Conferences & Professional Learning, EdTech

EdTech Conference Takeaways: Edmodo vs. Blackboard

I attended a session on Monday on Digital Assessments. The presenter went over Plickers, and then showed us how she uses Edmodo. I was really impressed with how much mileage she gets out of the Edmodo platform – posting class notes for absent students, turning in assignments, quizzes, and surveys (what an easy way to do voting for Manía Musical!). I also really liked Edmodo’s badge feature – Edmodo has a few built in ones like “Good citizen” and “Hard Worker,” but you can also customize your own – she does “Movie Critic” (watch a historical film and write a page analyzing the historical accuracy – could adapt for foreign languages), “Hot 100” (get a perfect 100 on a test), and “Quizlet Star” (earn a high score on Scatter or Space Race). She uses the badges for extra credit (1 test point per 2 badges earned), but I think it also would contribute to a positive classroom environment – sometimes it’s hard to give good students recognition, but the badges would be an easy (and free!) way to do it.

Anyway, here’s my dilemma: I’ve dabbled in Edmodo before, and I know how easy it is to use. However, my district has purchased Blackboard as our learning management platform. I would like to use Blackboard since many other teachers in our school use it and students quickly become familiar with it, but it is incredibly complicated on the teacher end to create, post, and organize materials. I feel like I have to go through 8 screens to do something that in Edmodo would be 1! I attended a session this morning on differentiation with Blackboard and was quite impressed with all of the different functionalities Blackboard offers to set up formative assessments and tailor future assignments to a students’ needs and abilities. However….despite an excellent presentation by a very skilled and passionate teacher (who works at my school and would be available to help me!), I know that to actually implement what she showed us will require a lot of trial and error and a lot of time on my part. I hate spending an hour or two struggling with technology for something that should have taken 15 minutes at most.

Here are the pros and cons, as I see them:

Pros – Easy to use for both me and my students. Free. Will be able to access my information regardless of whether I change school districts.

Cons – another login for students to remember. Not officially sanctioned by the powers that be.

Pros -universal use across the district. Will be familiar to students, particularly the sophomores who had laptops and used blackboard last year. Lots of robust features. Classes already loaded in. Will make my administrators happy.

Cons – high learning curve for me, big time investment just to post materials.

At this point I’m leaning towards Edmodo, but I have another session on Blackboard to attend – perhaps it will change my mind. And then again, it all depends on how far we are with the 1:1 rollout…if most of my students don’t have school-issued laptops, I may not use much of anything.

Conferences & Professional Learning, EdTech

EdTech Conference Takeaways: Plickers

First, let me say this: I cannot wait to use Plickers in my classroom!

Do your students love Kahoot? Then I bet they will love Plickers too! Bonus: the only devices required for Plickers are the teacher’s: your computer, projector, and smartphone or tablet. Students respond to questions you project on the board by holding up cards like this:

Each card has a unique symbol, so students can’t just choose an answer based on what everyone else is holding up

This is a half-page image printed on regular white paper. You can print a set out from the Plickers website for free. On each side, you can see a letter – A, B, C, or D. You project a question on the board through the Plickers website (multiple choice or true/false), and students hold up their card to indicate the answer. Here’s the cool part: you collect their answers by scanning the room with your smartphone! On the card above, you also see a number (I was 25). You set up your classes in Plickers, and each student is assigned a number. So, when you scan the room to collect answers, you have immediate feedback on each of your students (as well as a record of who is participating). The presenter suggested having a set of cards for each class, and writing students’ names on their assigned card. Collect the cards and keep them in your room to avoid having to re-print when students inevitably lose them, and just have students find their cards on Plickers day.

I love using Kahoots, but I’ve had a few problems with them – students who don’t have devices, students who are “sharing” with their partner but not actually doing any thinking, students pretending to participate who are actually on social media, loss of connectivity, poor wifi, waiting for someone next to them to submit their answer so they can copy, randomly choosing an answer as soon the question pops up so they can be the first to answer, and that time my seventh period lost Kahoot privileges because someone put “john is gay” as his username.  I’m not ready to abandon Kahoots entirely, but I am excited to have another review/formative assessment tool in my arsenal, particularly as this one doesn’t require student devices. The biggest advantage that Kahoot has is the sharing/search ability – unfortunately, there is not (yet) an option to search questions or sets from other teachers on Plickers.

