Earth Day Extended Celebration

Last Friday and today, Ms. Kass and I took the students in her Science classes outside to do a little exploration of our environment. In a scavenger hunt type activity, we made a list of concepts the kids have studied during the year and went outside to look for examples. We looked for stages of life cycles, evidence of the water cycle, erosion, pollution, and documented the organisms in our ecosystem. Over the next few days, students will share the images they made with their iPad cameras in a Schoology class discussion. We will discuss what we found, and if we have a chance, we will make a plan to clean up the substantial amount of trash we found in the woods.

Here are a few of the pictures I made of during our outings of little things the students found.

Soldier beetle

Lichen and moss



Sawfly larvae



PBL and Cross-Curricular Connections

A few weeks ago I interviewed Ms. Kass and Ms. Krickovic to highlight what was going on in their classrooms. Both teachers told me about projects that let students publish their work based on research using Schoology as a platform for discussion and collaboration among students.

There are many overlapping aspects to these two projects, and now that the teachers have had the opportunity to reflect upon the results, they are making plans to make this a cross-curricular project next year.


Virtual Classroom Feature Comes to Schoology

Recently, I noticed a new app had become available via Schoology, called Big Blue Button. This add-on, once enabled for your course, gives you the ability to setup a virtual classroom space, similar to other products you may have used. Learn more, below.

This tool unfortunately requires Flash and only works on laptops (not iPads). See Zoe or Bea today to get started!

Parents in Schoology

For a few weeks now, I’ve been getting complaints about the Schoology logo on the GCPS homepage linking to the “wrong” Schoology website. The link is not wrong. We linked to the non-Goochland Schooloyg page on purpose.

When parents log in to Schoology, they do so from the non-Goochland page. We are hoping more parents will do more than dip their toes in Schoology and embrace the tool as a main avenue for information to flow between home and school.

If you have not already done so, please share access codes with your student’s parents. The codes are easily accessible from the Members section of any of your courses. Parents can learn all about registering and keeping up with their children on the Schoology help page. They can even sign up for email alerts any time their children have overdue assignments.

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.

Sharing Copies – Google Apps

In previous posts I have written about Teacher Dashboard, Google Apps, and how to share documents with students. Here is one more way that lets you share a link to a document in Schoology (or anywhere else) bypassing the Smart Copy button in Teacher Dashboard.

If you need to share a document with students and you want each student to have his or her own copy, here is what you do:

  1. Create the document in Google Drive. Make sure it has a distinctive name that lets your students know what it is when they see it in Google Drive again.
  2. Click the SHARE button and select to share the link to the document by clicking on GET SHAREABLE LINK.
  3. Copy the link and paste it into Schoology (or your blog, or an email, or Twitter…)
  4. Before you send or publish, edit the link. Change the last part of the link where it says /edit?usp=sharing  so that it says /copy
  5. Share the link!
When your students click on the link, they will see the following screen:
When they click the blue button, they will have a copy of the document they can edit and turn in to you via Teacher Dashboard or Schoology.
Easy, right? Let me know if you have any questions.


Schoology for Curriculum Management

This past Friday (February 13), we talked with teachers about using the Schoology platform to share digital content resources. In fact, this ability was one of the reasons we chose Schoology this past summer, and you can read more about how they envision it working. I wanted to write a few things about this capability, and why it is so important when we consider 1:1 computing in our schools.

First, not everyone is of a sharing mindset. Schoology gets around this by creating personal, local (district/school), and public sharing areas in resources. I get that not everyone wants to share the “things” they’ve created for teaching. From my own experience, when I came to Goochland, I was forced to invent my curriculum, my syllabus, and I started out creating 10 major projects for the advanced class I taught in Graphic Communications. While every student got a print-out of the semester’s projects, and they went into 3-ring binders, it wasn’t necessarily “public.” I needed some time to try these new projects out with students before I was ready to “publish” them. But for whom? No other teacher at the time taught what I did, so, what was the point in sharing them?

In Schoology now, I could share this content with teachers outside my district. Okay, that sounds interesting… we’re not just talking one high school now, but a lot of high schools. I think of folks like Dan Meyer, who has published his Algebra curriculum. He’s confident, for one, and he’s published his stuff to a worldwide audience. Schoology feels a little more safe; it’s not open to the world (unless you want it to be), but the modular system of learning object and course makes it possible to easily integrate whatever it is into what you want students to see. If I were teaching today, I’d start with sharing stuff I thought would be of value to others, but also content I was familiar with, and knew worked for my students.

