Monday, May 28, 2018

By Christophe Gevrey
It's A Blog Post
About Nothing...


I was recently asked why I started writing this blog (more than 7 years ago in another district). My honest answer was that I wanted a place to share some of the incredible teaching I had seen and some of the really remarkable ways colleagues were using instructional technology in their classes. Very few of the Free Tech Tools were "discovered" by me. They were being used in ways that impressed or intrigued me, and I think we should share good teaching ideas as much as we can. We are stronger when we learn together.

By the way, few of them were strictly technological solutions to teaching problems. Most of them were about using the resources around us to help us or our students think about things in ways we never had before. Knowing that this is probably the last post on this blog that I'll author, Dan Kim will partner with Lisa next year, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I should focus on here. Then it hit me like a Festivus Pole. I should focus on nothing...well, almost nothing.

Being nostalgic, I went back and had a conversation with the first teacher I ever paired with on a 1:1 project. He is an economics teacher and I asked him if there were any really interesting online tools he had used in his classes recently and he turned me on to

Economics professors from Eastern Illinois University (one of my alma maters and what many consider to be the Harvard of the Midwest) and Baker University developed economics courses based on Pop Culture and put their heads together to create a web resource for teaching economics based on TV's Seinfeld. From the website, "This site will be part of an ongoing and expanding attempt to make these sorts of popular culture teaching materials widely and conveniently available. We are doing this in the hopes that the materials hosted here, now and in the future, will be useful to economics educators."

Head to and you'll come across 7 full web pages of economics lessons ranging from savings and cost-benefit analysis to variable costs and product differentiation. The TV Clips are available to the classroom thanks to, an "advocacy coalition that supports the use of media for scholarship, reasearch and teaching, providing resources, information and tools for scholars, students, educators and creators."

I'll let you grab a Twix or a Big Salad and peruse the site on your own. (By the way, the restaurant pictured above, which was called Monk's in the series, was famous before Seinfeld, the focus of a Susanne Vega song in the 1980s. There - a useless fact about nothing.)

Pop Culture can be a powerful tool to use when teaching new concepts. Critical Commons is just one of the many teaching tools for video in the classroom. If you know of other, similar sites, please post them in the comments below.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Thoughts and Ideas For Ending The School(ogy) Year

4 Schoology Most FAQ


Remember when you were a kid and you thought your teachers lived at school? I can remember thinking that my teachers must be so sad when the kids leave for the summer. Really, who will fill out all of their worksheets? Now that I have a few years in on the teaching perspective I can honestly say that I think often the teachers are more anxious for summer to begin than the students. One thing that non-educators don't really understand about this time of year is that we still have one foot firmly planted in this year and another foot already planted in next year. Planning and organizing for next year has, if not already begun, is definitely on our minds and our to-do lists. 

There are many questions as we look to utilizing Schoology as our learning management system for next year. Here are four of the  most frequently asked questions about closing out the school year, along with some tips and suggestions for the future.


I've got my class materials organized just the way I like them in Schoology, do I need to re-do that whole process for next year? 

Actually, you can easily save all of your materials to your resources and copy them to your new courses in two simple steps.

Step 1: When you are in your course, click the Options button and then choose Save Course To Resources.

Step 2: When you have your new course, you will click Add Materials and then Import From Resources. 

Here's step 1:

And here's step 2:

What if I don't do anything? Will my old classes and materials disappear?

Not to worry. At the end of the grading period, all of the classes will automatically be archived. You can still access your archived courses in the future by 
1. Click on Courses in the top navigation bar.
2. Click the See All tab in the lower right hand corner of the box. 
3. Click on the Archived tab. 

Archived classes don't go away. You can still access your materials, grade book, and members page.

Going through my grade book is making my head spin! Is there anyway to see all of the assignments and their settings at once?

This is a great question. And there is a great answer.
1. In your gradebook, click the three vertical dots in the upper right hand corner. 
2. Select Bulk Edit

I know everything is saved and archived, but I would still like to have a hard copy of my grade book. How do I do that in Schoology?

