Tuesday, June 27, 2017

ClassTag's Newest Features Bridge the Gaps in Teacher-Parent Communication

This morning at ISTE 2017 I met with Vlada Lotkina from ClassTag to talk about teacher-parent communication. ClassTag originally launched as a tool for streamlining parent-teacher conference scheduling and volunteering planning. It still does that, but it now has more features for communicating with parents.

ClassTag lets you send email, push, and SMS/text announcements to parents. That's nothing unique. What is unique is that ClassTag will track whether or not those messages are opened and read by parents. If they're not opened and read, ClassTag will provide you with an option to print a flyer to send home. That flyer contains the same information as the electronic announcement.

Applications for Education
Some parents prefer text messages while others prefer email and still others prefer a good, old-fashioned flyer. ClassTag helps you identify the best ways to communicate with your students' parents.

New Grading Options in Google Forms

Google Forms has a new grading option that was released on Monday at ISTE 2017. The new option allows for batch grading of questions. You can now grade on a question-by-question basis rather than student-by-student. In other words, you can grade all responses to question #1 on a quiz rather than having to grade one student's complete set of responses before moving on to the next student's set of responses. See the GIF below for a demonstration of the new feature. (GIF courtesy of Google's marketing department).

Applications for Education
Creating and grading formative assessments is one of the most common uses of Google Forms. This new batch grading option could let you quickly assess how your entire class responded to one question. That information could help you determine if the question was valid or if your students need more instruction on a particular topic.

Dave Vernier's Eclipse Tips

On Monday at ISTE 17 I met with a representative of Vernier Software & Technology. They're producing some neat equipment for science classrooms as well as some excellent interactive physics videos. Those resources are not free to use, but they do have an excellent collection of free resources about the total eclipse happening in the United States later this summer.

Vernier's Total Eclipse website includes tips for safe observing and recording video and pictures of the eclipse. Vernier is also encouraging teachers and students to record and share their observations about the eclipse. Of course, the most important tip of all is to refrain from looking directly at the sun. That's why Vernier offers solar eclipse viewing glasses. You can also make your own solar eclipse viewing box.

Monday, June 26, 2017

SeeSaw Unveils New Features at ISTE 17

This morning at ISTE 2017 I had a nice conversation with Carl Sjogreen from SeeSaw. Carl shared with me the newest features being added to SeeSaw. The following new features will be available on July 5th and are available to preview here at the ISTE conference.

1. A new teacher-to-student and teacher-to-parent messaging system has been added to the latest version of SeeSaw. This will let teachers send announcements to students and parents. Students and parents can receive announcements via SMS and push notifications.  Parents, but not students, can reply to a teacher's announcement.

2. The home screen for teachers has been redesigned to simplify the process of finding and selecting your courses.

3. Teachers can how select and or upload a class icon. Teachers can also select a custom color scheme for their class home screens.

4. The parents' view of SeeSaw has been redesigned. The new design consolidates a parent's view of his or her child's work across multiple classes. More importantly, parents can now search for their children's work according to date and or standard folder. As Carl explained to me, this will let parents quickly compare the work their children did in September with the work they did in May.

And if you missed it earlier this year, SeeSaw added a text labeling tool that you and your students can use on images. Watch the videos below to see how the labeling tool works.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Two Programs Providing Internet Access to Low-income Homes

Today at the ISTE conference I attended the morning TeachMeet ISTE session. At the end of the session Jay Eitner took the stage and shared information about two programs that provide affordable Internet access to low-income homes.

The first program that Jay shared was the FCC Lifeline Program. The program provides significantly mobile and fixed broadband Internet access. Costs are low, but do appear to be variable. You can learn more about program eligibility and find service providers at Lifelinesupport.org

EveryoneOn.org was the second program that Jay shared at TeachMeet ISTE. EveryoneOn.org is a non-profit that provides assistance to families in need of free or low-cost Internet access. The organization partners with local internet service provides in 48 states and Washington, D.C. Low-cost, refurbished tablets and computers are also available through EveryoneOn.org.

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