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GaVS ePortfolio: School Goals

GOAL #1: Exceed pass rates for all milestones.

This spring I taught Physics B with Georgia Virtual School.  It was my first GAVS course and does not have a milestone test.  However, I tried to maintain a high level of rigor in my course.  If students leave my course and enroll in a Milestone course, I'd like to hope that they would be accustomed to the level of rigor required in a Milestone course after being in my course.

Usually, in the sciences, students take Biology, a Milestone course, before physics.  But, if for some reason, a student enrolls in Biology after taking my Physics B course, I hope they not only are accustomed to the rigor of a Milestone course but also understand how to be responsible for their own knowledge acquisition.

I work hard to place resources in my students' hands that can help them be successful.  I created instructional videos, reviewed for each module test during synchronous sessions, gave detailed feedback, and supported their quest for knowledge in the course.  However, no matter how many tools I put at a student's disposal, some students work even harder to not take advantage of these helping hands.  I hope, that at least the majority of my students have learned, after taking my course, how to be responsible learners.

The Best Practices and Differentiation pages on my ePortfolio discusses many of these "helping hands" in depth.  Below are a few of the most applicable to this goal:

Dropbox Folders
I noticed early on in the semester that the dropbox folders didn't have any instructions for the students.  This was fine for those students that carefully made their way through each module, watching the videos, reading the text, and generally being great students.  Some students, however, tend to go straight to the dropbox folder and just submit their assignment and often don't spend much time on the content.  These students were turning in their work without showing their calculations, using any (let alone correct) units on their answers.  As a result, they were losing a lot of points that could have been avoided.

My course also didn't have a specified point breakdown for the assignments, so the students had no idea what each part of the assignment was worth.

I created this little stamp and posted it in every appropriate dropbox folder and test.  I also posted the point breakdowns I created for each assignment in the dropbox folder so they'd know EXACTLY what they needed to do to earn full credit on their assignments.  Several students have told me that this is very helpful for them because they know what I'm looking for as they complete their assignment.

Bulletin Board
I will admit, I was a science major in college first and a teacher second.  So I don't have a lot of experience with bulletin boards, both in the face-to-face classroom and online.  My face-to-face classroom was always covered with a bunch of science posters and if I happened to have a bulletin board, I'd post interesting science quotes or articles that I found online.  So, when it came time to create an "engaging" bulletin board, I wasn't sure what to do.

Then, I attended a Just In Time session about homepages and the presenter mentioned that you could embed a SMORE in the bulletin board.  I'd been trying to think of a way to put the instructional videos I'd created for my flipped students somewhere where my GAVS students couldn't miss them.  This seemed like the perfect place.  So I embedded playlists of my instructional videos in the SMORE and posted it to the bulletin board.  I also included my Twitter feed as a way to continue t post those interesting science articles that I used to post in my face-to-face classroom.

News Announcements
I tried to create engaging and interesting News Announcements for my students.  I tried to include memes that the students would find funny, but also get my point across and videos that could help introduce them to a topic.

I created a variety of News Announcements in my Physics Course, but they all fell into the following categories (roughly):
  • Reminders - Due Dates and Adobe Sessions.  These usually had a meme of some sort and then the "meat" of the announcement below (see first screenshot below)
  • Weekly Updates - these were shortened versions of the weekly newsletters I sent home each week.  They usually had a picture/video, explained what we were working on that week, gave the date and time of the weekly Adobe session, and listed the assignments due that week (see second screenshot below).  I tried to have these start on Sunday or Monday morning.
  • Course Hints/Helpful Tips - These announcements showed students how to find adobe recordings (see third screenshot below), how to check dropbox and quiz feedback, and answered questions that I seemed to get OVER AND OVER about particular assignments.
  • Miscellaneous - These announcements reminded the students that spring break was coming, if the late work window was adjusted due to a holiday, or simply an interesting video that I came across that related to what we were studying that week (see fourth screenshot below). 

