Thursday, January 28, 2016

How I keep my students informed about schedule changes when school is closed

We've missed lots of school because of the blizzard, which means that I've had to make changes to my schedule.  How do I inform my students of these changes?  It's easy if you use these tools.

My official class schedule is on Google Calendar.
I put a link to that calendar as a tab ("Assignment Calendar") on my class Blackboard page.

Before I had settled on Google Calendar I had tried to use the calendar on a previous version of Blackboard.  That Blackboard version was far inferior because it would not allow for events to have start times.  In appears that the newest version my district uses solves that problem, but for now I'm going to stick with Google Calendar.

When I need to make changes to our schedule I just make them in Google Calendar, and the changes appear for my students when they check the Assignment Calendar on Blackboard.

To inform my students about these changes I use these three tools:

1st: I post an Announcement in Blackboard that I have updated the Assignment Calendar.  Blackboard then gives me the option to email that Announcement immediately to my students.
2nd: I use Remind to send a text message alert about the changes.  I really like Remind because I can send the text immediately, or schedule it for a later time.  (This is especially good if I'm working at odd hours; I don't want their phone to beep or buzz too early or too late with a text from their teacher!)

3rd: I update the changes on the WhatsDue app.  WhatsDue creates a class calendar for my students that resides on the app on their devices.  Any change I make automatically generates a text alert to my students.  I like WhatsDue because students can use it to send themselves text reminders of upcoming due dates and deadlines.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Econ Lowdown

I am not sure how many of you use econlowdown (, but for those who do not, it is a wonderful site to assess your student’s command of any number of micro/macro subjects. These range from supply and demand to inflation and unemployment. I use this site in both my AP micro/macro classes, as well as in my college preparatory economics classes. This site is great for flipped, and/or one-to-one classrooms, as they allow students to advance at their own pace. The classes are easy to setup and all grades can be exported into a CSV file.

In addition to all of the course, there is also an option for professional development. Once students are enrolled, you preview the course, and there is a post test taken, you can receive professional development through the St. Louis Federal Reserve. It is a great option if your school district accepts such credits and it has no monetary cost to you.

These lessons are great to use for snow days or other “lost” days that you can recapture throughout the year. Though some of the lessons can come off a little cheesy, they still contain a great deal of very good information.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

My New eLearning Blog

I am stuck at home with two feet of snow, but thankful that I can still do my job as I have recently changed from a classroom teacher and chair to the eLearning Coordinator of our 4000 student, 53 course strong Online Campus.

To that end I have, as you might have noticed found some other to help continue my other blogs and have continued adding posts myself to them.  But my new site - "eLearning Blog" is where I am putting anything related to learning online.  You can also receive the posts using Google+ and/or following me on Twitter.  Recent posts have included

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Digital Learning Day 2016: How will you participate?

Digital Learning Day 2016 is Wednesday, 17 February.  The event, sponsored by the Alliance for Excellent Education, is designed to showcase successful digital teaching and learning in our classrooms, and encourage all teachers to use innovative instructional technology to improve student outcomes.  As the Alliance says, 
"Digital Learning Day is not about technology, it's about learning."
You can plan a special activity or event for that day and register it for free on the Alliance's Digital Learning Day website.  That website also has information about a contests and online resources.  You can follow Digital Learning Day on Twitter @OfficialDLDay.

This video (2:23) from 2015 would be a good introduction to Digital Learning Day to share with your colleagues and administrators.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Moving to New Digital Challenges

This may come as a surprise to many of my readers, but today is the first day in almost 25 years that I won't be in a brick and mortar classroom.  It was a bittersweet last two days with my students as I have an amazing bunch of kids (two classes of which are above), but was offered a great job to head up my county's online campus.  I am excited about the transformation to a new setting as I love learning new things and meeting new people, but saying goodbye to my students and fellow teachers wasn't easy.

So what does that mean for this blog?  I will continue to post, but the daily posts will be led by
  • Jeff Feinstein who teaches nearby at West Potomac High School will take over the blogging on a regular basis for the US History and US Government Teachers blog, but since I am going to teach that subject online for the rest of the school year I will continue on that blog as well.
  • George Coe, whose work many of you know will take control of the World History Teachers blog
  • Rich Hoppock will be blogging on the US government, economics and US history sites
  • Summer Johnson who is a special ed teacher and will be adding a new twist to the US Government blog
My new position is officially titled "eLearning Coordinator" so guess what - I have started a blog called appropriately enough the "eLearning Blog."  It will be useful to both my online and brick and mortar friends as you can see from the early posts.  But as with my other blogs, it will grow as I do in my new job and I hope you will want to stay around and learn.

What this also means is that I am looking for people to join us on all four of the content blogs as I'd like to open this to regular posters who are committed to posting 3x weekly on pedagogy, content and technology.  What I am not looking for is someone who wants to vent.  My focus (I hope) has always been on the positive and I would like to continue in that vein. If you are interested in talking to me, I'd need a few potential posts and then I'd be happy to give qualified people a trial period to see how it works for you and us.  Email me at if you are interested.