Fluco Toolbox: Managing the Chrome Bookmarks Bar

Welcome to Fluco Toolbox, a series of posts that showcases potential edtech tools for the Fluvanna County classroom. Each post will discuss the tool, the type of problems it can help solve, and how it can be used in the classroom. If you’re a Fluvanna County staff member and want to learn more about using the tool in your own classroom, please schedule to see your ITRT and we will develop professional development based on your needs. If you’ve stumbled upon this post and you’re not part of the district, no worries! Feel free to use the information provided to jumpstart your own research.

Have you ever added a lot of bookmarks to the bookmarks bar in your Chrome browser, and later couldn’t find what you needed? Do you just have a lot of bookmarks in general, and need a way to get them organized?

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: Managing the Chrome Bookmarks Bar

First, the basics:

Name: Managing the Chrome Bookmarks Bar
URL: N/A
Cost: N/A
Problem this tool solves: Create folders and an organization system for the Chrome bookmarks bar and bookmarks in general.

Over time, we tend to amass a lot of bookmarks. Even with monitoring and deleting unnecessary bookmarks, a lot can still accumulate. Scrolling through a long list can become tedious, and it can be hard to find that one particular bookmark. It becomes even more frazzling when you only want important links to appear in the bookmarks bar, but have more links than visual retail space.

We’ve all been there before, but there’s a way to organize bookmarks with folders so that links are grouped into folders and sub-folders on the bookmarks bar. Here’s an example using my own bookmarks:

 

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As you can see, my bookmarks bar shows folders of different topics. I then use a folder tree system to organize further. Here we see I have a folder for Minecraft items, and then within that folder, I have folders for things such as Tutorials, Reference Materials, and Mods/Texture Packs. If I hover over those sub-folders, then I can find my links. Sub-folders aren’t necessary; I could have left all of my Minecraft links in the Minecraft folder and called it a day. No matter the system used, I have made it so that my bookmarks bar shows all of my important topics. I have increased the amount of visual retail space!

Let’s get started. First, access the bookmarks manager by clicking the three vertical dots in the upper right area of your Chrome browser. Then go to Bookmarks, and Bookmark manager. This can also be accessed with the following shortcut: CTRL+Shift+O

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You’ll now see something similar to the following:

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Instead of it being organized, you’ll simply see all bookmarks that you have saved. Let’s take a look at creating new folders. Look at the content you have already saved, and see if similar topics have been saved. As a teacher, you might find subject-specific links. You might decide to make a folder for your subject, to begin with.

Go ahead and click the 3 vertical dots in the upper right area of the Bookmarks screen. Click the option to add a new folder. Give the folder a name. Drag the folder to appear under the Bookmarks bar folder on the left side of the screen. This folder will now appear in your Bookmarks bar.

Continue to use the navigation pane on the left. Drag any bookmarks into the appropriate folder. Create more folders for other topics as you see fit. If you feel that you need folders within folders, you can do that as well! Follow the same steps used to create a folder above, and then drag the folder to the folder it should appear inside.

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A completed folder system for bookmarks for Minecraft.

If you’re a Fluvanna staff member (or a staff member of any district), chances are you have a lot of important links for the district. Instead of just adding each individual link to the bookmarks bar, why not create a folder for these links? That way when you click on the folder in the bookmarks bar, all of the important school links will appear.

The next time you bookmark a website, make sure you select the proper folder. Click the star in the omnibox and in the window that pops up, make sure to select the appropriate folder in the drop-down menu. If the folder doesn’t appear there, then select “Choose another folder” and select from all of your created folders.

 

Creating a bookmarks system requires that every now and then you do check and make sure you have usable links and make new folders as needed. However, this system will allow you to easily access more of your bookmarks more quickly, thus saving time and frustration!

Resources

3 Tips for Teachers Getting Started With Minecraft

If you’ve been to conferences over the past few years, there’s a chance you have seen someone presenting on Minecraft and its application within the classroom. You may have loved the idea, and want to get started, but you have no idea what to do! You had a lot of new terms thrown your way, and wait, the game doesn’t come with a lot of directions?

