Here Are Some Of San Diego Teachers' Favorite Apps
Gone are the days when an assignment ends with a letter grade scrawled in red ink. In fifth-grade teacher Cindy Lieu's class, essays get peer reviews — on the cloud.
"Today what we're going to do is look at each other's personal narratives that we have posted on Google Classroom," Lieu said on Wednesday as students powered up their laptops.
The students turned in their essays digitally through Google Classroom, an online suite of applications similar to Google Drive but personalized for her classroom. They followed along as Lieu showed them how to share their stories with their writing partners over the cloud so they could give each other feedback by typing in their comments.
"I'm hoping actually that they're learning something so that they can improve upon their own writing piece," Lieu said. "So maybe if they're catching parts where the climax isn't there or isn't elaborated, they can go back into their own work and look at their own climax and see, 'Maybe I need to put a little more thought into my writing there.'"
Lieu's school — the Casita Center for Technology, Science, and Math — was an early adopter of Google Classroom, but the technology is taking off in schools across the county. At an education summit over the summer, teachers traded tips for using the platform. And nearly every educator in a recent nationwide study said they plan to have at least half of their classroom materials online in the next three years.
The same survey found that as teachers get their sea legs with online applications, they move from using it to shrink stacks of paper to using it to expand minds. This is true for Lieu.
Lieu's student, 9-year-old Bailey, said she likes that she doesn't have to remember to grab her homework in the morning because it's already on the cloud. But she said her favorite part is that she can ask her classmates questions during homework time.
"I like how you can interact with other people," she said.
Below are some other technology trends in San Diego classrooms.
Bringing parents into the classroom
Teachers have been using student blog platforms like Weebly and Edublogs for years to build work portfolios that students can share with their parents. Seesaw is like those — but with mobile alerts.
With Seesaw, teachers and students upload photos of craft projects or video of presentations, and have the option of automatically sending the media as real-time updates to parents throughout the day.
In addition to giving parents more intel to spark dinner table conversations, Seesaw lets schools build student work portfolios across multiple years. It creates continuity year to year, lets administrators see progress over time and eliminates the need for those drawers full of construction paper turkeys.
Class DoJo is similar in that it acts as a portfolio and updates parents. Plus, Molly Sterner, a teacher in National City, said the app lets her dole out positive feedback — kind of like those shiny star stickers, but digital — to help her manage classroom behavior.
Also blurring the lines between school and the outside world, teachers reported using apps such as Remind to send students text reminders about assignments or amended schedules.
Adding joy to research reports
Elementary school teachers oohed and aahed over this idea at the Better Together California Teachers Summit this summer: Use ChatterPix to make art projects and reports interactive. One teacher said she asks students to research an endangered animal, draw a picture of it, upload their art to ChatterPix, and then record themselves reading facts about the animal. ChatterPix animates the mouth in the drawing so that it looks like the animal is stating the facts the student recorded.
Teachers also mentioned PowToon, which lets users easily create animated videos, and other video or slide generators as ways to help students up their presentation and storytelling skills.
Checking In On Understanding
Jennifer Roberts at Point Loma High said she's been using quiz apps Formative and Socrative. Both make pop quizzes more engaging by allowing the class to watch the results roll in, or by teaming up classmates for some friendly competition.
Teachers like such formative assessment apps because they let them check in on student understanding in a low-stakes environment. Rather than printing out paper quizzes that feel official and need grading later, teachers can quiz in the middle of a lesson to see if it needs further explaining.