Teacher Dashboard Update

At the end of the month, Teacher Dashboard will transition to a new and improved version of itself. You can switch to the new version now, or wait until the change is automatic.

Here are the most important changes to keep in mind. 

  1. Update your bookmarks. You will log into Teacher Dashboard at a new URL
  2. You can now rename your classes so they are easier to identify.
  3. You can group your students and students can belong to multiple groups. This group structure can mirror groups within classes in Schoology.
  4. You can now share multiple documents at one time using Smart Copy, which is now called Smart Share. This button is also found along the left side of the screen rather than at the top left corner.
  5. You can now share documents with multiple classes or groups at one time.
  6. Teacher Dashboard will now generate a random string when resetting passwords. If you do not want to assign a random string of characters as a password, you can still type your own. Please remember not to reset passwords unless the student is requesting this in person, and always check the “reset password on login” box to help us maintain a secure environment.

I’ve created a video highlighting some of the new features. b  (GHS and GMS faculty groups) rather than here since so many student user names and full names are visible in the video.

If you have any questions, please let me know.

Checkpoints, Deadlines, and Feedback

John Hendron wrote a blog post about feedback and thought it was important enough to email the link to teachers. As we move towards a 1:1 environment with a project-based instructional focus, feedback becomes more and more important. Projects can go on much longer, and it is important to help students stay on track.

It is not always easy to give feedback to students. When I work with teachers, and when I lead PD sessions, I stress the importance of timely feedback. As John says in his blog post, giving the feedback at the right time is very important. Too early and it gets lost in the shuffle, and too late and the student has no time for course correction. You could argue, of course, that grades are feedback. But how effective are they? A single letter or number after weeks of work does not give enough guidance to improve performance. And, usually, once grades are assigned, students can’t improve on the work they have turned in. This is very discouraging to some.

When planning a project, find natural break points in the process where students stop and take stock of their progress. Sometimes this is easy. If students are writing a paper, a good stopping point would be the completion of an outline or a list of sources. Even if you had not originally planned on grading individual parts of the project, make time to give feedback at an early deadline. Students who might feel overwhelmed by a big project will find smaller tasks completed in sequence much more manageable.

Giving feedback throughout the course of a project can be very cumbersome, but we have lots of tools that can help. Two in particular are very well suited to our technology-rich environment.

Google Drive and Teacher Dashboard: Get your students in the habit of creating documents and uploading files to Google, then sharing with you by storing everything in its corresponding class folder. If you are still scrolling through lists of shared documents from your students, please let me know ASAP! Teacher Dashboard is the best way to view student work. Once you have access to student files, you can give feedback by adding comments, and you can track student progress from the very beginning. There is no need to print, collect, handwrite comments, and return. Even better, you can create a list of commonly-used comments and come up with abbreviations.

Edmodo: If you have not used Edmodo yet, please consider giving it a try. This is a great place to work with small groups within your classes. It is also a great place to give feedback for projects that are not text-based. It also allows for extensive dialogue between group members and teachers. Sometimes students just need to know that someone is aware of what they are doing and how they are doing it.

But you have over a hundred students! How will you manage? You know your students. You know who needs more support, who can fly solo for a bit, and who needs just a word of encouragement to keep up the good work. Make your call. Technology allows you to differentiate your content AND your feedback. Make the most of it. 

Teacher Dashboard Workflow

It has been about two months since we started using Hapara’s Teacher Dashboard with our Google Apps for Education. So far, we love it. Everyone has good things to say about this tool that helps our teachers and students keep everything organized and visible.

Two of the teachers who have been the heaviest users of the tool are Mrs. Abbott and Mrs. Ray. Both of them are Language Arts teachers who, in the past, have carried reams of paper back and forth between school and home. They have had to decipher interesting handwriting, straighten out crumpled papers, and struggle to give timely feedback to students. Since our introduction of Google Apps for Education about a year and a half ago, these two teachers have moved towards a paperless environment. Still, managing the endless lists of shared documents in Google Drive was not easy. Now it is much easier and much more effective.

I have learned from both, and today I sat down with Mrs. Ray to develop a workflow to make giving her students support and feedback easier. I thought other teachers might find it useful.

 

Teacher Dashboard Writing Assignment Workflow

  1. Create a document with instructions and a rubric. First, write the instructions as you would when you create a handout for students.

  2. At the end of the instructions, insert a page break and create your rubric. Be specific. Rubrics, in my opinion, give better guidance than the best set of written directions for almost any assignment.

  3. Use the Smart Copy function in Teacher Dashboard to automatically add a copy of the instructions and rubric in each student’s folder.

  4. Students write their paper “sandwiched” between the instructions and the rubric. Every time the student accesses the document, the instructions and the rubric are right there, helping students stay on track with the assignment.

  5. To grade the paper, the teacher scrolls to the bottom of the paper after reading the assignment and highlights the appropriate rating in the rubric.

 

This workflow addresses issues that teachers face when students work on projects over several weeks or months.

First is the most obvious problem. Giving students pieces of paper they need to keep for a long time is always a dicey proposition. Even the most organized students can have a binder mishap and their papers scatter all over the parking lot. Having the handouts incorporated in the assignment document, in digital format, is the best way to hang on to them.

Since the Smart Copy document is automatically shared with the teacher, the teacher can use the Comments function to provide guidance and support before the assignment is due. I recommend having set dates when the teacher will be looking at the works-in-progress (homework grade?) to give students an opportunity to get feedback prior to the final due date. Some students might need more support than others, and this is a seamless way of giving them feedback without calling attention to them. Only the teacher and the student will know there were comments made on any particular document.

I hope this helps teachers thinking of getting started with Google Docs and Teacher Dashboard. We still have a couple of after-school sessions on the schedule to look at these tools in depth, and I’m always available to work one-on-one with teachers who can’t stay after school.