Technology Educators: not teaching to the test? Better get started, quick…

Image credit: butlerboe.org

Image credit: butlerboe.org

The 2015 PARCC assessment just months away. Teachers everywhere have been scrambling to prepare their students while their districts build required infrastructure. But the first practice tests, available months ago, really set alarms off. Drag and drop? Scroll bars? Select/Unselect? Multiple tabs? Plot points? TestNav, “Pearson’s comprehensive approach to assessment,” utilizes these elements and more. It’s an entirely new experience for my students. As Teacher of Computer Education at our school, I believe it is my job to ensure these kids will know their way around this system – one they’ve never used before. How’s THAT supposed to happen?

Pearson’s offerings

One might expect that the organization who developed such an assessment would provide guidance, and, they do. In my view, the best practice resource they offer is http://parcc.pearson.com/practice-tests/, and it looks like more content is coming to that site. They offer a “Samples” page, here, and there’s a Tutorials page. You can jump right into a simulation of the test environment itself (no real questions), here. For an idea what that’s like, see below:

PARCC Sample Set Tutorial / Instruction Screen

PARCC Sample Set Tutorial / Instruction Screen. Image credit: PARCC

Anyway, back to the task at hand. With precious time ticking away, will these resources be enough? During what classes will they get an introduction to this tool? For how long (and at what cost in terms of lost instructional time?) How can they be used with and by students in actual, “realistic” settings? Most importantly, how will we know if students are proficient with the testing environment prior to taking the PARCC?

Edcite.com to the rescue

I found out about this resource from my erstwhile colleague and fellow technology educator, Dave Zirkle in Perth Amboy. Edcite is a free (for now, it would seem) service offering a pre-built library of interactive questions that students and teachers can use to prepare for the PARCC exam. Quoting from their FAQ:

Edcite is a comprehensive education platform equipping teachers with customizable content and quality Common Core resources. Our platform is built by teachers, for teachers to tackle the classroom challenges of today and strengthen the quality of education tomorrow.

Here’s an example:

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You can see how they work just by going to http://edcite.com/ and scrolling to the bottom of the page – questions are there, ready for you to try.

But Edcite is much more than a library – it is a comprehensive, easy-to-use, full-blown authoring environment allowing teachers to develop and administer their own assessments … which is exactly what I’ve started to do (utilizing my own content, rather than pre-built ELA or Math items, to ‘keep it real,’ so to speak):

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It’s been a little challenging trying to shoehorn technology curriculum into the various question types, but, I’m doing the best I can:

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Because my time with students is so limited (40 minutes once a week) and we have plenty of “regularly scheduled” learning to do, I need a way to help the kids figure out how this interface works while doing actual work. Currently, I’m experimenting with the system, building assessments and getting feedback from students. As of now, I plan to incorporate Edcite-based “exit tickets” into my classes. I’ll have to contort my curriculum in unimaginable ways to make this work, but assuming I can pull it off, my kids will be familiar with each type of question, every interactive element, be it a toolbar, scroll bar, tab, text box, or other graphic item. And I’ll do it with the least possible amount of time and energy and impact on my curriculum.

What’s Next

I’ve not yet used Edcite’s student management features – that is on my list of near-term to do’s – along with understanding how to potentially import and manage large numbers of student accounts (I’ve got two grade levels and 200+ kids to track, and, other technology educators I know have even more.)

While I’ve heard that Pearson is planning to announce “some kind” of similar system, with 2015 literally just days away, I’m not waiting. I’m going with Edcite.

What are you doing to help ensure your students are ready for PARCC – without gutting your lesson plans in the process?

Computer Science in Ed (CSEd) Week / Hour of Code Day 5! Let’s Wrap This Up!

Hour of Code this week has been a terrific success! Kids have had a fantastic time exploring and coding, despite the challenges we faced with slow and inaccessible websites. As we prepare to finish the week, I wanted to highlight our Kindergarten activities, which can be found on the Symbaloo, below:

I don’t have pictures yet (hope to remember to take some today) of the highlight of our Kindergarten #hourofcode experience – an “offline,” “non-technology” activity in which a student “programs” another student to walk a certain path along our colorful foam mats to pick up our Webkinz class mascot, Gumdrop. I will try to remember to get some pics today, but, this is what it looked like last year:

One student was the “coder,” the other was the “actor” and everyone else cheered them on. It’s been great all week!