This is definitely possible and easy to do. 
1. In your grade book, click the three vertical dots in the upper right hand corner.
2. Click on Export
3. Export the CSV file

Do you have any suggestions for wrapping up the School(ogy) year? I'd love to hear them!
Post in the comments below. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Standards-Based Grading in Schoology


This week's guest post is by Dan Kim. Beginning in August of 2018, Dan Kim will begin serving as Deerfield High School's Director of Instructional Technology.

Carol Dweck, the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, has written extensively about student mindsets in the way they value motivation, intelligence, and academic success. Dweck’s 2006 book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success differentiates between two types of learners: those of a “fixed” and “growth” mindset. Carol Dweck’s work is often credited with partially inspiring the movement towards Standards Based Grading as an alternative to Traditional grading systems. Adherents attempt to promote the growth mindset through changing the way that they assess student work. According to Tomlinson & McTighe 2006, Standards-based grading “involves measuring students’ proficiency on well-defined course objectives.”

Here is an example of one of the standards-based grading rubrics used in the DHS English Department

So Schoology:

To set up your gradebook for Standards-based grading first click on the “Grade Setup” on the left-hand side of your course page. The first thing to do is to create a Scale. Now traditional graders will be using either the THSD 113 scale, or the THSD 113 P/F (Pass/Fail) scales. Clicking on the yellow star next to the scales will make it the default scale 

To create your own scale click:
·         Click Add and select Scale
·         Once you Add Scale it will give you the option to base it off of percentage or points.

Here is a (very simple) example scale:

Before you create and grade assignments you should change the default Gradebook Scale to the one that you've created. 

Now when you create an assignment, you can attach your newly created scale to it.

For teachers who do not grade based on numerical values, Schoology's gradebook unfortunately does not allow for Alpha characters to be entered. There is, however, a way to display only text in scores for students. 

The paradox of Standards-based grading is that there are no universal standards and procedures that teachers use. Within any department, there can be teachers who use SBG in a variety of ways. While Schoology may not have the perfect answer to accommodating all grading systems, we can be successful by making adjustments and being creative.

What are your thoughts and experiences with Standards-Based Grading? Post your ideas below. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

May 8 - Gmail Upgrade
Gmail's Official Blog Photo

Gmail Gets An Upgrade!


It is May and even I cringed when I first heard that Gmail was getting a big facelift. I think it is natural to wonder, "Well, what favorite feature am I gonna lose now?" But my fear quickly turned to pure happiness when I saw the new update to Gmail! We didn't lose anything and they added 3 features that make Gmail much more user-friendly.

View Your Calendar Side by Side With Your Email

Actually, it's even more than just the Calendar, but that's a start. With the new Gmail upgrade, you can see your daily calendar at a glance on the right-hand side of the screen. While you are reading an email with a deadline, or a suggested meeting, you can scroll through your calendar, add items, or pop your calendar out to look at a larger selection.

Seeing my calendar on the same screen with my email would be a big enough win for me, but you actually have options. There are icons that let you choose Calendar for the side view:

Or Google Keep if you use that:

Or Tasks:

Use Smart Reply to Quickly Answer Emails

Smart Reply is a feature many of us have had on our phones for a couple of years now. Essentially, Google uses AI to suggest short answers to questions posed in your emails. In a pinch, you can just click the Smart Reply suggestion and hit send!
Image from TechWeez
Snooze Emails for Response Later

It's about time! I've been using 3rd party apps for this for a long time now. But snoozing is now native to Gmail. 
When you hover over your messages, you'll see some pop-up icons on the right-hand side of the message box. The clock icon on the far right is "Snooze." When you click it...

You can choose to hide the email until you are ready for it. Hit "Snooze" until next Monday, and the email will be hidden from your Inbox, but return next week!

When you are ready to try the new Gmail features, you can click the Settings Gear at the top of the page and select "Try the new Township High School District 113 Mail."

I only covered my favorite 3 new features. There are more! If I didn't cover your favorite new feature, please tell us about it in the comment box below. We'll be sure to add it in a future FTT post.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Embedding Media In Schoology


As a teacher, I'm always thinking of the one or two kids in my class who are the hardest to motivate. They're the ones who ask things like "why do I need to know this?" or "when will I use this in my life?". They have a harder time engaging with the curriculum and often will look for the bare minimum requirements to get by. 

When I am planning, I am thinking of those kids. 

