Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Solve for Tomorrow and Win for Your School

Disclosure: this is a sponsored blog post. 

Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow competition is currently underway and there is still time to for you to enter. The contest is designed to get students in grades six through twelve interested in STEAM projects that can have an immediate impact on local and global communities. Some past contest finalists have designed projects that utilize drones to reduce the use of pesticides on crops, created projects to feed hungry students, and developed emergency shelter solutions to help those affected by natural disasters.

One of the benefits of creating a Solve for Tomorrow entry is that it can help your students identify and propose solutions to problems that affect their local communities. But, as you can see from past contest finalists, the problems and solutions that students identify often have global applications. Furthermore, creating Solve for Tomorrow projects can help your students see the importance of integrating skills from science, technology, engineering, arts, and math into meaningful solutions to real world problems.

This contest is unique in its format. Initial entry takes just a few minutes of your time. The key part of the initial entry form is three short responses to the following questions:
  • What is the most difficult problem faced by your school’s community?
  • How can STEAM be applied to address this issue?
  • What is the biggest hurdle your students face in the classroom that hinders their academic achievement?
After the initial entries are submitted (deadline is November 9th), state finalists will be selected to submit an activity plan. All state finalists (255 in all) will receive a Samsung tablet (valued at $499.99). From those state finalists’ plans, state winners will be chosen. State winners will receive $25,000 in Samsung technology for their schools. State winners will be invited to submit a video about their projects. Those videos will be used in selecting ten national finalists who will receive $50,000 in school technology and a trip to the national pitch event where three national winners will be chosen. National winners will receive $150,000 in Samsung technology for their schools.

Get some inspiration for your STEAM project by watching a few of the videos from last year’s Solve for Tomorrow contest finalists.

Remember, initial entries are due by November 9th. Take a few minutes to enter today!

Hyperdocs: Create Interactive Google Docs

HyperDocs are an interactive Google Doc and provide teachers with a way of presenting information to students in a fun and engaging way. They replace the standard, passive worksheet model of instruction and increase student agency. HyperDocs are much more than Google Docs that contain hyperlinks. They are carefully crafted activities that includes all of the components of the lesson in one central location.

Click here to view an example of a HyperDoc. This particular lesson takes students on a journey around the United States. This lesson contains a variety of multimedia resources that students can view in an order they wish, select the places they find interesting, and work at their own pace. This activity concludes with students using the information they have collected to create a product. In this example, students are asked to create a slide presentation and a video. HyperDocs allow teachers to design visually engaging activities that promote curiosity, creativity, collaboration, and reflection.

HyperDocs can be used with students across grade levels and subjects. There are numerous HyperDocs in the Teachers Give Teachers library that will help you get started. Once you are comfortable creating your own HyperDocs, you are encouraged to share them to help continue building the resource library.

Applications for Education 
HyperDocs help increase student agency by providing choices and options to allow them to demonstrate what they have learned and how they can apply this new knowledge.  

The three educators behind this idea are Lisa Highfill, Sarah Landis, and Kelly Hilton

Collaborative Computing vs One to One

This is a guest post from Tracy Dabbs, Coordinator of Technology and Innovation for the Burlington-Edison School District.

I have been supporting Ed-Tech in classrooms for nearly 15 years and during this time we have all experienced some big changes in tools and ideas. There is always some new learning design that promises to transform education and be THE solution to reach all students. One trend that seems to keep surfacing is the idea of one to one computing. What do we see in these learning spaces? We see individual students with faces in screens for extended periods of time. Okay, I love educational technology and this is literally my life’s work, but I cannot explain how disappointing it is for me to see these type of experiences going on in our classrooms.

Engaging learning is not about faces in screens. I know we talk about making sure that everyone has access, but that doesn’t need to mean constant access or one to one access. If it is not that...then what is it?

It is all about focusing on the learning we want students to experience. We must think about what we want our students to engage in with us. There are some wonderful supports out there, ISTE has their new student standards and others like NPDL have explored the Six C’s to focus on necessary 21st Century skills. These standards and progressions ask us to think about developing skills beyond the devices. Skills that will continue to move us forward no matter how the devices change in the future. We should be constantly finding ways for students to collaborate in our classrooms; instead of working in isolation behind their own screen. Collaboration is more than adding comments or feedback electronically to a peer. Students need to be working in groups to discuss, engage, question, and work to select devices when needed...together. If you challenge your students to work on devices together, think of the higher levels of communication, collaboration, character, creativity, critical thinking, and citizenship that your students will experience.

Imagine each task you ask your students to engage in: post to Google Classroom, watch a YouTube video, engage in work on a website...what if you asked them to work with another student? How could that transform what they do and how they learn? I know...having students share devices all the time is not ideal either, but can we find a better balance? Can we honestly think about our one-to-one activities and ask ourselves if that is really the learning we want? I have worked with many districts that focus all of their technology dollars on one-to-one and not one cent on supporting and training their teachers...think about that balance.

Please check out some supports that I have put in place for our teachers and some grounding documents that we use in our district to guide our decisions. We need to constantly ask ourselves: What learning experiences do we really want for our students and ourselves?

