Category Archives: Helpful Tips

These posts are just helpful, not really a review or a how-to, just some helpful tips

Distance Learning and Academic Dishonesty

What is a lockdown browser. Some may be very familiar with these types of browsers while others may never have heard of them. I don’t think the term is used widely, I know a company called Respondus has a product called LockDown browser. So what is it?

Basically, it is a specialized web browser (like Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge, etc.) that only allows access to a specific test site. No other tabs can be opened, no other windows or programs can be opened, it basically locks the device down until the person managing the test or device allow it function normally.

These are quite common for certain assessments such as College Boards Advanced Placement and other formal assessments and other formalized tests that are usually offered across the country or the world. These tests usually cost money and they often times have their very own app or website that locks down the student’s browser.

There are also companies that offer these to schools for all their assessments.

Distance Learning

So why am I writing about this? Well with Covid and distance (or hybrid) learning there are some talks about how to give assessments to students while they are at home and how to ensure that they don’t cheat.

Well, lockdown browsers are not the answer. While these lockdown browsers are pretty robust and they can be difficult to get around, all a student needs to do is pull out their smartphone, another computer, or tablet to look up the answers. Heck, they can even text their friends with answers. The lockdown browser is just a bump in the road.

Examity

This service has a live person who video conferences into a student taking their exam. They proctor and observe the student taking an exam. For an idea check out this video (you don’t need to watch it all) to get an idea on how it works.

This site is definitely more geared for higher education and I find it a bit creepy too though I cannot doubt its effectiveness. That aside it is pretty pricey. I couldn’t find specific pricing details from their site and I do imagine the cost is baed on how many total students you sign up. From what I could find the pricing models works like this:

  • A flat rate for the first hour (I saw prices from $15 – 17.50 from other schools) per student per assessment
  • A cost for additional hours (I saw prices from $5.50 – $7.00 from other schools) per student per assessment

Again, those costs are per student per assessment. So let’s say you have 100 students and the English teacher uses this service and has 4 assessments that are all finished within that first hour. That will run your school (just for English) $6000 USD for that year.

All in the name of getting rid of academic dishonesty.

What can you do?

Am I suggesting that a teacher just lives with academic dishonesty and shrug? No, I think the answer lies with the assessment itself. Create assessments with less knowledge based questions. For example don’t ask a question like “When and where did the Battle at Gettysburg take place?” That is a questoin a student can Google and have the answer in less than a minute.

Instead, ask more open ended questions such as “Who were the most important Union generals during the Battle of Gettysburg and what specific impact did they have on the battle?” That’s a more complex question and certainly a Google search will give some answers but students would need to digest that info in order to produce an answer. My point being, it couldn’t be answered in less than sixty seconds.

Another layer to add on top of better questions is to add an online assessment service like Edulastic (check out my review here). Here you can create assessments and actually watch students progress through the test in real time. You can also schedule the test for specific students at specific times and add a time limit to the test so students aren’t working on it for hours (or days) while they look up answers on their phone or with their friends.

Project/Essay based assessments

Another option is to do essay or at least short answered questions that ask students to demonstrate their knowledge more than just facts. Have them explain processes, events or allow them to draw their own conclusions and have them support it with evidence. These take longer to grade but you do get more authentic answers this way.

Project based learning is also another option. Having students create something that demonstrate their learning can be a nice departure from standard assessments. This can be tricky though.  Make sure students have access to all the resources they need to complete the tasks and of course troubleshooting via email can also pose challenging as it is much easier to see what they are talking about. Maybe meet with them on Zoom, Teams or Google Meet. But it is very hard for a student to cheat on a project that requires them to produce something authentic.

The takeaway

The bottom line is this: Teachers cannot be in the homes of their students and therefore cannot properly monitor a traditional assessment. If you use a lot of these find some other options. If not you can be sure some (if not most) of your students will cheat on those tests.

Keep in mind, the assessment is a way for students to demonstrate their mastery or knowledge working towards mastery of a subject. It is not meant to be a punishment for them or yourself.

 

Google Form + Google Calendar = Zapier!

