Mrs. K Science: The Blog

This is a place where I'll post my musings about technology in the classroom, lessons I've used successfully, and other Ed Tech stuff I find/use...

Special Needs - 2- Creating Products to Assess Mastery in the Online Environment

posted Oct 28, 2019, 5:18 AM by Emily Kroutil

I teach science, so I have a experience with science assignments. The most recognizable assignments in my course are labs. I currently teach AP Environmental Science, so my students are frequently asked to write lab reports, which prepares them for the free response part of the AP exam where they need to be able to express themselves clearly and succinctly in written form. If they are not clear with their writing, they will not earn points on the AP exam for their response and if they are not succinct in their responses, they will not finish the three free response questions in time.

We have one assignment in my course that explores the concept of LD-50, which is the dose of a chemical that will kill 50% of the sampled population. The students are asked to test brine shrimp by exposing them to herbal tea, which is not toxic to humans, but can be toxic to brine shrimp. The handout gives them detailed instructions on how to create the different concentrations of tea brine (very salty tea water). The students are given mortality data on the lab handout. This means that they do not have to directly interact with brine shrimp for their experiment. 

This assignment explores the concept of LD-50, which is a required concept that often appears on the AP exam. The students have exposure to LD-50 data and are asked to make a graph (dose-response curve) with a trend line (another important skill for science and the AP exam). The students are asked to summarize the procedures in the lab handout, analyze the data in their "experiment", and write a conclusion. All of these are important skills, so I would consider these strengths of the assignment. 

The assignment provides data for the students: 
This, to me, is both a positive and a negative. I like how if students have an ethical complaint about harming brine shrimp or have difficulty getting access to brine shrimp, for whatever reason, they can still complete the lab. However, I do think that when students complete a hands-on lab, they are more likely to remember the concepts covered in the lab. A better option would be a virtual lab, where they could manipulate the virtual experiment to collect their data, but until I learn how to do vector drawings and make web applications, this is not something I can realistically create (although I've asked my husband, who writes web apps, to work this...). Some students have commented on my end of course survey about their likes and dislikes, that they think this assignment isn't very useful because they aren't "doing anything" for the data. Other students have expressed that they are thankful that the lab did not require them to kill brine shrimp because their religion is a peaceful one and they cannot eat meat, nor kill living things. So, while the assignment is not perfect, it does serve the purpose of getting the students to create a dose-response curve, which is an essential skill for any study of LD-50.

For this lab, the requirements of the final product are pretty set: writing an introduction, testable hypothesis (essential skill for the AP exam), summarize the methods, calculating percent mortality and creating a graph (also an essential skill), analyzing their results (essential - reflecting on their data), and a conclusion (essential - succinctly summarizing their results). However, the way they present this information is not set. Right now, the students typically present this information in paper format, which means their final product looks a lot like an essay. However, they are not required to adhere to this method. For example, I have one student who submits a PowerPoint for her lab reports and has a slide for each section of the lab report. I'm not sure if this helps organize her thoughts or if she likes adding creativity and personalizing her submission with color and backgrounds. Either way, she is providing all of the required elements, so she earns full credit. I never explicitly told her to make her lab reports like this, she just started doing it. I think I could do more to let the students know that they can submit their lab report in different formats (Prezi, PowerPoint, Glogster, etc.), as long as they include the required sections.

I think this lab has a great opportunity for choice. Because the handout includes detailed methods and brine shrimp (sea monkeys) and tea are easy to obtain, students are given the choice of conducting the experiment at home or using the provided data. Right now, the vast majority of students use the given data because it is easier, but for those students that prefer hands-on experiments, they are encouraged to do the lab at home.

A lab report typically requires two pieces of software - a graphing program and a word-processing program. Typically, I do my graphing in my lab walkthrough videos using Excel, because their virtual school tuition includes access to Excel on both computers and mobile devices. Usually, I recommend Word for their lab reports, because their virtual school tuition includes Word too and this is the traditional method for completing lab reports. However, I have many students that use Google docs to complete their assignments. As mentioned above, I could also let students know they could use PowerPoint/Google Slides to complete their lab report. And, if they want to get really creative, they can make a Prezi or Glogster or some other type of "Poster" method to create their lab report.

This final product of this assignment is designed to directly prepare the students for the written portion of the AP exam. This is almost as important as the actual concepts covered in the lab because one of their three FRQs asks them to design an experiment, one FRQ asks them to do calculations, and they can also be asked to create a graph on their free-response section. Additionally, the AP exam is increasingly asking students to analyze data and graphs and come to reasonable conclusions given the data/graphs presented. All of this is typically done in written format. The College Board is very strict about their requirements and rarely provide accommodations for students. When they do provide accommodations, they are typically large print or Braille exams, computers for essays, and extra breaks. For this reason, AP teachers are encouraged to have students complete assignments as closely as possible to the AP exam. For example, our exam does not have a spoken portion, so allowing students to present their lab report as a video or audio assignment would not be advised, because they need to practice the format they use on the AP exam. This is even more important for students that are not comfortable with this method, because they need as much practice as possible. However, as long as the students submit the required information in written format, they receive credit. This means that they can write an essay-like paper or presentation, like my student that uses PowerPoint. I also let the students write their methods in numbered format as opposed to paragraph format, which is how a traditional lab report would ask for this information. The same goes for the analysis section. Students are typically given questions to answer in the analysis question. I allow them to include the questions and/or number their responses. 

