Tuesday, November 30, 2021




Panorama, Data Filters, and Groupings


Infinite Campus vs Schoology vs Panorama

Between these three systems, it can be confusing to pinpoint what their strengths and weaknesses are relative to each other. Let's find out more about how we can leverage each system to fit our many needs as we support our students. So, what exactly are the differences between Panorama, Infinite Campus, and Schoology?

  • Infinite Campus is a Student Information System, or colloquially referred to as a SIS. In this capacity, IC is our main information hub for collecting, tracking, and reporting student data. Most, if not all of our secondary systems like Schoology, Remind, Panorama, and Google products pull their data from IC. Simply put, student data lives here and we use other programs to extract that data.

  • As we well know, Schoology on the other hand is our main academic system that supports our curricular and pedagogical goals. It's the primary way we interact with our students online via assignments, assessments, calendars, updates, and more. 

  • What Panorama attempts to do is make sense of the raw data from IC and Schoology to support our RTI, MTSS, and SEL goals. It does a really nice job packaging and presenting student data in an intuitive and visually pleasing way. I'm not going to lie, whenever a teacher asks me to help them pull Ad Hoc reports for data in IC, I cringe knowing that for all of my strengths, creating filter data is not one of them. Thus, Panorama has so far filled that niche by giving staff more regular access to filtered student data.

Panorama Filters

As most of you should know by now, you can filter your students' data by adding filter criteria on Panorama. So instead of creating individual Ad Hoc reports in IC, you can quickly adjust your search results by toggling your options. 

So let's say that I needed to find out which of my senior students are considered academically critical (failing at least one class) in let's say Social Studies, I can filter through my students to find exactly who I need to focus on:

Panorama Groups

In addition to easily filtering your search criteria, Panorama has a pretty solid system of keeping tabs on progress by allowing us to create two types of student groupings: Smart and Static Groups.

A Smart Group is a way of tracking a particular population of students by identifying relevant criteria. So let's say that I wanted to keep track of all Freshman boys who are receiving either a D or an F in at least one of their classes. I would simply search using those filters to get my results. But to keep tabs longitudinally, I can convert the search results into a Smart Group. The group will be dynamic, meaning once a student no longer fits the filter criteria, they will "graduate out" and will be automatically removed from the group. Consequentially, students who newly fit the group criteria will be added to the group.

A Static Group on the other hand is based on manually choosing a specific list of students. Regardless of their academic, attendance, behavioral, or SEL data, they are permanently fixed to this group unless you manually remove them. So let's say for example I want to keep tabs on the JV Volleyball team. Regardless of how each individual student-athlete is doing, you'd like to be able to group and keep tabs on them throughout the season/year. Luckily those groups are automatically created for you from IC, but you can create as many unique static groups as you'd like. You can add students to a static group by merely checking the box next to their name and choosing "add to group."

So while it is yet another system to learn and to utilize, I personally believe that Panorama is a highly effective way of leveraging student data to pursue our school goals. Tapping into the enormous utility of identifying and understanding trends and patterns in our student data has never been easier. Luckily, Panorama offers more than just filtered data and groupings. More to come! Let us know how you've been using Panorama below!

Monday, November 22, 2021

Podcast Is The New Essay


It's funny how media tends to come full circle. Radio programs are seen as a thing of the past, but podcasts are innovative and very now. If you listen to enough podcasts you will quickly notice that it is pretty obvious when a podcast is done well. Of course, most things when done well come across as effortless but actually take careful planning, skills, and effort. The elements that make a podcast great share much in common with great writing. There is a clear focus, ideas are supported with details or facts, transitions are used to connect ideas, and the conclusion leaves the reader with a sense of closure or not depending on the author's purpose. 

If you don't think podcasting aligns with your content area (I'm looking at you math!) please know that this information is for anyone who teaches students content, asks students to express ideas, or wants to motivate students and get them excited about learning.  The nice thing about podcasting is that is does not require a lot of fancy equipment, nor does it require audio editing skills. At the end of this post is a clearly defined process you can use with your students to get them up and running. 

