Sunday, February 8, 2015

Random Group Generator + Doctopus = Collaborative Group-Making Gold!

I have been using Doctopus with several of my fellows and other teachers at my site all year as an effective way to push out documents to students.  Google Classroom was not open at the beginning of the year at my district, so I worked to become a "Doctopus Expert".  I put together this step-by-step guide and then a more simplified "visual guide" (personalized for one of my fellows).

With Classroom now open, I am still sticking with Doctopus for several reasons:

  • File Organization - I love that the files are organized in student folders but also assignment folders
  • Teacher Access and Control at all stages - Teacher has access to the document from the time it is pushed out, not from when the student begins working on it
  • Goobric - Easy to navigate between assignments, and now you can leave voice comments!
  • Data and Statistics in terms of word count, student revisions, comments, etc, and... 
  • The ability to push out documents to collaborative groups, not just to individual students.

My one complaint with Doctopus group-making is there is not a way to select how many groups you want or how many students you want in each group.  Then, I was listening to an ISTE Webinar Archive today and the presenter linked to a Random Group Generator [see the original template here].  I decided to check it out... and I think it may just be a pretty awesome discovery!

I added on to the original Random Group Generator document using two formulas:

Used to join together "Group 1. ___" with the group number assigned by the generator.  The "1. " portion refers to the class period the student is in.

Used to get the group numbers for the students in the correct roster order, as the number generator puts them in order by group number, not alphabetical.

The goal is that you can copy-paste (paste values only) the last column straight into your Doctopus "Group" column and you will be able to easily create groups of all sizes!

You can view and make a copy of my 6-period Random Group Generator with formulas here.

Please let me know if you catch any errors or mistakes as I have just put this together and will be trialing it out this week.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Reflections on Coaching - Take 5 (Back after a long break)

It's been a crazy start to the year and I got out of the habit of blogging about coaching for a while, but (hopefully) I'm back!

I have seen some amazing ideas, lessons, and growth among the teachers I am working with in the last several weeks and that is very exciting.   It ranges from learning how to use Google Docs and Slides to create presentation material for students to helping teachers launch and begin using Doctopus to push out assignments to students... and everything in between!

Two key "learnings" from the last several weeks:

- "Explore - Flip - Apply" is a great technique.  I've known that, but now I'm really experiencing it.  I am trying to encourage discovery and inquiry in the math classes as much as possible (where it fits), and using this technique really allows for that student concept development and exploration time as well as providing them with the follow-up support they need.  For example, students can explore properties of logarithmic graphs compared to exponential graphs, how the graph changes based on the base, and what different numbers put into the equation do the graph.  They can use Desmos as a tool for some of this as well as their prior knowledge of function transformations.  They explore and come to conclusions as they notice patterns and discuss with their classmates.  That night, they have some graphs to try on their own.  The teacher can make a short video explaining one or two the graphs in a more straightforward way to solidify the conclusions most of the class came to by the end of the period.  Then, they can come back the next day and apply that knowledge further.

- There are so many different ways to have students collaborate, and chunking a lesson really really really makes a difference.  I've even suggested having a timer that goes off every 5-7 minutes to remind the teacher to "shut up and let the kids talk".   We've done very structured collaboration like having A/B partners where each time one partner has the role of talking, to having A/B partners where they are both talking and working together, to having pods of 3 where the students turn and talk with their partners.  Those are all in the "think-pair-share" model, but it's really a great place to start.  We have tried having collaboration time before the teacher explains a problem, after the teacher explains a problem, or after a problem with a focus on a new/similar problem.  We are learning different levels of scaffolding, modeling, and support that different levels of students need.

Coaching Documents and Reflections:

I'm really glad I put all the work in over break to update my different coaching documents.  While I am still tweaking and playing with them, they lay a great foundation.  One of the documents is a very detailed lesson planning guide with probing questions.  I've found that it is a great tool more for me as the coach, not necessarily to have my fellows work through.  As I continue to grow, most of the prompts will become second nature to me and I'll be able to go through the process seamlessly.  However, while I'm still learning, it is really valuable to have such a structured guide to go through.

One of my colleagues showed me a Pre-Brief and De-Brief reflection form on a Google Form and I'm thinking that may be better to have my fellows submit via a consistent form rather than always trying to find the right place in the journal.  I need to figure it out and put something together, but I think that is a good direction to head.  This means we would just have one document with our meeting notes, I would have the lesson plan document that is mainly for me, and then all of their reflections would be submitted to a Google Form.  I could even make one Google Form where the first page has them select what type of reflection it is (pre-brief, de-brief, etc) and then it goes to a certain page of questions based on that answer.  Hmm... gotta think through it.

I also want to find a better way for the fellows to keep track of the different things they have accomplished throughout the year.  I created a "Tech Tools Inventory" for them to add to, but another one of my colleagues showed a Portfolio-type thing he created on our Haiku LMS where for each lesson they would create a content block with text, images, etc to share what they did.  It really looked well put together and something they could be proud of at the end of the year.  At this point, I don't think I'll do it this year because it's just one more thing and too many changes is not good.  However, I want to seriously consider doing something like that for next year.  I like all the structure I've put in place through Google Drive, but I want to find a way to seamlessly incorporate Haiku as well.

Effective Learning Norms - I had some great collaboration with another DLC about effective learning norms and how they can be tied in with the Continuum of Self-Reflection from the book Building Teachers' Capacity for Success.  I need to study more to wrap my head around all of it but I am very excited for the potential.  One of the hard things about this position is that all of our "students" don't move forward at a similar pace.  There are different levels throughout the year.  There are basic tech proficiencies, such as learning Haiku, Google Drive, specific tools, etc.  Then, there is the level where we are using the tools in our classroom to enhance/improve teaching and learning.  Lastly, there is the level where we aren't necessarily focused on tech integration (the teacher is self-sufficient in terms of tech), but on bigger ideas of improving teaching and learning through the lens of effective learning norms.  Even within those three levels, there is a wide variation among stages throughout those levels.  And... with regards to certain things they may be more ahead than with others.  I'm not sure how much sense that makes as I am still really trying to understand, but it's an area of focus for me.


I'm so grateful for the ability to share and collaborate with colleagues, including all of you :).  As I continue to grow in my self-reflection, I hope to continue to grow in my capacity as a coach to truly empower, encourage, support, and inspire all the teachers I work with to continually work on enhancing and improving the teaching and learning going on in their classrooms... with or without technology :)  Although, I think technology really does help!
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