Those of us that have taught for a few years understand the “big stack dilemma” very well. Transporting, grading, logging scores, returning, accepting revisions, regrading,… uhhh, it just doesn’t stop. To help the students that we work for it can’t stop. But the process can be improved using some technology around the web and creative thinking.
Many teachers create a digital file (using Word or Google Docs) that they would like students to use as a template. These templates are distributed through class websites, blogs, or social networks like Edmodo. These are all great ways of distributing the document, but what happens to it after that? Many students edit the document, save it, and then print it out to turn in. In the digital age learning of today shouldn’t it be easier to get the file without using paper? What if I told you that we could take steps right there to limit or rid ourselves of the “big stack dilemma”? No promises, but here are some suggestions:
#1 – Use your current tools or find an LMS
Make it easy on yourself. Many school districts have already made the plunge into using digital systems. Some use a Student Information System (SIS) that has some digital file abilities you can take advantage of today. Some others use Learning Management Systems (LMS) to organize district materials by classroom. Think about it this way, If you have to sign in to something to take attendance contact the “go-to” person for that system to see if there are any features that would help you work with digital files and your classes. If you have no such system or yours doesn’t have the features you desire, maybe consider one of the free LMS tools that are available through Schoology or Haiku Learning or even some of the other sources out there. Both of these LMS tools are free and somewhat easy to use and allow for digital submission and grading of papers from students. There are so many great features that it would take several paragraphs to go through them all, but the systems are great and the iPad apps are amazing for teachers, parents, and students too! Here are the links to Schoology’s features videos on YouTube and also Haiku’s features on there YouTube channel.
#2 – Dropbox
Dropbox is by far the easiest service I have used for digital file submission and file sharing. (Downloading the program for your computer is highly advised :). What makes Dropbox a great service for digital file submission is the ability to share folders and files with other people with just a click. But it can be hectic for a teacher with any more than a class or two to supervise. *Be sure to invite your students to collect up to 16GB of free space. Here are some best practices
Scenario A – Create a Dropbox folder for each class. Within each class, create assignment folders and share via email with your students. Caution students will have read/write access to the entire folder. Classroom management and clear directions are required.
Scenario B – Create a Dropbox folder for each student in the class. With smaller classes this isn’t a big deal, but I remember the days of 150+ each semester and it is just not a good solution. My suggestion is to have students create folders and share them with the teacher (you) instead. Much less up front work and the files will only be seen by the teacher and the individual student. Viewing work doesn’t get any easier, but it does allow for more privacy. *Note – keep students on track with file naming conventions so that your work doesn’t become deciphering. (Example, “Civil War Unit_Eddie Johnson_Per5)
With the teacher control of the folders you can unshare the folder at anytime and this acts as the “due date”. Very powerful stuff there.
BYOD solution using Dropbox is a little known service called dbinbox. Dbinbox is an app that connects to your dropbox account (permission needed) that will create a folder and a weblink that allows for the one-eay sending of files. Recently I used this during a PD session with our teachers so that they could take pictures of the group activity. This service works well with iPads, tablets, smartphones, and other internet connected devices. It worked best for photos and short videos for us. *Note outside of using a computer it will not allow access to other apps for files. Only the camera roll.
Of course you don’t need Google Apps for Education (GAFE) to use Google Drive, but it does help with storage. With a regular Gmail account you get 15GB of space and with GAFE that doubles! All of the same scenarios above are in play in the same way with Google Drive, expect you cannot earn any extra storage. Students cannot sign up for GAFE and must be imported by an admin, but the process only takes minutes. Why I “would” like this solution over Dropbox would be because of the prior functionality of gclassfolders. This is a script (program for Google) that would allow any teacher to create folders for any student and share it automatically and privately. This is the perfect solution, but it doesn’t work yet. Google recently updated its online documents and some of the past functionality was broken. The guys that created it at New Visions are amazing, but this will take some patients on my part. But with the new Google Apps aren’t all bad! with the “information” icon on the top of Google Drive a user can see files that have recently been changed. That means on your due date you can see all of the recent submissions and click the link there to navigate to them. And there are hundreds of add-ons and scripts to make the life of a teacher easier as well. If you haven’t given GAFE a good look now might be the best time to do so. Also, Office 365 and iWork iCloud Suite (beta) have recently announced document sharing that could allow for the same functionality as Google Apps.
#4 – Turnitin.com
As of 2014 Turnitin.com has created a fantastic system for teachers, especially with the iPad in mind. (link to the app) If your class already uses Turnitin then you should be familiar with turning in papers. But, the iPad app has some great tools to use on the go! Plagiarism checking, commonly used phrases, bubble comments, and strike through marks are all at your finger tips. If there were highlighters, underlining, and circling I think the app would be perfect! Once the paper has been submitted, it will have to be downloaded again by the student and resubmitted. That seems to be a limitation of most of these systems other than Google Docs, Office 365, and iWork for iCloud which allows for the sharing/revision of work in the online environment.
#5 is a bit different than the suggestions above. If there is a philosophy of “revision until perfection” in your classroom then you might need to think about what you are collecting/displaying. A web service that I recently came across called Portfolium allows for the display of digital portfolios for free. Students can display text work, images, videos, and provide narrative for the work. The work is also on display for others to see including some of the nations top employers. Students think twice about the work they display if it applies to the real world and others will be able to see it.
I tried to keep these informative, short, and to the point, but I might have left one or two in the dark. Follow up with a comment if there are suggestions or questions. Start enjoying the summer before it gets away!