In an online classroom, they can submit their final product in any sort of written format that allows me access to the following aspects of their lab report:
  • Introduction - background, purpose, and hypothesis
  • Methods - can be numbered, summarized
  • Data - data tables and graph; does not have to be discussed
  • Analysis - can number their responses
  • Conclusion - how data supports/does not support hypothesis, any errors present, what they'd do differently next time
The written requirements of the final product are pretty set, but this lab does allow students some additional hands-on experience with the concepts for those that would like that type of learning experience. For those that do not or cannot, they can use the provided data. My lab walkthrough video walks them through making the graph for this assignment using Excel, so they can follow along to make the graph. The video also works through some of the required calculations in the analysis section, so they can also follow along with that part. 

Special Needs - 2- Specific Strategies for Online Differentiation and Personalization

posted Oct 21, 2019, 3:08 PM by Emily Kroutil

Each semester, there are several things I do to learn about my students - both academically and personality-wise. I typically do these 4 things by the first week of class:

  1. Look at past performance data available to me
  2. Make welcome calls to families
  3. Receive (and implement) any accommodations for the student
  4. Make a welcome post about myself, read the student's welcome discussion post, and respond individually to each student's post


As soon as a student is added to my roster, I look at their data. I look at where they go to school, their grade, etc. Then, I look to see if they have taken classes with us before. If they have not, I know I'll need to keep a careful eye on them at the beginning of the semester because they may have trouble with the format of the course. If a student has taken courses with us before, I color their names green on my spreadsheet so I know they should be fairly comfortable with the format. If they have taken courses with us before, I also look at the following information:

  1. Their past courses and grades (in the red box) -
    1. Have they taken an AP course with us before (I teach AP)? - If so, what was their grade in the course? If it was low, I know I need to keep an extra eye out for them. If they've taken an AP course and have done well, then I know it should be relatively smooth sailing with that student. And, if their grade does start to drop, I need to check in, because that is unexpected and something might be going on.
    2. What subjects have they taken online? - Have they taken science courses with us before? Or were they primarily another subject? If science, they should have a good hold on how our science classes work. If not, I need to keep an eye on them, especially when it comes to lab reports.
    3. What was their grade in previous courses? - If their grade was low, I know I need to keep close tabs on them. If their grade was in the low 70s, I also need to keep close tabs on them because they will likely need a lot of support. If their grade was very high, I probably won't need to do much to keep them on track in the course.
  1. Their current GAVS courses (the course NOT in the red box above) -
    1. Are they taking many courses with us? - If so, this might mean that they are homebound or have some reason to do most or all of their classes online. If not, they probably take most of their classes at their home school and likely have a full load of classes on top of mine.
    2. Are any of their other courses AP courses? - If so, I know they will be spending a lot of time online and might need extra support because AP courses, especially an AP AB (full year course in one semester) takes quite a bit of work and time to complete successfully.
  2. Their designation (Regular education/Special Needs/Gifted) -
    1. If they are special needs, have they been assigned a case manager at my school? If they are designated special needs, but do not have a case manager, I need to let the special needs department know about this student in case they are unaware and they can be on the lookout for their accommodations.



Once I start making welcome calls, if the parent answers, I sometimes get an idea of the student. Parents of high-achieving students are often quick to tell me that their student does well in school and they rarely have to get involved or intervene. If a student struggles, sometimes the parent won't tell me, but I can tell from their tone that they may not be comfortable with school or teachers. Sometimes they will tell me and I'll give them some strategies for success I like to pass on to parents (use the schedule like a checklist, turn in work early, work every day, do NOT wait until the last minute, etc). Sometimes, they will tell me about any accommodations their child usually receives or any learning differences their child may have. This information is very helpful in learning about the student.


Once the students' Special Needs Case manager sends me their accommodation information. I have some more data to add to my repository about the student. Usually, this email tells me why the student is being served under the IEP or 504 and the accommodations. Here is an example of part of one of those emails:

For example, If I see that a student needs assignments broken into smaller parts, I know the student may struggle with executive functioning, and I can supply some additional strategies that have worked for those students in the past. It is helpful to know what strategies are in place to help the student because that gives me an idea of where the student might struggle.


At this point, I've learned quite a bit about the student, even though I usually have yet to talk to the student. The first assignment in my course is a welcome discussion post. The students are asked to answer a few questions about themselves. 

