Thursday, October 21, 2010

CUEBC 2010 - Saving Time, Effort, and Money

Hi and Welcome to CUEBC! My name is James Gill, and I am a teacher with SD43, Coquitlam School district. Today, I would like to share with you some of the ways that I have been saving time and effort in the classroom by using a classroom website.


I teach computer education at Moody Middle school, and have for 3 years. Part of my job involves teaching the same lesson to different groups of kids. Also, I find that some of my students would like to be able to get help, or review the instructions, but don’t always follow written instructions well.

I use a free program called Jing (pro version is $15 dollars) and I create screencasts:

1.) I save myself effort by playing the video 4 times in a row, instead of talking 4 times in a row.
2.) Jing forces me to be brief, and no one listens after 5 minutes – I have a tendency to talk if left to my own devices
3.) Kids don’t wait for help with their arm going numb in the air- they can review at their own pace
4.) Parents can support their kids at home – when was the last time your parents did 8th grade math? Probably in the 8th grade!

But what if you have a student that forgets their homework....often!

By putting your lessons and your worksheets on your website, you can tweak your lessons on the fly from anywhere there is an internet connection. I have had students go home, and realize they have forgotten their homework. If there is a worksheet or template they are writing their responses on, they can download them from the website (or rather their parents can ;-)). While students are never thrilled to re-start an assignment, it prevents them from possibly losing marks for turning in late work. I re-use my lessons often, and re-invent them often.

I use this with my middle school classes, but I first used it with a class of Grade 3 students. It saved me a lot of time waiting for a kid to re-do lost assignments, or having to mark after they have handed it in late.

Hand In Bin – Easy Peasy Paperless:

In my first term in my position, I had students hitting print on their first assignment. Then I realized that this created organizational problems, kids not printing on time. So using our SharePoint websites, we created a list where students can hand their work in:

I see everyone’s work, they see their own. I can mark them here, or at home, or anywhere I have an internet connection. I don’t carry my marking home with me. Perhaps not all of your students will do their work on computer, but I bet a lot of them are doing it on a computer and hitting print. If you even take some of your work electronically, it could speed up your marking. Kids can hand in from anywhere there is a computer with an internet connection, which sometimes increases your chances of getting their assignments in when you are ready to mark them.

Giving Feedback that Motivates Kids to Listen:

Another problem I have wrestled with in the past is that kids don’t read my feedback. Students are only interested in the mark. I can ask a student what mark they got, and usually they will know the answer to that question. But when I ask a student what I had to say about their work, hardly any students were able to tell me. I am not alone in this struggle. Apparently, students will not read your comments unless they are surprised in a negative way about their mark.

One of the ways I have found around this issue has been to have students turn in their work to my classroom website. We currently use MS Word on all our school computers, and many students have this program at home too. Rather than write on their work, I will record a comment on their work. By embedding a voice recording in their work:

1.) I can save myself time and energy by “talking” my comments into their work- I can say in 35 seconds more than I can write
2.) Students listen to my comments- listening comprehension is higher in my middle school students than is reading comprehension
3.) There is no way to fast forward the comments – as long as I say their grades last, they have to listen to all my feedback first.

Improving Student Writing:

I thought that using the Document Libraries on SharePoint would create a great way for students to share their work with each other . Basically kids upload their work to a common folder on my website. Then, they sign out the document, read it, and post comments in the margin.

After teaching the class about how to give useful feedback, and what are some ways to phrase it to not offend others, I asked kids to then read, and make use of any feedback they felt would help when writing good copies. I decided to do an informal poll which is something built in to our SharePoint websites. You can also survey your students on SurveyMonkey. The results were quite telling:

I hope you have enjoyed my workshop on using the virtual classroom to save time, and money. I would like to leave you with a final thought. Sir Ken Robinson, a college professor and internationally renowned speaker and writer on the topic of education said recently that schools are at their most elemental an interaction between student and teacher, and so we must only make changes to school that improve this dynamic (sic). My two bits - use technology, but not because it is shiny, new, or trending on twitter. Only use it if it makes your life better.


Brian Kuhn said...

Nice use of some elemental tools to make things easier for you and better for kids. The spoken feedback is a nice touch, kids hearing you and having to listen to all the feedback before hearing their mark is brilliant.

James Gill said...

Thanks Brian. I think the embedding a voice comment was the best received part of my presentation. I have Martine Duby to thank for that, as she was the one who showed it to me originally. It saves me lots of time.