Friday, November 21, 2014

Skyward: The New Button and Transferring Grades

Perhaps you have seen the “New” button appear magically next to a student’s name. Wait...perhaps that student is new to your class or maybe they've transferred from your class in another hour.
By clicking on the “New” button next to the student’s name, you will be provided with five options. (Not all options will be available for your use.)

Option #1 - Auto-Transfer Scores from Dropped Section of this Course
Option #2 - Transfer Assignment/Term Scores From a Dropped Class
Option #3 - Manually Enter Term Scores
Option #4 - One-Click Transfer Term Percents from Dropped Section of this Course
Option #5 - Enter a Starting Grade Percentage for the Current Term

Should you wish not to make use of any of these options, but would like to no longer see the “New” button displayed next to the student’s name, then you may check the box for “Do not display NEW by this student’s name”.

For further explanation and instructions about how you might use the New Button, please follow the link below.

Skyward: The New Button and Transferring Grades Instructions.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Going Google #3: I have all this data from my form...what do I do with it now? Part 1

It is no secret that I love Google Forms.  Paul Murray and I frequently share our love of this easy to use data collection tool with our teachers and others around the state, like in this presentation from miGoogle 2013.  One of the problems I have with data collection, however, is what to do with all the information, and make it manageable, once you have it collected.  I often look at spreadsheets full of Form responses and wonder, "There are 200 responses here!  How am I going to make sense of all this?"  Thankfully, there are some really amazing add-ons and tools that, with little effort on the users part, can make the data come alive.

Tool #1: Add-on - autoCrat

As a teacher, I collect information from my students/families every year.  Information such as names, parents/guardians names, preferred email address, preferred phone number, best way to contact parents/guardians, etc.  This information can be easily collected with a Form at open house, parent night, or on a classroom website.  Once the forms are filled out, all the information can be reviewed in a Google Spreadsheet.  Wouldn't it be nice, though, to take all that information and have it automatically create a document for each entry that lists all the information for that particular child in a way that would be easy to read and reference?  Of course it would be!  This is where autoCrat comes in.  autoCrat is a document merge tool that works as a add-on in Google Spreadsheets.  It allows you to create a Google Doc or PDF and have information from your spreadsheet automatically populate the document with the specific information.  Here is a video to explain more about how to use autoCrat.

Classroom Uses:
  • Formative Assessments - Have students take a quick formative assessment using a Google Form.  Share their answers back with them using autoCrat.  autoCrat will also auto-create the document and send it out as the forms are filled in.
  • Sign Up Sheets - Ski Club Adviser?  Coach?  Activity Leader?  Have students/families sign up using a google form and automatically send them confirmation of their registration via autoCrat
  • Open House Information Sheets - Yup, I already mentioned this one above.

Tool #2: Add-ons - Merge by Mail Chimp

Sometimes you don't need a fancy document, you just want to send out an email to the respondents of the form with the some (or all) of the information collected in the form.  If this is the case, then the Add-on Merge by Mail Chimp - found in documents, is the tool for you.  Check out this easy tool in the video below.

Classroom Uses:
  • Formative Assessments - Have students take a quick formative assessment using a Google Form.  Share their answers back with them via email with Merge.
  • Confirm responses to a survey or form via email
  • Send out a personalized email to a group

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Let's Celebrate this November: Veterans Day and Thanksgiving

MISS 103's photo.
November has two very special holidays, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving.  It is important that we, as educators, help our students to understand the significance of these days and help foster an appreciation for the things we have and the people who help protect us and our nation.  In honor of these two very special holidays, here are a few resources highlighted this month on the FreeTech4Teachers blog.

To all the Vets out there, our family, our colleagues, our friends....Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Veterans Day: Bet You Didn't Know

Here is a short 2 minute video that does a great job highlighting what Veterans day is and why we celebrate it each November 11th.  To learn more about the video and to check out other lesson resources check out this blog post:

Thanksgiving: 5 Great ideas for teaching about Thanksgiving

  1. You Are the Historian: Investigating the First Thanksgiving
  2. Voyage on the Mayflower
  3. The First Thanksgiving: Daily Life
  4. The Year We Had Two Thanksgivings
  5. When Is Thanksgiving? Colonizing America
To learn more about these resources check out this article:

Friday, November 7, 2014

Going Google #2: Add Ons - A good thing that keeps getting better!

