Monday, September 24, 2018

Minnetonka Middle Schools Switch to Schoology Gradebook Increasing Clarity & Understanding of Learning

Parent Tutorial Video created by Instructional Technology Coach Sara Hunt

Parent Grade View
This school year all grade 6, 7 and 8 students’ current grades will be in Schoology. For the past eight years Schoology has been our Learning Management System (LMS), our daily space for learning. Until now we had our grades housed separately in our Student Information System (SIS). Now by using Schoology, all assignment details will be in the same place as the scores, making it a one stop shop for this information. Schoology offers much more detail behind each score than possible in our SIS, letting users actually view assignments, the students' work if done electronically, teachers’ comments and feedback, rubrics, view any missing homework or incomplete assignments, even see some assessment answers and more. Scores are posted in real time and questions about what has been graded or is missing will be greatly reduced.

Mobile App View
The easiest way for parents to stay informed of grades is to sign up for a daily or weekly email digest which pushes information to them without having to login to look for it. Parents can also access Schoology grades through the same mobile app available in both iOS and Android platforms that our students use on their iPads (which saves your login info), or on a computer through the district website (which requires a login each time). We encourage parents to use these tools to stay connected to their child’s learning in Minnetonka.

At the end of each quarter grades will recorded in in our SIS as well for each child’s transcript.  Students at elementary and/or high school will still use our SIS for grades and Schoology for learning information. Next year our high school will use the Schoology grade book, too. This year the instructional technology coaches at our high school are working to help teachers prepare for this transition.

During the second semester last year, students, parents, and teachers at Minnetonka Middle School West tested out the Schoology grade book to compare it to our SIS. Feedback was very positive and parents liked the depth of information they received through Schoology compared to the limits of our SIS. We know that this one location for all of a student's learning content and achievement scores will provide both students and parents with a greater insight and understanding of learning and look forward to the benefits of this increased clarity of information.

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Monday, September 17, 2018

Don't Miss It: Annual Minnetonka Educator Site Visit October 25, 2018 or April 4, 2019

Register today for the Annual Minnetonka Educator Site Visit on Thursday, October 25, 2018 or Thursday, April 4, 2019. For the past 15 years, thousands of educators have visited Minnetonka, including the National School Boards Association, which hosted its second visit to Minnetonka in 2014. Come see learning in action, witness proven programs and gather innovative ideas which you can take back to your school!

Historically, our tours focused on how Minnetonka uses technology as an accelerator of learning. Back in 2003, visitors came to see SMARTBoards and sound fields and a learning management system implemented in K-12. In 2011 visitors came to see iPads used in learning in a 1:1 environment. With the advent of our Teaching and Learning Instructional Framework the 2016 tour focus shifted from technology to the eight dimensions of the Framework and how they are embedded in our programming, our instructional platform, and our culture.

You can choose to start your visit at an elementary school, middle school or our high school. Specialty programs include Navigators and high potential programs, VANTAGE, Minnetonka Research, Chinese and Spanish language immersion, Tonka Online, athletics and the arts. After your tours at a school, you will transition to our District Service Center for lunch and breakout sessions of your choice. Choose from a wide variety of sessions led by Minnetonka staff to learn how things work behind the scenes. Sessions include innovation, the Teaching and Learning Instructional Frameworkcoding, Design for Learning, assessment, the curriculum review process, gifted and talented programming, student support services, personalized learning, 1:1 iPads and more. Discover best practices for implementing meaningful instruction that will accelerate learning, have time to ask questions and head back to your own school full of ideas! Availability is limited in order to keep sessions small. Lunch is provided. Register today!

Learn more about Minnetonka Schools and Technology Integration:

Monday, September 10, 2018

Flipping Parent Curriculum Night

Parent Curriculum Night is a common occurrence at the beginning of the school year. Typically it is a time when parents come without their kids to learn about the curriculum that will be covered in the upcoming school year. At the secondary level parents often follow a shortened version of their child’s schedule moving between classes every ten minutes or so. At our middle schools this event is held on multiple nights to accommodate the parking needs for the large number of attendees.

For the past few years, principal Dr. Paula Hoff has flipped this format at our West Middle School. Instead of parents physically coming to the school and sitting and listening as they move from classroom to classroom, a link to a pre-recorded video of the teacher providing the curriculum overview and class information is shared. The video includes some personal information about each teacher, too. Just like a flipped classroom where the learning from direct instruction is done through a video watched outside of class, parents get this information on their own time without having to come to school for another event in early September. Parents already were at school a week before it began with their child to meet the teacher on Back to School Night.

