Saturday, November 21, 2015

Using JotForm to Increase Efficiency in the Classroom, & Save Paper!

As a classroom teacher and in all of my professional roles, I've always turned to JotForm when I wanted to create forms. Although Google Forms is nice, it is extremely limited. Having the ability to add digital signatures, upload files right into the form, and use conditions (in addition to so many other great features) makes JotForm the most powerful form creator I've seen. I've been a user of JotForm since they were just getting started and were in Beta. I'm proud to be an advocate for this product and happy to share a guest post with you from Chad Reid, Director of Communications at JotForm. ~Lee

People will argue whether technology has done more to help or hurt the classroom overall. On one hand, students didn’t have cell phones when we were in school (and we all managed just fine). On the other hand, teachers have so many tools at their disposal to make the classroom more efficient and enjoyable, its difficult to deny the increase in efficiency, motivation, and additional learning that takes place when properly using technology.

JotForm does all of those things. 

JotForm is a do-it-yourself form building platform that’s free, EASY, and fun to use for collecting assignments, retrieving parent signatures, or even used as a self-grading quiz. Below are a few of the most common ways JotForm is used in the classroom:

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Field Trips Simplified
You could do it the old fashioned way, and no one would blame you. But sending kids home with printed permission slips has a myriad of drawbacks: delayed returned slips, lost slips, forged signatures, and lots of wasted paper. But alas, there’s an easier way!

Creating a permission slip form online and emailing it to the parents is the best way to ensure it’s delivered and signed by an actual adult. Best of all, add an "upload" button to your form and you get all of your returned forms instantly, and neatly organized, in the cloud. In addition, you will find all of your form responses conveniently in your email.

Then there’s the ease in which JotForm can help you collect emergency contact information for all of your students. You could include it as a part of your permission form to make sure all of your students’ critical information is collected ahead of time.

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Quizzing your students can be as simple as having them open a form. The best part? If you’re using an online form for a multiple-choice quiz, you can leave the instant grading to JotForm, and even share the scores instantly with your students. The scores are automatically stored in your JotForm account, and you can integrate the responses into a Google Spreadsheet to make it easy to find and sort for later.

Polling and Surveying Students
No matter the subject, polling your students can create fascinating dialogue in the classroom. For social studies teachers, you can survey students about issues around elections, science teachers can poll about hypotheses and theories, and English teachers can poll for sentiments in certain works of literature. Either way, it’s made easy using JotForm, where you can create visual reports using the polling data that you can share with the class instantly.

Group Project Feedback
Group projects are always a risky proposition. Is everyone involved going to pull their weight? And are you going to get honest feedback from the students to know that everyone did their part? A simple feedback form can fix that. Consider making the form anonymous so that no student feels the pressure of having their name attached to the honest feedback they’re giving about a peer.

Without printing a single sheet of paper, sign students up for theater, sports, committees, clubs, and any other extracurricular activity. And with electronic signature capabilities, even needing a student’s signature isn’t a barrier. Just make the form available from an easily accessible site, and students will be able to submit the information they need from home or the library.

These are just a few of the ways to use JotForm to make distributing requirements and collecting information easier. The product is designed to be uncomplicated and generic, so the possibilities for using JotForm is pretty endless. The best part? It’s completely free up until 100 responses per month.

Chad Reid is the Director of Communications at JotForm, a popular platform for creating online forms. He’s also a graduate student studying communication and lives in Oakland, California with his girlfriend and three cats.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Winners Are....

In my previous post, I challenged my readers to share how their students take ownership of their learning with technology. I apologize for the delay in announcing the winner, but today I am happy to announce the two winners below:

Ellen Budish

Cheryl Arnett

Congratulations! I will be in touch to send you your Staples gift cards!


Wednesday, August 05, 2015

EdTech Thought Leaders: Technology is Just for Teachers? Think Again! Getting Students to Take Ownership of Their Learning With Technology

As do other public school districts, we go through our accreditation review and take care to note the recommendations in the report and make strategic plans on how to move forward to make improvements in those areas. One area of focus that specifically relates to educational technology is that we need to put the ownership of learning into the hands of the students. Based on the progress assessment from the AdvanceEd Accreditation Report, we learned that we need to improve in the area of student use of technology for learning in the classroom. There are just not enough students using the technology we have. It's not that we don't have enough technology, but we've been so focused on getting teachers to use the tools, that we've failed to sufficiently engage the students in the learning process with technology.

This requires a shift in thinking for our teachers. One new thing we are trying in our district is hosting a technology mini-conference before teachers return to school. There will only be 12 sessions (plus an opening and closing keynote) but each 40 minute session is focused on showing the participants how to help students take ownership of their learning with the use of technology. We have some of our best district-level presenters showcasing mini versions of full workshops they do throughout the year. We are really excited about this conference! As of today, we have over 400 people registered to attend. Most are teachers who are still ON THEIR SUMMER VACATION!

So, that is one strategy we put into place, but we are on a quest to learn more about what works for other districts and classrooms. What are YOUR best practices and ideas for getting students to take ownership of their learning with the use of technology? I'd love to hear your ideas, and to motivate you to comment, I'm offering up TWO $50 gift cards from Staples for the best ideas.

