Technology Think Tank: Turn It In Makes Grading EASY & Offers Much MORE!

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With school reform coming from every direction, teachers feel overwhelmed; there is simply never enough time! So when I find something that helps ease the burden, I pass on it. Turn It In, a database purchased by the school, cuts down on the time it takes to grade student writing without compromising the amount or kinds of comments students deserve. In addition to the grading feature, which is the one I use most, Turn It In also provides an originality report, grade book, library of assignments, peer review, Common Core rubrics, customizable comment palettes, a blog feature, and user-friendly training for students and teachers. Just released this year is a Turn It In APP for the IPad which makes it EASY and PORTABLE.

Since I was part of the original team to pilot Turn It In and one who, along with our school librarian, provided faculty workshops about its many uses, I have seen so many improvements over the past eight years.

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Teachers set up classes which students log into to upload essays, peer reviews and reflection assignments, in addition to receiving feedback once their work has been assessed and critiqued.

TII Quickstart guide

These are matched to an originality feature (which can be turned off/on depending on the assignment and your preference). This allows the teacher (and student, if selected) to see with one click what sources match the student’s sources. If you give the same essay assignment year after year, it checks the paper against other sources on the internet and within the database, so you don’t have to worry about students plagiarizing or Turn It In makes it easy to detect if they do.

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The feature I use most often is Grademark. I set up an assignment to be turned in by a specific class, selecting the parameters (point value, due date, share date, etc…). Students upload their work. I grade it using the grading/comments inherent in the database and I have also customized my own comment palette. You know, those comments you seem to write again and again! This way I drag the comment to the paper, placing it where it belongs. Comments not only include an error or suggestion but also a teachable explanation. Moreover, the ETS feature flags all editing and proofreading errors for me, so I don’t have to waste time with the minutia. End comment features include voice and/or written comment features. Lastly, TII includes Common Core Rubrics you can link to your assignment; you can choose to check the standards that apply and/ or use the grade generated by the Common Core rubrics or designate your own grade.

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If you are like me, I don’t write comments for the sake of writing them; I write comments that are meant as instruction. I can even see the students who have viewed the comments I’ve written vs. those who have not.

TII ETS Sample

One of the chief drawbacks to Grademark WAS that I needed to be in front of my computer to grade. Paperless was a great idea, but it wasn’t very portable. Not until the APP was released last year. Now I have all of Grademark’s features and the flexibility of grading where I want and when I want. Grading made easy!

TII Comment Sample

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Automatically, student grades transfer to the Grade Book feature, so I can just print them out or import them to the grading program the school uses. Moreover, I can see the students’ progress, class averages and other helpful statistics for their essay writing.

I have used other features as well including the peer review feature where students upload a draft and the teacher can decide to randomly or prescriptively assign essays to students to review while selecting criteria to rate or comment on from the system or devising criteria specific to the assignment.

I’ve also used the Discussion feature as a blog-like forum to post questions to the whole class and allow them to discuss. They can respond to a comment posted by another student or begin a new thread.

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Turn It In has been immensely helpful as a teaching tool. And, now with the APP feature, it just got portable. I would recommend you try it (I believe there is a free 30 day trial period) because it’s really a time saver for grading and provides me with peace of mind that students are submitting original work for every assignment.

Feel free to comment if you have used Turn It In or pose questions. If I can answer them, you know I will!

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Technology Think Tank: Apps and Other Tech Tools for the High School Classroom

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Let’s face it! Technology can be overwhelming. BUT, it’s here to stay, AND it’s useful in the classroom.

I’ve been on the technology team for my school since it’s inception (for about six years, now); we’ve actually just scaled back the frequency of our meetings because we feel our school has finally caught up to 21st century standards regarding the infusion of technology in the classroom.

I don’t know all there is to know about the infinite implementations of technology (apps, websites, devices, etc.), but I do know a great deal. I’ve tried many of them. I’ve quit several others. I’ve become frustrated with the organizational piece and have ironed a technology management protocol that seems to work for me and my students.

Over the next few months, I plan on featuring one technology tool in a series called Technology Think Tank by offering suggestions for implementation, reflecting on my experiences, providing advice, and, finally, by eliciting feedback, suggestions, as well as additional uses from my readers.

I’m all about teacher collaboration because collective knowledge, experience and ideas are empowering tools to propel education forward. And, if we don’t keep up, we’re sure to get lost in the technology time warp.

The following are Apps and/or sites I use on a fairly regular basis, if not daily. You can look forward to learning more about the management of them, in addition to how and for what purposes I use them to not only make my teaching easier but to enrich the learning of my students by engaging them in a variety of ways.

Here’s what’s coming:

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Technology Overload

When is technology too much??

Technology is empowering and restrictive at the same time. I’ve always been a proponent of advancing technology in the classroom because I believe teachers should be always, at the very least, one step ahead of the students.

I have always been the pilotER of new technology at my school, being one of the very first develop a website for my classes, using databases such as Turn- It- In and providing professional development on the uses of it, applying to have a Smart Board in my classroom and integrating it into my teaching…. the list goes on. Eventually, a technology team was put in place comprising of a teacher from each discipline; I represented my department.

Technology has a way of making collaboration an easier task. A colleague and I decided to pilot a collaboratively taught course with his AP Euro class and my British literature class– using technology as the primary tool of communication between our students. Google Docs was adopted school-wide, and we were among the first users paving the way for our students to use G Docs as the platform for their work.

Students set about designing websites depicting different eras of British history from a variety of approaches (including literary, history, psychology, autobiography/biography and language). It became a model for technology that was showcased later in the year before the Board of Education as an exemplar of technology use in the classroom.

When the IPad II became available, I jumped on board, with the hopes of creating a completely paperless classroom, discarding of my bound paper planner and gradebook. The IPad is an easy portable way to organize my information in one place.

I thought!

In ONE PLACE being the operative phrase.

With the rapid advancement of technology, I’m learning it’s difficult to keep up. Every time I turn around, there’s a new APP or a better APP. There are so many things I want to do, but OH SO MANY limitations.

First, my students don’t all own the same Smart Devices, and my school can’t afford to make sets of any one device available to teachers. SO, I have a mish mosh of students– who has an IPhone? who has a Droid? who has a tablet? who has a laptop? and what kind of laptop do you have? Are these questions important? Yes, they most certainly are!

The smaller devices are ideal for looking up information, but no so much for creating word documents. Throw in the fact that the school’s web is Web sensed… that throws another barrier in the mix, altogether.

While Google Docs is an excellent platform for sharing and collaborating for the students, it doesn’t have all the ability to gauge the authenticity of student work the way Turn-It-In does, which is absolutely necessary in this world of common this and common that. Kids are kids; they take the easy way out sometimes, and it’s my job to make sure I’m grading their own work. So, do I ask them to create their docs on Google Docs, then upload to Turn-It-In? It seems tedious, but necessary.

While my website has always been my HUB for all of my students, it’s quickly becoming a mish mosh of links, which, admittedly looks confusing to them. I provide a scavenger hunt at the beginning of the school year to ensure they can access all I need them to in order to continue moving down this paperless path. But I end up with students who forgot their passwords from last year, so I ask for them to be reset, but the students still have difficulty accessing what I need them to. I offer tutorials after school; I have even offered them in class. Sometimes I feel more like a technology teacher than an English teacher.

Trying to keep my APPS and links straight is becoming an organizational debacle that I’m not sure how to straighten out. It’s really giving me a headache!

How much is too much? I’m trying to find the line. Any suggestions are welcome!