Here are the websites kids can use to explore coding:

  1. Hour of Code Course #1, Stage 3: solve puzzles to learn the basics of coding!
  2. Hour of Code, Course #1, Stage 4: building on Stage 3, the blocks and programming get slightly more complicated, but not too much so. Everyone loves Angry Birds!
  3. Hour of Code, Course #1, Stage 5: More Angry Birds, but this set of activities focuses on debugging or correcting the code.
  4. Tynker: self-paced, 11-lesson set designed to walk students through the basics of coding. The login credentials will be provided to parents under separate cover.  The login process, and the actual activities, are best handled with a parent or older sibling.
  5. Hour of Code, Stage 7: These puzzles involve getting a bee to collect some nectar. Very similar to the prior stages but with words incorporated on the programming symbols. Might help to have a parent or older sibling nearby.
  6. Hour of Code, Stage 8: No more puzzles here – students program a robot to draw pictures!
  7. Bot-Logic: more of a logic game than a programming lesson, this activity challenges kids to move a robot through a series of increasingly more complicated mazes. Watch out! You’ll be required to add loops and other interactive components to complete them all. <= THIS WAS OUR GO-TO APP FOR KINDERGARTEN! IT IS SIMPLE, ELEGANT AND EFFECTIVE!
  8. Light-Bot: one of the best single activities available, this activity (revamped for this year) requires students to program a robot to light up squares as he walks. The coding takes place by dragging and dropping blocks onto a grid. You remove them by dragging them off. Some of the higher level puzzles can be tricky!

That’s all for now! Hope you enjoy these activities as much as we have!

Best,

Mr. Jarrett

Computer Science in Ed (CSEd) Week / Hour of Code Day 4! What could possibly go wrong?

Three days in, we’ve found our groove, everything’s running smoothly and only two days worth of classes are left!

For this post, I’d like to highlight the activities on our Third Grade Symbaloo:

  1. Tynker: self-paced, 11-lesson set designed to walk students through the basics of coding. The login credentials are the same as the kids use for Google Apps: their full NCS email address and their Google Apps password. Upon logging in, click the blue robot in the circle to access the lessons I’ve selected. BONUS! The good folks at Tynker added a NEW section today specifically for Hour of Code (you see it once you log in.) Tynker is our main focus this week, provided the service works for us in class (it did not last year.) Kids will however be able to select ANY of these activities in class based on their interest and ability. I also want to encourage my students to try Tynker at home. Please do – and let me know how they like it!
  2. Hour of Code Course #1, Stage 3: solve puzzles to learn the basics of coding! These are our go-to activities in Kindergarten and 1st grade and might be a good refresher for second graders.
  3. Hour of Code, Course #1, Stage 4: building on Stage 3, the blocks and programming get slightly more complicated, but not too much so. Everyone loves Angry Birds!
  4. Hour of Code, Course #1, Stage 5: More Angry Birds, but this set of activities focuses on debugging or correcting the code.
  5. Google Blockly – Maze: can you code “Pegman” to complete the series of progressively more challenging mazes!
  6. Hour of Code Course 2: this is the ENTIRE 20-HOUR Hour of Code Course #2 for kids who can read but are new to programming. Some of the activities are included above; plenty of others, including the offline ones, are not.
  7. Light-Bot: one of the best single activities available, this activity (revamped for this year) requires students to program a robot to light up squares as he walks. The coding takes place by dragging and dropping blocks onto a grid. You remove them by dragging them off. Some of the higher level puzzles can be tricky.
  8. Bot-Logic: more of a logic game than a programming lesson, this activity challenges kids to move a robot through a series of increasingly more complicated mazes. Watch out! You’ll be required to add loops and other interactive components to complete them all!
  9. Getting Started with Scratch: a simple project designed to show how the programming language Scratch operates. Refer to the “Step Index” on the right and follow the instructions.
  10. Dancing Yeti: drag and drop code blocks to create a unique dance for the Yeti to perform! Many easy to manipulate variables.
  11. Learn to Code with Elsa – kids can write code to have Elsa create drawings – from simple to complex!

There you have it! On to Day 4!

-kj-

Computer Science in Ed (CSEd) Week / Hour of Code Day 3! (It’s Getting Better All the Time!)