While I believe my content is fascinating on its own, (who doesn't love DNA?) I am realistic in knowing that not everything I teach is going to spark passion in my students. And though I am not a fan of bells and whistles just because they're loud, there is something to be said for mixing things up a little bit.

Think of your own experiences with learning. Do you always want to be lectured to? Do you always want to learn from reading and annotating text? Do you want to be staring at a screen all day?
Of course not. We know from brain research that novelty helps us learn. (

When I am planning I am conscious of both novelty and options for students. The Universal Design for Learning guidelines  give a wonderful framework for offering options in the classroom, thereby eliminating barriers for students who may have difficulty learning. After all, no two brains are exactly alike so it makes sense that we should offer options and keep mixing it up in our classrooms.

One of the great benefits of a learning managements system like Schoology is that it allows teachers to seamlessly embed media into class materials. Having those audio, video, and internet files at the ready will help our kids have some control over their own learning because they can pause, re-watch/listen, and they get to decide how many times they interact with that media.

Media can be embedded into assignments, questions in assessments, class updates, calendar events, and more. If you have a lot of media to share, consider creating a media album. Instructions are below. 

Ready to get started with embedding media into your Schoology class? 
Here's how:

Add media to an assignment
1. Open a class
2. Click Add Materials and Add Assignment
3. Click the Insert Content icon- it looks like a box with an arrow pointing into it-

4. From here you can choose content from one of the apps such as YouTube, Vimeo, or Google Drive, or you can add Image/Media files from your computer or the internet. There is no limit to the number of files you can add, but you do need to add them one at a time.

Why should you embed media instead of just posting a link? For one thing, it will look like this:

The students can open and view the media directly in the Schoology environment, there is no need to open another tab. It is a clean and uncluttered way to direct your students to the media. Think of how much instructional time gets lost when we are fumbling and trying to get our kids all on the same video. That will be a thing of the past when you embed your media.

Still reading? You must be waiting to read about media albums.

If you have many photos, videos, or audio files to share, a media album is a great way to organize in Schoology. Here is what you need to know.

1. Open a course and go to Add Materials.
2. Click on Add Media Album.
3. Title your album and give a short description.
4. Click on Attach Files to upload from your computer
5. When you click the gear, you can add captions, rotate, tag people, and re-order your files.
For more information about how to create media albums, check out the Schoology support page: Click here

Ready to practice? Feel free to come to a lunch and learn, make an appointment, or just stop me in the halls. I'm happy to show you more.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Lockdown Browser in Schoology 4/24

Test Security & the LockDown Browser in Schoology


Guest Post By Howard Citron, Phsyics Teacher and Instructional Tech Coach at DHS

In the blog post below, Howard explains that using the LockDown browser feature in Schoology, you can prevent students from opening new tabs or windows on their Chromebooks and enhance your online test security.

Assignments, discussions and grade books, OH MY! As I venture down the yellow brick road and continue meeting all of these fascinating Schoology features, I’ve decided to start giving assessments through Schoology. My favorite part assessments in Schoology? The LockDown Browser, of course!

Have you wondered, how too can I use Schoology to give assessments without my students being able to access the internet for answers? That is the question we are here to answer.

We present to you the “LockDown Browser” embedded within Schoology! The LockDown Browser allows for you to create and give your students digital assessments with varying question types without the students being able to access the internet. This is a similar feature to using Hapara to lock out student browsing capabilities or the “Click to test” function through Mastery Manager without students having to log out of their Chromebooks.

First, you’ll want to activate the LockDown Browser in the lefthand side of your Schoology “Courses” page

Once the LockDown Browser has been activated FOR EACH CLASS, you have the ability to add it to any of your Schoology given assessments. Students will only have the ability to access webpages that you allow during assessments when LockDown is active.

To create an assessment using the LockDown Browser you will create an assessment (Test/Quiz) via “Gradebook” or “Add Materials.”

Upon creation of the assessment, you may set it up to either make the grades available without a key, with a key or not make the grades available once they have submitted the assessment.

Once you have created an assessment (Test/Quiz) within Schoology, you will have the following options presented to you for that assessment:
  1. Allowing the students into the exam only 
  2. Allowing the students into specified web sites 
  3. Allow iPad assessments 
  4. Allowing calculator function 
  5. Enable Printing
When the students log-in to the take the Schoology created assessment, they will be prompted to enter the LockDown Browser.