Instructional Technology Coach Sara Hunt provided the teachers with instructions, training, and guidance to make their videos. Staff had the option to use ScreenCastOMatic, the screen recorder built in to their iPad, Explain Everything, or a few other options. A shared Google Slide deck was used with a slide for each teacher. A link to this slide deck with the video links was sent out to families in the school newsletter, QR codes were posted on the board in each classroom for families to access the video on Back to School Night, and teachers posted their video to their Schoology page. Each teacher sent out a link to the video along with an introductory letter during the first week of school, too. You can see some of the videos linked in the slideshow above.

Minnetonka Middle School West is not our only school doing this flipped method for parents and students. At Minnewashta Elementary this idea was brought forward in our annual Big Hunt for Ideas a few years ago. Principal Cindy Andress had second grade teachers begin piloting this technique by recording videos to send home to families rather than asking them to come to school one evening. As a parent at this school of a second-grader a few years ago I appreciated this format. I was able to get the information on my own time and did not need to add another meeting to my evening schedule.

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Monday, September 3, 2018

Twitch 101 for Parents & Educators: Watching A Stream of Gamers & More IRL

Many parents of current K-12 students grew up playing video games themselves on systems like Atari, Commodore, Nintendo 64 and perhaps physically went to video arcades, too. However many aspects of video gaming are new to today’s parents—such as online gaming with multiple players--sometimes hundreds playing simultaneously--as well as being able to talk to one another and/or possibly see one another in real time around the world. This newer type of gaming is unfamiliar to most parents. Equally unfamiliar to many parents is the current growing trend of watching others play video games. The most popular hub for this new form of video games is, and this something all parents should know. Ask your kids and students about it, especially boys, as they likely spend quite a bit of time on it each week. A few months ago I wrote about Fortnite, currently one of the most popular video games in the world, and one of the most popular games to watch on Twitch.

What is Twitch?

To understand Twitch, imagine playing a video game online while having a webcam aimed at yourself plus an open chat window on the side of the screen to interact with anyone watching you. In a recent podcast worth listening to entitled Twitch and Shout, On the Media explains that " is a video streaming platform where tens of thousands people broadcast their lives and video game game-play in real-time. It's like unedited, real, reality TV... the site draws more viewers than HBO and Netflix. It's like unedited, real, reality TV." 

Four years ago, Amazon bought Twitch for 1.1 billion dollars (source). Some gamers on Twitch are so popular that celebrities contact them asking to play. For example, celebrity Drake joined Fortnite streamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins in April 2018 and broke the record for most concurrent viewers on Twitch--over 667,000 viewers (source). In the podcast, you can hear how boys watching Ninja playing video games not only learn how to better play seeing his techniques, they even ask him for life advice such as how to deal with girls. This 28 year old video gamer freely gives them advice.--it's pretty amazing to think of his influence and power. Personally, from the little I have seen on Twitch, not all popular gamers being watched are the best role models who I would want my own children asking for advice. The reporters also explain that these popular streamers make a lot of money mentioning sponsor's products and having paid subscribers--up to a half a million dollars a month! Not everyone makes it to the big time on Twitch--there are thousands of streamers, including kids, with little to no viewership.

Overwatch & Esports

Two additional things about gaming covered in the podcast are worth knowing. The first is the existence of the Overwatch League. This League is like the NFL of the video game world. Professional teams with millions of dollars in funding are being organized in cities for competitions that fill arenas of spectators watching them play the Overwatch game against one another. Players, or video athletes as they are called, are becoming famous enough that they can draw hundreds of fans to a location just for a sighting. Esports is gaining in popularity. A college in Ohio even offers a full ride for world-class gamers to join their Esports team. 


The final story on the podcast--and most disturbing to me--is the IRL (In Real Life) channels on Twitch. The podcast highlights the story of a homeless man whose life was saved by Twitch, which initially sounds good. This gentleman streams his day to day life on and viewers pay money to get him to do things-wear things, say things to people, and more. I decided not to make a direct link to his Twitch videos from my blog. You can hear more about it if you listen to the podcast and then decide to take a look yourself. 

What Should Parents and Educators Do?

Certainly not all video games are bad. And watching others play video games seems to be a trend that is growing and in moderation, isn't bad either. Let's continue to have conversations with kids about what is appropriate to view and do online, and how to keep things balanced as well as when is too much, inappropriate, and taking things too far. Take an interest in the video games kids are playing and play with them sometime. Encourage the use of speakers to hear the conversations on sites like Twitch and multiplayer games versus headphones. Keep doors to rooms open versus shut so no one can see or hear what is taking place. Remind kids to behave as if their grandmother is sitting with them--if they know she wouldn't be pleased with what they are seeing, hearing, doing, or perhaps streaming, then they shouldn't be doing it in the first place. As I've suggested in the past, remember to begin your conversations about technology use with "What if..." instead of "Have you ever..?" Let's share our expectations and values with today's kids so they develop a moral compass and can better navigate the world--whether it is online or IRL.

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