One thing I tried really hard to do my first semester was give authentic feedback.  Some assignments felt like they needed more feedback than others.  If an assignment was watching a video and simply answering questions whose answers could be found in the video, not much feedback was needed ("Great job copying down answers from the video!"), so I would provide a link to a place where they could find more information on that topic or a graphic that went with the material in the assignment (see second screenshot below).  And I would ALWAYS include the point breakdown so they could see where, if anywhere, they missed points and then write something about why they lost points there ("You didn't show your work for this problem").

If they submitted a non-quiz or test before the weekly deadline, I would try and grade it, give feedback, and let them resubmit (For example, if they didn't show their work, they could resubmit with work shown).  That way, they had a reason to turn in their work early and check their feedback in a timely manner.  And, I usually ended up getting what I wanted from them in terms of their work, eventually.

For quizzes and tests, however, I tried to provide more detailed feedback.  I would usually include an image (I had a different image for 80 and above, 70s, and below 70), specific information about why that particular question was incorrect, and then remind them of the review I posted about that exact material (see first screenshot below).   For quizzes, I was hoping they'd watch the review before the test.  For tests, I was hoping they'd see there was a review and maybe watch the review for the next unit.

Weekly Newsletters
Each week, I sent home newsletters to the students and parents.  These newsletters had the date and time of the weekly Adobe session, listed the assignments due that week, explained a little about that we were studying, and tried to offer some sort of helpful hint.  

I created these newsletters in SMORE.  I think next semester, I may just embed these newsletters into the weekly news announcement, rather than both.

Spring 2017 Physics B Newsletters:
Summer 2017 Environmental Science B Newsletters:

Helpful Information
At the Spring PLS, our department had a "share" session in which teachers could share something they did that was really helpful.  One teacher shared that she created a SMORE for each module that had helpful hints for each assignment in that module and links/videos for additional practice/help.

I thought this was a great idea, so I created one for each module we have left this semester.  I will expand these to include each module in future courses, but you have to start somewhere:

Physics B Course Resources:
A best practice for online teaching is hosting synchronous sessions where the teacher and students can interact in real time.  I host weekly synchronous sessions for my students.  Students rarely attend live.  Whether this is because they'd rather watch the recording, they have busy schedules, or simply understand all of the content and do not have any questions (I can only hope!), I often conduct my sessions to no one.  Rather than sitting in front of my computer for an hour anxiously awaiting the student that never shows up, I have decided to post reviews for my students during this time.  I go over the important concepts in the module, work practice problems, and even discuss test/quiz questions that I feel are very difficult or tricky.

I have posted what I call "I Spy..." Extra Learning Opportunities (ELO) for students that watch the recordings or attend live.  They can submit a copy of the notes they took during the review OR answer 5 questions about the review and I will give them a point (not a percent) back on their test.  Between 15-20% of my students take advantage of this opportunity, but at least that's 15-20% of students that are watching these reviews, increasing their understanding, that weren't watching the reviews before I started offering the ELOs.

Final Exam Reviews - Remediation and Enrichment
I reviewed for the final exam during 4 different synchronous sessions:
I am hoping that this will be a way to remediate some concepts the students may have struggled with throughout the semester and also refresh their memories' of the content.  Overall, I had great attendance at these sessions.  I'm sure it had everything to do with the ELO incentive I offered for attendance.  Final exam scores are still coming in, but overall they are quite good.  I'm hoping this has something to do with the final exam reviews.

Extra Instructional Videos

When I taught in the face-to-face classroom, I created around 100 short instructional videos for physics content.  Students in my GaVS class had emailed me asking if we had a textbook or anything besides the modules and instructional videos provided within the course.

I decided to post the videos I created for my face-to-face students on the bulletin board in my GaVS Physics B course to, hopefully, provide an additional method of learning/understanding the content for my students.

I created a Smore and linked to the YouTube playlist for each content area and embedded the Smore in the Bulletin Board.  It provided an easy method to put the videos in one easy-to-find spot for my students.