Here are some examples as well as tools you can use to podcast in your classes.

Authenticity And Student Voice: 

When using  podcasting in your classes,  you can also have the added bonus of giving an authentic experience  by having students interview people outside of school for their podcasting content. Or, the students' podcasts can be shared both within and outside of the school community to get real feedback from listeners all over the community, country, or even the world. Think about having students take a stand on an issue. They would need to do some research, including interviewing an expert in the field. Then, they can use one of the podcasting templates on Soundtrap to record and edit their podcast. The links could be shared with students in the class who will listen and then critically analyze the merits of the issue that was presented. 

Another way to use podcasting to shine a spotlight on student voice would be to have students create book talk podcasts. They can share their thoughts and reviews on various books. You can have QR codes in your classrooms linking to those podcasts so students can hear from other students about the books they may want to read. 

Flipped Lessons:

Our contact time with students is so precious! Do you ever find yourself doing most of the talking during class and then the students need to analyze and make meaning from information on their own for homework? Consider using podcasts to replace lectures or student presentations.

You can absolutely create your own podcast using Flipgrid or any of the other tools mentioned in this post. No need to be on camera! Just record your voice and share the link or download. If you don't feel like you have it in you to create your own, no worries. Much like YouTube, there are many podcasts already created that are nicely produced and engaging to listen to. No offense, I'm sure you are fascinating but sometimes it's nice to mix things up a bit. You can also think about listening to podcasts for your own professional development. 

There are some wonderful podcasts covering various topics on education. Here are a few to get you started.  A simple google search will yield so many podcast options depending on what you are teaching. From science and math to civics and grammar, you can find a podcast that will meet your needs and your students can listen on their own and when you are back together in the classroom that is when your students can engage in what they learned. 

Podcasting For Assessment:

Are you asking students to generate written work to assess their comprehension or critical thinking skills? If you ever ask students to write as a response to a prompt, or critically analyze and then draw a conclusion, you may want to consider trying a podcast for one of those activities. Students can use Anchor to create their podcast and share it with you. They still need to use the same skills of comprehension and analysis. You are just asking students to express their understanding in a new way. 

Ready, Set, Podcast!

Regardless of the assignment and the tool, you will want your students to follow a process to ensure that they produce something that not only sounds good, but that makes sense.
If you want to dive into the deep end, check out this Teaching Podcasting Guide For Educators, created by NPR. If you want the short version, here it is:

1. What makes a podcast good?
    Have students listen to and evaluate the merits of a few podcasts before beginning
2. Plan your podcast
    Outlines and mind maps work great for this stage in the process
3. Do your research
    Your podcast can be nice to listen to but you need to make sure you have your facts figured out
4. Write a rough draft of a script
    It is important to mention to students that this is going to have to be revised many times. That's just the     way it goes. 
5. Choose a tool
    Encourage students to look at a few options and choose one that is comfortable to them. 
6. Practice
7. Edit
8. Share

 Want help getting started? Let us know! We are here to help.

Still not sure podcasting is for you? Maybe this will encourage you to give it a try.


Tuesday, November 16, 2021



Leveraging Gmail for Better Communication


Efficiency of Use

Here is my list of super simple ways you can become an efficient, power user of some of the different Google products for communication. You don't have to master all of these at once. Rather, pick one or two methods at a time and build your repertoire as time goes on.

Gmail Etiquette, BCC, Reply All, and You

Sending an all-staff email can be stressful. Did you remember to attach every document or link you promised you would? Did you check and double-check your spelling and grammar? Take a little off of yourself by at least doing the following:
  • BCC your email. Blind carbon copying makes it so your receivers do not accidentally REPLY-ALL with a personal or awkward email. While sometimes hilarious, let's avoid those very public snafus.
  • If you do not receive a BCC'ed email, please remember to reply directly to the sender and not to everyone else.
  • Think about the tone of your email. Many things can get lost in translation without facial cues and body language to smooth things over. Try reading your email out loud before you send it. DOES IT SOUND LIKE YOU'RE YELLING?  