I love this assignment because I get to hear from the students about themselves. They share their favorite movies and music, what sports or instruments they play, and I get a little glimpse into their personality. I try to make a little mental note about each student and reply to each post specifically about that student.


After the welcome post, I know quite a bit about each student before they've done anything related to my content area.  Throughout the semester, I get more information about the students - when they like to work, whether they tend to procrastinate, whether they are utilizing the extra resources I provide, etc. All of this information helps me support the student as best as I can.

Special Needs - 2 - Best Practices for Online Communication (Assignment #1)

posted Oct 13, 2019, 6:27 PM by Emily Kroutil

I decided to write about Option 2. I've included it here for reference:

You have a student in your online English class who has a 504 Plan in place for ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). The plan indicates she has significant difficulties with staying focused and executive functioning skills, making organization a constant challenge for her. The 504 committee that developed her plan decided to try an online placement for your one class to see if the online environment is an appropriate fit for future classes. So far, it seems she is enjoying and thriving in your class; she has been active in the class for the first couple of weeks, crafting thoughtful and meaningful posts and responses to classmates, she is asking questions when she needs clarification on a direction or a concept, and is turning in assignments and taking tests and quizzes on a regular basis. However, you notice she is turning in her work at various times, not necessarily in order as per the pacing schedule with due dates you have provided.

In this scenario, it is obvious that our student, whom I will call Teresa for ease of explanation, is struggling with executive functioning, which is a known challenge for her. This means that she may struggle with things that seem "easy" to others, such as keeping track of what assignments are due when, completing assignments, prioritizing assignments, and self-monitoring. So, for example, our schedules may be overwhelming to her, with a whole week or weeks displayed on the same page and several "asks" per day. 

There are a few things we can do to support Teresa. First, I would call Teresa's mom and explain the situation. Most likely, Teresa's mom has been working on these difficulties for years with her and might have some strategies in place that seem to work for Teresa. Then, mom and I could work on a plan to modify these strategies for her online class. For example, students that struggle with executive functioning, often do well when everything but what they need to do RIGHT NOW is covered up, so the other information does not distract them. She may be used to covering up all of a test, except the question she is working on. If so, Teresa could print out her schedule and cover up all but the current day's work so she can focus on exactly what she needs to do that day:

Or, Teresa might benefit from a simple list that lists exactly what she needs to turn in each week, but nothing else. This might help her focus. Here is an example of a simple checklist I created for a student this semester: Fall 2019 Due Date Checklist.

Next, I would email Teresa, mom, and her GAVS Special Education teacher a summary of what we talked about. If there was anything we agreed that I would provide, such as the schedule above, I would send that as well. This way, both Teresa and her mom have a written copy of what we discussed that they could refer back to as needed.

The third method of communication I would use to support Teresa is making sure she understands how to access the Course Resource S'mores for each module. These newsletters have FAQ, walkthrough videos, and other helpful tips for each assignment. I link these newsletters in the Bulletin Board section of my course:

When students click the button, they are directed to a S'more newsletter like this one: Chemical Oceanography. Hopefully, if Teresa has questions while she is working, she can reference the newsletter and have her questions answered right away, which could reduce the amount of time she spends "down the rabbit hole". For example, if the newsletters didn't exist, she might have a question while working on her assignment. She might navigate away from the assignment to send me an email to ask her question (or to Google to try and research the answer). Then, she'd already be away from the assignment, so she might decided to check Facebook or Instagram and then get lost in social media and then, before she knows it, an hour or more has passed and she hasn't gotten any farther in her assignments. Instead, she can check the newsletter, find the answer to her question immediately, and then continue on with her assignment (at least that's the hope). Hopefully, these would be helpful to Teresa, since she struggles with self-monitoring.

Ideally, reducing distractions on her pacing schedule, a weekly due date checklist, and the FAQ/Tips newsletters would help Teresa turn in her work in order and following the course pacing guide. This would bring her grade up in the course. But, perhaps more importantly, she would learn some valuable strategies that she could utilize in future online courses, since the online format seems to be working well for her otherwise.

Lunch and Learn 2019: First Aid For Communication

posted Jul 24, 2019, 1:49 PM by Emily Kroutil   [ updated Jul 24, 2019, 2:59 PM ]

Last fall, I received the following email from a student in my class:

I replied with the following email that night:
This is very similar to an email template that we provide for mentees at Georgia Virtual School and very similar to  emails I've sent countless times before. I like to emphasize the documentation, because like I say in the email, I've never seen an extension request approved without some sort of documentation. We also live to encourage students to continue working on their assignments while they wait to hear back about their extension request because we want them to keep working and not stop everything waiting for the approval/denial of the extension request.