Before you can even dive in to getting the game into your classroom and locating funding, you need to step back and take a deep breath. This is not something that can be implemented at the drop of a hat. It’s also something you can’t rely solely on students to teach you about, though they will be super helpful if you get stuck!

Tip 1: Learn to Play!

One of the first things you need to do is learn to play the game yourself. There are many ways to accomplish this. If you have children at home and they have the game, have them help you to learn. If not, then you’ll need to purchase the game. It’s available on many platforms, but the cheapest will be the tablet version, for around $7. Download the game and jump in. If you don’t like playing on a tablet and would prefer the PC edition, you’ll pay a heftier fee upfront. This is fine unless you later decide that the game isn’t for you.

That’s right. Minecraft will only give you a simple hint as to the basics- how to move, how to jump, and even how to access your inventory. Beyond that, it’s up to you to learn. As a player, you are expected to teach yourself to play. This is why so many young players turn to their friends, to books, to wikis, and to YouTube for guidance. Put yourself in the shoes of a player and explore these resources. There are a lot out there. Playing the way your students play will give you ideas of how they search, how they can improve searches, and suggestions you can provide to them.

It is during play that you’ll learn about some of those terms that got thrown your way at a conference- mobs, creative mode, survival mode, mining, and more. Through play I learned which mode would work better for my classroom needs, and how I could use the sandbox nature of the game to accomplish goals. Once I had a basic grasp of the game, I began doing some educational research.

Tip 2: Research and Explore Lesson Plan Ideas

The educational research will give you another step in the right direction. There are lesson plan ideas out there, and most are free to use. These lesson plans can spark ideas for new plans. Try some of the activities or goals out in your own Minecraft world. Microsoft has the Education Edition version of the game, and there are a lot of lesson plans on their website.

Here is one thing to keep in mind when searching for lesson ideas: some of the lesson plans have game files that only work for certain versions of the game. If you don’t have that edition, then you may have to recreate the world file, which may not be feasible. Keep this in mind while you complete your research, as it will help you to decide which version of the game to use in your classroom.

Tip 3: Learn about the different versions available.

After you’ve played and done some research, you’ll want to begin considering the different options available. Here are some you will come across:

PC Edition – This is the regular game with no extra bells and whistles. Some districts prefer to pay the upfront $27 per account and then share the accounts between students. They often create their own servers in the district or rent server space.

Education Edition – This is Microsoft’s version for schools. It is $5 per year per student. It has extra features, such as a coding component, built in server, classroom controls, camera, and more.

MinecraftEDU – This version no longer exists for purchase, but you will find lessons and world downloads still available online. This version featured classroom controls and the ability to rent cloud server space.

Look into options available, and talk to other teachers who already use Minecraft within their districts. This will help you to make an informed decision about what will work best in your classroom and district, especially when it comes time to look into funding resources.

Take your time and work through these tips. You’ll feel more prepared to use the program with students. Contact fellow educators who use the game if you have questions. You may even find that it’s not the right fit for you or your classroom, and that’s okay. At the end of the day, you’ve still learned something new!

Fluco Toolbox: Taking Screenshots on a Chromebook

Welcome to Fluco Toolbox, a series of posts that showcases potential edtech tools for the Fluvanna County classroom. Each post will discuss the tool, the type of problems it can help solve, and how it can be used in the classroom. If you’re a Fluvanna County staff member and want to learn more about using the tool in your own classroom, please schedule to see your ITRT and we will develop professional development based around your needs. If you’ve stumbled upon this post and you’re not part of the district, no worries! Feel free to use the information provided to jumpstart your own research.

Have you ever needed students to capture an image on their screen? Needed students to capture their whole screen? Or have students found that they can’t save an image and need to capture it?

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: the keyboard shortcut to do just that!

First, the basics:

Name: Take a screenshot on a Chromebook
URL: N/A
Cost: N/A
Problem this tool solves: Allows you to capture all or part of the screen on a Chromebook

If you’ve ever needed to capture part of a screen on a Chromebook, or even the entire screen, there’s a special keyboard shortcut that accomplishes this. I use this shortcut often, and it’s how I get any training images I take while using my Chromebook. There’s no extra program to open, just 3 keys to press and hold at the same time.

