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Coming Soon - TardEase, Tardy Tracking and Consequence Management

For the last year, I have been developing a new product for helping our school handle tracking of tardy students and assigning the consequences to those students that are not making it to class on time between periods. After building the basic shell of the program on Google Sheets, I realized that it was a powerful tool that could be deployed in many schools and for a lower cost than other similar solutions on the market.

TardEase Temp LogoAnd so, TardEase was born!

TardEase is built on Google Sheets and Google Forms as a system to manage tardy sweeps. In the most common implementation, a member of the school leadership team (likely a discipline dean) installs the Google Sheets Add-On from the market. They follow the simple setup steps like inputting the school bell schedule and your student and guardian contact list. TardEase will create a Google Form to share with the members of your school team who will be performing the tardy checks and entering the ID Numbers of students who are late to class.

Each night, TardEase will run a report of students who were caught in their second or third sweep of the year or term, and processes offenses for them. By default, TardEase creates a warning letter to be sent home for any student caught in their second sweep, and a detention slip for any student caught on their third offense (with spaces for setting the date and time of the detention). A phone call list is generated for any student caught in their 4th or more tardy sweep.

Benefits of TardEase include:

  • Easy - Anyone can setup and start using TardEase for their school!
  • Affordable - Unlike similar solutions, there is no per-user or per-student cost, nor any special required hardware.
  • Secure - TardEase does not have access to your student or parent data, you own the spreadsheet that contains that information.

TardEase will be available for a free 30-day trial soon! After the 30 days, an annual subscription is only $600!

If you have any questions, suggestions, or ideas, please feel free to reply to this post, or email me at brad@bradshreffler.com.


#ISTE19 - Virtual Reality Activities that Engage, Enhance, and Extend Student Learning

My next session for the conference is by former podcast guest, and friend, Jon Spike presenting on VR.

He started with an intro activity where he had 3 volunteers join him for a game of Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, where Jon is wearing the headset and looking at a bomb he has to defuse. The three volunteers have paper directions for how to defuse the bomb, but cannot see the bomb. They have to explain the directions for defusing and hope not to explode. Jon exploded. Made for a short presentation.

The rest of the session, Jon went through a series of app categories, and then examples of apps that would work for various levels of headsets/VR devices.

An interesting one in the storytelling category is Mindshow. It lets you make videos with digital characters, simply by wearing the headset and acting out what you want the characters to do. It creates great videos without having to know how to do computer animation. It would be a really powerful tool for students.

Jon gave tons of resources and ideas for ways to use VR in classrooms. I am absolutely looking into getting the new Oculus Quest now and am hoping to convince my leadership to purchase me a bunch of them for next year. I highly recommend looking over Jon's slide deck here.


#ISTE19 - Schools Often Perpetuate Inequity by Cheyenne Batista

Monday is here, my own presentation is done, so I can really enjoy and learn now!

Cheyenne Batista is the founder of Firefly Worldwide, a global consulting firm focused on helping schools and organizations with improving equity within their organization.

She opened the session by specifying that schools perpetuate inequity unintentionally. This is not the session to say that anyone is evil or doing things with bad intentions. She also pointed out that we will not "save the world from all inequities."

She said, "This is a conversation that will end with no closure, and that is the work." That is a fascinating idea and definitely makes me think back to my talk with Jennifer Binnis. We had hard conversations, and it felt like work for sure, I left tired. But I also think that I learned a lot and while we did not solve anything, it felt like I at least made personal improvements.

Another interesting discussion was the question "Why start with racism?" According to Cheyenne, racism is certainly not the only form of inequity, but unlike sexual orientation, gender identity, socio-economic status, and others, a student cannot walk into a classroom and hide their race. "A girl cannot walk into a classroom and decide 'I'm not going to be black today'". This seems obvious, but I had never considered it that way. When I think of inequity, I know the racial issues, but they seem so much larger than I can tackle, and so I will often go to other issues as examples and goals. But now, that seems inadequate of me, and I should be continuing the conversation about race instead of shying away from it.

She left us with 5 Strategies for Running Equitable Schools

  • Build the Right Mindset
  • Hiring & Onboarding Practices
  • Building & Supporting Infrastructure
  • Center Student Achievement
  • Reflection & Adaptation

It must start with the mindset of yourself, your peers, your school. There must be an ongoing conversation, and people must be willing to accept that they are not "color-blind", are not lacking in biases. Then, we must be asking questions in our interview process about equity, about beliefs about students and parents. You also must include your school beliefs on equity in ongoing professional development (infrastructure). It can, and sometimes should, be a training specifically on equity topics. In other cases it should be embedded in other traingings as well.

