No more tatty, dogeared exercise books that have been used for months and having to be kept to track work over the years. Now the students can neatly keep their work from the start of their school life to the finish and access it from anywhere and on any device. This my friends, this is the future! Starting with my Y8 and Y10 class, I have introduced them to three new tools to allow us to do this effectively. We have started using Edmodo, Google Drive and individual blogs on Wordpress. These three simple tools have been a revelation, they have opened up a really effective way for students to engage with tasks, take on feedback and celebrate their work.
Note - I fully understand the importance of writing by hand and provide plenty of opportunity for this to take place in class. They write in their notes books regularly and some assessments are written by hand, a photo taken and submitted via Edmodo as a picture. Until the exams change to allow digital format (that will happen) we will mix the two skills in class.
The Tools - An Overview:
Edmodo is a safe, secure and open environment for communication with students and parents. It looks a little like Facebook but is completely controlled by the teacher and only viewable my teacher, students and parents if they opt in. It is so simple to set up. The teacher signs up, creates a group and a code is generated. Then, in class, the teacher sends the student to the Edmodo site where they click "I am a student" and enter their name and the code you give them. This automatically adds them to the class and allows them to see all posts you send to the class. You can set it so that all comments from students are moderated too if you wish for have full control. You can set class tasks or homework and feedback on work they have submitted for assessment. You have a digital mark book for the class built into the site allowing for easy tracking of progress. You can enter the grades for specific tasks here. There is also the option of creating automatically marked quizzes here and adding them to your mark book too. Edmodo is where my students submit work, get feedback and grades from me and watch for notices. Only the student, the parent and I can see this. An introduction video is below.
Google Drive in essence is simply computing in the cloud. It allows students to sign in using a Gmail account and have access to the Google Drive facility. Students are able to create documents (very much like word), spreadsheets (very much like Excel) and presentations (very much like Powerpoint) and they save automatically in the cloud. This is great as there is never a chance of loosing a document as it save on the spot as you type. Another great feature is that you can access all previous versions of the document you have created, eliminating the possibility of loosing work. Also you can access and edit the document from home and in school using any device that allows you access to the internet - brilliant. There's more though! The peice de resistance with Google Drive is that it allows the students to share a document. You could ask pairs to share their work with each other and create a presentation collaboratively. You could ask the student to share a document with you as they work so that you can view and comment live without interrupting their flow or stopping them working. Google Drive links directly with Edmodo, allowing students to hand in a Google Doc from within Edmodo. Brilliant tool with endless possibilities in the classroom. An introduction video is below.
Wordpress blogs are the final essential digital tool this year for my classes. This has been a labour of love for me but well worth it. I have created a network of blogs spanning down from my main introduction page which is more or less static. The middle level of blogs houses the individual class hubs for each class I teach. The final lower layer being the individual student blogs for every student in my class. The blogs a linked by a network of hyperlinked buttons on the pages creating the experience of a website. During the creation of this network of blogs, I was advised often by the wonderful Chris Waugh (@edutronic_net) who has created a similar, and in many ways much more sophisticated version for his classes. Thanks Chris!
Example Digital Work Flow:
Step 1 - Setting The Task:
I open my lessons as normal with students seated at tables, me introducing a concept, skill or new knowledge. Students will complete a starter or introductory activity in their note books. I will then guide the students toward the main activity of the lesson, model expectations, clarify any misconceptions apparent from the starter and talk them through the task. Students will plan or make preparation notes in their notebooks. Once I am satisfied this has been completed to the expected standard, I will direct individual student to the computers allocated to them. A reminder of the task set will be waiting for them when they log into Edmodo, often with a help sheet of suggested sites to aid them if they are stuck. There is a button in the message reminding them of the task that says 'turn in assignment' that the students use to submit their task once they have finished.I can see live how many of them have turned in the task and if they were late from my login.
Step 2 - Completing The Task:
Students have a Google account set up via the school as they are under 13. Older students can use their own Google login if they have one. The students leave Edmodo up on one tab and open another tab. Students go to their Google Drive, create a document and use their notes from the starter activity to complete the task. The save the piece in a folder called 'English' and possibly even a sub-folder for that individual unit of work; All of which is very easy to set up. As they work I often ask to have access to the document. Students allow me to view the document from my PC or iPad by clicking the 'Share' button on the document in Google Drive and entering my email. I can then view their file and advise them via the comment or chat facility. This allows them to continue working uninterrupted while I assess their work and help them improve. I can often see them making the specific improvements straight after I advise them.
Step 3 - Handing in Work
Once the time is up for the task, students shut down the tab with Googe Drove on it - knowing that the document automatically saves so no fear of losing the work. This will leave only the Edmodo window open. The message I sent them in Edmodo that outlined the task also has a 'Turn in Assignment' button within it. The students have already linked their Google Drive to Edmodo so they can submit a document straight from within Edmodo. They click on 'Turn in Assignment', select the relevant document from their Google Drive as instructed and hand in their work. They can also write a message to you as they do so if they have a particular thing they want to ask you or for you to focus on when you mark it. As the students hand in their work I can see that they have done so immediately either from my PC or on my iPad and can access the document.
Step 4 - Marking and Feedback:
All the completed pieces of work are now available for you to view and mark from within Edmodo. I use our school levelling system and feedback something specific from relevant level descriptor that I liked about the piece. I also clearly write a target from the level descriptor above to help them strive towards the next level. There is a library facility in Edmodo where I store the level descriptors for students and parents to use when looking at feedback. Students also have copies of the descriptors of the level they are working on and the next level up in their paper notebooks for reference. Students have a dedicated 'Marking and Feedback Reflection' section in the back of their paper notebooks. Once I have marked the pieces, I ask the students to log into Edmodo, read the positive comment and target I have given them. They then note this down in their Marking and Feedback Reflection section of their note books. Underneath this they write a response to my marking, committing to specific actions they will take to work on the improvements that I have asked them to make.
Step 5 - Moving Forward and making Improvements - The Blog / E-Portfolio
Students then close down Edmodo. They open up and log into Google Drive and Wordpress in two separate tabs. They copy their pieces without any improvements made and paste the words into a draft post on their individual blogs. They then close down Google Drive and simply have their Wordpress blog open on the computer. Now their task is to take the action they have just committed to after looking at my targets. Once they have done this they publish their pieces. They have a piece of work they should be proud of and a real audience to show it to. I do not level the pieces publicly on their blogs; they have already had a level from my privately in Edmodo. When it comes to reporting I will use the level from Edmodo and their new and improved pieces on their blogs to form my judgement. I will be place a comment on each blog post saying what I like about the final version. For me, this part is still a work in progress. The only class I have actually got live blogging are my Y8 and they were so excited to publish that a lot of them have not yet made the improvements, but they will be updating their posts to improve next lesson. Y10 will be doing starting to blog their new and improved pieces this week too! As long as they are moving forward, I'm happy. These E-Portfolios are a brilliant way of the students showcasing their work and forming a positive digital footprint for themselves. Parents can see their improvements by looking at Edmodo, then the blog and seeing for themselves the differences the students have made.
It is early days but the signs of success are glimmering on the horizon. With only a few weeks gone of the school year, I am very excited about the possibilities.