First, you need to press the CTRL + Shift + Switch Windows buttons and hold them all down at the same time. Unsure of what the “Switch Windows” button is? Never fear! Check out this keyboard below. The key is circled, and can be found just above the “6” key.

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When the keys are pressed, the screen will darken. I have tried to capture this in the two images below, but it is still hard to notice. The image on the left is a darkened screen, ready to be highlighted, and the image on the right is the regular view. If you decide that you no longer need to take a screenshot, just press ESC to exit the screenshot process.

To take a screenshot on the now darkened screen, all you need to do is click in the spot where you’d like to begin, and then drag out until you have captured whatever you need. Make sure you hold down on the mouse button the entire time. Here you can see the difference between the darkened part of the screen and the part being selected for a screenshot:

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When finished, simply release the button, and a window will pop up in the lower right stating that the screenshot has been taken. It has been saved to the Chromebook’s storage area.

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Students will need to immediately access the device’s storage and move the image to their Google Drive. Files saved to the school Chromebooks are not permanent, and are deleted whenever the Chromebook is logged out of an account or is shut down.

Resources

Need a visual? Check out this quick YouTube video:

(Do note that this video features a Chromebook that keeps work on it as long as needed. This is not the case with our student Chromebooks!)

 

Fluco Toolbox image created by Stephanie King (Fan) for this series. Please do not use without permission.

Becoming a Google Certified Educator

As of Saturday, March 3, I have successfully passed both Level 1 and Level 2 exams to become a Google Certified Educator. This has been on my “to-do” list since I became an ITRT in Fluvanna County. I had originally intended to do it much sooner, but always put it off for one reason or another. That all changed when I had the chance to take boot camps on my district’s dime to better my craft. Of course, I jumped at the chance!

My journey to becoming Google Certified started with me working through some of the Google Training Center materials. I didn’t complete all of it for Level 1, and I learned a lot through hands-on application with other teachers. I had to take the Level 1 exam prior to Level 2 boot camp, so I instead used Kasey Bell’s Level 1 Matrix to see what I would need to know for my exam. I browsed the matrix and studied only the material I didn’t use often or didn’t feel confident using. My fellow Google colleagues told me that I based on what I did with my teachers and talked about with them meant I was pretty well prepared for the first exam.

I took the initial exam in December 2017 before winter break. It was far too easy for me, but that’s my own experience. I was able to finish it in just over an hour and felt very confident in my ability to pass. It wasn’t too long before I received the confirmation email with my pass status, and then later my Level 1 badge to display as proof of my knowledge.

From there, I waited for February and Level 2 boot camp. I opted to not complete any of the study materials in the Google Training Center this time around. This was mostly because I expected to get the best information from boot camp and not because I felt it was subpar. Until then, I continued exploring and learning G Suite.

Boot camp day rolled around, and I was excited. It was a very fast-paced, on your toes kind of day. I didn’t find the information to be too difficult, and by the end of boot camp, I felt very confident in my skillset. I planned to take the exam the following weekend, but that didn’t quite pan out. I actually forgot to take the exam because I was very involved in painting rocks. It was a good thing that I hadn’t registered for the exam yet!

It was probably a good thing I waited though because Kasey Bell released a Level 2 Matrix document that I could use to help me study. I reviewed the document, noting where I was weak and would probably have to Google something during the exam.

When I finally took the exam on the 3rd, I was very nervous. I knew from my tech friends who had already taken the exam that it was more in depth and would take me longer to complete. Because I’d completed Level 2 boot camp with EdTechTeam, I got a $25 voucher to cover the cost of the exam.

Taking the exam the 2nd time was indeed more difficult. I found that I would second guess myself quite a few times, and I had to look up more online than I had before. It also took me longer to complete, just over 2 hours this time around. I submitted my exam and was not completely sure that I passed. It was definitely a tense few minutes, that’s for sure!

In the end, I passed my exam. I was probably more excited than I had been for Level 1, but that’s because it felt so much harder on round 2. I’m pleased that I’m certified at Level 1 & Level 2, and I’m now ready to move on to my next goal – Google Trainer. I needed to have both of the GCE exams under my belt, and now I can focus on putting together all of the documentation for that instead. I have a long way to go, and I plan to apply for that in May 2019.

