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Classroom management

Cikumas–an LMS that’s easy to understand

learning management systemSwiss-based Cikumas makes the creation and implementation of virtual classrooms quick, intuitive, and without the steep learning curve that so often accompanies LMSs (Learning Management Systems). The minimalist nature of this ecosystem makes it easy for students to complete their work and teachers to engage with them. In the crowded field of K-16 LMSs, Cikumas offers a refreshing philosophy that online learning is about engagement between participants facilitated by the automation of assignments, scheduling, and classwork submittal.  It encourages teachers to place themselves at the heart of the learning, using its tools to make that a reality.

How to get started

It’s easy to get started with Cikumas:

  • Sign up for a free account.
  • Import your classes from Google Classroom, enter students by hand, or invite students via a class code.
  • Upload lesson plans and assignments with drag-and-drop ease from your local drive or Google Drive. These appear on your Calendar and your Dashboard (color-coded to differentiate between Assignments and ToDo items).
  • Develop your ToDo list which also shows on your Dashboard. Notice it appears on the Calendar (also on the Dashboard).
  • Group Assignments into Collections for ease of use.

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Categories: Classroom management, Reviews | Tags: | 3 Comments

10 Options for Polls and Forms in Your Class

Collecting class data, asking for feedback on activities, and pushing out quizzes used to be laboriously accomplished by passing out paper documents, collecting them as they dribbled in, and then collating the data into a spreadsheet where you could sort and shake to come up with the useful information.

These days, all of those tasks are accomplished much more easily with one of the many free/fee webtools designed to create and curate information. Uses include but are not limited to:

  • volunteer sign ups
  • feedback on events
  • class enrollments
  • donations and payments
  • consent forms for school activities
  • polls and surveys on upcoming or past events
  • data on parents and students
  • collection of student projects
  • sign-ups for student class presentations
  • signups for afterschool activities or summer classes
  • registrations for a Professional Development workshop
  • quizzes that are automatically evaluated providing students with their score and you with metrics

Besides the ease of use and their digital nature, students love forms because they are anonymous. This means when forms are used to collect feedback, input, and projects, students can participate at their own pace, as quietly as they’d like, with only the teacher being aware of their identity.

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Categories: Classroom management, Teacher resources, Web Tools | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

What is a Growth Mindset?

growth mindsetIt’s no secret many parents are frustrated with public schools. Are kids learning to think or just to pass tests? Are they spending classroom time wisely or just doing what’s always been done? Are we developing lifelong learners or simply kids who can’t wait to graduate?

If this describes you, you’re not alone in your concerns, but there’s hope. Consider a pedagogy that transcends rote memorization and the stock drills often found in today’s classrooms, expects critical thinking that teaches how to learn anything — not just school subjects. It’s called a “Growth Mindset”. In an Edsurge article by Rupa Gupta, former Redesign Administrator at Burnett Middle School in San Jose, Calif., she summarized the issue like this:

“In a recent national survey, 97 percent of teachers agreed that all students can and should have a growth mindset, and that same number said fostering a growth mindset is an important part of a teacher’s job. Yet only 50 percent said they have adequate solutions and strategies to shift mindset.”

So nearly everyone agrees this type of cerebral approach is important to real learning but few know how to make it happen.

What is Growth Mindset?

Let me back up a moment and define “Growth Mindset” more clearly. Most people believe basic human qualities like intelligence and talent are fixed traits: nature supersedes nurture. Kids are born with the characteristics that will mold their future. They are good at math or they aren’t. They can throw a football well or not. As kids grow, they figure out what they can and can’t do and adjust learning and life as needed to these truths. They come to believe that understanding and adapting to this process equates to success.

In a Growth Mindset, people believe ability can be developed through dedication and hard work. The cerebral and physical traits they were born with are just the starting point. Students are responsible for setting the patterns and strategies that allow them to succeed, by evaluating what they can do at any given point and making a plan for learning everything else.

