back to school with MCThe support team always looks forward to the back to school season. Maybe it’s the crisp fall air or the happy faces walking to school each morning. More likely, it’s when we get to help educators tackle another awesome year!

Read on for a step-by-step overview of the new support ticketing process and a few back-to-school tips to ensure smooth sailin’ with MasteryConnect.


How to Submit Support Tickets

Our team loves to interact with each of you, that’s why we’re excited to offer slick improvements to how you communicate with us. We’ve added the ability to manage your open support tickets from within the Help Center (no more trying to keep an eye on an email thread!).

The new support ticket process allows you to easily

  • See your open tickets in a single view
  • Make comments to your tickets
  • Add screenshots
  • View additional ticket details like status and assignee

Submit a support ticket by following these steps: 

1. After you login to MasteryConnect, click Help below the main navigation bar. Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 10.31.55 AM

2. The Help Center will open in a separate browser. Click on your name again and select My Requests. Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 10.32.08 AM 

3. From this page, you’ll be able to manage any submitted tickets. At a glance, you can see when the ticket was created, the last time there was any activity on it, and the current status. 

4. Click the subject line of the ticket to open it.Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 10.35.52 AM


5. Here, you can see your original request and all communication concerning it. If the ticket has been assigned, you’ll also see the name of the support team member who’s handling it.Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 10.36.42 AM

6. When you’re done, click the MasteryConnect logo to return to the Help Center, or close the browser window to continue working.


Firewalls Fixes

Sometimes a super strict firewall can wreak havoc on the MasteryConnect experience. Please ensure your IT Wizards double-check that the websites listed in this help article are allowed free passage through your network.

GradeCam Plugin

GradeCam is magical—no question. But that magic is all made possible by the GradeCam plugin.

We always recommend you keep your GradeCam plugin updated to ensure optimal performance. To grab the latest plugin and test your GradeCam settings, visit: https://downloads.gradecam.com/

The Best Browsers

We always test our site using the latest versions of Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. Whenever possible, we recommend keeping your browser version updated. Full details about our supported browsers and hardware specs can be found here.

Here’s to another successful school year and plenty of mastery tracking!


MasteryConnect helps over 2.5 million educators around the world with formative assessment, standards-based grading, data-driven instruction, and teacher collaboration. Take an on-demand demo to see how  MasteryConnect may help at your school or district.

PowerOfPriorityStandards

As part of our Client Success series, this is the second of a two-part guide to unpacking and prioritizing standards like a pro. 

In our last article, we shared our tips for unpacking standards, including the process of determining big ideas and writing essential questions. This week we tackle the tricky question: How do you fit everything in?

Regardless of which set of standards you use in your classroom, the sheer volume of material can become daunting. And we’ve all heard the pitfalls of mile-wide-and-inch-deep instruction, which neither saves time nor impacts learning in a meaningful way.

Identifying priority or “power” standards is a process you can use to prioritize the content and skills you’ll need to address with your students. But this process is not about deciding what can be eliminated; rather, it’s designed to help you manage instructional time and determine a clear path for student learning. This prioritization process also brings us full circle back to the need for Big Ideas.

Let’s take a look at the two types of standards we’ll be working with: priority and supporting.

Priority standards are a carefully selected subset of the larger list of standards to be covered in a specific grade level or course that students must know and be able to demonstrate understanding of by the end of the grade-level or course in order to be prepared for the next grade-level or course.
Supporting standards are those standards that support, connect to, or enhance the priority standards. They are taught within the context of the priority standards, but do not receive the same degree of emphasis.

How to Identify Power Standards

Just as you followed a process to unpack standards, you should follow one when selecting priority or power standards. It’s best to prioritize collaboratively to ensure priority standards are identified across the team, so students move onto the next grade-level/course with consistent understanding of content.

Important note: Again, it is critical to remember that prioritizing standards has nothing to do with elimination; it has everything to do with degree of focus placed on standards.

When reviewing each standard you are targeting for instruction, consider the criteria and questions below. If the answers are “yes” for a particular standard, it should be labeled a priority/power standard.

