Wednesday, 22 February 2017

DAY 17 - Submit a photo

Today's task is yet another low input activity that can make a huge difference in your class. 

Primary school teachers mark their learner's books on a regular basis, but as a high school teacher, I very seldom get the opportunity. Mostly because my learners use their books every day. But this does not mean that I do not sometimes feel the need to see what the kids have done in class today. A simple way to accomplish this - without having to drag a truck full of books home - is to ask learners a few minutes before the end of the lesson, to take a photo of the work that they did during that lesson and turn it in on Classroom. It is true that not all tablet cameras take photos of a high enough quality that you will be able to mark the work from the photo, but I have found that most of the time it will be clear enough to see if they were on task or not. 
I also sometimes use this as a way for them to prove they did their homework. Instead of loosing half the lesson walking up and down checking if the the homework is done, they all post a photo and I check it quickly while they are working. 

It is also ideal if you are absent to ensure that the learners do the work they are supposed to during the lesson. 


Today's task is to ask all your learners to take a photo of their homework and post it to Classroom. Just remember that learners can only add an attachment to an assignment. So if you usually post homework as an announcement, you have to remember to make it an assignment today. 
You also have to keep in mind that not all your learners will necessarily know how to add a photo to an assignment. Don't worry; you do not have to teach them. There are 30 other learners in the class, let them help. Next time they will know how to do it. 

Tomorrow we will look at these photo's and comment on them. There is nothing like a little feedback, and you will see, it won't take up all your time. 

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

DAY 16 - Post a link

I have to start today's post will a lovely little story one of my colleagues told me today. As she was walking back to her class after break, she came across a little grade 8 looking completely lost. She asked her, quite sternly, where she was supposed to be. 
"My teacher is absent, and the board says we should be in the Google Classroom. Do you know where the Google Classroom is Ma'am?" What can I say, you just have to love grade eights. 


Back to the task at hand. 

One of the things Google Classroom is ideally suited for is extension activities. Just the other day I had a lively discussion with my grade 12's about why zero divided by zero is not one. But due to time constraints, we could not delve into the issue as deep as I wanted to. When I got home, I read up on the topic some more and found a lovely little video clip that summarised our discussion and explained the problem very clearly. Since we already spend too much time on this topic that is not part of the curriculum, I could not take more time to show them the video. Especially since not, all the learners are interested in it. What I could do is post the link to the video on Classroom, for those who were interested. (It is a pity Classroom does not yet provide analytics, so that I could see who actually watched it.)

I also try to post a non-curriculum link every now and again. Learners often ask me what does mathematicians do? So whenever I come across an article about a mathematical discovery or a famous mathematician, I post the link to all my classes. 

When we started allowing tablets in class, one of the things that made teachers uncomfortable was that learners would be reading or playing games on their tablet once they have finished their work. I am still wondering why reading a magazine or book is OK, but reading an ebook is not, but let's leave it there. If you know that learners are going to be on their tablets when they are finished with the work, why not provide them with something useful to do. In The Hyperdoc Handbook, the author states that every activity should include an extention. And we all know that having clear expectations as to what learners should be busy with at any moment during a lesson makes your classroom management much easier. 

Your task for today is to find a link to an article, activity, website and post it to your classes. It could be something related to the work you are busy with or just something you think they would find interesting. 

Keep the following in mind:

  • The longer the article is, the less the change that learners will read it. 
  • That 25-minute TED-talk that you love will not only kill the bandwidth, but they will lose interest. Keep videos to less than 5 minutes. 
  • The internet is full of information, some of it true and some not. Make sure that what you post is reputable. 
  • Even though the temptation is there, do not post things unless you have watched/read the whole thing yourself. By posting it, you are endorsing the content, unless it forms part of an activity where you look at the content in a critical way. 


The last tip from me, keep a file in your Google Drive where you can save all these links. You might just want to use it again next year. 

Monday, 20 February 2017

DAY 15 - Ask a multiple choice QUESTION

On DAY 10 we already had a look at how you can use the question feature to get immediate feedback from your class, today we are looking at the multiple choice version. 
You can use the multiple choice questions to test their knowledge or as an opinion poll. 