Advanced Search

How many of you have more than 100 unread emails? 1,000? 10,000? (The worst I've ever seen was 100,000 unread emails). Trying to find an email in that mess can be daunting. Take advantage of Google's most powerful tool: its search algorithm. Instead of merely typing in someone's name or email to find what you're looking for, use the advanced search parameters by clicking on the filter button on the search bar in Gmail. Instead of giving you 1,000 possible results, narrow it down to more manageable numbers to find what you need.

PS You can do this in Google Drive as well

Undo and Scheduled Send

Listen we've all probably sent an email and immediately forgot to add an attachment, or realized there was a spelling mistake or whatever. Anytime you send an email, there will be an "undo" option that appears on the bottom left corner of your screen. it'll appear for 5-30 seconds depending on your preference in Settings. Hit undo and it'll come back as if it never left your inbox.
Ever finish writing an email at 11:30 pm and wondered whether to fire it off or not? Our kids certainly don't mind sending those late-night emails. Sometimes I'm shocked at how late (or early) in the night I get emails from students. You can easily schedule an email to be automatically sent once written by clicking on the arrow next to the blue send button and choosing the scheduled send option. You'll see a variety of options, or you can pick your own date and time. 

Google Chat

Don't be afraid of using Google Chat for quicker, more informal synchronous talks. You can even create a "space" for multiple people which are akin to the old AOL chatrooms. Look here for a previous FTT blog on Google Chat.

Change the Paradigm

As a last thought, perhaps outside of simple mechanical changes like those mentioned above, we can change the paradigm on communication and foster communication between those who can really need some formal talks: students and their guardians. In a past FTT blog, we mentioned an option for students to keep their parents and guardians in the loop by writing a weekly/biweekly message about what's going on in their classrooms. While some of this may occur at the dinner table, I'm sure we all know by now that that type of communication might not be as effective as we'd like. Here is a sample format your students could use right away:

Here's a link to the Google Doc above (Credit Sean Crevier @ Vernon Hills). Feel free to make a copy yourself and change/enhance it to fit your students. If you have any other thoughts on bettering communications, please comment below!

Monday, November 1, 2021


 Technology Enhanced Formative Assessment


                                    Picture Credit Jzmiyarch (Talk | contribs) from Knowledge
 Network by and for Educators

Early in my career, I was having a conversation with the best Division Head I've worked for (It isn't a secret - her name is Elaine Burcham, and she was Div Head for World Language/Social Studies/ELL/Health at Buffalo Grove High School). I was excited about a lesson I had just taught, and I told her that the students had really seemed to grasp the concepts I was discussing. She said, "So, how do you KNOW that they got it?" I was going to talk about the answers that I got from some of the kids in the class or the fact that so many were nodding their heads in agreement, but she had me. I didn't KNOW. I certainly didn't know that they ALL had it. That one question from Elaine changed my practice.

From that point on I really spent some time studying formative assessment in the classroom. I believe strongly in Assessment for Learning, or "the process of seeking and interpreting evidence for use by learners and their teachers to decide where the learners are in their learning, where they need to go and how best to get there" (Assessment Reform Group, 2002). Back in the day, that was something I did on paper. The process is so much simpler and can be so much more valuable now that we have Chromebooks and other networked devices to help us.

Technology Enhanced Assessment for Learning has become the basis of my instructional technology research at the moment, and even simple steps can lead to big changes in the classroom, and it can help us flip the way we think about teaching and learning. The researchers, Beatty & Gerace (2009), basically suggest some of our best teaching happens not when we instruct and then ask questions, but rather ask questions and use those as a context for sense-making and guided instruction.

Years ago, I created a PD session that looked at a variety of tools for quizzing, polling, ideation, direct classroom instruction, and facilitating discussion. Most of the tools have been written about by Lisa, Dan or myself at some point in the last couple of years, but many of the tools have been improved to make function better in the classroom, or they just may deserve a second look. For instance:

  • Google Forms If it has been a while since you looked at creating quizzes in Google Forms, it might be time to look again. They keep getting better and now allow for the inclusion of open-ended questions as well as objective questions. (Here are some easy-to-follow video directions as well: Simpletivity directions for creating quizzes using Google Forms.

