportunities are becoming more and more popular.

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Categories: Education reform, News | Leave a comment

Always Know Which Virtual Speakers Are Available for Your Classes

Do you want to know which virtual speakers and field trips are available for your class? Use this auto-notification from Nepris for real-time updates.

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Categories: News | 2 Comments

Kiddom now offers personalized curricula, visual reports and more

kiddomIf you’re a fan of Kiddom, the easy way to plan, assess, and analyze learning, you’ll be excited to hear that they added more than 50 features to the new Kiddom 2.0 (see my review of Kiddom). These include:

  • Planning — personalized curriculum to meet the changing needs of students
  • Reports — visualize progress with beautiful analytics that track student performance
  • Student Ownership —  empower students with the ability to track their own progress
  • Customization — customize content, grading, and analytics specific to unique classroom needs
  • Collaboration — amplify information sharing amongst teachers, administrators, parents, and the school community at-large
  • Beautiful Design — a major redesign focused on functionality and usability, based on educator feedback

Kiddom 2.0 is available for free for teachers and students and available for use on the web and for iOS at the Apple App Store.

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Must-have Resources for Blended Learning

Guest blogger, Emily Cleary, has some great ideas on some of her favorite must-have resources for today’s blended learning. She makes some great points about first, why blended learning is becoming so popular, and second, how to make that happen in your life:

Blended learning is becoming increasingly popular as institutions transition from classroom style learning to mixed media and online learning. Both schools and workplaces alike are accepting the shifting times, moving from traditional to technological resources and approaches. The best things about eLearning are likely the flexibility and accessibility that come with online instruction: People can learn about things they are interested in or need help with, at their own pace, on their own time, and from nearly anywhere in the world!

The Internet is a big place – so there are tons of options available when it comes to eLearning resources, and looking up explainer videos and DIY tutorials on YouTube is pretty much a given. The abundance of tools could understandably come off as a bit overwhelming, though. Luckily, some of the most effective elearning resources are listed by category below.

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Categories: News | Tags: | Leave a comment

An Introduction to Blended Learning Instruction

kiddomKiddom, a transformative approach to teaching and personalized learning, has a new guide available for teachers–and it’s free:
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You can download it by clicking the link. Learn how to start a blended learning program in your classroom or at your school.
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For more about Kiddom, see my review, What is Kiddom? Why is it right for you?
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More on tech integration:

What parents should ask teachers about technology

How to Prepare for the SAT Essay

What is Google Keep and Why Use it in Your Classroom?

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Bring an expert to your classroom for Black History Month

One of my go-to sources for classroom speakers is Nepris. Not only do experts come to your class, but they interact with students and take their questions (see my review of Nepris). Here’s a great free event available for February’s Black History Month:

African presidential candidatesMeet an Expert on the History of African American Presidential Candidates

Students can meet and talk with an expert in American history during a free virtual chat on The History of African American Presidential Candidates hosted by Nepris on Friday, February 17 at 10:00 a.m. ET. Go to Nepris to sign up for free.

For 40 minutes, Matthew Drayton, a decorated combat veteran turned motivational speaker and author, will talk with students about prominent African Americans who have run for the nation’s highest executive office. Students will learn about history and politics and be able to ask questions.

Nepris brings this virtual chat and thousands of others to classrooms. Teachers can view archived sessions for free and participate in a limited number of free “industry offered” chats on topics from STEM to the Arts. Additional industry chats being offered include Drones and Facetime on March 16. Learn more at nepris.com/industry/talks.

More on virtual field trips:

16 Great Virtual Field Trips

9 Field Trips Free to Students

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Categories: History, News | Leave a comment

10 Reasons Why Videos are Great Educational Tools

mysimpleshowI’ve written a lot lately about the benefits of using videos in your classroom. Guest author, Emily Clearly over at mysimpleshow has ten more reasons why videos are a great educational tool for your teaching:

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Videos are in line with the technological times and can be accessed on the Internet at any point, from wherever you are in the world. Education is something that will never go out of style. Why not put the two together?

There are plenty of reasons why videos are great educational tools, and there are many tools on the web to help provide you with video content. You can hire professionals to create videos for you if your budget allows. Video hosting sites like YouTube, Wistia, and Vimeo offer endless options for pre-curated content. Although they are helpful, sometimes these sites can be over-saturated with content. That’s where video creation tools like mysimpleshow come in (see the sample video created below, using mysimpleshow). The tool is great for creating more tailored and personal content, and you end up with a professional quality explainer video in no time, and without budget! It’s simple, and adding videos to lessons really engages the learner.

If you’re not a believer in video and need some convincing, or you’re still slowly hopping on the bandwagon, here are 10 reasons why educators should be using video inside and outside of the classroom.

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Categories: News, Videos | 2 Comments

New from Kiddom

kiddomKiddom is a free standards-based platform designed to help teachers curate individual learning experiences. Its pages are visual and easy-to-understand, enabling teachers to quickly determine how students are doing and where remediation is needed–all without spending a lot of time analyzing data. Many of the details are linked, allowing you to dig deeper on any subject from a variety of pages rather than one specific spot.

I met them last year and continue to be amazed by their creativity (see my review here). Here’s their latest update:

Social Emotional Learning Rubrics Available

Great educators teach the whole child. That’s why in addition to supporting CASEL’s social emotional learning (SEL) competencies, we’re proud to announce we’ve now added SEL-aligned rubrics that can be added to any assignment (for grades 6-12). To start using these rubrics, be sure to add Social Emotional Learning as a subject in class settings.

The links below offer tips on how to best weave these SEL rubrics into your daily classroom practices.

 kiddom 1. Develop self-awareness with summative assessments.
2. Project self-management by adding goal setting and monitoring.
3. Support social awareness by providing reflection opportunities.
4. Promote relationship skills with class discussions or presentations.
5. Track responsible decision making by adhering to assignment deadlines.

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