Fluco Toolbox: CommonLit

Welcome to Fluco Toolbox, a series of posts that showcases potential edtech tools for the Fluvanna County classroom. Each post will discuss the tool, the type of problems it can help solve, and how it can be used in the classroom. If you’re a Fluvanna County staff member and want to learn more about using the tool in your own classroom, please schedule to see your ITRT and we will develop professional development based on your needs. If you’ve stumbled upon this post and you’re not part of the district, no worries! Feel free to use the information provided to jumpstart your own research.

Have you ever wanted to find free reading passages that included assessment tools AND have it all be completely FREE?

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: CommonLit

First, the basics:

Name: CommonLit
URL: http://www.commonlit.org
Cost: FREE (No paid features)
Problem this tool solves: Free reading passages geared toward grades 3-12. Question sets can be assigned online or printed, and passages can be downloaded as PDFs. Tools for struggling readers, such as guided reading, translate, and read aloud are available. Score assignments and give feedback easily.

This Fluco Toolbox post is mostly for my English and History/Social Studies folks, but teachers of other subject areas may also find it helpful. CommonLit is a free website for teachers where text, passages, and short stories can be found. Please note that this website does not modify the reading level of passages, unlike other similar sites.

Teachers are always looking for free texts and passages to use with students. Many sites provide options, but often they are paid choices, and not in the budget for the average teacher. Enter CommonLit. This website is free for all teachers and students and not only provides passages, but assessments, and the tools to assess student progress over time. While it may not provide as large of a variety of text, the content it does provide is rich in resources.

Create an account on CommonLit. When signing up, you’ll need to fill out a sign-up form, but after the account has been created, CommonLit allows sign-in via Google and Clever. After sign-up, you’ll be taken to your dashboard. G Suite teachers are at an advantage because they can import their classes from Google Classroom, but other teachers will need to create their rosters from scratch. Creating a class allows teachers to assign articles and stories to students to complete.

Next, teachers should search the library. Find articles by book, genre, grade level, literary device, text set, and theme. CommonLit provides texts for students in 3-12. However, the majority of text available is for grades 7-10. These age ranges have over 700 articles combined, whereas the other groups hover around 200 on average.

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After an article has been selected, there are many tools to preview before assigning it to students. As stated before, tools for reading aloud and translate are available. There is also a highlighter tool for note-taking. Teachers can preview the questions used in guided reading mode, as well as the questions used as part of the assessment.

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While many of the tools are self-explanatory, guided reading is one that is not. This tool is perfect for students who need text in smaller chunks, or even as part of a small group setting. Guided reading only shows the text up to the point where a guided reading question is asked. This question only checks for textual understanding, and will not reveal more text until a student has answered correctly. However, a student can try to answer the question more than once. Correct answers will reveal the next chunk of text.

After reviewing the text, the tools, and the assessment questions, assign the text to students. The text can be assigned to a whole class, or to individual students. Again, this allows the teacher to differentiate the text for a classroom.

Students are now ready to begin reading and taking assessments on CommonLit. Students will need to go to the CommonLit webpage and choose to sign-in with Google. They’ll need to connect their account. CommonLit will ask them to create a password. Have them use the same password that they use for their email accounts.

After students have taken assessments, the next step is to analyze student progress. This can be done on your dashboard by selecting “Student Progress” in the drop-down menu. At a glance, you’ll see the comparison of informational to literary text, students who are top performers, bottom performers, and assignment averages.

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Remember, CommonLit is a completely free reading website, and while it doesn’t have the same variety of articles or the ability to adjust the reading levels of a text, it is very robust for a FREE website. It’s worth taking a look at!

Resources

Technology-Infused Socratic Seminar, Round 2

If you’ll remember from this post, I worked with a group of 2 teachers to add some technology into the Socratic seminars they held with students every so often. It went over well, but I had some things I would have done differently upon reflection. Thankfully, I was contacted by two other teachers and had the chance to implement some new changes.

