Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Plickers! Quick & Easy Formative Assessments

Guest Blog Post
by Amber Joplin, Westfield Village

Quick and easy formative assessment? Sounds too good to be true, right? Wrong. At #gafesummit Roseville in February I learned about an awesome FREE assessment tool called Plickers. What’s Plickers you ask? “Plickers is a powerfully simple tool that lets teachers collect real-time formative assessment data without the need for student devices.”

To start using Plickers only takes a few simple steps:
  1. Create a free account on Plickers.
  2. Download app to your phone (which is available for free for iOS and Android. Who doesn’t like free!?).
  3. Import your roster.
  4. Start creating questions.
After the above steps, print and pass out each Plickers card (examples at right) to the corresponding student. Each card has a uniquely shaped square that is labeled with A, B, C, or D along each edge of the square. To begin assessing, students read the question you created within the app or on the website (this can be done before or during a lesson) that is projected on the screen. You must select "live view" on the website so students can see the question. Students hold up their cards rotated so their desired answer is at the top of the card. You scan the cards with your phone, and the website updates instantaneously on whether each student has responded and their choice. Since each card is unique, you don’t have to worry about students looking at other students’ cards: a huge bonus for those students with wandering eyes.

This works for teachers with multiple classes and for those who have the same students all day; just label each import accordingly. Once you import your roster, students are assigned a Plickers card that is labeled with a number, and you give that card to that student. Plickers has the option of going up to 63 students. To keep the data you collect accurate, students should use the same card each time. Plickers just added a new feature where you can look at a scoresheet of the questions you asked within a certain date range and see the data broken down by students.

Another added bonus is all the questions you ask are archived; you can always go back and review them or reuse the question. Best of all, students enjoy how interactive it is and have fun. I use my cards currently for math and English but plan on incorporating it into all subject areas. I teach my students to put their card down as soon as they see their name checked, meaning I have scanned their answer. After all students have answered, you can reveal the answer and students receive instant feedback. I suggest printing the cards on cardstock and laminating the card so they are sturdy; don’t worry, the lamination doesn’t affect your phone's ability to scan the card.

Any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.
Amber Joplin, 5th grade, Westfield Village

Monday, March 28, 2016

Technology Update: Limited Bandwidth Update (3/28/16)

Welcome back! I hope that each of you had a restful and enjoyable Spring Break this past week and have recharged to finish out the school year strong! Over the break, the Technology department worked with WAVE to upgrade the data circuit between the district office and the Yolo County Office of Education (YCOE). The data circuit makes it possible to accept Internet bandwidth of up to 1 Gb from the YCOE. In addition we have installed equipment at the District Office in order to receive the Internet pipeline. Unfortunately, last Thursday we received an email from the YCOE stating that the YCOE’s vendor had missed a November 2015 installation date of their 10 Gb circuit; the new completion date is May 2016. Unfortunately, with all of the work performed to ensure we have the substantial bandwidth for testing, we will not be able to receive 1 Gb of data from YCOE – they simply do not have it.

What this means for you
As a result of this new obstacle, we are putting internal measures in place that will ensure that our students have the testing environment they need for success. This means that we will be implementing the following measures beginning on Tuesday, March 29, at 5 pm:
  • All video and audio streaming traffic will be blocked for students, including YouTube.
  • All video and audio streaming traffic will be blocked for teachers and staff, with the exception of YouTube. Pandora, Spotify, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, and all other streaming traffic will be blocked.
  • Google traffic will be reduced from 70 Mb to 50 Mb.
Although the last thing we want to do is to block access, we decided that these are not critical service and felt it necessary to block them in order to accommodate our testing needs. These services take up a considerable amount of our bandwidth today and, by restricting these services, we should see better performance for students who are testing starting this week. We’ll continue to monitor performance and make adjustments as necessary.

Thank you for your patience as we work together to make the best online testing environment possible for our students.

As always, please let me know if you have specific questions or concerns,


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Using Illuminate for Math Placement Assessments

On March 17,  teachers received an email from Bill Spalding regarding upcoming math placement assessments for current students in grades K-3 and grade 8.  This post is intended to provide additional support in using Illuminate to administer and score these assessments.

Copies of math placement exams will be delivered to sites on March 28. If you would like a sneak preview, these exams have already been uploaded and shared within Illuminate. Find and click on your grade level placement exam (remember that grade levels correspond to 16-17 school year) and click download materials to preview the exam.