We’re two days into #CSEdWeek and #HourofCode and we’ve found our rhythm – sites that work, problems to anticipate, questions to ponder, multimedia to show and words to inspire…

In Grades 2-3-4, I start my lesson with a bit of history, sharing about two very important historical figures whose birthdays are this week – Grace Hopper and Ada Lovelace.:

Grace Hopper and Ada Lovelace. Image credits: computerhistory.org and danielaedintorni.com.

Grace Hopper and Ada Lovelace. Image credits: computerhistory.org and danielaedintorni.com.

I am really enjoying making a big deal about these two women and how they changed the world. Based on the reactions I’ve seen and heard in class, it’s paying off. I want students, particularly girls, to leave the lesson with the idea that these two technology pioneers literally helped create the world we live in today. They, too, could have similar impact. Why not?

Flocabulary’s excellent “Top Ten Reasons to Code” is also proving to be a big hit:

I love the messaging, the beat, the visuals, the fact that the rapper is a woman, everything about it.  It’s just fantastic. Kids are tapping their feet and boppin’ to the beat within minutes, and even though the video moves quickly, they stay with every frame. It really grabs their attention! I even heard a few kids whistling the tune as they leave class. Win!

Moving on … the Symbaloo I want to highlight in this post – 4th grade – has some new and challenging activities:

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  1. Tynker: self-paced, 11-lesson set designed to walk students through the basics of coding. The login credentials are the same as the kids use for Google Apps: their full NCS email address and their Google Apps password. Upon logging in, click the blue robot in the circle to access the lessons I’ve selected. BONUS! The good folks at Tynker added a NEW section today specifically for Hour of Code (you see it once you log in.) Tynker is our main focus this week, provided the service works for us in class (it did not last year.) Kids will however be able to select ANY of these activities in class based on their interest and ability. I also want to encourage my students to try Tynker at home. Please do – and let me know how they like it!
  2. Hour of Code Course #1, Stage 3: solve puzzles to learn the basics of coding! These are our go-to activities in Kindergarten and 1st grade and might be a good refresher for second graders.
  3. Hour of Code, Course #1, Stage 4: building on Stage 3, the blocks and programming get slightly more complicated, but not too much so. Everyone loves Angry Birds!
  4. Hour of Code, Course #1, Stage 5: More Angry Birds, but this set of activities focuses on debugging or correcting the code.
  5. Google Blockly – Maze: can you code “Pegman” to complete the series of progressively more challenging mazes!
  6. Hour of Code Course 2: this is the ENTIRE 20-HOUR Hour of Code Course #2 for kids who can read but are new to programming. Some of the activities are included above; plenty of others, including the offline ones, are not.
  7. Light-Bot: one of the best single activities available, this activity (revamped for this year) requires students to program a robot to light up squares as he walks. The coding takes place by dragging and dropping blocks onto a grid. You remove them by dragging them off. Some of the higher level puzzles can be tricky.
  8. Getting Started with Scratch: a simple project designed to show how the programming language Scratch operates. Refer to the “Step Index” on the right and follow the instructions.
  9. Bot-Logic: more of a logic game than a programming lesson, this activity challenges kids to move a robot through a series of increasingly more complicated mazes. Watch out! You’ll be required to add loops and other interactive components to complete them all!
  10. Dancing Yeti: drag and drop code blocks to create a unique dance for the Yeti to perform! Many easy to manipulate variables.
  11. White House Holiday Lights – kids can write code to create elaborate light patterns that ACTUALLY LIGHT UP A TREE AT THE WHITE HOUSE. Seriously! Read about it here.

So there you have it! Onward to Day 4!

Mr. Jarrett

Computer Science in Ed (CSEd) Week / Hour of Code Day 2 Ahead!

Untitled3“Boy, that escalated quickly.” – Ron Burgundy

Teachers always have backup plans; it’s part of our nature – especially those of us who rely on technology when teaching.

But, the best backup plans have backups. And those have backups. And THOSE have backups. In engineering, this is called redundancy. In teaching, it’s called “whatever you do, make sure you are prepared for the worst.”

Yesterday’s #hourofcode was a runaway success – literally MILLIONS of students world-wide simultaneously experienced engaging, fun and challenging interactive activities designed to give them a taste of what coding is all about. Those that experienced problems – presuming they had backup plans – were ultimately successful, too. This photo sums up our day:

Yes, we had problems. We adapted, we overcame. We learned to code!

For Day 2, we expect things will be better, but, we’re prepared for anything.  (And we’re thankful for the many, many companies that have devoted time and resources to make these experiences possible for our kids – FOR FREE.)