Full Disclosure:
As a blogger I sometimes receive free products and offers. Last week, I received an email from Staples®  (excerpt below). I responded that I'd love to participate and so they sent me a few packages of pens and markers, and a gift card for $50 for me to keep, along with a promise for me to be able to give away another gift card to a reader on my blog. I'll keep the pens and markers, thank you, but I'm going to give my gift card away here on this blog, in addition to the extra one to another reader.

So, I have TWO $50. gift cards to give away. Here's how YOU CAN WIN one of them:

1. In the comment section, tell me how you help your students take ownership of their learning with the use of technology. Bonus points for adding a link to some type of evidence.
2. Be sure to leave your Twitter handle, email, or other contact info in your comments so I can let you know if you win.

Winners will be announced August 17th. Based on the best ideas, I will choose two winners. 

Good luck!

Excerpt from Staples email:

Hi Lee,
We’d love to work with you in promoting this special offer on your blog by sending you supplies plus a $50 Staples gift card for you plus a $50 Staples gift card to giveaway to one of your readers. 

Staples is helping educators save more on classroom supplies and get ready for school with their own Teacher Appreciation Week, August 2nd through 8th. Teachers can download their 40% back in Staples Teacher Rewards coupon

Staples Supports Think It Up™
Staples is building on its decades-long support of teachers, students and education with a $10 million pledge to support the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s new Think It Up™ initiative.

As a lead donor, Staples has teamed up with worldwide superstar and Think It Up Ambassador Nick Jonas to help raise awareness of the need to support learning projects in classrooms across the country. Learn more at

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Sorry, Not Sorry...

What is it about us women, and our propensity to apologize for everything, from asking a question to just breathing? What is it about our language where it is acceptable to use words like bossy, nag, feisty, hysterical, catty, and tart to describe women, and for men we use words like leader, determined, passionate, disagreeable, and player?

Ever since I read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, I've become more aware of the language used by both women and men. Specifically, the language used between women and men as they interact. The diagram below is the result of my non-scientific observations, over the past few years.
These observations are gleaned from my work environment, as well as from other business environments of which I've had the privilege to take part over the years. To be fair, there are certainly exceptions in every environment.  The men and women who treat each other in a truly professional manner, are the superstars of most organizations. They are easy to spot and people tend to gravitate toward them. Others want to be around them, people want to learn from them, and they emit an energy of confidence, strength, and others feel safe in their presence. They are the opposite of the "energy suckers." You feel good when you are around them and you're not afraid to fail. You know if you do fail, you'll be coached to succeed in the future. Why? Because these people have confidence in your ability, and most of all, they are not threatened by your presence.

On the other hand, there are plenty of men (and women) who are threatened by the presence of strong personalities. So, those of us who are on the receiving end of this dysfunction, tend to apologize and make every effort to help everyone else save face.

So, although there are plenty of exceptions, there are not enough exceptions to water down the fact that our culture of how men treat women is sexist, and we allow it to continue. As poor as the behavior is of the men who are demeaning to women, it is the women (and other men who bear witness) who allow it to continue. We must take responsibility for allowing people to treat us as they do.

We live in a culture where we permit bad behavior to continue. Rather than address the problems head-on, we adjust our own behaviors in order to avoid the discomfort. Similar to bullying, bystanders are less likely to jump in and say something for fear that they will become a part of the situation and potential target for the bully, as well.

And that's where the misplaced apologizing usually surfaces.

In 2012, The Women’s Media Center (WMC) which was co-founded by Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan, and Gloria Steinem to make women visible and powerful in media, published a user-guide for members of the media to help them identify sexism and stories biased against women so that sexism doesn’t remain a barrier for women elected to office. The glossary at the end of the document is an especially interesting read.

The WMC research shows that sexist media coverage results in a drastic decrease of voter confidence in women candidates. This is similar to studies of bullying, in which people are less likely to identify with those negatively treated in public, due to the conscious or unconscious fear that such bullying or negative public characterization will then include them as bystanders and supporters. The ever-changing media landscape creates an unmonitored and often not fact-checked echo chamber, habitually allowing damaging comments to influence opinion without accountability. Name It. Change It. was launched to hold media outlets accountable for their role in our government’s gender disparity; women make up only 17 percent of Congress and 23 percent of state legislatures. Name It. Change It. identifies and publicizes sexist media coverage of women candidates and political leaders of all races. This project is also race-conscious in its understanding of stereotyping as it is used against various groups of women. 
-Source: The Women's Media Center 
The Pantene ad below illustrates how women typically apologize for situations where they should not be sorry. The 2nd video, hits it out of the ballpark, with Amy Schumer's parody of women apologizing for... you know.... existing.

Are you sorry? Next time you apologize, ask yourself what you are apologizing for, then consciously think of a different way you will approach that same situation next time. Because it will come up again, you can be sure of that.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Intellectual Property - What's The Big Deal?

My favorite Explainers do it again. This is a terrific video that explains intellectual property. Thanks to @commoncraft

This video follows the story of a creative and talented woman named Candice who plays music, invented a new instrument, and created a new business. Using copyright, patent and trademark laws, she learned to how to protect and build a business from her creations.
It teaches:
• Why intellectual property is different from physical property
• The risk of not establishing and protecting ownership
• Why copyright law matters in selling and managing your creative works
• Why patent law matters in protecting your inventions
• Why trademark law matters in protecting your brand