The advantage of the multiple choice question is that it give combined results, which is ideal for a class discussion. 

Setting up a multiple choice question is the same as setting up a short answer question, starting with the big plus in the corner. The only difference is where is says "Short answer" you click on the down arrow and change it to "Multiple choice".

Your task for today is to work a multiple choice question into each of your lessons. 

Here are some ideas to help you, please add your questions to the comments to inspire other teachers. 

  • Start your lesson by asking learners if they did their homework.
  • Ask students how they feel about the topic you are working on, confident, OK or lost. 
  • Ask learners who are their favourite character in the novel you are doing. 
  • Give them a content question on the previous day's homework, to see if they understood. 


Once they have answered the question, put the results on the board and use it as the basis for a class discussion. 

Sunday, 19 February 2017

DAY 14 - Schedule an assignment.

On DAY 8 and 9 we saw the advantages and disadvantages of posting during a lesson even if you saved your post as a draft. The solution however is simple, schedule your assignment ahead of time. 


By scheduling an assignment you can determine the exact time the post will appear on the learner's timeline, without taking any extra time. I find that scheduling also save me a lot of time. For example we run a series of fortnightly worksheets. When I post the questions I immediately schedule the answers to be posted in 2-weeks time. I can also schedule all the homework for the next day when I do my planning, so that I do not have to worry about Classroom during lessons. 

Earlier this year I missed a double lesson with my grade 11's. From previous experience I know that it is difficult to get them to work independently for 90 minutes. Most learner's attention span does not last so long. Using the schedule feature I kept them busy by posting a new and different task every 15-20 minutes. And them best of it was that the teacher who invigilated them did not have to do a thing. 

The schedule feature allows you to structure your course better, you could go as far as to create all the post on a topic for the term and schedule them to be posted as necessary. Without loosing any of the flexibility of Classroom in the process. 

Today's task is to select one class and schedule all their posts (announcements/assignments/questions) for the week. You can choose to either work out at what time exactly you want to the post to appear, but if that takes to long, schedule all posts to appear at the start of the day (things you will use in class) or at the end of the school day (homework).

To schedule an announcement or assignment, you compile it as usual, starting at the big plus, but instead of posting it, select "Schedule" and decide when you want it released to the learners. 



Scheduling was not part of the original features of Classroom, but Google listens to what teachers want and added it at the first possible opportunity. You can look forward to more of these added features in the future. 

Saturday, 18 February 2017

DAY 13 - Organise your Classroom folder

You might not even realise it, but when you create a Classroom, Google automatically creates a folder for the Class in your Google Drive. You can think about it this way. Classroom is well like a virtual version of your classroom, while the Drive folder is a virtual version of you filing cabinet. 

Whenever you post an assignment, it will immediately create a folder for that assignment in the folder and save all the learner's work in the folder. If you are like me and post things like, what to study for tests as an assignment, they will have empty folders, since nothing was handed in. It is a good habit to look at your Classroom folder and delete these empty folders once in a while.  On the other hand, the tasks where the learner's had to hand something in, you want to keep. 

If you post an assignment with a copy for each learner, you will find all those copies in your folder. Alice Keeler once tweeted that the option "Make a copy for each student" should be renamed, "Make a mountain of unnecessary paperwork" and she will be correct. However, if there is a copy in my folder, there is automatically a copy in the learner's folder. I know my students are bad at organising their files, this way I know they have everything they need when they study. If these folders bother you, create a folder named "Notes" and drag all of these folders into it. 

Even though Classroom automatically adds things to this folder, changes to the folder do not affect Classroom at all. This enable you to organise the folder in any way that makes sense to you. For example, you can create a subfolder for 'Tests and Memos'.
You can also add files to the folder that you have not used in Classroom, maybe something that you still want to use later. 

Your task for today is to spend a few minutes to look at the Classroom folders, delete any empty folders in there and create subfolders where necessary. I would suggest that you do this at least once a term.  

