A bit about life

I apologize for not posting recently.  We have been back in school, and the previous week was our inservice week.  My program is bursting at the seams (with new kids coming in every day), and with nearly 350 students, literally every hour of my day, other than contract-specific prep periods, is taken up with teaching.  There is no lesson time, sectional time, or breathing time in my schedule.  When I come home, I try to spend some time with my kids (although a few days this week, I just came home and stared at the wall after a long day of teaching), and when they head to bed, I work on planning for the next day.

Although we started Dale Duncan’s sight reading method on the first day(s) of school (we are an A/B class, so I see students every other day), students did not have full access to their iPads until the second day.  That means our second day together was our first day with tech.  We adopted Schoology (Basic version) as a school-wide solution this year.  As I see more than 1/2 of our school’s students, and I am “tech guy,” I make sure that I am following all of our technology directives.  This means that teachers have to post every assignment in Schoology (whether it is done in Schoology or not).  Therefore, part of the problem has been getting kids into Schoology.

This first week, we had an extra-long advisory (90 minutes), during which all teachers were supposed to make sure that every student in their advisory class was properly enrolled in Schoology.

After seeing 350 students in 10 different class periods over the past two days, that didn’t happen in every class.  Not all of our teachers are as “techy” as others, so when they can’t figure things out, they just turn the kids loose and hope someone else fixes it.

So I fix it, at least for my 350 students.  The other 280 students in our school have to figure things out with someone else, I guess.

Getting kids to join my Schoology class is time-consuming, because there are always kids who don’t even have a working Schoology account, and they that are in EVERY class, regardless of grade.  The troubleshooting takes time–but I figure that I had better do it.  The advanced kids get frustrated about waiting, but I think even they eventually figure it out and realize that if I solve the problems, it makes all their other classes go better, too.

After all students are in Schoology, and then in their designated Schoology choir class,  I project the class member roster (in Schoology) on the board.  I check that projected list against our student information system (class roster), and I also ask my students to make sure they are on the list as well.  Again–this is time consuming and frustrating–but it is far less frustrating than having a kid tell you that they aren’t enrolled in Schoology during the fourth week of school.  Yes–they can slip through the cracks if you let them.  Schoology doesn’t accept GAFE logins, so you have to go through a painful registration process that includes a necessary e-mail verification–and accounts don’t work if students do not receive the e-mail (this happens a lot with our GAFE implementation).

Our district also created a GAFE system with an incredibly long “surname” (after the @), so if students don’t forget their GAFE password (which happens A LOT), they also frequently mistype their e-mail address, which is needed for all Google applications.  If I had a quarter for each student that came up to tell me that their password didn’t work, but they had mistyped “district” in the e-mail surname, I would be able to retire, particularly with compounding interest.

Although I teach grades 6-8, I doubt things are much better in a 9-12 1:1 setting.  I wish peace and happiness on ALL of us!

After getting Schoology to work for everyone, and getting everyone into the correct choir Schoology class, my next task was to have them fill out a Google Form.  They accessed this though a link in Schoology.   I ask for their preferred first name, the first name they would want used in a program, last name, class hour & day, GAFE e-mail address, and house.  This way, I can sort the spreadsheet later to make concert rosters as well as to export CSV files to Attendance2, so I can make QR codes from Attendance2.  With some classes at 50 or more students (average class size in our school is probably 28), taking attendance with Attendance 2 saves me A LOT of time.

My final task with Schoology (at this point) was to have students open a link to Padlet, where I had created a Padlet wall for each class.  I asked students to put their name in the “Title” area of a Padlet entry, and then to take a selfie.  My plan is to move those Padlet boxes into a seating chart than can be used by me or by a substitute.  Students FREAKED OUT about the selfies, yet they will take selfies for eternity if you don’t ask them to do it.

We still have a long way to go before our technology setup is done in choir.  We still have to set up Showbie in most classes (much easier with GAFE account integration), go over the choir expectations (Above the Line process) that are in every student’s Showbie folder, and THEN we can get to music…both Dale’s sight reading method and our holiday music.  Showbie is where I have students do most of their work, and I also use it for their sheet music AND for audio assessments.  If you are in a 1:1 iPad situation, I cannot possibly recommend Showbie enough.  Again, as we sign up for Showbie, I project the roster so that I can compare the student information system with the Showbie roster–and to ask students to see themselves, too.  One thing I love about Showbie is that the service is persistent.  If a student’s iPad has to get wiped, when they log in again on a restored iPad, everything is still there.  This is also true of Schoology, but when it comes to on-screen written work, Showbie really shines.  The free version of Showbie is great…the paid is incredible…and just to think…it is a fraction of what other management systems cost.

All this is about going slow so you can go fast.  Right now, we have slow covered.  Plus a healthy dose of frustration.

I have one more day of technology set-up nightmare, which will pay off down the road.  Even so, these technology days leave me exhausted, too.  I had an app review (Musiclock–see the previous post) that I had not finished, and I have a post I am working on for the Finale Blog as well.

I hope you have had a successful beginning to school, and that your technology rollouts have gone better than mine over these past two days.


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