Wednesday, September 28, 2016

What's NEXT for Schoology?

The Schoology #NEXT Conference this past summer heightened my awareness to additional ways to use Schoology to transform our classrooms. I will review some of the best sessions I attended at Schoology NEXT below:

Keynote

During the keynote address, several Schoology executives presented the exciting changes they plan on implementing to the Schoology program during this school year. Two of these advances stood out from the rest for Barrington 220:

  1. Schoology plans to engage more software companies to program their products to work seamlessly with Schoology (much like Google currently does). 
  2. Schoology plans to offer a new assessment tool with increased options for assessing students.

Opening Schoology to more software companies will continue to streamline Schoology’s role in a classroom centered on creativity. Right now, certain programs and apps only allow links, rather than actual project files, to be posted to and open in Schoology. For example, an animation created in Explain Everything can only be posted as a link to the animation, rather than posting as the actual animation directly on the page on Schoology (for now).

The next session I attended described the new assessment options available within Schoology courses.

AMP: Assessment Management Program

Schoology’s new Assessment Management Program (AMP) incorporates some slick new options for assessing and tracking student learning using the Schoology formative and summative assessment tools.

Some of the highlighted additions featured included the ability for Schoology Administrators to measure all students across a district on common assessments offered through Schoology. This could be a tremendous addition to our data analysis practices for our department chairs at the high school, curriculum leaders at the middle schools, and the steering committees at the elementary schools.

Assessments can now be offered throughout an entire district rather than shared only by teacher to teacher. Assessment Coordinators can edit and revise those district assessments. Mastery grading options and live updates help teachers using standards-based assessment practices best communicate student progress to students and parents. All assessments now include the options to send alerts via notifications to keep students and parents up to date.

The assessment questions also received a boost as new question types will be added. Grading features will also be added to allow for anonymous grading, peer grading, and distributed grading.

Bill Nye Keynote

Bill Nye spoke eloquently with great humor about three main ideas to consider when thinking about how to use Schoology in a blended learning model.

  1. Dr. Nye advised that teachers spend a great deal of time and effort on the design of the lessons. He compared the importance of design to how NASA spends time preparing the designs of their rockets, satellites, and shuttles before ever building them to ensure their success. Once the design is made, it becomes more difficult to make changes.
  2. Dr. Nye stressed the importance of never blaming the students. He reiterated the importance of the design of lessons, whether online or not, leading to the success of students. When lessons are not successful, it probably speaks more about the lesson design than the students.
  3. Dr. Nye encouraged everyone to be optimistic. He exuded a pleasant spirit throughout his address, exemplifying this message. He connected this idea to being passionate teachers and even referenced “Teach Like a Pirate” by Dave Burgess.

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