Today, I thought I would profile my Symbaloo for First Grade:

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  1. Hour of Code Course #1, Stage 3: solve puzzles to learn the basics of coding! These are our go-to activities in Kindergarten and 1st grade and could be a good start for first graders.
  2. Hour of Code, Course #1, Stage 4: building on Stage 3, the blocks and programming get slightly more complicated, but not too much so. Everyone loves Angry Birds!
  3. Hour of Code, Course #1, Stage 5: More Angry Birds, but this set of activities focuses on debugging or correcting the code.
  4. Tynker: self-paced, 11-lesson set designed to walk students through the basics of coding. The login credentials will be provided to parents under separate cover.  The login process, and the actual activities, are best handled with a parent or older sibling.
  5. Hour of Code, Stage 7: These puzzles involve getting a bee to collect some nectar. Very similar to the prior stages but with more words incorporated on the programming symbols.
  6. Hour of Code, Stage 8: No more puzzles here – students program a robot to draw pictures!
  7. Bot-Logic: more of a logic game than a programming lesson, this activity challenges kids to move a robot through a series of increasingly more complicated mazes. Watch out! You’ll be required to add loops and other interactive components to complete them all. <= THIS WAS OUR GO-TO APP FOR FIRST GRADE AND MANY OTHER CLASSES YESTERDAY! IT IS SIMPLE, ELEGANT AND EFFECTIVE! AND, IT WORKED!
  8. Light-Bot: one of the best single activities available, this activity (revamped for this year) requires students to program a robot to light up squares as he walks. The coding takes place by dragging and dropping blocks onto a grid. You remove them by dragging them off. Some of the higher level puzzles can be tricky!

So, there you have it – my best laid plans – let’s see how Day 2 goes!

Mr. Jarrett

Computer Science in Ed (CSEd) Week Gets Underway at NCS Elementary!

CSEd Week LogoIt’s Monday, December 8th, the first day of CSEd week, an event honoring two different pioneers in the Computer Science field: Grace Hopper, the first American computer scientist and United States Navy rear admiral to boot; and Ada Lovelace, an English mathematician who wrote the first computer program … 100+ years before the first computer was created!  Hopper’s birthday is December 9th; Lovelace’s is December 10th. An interesting coincidence, no doubt – and a valuable context as we as a nation embark on a week of discovery and learning about coding in specific and computer science in general … a male-dominated field that was essentially created by women!

Every day this week, I’ll feature a different grade level and an explanation of the activities we’ve got planned. My goal is to encourage the learning to continue at home, and even expand, with family support. Since programming is an area of focus for my Second Graders, I’ll be starting with that grade level. Here’s the Second Grade Symbaloo and a quick rundown of the learning activities I’ve made available on it:

  1. Tynker: self-paced, 11-lesson set designed to walk students through the basics of coding. The login credentials are the same as the kids use for Google Apps: their full NCS email address and their Google Apps password. Upon logging in, click the blue robot in the circle to access the lessons I’ve selected. BONUS! The good folks at Tynker added a NEW section today specifically for Hour of Code (you see it once you log in.) The activities within that section labeled “BEGINNER” are appropriate for most 2nd graders. Tynker is our main focus this week, provided the service works for us in class (it did not last year.) Kids will however be able to select ANY of these activities in class based on their interest and ability. I also want to encourage my students to try Tynker at home with parents or an older sibling nearby for support if needed. It’s that good!
  2. Hour of Code Course #1, Stage 3: solve puzzles to learn the basics of coding! These are our go-to activities in Kindergarten and 1st grade and might be a good refresher for second graders.
  3. Hour of Code, Course #1, Stage 4: building on Stage 3, the blocks and programming get slightly more complicated, but not too much so. Everyone loves Angry Birds!
  4. Hour of Code, Course #1, Stage 5: More Angry Birds, but this set of activities focuses on debugging or correcting the code.
  5. Getting Started with Scratch: a simple project designed to show how the programming language Scratch operates. Refer to the “Step Index” on the right and follow the instructions.
  6. Google Blockly – Maze: can you code “Pegman” to complete the series of progressively more challenging mazes?
  7. Google Blockly – Turtle: create art by programming a turtle to draw as it walks!
  8. Light-Bot: one of the best single activities available, this activity (revamped for this year) requires students to program a robot to light up squares as he walks. The coding takes place by dragging and dropping blocks onto a grid. You remove them by dragging them off. Some of the higher level puzzles can be tricky!
  9. Bot-Logic: more of a logic game than a programming lesson, this activity challenges kids to move a robot through a series of increasingly more complicated mazes. Watch out! You’ll be required to add loops and other interactive components to complete them all!
  10. Dancing Yeti: drag and drop code blocks to create a unique dance for the Yeti to perform! Many easy to manipulate variables.
  11. Hour of Code Course 2: this is the ENTIRE 20-HOUR Hour of Code Course #2 for kids who can read but are new to programming. Some of the activities are included above; plenty of others, including the offline ones, are not.