She also pushed back directly against those that would say "This is all great, but we need to work on test scores and learning." This work, according to Cheyenne, is student achievement. When students are not recognized in a school, are kept with lower expectations than their peers, are limited in their potential learning, the students are not achieving, are not capable of achieving. We often look at our data and celebrate high test scores or school grades, because in aggregate, things are good. But when we do not worry about the sub-groups that are well below the goals and grades of the school because they are not the majority.

Overall, a truly thought-provoking presentation. I am really glad that I was able to make it to this one and get some ideas to sit with as I head off to lunch. As she said, with this work, we will not solve the problems. We need to work through them, think about them.


#ISTE19 - IGNITE Round 1

IGNITE sessions are always my favorite part of ISTE. Seeing these typically polished, organized, and fast presentations are perfect for my general lack of focus.

Dr. Virginia Duncan presented on The Edge of Epiphany. She spoke about how flawed the term "think outside the box" is in professional learning. In her terms, there is no box for professional learning, and when we use or hear this phrase, our brain immediately creates the image of that box. Instead, we need to build professional learning that accepts ideas from inside and outside of education, where we come up with new experiences with our peers, or where we define a problem and then ask for and build solutions to those problems. Find Dr. Duncan on Twitter, @DrGinnyD.

Another great session came from Josh Feinsilber, talking about Gamification That Works. He really talked about his experience creating Gimkit, a quizzing and gaming like Kahoot! or Quizlet Live. The fascinating thing about Gimkit is that he wrote this in his project learning school and graduated from high school a few weeks ago. Gimkit is now used by over 3 million teachers and students, and started as a school project. It is one of those student stories that gives you hope as a teacher that there can be value in what we do. And, a reminder that we need to keep trying to develop our classrooms in a way that is real. Find Josh on Twitter, @JoshGimkit.

Douglas Konopelko presented on considering the quality of screen time for students instead of the quantity. He believes that we should not vilify the screen, but instead ask what is the content and behavior while on the device. I could not agree more with him here. If students are creating content, demonstrating learning, learning new skills or knowledge, that can't be bad. "Education technology is almost all gray area. There isn't a right answer." So true! Great presentation. Find Douglas on Twitter, @dkonopelko.

Jennifer Casa Todd presented on mentoring in the digital world, specifically mentoring students in the use of social media. Jennifer, along with others, started a student twitter chat, #ONEdSsChat. It is a once a month chat run by students, with questions generated by students, with teachers and adults mentoring them in appropriate use. You should definitely checkout the chat at the hashtag, and Jennifer @JCasaTodd.

As always, loved the IGNITE sessions. I'm presenting during the second round tomorrow, but will be back for the Young Educators IGNITE session on Wednesday.


#ISTE19 - Digital Differentiation with Learning Menus with Kasey Bell

It’s #ISTE19 time, and that means I get to start learning from amazing educators back-to-back. I’m starting my learning journey this year with the amazing Kasey Bell presenting on Learning Menus.

As usual, Kasey owns the stage with her soothing southern accent and TONS of shared resources, mixed with hidden Google tips and tricks.

Link to her slide deck so you can look through it if you would like.

I really enjoy the use of learning menus. The idea is to incorporate student choice directly into assignments, but her incorporation of basic kids games are an engaging twist. Imagine a tic-tac-toe board where each of the nine squares is a different assignment showing evidence of learning. Then, students pick three assignments of the nine to connect three and prove their learning.

The beauty of this is that it easily gives students choice. in the kinds of assignments they get to use to learn or prove their learning.

Kasey also shared some interesting tips to consider when using learning menus:

  • Give students a solid deadline (number of minutes) to choose their activities from the menu.
  • Make sure you are not using the activitiy just because you found it online. Make sure it matches your learning!
  • Use a non-negotiable activity to ensure all students meet specific requirements.
  • Start small. Do not give students a Bingo Board the first time where they need to make five choices. Do a choice board that has them make two choices (like a tic-tac-toe board with the center square required).
  • Your high achieving students are likely to struggle because they are used to the game of school and this goes against it.

That last point seems most critical to me. Any time we can disrupt the game of school, we are probably doing the right thing. Even if it fails in your classroom, they are getting the game of school in their other classrooms, so something different is good for their life and future.

Kasey also talked a little about rubrics, and made a great point. She said that rubrics are not for the teacher to use for grading, they are for the students to understand the expectations. If you are using rubrics with grading in mind first, then you are missing the point. Rubrics should be for students, so they understand what you are expecting, how they are expected to learn.

Overall, great session and an excellent way to start my #ISTE19 experience! I'll definitely be trying to checkout her live podcast recording on Tuesday.


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