Conferences & Professional Learning, EdTech

EdTech Conference Takeaways: Classflow

I am attending my county’s annual Ed Tech conference this week and have already learned so much! The first session I attended today was on Classflow, which is a lesson delivery system similar to Near Pod – slides can show up on student devices with options for quizzes, surveys, and open-ended responses. A friend demoed NearPod for me recently and I’ve wanted to use it, but I was frustrated with editing capabilities on the slides – mainly problems with the background and no way to control text size (limiting the amount of text on the screen). I’m skeptical about the time investment required for learning a new system, but Classflow might be worth it. A few notable features:

  • Classflow has the option to set up classes with your student rosters.  As you ask questions for discussion or formative assessment, you can keep track of who is participating. I’ve had trouble in the past with inappropriate things being published on my tech platforms, but since students enter the class under their name, they wouldn’t be able to anonymously hijack my presentation.  I also noticed that your name shows up in the corner of your screen, so you could easily monitor that students are logged in correctly as you walk around the room (not that high school students would ever impersonate someone else to cause trouble!)
  • Set up classes and push presentations to certain classes. So I can make my presentation for “Descriptions Vocab,” push it to first period, save all the data I get from 1st period, but then push the original again to second period. I always am rushing to reset my presentations (erase all the answers) between classes, so that would make life easier.
  • Import ActivInspire and SmartNotebook presentations. I switched classrooms this year and will have an Epsom projector, but I still have all my ActivInspire files from last year and SmartNotebook files from the four previous years. It would be much easier to import those files than to make a presentation from scratch (like I would with NearPod).
  • The presenter showed us a slide where students had to sort things into different columns. I think that would be a great way to do a vocabulary sort! I do vocab sorts on the board sometime, soliciting student input, or print flashcards and have them sort on their desks, but this would be a great way to do a sort without having to print anything.
  • The presenter also showed a music video and pushed the lyrics to our screens. What a great way to listen to a song in Spanish class! What about doing clozes that way, or send the lyrics with errors and have students listen for and mark mistakes? Or just a paper-saving method to share the lyrics with them?

Do you use a lesson-delivery system like Classflow? How does it work for you?


Five things I love about Quizlet


One of my favorite tech tools is, an online flashcard creator. A couple of features I love:

1. Searching for other sets. Instead of creating a new set of words, I often run a topical search and find a set with most of the words I want – for example, Spanish Clothes, or, even better, Realidades 3a. I usually find several sets that are close to what I want, so I can quickly copy one, edit it to fit my needs, and it’s ready to go. You can also check a box to search for sets with images, and boom! You’ve got picture flashcards, ready to go!

2. Adding sets to my class makes it easy to communicate expectations with students and parents. Even with a free account, I can set up a class for my students where they can find all of their vocabulary. Each unit, I add the new vocabulary set to my class. Students know where to find it to study at home, and it provides a link for me to send to parents, either as a resource for struggling students, or as a quick make up work assignment.

3. Printing flashcards and vocab lists is super easy! I print the lists all the time for students who have missed class, and often print flashcards for different class activities. Also, since it’s so easy to find sets of common vocabulary with pictures, I often use quizlet to print the vocabulary images, either to use as flashcards, or to cut up and re-purpose for another activity.

4. It talks to you. I love this as an option for students to review at home and hear the pronunciation. I also will run through the flashcards as a quick review at the beginning or end of class, and it’s nice to have the quizlet voice as a change after hearing me all period.

5. Games & Quizzes I don’t know why matching games are so fun, but every time we do stations, I have students ask to do quizlet so they can play scatter! I also use the quiz feature from time to time – although I generally like my assessments to go beyond English to Spanish definitions, it’s nice to be able to quickly generate a quiz as a review, make up work, or extra practice assignment.

How do you use Quizlet?