Back in March of 2014, I shared with you that Google expanded the functionality of docs and spreadsheets with the addition of Add Ons (Google Docs just got better! Google Docs introduces Add ons).  At the time, there were only a couple of Add Ons for each program since it was so new.  There are now numerous Add Ons and they have expanded it to Google Forms as well.  Over the next couple weeks,  I will be sharing with you some of my favorite Add Ons, along with how they can be used in the classroom.

Let's collaborate!  

Is there a add on that you can't live without?  Share your ideas and how you use it in the classroom and I will share it out for everyone!

Getting Started

Haven't checked out add ons yet?  Open a Google doc or sheet.  Click on the Add-ons menu and select Get add-ons.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Going Google #1: Search Directly in your Google Docs!

This week Paul Murray (@Paul_Murray6) and I had the pleasure of attending the 2014 miGoogle Summit in Brighton, MI.  This was a great opportunity for us to learn some new tips and tricks from our fellow educators, as well as share some of our own as speakers at the conference.  There's nothing quite like a good learning opportunity to renew your enthusiasm for education and the great tools out there to enhance teaching and learning.

Over the next month, my goal is to share some of the tips, tricks, and tools from miGoogle and open the door for discussion on the ways you all are using these tools in your classrooms.

Let's get started: Going Google #1: Search Directly in your Google Docs

This first tip comes from my presentation on Doing More with Google Docs.  One of my favorite features natively found in Google Docs in the Research Tool.  This great tool allows you to do a general Google search, or search specifically for images, videos, scholarly articles, quotes or tables, then insert that information right in to your document or presentation.  With images, you can even select to only allow images that are "Free to use,  share or modify...."  It also sites (MLA, APA, or Chicago Style) your source for you when you are in documents!

To get there, open up a Google document or presentation.  Click on Tools.  Select Research.  The search box will appear on the right side of your screen.

Classroom Uses:
Now students can drag and drop images, cite sources, and search for quotes that bring presentations and documents to life.  Before the research tool was available, it was very time consuming and challenging to teach my elementary students how to go out to the Internet, find images (free use, of course), copy the images, return to the document, paste the images, then cite where they found the images (and no, Google is not an acceptable answer for the source).  Now I have first graders adding pictures to research projects with only a couple clicks of a button.  Amazing!

To see this tool in action, check out this video:

Join the Conversation:

Have you used the research tool?  Share how you are using it in your classroom in the comments section!

Skyward: Viewing Individual Student Grades On Your Screen

Keeping the confidentiality of your student information is important, especially, when checking in with students during class or meeting with parents during conferences. Well, this quick Skyward tip will truly put your mind at ease.

Viewing Individual Student Grades/Assignments

From within the gradebook, click on a student's name and a screen tailored to each student appears. There are tabs for Assignments, Missing Assignments, Report Card Grades, and Comments.

See the animated image below.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Skyward: Elementary Trend Calculations

PPS Elementary Teaching Staff:

We have received a number of questions the last few days regarding how the Skyward gradebook calculates the M, P, and L proficiency levels. This, admittedly long, yet important read, addresses these questions.

The Skyward gradebook uses trend-based calculations when determining the M, P, or L for a student's level on any given skill in the gradebook. The theory is, we want to report out where a student is on a skill today, and not a simple average of their scores over time. However, there are cases where a trend calculation can produce a proficiency level that, while correct from a mathematical perspective, does not seem to make sense. ​As with any automatic grade calculation, we recommend you spot check gradebook.

Overriding a Trend Calculation

This is a simple process - if you click on a skill's title in the gradebook, you will see a view which shows all of the scores incorporated into the skill, the trend score the gradebook is reporting, along with the mean and median scores for your reference.

As you review these scores, you can quickly change any calculated value to one that makes more sense if needed. In the example below, I have highlighted the three scores and overwritten one that didn't seem correct. (The student has a calculated P due to the last assessment having an L, but perhaps an M makes more sense?)