I sent the email and didn't really think much more about it....until I got the following email the next morning:
I was just completely flabbergasted to receive that email (obviously, since I still think about it and immediately thought about it for this assignment). Previously, mom and I had had a good relationship and she'd even sent me AP Environmental Science resources as either she or her husband was an environmental scientist in some capacity. I can only guess that mom was completely stressed about the impending loss of her grandmother and that, somehow, the message in my previous email, was misinterpreted by her son and instead of asking to read my email (again, the stress of the situation), she quickly typed and sent this email. When my father in law was in the ICU before he passed away, my mother in law was very upset and I became a target for her frustration. Now, I know she was simply upset at the situation and a daughter in law was an easy target. It doesn't make it right, but I understand that when you are under that type of stress, you don't always behave rationally. 

This mother's words obviously hurt because I do feel like we try to treat our students with compassion and understanding. But we also have policies and procedures in place and it is important for everyone that attends and teaches at Georgia Virtual that these policies are applied fairly to all students. If they aren't, it can compromise the integrity of these policies. I also know that mom was not thinking about all of that at the time.

I replied with the following email and copied my ILT on my response, just so she was aware of the situation:

I never heard back from mom. About a month later, I got a message that a bereavement request was submitted but denied due to no documentation and then approved later that afternoon once documentation had been received. I assume this was because the grandmother had passed away, but the family didn't contact me again. I don't know if it was because mom was ashamed of the hasty, angry email she sent the previous month or if she simply had enough on her plate with the loss of her grandmother, that emailing me was simply not on her radar, or both.

I've thought a lot about this situation for a few reasons:
  1. Mom got upset so quickly and I'd sent the email about extensions countless other times and it was never received that way
  2. I was caught so off guard by her email because I'd previously had a good relationship with the family and I had tried to express sympathy in the first email I sent to her son.
  3. How was this situation so different from countless others and how could her anger have been avoided.

I think I handled the situation pretty professionally and in my response to mom, I tried to include my personal experience with the loss of my own grandmother to try and express that I really was sorry about the situation, but I had no control over extensions and whether they were approved or not. I thought about calling mom, but I was worried that she was in the hospital and if her grandmother were as close to death and she thought, the last thing she would want to do is talk to a teacher, and, because, she was already upset with me and she was obviously stressed and I knew I would be an easy target for her to let out her anger/sadness/frustration on (again) and I really didn't want that.

With that being said, I had a similar situation this summer. A student had spent time in the hospital because his uncle was in failing health and his uncle passed away the previous day. The student emailed and asked for an extension. I sent the following email:
The email reply was basically the same, but instead of putting the types of documentation in parenthesis in the 3rd to last paragraph, I tried to put the typical types I see for this in a separate sentence describing how other students have handled the situation. I also emphasized in the last sentence that I sympathized and understood the stress the student was under - suffering a loss and trying to balance schoolwork. 

Additionally, I spoke to mom via phone, not long after I sent the email. I wanted to make sure she knew that I was sympathetic to the situation. Mom and I discussed types of documentation that might be accepted. I let mom know that I would go ahead and fill out the extension request and mention in the request that she would be providing documentation/another extension request the next morning. I told mom that she and the student should focus on the funeral tonight (she said the student was contemplating missing the funeral so he could complete his work) and that we would figure something out for documentation (they were Muslim and they don't have obituaries or funeral programs in their culture. His extension ended up getting approved (they submitted a death certificate) and mom and student were both very thankful for my help.

I'm not sure the slight changes I made to the email and/or the phone call helped, but I like to think they did. Through both of these situations, even though they happened before the Lunch and Learn, I tried to employ some of the strategies in the presentation, such as actively sympathize (adding extra sympathy to the end of the email), remain calm, and think about the fact that emails are forever. When sending emails, I try to think about whether I'd like that email printed on the front page of the newspaper, and, this is a big one for me, I try not to send emails when I am upset or angry.

When I look at these emails with an even more critical eye, I'm thinking that the "Thanks!" at the end should be taken out either completely or replaced with "Thank you." I think it would reflect a more somber tone in agreement with the student and/or parent's tone.

The big thing I need to take from the presentation is not to take a parent's anger personally. When a parent attacks you either on the phone or via email, it is easy to take their attacks personally (and, again, obviously I did on some level or I wouldn't still be thinking about it), but I need try to remember that they usually have something going on in their lives that makes them act that way (stress at work, a family member's illness, worried about their child's success, etc.) and that all they really want is what is best for their child.

