I keep a running note in Evernote to keep track of things that I want to do differently next year. Some are minor like fixing a miskeyed quiz question. Some are major like new projects or new systems. That note is the first thing I look at when we come back to start a new school year.
Texas and T-TESS
In Texas, we’re evaluated under something called T-TESS. At least we are as I’m writing this. There’ve been a handful of different systems since I started teaching. T-TESS just happens to be the current one.
Under T-TESS one of the things that we’re evaluated on is setting professional goals. And those are split between goals that directly affect students and goals that are more professional but may not directly affect students.
The student goals are easier because they generally help students, and that’s why most teachers go into education.
Goal for this year
At the end of last year I decided my primary goal for this year would be to use more professional tools in the classroom.
The goal of education is to have students that are able to successfully enter adulthood. At some point, they’re going to have some type of job. And it’s very unlikely that their boss will ask them to create a Flipgrid or pick the best choice out of a list of 5 lettered options.
So rather than focus on tools that are intended for the classroom I’m focusing on tools that are used by developers outside of school. Sure, we’re still using Canvas and an online grade book. But those are tools that students won’t touch once they graduate.
The first step was to use an industry IDE whenever possible. We do a lot of coding through Canvas for smaller labs, but any time we start working on projects they go into an IDE.
No real reason I picked NetBeans over something else like Eclipse or IntelliJ other than NetBeans is what I’m used to and more comfortable with.
I did want to stay away from the more educational type editors like Dr. Java and BlueJ.
And once we’re working in a project, GitHub is a natural fit.
This year I’ve started using GitHub Classroom in all of my classes. Originally it was just going to be my upper-level students, but after using GitHub to hand out and turn in assignments it’s just easier and I’ve started using it with everyone.
To start a project students are given a link to a repo. When they accept the invitation my starter repository is copied into their repository and they clone into a NetBeans project.
To turn in they just commit and push and I can get their work through GitHub.
In previous years I’ve given out zip files and had students zip their projects back up to turn in. Once students get used to committing and pushing it’s way easier than zip files.
Turns out our district gives Microsoft enough money every year that we have access to Teams, and that solves a lot of the issues I had with Slack.
To be fair, none of the issues with Slack was Slack’s fault. Students had to create a new account with Slack, and Teams lets them log in via their district accounts. And the free tier of Slack, while generous, wasn’t enough for what I wanted to do. And the per-user cost was too much to justify. If we had unlimited money and could have connected Slack and our LDAP server, Slack probably would have been fine.
But since we had access to Teams, and Teams is pretty much Microsoft’s copy of Slack, it ended up being the right tool.
Instead of using the discussion boards in Canvas to ask questions students post on our Teams board. Instead of using Canvas announcements, I post to Teams. Instead of publishing demos, I post a thread to Teams. It’s working really well.
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