Printing Pre-Slugged Answer Documents.

The following screencast will walk you through accessing and printing out pre-slugged answer documents for students to complete so they will be ready to scan when complete.

Hand-Entering Student Scores into Illuminate.

For grades K and 1, teachers may prefer to hand enter student scores directly into Illuminate. If so, the following step-by-step screencast will be helpful once you have administered and scored your student assessments.

Scanning Answer Documents.

If your students use the answer documents to complete the test, you can scan them directly into Illuminate using the camera on your district device.  Here's how:
  1. Login to Illuminate
  2. Locate and click on your desired assessment via Favorite Widget on Dashboard
  3. Click Scan

  4. If needed: Install GradeCam Plugin if you see the image shown below. Click on the image and follow the steps.

  5. Hold Student Answer Documents up to the camera. When scanned you'll see student responses and scores.  
    • Note: If student responses are unclear due to erasures or light bubbling, Illuminate will automatically generate a pop-up menu that will ask you to verify student responses. Verify and complete as needed.
  6. Click Save & View Results when done scanning all student responses.


Regardless of whether you entered student scores by hand or via scanning answer documents, once complete you will have a number of helpful pre-made reports available to you.  You can navigate and preview the  reports available to you by clicking on reports menu within the assessment.

Need Assistance?

If you need help accessing your Illuminate account, please reach out to Melissa Oliver, moliver@wusd.k12.ca.us or complete a helpdesk ticket.  

If you have questions about the math placement exam, please reach out to Matt Wilkins, mwilkins@wusd.k12.ca.us.

Update 3/29/16
The following message was sent to affected teachers on 3/29/16 by Gwyn Dellinger regarding Math Placement Assessments for Summer School.

Dear K-3 and 8th Grade Mathematics Teachers,
Due to the importance of SBAC testing, we have determined that instituting another assessment during this critical time is not the best use of time. 
We will be looking at an alternative way of identifying students to invite to participate in summer programming.  Your site administrators will be receiving more information about summer programs in the coming weeks. 
Therefore; the Math Placement assessments are optional.   If you’d like to use them as additional indicators of math proficiency, you can.  Otherwise, disregard. 
We apologize for the confusion and wish you the best as you guide your students through the remainder of the school year.

Thank you,

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Google Docs Update! Outline Tool in Docs!

Beginning today, you'll notice a new feature within Google Docs that will surely help you and your students stay organized and make navigating Google Docs must easier. Google Docs now boasts an outline tool that will intelligently infer the divisions within your work. Or even better, if you use headings, the outline tool will do the work for you exactly as you applied headings styles throughout your document.

Starting today, you will notice that within longer Google Docs an outline pane will be displayed on the left. The example shown here is from our WUSD Illuminate Online Testing Manual. You can easily remove the Outline Pane by clicking the X. But the true benefits of this outline tool is the ability to quickly navigate a longer document. Clicking on any of the headings in the Outline Pane will immediately take you to that section of the document. Imagine the possibilities within the classroom! You could create a single document for an assignment with each student's name as a header. Students could complete the assignment under their heading. Both you and their peers could then easily navigate the document to provide peer-to-peer feedback. Or, students could practice their technical writing by creating help documents that could be used by your students during the 16-17 school year.

For both of these examples, I recommend manually applying the Headings under the Style Menu on the toolbar. This will ensure consistent formatting within the outline pane. Since the outline tool will also look for natural breaks within your document, the outline in the left pane may include text that you do not want included in your outline. That's easy to edit and change. Hovering over any item in the outline, you'll notice an x and the option to Remove from Outline.

And if you tire of the Outline Tool and have removed it, you can always get it back under the Tools Menu > Document Outline.

I hope you enjoy the added functionality provided by the Outline Tool. I look forward to seeing how you and your students utilize this feature in the future.

Monday, March 21, 2016

NEW! Reading Rainbow Book Report Template

Google Docs recently added some new templates in their template gallery. The Book Report Template created by Reading Rainbow is just one that is worth taking a closer look at. It provides a basic book report structure including prompts to get students thinking about setting, characters, and the plot. The template includes prompts for students to include images that relate to the book and their descriptions. Your students could use the template "as-is" or you could use the template as a starting point to create your own book report template that meets the needs of your students and class. 

If you haven't visited the template gallery before, it is easily accessible via the landing page for docs. You can reach the landing page through the apps launcher and clicking on the docs icon.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Join Cohort 2 of Innovative Educators.

