Thursday, June 27, 2013

Need an Assistant for Grading? Try Flubaroo!

I know that many teachers have uncovered the power of Google Docs and are using the tools in your classroom (or intend to in fall).  However, the one certainty about Google tools is that there is always something new to learn.

Now before you freak out and say I'm getting too geeky for you, let me entice you just a bit.  If you are interested in assessing your students' knowledge using an online/electronic format (that DOES work on iPads), Google has a tool for that.  If you wish to take it one step further and get almost immediate feedback on that assessment (so you can actually plan next steps for your classroom using real time data), there is an easy to use tool for that.  It's kind of like having the perfect Teaching Assistant there and available to grade student quizzes for you, and provide a detailed breakdown for each student that will help you to determine what the students truly know.

The first part really is quite easy.  It's called Google Forms.  This is a powerful tool that has gotten even more powerful in the past few months with a recent update.  Google Forms allows you to collect information, to survey people, to assess student knowledge in an easy to build, easy to distribute electronic form.  Many teachers have found this tool and swear by it.  You may wish to learn to use it for simple tasks, like collecting student information in the first few days of school, collecting parent information so you can have an email list that is actually up-to-date, etc.  With just a few simple uses, you'll see the power and find more educationally relevant uses for Google Forms.  We have a resource on our Instructional Technology Resources site that will help you to get started with Google Forms:

However, the second part, the part that is REALLY enticing, is having something that actually grades your assessments for you in almost no time at all.  That is where some of you may get freaked out initially.  It really isn't difficult, and you don't need a scripting degree to understand how to use it.  However, the terminology does sound scary.  I promise -- it really isn't.

As you may already know, the responses that are collected in a Google Form are placed into a spreadsheet. That's how they stay organized and can easily be sorted.  However, within Google Spreadsheets is the power to run powerful formulas and scripts.  Left to our own devices, most of us would never be able to do this -- we don't have the knowledge.  However, some really nice, really teacher-friendly people with scripting knowledge have come to our rescue.  They've pre-made scripts that we can simply click on and use without having to understand the coding behind them.

That's where Flubaroo comes in.  It is a grading script that teachers can use to quickly assess student mastery of concepts gathered through the use of Google Forms.

I'll start with a video to help you see the general concept behind Flubaroo.

So, you are excited now, but thinking, "There is NO WAY I could that."  Guess again.  I told you, this is super easy.  Flubaroo provides a great series of instructions to help you get started.  After doing it a few times, you likely won't need the instructions any more.

To get to the step-by-step instructions, just follow this link:

In a few short steps, you'll have your own TA just waiting to help you streamline the process of assessing student learning.  Then you can get back to the business of planning meaningful instruction based upon the data you have in front of you.

Remember, you don't need to have students to learn to use this tool.  Now would be a great time to quiz your family and friends.  Send them a Google Form to find out what they know about you, and then use the Flubaroo script to grade their responses.  It may help you to quickly determine who you really want to spend time with this summer!

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Teachable Moment: Helping Students to Understand Permanence of the Digital Age

Surprised parents and staff members have been emailing me this week with a concern.  Googling
This is a representation of Google's new Knowledge Graph,
a recent addition to Google searches.  This is the tool
responsible for linking information gleaned about a search
topic with related images posted on the web.
the keywords "School District of Waukesha" provides some information about the district along with an image that represents members of our student body, but not in the positive or academic light most of us might hope.

While there is a larger issue here of the district being improperly and unfairly represented in the public eye (we are presently working on a solution to this issue as we want the district positively and accurately represented for the meaningful teaching and learning that happens here), there is something we can use in this event to assist in a meaningful conversation with students and families.

With services like SnapChat and Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook, sharing with the world is easier than ever before.  Especially with some of these services, but true for all, users often confuse the ability to instantaneously share with the world with the appropriateness of doing so.  Add to that the sense of anonymity, the tidal wave of information that is being shared worldwide (as in "everybody is doing it"), and the false "promise" of the information existing only in the short term (services like InstaGram allow users to post to the world, but in very short intervals, as in 10-15 seconds, before the post is removed).

However, as so many of us are aware of, the truth is that once data is captured and posted in a public forum (and the Internet is a public forum), even if only for a few seconds, the potential exists for that data to live forever.