Special Needs - 1 - Developing an Individualized Plan (Assignment #3)

posted Aug 28, 2018, 8:45 AM by Emily Kroutil

Overall, I like Plan B much better.  Plan B is more specific in many ways.  Below are a few of the things I liked about Plan B over Plan A:

  • This plan was updated recently.  504 Plans and IEPs should be updated yearly.  Students change and the supports they require in order to be successful can change.  For example, a student may not need a 100% time accommodation anymore and may only need a 50% accommodation.  The opposite can also be true.  A student with a 50% extended time accommodation may still be struggling and may need more time to complete their assignments. If these plans are not reviewed frequently, the student might continue to struggle.
  • The section "Information Relating to Nature of Disability" was more detailed.  I liked that it included what I'll call "personality information."  I find it helpful to know if a student is shy and doesn't often reach out for assistance.  To me, the more information provided about the student, the better I can accommodate this student.
  • The section "Description of Accommodations/Services" was very specific. I liked seeing exactly how much extended time was offered to Sally.  As the instructor, I find it helpful to know exactly what I need to do for a student to best support them. Plan A mentioned preferential seating. This accommodation is not incredibly useful in the online environment.
  • The "Student Responsibilities" section was also more detailed.  This section mentioned that Sally should communicate BEFORE a due date to arrange an extension, not after. This helps Sally be proactive with her assignments, rather than reactive.
Honestly, I thought Plan B was very detailed and included more information than I usually receive about my online students.  This plan seemed to be written especially for the online environment.  It mentioned accommodation like making sure Sally knows how to use the zoom function on her browser, how to access the additional resources in the sidebar, and synchronous sessions.  It also left out any mention of preferential seating and other obvious face-to-face classroom accommodations.

Plan A was not preferable for a variety of reasons.  Mostly, this plan was vague and seemed to include some accommodations that make no sense in an online environment.  I've outlined a few of the problems I had with Plan A below:
  • Plan A was implemented in 2016, but isn't scheduled to be reviewed until 2019.  This means her plan is not scheduled to be reviewed for 3 years!  Three years is an eternity for a growing child!  That could be the entirety of middle school!  Or it could be implemented in 8th grade and wouldn't get looked at again until 11th grade!  That would mean the student could go almost all of their high school career without even a glance at their accommodations.  The adjustment from middle to high school often challenges students and not looking at the child's accommodations to see if they still make sense for 3 years is ridiculous!
  • The section "Information Relating to Nature of Disability" lacked information.  Plan B included things like Sally's personality and academic strengths. Leaving this information out of Plan A leaves the teacher receiving Plan A at a distinct disadvantage when trying to support Sally.
  • The section "Description of Accommodations/Services" was pretty vague. 
    • This section mentions extended time, for example, but does not mention how much.  With a plan like this, the teacher does not know how much extended time to offer the student.  We used to have problems with this in my face-to-face classroom.  Plans were written vaguely and stated that the student had "extended time" on their assignments.  Students and parents would approach teachers at the end of the semester with piles of work stating that their plan allowed them to turn in this work late.  Or, students would have, for example, a week of extended time, but then they wouldn't complete their assignments before the in-class test the assignments were meant to prepare the students for.  Having a reasonable and specific amount of extended time, keeps everyone on the same page. It lets the student know how much "extra" time they get and, hopefully, avoids procrastination.  It also lets the teacher know specifically how much extra time to offer the student.  
    • This section is vague with respect to the "reduce coursework" accommodations.  When this particular accommodation is written like this, students and parents often expect the number of assignments to be reduced drastically and sometimes even expect to "pick and choose" which assignments they complete.  Written this way, this accommodation does not take into consideration the fact that the student must still learn all of the state-mandated standards of the course.  Plus, some courses have a bare-bones number of assignments, so there isn't a lot of overlap or room for removing assignments without significantly compromising the integrity of the course.
    • This part of the plan also mentions preferential seating.  This makes little to no sense in an online environment.
  • The "Student Responsibilities" section lacked detailed. Students do well when they know exactly is expected of them.  This section lacked the detail that was found in Plan B.  It does not mention that Sally should contact the teacher BEFORE the due date, rather than after the due date if she needs an additional extension.

Special Needs 1- Accommodations in an Online Environment (Assignment #2)

posted Aug 26, 2018, 6:23 PM by Emily Kroutil   [ updated Aug 26, 2018, 6:24 PM ]

One semester, I had a student that had recently been in a severe car accident.  She'd been in the hospital for a long time (I don't remember exactly how long) and had continuing medical issues from the accident.  She was unable to attend face-to-face school because of the medical issues.  Throughout the semester, she was in and out of the hospital, sometimes for a week or more at a time.

The online environment was helpful for her in a number of ways:
  1. She was able to attend the synchronous sessions even while in the hospital. I remember one week in particular where I was conducting my synchronous session in the waiting room of the hospital waiting for my nephew's birth and she was in a completely different hospital in a completely different state attending the session.
  2. She was able to work on her assignments when her health allowed.  If she was able to work while in the hospital, she worked.  If not, she did not.  She received numerous extensions during the semester, but she always had her documentation in order.  Her mom was very good about keeping me in the loop (most of the time).  If I noticed she hadn't logged into Brightspace in a few days, I'd email mom and she'd immediately email back and let me know what was going on.
  3. She did not have to worry about seat time or attendance or things like that.  She could focus on her health without worrying about attendance issues. When I was in high school, I was very sick and missed approximately 50 days of the 180 day school year. I received notices that I would lose my parking permit due to absences and even received a letter with my straight A report card at the end of the year stating that I would not earn credit for any of my classes and would have to repeat them all, even though all of my absences had accompanying doctor's notes. This was very stressful for me and my parents and I'm glad that this was one worry my student did not have to deal with.
  4. Most of our labs are virtual labs.  They get the concept across to students, but do not require standing for long periods at lab benches, attending school in person, and can be completed by students in a hospital bed, if necessary.
The online environment does have a learning curve. Some students adapt to online learning easily, some struggle, and some never fully acclimate to online learning like they do the face-to-face classroom.  And that is okay.  

