Are you using Google Classroom, but spending an inordinate amount of time grading and helping students understand their progress? This is where a tool like Kiddom can come to your rescue! Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing pro tips for power users seeking to take their use of education technology to the next level.
Pro Tip #1: Helping Students Track and Act on Progress
You might be using Google Classroom and wondering, “Why would I want to transfer my assignments into Kiddom?” To make sense of this, consider the following questions:
Do I have access to a gradebook in Google Classroom?
Can I track individual student progress on standards in Google Classroom?
Do students have access to progress reports in Google Classroom?
Your answers to these three questions are probably no.
While Google Classroom provides a great way for students to receive content, it doesn’t (yet) provide a way for students to measure their progress and therefore, take some ownership over their learning experience.
By using Kiddom’s Google Drive integration, you can take everything you’ve set up in Google Classroom and transfer it to Kiddom’s Planner; doing this provides you and your students access to progress reports that they wouldn’t otherwise have in Google Classroom.
Unlike using Google Drive and Classroom, with Kiddom you don’t have to download multiple third-party apps in order for it to give you the classroom intelligence and reporting that you and your students need. It’s all housed within the Kiddom K-12 operating system.
Giving Google Drive a Standards-Based Boost
Does your school or state require your assessments be standards-aligned? You probably noticed there is no standards tracking in Google Classroom or Drive. That’s again where Kiddom comes in: you can attach your Drive assessments to Kiddom assignments, attach relevant standards, and voila: you’re now tracking student progress while using all the material you already created in Drive. The best part? It’s all in one place!
How do you attach and grade standards with your Drive assignments? Check out these three easy steps below:
Step 1: Create an assignment in Kiddom and attach the Drive document you want to assign to your students.
Step 2: Click on “attach standards” in the assignment options.
Step 3: Search and add (check) the standards you want to attach to the drive assignment, and click save.
If you want to make it really easy to attach standards to your assignments, visit your class settings and add standards to be tracked in your class. Now, when you go to attach standards in an assignment, the standards that you are tracking in your class settings will appear for you. One less step towards analyzing student performance… nice, right?
Kiddom’s intelligence reports also create easy to interpret, beautiful graphs and progress reports for each student in your class, including their progress on each standard you’ve assigned with your assignments. Using Google Drive, you’d have to manually track those standards, but if you use Kiddom and Google together, it’s a match made in heaven!
What can super-charging Google Drive assignments with Kiddom intelligence reports do for your students? Here are a couple of ideas:
1. Offer students a voice during conferences: Whether it’s student-teacher conferences or parent-teacher conferences, your students will be able to lead the conversations and talk about their academic growth and areas in need of improvement. Kiddom’s reports make it easy for students to track their progress by allowing them access to it 24/7.
2. Offer students ownership: If you have students doing independent, inquiry-driven work in your classroom, you know that it’s hard to keep up with the timely feedback and conferences required to keep students excelling. That’s where Kiddom reports come in: they can follow their progress with each benchmark assignments submitted/evaluated as soon as you grade the assignment. With the ability to track their progress toward certain skill sets (Standards Based Grading), students will know what they need to focus on, day after day and week after week.
Nearly ten years ago, I started my career in education as a math teacher at a new alternative high school serving over-age, under-credited youth in New York City. My students were labeled “at-risk” of dropping out because they were 16–21 years old and previously unsuccessful in high school. Many suffered from chronic absenteeism, caused by factors such as homelessness, family responsibilities, and/or incarceration. If we, the educators, were going to serve our students well, we were going to have to get pedagogically creative.
One of the first curricular tools I built to share — on the first day of school — was a public, student-friendly gradebook on Google Sheets. (Yes, this was before Google Classroom existed!) Students could track their progress and identify which skills needed extra work at any time. Little did I know this experience would eventually propel me to help develop a school operating system that tackles technology issues plaguing educators and supports them with more opportunities to offer individualized instruction.
Creating a Toolbox — and Filling It
After creating the gradebook, my colleague and I developed a curriculum aligned to New York state math standards. We scoped and sequenced the curriculum according to a set of power standards representing scaffolded skills. If students mastered a power standard, they could move on and didn’t need to wait for others. This competency-based system made sense; if students were chronically absent, holding them accountable to a pacing calendar would prove futile.
To supplement in-person support offered during class and lunch periods, I published a simple Google site to house my lessons, assessments, and other resources. If students missed class or needed additional help, they could go to my website and access the day’s lesson as well as videos and digital exercises from YouTube and Khan Academy.