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Categories: Classroom management, Critical thinking, Education reform | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Remote Learning: Tips for Thriving in This Ecosystem

Anyone who attends online classes or any sort of remote learning knows it’s different from traditional classes. To thrive in this environment requires a mindset that appreciates the pros and adapts to the challenges. The folks over at  San Diego Virtual School (SDVS) have put together a list of quick productivity tips on how to excel in this increasingly-popular learning environment:

Remote Learning Productivity Tips

Studying and working from home will share a lot of overlap when it comes to staying productive. It’s a completely different environment than being in a traditional school and it will require a much different (and stronger) level of discipline to stay successful in your studies.

So what can you do to stay on top of your lessons and ensure that you’ll be productive throughout your years of education when going remote?

Use a Clean and Organized Study Space

Studying remotely means you get to customize your study space in any way you want. It’s important to have a space that you’re comfortable in, but you also want it to be as clean, organized and clutter-free as possible. This helps keep your mind clear, and allows you to avoid unwanted distractions.

If at all possible, try not to have anything on your desk that isn’t related to your studies.

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Categories: Classroom management, Online education | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Teacher Support in the Digital-Blended Classroom

Technology remains–still–a love-hate relationship between teachers and teaching. Yes, it enriches learning but at the price of too many problems, preparation required, and confusion. I like Felicia Zorn’s summary of how that go-nogo decision really has become ‘get with the program’.

Teacher Support in the Digital-Blended Classroom

Growing up, my generation did not use verbs like ‘Google’ or proper nouns such as ‘Siri’.  We were the pioneers of the digital era.  We played Oregon Trail, asked Jeeves questions for our research, and waited for hours while Napster downloaded our favorite songs.  Now, children are digital natives.  Children as young as two are utilizing tablets, exploring the apps on smartphones, and accessing knowledge via the internet.  How do we as educators keep up with this trailblazing generation who can navigate technology at breakneck speeds?  Or better yet, why should we integrate online learning into our classrooms?  There are countless strategies and resources at your fingertips, but this article will spotlight the importance of digital teacher support for your blended learning environment.

Digital resources can save teachers innumerable hours of planning, grading, assigning, and assessing in the classroom.  As online resources develop and create more curricula, teachers will transform classroom dynamics by devoting less time to lecturing and spending more time enriching and mentoring.  Rigorous, standards-aligned content is uploaded daily to educational websites, apps, and test banks.  Most online assignments are auto-graded and scores are sent directly to a digital gradebook for teachers.  Assessments can be altered with settings to meet the needs of all students with a few short clicks.

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Categories: Classroom management, Guest post, Teaching Strategies | Tags: | Leave a comment

New Year, New Mindset

Every year, I make New Year resolutions and ignore them. I don’t promise to fulfill them. I don’t even check my progress and revise as needed. I make-and-forget, check it off the New Year’s To Do list and move on.

This year, I’m trying something different: resolutions that aren’t quantified, that won’t take extra time from my too-busy schedule. Resolutions that will, instead, are more about my teaching mindset. Here’s my list:

I will learn one new tech tool a month

There are so many. I get massive lists of webtools, websites, apps, extensions, and links in my inbox, mostly proclaimed as “the tool I can’t do without”. Every month, I’ll pick one and try it.

Just to be clear: Today’s tech ed tools aren’t like they used to be. The ones I’m interested in are easy-to-use, intuitive, easily differentiated for varied student needs, and free or inexpensive. Anything that requires a time commitment to learn and buckets of creativity to use is off the list. My schedule is too packed for that sort of commitment. And, I’ll unpack them with the students, authentically, as part of a project we’re doing. An example: I use Padlet to curate and share projects. Instead, I’ll use Tozzl at least once.

To get me started, would you add a comment with your favorite tool — the one I should start with in January.