Author's bio:
Tracy Dabbs, Coordinator of Technology and Innovation for the Burlington-Edison School District: I hold a degree in Elementary Ed K-8, a SPED degree for K-12, a Masters in Educational Technology, and a Principal Certification. After a wonderful ten years teaching 1st and 2nd grade, I moved into a full time technology coach position. Now I am the district coordinator of Technology and Innovation were I develop staff development and support, lead the selection and roll-out of devices and infrastructure upgrades district-wide.

Twitter: @TracyDabbs
Website: http://www.be.wednet.edu/district-office/technology

Updates to Google Calendar

Google Calendar released some updates last week. If you have not already noticed these changes, you will see them very soon.

The new version of the calendar is more visually appealing and some features are easier to use. You can add new events to your calendar with a single on any open space. A double click on any open space allows you to add even more details about an event. Right click an existing to change the color, join the meeting, or delete it.

Another new option in Calendar is the ability to view event invitation status. The status will look different depending on how you have responded. A single color indicates you are attending the event. diagonal lines indicate you might be attending, an outline means you have not replied, and an outline that has the box crossed out indicates you have declined the invitation.

The settings page has been updated as well. This page used to be difficult to navigate because there were so many options and they were in one long list. Now they options are chunked into groups and there is a navigation tool on the page that allows you to jump from one section to another very quickly.

Read more about the updates on the Google Blog.

Monday, October 23, 2017

How to Prevent Plagiarism in Online Learning: Unicheck and Google Classroom

This blog post is sponsored by Unicheck.

The reputation and credibility of the educational institution directly depend on academic conduct policies and measures taken to prevent plagiarism. It is equally relevant for online and offline academic institutions.

The problem is plagiarism has never ceased to exist. According to the University of Adelaide survey, 90% of students said they were aware of plagiarism policies and possible cheating consequences. Surprisingly, two thirds of students claimed to be unsure about referencing and quoting issues and didn’t know plagiarism checkers were used at all.

These astonishing figures are rather discouraging. If it is so common for brick-and-mortar institutions, so how about online learning then?

Let’s dig deeper and see how the issue is tackled there.

Preventing plagiarism in online learning

In online education, writing assignments are required quite frequently. They shouldn’t be plagiarized or recycled. The value of each assignment is defined by its originality rate and ideas outlined.

So far the most widespread methods to help students avoid plagiarism are prevention and detection.

Briefly, prevention comprises explaining what sources to use, how to write originally, and what plagiarism consequences might be. Detection is usually done by means of plagiarism checkers.

Used widely for online and offline learning, LMSs like Canvas, Schoology, and Moodle have long had these tools accessible for educators and students. Integrated as apps or plugins, plagiarism checkers help detect matching content by comparing papers with online sources or academic databases.

Running plagiarism checks in Google Classroom

Google Classroom has recently joined the list of online learning platforms having plagiarism detection apps. Its integration with Unicheck makes paper checking process run automatically.

Having Google Classroom and Unicheck accounts are enough for integrating the checker. It’s possible to configure its settings anytime (either for a particular course or all courses at once).

Teachers get reports sent to their email accounts. These reports brief teachers about each checked student submission showing percentage of matches detected, submission dates, student names and emails. What is more, teachers can choose what way they want to receive reports: as soon as papers are submitted, or on the due date of the assignment when all papers have been submitted.

By clicking the View report button, a teacher is taken to the full report page. Here, the teacher will be able to see all potential plagiarism highlighted in the text, as well as correctly formatted citations and references. Each sentence with found similarity is provided with a link to the source it might have been copied from. Teachers can exclude sources that they feel should not be included in the report and can change search settings to skip sources that have insignificant matches.

Unicheck identifies suspicious character substitutions and supports almost all text file formats, including .doc, .docx, .rtf, .odt, .html, .pdf, .ppt, .pptx. As the checker is specially tailored for education, it identifies references and citations in MLA, APA, Turabian and other academic writing styles. Recognized citations contribute to the lower similarity score. Teachers can manually exclude citations at their judgement and include them in search results, thus influencing similarity score.

Extra bonuses for smarter working

Shareability. With Unicheck at hand no minute is wasted; each report can be shared right from teachers’ Gmail accounts. This may be done either by sharing a link to the report or forwarding Unicheck’s email.

Advanced search. By default, all papers are checked against internal Library and Internet. Unicheck compares each paper with the internet and open access databases in real time. Thus, no outdated sources get into the report. All submissions and files previously uploaded in the Library will automatically be checked against the new submissions.

Better customization. Customization settings allow tuning up each search for matches and selecting courses to be checked with Unicheck. Besides, no old submissions will be checked. Unicheck will start checking new student submissions from the day it is integrated into your Google Classroom, leaving all previous submissions unchecked.

In conclusion

Simple, yet very efficient Google Classroom is getting even more powerful with Unicheck integration. From now on, teachers can keep track student writing without checking each work for plagiarism manually. It is also good news for students, as they can use Unicheck on their own to check their papers before teachers see them.

Unicheck is likely to make teacher-student workflow way easier and effective. Hopefully, more useful apps will be part of Google Classroom soon.