  • Quizizz is a free, online tool that allows you to create classroom game show-like quizzes.  Similar to  Kahoot, the students have questions and up to 4 options for responses.  You can create your own or use one that has already been created.  You can even create your own quiz but then steal collaboratively take advantage of individual questions that other teachers have made and put them into your own quiz. There is an earlier blog post about this tool here.

  • Google’s Jamboard is Google’s online version of the interactive whiteboard. With this tool, you can have students make their thinking visible by sharing sticky notes, written notes, pictures, or textboxes in real-time. This is actually a great way for groups to share out to the entire class. Here is a quick video tutorial for Jamboard.

The presentation below includes some of the discussion around formative assessment and a huge list of approved digital tools to use in the classroom. Each one of the tools includes a link to the tool itself and a link to instructions and examples. On slide 7, the "About" link will take you to the tool and the official documentation for the product. The "How To" link will take you to instructions. In many cases, the instructions come from featured articles in this blog, but we've linked to videos or other teacher sites if there is new information out there.

How are you using Formative Assessment in the classroom? Are there some additional tools we should include? If so, please tell us about them in the comment box below.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021


 Move over YouTube! 

Hello, G. Drive (and Vimeo?)


Ok, today's title is a little bit of a hyperbole - YouTube still has a firm chokehold on the video streaming market. It is still the second most visited website on the planet (behind Google Search), and there are still over 1 billion collective video hours watched each day. But Google has made some changes to their Google Workspace for Education suite by establishing age-based restrictions to promote safer under-age usage. For example, Chrome has added defaults for safe search, incognito mode, guest mode, and the topic for today: Youtube Restrictions. Students (if using their district accounts) will no longer be able to:
  • Create channels, playlists, stories, shorts, or upload videos
  • Watch or create live streams, live chats, or personalized ads
  • See or post comments
  • Purchase channel memberships, merchandise, or movies/TV shows. 
  • Full blog here
Perhaps this is a response to the political ramifications of society's reaction to Facebook's potentially insidious effects on adolescents. Maybe this is a step in the right direction in curtailing the major psychological effects that unfettered access to digital platforms like YouTube has had on our students. One thing is for sure, we can still find ways of utilizing the benefits of the free exchange of digital media in our classrooms without going back to CDs and flash drives. So let's take a step back and look at Google Drive.

Google Drive

Have there been very many apps or programs out there that have had as big of an impact on education as Google Drive? There are times where I think about how we take for granted the staggering amount utility and efficiency gained from Drive, and shudder at how teachers had to live and operate pre-internet. Ok so in lieu of Youtube, here are a few ways students can share videos via Google Drive:

1. Shared Folder Option:
One option is for the instructor (or student leader) to create a shared folder within drive. That student would then give access to the folder to all individuals that need to upload a video. That way each student can independently upload a video to the folder, whose content can be viewed all at once by the teacher. 

2. Individual Sharing Option:
The other simple option is for students to share the link to the video directly to the instructor. To get ahead of potential issues, students and staff must remember to change the sharing defaults from "Restricted" to "Township High School District 113" or even "Anyone with the link."


Another option for video sharing would be Vimeo. Vimeo is rather simple to use as it borrows a lot of its UI design from other intuitive file sharing systems. Upon entering your home page, you'll immediately be struck at how many options there are to upload a video. Click on any of the options titled, "New Video" or "Choose a file." Once a video is uploaded, while you don't have access to too many features on the free subscription, it can be good enough if your aim is merely to share video to outside viewers.

So do you have any other video sharing options? Or creative ways you use video in your curriculum? Comment below!

Monday, October 18, 2021


 SOPPA and You! How to Navigate a Regulated Digital Space?