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Categories: Classroom management, Teacher resources | Tags: | 4 Comments

169 Tech Tip #112: How to Open 2 Gmail Accounts at Once

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: #112–How to Open 2 Gmail Accounts at Once

Category: Email

Sub-category: Google Apps, Classroom management

Q: I have a home Gmail account and a school one. How do I open both at once so I can keep track of what my kids/home business/etc. is doing while at my teaching job?

A: I got this quick answer from efriend and tech guru Chris Hoffman: Open each account in a separate browser.  It has to do with each browser keeping its own cookie.

Stepping back a moment, here’s why you might need this:

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Categories: Classroom management, Tech tips | Tags: , | 1 Comment

169 Tech Tip #99: Need Email Accounts for Registration? Try This

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: #99–Need Email Accounts for Registration? Try This

Category: Email

Sub-category: Webtools, Problem-solving, Classroom management

Q: A lot of web-based tools require email verification. Many of my students don’t have these at school or home. What do I do?

A: This is a lot easier than you’d think. Gmail ignores anything that comes after a + in a username. JonDoe is the same as JonDoe+thinglink. Use that to your advantage with student accounts. They can use your email address and append their name with the +.  You can even set up a filter to send all those + emails to a separate folder so it doesn’t annoy you.

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Categories: Classroom management, Problem solving, Tech tips, Web Tools | 1 Comment

Should You Unschool?

unschoolingThe first time I read about Unschooling, I ignored it. Surely, it was a fad that would go away.

When that didn’t happen and I read about it a thousand more times, I dug into it. Inspired by the teachings of John Holt (1923–1985), this free range branch of homeschooling promotes learning through nonstructured, child-led exploration. There’s no set curriculum or schedule; students learn what interests them with guidance from involved adults. There are no worksheets, tests, or structure to provide evidence of learning or templates for teaching. The children pick what to learn, when, at what pace. The result — according to unschoolers, is a love of learning, tenacity to a task, and independent thought that prepares them for college and career better than traditional methods. In fact, if you look at the list of traits valued in popular education programs such as Habits of Mind and Depth of Knowledge, the reasons why parents unschool their children mirror the traits included in these lists.

What is it

According to  Dr. Peter Gray of Freedom to Learn:

Unschooling parents do not … do at home the kinds of things that are done at school. More specifically, they do not establish a curriculum for their children, do not require their children to do particular assignments for the purpose of education, and do not test their children to measure progress. Instead, they allow their children freedom to pursue their own interests and to learn, in their own ways, what they need to know to follow those interests. They may, in various ways, provide an environmental context and environmental support for the child’s learning. In general, unschoolers see life and learning as one.”

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Categories: Classroom management, Teacher resources | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Highly-versatile, Easy-to-use Form Creator–and it’s free!

jotformEverywhere outside of the education industry (which seems to focus on Google Forms), JotForm is the gold standard for creation of forms whether on PCs, Macs, or mobile devices. It can be used to sign up volunteers, get feedback on events, enroll people into classes, ask for donations, or collect payments. A JotForm can even show different questions based on what a user answered in prior questions. Its drag-and-drop interface makes building it intuitive, quick, and easy. With a wide variety of themed templates, it’s easily adaptable to any need. Once the form is completed, it can be shared via a link or social media, or integrated into DropBox, Google Docs, and many other popular platforms.

Check this link. to see if you qualify for an education account that awards you a 50% discount on pricing.

How to use it

Set up an account and then decide if you want to start with a blank page or a template. Follow the simple drag-drop directions to build your form using predesigned name/email fields, text answers, multiple choice selections, drop-down lists, an image, an upload field (where students can send their work to you), or an input table. Format the form to meet your school theme or other design criteria using predesigned themes or one you upload from your computer. Collaborate with colleagues if desired. Share the completed form via a link or embed. Responses can be collected in a spreadsheet, the form itself, or other third-party integrations.

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Categories: Classroom management, Reviews | 2 Comments