Sunday, April 26, 2009

Helping students get organized - the online dayplanner

As we begin to look ahead to next year, we begin to have discussions about how we can do things differently and how we can help our students. One thing we have been discussing at our school recently has been planners for our students. The students already have planners - spiral bound numbers that they carry around to write down homework assignments, test dates, etc.

Since we have a 1:1 program in the junior high at Tok, as well as wide-spread access to technology in most of our other classes and all of our other sites, I submit that it's high time for us to explore some of the excellent online planners that are available.

One very good planner tool for students I'll discuss in this post is called TrackClass. TrackClass is a simple planner students can use and it works like this;

Students quickly set up an account (only email and a password - that's it), and then they can begin to use this tool. The beginning of the school year is the ideal time to set this up with your classes - simply have them enter each class they are taking on the TrackClass dashboard, along with the days and times this class meets (this is a nice feature for schools with rotating or alternating schedules). Once the classes are set up, it is very easy to navigate to the different classes.

Let's say a student is enrolled in an English course - they go to that course on their TrackClass dashboard and then they have options that are easy to use and keep up with each day. They can enter assignments with the due date - there is also an easy feature for the student to record points possible and weight of the assignment if the teacher makes that info available. There is a nice help box on the side that actually explains what "points possible" means! It also defines "points scored" and "weight" - handy stuff!

Another option students have within each class is to enter upcoming exams - the entry looks just like the assignment entry - also with room for entering the points the student actually earned if they want to track this.

Here is a fantastic option within each class - a tab called "Notes". Here a student can take actual notes for any class on any day day and they are all kept filed away neatly in the student's dashboard! The Notes tab also works with Markdown - which means students can add links and html into their notes - students can create quite a rich source of class notes with this kind of capability!

Another tab available for each class is the Calendar. This calendar works as an individual calendar for each class, or will compile all classes into one calendar. Best of all - the calendar can be subscribed to by iCal or GoogleCalendar - both of which are easy and available to all of our students!

The final tab is called "Files". This tab allows students to upload literally any kind or type of files from their computer - jpg, PDF, WordDocs, anything at all. So anytime a teacher wants a student to note a particular document for homework or study or in class work they might email it or tell the student where to find it and voila - the student can put it in it's proper place in their class dashboard!

TrackClass is a deceptively simple tool that really has a lot of power! Students could really increase their productivity, not to mention their confidence by having access to a tool like this that can go to work for them.

TrackClass is worth a good look for incorporating for next year's planners.

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