This time I had the pleasure of working with Virginia Staton and Theresa Scruggs, as well as their collaborative teacher, Janet Hunter. They had observed the work I’d done with the other two teachers and wanted to implement it with their own classes. I was more than pleased to assist, and they wanted my input because this was something out of their comfort zones. I assured them it was no problem, and that we’d take the risk and jump together.

Before I sat down with them, I sent them my observations from the previous seminar. Our first meeting consisted of them giving me insight on their classes, and me providing my thoughts and ideas. I wanted to change a few things from the previous time. I wanted to introduce just one new technology tool to the students, and I wanted to make sure they were introduced to it prior to the Socratic seminar. I wanted to also have smaller groups using this tool at a time so that the teachers facilitating each group could really focus on instruction with those students.

I felt that the benefits of Backchannel Chat were better for our first Socratic seminar over Padlet, so we focused on that tool. We would be completing the Socratic seminar on All Summer in a Day. Once our tool was selected, I focused on teaching it to each of the teachers and we had some practice chats during that training. Along the way, we discussed how to introduce the tool to students in the classroom to give them practice.

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It was decided that some time in class a few days prior would be spent introducing the tool to the students. I would assist where needed between classes. I would introduce digital etiquette and link the chat to digital citizenship, touching on how academic discussions are different than just chatting with friends. Then students would rotate in groups to get hands-on practice.

I had a chance to lead some of these groups. I usually had about 5 students at a time. We did a short refresher on what had been introduced to the entire group, and then we did a chat full of ice-breaker questions. I used the time to explain how students could answer or add more detail to comments, and also how they could continue the conversation. Each of these little sessions took 10-15 minutes.

On the day of the chat, the library was set up with the Socratic seminar table in the center, with two tables on either side of it for observers. Off to the left of that was the Backchannel tables. We had two tables, one for each group. Finally, in one of the mini computer labs, we had a research station. Since students would be reading All Summer in a Day, we wanted them to research on the real Venus vs. Bradbury’s Venus, and use that in their discussions. The rotation was as follows: Research, Backchannel Chat, Observation Table, Socratic Seminar. One of the teachers had gone a step further and made sure to add discussion starters/prompts to each Backchannel table. She had also given each spot at the Socratic seminar table a number placard and then assigned a matching placard to each spot at the Observation tables. That way, there would be no confusion over who was observing whom during the activity. It seems like a very simple touch, but it made a large difference.

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Each station was led by someone. Kate McDaniel, our librarian, and I led the Backchannel groups. Mrs. Hunter led the research team, and then Mrs. Staton and Mrs. Scruggs led the Socratic seminar groups. Teams had no problems rotating through stations, and students were able to implement the work from one station to the next. For example, students used the information gained during the research session in the Backchannel discussion, and then students used information from the Backchannel discussion for their turn at the Socratic seminar table.

Looking back through each group and their Backchannel discussions, I feel that the preparations we did in advance paid off. These students were able to give detailed discussions and even added to answers that classmates gave. While I worked with each group, I listened to the Socratic seminar sessions in the background and heard them using key points from the discussions we’d had in my group.

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Transitions were fantastic between groups, and while Socratic seminars were in session, groups were quietly engaged with each of their tasks. I was very pleased with the outcome, especially after looking over the transcripts. I had one group who gave very detailed answers, and they kept working on adding to what other members of their group. I would have loved to have had them longer just to have seen where their discussion would have led.

At the end of the day, I spoke with all involved, and we agreed that the first Socratic seminar had been successful with the students. In the future, we’d love to integrate Padlet, and then rotate the two tools in and out so that things are switched up. We are planning to do at least one more seminar this year and then plan on deciding how to begin using Socratic seminar earlier next year. I’m super excited!

 

Fluco Toolbox: Quizizz

Welcome to Fluco Toolbox, a series of posts that showcases potential edtech tools for the Fluvanna County classroom. Each post will discuss the tool, the type of problems it can help solve, and how it can be used in the classroom. If you’re a Fluvanna County staff member and want to learn more about using the tool in your own classroom, please schedule to see your ITRT and we will develop professional development based on your needs. If you’ve stumbled upon this post and you’re not part of the district, no worries! Feel free to use the information provided to jumpstart your own research.