As my students submitted work, I tracked everything in my gradebook. My goal was to minimize the information asymmetry that tends to exist between what teachers know about their students and what students know about their performance. At the time, I had no idea this system was called “standards-based grading.” I was so green at this point in my career that I probably assumed every classroom in the 21st century operated this way. I didn’t realize what we were trying to build was innovative.
The following year, I wanted to ensure that when students did come to class, they could participate and engage — or at the very minimum — access the content via a class set of iPads. I stepped up my game by adding even more videos and assessment exercises to my class website, mining resources from IXL and CK-12. I generated logins for my students and started “blending” instruction using the free content from these publishers. This worked nicely for my students, who felt like I was carefully attending to their learning pace and providing them with targeted learning materials.
By the end of year, more than half of my students passed the Algebra 1 state exam. For context: in years prior, every one of these students had failed this exam at least once. Of those who failed again this time around, many had never come so close to passing and looked forward to retaking it in the summer.
Enter the LMS
I was proud, but also exhausted. The time required to maintain the number of tools I was juggling was eerily close to the time I used to spend working as an investment banker. I dedicated hours every week copy-pasting student achievement data from multiple systems into one gradebook, analyzing each student’s progress and assigning work based on need. The last thing I needed was another system to maintain, but that’s exactly how my third teaching year started: my school administration decided a centralized system for grades was necessary to assess how all classrooms were doing. They bought a learning management system (LMS) and asked us to start using it.
Procuring the LMS was purely an administrative decision, fueled by a desire to monitor school-wide trends to make resource allocation decisions. I couldn’t fault school leadership for this, but I still hated using it. I didn’t want to change the way I’d set up my class because my model working for my students. Now, in addition to importing data from IXL, Khan Academy, and an adaptive learning program called Carnegie Learning, I had to transfer the achievement data from my gradebook into another system. It felt like every tool I used in the classroom was inherently designed to work in isolation.
By the end of that year, my patience had grown thin. I stopped updating the LMS on a regular basis and wondered how long it would take before somebody noticed. My colleagues had mixed feelings about it too. Because the LMS was designed to contain a lot of tools for teachers in a single view, it was clunky and cumbersome to use. For example, it didn’t integrate with Google Apps, which we had spent the last three years using. Nor could I customize features to align with my class set-up, or remove certain features altogether.
Building and Brainstorming
After three more years teaching in alternative high schools, I left the classroom to join Kiddom and address this interoperability problem. In an ideal world, teachers would be able to access a set of tools driven by their classroom needs and aligned to an instructional model of their choice. Administrators would be able to measure and take action from macro-level trends, manage and review curriculum, and enable educators to incorporate the instructional models and technologies that serve their classrooms best.
Unfortunately, teachers are constrained by tools that are ineffective or redundant. Many education technologies are not interoperable. School and district leaders continue to spend an inordinate amount of time piecing together data to understand what’s really happening. When that takes too long or doesn’t work, they resort to classroom observations — because they’re easy to do.
During my time at Kiddom, I’ve had the opportunity to apply my teaching experience and work with a team of designers and developers to tackle these problems head-on. At first, we focused on teachers and learners and the tools needed to enhance a singular classroom experience; this led to a simple, visual standards-aligned gradebook. Next, we connected this gradebook directly to digital content publishers like CK-12 and Khan Academy so that teachers could access teaching resources in order to differentiate instruction efficiently and save time.
Because every classroom experience plays a role in the larger ecosystem within a school, we designed a set of collaboration tools to help teachers work together, share, and learn from each other more effectively. We then focused on the information asymmetry that exists between classrooms and their respective administrative bodies. Working with and listening closely to public school administrators, we brainstormed various ways we could support school systems from the top-down and bottom-up.
A K-12 School Operating System
The result of this work is Kiddom Academy, a K-12 school operating system supporting collaboration and individualized instruction. Using Academy, administrators can identify and act on aggregate achievement trends, manage curriculum and assessment, and efficiently integrate other tools they’ve come to rely on. They can set up frameworks for a range of pedagogies in line with their organizational goals. Classrooms gain access to a comprehensive library of standards-aligned resources and curriculum development tools. Beautiful, actionable reports help students, teachers, parents, and administrators monitor progress and take action.
Kiddom Academy, our K-12 school operating system for schools and districts
A K-12 school operating system is the next step in the evolution of education technology. Interoperability matters in schools and districts now more than it has ever before, because we’ve come expect it everywhere else. For example, I can purchase a pair of concert tickets using my EventBrite app, and then export the information directly into my iPhone calendar. So too should teachers be able to use a variety of learning apps in their classroom and expect them to work together seamlessly. As we see more content and pedagogy-specific tools in the market, we can expect increasing numbers of teachers to find and patch together the tools that work best for them; administrators will be no different.