The LockDown Browser is an excellent tool that allows our students to enter into a testing mode without logging out of their system and provides the instructor the piece of mind to know that their students cannot access the internet while being assessed.

The accompanying data collection is also an incredible benefit of Schoology that we will discuss in a future blog.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Adding And Accessing Resources In Schoology


One question that comes up frequently when introducing teachers to Schoology is whether or not their materials will disappear after the school year has ended. Teachers eager to get started also want to know that the materials they create today will be there for them in August. 

The good news is that Resources is cloud based storage within the Schoology environment.  Not sure what cloud computing is? Watch this 2 1/2 minute video to learn more. 

Understanding Resources  

Welcome to the resources tab! This is one of the most important features for organizing your materials within the Schoology environment. As you become more familiar and comfortable with Schoology, you will most likely be creating assignments and activities within Schoology. The resource center is where you can access your personal resource library, a public, world-wide library, as well as groups of resources housed in groups, the school, or the district. 

You access the resource center by either clicking on the resources tab on the top navigation bar on the home screen or, if you are in a group, it will also be located on the left navigation bar. 

My Resources is your digital filing cabinet where you can save all of your courses and materials. You can also create materials within the My Resources section. Anything you save in this section can be copied and transferred to any course. Once it is copied, you can adapt it to fit the needs of that specific class and it will not change the original copy. In other words, what you have in My Resources is used like a template. 

A Collection is like a container for courses, files, folders, and resources that you may want to use in Schoology. Think of it as a master folder that can be used for organization. You can create a collection for an entire course, a semester, or an entire year. 

The Home Collection is automatically created for you. Everything that you create and save  in the Schoology resource center will be added to your Home Collection. If you want to share resources with others, you can create other collections. 

Want to add a collection?  Here are the steps:
1. Click on the Resources tab on the top navigation bar.
2. Go to Personal 
3. Click on the icon that looks like a filing cabinet with a little green plus sign, that is the Add Collection icon.
4. Give your new collection a title
5. Click Create to finish
There is a little triangle next to the Add Collection icon that allows you to reorder, import, or export resources. You can also rename and delete collections.  As you can see from the screenshot, I moved the Resources for 2018-2019 collection to the top of this list.

Learning Objectives Collection allows you to generate custom learning objectives and share them with members of your group. You may want to set up a course team group and share learning objectives so everyone has them available. In Schoology, you can align assignments and assessments to your learning objectives. You can also create custom rubrics that connect to your objectives.
More information about learning objectives can be found on the Schoology Support Page. 

Downloads is another collection that is automatically created for you. This is where you will find any resources that you downloaded from Public Resources. By clicking on the gear next to the resource, you can add it to a course, copy it to another collection, move it to another collection, or delete it altogether.

Public Resources from the resources center is where educators from all over the world have made their materials available for free. There is a lot there so to make it easier, you can filter and search by resource type, grade level, subject, file format, or rating.
The Public Resources tab within Personal Resources shows everything that you have added to personal resources. If you are glad that others have shared, please consider sharing your materials as well. Together, we are much better than in isolation.

Group Resources will show everything that is shared within a particular group. You may belong to course team, department, building level, district level, and/or public groups. They will all show up in this tab. Again, these resources can be copied to another collection, or added to a course by clicking on the little gear to the right of the resource. 

Resource Apps is the last tab you will see as you go down the left navigation within resources. This allows you to integrate third-party content such as Google Drive, YouTube, or DropBox,  directly into Schoology without needing to open additional tabs. If it's your first time adding apps, you will click Install Apps. Choose which apps you want to install and click Install. 

Adding materials in Resources is very similar to adding to a course. Just click on the Add resources icon and choose the resource you want to add.

Templates can be added to any course or course folder. Once added, you can adjust the material without any impact on your template. You can  also adjust the template without any impact on your material. 

Since Resources saves as templates, it works differently from GoogleDocs, which sync and update live. Therefore, they serve two different purposes. Go ahead and start playing around with Resources. This is a great place to start as you think about preparing for next year, especially while we're still in school.

Have questions or want some help working with Resources? Contact your instructional technology supports in your school today.