I've been doing a lot of research recently on effective rubrics for grading student work. I was surprised to see so many different types of rubrics measuring different types of results. I love rubrics because they provide students with the details needed to perform/learn as expected. For example, we have processes we want students to learn such as The Four C's (Critical Thinking, Communication , Collaboration, and Creativity) and a rubric is perfect for when purposefully teaching these soft skills. The problem is...I don't see many rubrics for these types of student expectations. I mainly see more task-oriented rubrics.

After beginning the book Empower: What Happens When Students Own Their Own Learning by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani, I experienced an 'ahha' moment: we've been designing work to engage students but have we been designing work to EMPOWER them? So you might ask, what does that have to do with rubrics? During our book talk, we were given a sample lesson designed for engagement and asked to redesign for empowerment. I actually selected something that was similar to a lesson I had implemented at one time. In my redesign, I realized the rubric for this project would look VERY different. In fact, I believe the rubric would only contain the standards I wanted my students to learn. Nothing else. How they arrived at an end product was up to them...I would grade ONLY the content and the fact that there was an end product that showed learning.

I recently viewed a four-page rubric that covered every nuance of teacher expectations. This teacher was disappointed that students were missing points...lots of points...for not completing all items listed on this rubric. This teacher developed this extensive rubric to ensure she was covered when grades didn't meet expectations. As we discussed designing for empowerment and experienced the redesign process, I began to realize that rubric was designed for the teacher, not for the student.

3 simple rules as you develop your rubrics:
1. Cover only what you want them to learn or perform
2. Keep it succinct (too many words produces the Charlie Brown Effect)
3. Ask yourself...WHO is this rubric working for?
    Rubric Resources:
    • Fast Facts: Getting Started With Rubrics
    • A Canvas LMS Tour of Rubrics (Create Rubrics directly in Canvas!)

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    Social media is everywhere and as it has developed in an ever-expanding digital world, people have jumped in without much thought to its impact. There is no denying it's here to stay so how can we navigate these waters and make social media work for us? How can we help our students make social media work for them?

    It's time to grow our students' social media skills. It's time to examine what is posted and it's time to have them ask certain questions before posting... questions such as:
    1. Is this post kind, positive?
    2. Is this post about content that should be protected?
    3. Is this post about something you could tell your parents/grandparents face to face?
    4. Is this post about something that has you mad or emotional; is it cryptic?
    5. Is this post bragging or boastful?
    Ask yourself these questions and if the answer is suspect, then don't post...plain and simple. Schooling our students about the "Disinhibition Effect" identifies it for what it is and that it should be avoided at all costs. Sometimes writing through problems is helpful...just don't post it. Social media is not the place to "air your dirty laundry"; it's time to send out goodwill and positivity...we could all use a little!

    But, it's also time to purposefully teach students how to post to social media so before students take it live, practice...help them find their voice...teach them to make social media work for them, not against them. I LOVE Google Slides and their versatility! I've created or modified some Google Slide templates that allow students to develop these skills in an academic setting. Learning how to communicate online is going to be a critical skill all students will need as this digital world grows. It's time...

    Here are some of my templates...feel free to make a copy and run with it!

    Fake Twitter template adapted from @TeachingTechNix. Click here to make a copy.

    Way to use this in the classroom: Create a collaborative Google slide deck and have students "tweet" each other. For older students, they can "retweet" by adding Twitter handles of other tweets in their responses and "linking" those Twitter handles back to their slides. 

    Fake Facebook template. Click here to make a copy.

    Way to use this in the classroom: This one has been around for a while. Have students create Facebook profiles and posts reflective of a particular person (or maybe a concept) associated with classroom content.

    Fake Snapchat template. Click here to make a copy.

    Way to use this in the classroom: Have students create short video clips talking about the content just learned. If your class has access to iPads or phones, a free app to use, appropriate for all ages, is Snow. If you only have access to laptops, apps like Photobooth have fun filters. This is an engaging way to get students having content conversations!

    Fake Blog template. Click here to make a copy.

    Way to use in the classroom: Have students create "blog posts" on each slide that are dated and have them push the most recent posts to the top. This is an excellent precursor to taking their voices online for a broader audience. I also love the ability for students to have access to all of the student "blogs" and to use the comment feature in Google slides to develop commenting skills.

    Fake Instagram template. Click here to make a copy.

    Way to use in the classroom: have students create Instagram posts with either photos or video about the content they are learning or about what they have learned. Again, doing this in a collaborative slide deck would allow students to comment on each other's posts.

    Let's change the face of social media and help to develop more responsible social media interactions. It's time...
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    Our teachers have been working with students on their expository writing lately and have been perplexed about the spelling checker in Google Docs. For some students, it works, for others, not so much. I did notice many of our students had never selected their language choice in the Drive Settings. I would encourage everyone to do that. To complete this task:
    • Go to Drive and click on the Gear.
    • Select Settings.
    • Select Change Language Settings.
    • Select English, United States.
    The next thing I noticed was many of the students didn't have their Spelling Suggestions turned on. To do that:
    • Go to the View Menu in Docs.
    • Check Show Spelling Suggestions.
    Now having said all of that, I honestly don't give much praise for the spell checker in Docs. It needs a serious upgrade...or better yet, allow Grammarly for Chrome to do its thing! However, there is a really cool Docs Add-on called GradeProof. This add-on is pretty great, it's free and easy to use. The hardest part was creating an account! That would have been easier if they provided a Google Button to create the account with! Anyways, to get started, you simply go to the Add-on menu and start GradeProof. It analyzes what's been written in the areas of:
    • Spelling
    • Grammar
    • Phrasing
    • Eloquence

    When you click on the See Suggestions button (that's when you create your account), it takes you through all of their suggestions. You have the choice to make the changes or not. When I suggested the teacher check it out, a couple of her students said they were already using it and really liked it. So there you go...from the mouths of students. It must be good!

    Additionally, a new feature in Google Docs is the Explore button found in the bottom right corner of the doc. It instantly makes suggestions based on the content of your writing. This tool replaces the Research tool and does many of the same things except create citations. For that, using a Chrome extension like Cite This For Me is a great option.  

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    Money for your classroom...who doesn't love that? Right now the window is open to apply for a $1000 teacher grant from Directv! Simply submit a 400-500 word essay on how the technology could impact your classroom. The top three teachers who submit the most innovative ideas will win these grants! Click here to find out more and then prepare to amaze the judges with your innovative use of technology!
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