Friday, 17 February 2017

DAY 12 - Post a assignment

I have always hated photocopies. For the biggest part of the year, I feel like I am drowning in a pile of paper. And at the end of the year, I feel horrible about the amount of paper that gets thrown away. A lot of you might share these feelings with me. 
Now, don't get me wrong, using tablets to save the planet is one of the great fallacies promoted by administrators and vendors,  (For more of these fallacies click here.) but it is one of the most tangible advantages of personal devices and a virtual classroom. 

When you look at the SAMR model for technology integration, substitution is at the bottom of the ladder. A pdf of a worksheet is not more valid than a paper worksheet, and it should not be the pinnacle of your technological ambition. But there is nothing wrong with starting this way. 

Never post a word document directly to Classroom. The change of platform and device often create havoc with your formatting. If learners are not expected to interact with the worksheet, i.e., answer questions or draw diagrams, always pdf the file before you post it. This way you are 100% sure that what the learners see on their tablet is the same as what you see on your computer. 

A second reason for using pdf's is that enables you to post notes and worksheets that you do not have in electronic format. This is especially important to teachers who have been teaching from before the time of computers and have files filled with invaluable resources. If this describes you, don't aim to retype everything you want to use, it will not be sustainable. Rather just scan them in and post them as a pdf file. 

When you post work for your class, you can either post it as an announcement, like we did with the welcome message on Day 4. However, I would suggest that you always post work as an assignment. An assignment has a heading, place for instructions, a due date and different permissions for the file. All assignments do not necessary have to count marks. 

Posting an assignment is similar to posting an announcement and a question. Start by clicking on the big PLUS in the corner. 
Unlike an announcement, you have to give an assignment a heading (it won't allow you to click on post until you do) giving instructions is optional. 



Once you have attached the necessary file(s), you will see three options appear. 

1.  Students can view file. 
This option provides students with a link to the file, but it is not put into their Classroom folder in Google Drive. 

2.  Students can edit the file. 
This gives all the students the opportunity to edit the same file. When you feel ready to attempt collaboration, you will see the magic of this option. However, I also know some teachers who got themselves into warm water with this function. One teacher sent out a questionnaire asking learners how they feel about their exam, who select this option by accident. The first student who completed it was not impressed when the second learner opened it and could read (and change) everything they wrote. 

3.   Create a copy for each student
This is the electronic version of a photocopier. It automatically creates a separate file for each student in their Google Drive. In South Africa, where not all students have wifi at home, I prefer to use this option, because I know some learners will not be able to access Classroom when they study, but they can save these files locally on their device. 

Once you have chosen the appropriate option, you can post the assignment. 

Next time you stand in front of the photocopier, ask yourself if you cannot scan the file in and rather post it in Classroom. 

Thursday, 16 February 2017

DAY 11 - Create a class list

At the start of the year, I always end up wasting a lot of time, creating class lists and mark sheets for every class. It is fine if you are teaching a whole class and you can get a list from the central admin, but in maths, we often have mixed classes, so the person in charge of the central admin is dependent on me for a list of the people in my class. And typing your list yourself is always risky. After teaching a girl for five years, I once realised that I have been spelling her name wrong the whole time.

Classroom solved that problem for me in an instant. You can export the names of the learners in your class to either a Google sheet or as a CSV document, that you can edit and save as an Excel sheet. This is of course only handy if all the learners are in your virtual class. Before you do today's task, take a moment to check if all the pupils have joined and if they haven't make sure you have a quiet word with them.

To download a class list, you have to have posted either an assignment or a question for your class. For today's purpose, you can use the question you posted yesterday.
Click on the Question to see the answers. In the top right-hand corner, you will see a little gear. When you click on it, you will get three options.



1.  Copy all marks to a Google Sheet.
This option creates an impressive class list in Google Sheets. The class list will include all the marks that you have given your learners (at this point none) You can always delete the assignments and replace them with your own headings. If you choose this option you will find the class list saved in your Classroom folder.

2.   Download ALL marks as a CSV
CSV files can be opened in Excel and edited from there. This option will also include ALL marks.

3.    Download THESE marks as a CSV
Similar to the previous option, but this sheet only include this assignment.

An added advantage is that the class list automatically includes all the learner's email addresses. I find this useful to have at hand, but not necessary.