This is exactly how the image that presently represents the School District of Waukesha in a Google search (not a decision consciously made by anybody in the district, by Google itself, but simply a result of an algorithm written and a change in the way Google presents information for ease of viewing), an image of some young people captured in a dance position while at a school dance that may have made them blush had their parents been present, came to be.  It seems to have been captured and shared online, likely by a student interested in updating others on the fun of the evening.  It probably didn't get much attention immediately.  However, it was picked up in a story by a local news outlet about the appropriateness of student behavior at dances (not just Waukesha students...students across the area).  That seems to have gained some traction with viewers, and the image has been viewed many times by many people.  That moved the status of the image up in Google's search rankings.  When the Google Knowledge Graph was created and launched publicly, the ranking of that image, coupled with the search term "School District of Waukesha," resulted in the "marriage" of the district's online reputation with a student's behavior at a moment in time.  Something the students likely had not considered or even imagined in that moment.

As unfortunate as any of this may be, there is a teachable moment in this.  In a digital world, our actions (both online and in real life) do not have the promise of privacy.  While we may (or may not) disagree with this reality, it is still, in fact, a reality.  This week's headlines about the availability of private digital data possibly available to government entities supports this reality.

Students need to hear that message -- in a digital world, our actions (both online and in real life) do not have the promise of privacy.  They need to be engaged in the conversation.  They need to consider how that information may positively or negatively impact them in the present and in the future.  These are all meaningful discussions that we, as educators, cannot be afraid to engage in.  Even if we are not technically savvy enough to know all of the latest digital tools, sites, trends, and methods.  We have life experience enough to talk about the value of students holding themselves to a standard that they (and their families and communities) deem appropriate.  We have life experience enough to talk about how decisions made in a weak moment today can forever impact our futures.  This doesn't require knowledge about technology -- let the kids bring that knowledge and experience to the conversation.  Instead, it takes us actively talking with kids and caring about their lives today, and in the future.  And we do care!

That is the teachable moment in this.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Reflections on the First Year Offerings of Digital Music Class

Students in the School District of Waukesha made their first credited, formal endeavor into the world of creating digital music this year.  The course, offered at South and North High Schools, made iPads, Garage Band, and MIDI keyboards available to students, allowing them to engage in the art of composing music with digital tools.

Instructors at both schools have reported positive feedback from students, high levels of engagement, enrollment of students that do not traditionally take music classes, and some pretty outstanding final compositions that students have shared with the world in a variety of ways.

Aside from the prescribed curriculum, South Music Teacher Andy Hacker added other components to the course that focused on practical applications of the skills students learned in the class.

"The music tech class mixed and prepared live sound equipment in our auditorium as if it was a true recording studio for very practical application. They loved this facet of the class because we used live rock bands of their peers to practice before making this recording of my last concert of the year. This is one of twelve tracks they did in muli-layer recording. This was a great twist to the class that students asked for and I modified the curriculum to meet their needs."
Here is a live sound recording of Hacker's band, captured by students in the Digital Music Technology class.

North Music Teacher Lansing Dimon broke major ground as he launched into crafting a robust digital text using iBooks Author.  The resource allowed students to learn the core content and skills promoted within the class in a multimedia format that was impressive and engaging.

If you'd be interested in listening to some of the final student compositions from South students, they are available here:

Asked to reflect on the course this past semester, this is what South students had to say:

What do you like about Music Technology as a Class?

"We learn more than just the technology behind music. We learn the history of it, we learn some theory and forms."

"I really liked learning about the sound equipment and learning how it all works and how to put it together."

"What I like about music tech class is that I can express my music style and create music and share it."

"I think that Music Technology is a great start to a career in music. The skills it teaches you of the technology used would be quite hard to learn anywhere else. In all, it is a great class."

"It was a fun class. Kind of difficult for some projects as we used apps I was totally unfamiliar with"

How can you use the information you have learned about music and technology in other areas of your life?

"I will most likely use it every day or whenever I make music."

"If I ever joined a band I could use the information we learned about soundboards and setting up musical equipment."

"I can use it as when I play out live, I know how to set up live sound and the basics of a mixing board. And it's exciting to know more about music technology."

"This would be a great resource for someone who has to set up resource videos and make them hold interest. It could also be used for a podcast tool, and of course a music technician."

"I can use the information to create background music for projects or if i want to do something in music when i grow up the information will come in handy."

"If I ever have some kind of music project! I have a music mixing system in my laptop and make music mixes for cheer or for friends when they have performances."

What were the benefits to you of taking Music Technology?

"Learning a lot more about garage band and notes and forms of music. Another thing would be learning about some of the equipment like chords speakers and sound boards."

"I learn things I can't really learn on my own. It's exciting and refreshing. Also, to know how to work a sound board was beyond my expectations in this class."

"Learned more about acoustics and sound systems and more about the equipment that goes into setting up a sound system."

"To learn if it is really something I want to consider doing in my life."