In an era where our students communicate mostly through Facebook messages, Twitter replies, and old fashioned text messages, we as educators need to find a way to communicate with them the way they know best. Many schools know that social networks can be utilized for this purpose but have privacy and legal concerns with teachers and students interacting on these sites. Schoology has proven to be the best compromise of meeting students on their turf while keeping both the students and the school safe on a social network.
Last winter in one of my graduate classes, my professor wanted us to try out a new social network called Schoology for one session to see what we thought of it. After trying it, we came to the immediate consensus that we wanted to switch our online discussions from Blackboard to Schoology. The Facebook style format was the first thing that drew my classmates into the site. The discussion threading was intuitive and easy to read but most importantly the overall feel of the interface was so familiar because it was almost identical to Facebook.
Moving forward to the present, this fall I am going back into the classroom to teach 6th and 7th grade mathematics. Given the fact that I am lucky enough to teach in a school with a one-to-one laptop program, I wanted to find a solution that would seamlessly utilize the laptops for my students without disturbing the demanding curriculum. Below are the key ways that I am going to be using Schoology to connect my classroom this year:
1. Overall Class Organization
Schoology provides the ability to organize all of your class materials online in folders for students to access when you let them. As the teacher you can create assignments, give online tests/quizzes, post files and links, create discussions, post photo albums, and create pages of content. All of this material can be organized in folders by units for the students. The teacher then has the ability to publish or unpublish content.
2. Quick Post Lesson Assessments
After a lesson, I want to know who “got it” and who didn’t. Schoology gives the ability to create quick online quizzes, which I plan to use as post lesson assessments. These quizzes will be less than four questions and will give me a quick snapshot of how many students understood the material that day and how well I did as a teacher. After taking the quiz, the analytics in Schoology give the teacher detailed information with minimal effort.
3. Discussions & Extra Help
For mathematics, Khan Academy shows great promise in being an excellent way to give students another perspective on content. If my students didn’t understand the content when I taught it that day, I want them to get another perspective on the content. The discussions feature in Schoology allows me to post Khan Academy and other materials related to class that day, giving my students access to this content at home and hopefully a better understanding of the material.
Another way to utilize the discussions feature is through the ShowMe App on the iPad. This app gives teachers the ability to create their own Khan Academy videos which can be then shared with their students. If you haven’t heard of it, the ShowMe App is worth checking out.
All of this content and communication is great, but what if my students simply aren’t utilizing it? Schoology has a great analytics tool which allows the teacher to know when and how often students access virtually anything in my course. This is a great way to hold students accountable who need the extra help but are reluctant to access it.
Schoology now gives users the ability to receive notifications via email or text message on their phones for content on Schoology. This ties back to meeting students on their turf. Normally when a student creates a discussion thread online, they are unlikely to go back and check for responses later but now with notifications, they can choose to have updates emailed to them and therefore the conversation keeps going.
These are just five ways that Schoology is going to connect my classroom in the coming year. There are many other features of the site that will enhance my class. Schoology has brought together how students communicate today with the security of a private social media network, creating the effective online curriculum organization that schools are looking for in a classroom management suite.