Within the Visioning Document, we read these premises:
Article I: The New Digital Learning Environment
I.a The technologies that make this new digital world possible must be viewed as opportunities and tools that can help us in educating and socializing the young both in and outside the school.
I.c The potential of learning anywhere, anytime, “any path, any pace” must be embraced. Future learning will be a combination of learning at school, virtual learning, learning at home, and in the community.
As a result, educators must constantly look to find resources that make the new digital world not just possible but accessible anywhere, anytime. Lessons that allow for this must also incorporate ways to assess digital work in a seamless platform.
With parent conferences fresh on my mind, I am reminded of the simplistic beauty of one of my favorite tech tools, Showbie.
For those that don’t know, Showbie is a platform for turning in digital work, a digital turn-in tray, so to speak, as can be seen from their icon. Showbie offers both an app version and access through a browser. Because districts all come with their own favorite tech devices, Showbie’s versatility across multiple platforms provides access for any teacher desiring to seamlessly integrate technology in the classroom.
Let’s be honest – just when you finally get buy-in from teachers, and they are willing to branch out from their comfort zone of pen/pencil and paper and actually use technology in the classroom, you then run into the inevitable issue with how to turn in the work. I have also tried out several platforms for submission of work and though there are many out there, I find that ease of use is key – for teachers and students alike.
The day Showbie entered my life and lesson plans was the day my classroom really embraced a paperless platform.
Showbie is simplistic by design. You have only a handful of choices so that even the biggest technophobe is easily persuaded to try it out.
It begins with simply signing up. Teachers and students can go to Showbie.com or open
the app. From there, they sign up and select their role as teacher or student.
For teachers, they can quickly create a class, name that class, and receive a join class code to distribute. Showbie also offers two additional choices with each class: a portfolio option and the ability to allow parent access – both great resources for all stakeholders in the education of students. When students first sign in, it asks them to join a class and requires that they simply enter the class code you have given them. From there, you and your students are ready to go!
When you create an assignment, you can easily specify date and time that the assignment is due. I love this because it helps students stay organized and know what’s going on. There’s also a shared folder so if you want to drop a file in there for the whole class to see, they can easily access it. If you want to give directions (a typed comment or audio file), you have the ability to do that easily as well.
For me, I pair Showbie with the platform for instruction I prefer, iTunes U. Students receive work from me in iTunes U, but then they turn in the completed assignments through Showbie. Because Showbie offers simple annotation tools (writing utensils with different colors and thickness of pen or text boxes), students can complete assignments right in the app or use a third-party annotation app, then submit it to Showbie. For those on a computer, they can upload the file from anywhere on their computer.
As the assignment deadline nears, it’s quick and easy to project the class on the screen and swipe through to see who has submitted the work (a simple paperclip represents attached work) and who has not. Sometimes a teacher saying that a student is missing an assignment isn’t enough. Showing it quickly on the screen means that reluctant student who may have blocked out the sound of your voice will get the visual reminder he/she needs and take care of business. Within moments, I can easily go to each student’s folder and send a quick message that pops up on his/her device. (Make sure you have them turn on notifications so they see anything new as soon as you send it.)
Why do I love Showbie? Students turn in work without every “giving it up.” Gone are the days of “my teacher lost my work” mentality. I can see exactly when a student turns in work (down to the minute). So when that excuse is employed, it is easy to pull the assignment up and see (for you and them, not to mention parents at those aforementioned parent conferences or emails) exactly what is (or isn’t) there.
And they never give it up. They still have access to their notes, assignments, etc. that you need to also look at or grade. I think that is a powerful piece to the puzzle!
Speaking of grading, Showbie allows the teacher to annotate, leave comments or even audio files (one of my favorite tools) right on the file. How often have you wanted to have those individual conversations with students where you address ideas they need to clarify more or answers that wowed you? I love that as I’m grading, I can “tell” them exactly what I see. For too many assignments, students will ignore the notes you painstakingly write out and return to them in class, but when they can get feedback in real time that is personalized, it is meaningful! The fact that grading simply requires me to grab my iPad or MacBook instead of a giant folder of papers is so freeing!
I love knowing that my classroom expands past the time constraints of class. Students can turn in work from wherever they are (a great feature for those that are missing class for whatever reason that day). And, I don’t have to wait until I see them next to give them comments, feedback, reminders, or grades.
Showbie also offers additional features that are new this year, including groups (for students to share work amongst each other in a collaborative setting) and class discussion (a feature that allows you to send out announcements, etc. to the whole class at once). Class discussion can be one-way if you want to just remind students about a quiz tomorrow or you can also turn on settings that allow for students to comment or ask questions through a group discussion thread.
No matter how your classroom integrates technology, teachers have to find a way to collect and grade digital work without making more work for themselves. For me, Showbie does the trick.