Thursday, December 6, 2012

Don't grade student's binders, grade their Livebinders





I've actually had off work this week for the first time in a very long time.  So, I've decided to look back over when I was a student teacher and reflect on what went wrong and what went right.  

My Student teaching days

I student taught 12th grade Economics in a low socioeconomic part of the district.  Some of my students had jobs to help pay for their parent's bills and others just had a less than ideal home life.  That being said, however, I loved all of my kids.  There were days that were rougher than others, but the good days always trumped the bad ones.  

The one thing that I have thought about numerous times since my student teaching days, about 2 years ago, was how my co-op teacher and the other teachers graded student's notebooks.  The classroom that I was in was shared between my cooperating teacher and another teacher, both of which required students to have spirals with notes and glued assignments to be graded later.  All the binders from all classes from both teachers were "organized" into stack-able bins one on top of another.  Of  course, some of the classes had close to about 30 students, which when they are all piled into the bins, they tend to fall over or fall out.  

That was a issue for me on a weekly (if not daily) basis.  I had spirals go missing, one student accused another student of stealing their's, and not to mention they would occasionally fall apart from wear and tear.  When it came time to do the grading,  it took a very long time just to go through one by one and make sure that everything was in place.  Besides the fact that they weighed 5 tons, it was always a uphill battle to keep these things around.  When my student teaching was done, I said to myself that there has to be a better way to do this. 

Use Livebinders instead


The school that I student taught at wasn't up-to-par when it came to educational technology or using it in the classroom.  However, when I finally get my own class, I know the solution to this problem...Livebinders. 

Livebinders is a amazing tool to utilize in and out of the classroom.  It provides the means of gathering and organizing content in a streamlined website at livebinders.com.  Of course, the first thing that I thought about was the fact that I taught in a lower economic part of the district--but I don't buy the whole "we don't have the money" excuse to not have these tools in the classroom.  For starters, Livebinders are free--they will not cost the students/parents/teachers one dime--so money is not a factor when using Livebinders.  

Combine Evernote with Livebinders


Secondly, some might ask how exactly do you get the student's notes into their livebinder?  The suggestion I would have is simple--use Evernote.  Evernote is another free service that makes organization a breeze.  Sure, you can have students scan there notes on a scanner, save it on a flash drive, have them upload it to their computer or a library computer, save it to their computer file, and then finally upload it into their livebinder, or you can just use Evernote.  Let's look at that procedure again with Evernote:  Use a Lexmark smartsolution printer (about $80.00) that is connected to the student's Evernote accounts, have them scan their notes, upload to Evernote from the scanner, get the unique URL from the Evernote note, and insert into their Livebinder--a lot simpler right?  

But what, you might ask, if you can not afford the scanner?  Students have cell phones--99% of my students had them in class, so I don't see that being a issue of students not having them at all.  With their cell phone/smart phone, they can scan their notes directly into Evernote via the Evernote app.  They can now get to a computer, grab the link, and insert it into their Livebinder.

Making grading easier

Now that you have students upload their notes into their Livebinder, you can easily access the student's livebinder and grade accordingly.  Students can have tabs in their Livebinder, named "Class Notes", for easy organization.  They can upload the scan into a subtab of the "Class Notes" tab with the title of the notes or even the date.  No 5 tons of paper to sort through, no missing spirals, etc.  This isn't the end-all solution to this problem, however, I would much rather do grading this way compared to dealing with student's actually hard copy notes.  This is just a suggestion that might make things easier in the classroom.   

Thoughts?