Have you ever found yourself in love with an online quiz program, but wished there was a program out there that didn’t rely on how fast students can answer? What about one that allowed students to take a quiz at home?

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: Quizizz

First, the basics:

Name: Quizizz
URL: quizizz.com
Cost: FREE
Problem this tool solves: Create quizzes for students where being the fastest to answer is not a factor. Assign quizzes to be taken later at home. Integrates with Google Classroom, Edmodo, and Remind.

Chances are, you already use some kind of online quiz program in your classroom. It is likely that you have used it quite a bit, and you have noticed a few things – unable to take the quiz outside of the classroom, first to answer correctly wins points, etc. If you’re looking for something new, then give Quizizz a try!

Quizizz gives a different spin to the quiz game. Students are not forced to beat the clock to answer correctly and get the most points. Instead, Quizizz takes a self-guided approach. Quizizz also allows teachers to assign quizzes that are taken outside of the school day. Because of this feature, questions and answer choices are shown on every screen, not just the teacher’s. Teachers can gather live data and reports for assessment. There’s even a fun Meme creator for questions.

First, create an account. Google users can sign up with their Google accounts. Everyone else must sign up with email. Once an account has been created, you’ll be taken to your dashboard. The dashboard is where you’ll search for new quizzes, create your own, and locate resources.

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If you’ve used Kahoot! before, the layout and setup of new quizzes are largely the same. You’ll find that Quizizz only offers multiple choice quiz types, whereas Kahoot! offers more. Remix public quizzes on both sites. Create your own memes to support correct/incorrect answers on Quizizz. Quizizz also allows both the question and answer choices to be seen on the student’s screen. Quizizz works with Google Classroom. Quizizz also allows quizzes to be assigned as homework and can be completed on any device. Kahoot! does allow a similar feature, but it’s limited only to the mobile app.

First, let’s create a quiz. This can be done by searching the public database and remixing an existing quiz or starting entirely from scratch. Give the new quiz a name, and include an image if you wish. Then you’ll be taken to the quiz editor.

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Quizizz has a recently released a new quiz editor, which makes creation even easier! Users can now select more than one correct answer, include images in questions, and include a 5th option for answer choices.

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To create a question, fill out the information required. At least 2 answer options are needed for each question. Don’t forget to check out some of the cool options! Make more than one answer correct, add a 5th correct choice, change the time limit, and add an image to the answers. On the right side of the screen, you’ll see a preview of the created question as it would appear for students. This updates in real time.

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Save the current question, and then add as many questions as needed. One of my favorite parts of Quizizz is the ability to search other quizzes for questions to use. Teachers never like to reinvent the wheel if they don’t have to! This feature allows you to search other existing quizzes, or limit to only your own for questions to use in a quiz. Once you find a question to use, all you have to do is add it to your quiz. You can then edit the question.

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After all questions have been added or created, simply click “Finish Quiz”. Before doing this, decide if you would like the quiz to be public or private. You’ll see the button just below the name of the question on the page that shows all of the questions for the quiz. You’ll need to provide some details about who the quiz is suitable for, and then it’s considered published.

Once a quiz has been published, it’s visible to everyone, unless you chose to make it private. There are two options to distribute quizzes to students – Play Live and Homework. Playing live means playing the game in real time. Students complete the quiz, but on their own devices. Teachers have a variety of options to customize gameplay, such as shuffling questions, giving points for faster answers, letting students see the leaderboard, etc. When a game is in progress, students see both the question and answer choices on their screens. There’s also the option to give the quiz as homework. Students can take the quiz at home until the quiz deadline. Once the deadline hits, it will no longer available.

Teachers decide between Play Live and Homework based on the goals to be accomplished. Live works well for in-class work and assessments. Homework is awesome for out of class assignments or for students who may be at home sick. One benefit of Homework is that the link to the game can be shared with Google Classroom, Edmodo, or Remind without students needing a join code to play.

When all is said and done, quiz data can be downloaded as an Excel spreadsheet. The data will show the students for each quiz, the questions correct, incorrect, and not attempted.

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When it comes down to it, Quizizz is a fantastic tool that’s only getting better as time goes on. As with any other quizzing tool, use it when the tool works best for the students and curriculum being taught at the moment.

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