Thursday, September 17, 2015

Updates for YouTube Safe Search

As I shared in a post late last year about Navigating YouTube Safe Search sometimes completely perfect educational videos can be blocked by the restricted browsing options we have enabled for student accounts. Often this occurs with teacher-created video content, such as screencasts. When a video is blocked students will see a screen like the one below when they are logged in with their NCS account at school or at home.
Google recently released a few new features to help combat this problem including the ability to provide teachers a content approval role. We turned this feature on earlier this week and are now piloting the ability for all NCS teachers and staff to approve videos that are accidentally blocked. When you are viewing YouTube videos you will see a new blue bar across the bottom of the viewing window (if you don't see the blue bar, check Chrome to make sure you have all of your YouTube-related extensions turned off). Towards the right side of the blue bar is an approve button.
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility...
Should you choose to approve a video, please realize that it can be seen by all NCS students. If you accidentally approve something that should not be approved please let one of the IT staff know. We can find your record in the logs and remove the video from the whitelist.

Since we are still piloting this feature please let the IT staff know how it is performing for you and your students. Hopefully, it will make your ability to create and share high-quality instructional content that much easier.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Understanding CAASPP Results

This spring all of our 3rd-8th, 10th and 11th graders participated in annual statewide testing. The results of our new testing program, CAASPP are starting to arrive and this post is an attempt to start demystifying some of the new terminology and data you will be hearing about.

Establishing a New Baseline
First off you might be wondering, "How did we do?" Overall, our preliminary results look great and share common patterns with school wide data across the region. However, it is important to remember that this year is really about establishing a new baseline. The Common Core standards and the Smarter Balanced assessments are very different than anything we have done previously. Tomorrow (September 9th) is the public release of all state, district, and school wide data. You can see the results on this website starting at 11am. We also have some preliminary extracts of student-level data we will be analyzing via future staff and cadre meetings. Later this month we will start receiving individual student reports to be mailed home.

New Test...New Results...New Terminology
With a new set of scores we have a new set of terminology to start learning as educators. To me one of the best places to start understanding this terminology is the Student Score Report.  This is the document families will receive next month.

  • Overall Achievement Levels (Front Side)
    • On the front side of the score report you will see an overall achievement level for both Math and English Language Arts. The overall achievement level really consists of three pieces of data 
      • Overall Score - A numerical value between 2000-3000
      • Achievement Level - The numerical score falls into one of four achievement levels - Standard Not Met, Standard Nearly Met, Standard Met, Standard Exceeded
      • Range of Possible Scores - A small black bar around the overall score which shows approximately where the student might score if they took the exam again.
  • Claim Achievement Levels (Back Side)
    • The overall achievement level for each content area is broken into area or claims on the back of the score report. For each claim area students can store Below Standard, At Standard, or Above Standard.
    • For students who were in grades 5, 8, and 10 you will also see a CST science score at the bottom of the back side of the score report.
CDE has also put together this short video for students and families explaining the score report and you might find it useful as well.

Data to Inform Instruction
As you start delving into your own student data in the next few weeks you might begin to search for resources to assist in your own instructional practices. I predict that this will be an on-going conversation for all of us throughout this school year. :-) However, some places I would suggest you start are listed below

Friday, September 4, 2015

Tech Tip #1 - Updates are Your Friends

At NCS we use an "empowered user" model for all teacher and staff Macbooks. This means you have admin rights and one of the easiest ways to keep your computer running like a champ is to make sure you are always running your updates. Periodically you may see an email from the IT department that asks you to avoid a particular update, but for the most part regularly running updates is an excellent practice. The ones that we might ask you to avoid are large operating system changes, such as an update from 10.10 (Yosemite) to 10.11 (El Capitan) which will occur later this fall.

Updates fall into three main categories

Mac Updates
All updates for the Apple operating system or any Apple programs can be found in the Mac App Store. When you launch this application you should be asked whether or not you want to run the updates right now. Occasionally you might be asked for the password. If this happens you can find that password on this Google Doc (NCS Staff only).

Microsoft Office Updates
Word or Excel acting wonky? Try running Microsoft Office updates. When you launch Word or Excel the autoupdate feature should launch for you. If it does not you can always trigger it by clicking Help in any MS Office application.

Google Chrome Update
Have you ever noticed that your Google Chrome has three red or orange lines at the right side of the toolbar? That means it needs an update. You can complete this task by going to the Chrome Help Menu (chrome://help/). Sometimes, if you have waited too long Chrome may not update for you. If this happens, navigate to the Chrome website, download an updated version, and install the program.