Remember, we only have one 40-minute class together this week. There is obviously more content on the Symbaloo above than can POSSIBLY be completed during that time! I am making these activities – with various levels of difficulty – easily available so that students and their families can work on them at home, together. What will you learn today?

Have a great week!

Mr. Jarrett

HOUR of Code? More like a WEEK (or a MONTH)! Our plans for this year…

It’s been almost a year in the making, but Hour of Code (#hourofcode) 2014 is about to get underway here at Northfield Community Elementary School!

Last year, we did #hourofcode activities primarily in Second Grade. While we did allow kids in other grades to explore some of the online resources, second graders got the most exposure.

This year, we are EXPANDING #hourofcode activities to the ENTIRE elementary school: all 500 students in Kindergarten through 4th grade. I’m writing this blog post to provide an overview of our plans, explain how we got here, and highlight what we hope to achieve.

Scope, Objectives & Approach

Let me begin by saying what we have planned for this year would not be possible without the MASSIVE increase of support and effort from a variety of organizations getting behind the movement. The quality and quantity of instructional materials, games, videos, and the like has EXPLODED since last year … and we’re leveraging quite a bit of it.

Last year, we focused for the most part on Second Grade (coding is an ‘area of focus’ for that grade level). Students primarily worked with Scratch. The response was encouraging. Kids had a great time, there were spontaneous high-fives everywhere, and thanks to a gentle scaffolding of activities, everyone was successful.

This year, thanks in large part to the dramatic increase in fantastic instructional resources, particularly those aimed at early learners (non-readers, even) we are pushing #hourofcode down to Kindergarten & First and up to Third & Fourth grade … and adding a significant home-to-school connection (since a single class session is NOT going to be enough.)

So, in a nutshell, here are our plans for #hourofcode 2014 at Northfield Community Elementary School:

Kindergarten and First Grade

  • Web-based activities (selected tiles on the Kindergarten & First Grade Symbaloo’s).
  • Offline, “Unplugged” Activities and Demonstrations.
  • Student Pair Programming (as needed).
  • Tynker Accounts for exploration at home with Mom & Dad or ???

Second Grade

  • Tynker Accounts for individualized, self-paced instruction (at school and at home).
  • Web-based activities (selected tiles on the Symbaloo).
  • Hands-on coding activities using http://scratch.mit.edu/. Complete tutorials.
  • Provide instructions for creating and using code.org accounts at home.

Third & Fourth Grades

  • Tynker Accounts for individualized, self-paced instruction (at school and at home).
  • Web-based activities (selected tiles on the Third and Fourth Grade Symbaloo’s).
  • Hands-on coding activities using http://scratch.mit.edu/. Complete selected tutorials, make stuff.
  • Provide instructions for creating and using code.org accounts at home.

There is a lot of redundancy here for several reasons. We had a bad experience with Tynker last year. It didn’t work! I placed nearly all my educational eggs in one basket and had to scramble (bad pun, sorry) big time when overwhelming demand effectively shut the service down for us. I am pretty sure they have secured additional servers for 2014, and I still feel Tynker’s curriculum and approach are THE BEST AVAILABLE for our purposes at NCS. That’s why we’ll focus on it. (I also love the way Tynker has allowed me to EASILY create INDIVIDUAL student accounts [utilizing the same username and password as Google Apps] with customized curriculum FOR FREE.) We will have OTHER activities too, some to be done “offline” in class, others designed to be accessed at home and explored with Mom & Dad or other adults and siblings.

My actual lessons are still being finalized – and a lot of school-home communications still need to be created – but, that’s why teachers have nights and weekends, right? (No way all this is going to get done on my “prep!”)