My teaching experience helped me understand that I didn’t need to buy a blended learning or personalized learning product. I had a process and practice in place, and needed a set of interoperable tools. I can’t imagine how much more passion and creative energy I might have offered my students and colleagues if I wasn’t staying up late every night copying and pasting data to differentiate instruction. “Personalized learning” might be trendy, but it isn’t new. Teachers have been trying to enhance and individualize learning using the tools at their disposal for a long time.
That’s why at Kiddom, we’re hell bent on designing and implementing technology that enables all students to learn via pedagogy and pacing optimized for them. We’re betting big on the idea of building a system for other learning apps to run on — rather than in — to help schools plug and play the tools they find most effective. We can’t wait to see how schools will use Kiddom Academy to execute their vision for teaching and learning.
Building relationships with administrators and teachers demands thoughtful inquiry, care, and reflection
Education is awash with efforts to personalize learning. But what does it mean for a company to personalize its support for the teachers who use its product? School leader, Jordan Silvestri and Kiddom representative, Melissa Giroux, describe what it takes for an edtech company to deliver the kind of personalized experience to its customers that teachers give to their students.
Jordan Silvestri: Our school focuses on preparing our students during their final years of academic involvement to gain and hone the skills that they will need to be successful after they graduate. We started Torah Academy in September 2016 with a strong vision for how and what we want our students to learn. Every class, student interaction, social setting and community learning experience is another opportunity to help our students see their potential and grow.
After our first year of running the school, we realized that one of our major challenges involved how we were tracking students’ progress. We needed a student-centered program that would be easy to function for the teachers and bring all of our work into one place.
Melissa Giroux: Our initial planning session with Torah Academy was extremely energizing. We were excited to meet a school leader who had great clarity around his team’s strengths and goals: Jordan wanted his team to become more accustomed to using data to drive daily instruction and he wanted technology to support consistent routines so his students could become independent learners. His concrete goals made us confident we could support his staff’s day-to-day work from afar.
Working together over the course of the year, we — at Torah Academy and Kiddom — together learned three powerful lessons about how to deliver personalized support to educators:
1. Lead with Inquiry
When teachers in professional development workshops push back on learning a new tech tool or question if a new platform might mean more work instead of less, it would be easy for a principal to double down on mandates and take a hardline stance.
Empathetic leaders respond with questions: “Can you tell me a little bit more about that?” or “Can you walk me through the steps you currently take?” and most importantly, “How can I help?”
When teachers hear their administration pause to learn a little bit more about them, learning becomes collaborative. Rather than fighting, they work as a team to figure out if the platform can adapt to meet the needs of a range of educators.
Companies, too, need to build that kind of inquiry into every step of their work with educators.
Educators at Torah Academy teach courses that cover everything from Common Core mathematics to Judaic studies, as well as provide services including speech therapy and vocational training. A one-size-fits-all tutorial about edtech product features wasn’t going to cut it with such diverse staff goals.
The first session between teachers and Kiddom invited the educators to express their concerns so that together we could customize the platform to their teaching styles and goals. Teachers learned how to move their existing curriculum from Google Drive into collaborative Kiddom classes. Other workshops, using the Question Formulation Technique, helped teachers frame collective inquiry goals for professional learning communities.
The Right Question Institute frames this process well: “The skill of question asking is far too rarely deliberately taught in school.” We believe that same kind of questioning skill should characterize how teachers interact with edtech companies.
2. Walk the Talk
There’s nothing worse than a classroom full of students staring at you as error messages prevent you from moving on with a lesson. As an administrator, I (Jordan) was worried that some of my teachers might have technical difficulties with onboarding to new technology. The “competency test” for real customer service is simply this: Will it deliver when you need it?
One teacher, in particular, had reported that as she was working to set up her class over the weekend, she hit a snag. She struggled to figure out what was going on. Finally, she contacted Kiddom through the app and had a live troubleshooting conversation on a Sunday afternoon. I was floored by both the teacher’s proactive approach — and the fact that the company walked the talk, big time!
Just as important as responding quickly is speaking the language of the people you serve. The company’s support team has grown from a collection of part-time interns into a team of former educators — people who natively speak “teacher talk” — and avoid the kind of tech jargon that can confuse just about anyone.
No school is the same. Investing the time to send a company’s support team to visit schools and observe users in the field means that teacher advocates learn how to ask questions to troubleshoot and to gain context. They are not merely following tech support flow charts and giving standard responses; they’re relying on their knowledge of pedagogy and the challenging realities of everyday teaching to frame their responses.