You may have already heard of a few different acronyms like COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) or FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) as relatively new legal initiatives designed to protect the digital privacy rights of our students. SOPPA (Student Online Personal
Protection Act) is the newest iteration of digital privacy law that seeks to limit access of student data by EdTech companies. 

So essentially we have EdTech vendors like EdPuzzle, PowerSchool (Schoology), and a host of others that we entrust with our student data (emails). SOPPA saught to create higher security expectations of these vendors in the face of data breaches and the selling of data. So in order for educators to be allowed to use an EdTech vendor that students use their emails to log into, we must have an agreement in place with the vendor BEFORE students can actively use their services. 

What does that mean for you? In order for your students to use a vendor, you will need to create a request to our district 113 technology department to get an agreement solidified. You can do that here: THSD 113 Product Requests Portal. Search for your specific vendor, and hit request (it could take up to 6 months to get the approval process completed!):

You can peruse our District 113 library to see which vendors are already approved for use:

Know though that we are completely at the mercy of the vendor themselves. If they do not approve of the higher security standards or merely take forever to respond to our inquiry, that will slow down the approval process dramatically. Most of the largest EdTech service providers are adapting to this new legal landscape as Illinois is not the first state to enact such stringent security measures. So while this may tighten the window on available EdTech services we would like to use and experiment with, there is a pathway and it begins here. 

Student Voice! 

Where (and how) to find it

Introduction to the ISTE Standards


I remember the first time I heard the phrase "student voice". I was at a little conference (they actually called it a mini-con)  that had lots of Google branding and the participants there were thrilled to get a free pen or notepad. I am often skeptical of the latest shiny buzzy things that come around in education. Just wait for it, the pendulum will swing the other way soon, am I right? 

However as I listened to the keynote speaker, who was a CPS teacher at the time, I found that the most compelling takeaways were not actually about apps or devices or technology. What I walked away with was a profound sense that empowering student voice in order to make sure that learning is a student-driven process is what will be most beneficial to our students in the future. 

We all can agree that we are preparing students for a future that we cannot predict. They will have jobs that have not yet been invented. How can we possibly teach our students so that they are well prepared for the unknown?

Fortunately, ISTE (the International Society for Technology in Education) has been thinking about this for quite a while. For over 20 years, ISTE standards have been used, researched, and updated so they reflect the latest research-based best practices. The standards give competencies for learning, teaching, and leading in the digital age. In short, the standards are designed to maximize student voice so our graduates can thrive in the constantly evolving technological landscape.

As we continue to plan, evolve, and grow our own practices, I thought this would be a good time to share the ISTE student standards with you. If you have already seen these, I urge you to take time to see how they connect to what goes on in your classes. If this is your first view of the standards, I hope you will see that these can (and should in my opinion) be applied to any content area. Incorporating these standards into your classes is a fantastic way to bring student voice to the forefront and help students be directors of their own learning, which is a skill they will use no matter what the future holds. 

There are seven standards. Each standard has a few subparts. Some may seem like very lofty goals and I think they are, but they are also very doable.  You can see them all, along with very short video examples of teachers actually doing the standards here.  

Standard 1.1 Empowered Learner

Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences. 

Standard 1.2 Digital Citizen

Students recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical.

Standard 1.3 Knowledge Constructor

Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.

Standard 1.4 Innovative Designer

Students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions.

Standard 1.5 Computational Thinker

Students develop and employ strategies for understanding and solving problems in ways that leverage the power of technological methods to develop and test solutions.

Standard 1.6 Creative Communicator

Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.

Standard 1.7 Global Collaborator

Students use digital tools to broaden their perspectives and enrich their learning by collaborating with others and working effectively in teams locally and globally.

Want to learn more? ISTE has wonderful resources available here.  There are also standards for teachers, leaders, and coaches.

Our Illinois ISTE affiliate is called IDEA- Illlinois Digital Educators Alliance. Membership to IDEA is free! If you are not already a member, click here to sign up

Our regional chapter holds fantastic free professional development opportunities. 
For more information, please reach out!