Second, I might still utilize a textbook. Textbooks are reliable sources of information that someone else (an author, a publisher) has organized, added pictures, maybe graphs, and packaged in an accessible way for students. As successful #futureready leaders told us recently in Raleigh at a regional summit led by the U.S. Department of Education, their districts are choosing not to spend money on textbooks because do not adequately address the needs of today’s learners. New tools are available, but in addition, so are new pedagogies. To replace the role of a textbook, teachers are re-thinking the concept of the book or binder around the construct of the learning management system, one like Schoology. With Schoology providing the construct of courses and instructors, teachers are able to compile digital assets as resources and then add these assets into as many or few courses as they like. When the resources and activities are tagged with standards, it becomes possible to track student mastery of these standards providing a new level of assessment. In effect, Schoology becomes the new textbook, with resources culled from a teacher’s own personal library, commercial resources, and resources that are freely being shared by other like-minded teachers.

Third, everyone doesn’t have a lot of digital learning assets, yet… If you have not taught traditionally with a computer, then it may be challenging to embrace the idea of a collection of digital assets in lieu of a textbook. The 1:1 computing project we have begun helps with this in a big way by providing each student with access to a mobile computer that allows them to access the same Schoology system (read: twenty-first century textbook replacement), but with the enhancement that this system can keep track of access to the resource (Schoology reports how long students spend in each course), can assess student learning, and with the guidance of the teacher/course creator, can provide different students different types of learning experiences based on preference or need. Sounds great, but how do I start with these assets?

The Peer to Peer University organization capitalizes on the idea of free content exchange. Not to mention the OpenStax Project, with online content. The problem is, these projects are focused on higher education. But the same sharing exchange already exists within Schoology. We just have to be willing to first, share our own content (our content is someone else’s freebie!), and peruse what’s out there. In addition, there are some K-12 resources too worth exploring.

Khan, as an example, can be integrated into Schoology as an app. This means it’s even easier to plug content right in without having to navigate between multiple windows and services.


In the end, by putting a device in a student’s hand, and by accepting that a new tool like Schoology can offer more flexibility in how the content we use to teach can be organized, we are well on our way towards taking full advantage of collecting and organizing our own set of curated digital learning assets. Whether these assets are something we have purchased (a Discovery video, as an example), one we’ve created (a PDF, or a video tutorial), or one we’ve found online from a resource we like (a Ck12 activity), a learning management system like Schoology will become the place to house this content and share it with students within the context of a course. If you attended our sessions led by Bea, Zoe, and Glenn on Friday, thank you! We can’t wait to get started!

Feedback: Google, TD, and Schoology as Puzzle Pieces

It is funny how sometimes we have to go far away to hear what people nearby are saying. While I was in Ireland last month, I was sitting in a presentation and the following quote was on a slide:

Providing written feedback at the culmination of a writing product is like doing an autopsy. It’s deconstructing a dead document.

The quote was attributed to Samantha Morra (@sammorra on Twitter) who teaches in New Jersey. I usually do not take pictures of slides during presentations. I find that looking at the pictures later, out of context, is not very useful at all. But, in this case, I did hold up my phone and snap because feedback is something I discuss with teachers every single day. And, while this quote is specifically referring to writing, I believe it applies to all projects regardless of the medium or subject area.

When I work with teachers to plan projects, I discourage single due dates. I encourage teachers to break up projects into smaller parts of the process, each with a deadline and maybe even a grade. While we want students to be independent, we have to understand that they are children, students just developing those skills that allow them to be independent. These intermediate deadlines let teachers see where the final result is headed and help correct the course before it is too late to turn the cruise ship around. Of course, the frequency of the feedback and the size of each chunk in which teachers break down projects should be different at each grade level.

The best part of this idea is that we have the perfect collection of tools for students to share their work with us and for us to provide feedback.

Regardless of what your students are working on, the work can be shared with you using Google Drive. In the past, this was a cumbersome process. Now we have Teacher Dashboard that lets teachers access student work very easily without getting lost in piles and piles of shared documents. Once a student creates or uploads any file, teachers have access to observe and comment. While almost anything can be shared via Google Drive, the easiest way to give feedback from within Google is to type comments on the sides of documents.

