Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Follow up...

I haven't heard back from my son's teacher (who I emailed over 2 days ago). I'm wondering if she'll just choose to ignore my email, which is not what I would advise as a teacher. Just three days left in their quarter!

I'm considering holding back her Christmas present (a Tervis tumbler full of homemade caramel.... what a nice mom I am!).

I was somewhat looking forward to a nice finish-up-December-easy week, but it wasn't meant to be. On Friday our Secondary Curriculum Director called and asked me to work on a new project. The course guide is scheduled to be put online in mid-January so the kids can get ready for scheduling next year's classes (can you believe it's almost time for that?!). He asked me to put together some 3-4 minute videos explaining our new course pathways to help parents see what's going on. As a district we decided to go with the Integrated pathway, which is troubling to a lot of people. We're such a traditional, high-achieving area that parents are freaking out when they see "Math 1" as their freshman's math class. I've got a start on what I think he wants but am waiting for confirmation before I continue.

Yesterday I met with our Curriculum Director (the earlier guy's boss) about a different Math Course of Study project she'd like me to work on. She wants to put together a website for K-12 showing the whole scope and sequence of Common Core math. This one's a biggie!  But luckily no mid-January deadline!  I'm meeting with our Middle School Math coach (who is a friend of mine) on Thursday to get her take on it; she was in on the organizational meeting for the project.

Today I spent some time with 4 freshmen biology classes who are doing research on geneticists; they'll use their information to create a timeline via Timeline JS (If you haven't seen it, check it out! It's really a neat tool that is based on a google spreadsheet.) I showed them a couple of websites (DHMO.org and thedogisland.com) so that we could talk about the validity of websites and always checking multiple sources.  Check out DHMO.org; some of the kids were visibly concerned about it!  :)

Then I shared with them resources we have available to us on INFOhio (a state database). Hopefully next time they're looking for information they won't automatically go to google. But I wouldn't bet on it!

I'm offering to re-do my previous Tech Thursday sessions on Friday during our work day. So far 3 people have signed up. So there's that.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Kids and late work and recess

As my oldest kid gets older and older (despite me asking him to stay little) I find myself struggling with how other teachers run their classrooms. He's in 5th grade now - heaven help me when he reaches high school! And although I try my hardest not to be "that mom", I also feel the need to stand up for my boy. It's the balancing act that I have a hard time with.

So far this year I've been pretty good, I think. I emailed his math teacher after I felt like I had no idea what was going on in class - her response wasn't pleasing, but I can deal. It's hard going from the lower elementary years when we as parents know so much of what's going on to upper elementary, where I feel like I have no idea what they're doing. His teachers very rarely assign homework and only send papers home once a week (on Fridays). I couldn't tell you what he's studying in most of his classes at any given moment. That's tough.

On Monday after school my son told me that he hadn't been able to find the social studies assignment that was due in class that day. I checked the recycling bin outside (that was fun - ick) and luckily found the packet that he was referring to. So he took it to school on Tuesday and turned it in.

The next day I checked and noticed that his social studies grade showed a 70% on the packet. I assumed he'd missed a bunch and left it at that.

Until today's Friday folder came home. The late assignment was in there, graded. His grade? A 95%. But adjusted for turning it in late? 70%. I know I haven't taught math for over a year now, but that seemed like a huge penalty to me. Especially for a 10 year old!

Here's the kicker. They only "do" social studies for part of a quarter and have had a total of 50 points of work. The late penalty dropped my kid's grade 10%. He went from a 100% to an 88% with five days left in the quarter.

Oh - and he had to sit out a recess for turning in an assignment late. For a kid with ADHD, recess is probably a salvation. I HATE that it's held over them as a 'behavior' thing, especially when we're just talking about turning in a paper late!

I can't let this go without registering my disapproval... Here's my draft email to his teacher:

I haven't hit send yet. I can't decide how to close the email up. 

I hate being "that" mom. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Organizing Your Google Drive

You may not know it by looking at my house all of the time, but I like to have things organized.  As a teacher I kept all of my files within folders that were within folders that were within folders. And you know what? I could find anything when I needed to.

Organizing my Google Drive has been a little trickier, and thus is the impetus for Tech Thursday this week.

Here are my tips:
There's nothing like having someone show you their google drive with a list of hundreds of documents. It causes me anxiety (almost as much as seeing hundreds or thousands of unread emails!).

There are three ways to move files into folders:

  • Drag them over. You can select as many files as you'd like, then drag them into the applicable location.
  • Select the file (by clicking on the box next to it). This will create a new menu across the top of your screen. Click on the folder.  This will give you the option to choose where you'd like to put it.
  • If your file is already open, click on the folder at the top next to the file name. This will allow you to choose a folder.
Now that you have folders, you need to be able to find them.
  • Color code. You can change the color of your folders; maybe have different colors for each of your courses? Or make the most-used folders a certain color?  In your list view, select the folder then go to the "More" menu at the top. One of your options is "Change color".
          I don't have a nice organized color-coding 
          system yet. I just like to see a variety of 
          colors for fun.
  • Starring.  I'm guessing you knew you can star emails that you deem important; did you know that you can star files and folders? Check out the star next to the Title. Click on it, then go to "Starred" in your left column. That will bring up any files or folders that you've selected.     
  • Grid view. Within a folder, check out grid view; it will give you a visual of what's in your folder without having to open several different files. I tend to re-use file names a lot (which google doesn't have issues with) so I get confused about what specific file I'm looking for. If I can see the file that tends to help me narrow it down.
Grid view
  • Re-ordering your list. Google Drive defaults to an alphabetical list with your folders shown first. If you'd like to change that order, click on the applicable category across the top. I think seeing "Last Modified" is nice, especially if you're trying to find a recent file.
  • View recent activity. If you click on the little i in the top menu, a new sidebar will open on the right side of your screen. It shows all activity for your documents; a great way to access any files you've used in the past few days!
Even if you're using and organizing your folders, there may still be times when you can't find a specific file. Knowing how to search is a big help. 
  • If you enter in some keywords in the search bar you'll see options populate as you type. Clicking on the magnifying glass will produce a list of files/folders with those words in the title OR in the document itself. 
  • If you click on the dropdown in the search bar you can specify exactly what type of file it is that you're looking for. [It's even better in the new drive, but I'm guessing my peeps here are in the old, so that's who I'm catering to.]

The last couple of items I'm intending to share tomorrow are just comparisons of the old and new google drive. I read yesterday that the major change they made was to add images to file names to make them more easily viewable, especially because people are uploaded so many media files.  I'm still mostly stuck on docs (and sheets and forms) so the visual isn't as important to me.  I still feel like I need to do some research on that, though!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Google Forms revisited

A couple of people mentioned to me yesterday that they won't be able to make my after-school session and wanted to. And then someone else asked if I would screencast it so they could catch up.

Well ok!

That's what I did today... and it's amazing that producing 2 videos (of < 20 minutes each) took me ALL DAY.

Without further ado, Google Forms.
(Is there anyone who actually likes hearing their own voice?)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Google Forms FTW

I do love me some Google Forms!

It's the topic of tomorrow's third installment of Tech Thursday.... here's what I'll be sharing!