Feb 17

Getting to know Schoology our LMS

What is a LMS (Learning Management System)?

A learning management system is designed to be the bridge that links the learning that happens in the physical classroom to a digital space. Teachers create, track and manage digital learning materials like assignments, discussion and quizzes. St. Vrain Valley Schools adopted Schoology as their LMS in spring of 2014 to support the Learning Technology Plan. A primary benefit of Schoology is that it gives students, teachers, and parents a consistent digital platform to find things like homework and class materials.

 

Schoology and Parents

Schoology allows parents to see the learning that is going on in their student’s classroom. Instead of waiting until a test or assignment has been completed and graded, parents can proactively view the learning materials and due dates to best support their student.

Keep in mind that Schoology is different from Infinite Campus. Infinite Campus is our official SIS (Student Information System) and stores student information such as demographics, attendance, grades, and schedules. All official grades and attendance are kept in Infinite Campus.

Not all buildings or teachers, in the district use Schoology exactly the same way, so be sure to ask your school.

Click here for detailed instructions about Schoology and how to get a parent account!

 

Permanent link to this article: https://tech.svvsd.org/family/2017/02/17/getting-to-know-schoology-our-lms/

Feb 17

How to Practice for the SAT and PSAT 10

Kimberly Wiggins (@KWigginsSVVSD) and Doug Morland, Assessment Coordinators, St. Vrain Valley Schools

On April 11, 2017, all sophomores and juniors in Colorado will be taking the PSAT 10 and SAT. The good news? It’s free! AND you don’t have to do a thing to register. But wait … there’s more!  Millions of dollars in scholarships (yes, millions…) are tied to both assessments, so even if you’re not 100% sure about your after-high-school plans, still use this time to prepare just in case  – They’re there anyway, so you might as well get the most you can out of it!

In addition to checking out our NEW SAT website (sat.svvsd.org), here are the Assessment department’s best suggestions for approaching this test:

1 Engage in class.

The most important thing students can do to prepare for the SAT is to take the most challenging courses available to them, do their best work, and benefit from daily instruction that prepares them for college and career.” – Collegeboard.org

Paying attention in class, asking questions, and being an engaged and active learner will reap rewards, say the test makers. We agree. This assessment is skills-based; yes, it’s good to know strategies, but those strategies are no replacement for knowing how to use a semicolon, interpret graphs, or apply Pythagoras’ famous theorem.  

2. Read. Then read some more.

“I’m too good at reading – I comprehend too much and am too efficient.” – Source: No one, ever.

Did you notice how much reading there is on this test? Even the math section embraces word problems. From increasing general knowledge to building empathy, there is no shortage of research to tout the power of reading. Just 20 minutes a day of reading will expose a student to 1.8 million words over the course of a year. Read quality, challenging texts that vary in topic. If you don’t know where to start, ask a librarian at your school. They’ll have a range of articles that will help develop your literacy skills; make sure you’re getting graphs in too, because they are all over this test (and life in general).

Check out these sources, which have great texts and text-dependent questions to help you assess your comprehension: commonlit.org and hmhfyi.com.

3. Deliberate practice.

Research across domains shows that it is only by working at what you can’t do that you turn into the expert you want to become. (SOURCE: Harvard Business Review, “The Making of an Expert”)

Identify your weaknesses and then practice the skills you need to improve. Knowing that this test is standardized offers consolation: it’s very predictable. If you missed a question on a practice test, chances are, unless you do something differently to fix that skill issue, you’re going to make the same mistake again. Every high school in our district has administered a practice test at some point this year, and students received a report that showed every question and the right answer. Take some time to analyze your mistakes and focus on your weaknesses. What other habits could you make deliberate? Here are a few things to think about:

    1. Why? Check out Big Future and set goals. Do you need 10 questions more right? 30? How many questions can you miss? Plan on not knowing every answer; give yourself permission to choose the path to success. It doesn’t mean chasing down every single thing the SAT can throw at you – just do what you need for your personal or academic future.
    2. When? 20 minutes once a week won’t cut it for a sport, so don’t assume that’s enough for mental skills either. Set times up and commit. Don’t forget to build in reading time, too.
    3. Where? If your room is comfy and cozy and your bed beckons you to recline on it, you might need to find another location to stay alert while you practice.
    4. With? Do you know someone who can give you feedback, help you problem solve, or keep you focused? Is there a teacher or a tutor who could help?
    5. How? What resources will you use to build your skill base? Here are some suggestions:
      1. Shmoop: St Vrain has purchased a license to this skills-based prep program for every high school student. Log on and prosper. Here are some directions.
      2. Khan Academy: Khan Academy has partnered with CollegeBoard to develop free practice tests, interactive skills practice, a tailored personal plan based on your needs, and instant feedback.

4. Practice questions.

It’s good to focus on isolated skills and work deliberately; it’s also good to get as many practice problems as possible and see if you can identify those skills when they’re combined among other skills. Here are a few resources.

    1. There’s an app for that! Download the daily practice app from SAT.
    2. Khan Academy and Collegeboard paired to make practice tests,too – Check them out here on Khan, or go straight to the College Board website and get SAT or PSAT practice tests and explanations. If you want to see something really cool, you can take a picture of the answer sheet with your phone and upload the results directly to Khan for a personalized plan and score! Khan doesn’t have practice PSAT’s yet, but SAT practice is appropriate for most sophomores.
    3. For those of you die-hard pencil and paper fans, good news for you – this paper is still done the old-fashioned way! This book by College Board features four official tests, bound and printed.
    4. And it bears repeating: don’t forget you’re licensed to Shmoop.

5. Re-Calibrate expectations

When is a 50% not an F? When it’s on the SAT! Most of what you’re used to in school looks something like this: 90 – 100% = A, 80-89% = B, 70-79% = C, and so on. When you get to 50%, you’re at an F.

But the SAT looks something like this:

This is an APPROXIMATION; may vary from test to test.

So if you walked out of that test feeling like you only got about half the questions right, you’d actually be around average performance (50th percentile) on the SAT! If you were to get around 74% correct, you’d have performed better than 84% of students who took this test.

What does this mean? First of all, don’t panic over missing a few questions; your score isn’t really in jeopardy. As you can see from the chart, you can actually miss 15 questions and still be in the top performers. What a relief!

6. A few strategies never hurt… Though we’re focusing on skills, we still want to share a few tips that will maximize your success on this day.

    1. Collective bubbling: Consider transferring multiple answers at a time. It’s hard to keep switching tasks from the test back to the bubble sheet every question. Practice this: answer a page or two in the booklet, then collectively transfer the answers in groups. This saves brain power – and Khan Academy suggests it can even save you time.  
    2. Don’t leave anything blank. Omitting questions is soooo 2015! Guess away without penalty on the revised SAT.
    3. Memorize those math formulas, even though they give them to you. This isn’t necessary, but if you’re spending time going back and forth to the formulas provided, you’ll lose time. It’s best to memorize the formulas ahead of time and be able to recall them. We recommend reviewing the night before, too.

7. Get to know the test.

It’s important to know how far a race is before you start running; in that same vein, know what you’re sitting down to do. Look at directions, timing, and the number of questions each section has before you walk into the test. This will make sure you’re not surprised. The College Board is completely transparent about the structure of the test; they expect you to be prepared.

Some basic SAT test specifications

Did you know the test is over two hours for sophomores and over three hours for juniors? For juniors taking the essay, it’s four hours. That’s a long time – you may need to build stamina just to be able to focus and sit that long.

8. Don’t ignore your strengths.

If you were a basketball player who relied on your three-point shots to win games, you definitely would not stop practicing three-point shots. Bolstering things you’re already good at might take less energy and be less stressful.

9. Reflect.

In our department, we reflect on past, present, and future.

    1. Past: You’ve taken a few tests in your lifetime, both standardized and in-class. Look back and reflect on your performance on previous assessments. Do you see any trends?
    2. Present: How are you doing in your classes? Do any tasks seem harder to you, take more energy, or create more anxiety than others? Do those indicate any learning trends to you?
    3. Future: We talked about goals, and can’t stress them enough. How do these trends match skills you’ll need for a future desired career or academic need?