In addition to these two tools, we also have Schoology. Instead of creating a single final assignment, teachers create multiple assignments in a folder, with the last one asking for the finished product to be turned in. Anything a student has in Google Drive can be turned in via Schoology. And inside Schoology, teachers can give feedback using text, annotations, voice recordings, and video.

Imagine a classroom full of students turning in a particular assignment to you. You write “Great work!” across the page of a bunch of papers. Or you draw a smiley face. Or you simply check boxes in a rubric. You could have done all these without really telling the students what you think of their work. Now imagine a classroom in which you record a ten second audio message telling the student something about their project. Those are not just words on a page. Students can tell you really liked their work, or not. And it takes no longer than typing or handwriting repetitive, mostly meaningless feedback.

As you see, there is a great area where Teacher Dashboard and Schoology overlap, but the tools are both necessary and useful. I have put together a handy cheat sheet outlining the differences and similarities between the two. Below is the portion related to feedback. If you would like the full sheet, I’ve made that available, too.

Now it is your turn to provide some feedback for me.

What do you think of these tools? What can I do to help you incorporate their use into your everyday teaching routine?

Schoology-Shared Devices and Assignments

While we hope to be a 1:1 district in the future, at this point in time, we have lots of devices that are shared. When students create a video or audio file, the easiest way for teachers to collect these files from shared devices is to use Schoology. I have created two tutorials to help teachers who are new to Schoology. The first one shows the process of creating an assignment in a class. The second is a video students can follow when it is time for them to turn in their work.


Schoology – Messages

What do you do when high school students don’t check their email? Use Schoology messages instead.

From any of your classes’ Members section, you can send a private message to your students. The students can send a message back, too, if they prefer not to ask questions in the Updates section. Just click on the gear across from the student’s name, and select the message icon.



Schoology–Differentiation and Group Work

Schoology makes it very easy for teachers to assign differentiated work to students in ways that don’t make anyone feel singled out. Students can be assigned to pre-determined groups, or materials can be made visible only to specified students within the course.

Watch these videos to learn how. The first video will show you how to create groups within your courses. The second video will show you how to assign resources to selected groups or individuals within your courses.



Schoology – Student Completion Requirements

True or false: When I give my students work, they all finish at the same time.

Yes, keeping kids on task is one of the most difficult issues faced by teachers. Schoology has a tool that can help.

When you have multiple activities planned for a class period, you can create a folder with all your resources and require that students work in order, achieving a minimum score per item. Watch this tutorial to find out how to set up a classwork folder with Student Completion requirements.

Tech Snacks

This year we are trying a new way to meet our teachers’ needs. In the past, all teachers were expected to attend at least one two-hour technology class after school, or a longer class over the summer. But, two hours after a long day of teaching is not always easy. Furthermore, a two-hour session has to be planned in advance, something with a somewhat inflexible structure or topic.

Tech Snacks will be more informal sessions between twenty and thirty minutes long. The topic and location will be announced a few days before and will reflect questions asked by faculty and staff during the week. I believe this will make the sessions more relevant and the content presented will be immediately applicable. So, if a two-hour class is a full meal to be digested over time, these shorter sessions are a snack that energize your teaching immediately.

In addition to members of the Instructional Technology team, teachers with cool ideas or interesting resources to share will be leading the sessions. If you have something you would like to share with the GHS/GMS faculty, please let me know. If I see you are doing something worth sharing, I will invite you to lead a session.

Here is the fine print:

  • The dates of the Tech Snacks have been tentatively set in our GCPS Tech PD calendar, but are subject to change. The day varies so people with prior weekly commitments can still take advantage of this resource.
  • Final date, location, and topic announcements will be made through the GMS and GHS faculty and staff groups on Schoology.
  • You do not need to sign up in advance. If the weekly topic is interesting and useful, and it fits your schedule, join us.
  • In order to meet your PD requirement, you must attend four Tech Snacks during the school year. Leading a session will also count as attending a session.

I hope this will be a successful model for us. Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.

Schoology and Google Drive Integration

Here is another tutorial for teachers and students using Schoology and Google Drive. When teachers create an assignment, students can turn in Google Drive documents very easily. Watch the video that includes all steps.

But, why use Schoology if we already have Teacher Dashboard?

