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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Using Class Dojo to Motivate Your Students - Guest Post

I teach gifted students in grades K-5, and many of them, believe it or not, can be prone to avoiding challenging tasks. I recently posted about this on my blog, and included a video produced by Carol Dweck that highlights the importance of praising students for their hard work instead of for their intelligence. I decided to employ Class Dojo to help me with this.

Class Dojo is a free iOS application (and website - Android app soon to come) that can be used to reward students with points for positive behaviors. You can also subtract points for negative behaviors. I rarely use the subtraction feature, however, because I prefer the students to focus more on meeting my expectations rather than on how they can disappoint me.

You can use the website for Class Dojo to manage your classes. The mobile app allows you to award points "on the go" with your smartphone as you walk around the classroom. In addition, there is a "random" button that you can hit which will choose a student from your class, well, randomly.

At the beginning of the year, I established Class Dojo routines with all of my classes, and introduced my students to the class treasure box where they could "redeem" their points. In fact, this is usually the only "negative" behavior that is reflected on their reports and, of course, I explain to parents that it is not negative at all. This serves the dual purposes of reward and of privacy, in a way. If I display the class on our screen, it is not embarrassing for a student who only has 1 point, because it is assumed he or she has "spent" points on treasure box items.

With my 5th grade, I started something new that involves "Leveling Up." Based on the number of points they receive in certain categories, they can move to different levels of responsibility in my class - which also gives them extra privileges. Some of these privileges include: choosing where they would like to sit, getting a Glogster Edu account, checking out games for a week, checking out books from my class library, and getting a Weebly account. When students achieve certain milestones, they receive badges (that they designed) in Edmodo (where they can also earn points by doing optional assignments. Certain badge totals allow them to level up. You could also use the site Class Badges for this.

The most immediate effect that I have seen as a result of my use of Class Dojo has been the students' responses to my emphasis on working hard. A few weeks ago, I started to choose students randomly during class to get a "perseverance" point. I tell them that they won’t automatically get it just because their name was chosen. If I don’t feel they deserve it, I will choose someone else. To avoid embarrassing any specific people, I use my mobile app. If a name pops up of a distracted or discouraged student, I just say, “Oh, I’m sorry. This person needs to show me more effort. I guess I need to pick someone else.” Suddenly, students who were just gazing off into the distance become productive.

I am careful to not only award students points for getting things right or doing things perfectly. I frequently give them points for trying hard and taking risks . And I verbally praise them often so they realize these are my expectations.
click to view full size

This image shows the positive behavior traits my 5th graders should exhibit. (We are a “Leader in Me” school, so we use the 7 Habits to describe our behaviors. Students who show a good attitude and effort for difficult tasks are being “Proactive”.) With this targeted use of Class Dojo and Edmodo, I have seen a definite increase in effort from my students.

Terri Eichholz is a teacher of gifted and talented students in N.E.I.S.D. in San Antonio. She is the author of “Engage Their Minds”, a blog which provides “different ideas for different thinkers.” You can also find her at http://pinterest.com/terrieichholz/ and on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Finding great Google Apps information but, no time to research it? - Guest Post

If you are a Google Apps Newbie like me you are both excited and overwhelmed by all the amazing and free Google Apps for Education tools that can used in your professional life and with teachers and students. How is it possible at the start of all this to find the time to understand Google Drive, Calendar, Forms, and Sites and all their best features?

This is our district’s first year pilot into “Going Google.” As part of the team overseeing the launch of Google Apps for our district I have found hundreds of great reads on Google Apps. However, I never seem to have the time just then to give the read its full attention. Therefore I have found some specific things that have really helped me to save and read all this great information later in the time I have outside my other responsibilities.

Twitter
Twitter has been invaluable for learning new things in Google Apps and keeping up on the latest updates. I need something quick and to the point when I check my Twitter feed on my phone at lunch or when I am settling down for the night watching TV. Did you know Google Forms just refreshed their look with updated and more user friendly features? Do you know what the Five Essential Google Drive skills are for teachers? When did the entire Chicago Public School system just switch over to Google Apps? I wouldn’t have known any of this unless I saw these articles via Twitter. If you don’t have the time to read them at the time just “Favorite” them in your Twitter account and get to them when you can. Here are some great people to follow on Twitter concerning Google Apps:

Richard Byrne https://twitter.com/rmbyrne
Eric Curts https://twitter.com/ericcurts
Jamie Casap https://twitter.com/jcasap
Kyle Pace https://twitter.com/kylepace
Mikkel Storaasli https://twitter.com/LeydenASCI
Don Wielinga https://twitter.com/Wielinga1
Google At Work https://twitter.com/GoogleAtWork - not a person but, an informative feed

Pocket (Formerly Read it Later)
The free Pocket app which I use on my desktop, laptop, and phone allows me to simply save anything I find on the web in a neat organized list. I have found hundreds of articles, web sites, videos, tweets, and blog posts concerning Google Apps which I want to read and research but, at the time cannot do. The Pocket app or Pocket Google Chrome extension allows me to get to them later on all of my devices. Check www.getpocket.com

Email a Google Apps School
Yes. Good old email. Check out the Google Apps User Guide which lists Google Apps schools and contacts throughout the country. I have yet to find someone using Google Apps who was unwilling to help me out with a question when they find the time: http://www.appsusergroup.org/school/by-list

Rob McCann is the Director of Curriculum and Student Assessment at Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School in Marlboro, MA. Rob is part of the team overseeing Assabet’s first year pilot program with Google Apps for Education. You can contact Rob by email at rmccann@assabet.org and check out his new blog at http://avedutec.blogspot.com/

Video Games and Language Learning

When I was a child, most video games were in English, which was a foreign language for me, growing up in Germany. I remember one game in particular, a text adventure taking place in the world of Greek mythology. I had a German-English dictionary in one hand, and a book about Greek mythology in the other. I had fun, and played - and learned - for hours, both English vocabulary and the tales of Odysseus.

