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...

Lunch and Learn: Analytics

posted Oct 13, 2020, 6:36 PM by Emily Kroutil   [ updated Oct 13, 2020, 6:41 PM ]

This past summer, I taught Physics for the first time in Canvas. Typically, students struggle with significant figures, especially the rules for adding and subtracting with significant figures because they are weird. This summer was no different, even though I had an amazing group of kiddos. This fall was similar. Below are the analytics for the adding and subtracting significant figures questions for my Fall 2020 class (I've blurred out the actual numbers on the questions to protect quiz security):


So, while I was learning Studio this summer for Lunch and Learn, I created a Studio quiz to give my students practice with adding and subtracting significant figures. I found a Khan Academy video going over these concepts and created a short little quiz over these concepts. It wasn't graded and I didn't tell the students about it. I just put it in the module to see what happened. 

I put the "remediation" Studio Quiz BEFORE the graded quiz to try and catch those misconceptions BEFORE the students were quizzed over the concepts. Four students took the Studio quiz:

I've color-coded their results to protect their privacy and also so you can track their scores on the Studio quiz and then on the actual quiz (it's pretty interesting!).

The overall results of the graded quiz are below:

As you can see, the mean score on the quiz was 71%. Now, this quiz included some other concepts besides adding and subtracting significant figures, but typically that part is difficult.

Now let's get to the actual quiz results and see how our 4 kiddos that took the Studio Quiz did:

WOW, right? ALL of their scores were ABOVE the mean! In addition, even the kiddos that scored poorly on the Studio quiz scored well on the Graded quiz. I found this so interesting that I did a little more digging! Red Student got 3 of the 4 Addition/Subtraction questions correct! Purple Student got 3 of the 4 Addition/Subtraction questions correct too! So did Green Student. Blue Student, the one that earned a 20% on the Studio Quiz, got 4 of the 4 questions correct on the graded quiz!

This tells me a couple things:
  1. The Studio Quiz was worth my time to make - the students that interacted with the quiz earned above average scores on the quiz, regardless of their score.
  2. Those that scored low on the Studio Quiz went into the real quiz more prepared than those that didn't even attempt the Studio Quiz - whether the Studio Quiz reminded them that they needed to go back and review that material or what, anecdotally, it worked! It improved their grades on the actual graded quiz, which was the goal of the Studio Quiz.
  3. The analytics tools in Canvas are useful - If you have the time, they can provide you with some very useful information. 
I didn't look at their test scores because they'd already seen the "re-teaching" item before the first quiz.

Typically, I tend to look at the other Analytics in Canvas - access reports, average scores on assignments, etc. I've taught this course several times before, and even longer in the face-to-face classroom, so I have a pretty good idea of where students tend to struggle in the course. It was interesting to look at the quiz data and see that students are continuing to struggle with these concepts. 

However, the really interesting part, and the part I'm really excited about is how well the students that interacted with the "re-teaching" quiz that I placed BEFORE the graded quiz, did on the graded quiz! This is really encouraging. Sometimes I can get bogged down by the fact that I add extra items to my course and students seem to not use them or interact with them. This tells me that I need to focus on those that DO interact with the items I make for my students because these items ARE helpful and for those students, at least anecdotally, they learn and improve from those things. It also makes me want to create Studio pre-quizzes for ALL THE THINGS. I think I'm going to spend more time looking at the analytics in the course to try and pinpoint these areas of weakness and slowly create more Studio Quizzes to try and "catch" misconceptions BEFORE they are quizzed on the material. 

Lunch and Learn: Apps

posted Sep 17, 2020, 9:46 AM by Emily Kroutil

Reflect on the times that you used the Canvas teacher app. in your GaVS course. 

  • Choose one time during the semester that the teacher app. came in handy. 

I like to use the Teacher app to respond to student messages. Students frequently send me simple questions or concerns via the Canvas message feature and I can easily respond to these questions using the app. They get quick feedback and I don't have to be tied to my computer. 

I also like to use the Teacher app to reply to student discussion posts because that's another thing I can easily do while not sitting at my computer.

  • Create an artifact to demonstrate how you used the app.  (Please keep this FERPA compliant.  Blur out names and personal information.) 

This is a discussion reply from me to a student. You can see that I can see their post and I can write my reply based on what they posted. I can attach files if I want. This seems to work best for simple replies without video or images. I have one discussion in my course that I like to make replies with videos I've found that relate to the specific topics of that discussion. That discussion wouldn't be best for the app, but this discussion about their water footprint is a great option for using the app.

These are two series of messages between myself a a student in the course. You can see the student asked simple questions and I was able to quickly reply, which minimized the disruption they had to their workflow. For the one on the left, we were messaging back and forth, so it was almost like chatting with the student synchronously, which, I hope, added a personalized layer to their GAVS course.

  • Provide a reflection on the pros and cons you faced while using the Canvas teacher app.  Discuss the benefits of using the Canvas teacher app. at GaVS. 

So far, the teacher app has proven excellent for responding to students and checking my to do list so I can plan my time for when I get back to my computer. I've also made simple announcements for students using the app. 

The app does provide an excellent way to annotate student assignments. However, you cannot upload video feedback using the app. So, I rarely use it to grade, since I like to provide extension videos as feedback. And it's clunky to make annotations on the app and then switch to the computer to add my comments and feedback. It's also not as easy to copy and paste canned comments using the app.

Based upon your use of the Canvas teacher app this semester, along with your learning from this course:

  • Develop a plan or idea for future use of the Canvas teacher app.

My plan is to continue to use the app to answer student questions, respond to discussions, and create simple off-the-cuff announcements that I need based on how the semester is going, but I haven't pre-scheduled.

  • Include a detailed explanation of your plan/idea that relates back to your previous experience, pros/cons, benefits, etc. 

I look forward to spending more time working with the app. I do think the annotation features are useful, but they aren't very practical for me and how I like to grade. For me, personally, if I'm at all near my computer, I much prefer working with the desktop version of Canvas.

I do very much like responding to quick student questions via the app, as they cannot tell I'm not at my computer (unlike with the Outlook app). The same goes with discussion responses. I can use those pockets of wasted time throughout the day to respond to discussions or answer student questions, so when I'm at my desk, I can use that time for focusing on grading or other tasks that cannot be done when I'm not at the computer.

I plan to continue using the app in this way to increase efficiency and provide a better experience for my students.

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.

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