3. Stop and Reflect
School-based staff don’t always have time to step outside of their day-to-day responsibilities and reflect on successes and challenges. But particularly when you start a relationship with a company, educators must ask their partners: How are you measuring success?
As a school for students with special needs, Torah Academy does not use letter or number grades to assess student progress. Teachers focus on helping students master the skills they will need to be productive members of their community. This approach to assessment — with the ultimate goal of having students apply their goals to new environments and interactions — has been core to our program.
During one of our first joint meetings, the company introduced its mastery grading feature to Torah Academy teachers as if it were a new concept. Hardly the case! In response, teachers showed the Kiddom team how that construct fit right in with the school’s methodology, so that teachers could correlate lessons to goals and assess student progress in one fell swoop.
Throughout the year of working together, our joint team relied on routine check-ins to collect feedback, plan targeted professional development and to provide administrators with a sounding board for worries or celebrations.
But by mid-year, it became clear that educators were adopting the platform in very different ways and at different speeds. We consequently scheduled a mid-year professional development day. The Kiddom team spent the day working with individual teachers during their prep periods, to better differentiate and leverage relationships. Each conversation was private, which allowed for candid feedback and questions and supported individual needs. Some teachers desperately wanted more support in analyzing reports; others were still working on building classroom routines using the platform.
Building relationships between teachers and students takes thoughtful inquiry, care and reflection — and the relationship between an edtech company and the teachers who use its products demands the same. When both groups invest the time, authentic learning happens.
Now, you and your students have access to the same detailed intelligence reports on iOS devices as on our web application. Hooray!
Actionable, Skills-Based Reports in Students’ Hands
We know students are more accustomed to using smartphones than laptops, so we wanted to make sure they can gain access to their assignments, grades, and feedback from the iOS app.
Whether they are switching classes or riding the bus home from school, students will be able to access more detailed, skill-based feedback on their phones. With this knowledge in the palm of their hands, students can advocate for themselves by:
Responding to their teacher’s feedback
Uploading revisions to assignments on the go
Standards Mastery reports allow students to have access to their data throughout a week, month, marking period, or school year, giving conferences a student powered turbo boost. Whether your students are doing a weekly check-in or you are having end of year conferences, Kiddom allows them to stay on top of their strengths and weakness all year long, wherever they are.
The new iOS upgrade provides students with the same access to their reports as the desktop version, so even on their way to a parent-teacher conferences, students can look over their reports and feel empowered to speak to their experience when the meeting takes place.
For students to gain an overall view of their progress in a specific course, they just need to tap on the “reports” menu at the bottom of the app. From there, students can view their standards mastery report by doing the following:
After tapping on reports, students can tap “view more” to gain access to a standards tab.
Tapping on one of the standards, students will be given a view of how they have progressed, over a given timeframe, on that specific standard. (note:the grey arrow on the chart indicates the previous data point)
Swiping left and right on the standards card will take students through each of the standards they have been assessed on and see how their assignments correlate to the score.
4. Students can tap on any assignment in the timeline to see the details of the assignment, their submission, and any communication on the assignment.
Now when they conference with you or their parents about their progress they’ll be able to discuss their skills with evidence based responses. Pretty nifty, right?
Teachers, We Didn’t Forget about You
Let’s face it, even when we’re in line at the grocery store, our students can sometimes be on our minds. With the Kiddom iOS app, you’ll be able to access all the same detailed reports that you do on the web version. So whenever you have an “a-ha” moment about your students and their needs, you’ll be able to access everything you need directly from your iOS device.
Tap on the reports icon on the bottom menu, to gain access to your reports.
Tap on “view more”, and then on the standards menu and you’ll be brought to a swipeable list of standards.
Want more? By tapping on one of the standards boxes in the standards tab, you’ll see an option to search the Kiddom content library!Now, you can assign material that both remediates struggling students and enriches those that need to move beyond the timeline.
Bonus: You can continue to leave feedback for your students even when you are away from your desk by tapping on an individual student’s report, navigating to their mini-timeline and clicking on the assignment for which you would like to leave comments.
Use Library’s engaging resources to help your students study
With state exams, midterms, and finals around the corner in the United States, many teachers are focusing on preparing their students for the bubble sheets and answer booklets ahead. We’re all too familiar with the standard review packets, full of busy work, but seldom do those prioritize student needs. Where are they at now, and where can they do better?
Personalizing and differentiating review material can be a daunting task, especially if your resources are scattered and/or don’t meet students’ learning styles.
