ClassDojo Attendance Extension UPDATES!

I have made some updates to what my extension can do. The first update is that you no longer need to have the attendance screen open. You ONLY need to be in the class window. So you just need to put in your attendance and save. Then you are good to go!

The more important updates are that you can save your data into a spreadsheet on Google Sheets now!

There is a little bit of a setup that I will explain here.

First you need to create the sheet. This can be a brand new spreadsheet, or just create a new sheet inside an existing spreadsheet. Follow the format below:

spreadsheet-setup

Then you need to open the options menu:

open-options

Finally, select the spreadsheet with the file picker.

select-spreadsheet

You are now good to go! You can use the ‘Update Spreadsheet’ button inside the extension. This will grab the most current attendance information for the class you have open and post it into the spreadsheet.

This new feature will also grab the student’s current avatar and point information. I added these for a long-term goal of gamify-ing some of the tasks in my classroom. Since my students already love the avatars that they get from ClassDojo, I figured I would be able to use them for a more visual appeal to whatever gamification I add later.

How would you use ClassDojo avatars for gamification?

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer… student made video games!

What is storytelling like in the 21st century?

Well, one of the methods of telling stories in the new millenium is through video games! As an English teacher in a 5th grade classroom with students who have never been challenged to write anything in a second language before, they are lacking in the ability to write stories.

However, they certainly have stories to tell! One of my students told me about the program Hopscotch that they were using in their tech lessons. I looked it up and found it to be a very easy to use, drag-and-drop programming app that we could use easily on the iPads. Since they had already been exposed to the app in their tech lessons, it was a simple transition.

The first step was talking with my students about what the “adventures” of Tom Sawyer really were. I decided that we would be trying to turn those into the video games. A few examples are:

hopscotch example
Tom is jealous of the bigger boy because he is rich and has nicer clothes.
hopscotch example
Tom and Huck sneak off to the graveyard together to try and cure warts with a dead cat.
hopscotch example
Tom and Becky get lost in the cave together.

As a project at the end of the year, I could not have been more pleased with how it turned out. My students had a blast putting these adventures into the form of video games that they could play on their iPads.

It has also given me ideas on where to take the concept. Learning about Hopscotch pointed me in the direction of other, similar tools, such as: Scratch, Blockly, and Stencyl. Finding these alternative ways to tell a story makes a great project!

Back to school and back to coding!

After an incredible summer vacation (see my post about the Google Innovator Academy, the huge American road trip across the mid-west, and even a short trip to Spain) I am back in the office and already knocking out some code!

A colleague asked me about a way to duplicate sheets inside a Google spreadsheet. He has a template for his weekly schedule built inside a sheet, and he wants to duplicate it for each week of the school year.

A very reasonable request, however, I wasn’t exactly clear how to do it. In five minutes I whipped together this little script.

A short explanation of the code:

First, you declare the number of duplicates you want. Second you create the spreadsheet object. Third, you loop over the object and each time create a duplicate of the activate sheet. Finally, run the script and watch it take away 10 minutes of manual labor!

In other news, I am going to start posting lots of code snippets that help me and my colleagues solve small problems and make our lives easier. You can help me out by making your own suggestions on my project site http://plnnr.net (work in progress, but you can still use it!) I would love to help figure out ways to improve teacher workflow!

40 Recommended Extensions for Teachers, Research, and Language Learners | Tech Learning

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Source: 40 Recommended Extensions for Teachers, Research, and Language Learners | Tech Learning

This is a great list of browser extensions that are designed to save time and add functionality. I have recently been interested in programming these for myself. In the Google Innovator cohort I designed a replacement ‘New Tab’ window for Chrome browser. It has links to several of the files that we have been using in the preparation weeks before the conference.

One day, I hope to have my an extension that I build on a list like this!

Flashcards!

Create flashcards based on student results.

The goal of this project is to create flashcards that are individualized for each student based on assessment results. Quizlet provides teachers with a breakdown of how students performed on an assessment and even each individual question on the assessment. Google Forms can even be setup to provide a teacher with this information. A teacher should be able to generate review materials from these spreadsheets!

Currently this project is still UNDER CONSTRUCTION but feel free to leave comments, suggestions, or anything else helpful in the comments below or at plnnr.net

Middle School | This American Life

This week, at the suggestion of a 14-year-old listener, we bring you stories from the awkward, confusing, hormonally charged world of middle school. Including a teacher who transforms peer pressure into a force for good, and reports from the frontlines of the middle school dance.

Source: Middle School | This American Life

As a middle school teacher, there is so much truth to this entire episode. It was fascinating to listen to the stories they told this week. Even teaching in a classroom on the other side of the globe, I was able to see so many similarities between the kids.

Why Teachers on TV Have to Be Incompetent or Inspiring – The New York Times

They’re heroes or buffoons. And they never actually teach.

Source: Why Teachers on TV Have to Be Incompetent or Inspiring – The New York Times

This article doesn’t require much commentary, but it definitely captures some of the feelings I have as a teacher.

