For the past few years, Middle and Upper School teachers at Hamden Hall have been required to post weekly syllabi and course material to their course conference on First Class. This year, I decided to pilot two additional ways to communicate with my students: Schoology and Remind101. I figured that, with the combination of a web-based, Facebook-like interface, accessible via iPhone, iPad or computer using Schoology, and with texting via Remind101, I would be able to communicate efficiently and effectively to my students in a variety of ways.
After using both for about two months, here are my thoughts:
2) Schoology allows easy access for students to watch the videos that I create on my iPad using Educreations.
3) After students watch the videos, I use Schoology to create short online assessments to see how well the students understood what I explained in the video. These are automatically graded and it is very easy for me to see which problems I need to go over when we get to class the next day.
4) Students have said “I can’t believe I can do my homework on my phone,” although, a few have said that the online quizzes are difficult to complete on their phones because the font is too small.
5) The mathematical formulas and symbols are a little cumbersome to use in the online assessments.
6) I can easily post screenshots and SMARTBoard notes from class for students to refer to for review or if they are absent. I can also upload practice problems to our “news feed.”
7) I can easily create polls that students like to answer!
8) I get notifications when students post to our “wall” and they can also send me direct messages if they would like to communicate with me privately.
9) Students feel that the upcoming assignment area is a bit confusing. I had to make it very clear when I post to this area, clearly differentiating when the assignment is assigned vs. when the assignment is DUE.
Overall, using Schoology has been a positive experience for my students. When I polled them, all but one liked watching the videos and completing the online assessments. I have found it to be incredibly convenient when our First Class email system is inaccessible (as it is right now, with the storm affecting power in our area). I do wish they used Schoology to communicate with EACH OTHER a bit more. I have to work on that. The “Learn. Together.” part isn’t really happening just yet.
I heard about Remind101 on Twitter and then someone showed it during the app smackdown at EdCampCT. It seemed easy enough to set up. Students would not have my cell phone number, and I wouldn’t have theirs, but I could easily get a text message TO them for free! I also liked the idea that students had an option to subscribe to email messages in case they did not have unlimited texting. The set up was SO EASY! Once you create your class, Remind101 creates a printable PDF with step-by-step instructions for students to subscribe. It turns out that all of my students subscribed to the class texts.
Students seem to really like getting reminders about changes to class meeting times/ locations, reminders about extra help sessions, and, today, reminders about their assignments when they do not have internet access during the storm. (Do they really love this?…) The students would love to be able to reply to the texts, but Remind101 does not allow that . It is definitely something that we can work around because students have Schoology and regular email as options for direct communication. Overall, this has been great for us and I am using this quite a bit today, with Hurricane Sandy, as more and more of my students are losing power and internet access.
So.. new ways to communicate are allowing me to keep in touch with my students during what is possibly the worst storm to hit CT since 1938! This storm is nowhere near done with us. I wonder what this week will bring. At least I can get some work to my students! I am sure they are happy about it 🙂