UPDATE: I’VE INCLUDED THE LINK TO THE CALENDAR, THE GOOGLE FORM AND THE ZAP AT THE BOTTOM OF THE POST

Here is the problem. Our teachers want to have a shared assessment calendar. That way they can see what tests are scheduled for each class and know how to not overload a kid. What student wants to have four tests on a single day? Well how to do this?

So we are a G-Suite school and we have the ability to create a Resource calendar. This is just a calendar that no one owns and everyone has the ability to create events. The trick here is that when teachers make an event in Google Calendar they will need to select the calendar when they make an event.

Again, this seems easy enough, but it’s also pretty easy to forget to do that. It’s very easy just to type in the test details and hit Save and not realize it’s not on the correct calendar. You can see where this goes.

Enter Google Forms and Zapier. Here the teacher does not need to worry about that information. The form will capture all the pertinent information and then using Zapier – it will create the event and schedule it on the correct calendar. Oh yeah – it is free too.

This isn’t hard but there are a lot of steps. Don’t worry though – I’ll link the calendar and the form out and the workflow from Zapier at the bottom of this post.

What is Zapier?

Most people know what Google Calendar is (if not it is pretty obvious) and Google Forms, but not everyone knows about Zapier. This is a service that allows you to take two different services and make them work together by creating triggers (or Zaps as they call them). So basically when someone fills out the form, Zapier will take that information and put it into a Google Calendar event and then schudule it automatically. Pretty great huh?

Step 1 – Create the calendar

This would be best if you go to your Tech department and have them create a Resource Calendar. This makes it easy for anyone to view and control. If your Tech department is not open to such requests, go ahead and make a calendar of your own.

Open Google Calendar (calendar.google.com) and sign in if need be. On the left hand side you will see Other calendars click the + symbol.

Now some new options will appear. Select Create new calendar.

Now you can name your Calendar and set the appropriate time zone (kind of important that last part).

Now we need to set the sharing settings up. So let’s go back to your calendar list by clicking the left arrow near the Settings 

From the list find your new calendar. Move your mouse over the calendar name until you see three dots. Click those dots.

Now click on Settings and sharing

Make sure that Make available for [your school name] is checked and then save those settings.

Step 2 – Setting up the Google Form

This is pretty easy. Create a new Google Form either through Google Drive or thby going to forms.new and you can make your form look like mine below.

Now that your form is created, we need to create a spreadsheet for the responses. This is very easy. Click on Responses at the top of your form and then it will take you to another spot. From here click on the green Google Sheets icon.

It will ask you to name the spreadsheet and that is all you have to do with that!

Google Forms is pretty intuitive, but if you have any issues just let me know and I’ll give you hand.

Step 3 – Set up the Zap: Part 1 – The Google Form

With Zapier, you can sign in with Google and while there are paid versions of the service there is a limited free version that will be more than enough for my needs. So head over and sign up/sign in to Zapier!

Once you hav access to your dashboard, from the left hand side you will see an option to MAKE A ZAP

Now Zapier will start walking you through the process one step at a time. It is pretty fantastic what it can do. So obviously, when someone submits a Google Form so just type in Form to find the Google Form choice. Then select it.

Now it gives you two options. It can be whenever there is a new response from the Google Form or when there is a new response or if it has been updated. I like to go with the later. So it should look like this now.

This part may seem a little weird, but they want you to grant Zapier access to your Google Drive (which is where the form and the spreadsheet live). Go ahead and give it permission and then click Continue.

Now you need to tell Zapier which spreadsheet to look for and which worksheet of that spreadsheet to look at. Since this is from a Google Form, pick that spreadsheet where the responses will be stored and there should only be one worksheet, so it should look similar to mine.

Now it will ask you to test the trigger. If you have no responses recorded this will fail. If you want to see a result. Go to the Google Form and fill it out then run the trigger.

When it finds a response it will show you something that looks a little weird like below.

Step 3 – Set up the Zap: Part 2 – Google Calendar

Now that the Google Form is all set up, let’s move onto the Google Form part. So this is the Do this… part of the Zap. It will want you to pick what app you will use when it sees the Google Form has been completed. From here select Google Calendar.