I believe they serve very different purposes. Teacher Dashboard allows teachers to view student work while it is in progress. Students need scaffolding as they work on lengthy assignments, and Teacher Dashboard and Google Drive provide the perfect combination for this. Using the commenting function and the revision history function, teachers can track student progress and give constructive feedback. Once the due date arrives, Schoology allows teachers to collect an assignment that will not be edited further.

Schoology – A Cultural Shift for GCPS

Whenever I walk into a classroom where students are using computers during the first few minutes of class, I can bet my stash of good chocolate that at least a handful of kids will be logged into PowerSchool. This is true regardless of the subject area, grade level, time of the day, gender, socio-economic standing, or anything else.

This is a very important observation to share with teacher who are sometimes tempted to tell me their students cannot log into accounts, and that is their justification to use online services only with select groups.

Logging into PowerSchool has become a habit. The motivation is clear. There is important information in PowerSchool, the students want it, and they want it multiple times a day.

Despite its popularity, PowerSchool has limited functionality. Students can see grades and upcoming assignments. But, they cannot ask questions, leave comments, or submit missing work. All these gaps are filled by Schoology in a single place, with a single login.

So why not start using Schoology? The sooner you jump in, the sooner you will learn how to take advantage of all its functions. And the more you use it, the more likely your kids are to form the habit of logging in and participating. You don’t need to be in the 1:1 program. PowerSchool and WordPress were both very successful even before we dreamed of a 1:1 program.

Schoology and other tools like it are not a passing fad. Join the cultural shift and give your students the opportunity to become constructive digital citizens.

Say Yes to Schoology

This is just the fifth week of the school year, and we are seeing unprecedented adoption rates for our newest tool, Schoology. Yes, the service is very easy to use and the kids find it a natural extension of their online lives. Still, this is has not happened as an accident or without lots of planning. In fact, I’m very proud to say we have made it very hard for teachers to stay away from Schoology and still be aware of meeting agendas and up to date on required procedures such as the OSHA annual review of blood-borne pathogen safety.

New teachers are using Schoology because they have never known Goochland to be any different. Teachers who have been here longer are questioning our dogged determination to get them onboard.

The question I get is whether teachers will “waste all this time learning this new tool just to have it go away next year, just like…”

What follows at the end of that is a list of services that have come and gone, some during my tenure at GCPS, and some even longer than 7 years ago. This might be a justifiable concern, but, that it is the nature of the world we live in now. Teachers can try to stem the tide of change in technology-related services, and that will lead nowhere. This is the way the world works. We have to learn to relearn, or become obsolete ourselves.

Schoology replaces Moodle and Word Press, both of which have been around for many, many years here in Goochland. We hope to use Schoology for years, just like those two. But, if Schoology goes away next year, it won’t take with it any of the valuable educational experiences students will have while we do have it available. Furthermore, teachers will have had the experience to teach in a state-of-the-art blended learning environment. Isn’t that worth it?


I have been meeting with teachers over the past couple of weeks to help them get started with Schoology. Most of the time, I have no way of knowing if the help I have given teachers makes a difference. This time, however, I know it. Look at the trends in logins. After my initial trials and training sessions, student logins are finally higher than teacher logins. Data is beautiful, no?


Blog Post Versus Update

I have had a few teachers ask me this morning why parents cannot see the blog posts they have written over the weekend. I think I have found the solution.

There is a big difference between writing a status update and the creation of a blog post. Take a look at the video. If you have any other questions about blog posts and status updates, please email or stop by my office. I’d be happy to help.


Teacher Dashboard SY 2014-15

Teacher Dashboard is Here!

This year, we once again are offering the Teacher Dashboard product for managing docs, sheets, and slides with Google Drive with students!

If you need a refresher or want to know more, check out this post I made last year covering the integration of TD and Google Drive.

This tool is now available and can be accessed at: Once authenticated with your Google Account, you should see a “dashboard” with your classes, and within, your students.

If you encounter any issues, please inquire with your technology coach (ITRT). TD is only for managing Google Accounts and affects students in grades 3-12.

Teacher Dashboard and Schoology

One barrier for getting kids into Schoology was the reset of Google passwords. Now that TD is online, we can reset student passwords if needed. That means Schoology is now open for business, too! Schoology can be accessed via their mobile app or through We only recommend using this new tool with students if you’re daring and bold. We will be advertising training sessions next week on this new tool.

Again, if you encounter any anomalies, please let your technology coach know!