Getting our students to learn with such interest and deep motivation - a state of mind often referred to as “flow” (a term concept introduced by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) - is a worthwhile but difficult goal. Video games are one way to create flow, and I wanted to briefly introduce a few good examples of appropriate games and some resources as well as links for further investigation in this guest blog post.

For several years one of the most versatile games I’ve used is a PS3 game called Buzz. Up to 8 players each take a wireless controller and then compete in a quiz game show, which can be switched to a number of languages. You and/or your students can write their own quizzes online, which can then be played on the PlayStation. For example, last fall semester my German 301 students submitted their own questions about what we had covered during the semester and then played the semester’s content as a game. The students who had learned the most won the game.

Because this is a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) video game, it is actually fun to play - something that is usually not the case for most educational games. Finding and selecting these COTS games is not an easy process (click here for an article about this), but I would argue it is worth our time to find engaging, meaningful, and yes, fun ways to use another language creatively. Small, browser-based games can also be great in your language classes because of their manageable scope, shallow learning curve, and their accessibility. Fitting into a single lesson, games such as the 20 questions game, Quest for the Rest, or Grow Cube can create conversation or writing opportunities and prompts.

New technologies, such as mobile devices, augmented reality, and geotagging allow for new hybrid, situated games. The game and storytelling engine ARIS, for example, can engage learner in new and profound ways in both a digital space and a physical place at the same time. Projects, such as the Mentira project, show that we may be heading in a new direction and that games have come a long way since the days when I played that text adventure in the 80s!

A blog post is obviously too short to cover the whole spectrum of video games and language learning, but I’ll stop here. If you are interested in the topic, please head over to my blog at http://www.languagetechnologybootcamp.org/ for some more reviews and comments. I look forward to hearing from you!

Photo: Students playing Buzz in a foreign language (German)


About the Guest Blogger
Felix Kronenberg is an as Assistant Professor for Modern Languages and Literatures and Director of the Language Learning Center at Rhodes College. He was awarded the 2009 Marie Sheppard Award by the International Association for Language Learning and Technology (IALLT), and has been a fellow for the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education. He is the immediate past-president of the SouthWest Association for Language Learning and Technology (SWALLT) and is the editor of the IALLT Publication "Language Center Design". His research interests include computer games and language learning, digital storytelling, and language center design. He maintains a blog called Language Technology Boot Camp.

Guest Post - Student Accountability Program in Google Spreadsheets

Several years ago, we decided to design a more comprehensive way of evaluating our students' success in our middle school. We acknowledged that grades are just one measure of how students can experience success in school. In addition, we needed a more holistic way to determine if a student should be retained or promoted to the next grade. We created the Student Accountability Program (SAP). We brainstormed a list of all the ways students can demonstrate success in school. We decided on the following categories: grades, attendance, discipline, a standardized test called Acuity, reading test called STAR, and a bonus section for extra curricular activities. We put all of this together in a Google Spreadsheet we call the SAP Checklist.

Each category is weighted with a different point value. We established benchmark point levels for each category. For example, 48 points are possible in the grades category (above) by the end of the year, but 20 points is the benchmark ("C" average). The sum of all the categories total at the bottom of the checklist (below). The total number of possible points is 90, but the sum of the benchmarks establishes our passing score of 46 points. Multiple formula functions quantify their data and add up the points for them. Students fill in their data in the yellow cells and update each category at the end of each grading period. After the grading period, one of the teachers in each grade sits down with each student one-on-one and the student presents their SAP Checklist.

The SAP has changed our school. Our students are aware of where they are in their education experience, and have ownership in the process. Almost every student knows his or her grades, attendance, Acuity and STAR score as well as overall points. Students, parents, teachers, and administrators are crystal clear about whether a student is on track to pass or fail. The SAP is our homemade RTI (response to intervention), which allows us to identify students who are in danger of failure so we can take corrective measures. This system serves the full spectrum of students. We award “Honors” medals to those above 80 points and a special medal to the highest score in each grade-- the valedictorian.

This has been a grassroots process by our staff that has evolved each year with feedback from students, parents, teachers, and administrators. We are constantly assessing our own assessments because so much of what we do in education is driven by how we assess. This year students in 7th grade are making digital portfolios, with their checklist embedded into their portfolio (ex. 1, ex. 2, ex. 3). We are currently working on a skill-based evaluation tool called the Apache Learning Essentials (left) that will likely change our SAP Checklist. One of my favorite quotes of all time is from Will Richardson, “If we don’t assess what we value, we will will end up valuing what we assess”.

Justin Vail teaches 7th grade social studies at Wabash Middle School in Wabash, Indiana. He also provides instructional technology support in his 1-to-1 school district, currently in its second year of 1-to-1 implementation. He blogs about 21st Century education reform practices with his fellow math teacher Joey Till at http://www.educationshift.net/. They also share a Twitter account at @ED_SHIFT.

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