10. Ask questions.

Use #thesatchallenge for any questions you have (no Twitter account needed), email us at SAT-group@svvsd.org, or visit the counselors at your school. There’s no reason to have any questions left unanswered before test day when we have access to so many resources, so just ask!

 

Permanent link to this article: https://tech.svvsd.org/family/2017/02/17/how-to-practice-for-the-sat-and-psat-10/

Feb 03

Information Literacy: Raising Media-Savvy Kids

According to a study by the Stanford History Group, over 80% of students are unable to “distinguish between…’sponsored content’ and a real news story on a website” (Shellenbarger, 2016). Because anyone with a phone can create and publish content online, how can parents help students not get infowhelmed?

Knowing how critical it is to evaluate sources in a constantly changing online environment, here are a few resources below to help:

Helping Students Evaluate Information Sources from the Digital Resource Center

How to Spot Fake News (And Teach Kids be Media-Savvy) from Common Sense Media

 

Permanent link to this article: https://tech.svvsd.org/family/2017/02/03/news-literacy-how-to-spot-fake-news/

Jan 19

Connecting with Intent: Privacy and Security Online

The internet provides a wealth of opportunity for students to learn, create and collaborate with others across the globe. However with every connection students make online they run the risk of divulging private information. How do we create a safe environment that allows our students to flourish academically and still safeguards their identity and information?

From password creation to safe YouTube searches Common Sense Media has a wealth of information to help keep yourself and your students safe online while allowing for independence and creativity. Check out the following resources to learn more:

The video above is a great resource for primary students.  For secondary students please view the video Protecting Kids’ Privacy Online

Permanent link to this article: https://tech.svvsd.org/family/2017/01/19/connecting-with-intent/

Jan 19

So much to read! Leveraging district ebook collections

books framed by ipad bevel

Maybe you’re tired of reading the same book with your child over and over again. Maybe your time budget won’t allow for a trip to the local public library or your finances need to be focused on priorities other than books right now. Whatever the reason inspiring your search for ways to get new books into your children’s hands, St. Vrain Valley School District has several avenues to help. And, each is easily accessible using district-provided devices. I’ve outlined the process for accessing the best two below along with a summary of what kind of books you can find there.

The District Digital Library

Book Levels: Elementary, Middle, High

Powered by Overdrive, the District Digital Library is a collection of tens of thousands of ebooks available to anyone within SVVSD with a district username and password. The collection includes ebooks, audiobooks, and videos. Collections are age-limited so that students at each school level have access only to content that is age-appropriate. They can access the library here. While Overdrive does have an app available through the most common app stores, the easiest way to access texts is through a device’s web browser. Once students begin reading a book, Overdrive marks their place and syncs across devices. Readers can also highlight and annotate within texts. Even when a book has been returned these highlights are still accessible through their library accounts.

MyOn

Book Levels: Elementary and Middle

Similar to the Digital Library, MyOn allows students to access ebooks from a central digital collection. MyOn features fiction and non-fiction titles across multiple genres. Newer readers can activate a read aloud function that will read the book to them while highlighting each word in sync. Many SVVSD schools have reading challenges for their students through MyOn, asking them to meet a goal of minutes read. Teachers and school can also activate simple comprehension quizzes for each book, and readers can write reviews for other in-district users after completing a book. To access MyON, your child can click here and select “Students and Most Teachers” then enter their district user name and password.

Even more access to books in the home can be achieved by becoming a patron of your local public library. All public libraries serving SVVSD families also use Overdrive as their ebook platforms. Families with public library cards can use district devices to access public library collections and books for the whole family.

For guidance on reading with your children, take a look at the Language Arts Blog series on Family Community Literacy. Each post is dedicated to a single idea of how to make reading and writing fun and engaging in your home without requiring additional resources or an extensive time commitment.

Just read. The research is clear, students who come from homes where reading is valued and modeled by adults become better readers themselves. Through SVVSD’s online text resources and digital devices, you’ve everything you need to make your home a place where reading is valued and easily accessible.

Permanent link to this article: https://tech.svvsd.org/family/2017/01/19/leveraging-district-ebook-collections/

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