Some challenges students can face in the online environment are:
  1. Students do not have to physically walk into a classroom each day.  This is advantageous for some, but for some students, they need that physical, daily reminder of their course.  They need a "real" teacher standing in front of the classroom reminding them about due dates and assignments.  They need a teacher consistently walking by their desk and redirecting them to on-task behaviors.  And that is okay.
  2. Students need to take ownership of their own learning.  Students taking online classes need to view their daily schedule. They need to complete assignments according to the schedule so they do not fall behind and earn late points. Students need to consistently read their feedback.  Students need to log into the course daily, read the course content, attend synchronous sessions (or watch the recordings), and ask questions if they are stuck.  Some students take to this responsibility readily and some do not.  For example, I often get parents that tell me that their child does not like to ask the teacher questions, regardless of the format (in person, email, text, phone).  Many students do not know how to read their feedback in the course.  And more than I'd like to know probably skim the content or don't bother reading it at all.  It is okay if a student is not at the point in their educational journey to be responsible for their learning, but, online classes will be a struggle for them.  No matter how many phone calls, news announcements, emails, newsletters, etc. I provide, if a student is not ready to take responsibility for their learning, online learning may not be the best choice for them.  And that is okay.

Special Needs 1- Applying Strategies and Best Practices (Assignment #1)

posted Aug 26, 2018, 6:14 PM by Emily Kroutil   [ updated Aug 26, 2018, 6:23 PM ]

Reflect on the information presented in this lesson. Choose two of the scenarios below to respond to. Your reflection should include at least four well-developed paragraphs. For each scenario, discuss at least two difficulties each student may be experiencing in their online class and two best practices or specific strategies that might be helpful.

Scenario #2:

Joyce has accommodations for an Emotional/Behavioral Disorder. Her mother informed you that Joyce's specific diagnosis is Anxiety and Depression, and she sometimes does not respond well to correction. She plagiarized a large section of her essay for your class this week. How will you handle this situation?

Response to Scenario #2:

With Joyce, because she does have an EBD, it is important that I present this issue to Joyce and her parents objectively.  She still needs to follow the rules, even if she doesn't respond well to correction.  I would call her parents and discuss the issue with them.  Then, I would send a follow up email to Joyce, her parents, and facilitator.  In the email, I would mention that the original portions of Joyce's essay were very good and well-written.  Then I would mention the plagiarism.  Because we have access to TurnItIn, I would attach a PDF from TurnItIn that shows which portions of her essay were plagiarized and from where.  I would mention that when students use outside sources, they must cite them and put anything that is taken word-for-word from a website in quotations.  I would also direct Joyce and her parents to GAVS's extensive plagiarism resources, so she (they) can learn more about plagiarism.  Then, I would praise another part of Joyce's assignment. (Praise-correction-praise).

After addressing the issue, I would not bring it up again.  It is in the past for everyone involved and, hopefully, will not happen again.

Two Difficulties:
  1. It is possible that Joyce's anxiety makes it difficult for her to start assignments.  She may avoid logging in and working in the course because she is trying to avoid starting assignments and the possibility of failure, almost with an out of sight, out of mind view of the course.  Because she does not have to physically visit the classroom in a face-to-face school each day, she may be able to successfully avoid the course and her work long enough to get behind on her work.
  2. If Joyce has high levels of anxiety, she may worry excessively about her grades.  Some students with high anxiety want to do well so badly, that they end up doing things like plagiarizing assignments, because they want their assignments to be perfect or well-written so badly and they do not have confidence in their own abilities.  These students often attend schools with a culture of high-achievement and worry about their GPA, class rank, etc.  In my experience, students that attend schools like this and have high anxiety about their grades, rank, etc. are MORE likely to cheat or plagiarize assignments, even though this action usually has the opposite effect, academically.

Two Best Practices:
  1. In Joyce's case, it is important to objectively address issues as needed.  Issues need to be addressed, but as the teacher, I can address the issue and then move on.  It is important not to continually bring up the issue with her, as she doesn't respond well to correction and is most likely already anxious about her grade.  
  2. I would provide positive feedback for Joyce.  If she does well on an assignment, even a quick email mentioning how she had some good thoughts, etc. can go a long way.  

Scenario #3:

Kali has recently been diagnosed with Lupus
. The last few weeks, she has an inconsistent login history for your class due to her medical challenges. Kali is also behind on assignments, and she emailed about making up the work she missed while she was absent. Her medical diagnosis and absences have been verified and her absences have been medically excused. How would you support her?