How We Got Here

A lot has happened in the 12 months since #hourofcode last year. First and foremost, interest in this topic has SKYROCKETED. Coding is being talked about EVERYWHERE it seems. The resulting interest has generated an enormous amount of extremely high quality teaching materials and the backend infrastructure needed to make them work on a school-wide scale. (My life would be a lot easier if I had a single classroom – planning for entire grade levels, and this year, the entire elementary school, would be essentially impossible without the materials I have access to today.) We also had the opportunity to successfully “pre-test” some of the newest learning tools with our Kindergarten students, further convincing me we needed to “go big” this year.

But – should everybody learn to code? For some perspective on the question, check out the terrific article of the same name written by Esther Shein for Communications of the ACM, Vol. 57 No. 2, Pages 16-18 (yes, those are two of my students participating in #hourofcode last year.) Handy fun fact: I majored in Computer Science as a freshman in college. I … hated it! To this day, my programming skills are rudimentary. In many ways, I am learning along with the kids. So, there’s that. Point is, coding ISN’T for everyone, but, I believe EVERYONE should be INTRODUCED TO IT, so THEY can decide if it’s something they are interested in and want to invest additional time and effort.

What We Hope to Achieve

This year, #hourofcode is much, much more than a week’s worth of lessons for a single grade level. It is an organized, deep, multi-sensory, scaffolded learning adventure with components at school AND at home. Thanks to the dramatic increase in available activities, and the increasing ubiquity of mobile devices, kids have a greater opportunity than ever before to explore programming at their own pace, at their own level, and go as far, as fast, and as deep as they can.

For this year, I want…

  • In Kindergarten & First Grade: for students to enjoy exploring the puzzle activities we have already experienced and push further and conquer available lessons designed expressly for non-readers. Also, to give advanced students a chance to forge ahead.
  • In Second Grade: for students to conceptualize the coding process and be able to create their own basic programs (and be encouraged to continue to further develop those skills at home.)
  • In Third and Fourth Grades: for students to be able to use the available tools to create their own programs and games, whether at school or at home, and to solidify their interest in coding as a fun learning activity (and maybe even more).

Still reading? Awesome! Stay tuned, there’s more to come!

Mr. Jarrett

Lesson Deep Dive: Paper Laptops 2.0 – First Grade

This represents the first in a new category of posts here on my blog that I’m calling a “Deep Dive.” Rather than, as I have before, recapping every lesson, in every grade, every week, I’ll periodically choose a lesson or unit per grade level for an in-depth reflection. As always, my goal is to give parents & caregivers in our school community the resources needed to extend student learning at home, and to share my professional practice with teacher colleagues around the world in the hopes of improving my craft.

Paper Laptops 2.0 | 9/14/2014 - 9/17/2014 | First Grade

Paper Laptops 2.0 | 9/1/2014 – 9/17/2014 | First Grade

Standards: NJCCS Technology K-2 8.1.2.A.1, 8.1.2.A.2, 8.1.2.A.3, 8.2.2.A.1, 8.2.2.F.1

Objectives: I wanted students to understand that computers are collections of individual components, each with a different function. I wanted to give them the chance to examine, explore and identify hard drives, memory, CPU, and keyboards and understand what each part does as a portion of the whole. Finally, I wanted to have them assemble a paper laptop with keyboard, screen and mouse, for them to use and keep.

Our First Full Week with HP Chromebook 14’s

Kindergarters learn digital art
We just wrapped up our first full week with our new 14″ Hewlett-Packard Chromebooks ($299, direct). Thought I’d share some initial thoughts for those interested.

Google Classroom: an Elementary Perspective

Third Graders take Google Classroom Out for a Spin
Hello and welcome! It’s been a while since I’ve posted – lots of changes to the blog this year – and with this entry, I’m introducing a new category of posts called “Quick Takes” – brief highlights of an activity, tool or instructional practice I think is worth sharing. To kick things off, I’d like to start with our experiences to date with Google Classroom, which is new this year.

Overall

  • I’m happy with Classroom’s initial release. In particular, I like:
    • how easy it is to assign, receive and return work;
    • that the site is fast, uncluttered and easy to navigate;
    • that the mostly text-based user interface (UI) is spartan (but that’s classic Google);
    • that it is free and integrates (obviously, duh) with Google Apps.
  • The students like Classroom. They have told me they enjoy:
    • using it to get assignments;
    • how it looks;
    • the “Turn In” button (as opposed to ‘Share’); and
    • the cool graphic at the top. :)

Let’s dive in a little deeper…