It will ask you what you want to do. Select Create Detailed Event. This will allow you to provide much more info on the calendar event. Then click the big blue


Then it will ask you to confirm your account. I guess you could post this on another account if you wanted to. Now we get some options and boy-oh-boy are there options. Don’t worry we will just be dealing with the basics.

The good news is that it will pull data directly from the Google Form to populate the particular field. You just need to click the drop down menu and select it. Check out what I did below to see an example.

I basically put the grade level, subject and what the test was about all in one line. Be sure to put a space between those values so it looks nice.

Then scroll down to find the Start Date & Time and the End Date & Time. This will be the same field from the Google Form.

Now scroll down a little further and for All Day be sure to select Yes. This will put all the assessments at the top of the calendar and in my opinion will make it look a little cleaner and easier to see.

Now scroll all the way to the bottom and select Continue.

Guess what – it’s finally made and ready to test. Once it tests, it will ask you to turn on the Zap – go ahead and click that button!

Step 4 – Test it for real!

So I go to my Google Form and fill it out

Now all I have to do is sit back and wait.

With the free plan it can take up to 15 minutes for Zap to take action and for the calendar event to be created. For the paid account it is much faster, but you still need to wait a few minutes for it to actually work, but work it will!

So here is the calendar for October 1

Only as good as…

This is  a nifty tool that can bring a lot of transparency to a school, but of course there is a weakness. That weakness is noncompliance. If teachers forget on a regular basis or just ignores it all together this tool is not very effective.

That is where leadership comes into play. There has to be a driving push and force behind using this to make sure that what teachers, students (maybe even parents) see is accurate so they can plan. It does not necessarily need to be principals it could be department heads or just some people who are looking to improve things.

I’m not going to lie. Teachers have a lot on their plates and remembering this small simple task is not always on the top of their to-do lists.

The Links

Here are all the links needed for you to test this out for yourself. Just fill out the form, wait for about 15 minutes and you should see the details appear on the Google Calendar.

I did notice that the Zap was saying there was an error, but it never failed putting the event on the calendar. I think it has to do with the event starting and ending on the same day. If it works, it works I guess 🙂

Google Calendar: https://calendar.google.com/calendar/embed?src=c_f56lrph45nl9lgp9vmabs0kac4%40group.calendar.google.com&ctz=America%2FNew_York

Google Form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScB2gyWv61il1qK546Zno_ixGieXhOFV0TdYBKKPGhboofySg/viewform

Zap: https://zapier.com/shared/49316bed1b334217ad5de23f6cab26c0876bdb52

 

 

 

 

Microsoft Teams for OS X Send Your Audio and Sound to your Audience with Soundflower

By Tony DePrato | Follow Me on LinkedIn

This video explains how to set up your Apple hardware to stream audio from Youtube and other sources to your Teams Meeting.

Get Soundflower: https://github.com/mattingalls/Soundflower/releases/tag/2.0b2

Distance Learning ? – Check out these resources

I am sure many of you are teaching from somewhere other than your classrooms. If that is the case, then flexibility and leveraging other websites for services and content is something you are keenly aware of and possibly in search of. This list of resources has been bouncing around social media and thought I would share it here!

Covid -19 – We’re closed :(

Like many other schools around the world we have closed due to the Coronavirus. In light of these circumstances I thought I would share our school’s Distance Learning Plan. I’ve embeded it below, but if you would like a link to the Google Doc please click here. From there you can make a copy.

Hopefully this plan can help you in this unusual time or even in the future. I’ve gone ahead and changed our schools name in the plan and have removed all names as well so there may be some parts that sound a little odd. Here is what you need to know about our school.

  • We are pre-school to grade 8
  • We are 1:1 devices from grades 5-8
  • We have an LMS and school portal for parents and students
  • We utilize G-Suite for Education

Smithsonian for the win!

The Smithsonian has released nearly 3 million images, 3D models, videos and more into the public domain! What this means is that anyone can search, find, download, use adapt and publish any of these artifacts without asking. So get searching and share this with your kids. Chances are if they are working on a research project, they may find media that can safely be used.

https://www.si.edu/openaccess