Response to Scenario #3:

First, I would contact her assigned Special Needs Specialist at Georgia Virtual.  I would let them know that she has had medical issues recently and that they have been verified.  I would ask this person whether or not we can offer Kali an extension for the work she missed, as they would best know how we can offer an extension (and for how long), while still following GAVS policies. They would be able to help me craft a plan to help Kali make up her missing assignments. I'd also bring up the possibility of reducing Kali's coursework, if this hasn't already been done.

Two Difficulties:
  1. Kali may be having difficulty accessing the online course.  If she is very sick, she may not even feel up to working, let alone spending a lot of time in front of a computer.  This could cause her to fall behind on her work.
  2. Kali and her parents are probably very stressed about her condition.  Falling behind on her work could cause Kali and her parents to become even more stressed and worried about her schoolwork, which is important, but not nearly as important as Kali's physical and mental health.

Two Best Practices:
  1. When Kali is able to complete assignments, I would offer encouragement.  I would also work with her assigned Special Needs Specialist at GAVS to develop a plan to help her make up her missing assignments (and maybe even reduce some of the assignments).  I would also offer additional resources similar to THIS for Kali to to help her understand the content.
  2. I would stay in close contact with Kali and her parents so I know about times in which Kali may be having difficulties.  I would stay away from sending weekly failure emails, which may just stress Kali and her family more.

Summer Lunch and Learn 2018: Screencasting

posted Jul 23, 2018, 11:11 AM by Emily Kroutil   [ updated Jul 23, 2018, 11:22 AM ]

I attended the Lunch and Learn hosted in Jigsaw.  I'm looking forward to implementing at least a few of the tips presented:
  • using the Welcome Escape room in my class
  • adding email templates in Outlook
  • creating a video in Camtasia with a quiz
  • entering zeros with Michael's tip that allows zeros and feedback stamps to be seen in the dropbox AND gradebook

Artifact Description:
Mary Ellen, Carrie, and I had already spent some time discussing screencasting on Yammer.  And they'd hinted towards Mary Ellen's presentation, so I was excited to see Mary Ellen's presentation.  At ME and Carrie's suggestion, I'd already downloaded Camtasia and made a video or two with it, but very sparingly.  I hadn't really looked into all of the other bells and whistles.

Fast forward to the day of the Lunch and Learn.  I received my course evaluation that morning and one of the comments was, "Not everyone has Microsoft."  I'm assuming the student meant Office.  And I felt terrible, because even though I had a news announcement in the course telling them they had Office 365, I guess they hadn't figured out how to download it or had never read the announcement, so they hadn't taken advantage of the entire suite of Office apps available to them.  So, I quickly recorded a little screencast to show them how to download Office365.  Then my kiddos woke up, so I left the video for another time.

After watching the Lunch and Learn and seeing the requirements for the badge, I decided to use the video I'd recorded that morning as my artifact.  I would get to play around with Camtasia and practice with some special effects, get a new video ready for my students, and create my artifact for the badge all at once!  Efficiency at it's finest!


How to Download O365 Apps

I actually recorded the video with QuickTime because, well, I'm used to QuickTime and it's habit.  Importing videos into Camtasia was easy.  Camtasia is similar to iMovie, which I've used extensively, but more-full featured.  I was able to blur my emails, put a big red arrow pointing to where they should click to download Office, and highlight a section that had important information they should look for when they are installing Office.

Future Professional Impact:
I expect to continue to use Camtasia.  It is very easy to quickly make an instructional video for a student showing them how to do something or teach them something from the content.  It is easy to make videos FERPA-compliant with the blur tool and they can be uploaded to YouTube directly.  I like uploading videos to YouTube because YouTube videos can be embedded directly to a variety of places: Google sites (pages like this), Smore newsletters, Feedback, emails, etc.

TOOL PLC 1718: November Monthly Focus - Preparing for Live Sessions Using Data Analysis

posted Nov 13, 2017, 1:03 PM by Emily Kroutil

The rest of my synchronous sessions for this semester (3! How has the semester gone by so quickly?!?) are going to be tailored to final exam review.  

To prepare for these reviews, I go into the test and look at the statistics for each question:

Then I choose the questions with the lowest % correct and put those into a powerpoint. The 3rd question under Direction MC, that only had a 33.33% correct rate is the question below:

I also make a slide at the beginning of each test's review that has all the formulas they should have on their formula sheet for that unit:

During the live session, I remind them that the session is focused on going over those frequently missed questions and not teaching the topics from those units.  If they want to see me teaching the topics, they can go to the synchronous session from that week linked in the User Links section.  

We have 11 units, so I broke the last 3 synchronous sessions into about 3 units/session.  If I tried to do all in one session, it would be VERY long and they wouldn't get many practice questions from each module.  