Innovative Educators - Cohort 2 launches TODAY!

The much anticipated launch of the Innovative Educator Cohort 2 is finally here! The Technology department will begin accepting online applications for partner teams (teams of 2) and individuals on Tuesday, March 15. Applications will close on Sunday, April 17 at 8 pm. Don’t wait – start planning your collaborative partnership now!

Please visit http://goo.gl/Sj0Wld for the online application, FAQs, a list of current Innovative Educators, and the *new* application evaluation rubric.

Take a minute to read through the information, find a partner, and post your immediate questions to the Padlet.

We will be offering 2 informational meetings on March 30 from 4-5 pm and April 7 from 3-4 pm at the District Office in Room 48.

We look forward to supporting yet another one of our fabulous Innovative Educator cohorts!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Technology Update: BrightBytes (3/9/16)

Our district will be partnering with BrightBytes, an educational research and analytics organization, to learn more about our schools’ technology use for student learning. Our goal is to gather metrics on technology access and skills, and on our district’s technology environment, in order to understand the connection between technology use and student achievement. This will be done through a comprehensive framework called CASE that looks at the Classroom factors, Access to technology, teacher and student Skills and Environmental factors.

To gain these insights, we must provide BrightBytes with a complete picture of technology use at school and at home within our district. We will be asking students and teachers to participate in the project and to provide input.

Your participation is important to us and will make the difference between having a complete versus a limited understanding of our district’s technology use. Beginning next week, keep an eye out for an email from your site administrator on how to participate.

If you have any questions, please let myself or Melissa Oliver know!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Technology Update: Bandwidth Conservation (3/3/16)

Conserving Our Bandwidth
As we near our testing window for CAASPP, please be considerate of our network bandwidth by refraining from streaming music for purposes other than instructional (Pandora, Spotify, etc.). This negatively impacts our network. To help preserve the network bandwidth for testing and instructional purposes, I have asked the Systems Engineers to block music streaming for all students. Also, consider your use of video streaming (YouTube, Vimeo, etc.) as well. Rather than have each student access audio or video individually, consider sharing this resource in a direct instruction model with follow up being independent practice. By having all students not streaming audio or video at the same time, we should be able to conserve bandwidth to support our CAASPP testing.

Upgrades to Bandwidth
On January 21, the WUSD Board of Education approved a contract with WAVE to upgrade our Internet connectivity between the district office and Yolo County Office of Education. As mentioned in the Technology Update from December 3, we will be moving from 100 MB to 1 GB connectivity once this is installed - essentially going from 100 to 1,000 in terms of how large the “pipeline” is and will become. We should see less strain on our network prior to actual testing starting, especially when combined with strong stewardship of our bandwidth from the classrooms.

E-Rate Update
As part of the federal E-rate program, the district is applying for circuit and equipment upgrades. This will allow us to better support additional devices as we increase access for our students. Please take note of your role as a classroom teacher in supporting the E-rate application by teaching Internet Safety to your students. This is a requirement of E-rate and requires verification from each teacher that lessons on how to stay safe online is being taught in all of our classrooms. We are using Common Sense Media curriculum for standards-aligned, researched-bases lesson plans that meet these requirements. Many of these lessons are low-tech using only pen and paper and can be completed in approximately an hour.

At a minimum, we are asking that you include the lesson(s) below for your grade level as part of your curriculum. The days before Spring Break might be a good time to incorporate the lesson(s) into your instruction (see links to lessons by grade level - create a free account at Common Sense Media to access these lessons).
After completing the lesson, please complete the verification form and send it to Kim Harrison or Melissa Oliver at the district office. The verification form will be used to validate our compliance for E-Rate. You are welcome to cover more than just the lessons outlined above – check out the Scope and Sequence of Common Sense Media’s lessons.

If you have questions, we are here to assist!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Simpler Shared Google Drive Folder Settings

Easier Sharing Settings now available in Google Drive.

Do you have a shared Google Drive Folder? Starting today in your Google Drive, you'll notice a new shared people icon that streamlines viewing and managing sharing settings.  Once you click on the shared people icon, you'll see a drop down that shows everyone the folder is shared with as well as their privileges.  The owner is listed. The pencil shows that person has editing rights and the eye illustrates view only privileges.  You can make changes to your shared Google Drive folder by clicking sharing settings.