Portfolio Day

We had an English portfolio day at school,and I just wanted to post the pictures of some of the student created story cards. There was a great turnout of parents and I think it all went very well. One thing to take into consideration for next year is how difficult it is to get the students to do a presentation for parents AFTER they have presented for their parents.

20160328_153848Also, Achieve3000 (Kidbiz or Teenbiz, or whichever version you are using) provides a printable page of the various achievements. These are perfect for 5th graders who love stickers, and they can be placed on the covers of their portfolios.

If you have been using Google Drive to collect student work, you need to make sure you print out hard copies of their work! I am disappointed that a lot of the students work was not seen because I did not have a hard copy to show the parents. Yes, trees were saved, which is a great thing, but I am sure there would have been an alternative to leaving the work out completely.

Maybe I will try to devise a Google Script that displays the contents of a students drive folder dynamically…

 

story-collage

 

Unit By Design Template for Google Documents

In my department we use the Unit by Design Template (UBD) to do our unit plans. It takes the top-down approach of starting with your objectives and planning from there.  In order to speed up my planning process, I thought it would be a good idea to create a template that I could customize each time I put a unit plan together.

The result of that goal is:

Unit By Design Template

Feel free to download this add-on and play around with it. There is just a little bit of setup required.

ubd-howto-setup-2

First, you need to create a spreadsheet similar to the one seen above. This will have all of your objectives in it. The spreadsheet should have 3 columns.

  1. The first column is a category for the objective.
  2. The second column is a title for the objective.
  3. The third column is a longer description completing the “Students will be able to…”

Once you have finished building your list of objectives, you need to copy the key of the spreadsheet. This key is highlighted in the image above.

ubd-howto-setup

Open a new document and install the add-on. Click on ‘Add-ons > Unit By Design Template > Setup’ to open a setup window. Copy that key into the input box and save. Now you are ready to create a new unit!

You can get an example objective spreadsheet here:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1c_vwNSKbW9V22zi8JBw_-Gp_CM6va_T_X6FYL88N0QM/edit?usp=sharing

The key is: 1c_vwNSKbW9V22zi8JBw_-Gp_CM6va_T_X6FYL88N0QM

ubd-howto-1

Notice the two buttons ‘Go back a stage’ and ‘Move to the next stage’. The allow you to go back and forth between the stages of the process. Complete the fields and move to the next stage.

ubd-howto-2

Select one or more of the objectives. These fields are populated from the spreadsheet that YOU created. They will be used when the template is generated. To select multiple objectives, hold down the ‘CTRL’ key.

ubd-howto-3

You can add some other information that will be used for Stage 1 of the UBD. These fields are all optional. You must hit the RETURN key after each statement that you want separated in the plan.

ubd-howto-4

Once again, you can select mulitple options from this list. Just hold down CTRL while you select.

ubd-howto-5

How many individual lessons will you have in this unit? The number you select will be used to create lesson planning blocks in your plan. Click on SUBMIT THE FORM to start building the plan!

Next steps…

Go back through the plan that is generated and make final changes. There is always more that you can add to a unit plan! Also, if you go back to the add-ons menu, you can build individual lesson plans directly into your plan. Give it a try!

Lego Robotics TRASHtrek Challenge: Reflections

First Lego League!

This has been my first experience with Lego robotics, and I wanted to share some of my reflections post-competition. There are a lot of things that I learned as a coach that I can improve on, if I am coaching again next year.

  1. Have an extra EV3 brick for the students to work with! I had 9 students on the robotics team, and 1 EV3 brick. That is a terrible ratio for instruction. The kids need (and want) to play with the programs and the motors, but they can’t do it in a group of 9. A group of 3-4 kids would be perfect.
  2. Spend more time on the robot! I felt incredibly rushed at the end to get the robot ready. We used too much of our time planning, and building the models. It would be much better to get a prototype together even one that isn’t a final product, and start working with it!
  3. Make sure your table is clean and stable! We built our board on a table with some dirt caked in, and legs that wobble at the slightest touch. That stuff really needs to be fixed before you put the models onto the table. Even the slightest grain of debris or shake of the table can throw off the trajectory of the robot and lead you to make changes that aren’t necessary.

20160213_093728

Other improvements for our lego robotics team next year!

First, our design this year was very much based on a typical tractor design. All of our attachments were basically just added onto the front of that design. As I have been reading I see a lot of teams build these pinless attachments that can be taken on and off very easily and quickly. I would like to show the students how to accomplish this so that they can implement that strategy into their plans.

Second, using more sensors! It was easy to teach the kids how to do the most basic things of running the motors and configuring them to spin in the correct directions. However, this can be improved significantly with the addition of the ultrasonic sensor for distance, the color sensor to follow lines, and the gyroscopic sensor to more accurately navigate turns. I think the touch sensor can be used to speed up the transitions in base, and even just that would be a significant improvement.