I also post an ELO for each review in a special dropbox section called "Extra Learning Opportunities".  They have to answer (and show their work) for 1 question (my choice, not theirs) from each unit covered in the review:
Then, I give them 1 pt back on their test(s).  This makes sure that each point back is actually tied to standards from that unit, which is important (and policy).

Doing the review this way takes a lot of prep on my end (looking through the questions, putting them into the powerpoint, solving them ahead of time, making sure I have all the formulas they will need, etc.), but I think it's worth it.

I've also been told in the past by students that this format is helpful because it gives them access to me working out as many possible test questions as possible and that these concepts/questions have reappeared on their final (I know this, obviously, since I know which questions can and cannot appear on the final, but its good to know they think it is helpful).

Jigsaw 104: Internship

posted Nov 6, 2017, 11:48 AM by Emily Kroutil

This session was all about using some more advanced features of Jigsaw and integrating everything we've learned so far.  The first thing that was discussed was creating a storyboard for your lessons.  I'll be the first to admit, I don't do this, at least on paper/digitally.  

I usually have an idea in my mind of what I want to do for the lesson, such as, "first I'll discuss important dates and housekeeping information, then I'll introduce the lesson with a video or explanation, and then I'll work out some practice problems.  At the end, I'll take questions."  

Then, I think about what assets I want to use in the session, "I need to upload the PowerPoint I created with the practice problems written out.  Then, I had that graphic I wanted to explain.  I'd like to do that big, so I'll add it as an image in the whiteboard.  Then, in case something doesn't go well, I'll add a video of me working out the practice problems so I can show that just in case."  Then, I load all these assets into Jigsaw and open my session to make sure they are showing up the way I want them to.

And then I'll write out (on paper) the things I want to mention by writing on the whiteboard.  I also work out the practice problems on paper ahead of time so I've got them ready to go and don't have to mess with typing things into the calculator during the session, if I can help it.  I do all of this in a notebook I keep for working out problems within the course or for jigsaw sessions, since I am not one of those folks that can work physics problems in their head.  I HAVE to write it out!

Then, I do the session.

I rarely use quizzes or polls because attendance at my live sessions tends to fluctuate around zero, and oh, zero.  

If I were to write out a storyboard for this, it would look something like this:
I will admit that I wrote this storyboard based on a lesson I did early in the semester that I knew used 3 panes.  Using 3 panes didn't really work with my plan for the next few lessons, and it is more important to me to spend my hour with the students (even if they are just using the recording), doing something I think is beneficial for them than simply doing something to do it.  For the housekeeping information, I usually write that out like this:
And my work for the practice problems tends to look a lot like this: 
Notice I label the slide, so I can quickly make sure I'm working out/looking at the correct problem.  This is important on weeks like the one above, where the practice problems all look very similar, with very tiny differences.

Some important information about the video below.  The whole 1D Kinematics lesson is provided, but in case you don't want to watch an hour-long video on physics (I don't blame you, really, I don't), here are the important points:
  1. From 0:00 - 3:00 I discuss housekeeping information.  You'll notice the text is VERY small.  As I mentioned above, this recording is from early in the semester, before I knew how TINY the text in the notes section actually is.  If I were to re-record this same lesson, I would use the whiteboard pane to write this portion.  In my storyboard above, I wrote it as if I was using the whiteboard pane, because I knew that this notes section isn't particularly useful in its current format (being unable to adjust the text size).
  2. From 3:16 - 5:24 the video I uploaded plays.  I chose this video because we were going to be discussing the difference between SPEED and VELOCITY in this session and I thought the cute video would be a good way to hook or engage my students.  No one attended live, so I wasn't able to gauge this.  But when I taught in the face-to-face classroom, the video would get their attention.
  3. From 5:39 - end of the video, I work out a variety of practice problems.  Each week, I try to work out at least one of each "type" of problem for my students.  That way, they can refer to the video of me walking them through the problems if they get stuck.

1D Kinematics

I would change a few things about the lesson above.  Since it was at the beginning of the semester, I've already changed a few things, especially:
  1. The notes pane.  I NEVER use this pane anymore for notes.  It displays WAY too small for students to see, especially in the low quality of a recording.  I have switched to the whiteboard pane for this type of information.  That way I can write as large as I want and it shows up MUCH better in the recording.
  2. I have switched to a black background for working out problems.  This was suggested in my Advanced TOOL group and makes the colors stand out much better.
  3. I would love to implement little "check" quizzes here and there, but until I can get some consistent attendance, it doesn't really make a lot of sense to spend time creating a bunch of questions to give no one.  I think that could make the session more interactive.  Although, just having students attend live would make it more interactive too :)
I think my students appreciate when I work out the problems.  Unless they watch the recording within a day or so, the housekeeping information could be of little use to them, but I still like to include it just in case.  I'm not sure "enjoy" is a good word to use, because I don't know many students that "enjoy" working out practice problems, but most of them know that they need to do this in order to understand the material well enough to earn a decent grade in the course.

And my attendance check:

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