What Causes Trend Calculations to Not Work Well

I have looked at a number of gradebooks where teachers have reported odd results. In most cases, the odd marks are caused by one of three things:
  1. Low Max Point Values  Trend-based calculations do not work well when assessments are scored with a point total of 10 or less. The lion share of the gradebooks I have reviewed where the trend calculation is not working have assessments scored on 4 points or less. A student earning a 1/4 on an assessment will have that score converted to a 25% on the back end and will have a hard time, mathematically, overcoming it. (This happens in traditional gradebooks as well.) Solution: Enter low point assessments into the gradebook using M, P, and L marks directly instead of using points. 
  2. Overuse of One Date  Trend calculations incorporate the date between assessments into the calculation. If you enter in several assessment scores, all on the same date, the gradebook cannot differentiate for the purposes of a trend. Solution: During assessment entry, use the actual date of the assessment on the date fields, and not the date you are entering in the score. (It is not a problem to wait to enter data, just make sure you set the event dates to match when you gave the assessment.​ 
  3. An Assessment with Scores Vastly Different than Others  If you have a situation where a lot of students receive an L on an assessment whereas the bulk of of previous assessments on the same skill were at the M or P level, you can see the scores drop significantly. Solution: Consider not counting assessments that are outliers from other scores.

Looking Forward

For what it is worth, our last gradebook also used trend calculations when calculating a P, D, or B. However, it used a different algorithm. For example, with three or less scores it used the mean score and not the trend. It is our goal to work closely with Skyward to see if changes can be made to the way the grades are calculated in order to produce a grade that more closely and consistently aligns with the student's performance over the quarter.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Skyward Tech Tip: Secondary - Requesting a Grade Change

UPDATED Post: Visit this newer post as it may more clearly explain this process.

The deadlines set by each of your offices for grade entry cutoff are either quickly approaching or have past.  At that time, your grades for MP1 will be locked from changes. 

If you have incompletes or other grades to enter after the cutoff, you will need to request a grade change from the office.  

This document includes the instructions for requesting a grade change.


In order for your building office to receive an updated grade, please make sure you have completed the following...
  1. Update necessary assignment/assessment scores
  2. Remove Incompletes or other overwritten grade term scores (i.e. Q1, Q2, etc.)
Offices will not receive any information or updates if the marking period final grade has not changed. Therefore, verify that the updates you have made do, in fact, affect the grade as you expect. You may see a new column appear for the adjusted quarter such as "Q1 - Report Card". This column shows the score that was posted on the original report card. Make sure you complete your grade change per the above document. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Printing Reports in Skyward for any Marking Period (Term)

You may find yourself wishing to print a report from Skyward other than the current term. The method for doing so may or may not be necessary depending on the report you are choosing to run.

Let's say you wanted to print a Grade Sheet Report for the first quarter or marking period (Q1).
  1. Start by accessing the desired gradebook
  2. Hover over Reports
  3. Select "Grade Sheet Report"
  4. You will see that all the report templates say "Current Term" (Curr Term)
  5. In order to select the term you wish ,click the "Clone Template" button at the right
  6. Provide a new "Report Template Name". I would recommend including the quarter or term you are wishing to print in the name, such as Q1. (ex. "Grade Sheet Report (Q1)")
  7. Select the term you wish to print
  8. Click "Save" at the upper-right.

Now, you may run your new report at anytime you wish.

Skyward Tip: Viewing Previous Quarter

Now that we have officially switched to second quarter, your gradebooks now will automatically display second quarter (Q2).  If you have your gradebook set up to only display one quarter at a time, then you will only see Q2.  If you still need to enter grades in Q1, I am sure there are many elementary teachers who do, then you will want to go in to the display options and select the option to turn Q1 back on.

Step 1: Go to the gradebook for which you wish to enter grades.

Step 2: Select Display Options.

Step 3: Check the box for Q1.  Click Save.

If you wish to change back to only seeing Q2, then just repeat the above steps except uncheck Q1.