In an ideal world, teachers would be able to pinpoint the exact needs of a student and quickly share materials to meet those skill gaps. With Kiddom, this is a reality: spend less time reinventing the wheel and more time directly supporting student needs.
Know exactly where your students are
Prioritizing learning targets is half the battle, and that’s where we come in. Kiddom’s standard mastery reports allow teachers to efficiently investigate progress already made on specific standards/skills and quickly act on it. View your class’s progress towards a specific standard or skill so far, and plan to remediate.
Need an even closer look? No problem! Click on each standard to view which students need the most attention, and which ones are ready to move on. Kiddom lets you add as many standards to assignments as you want, so you never lose track of the skills associated to your assignments.
All the resources you need, a search away
Kiddom teachers can use our Library to find and assign free resources, including videos, quizzes, practice activities, and more, based on the data from your standard mastery reports. We understand it can be time consuming to select resources, so we’ve made our search options as specific or broad as you would like them to be across grade level, subject area, or media type. Need resources that are standards-aligned? No problem. Kiddom’s Library allows you to search by specific standards, and your mastery reports connect you directly to the appropriate resources.
Find exactly what you need by easily previewing the resource before you assign it. Assignments may already have standards aligned based on the standard group you are using, but you can always add your own.
All of your materials, in one place
Chances are, you’ve collected a lot of materials for the topics you teach. Don’t worry: you’re covered there too. Kiddom’s Playlist functionality allows you to group resources into one contained playlist, so your resources aren’t scattered everywhere. Think of it as Pinterest specifically for your classroom. Since your Playlists are housed in your Planner, you can choose when to assign them, and who to assign them to. Simply click to expand the playlist, and drag and drop the assignment into Timeline to assign to everyone, or click a student beforehand to assign to only them.
Kiddom allows you to create as many playlists as you want, so the possibilities are endless for thematic, skill-based, or topical groupings. Create a playlist dedicated to enrichment resources and another for remediation, or create one based on topic and subject. Whatever organizational method works for you, Kiddom works with you to house all of your resources and ensure your students get exactly what they need. Need to organize multiple resources for students to review for a test? Create a playlist to group them all together, and simply drag and drop it over to a student’s timeline to send it. You can create multiple playlists to address specific needs for students for test prep: use your reports to see where students need help, and create a playlist with content just to address those needs. Your students will appreciate the personalized resources, since now they’re reviewing what they need to review, and not going through things they already know. Students and teachers alike can agree: “busy work” is necessary.
Gone are the days of the dreaded review packet, and long waits at the copier. Besides, cookie-cutter packets can be impersonal and can feel unimportant to a student: it’s just busy work and taking away from skills they should be focusing on. We hope you use our Library and Playlists to create engaging assignments, boosting student morale and skills in the process.
What are you waiting for? Explore Kiddom’s Library. And have fun!
Grammar puns aside, the literacy gap is serious business. In the United States alone, an estimated 8.7 million 4th-12th grade students struggle with the reading and writing tasks required of them in school.
At Kiddom, we believe students deserve strong literacy instruction in all of their classes. That’s why we’ve just added teaching resources from the fine folks at Quill.org and RocketLit to our library.
Quill.org provides free writing and grammar activities for elementary, middle, and high school students. Activities are great for small group instruction or station work. They’re excellent for homework assignments as well.
Activities are designed to be completed in ten minutes, so there’s a lot of flexibility in how you use them. For example, a sentence combining activity asks students to combine multiple ideas into a single sentence. They then receive instant feedback to help them improve their clarity and precision.
Do I need a Quill.org account? No. Both teachers and students can access the activity directly via the content library preview or in the student assignment. When a student completes the activity they will see a results screen.
RocketLit offers non-fiction science and social studies articles, written in a voice students love. The articles are packed with analogies and available at multiple reading levels, covering topics for upper elementary and middle school. Science resources are aligned to NGSS and a growing number of state standards.
Articles for students include listening support for lower reading levels and annotation options. Assessments include multiple choice and free response style questions. Students complete an initial reading diagnostic and RocketLit adapts each assignment you choose to the student’s own reading level. This adjusts as student’s reading improves.
Do I need a RocketLit account? Yes. However, teachers get a free one month trial and all 5th grade reading level versions are free. Your students will also need accounts which you can set up when you create your teacher account.
Whether you’re an English Language Arts teacher, literacy specialist, or just a grammar nerd, you’re going to love these resources. To learn more about library of free teaching resources, visit our help desk.
P.S. This educator guide on literacy instruction provides a definition of content literacy, its impact, strategies for incorporating literacy skills, and tips for using Kiddom to help you integrate literacy and content seamlessly for yourself and your students.