ENDURANCE
Does this standard provide students with knowledge that will benefit them beyond the present?
Will proficiency of this standard help my students gain skills needed in the next grade-level/course or even in real-life situations?

LEVERAGE
Does this standard provide students with knowledge and/or skills that benefit them in other learning situations within the current grade level or course?
Does it have cross-curricular benefit?

READINESS
Does this standard provide students with knowledge and/or skills that are prerequisite concepts and skills needed to be successful in the next grade-level/course?

EXTERNAL EXAMS
Does this standard provide students with knowledge and/or skills that they are most likely to encounter on local, state, and/or national assessments?

Standards you have not identified as priority/power standards may be supporting standards. These standards often scaffold under a priority standard, much as a sub-standard (content or skill) would serve as a stepping stone to the overarching standard.

Start Prioritizing with “I Can” Statements

Once you have identified your priority standards and determined the supporting standards for each, you can begin designing your assessment and instruction. Also, you should now be more prepared to communicate clear learning objectives or targets to your students.

Many schools and districts use “I can” statements to clearly communicate learning objectives developed from priority standards, written in student-friendly language. When used consistently, “I can” statements have a profound effect on the learning of students, because students understand why they are learning the material.

“I can” statements help students:

  • take a more active role in their learning
  • become more reflective of their own work
  • feel more responsible for their learning

Let’s go through this exercise with the standard we unpacked in the last article.

Step 1. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY – RI.6.8
Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not.

Let’s say we identified it as a priority standard based on the criteria above, and now we can create “I can” statements to more specifically convey the knowledge and skills tied to this standard.

Priority Standard I Can Statement
Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not.
  • I can define argument, claim, and evidence.
  • I can distinguish between supported and unsupported claims.
  • I can trace an argument in a text.

Priority standard identified? Check! Standard clearly communicated to students? Check! You now have a road map for instructional change! You can identify clear targets and enduring understanding, as well as effectively communicate the learning outcomes to students. It’s time to start planning lessons and gathering resources to make a difference in your classroom!


For MasteryConnect Educators

To help you get started with this work in MasteryConnect, we’ve pulled together some resources that will provide detailed instruction on how to add your unpacked standards and “I can” statements into your curriculum maps and trackers and how to flag priority standards.

The resources we’ve provided are for both curriculum maps and trackers. However, if you’re working with a collaborative school or district team, we highly suggest doing this work in curriculum maps, then creating your trackers from the maps.

Help Center Articles
Add Sub-Standards to a Curriculum Map
View and Customize Standards in a Curriculum Map
Set a Power Standards in a Curriculum Map
Add Sub-Standard to a Tracker
Customize or Reword Standards
Set a Power Standard in a Tracker

       Web Professional Development

Mindful Introduction Module: Tracker Basics

For on-site professional development on using curriculum maps for unpacking standards, contact your Client Success Manager. And be sure to check back for the next article in our Client Success Series!


MasteryConnect has Over 1 Million Standards!

Looking for solutions that support state or Common Core standards? Check out our FREE apps for educators or take a tour of the full MasteryConnect platform for school and district-level features.

unnamedCan you believe it ?!? MasteryCon is only one week away! To help you plan for the ultimate MasteryCon experience, we’ve compiled a list of last-minute info and reminders.

Schedule & Check In

The session schedule is now live—check it out! There is no need to sign up for sessions, but be sure to snag a program when you arrive. Check-in opens at 9:00 am on Wednesday, July 27th, at the Grand Summit Hotel. Pick up your conference materials any time before the welcome keynote at 5:30 pm. (You can skip printing conference tickets, schedules, or maps; we’ll have everything you need when you check in!)

Special Pre-Conference Workshop

We’ve added a free (yes, FREE!) pre-conference workshop on Wednesday for campers who want to start the MasteryCon fun early! A limited number of seats are available, so register now!

Bunks & Transportation

If you haven’t already booked your lodging, NOW IS THE TIME to reserve your room at the discounted rate. And, if you need to hitch a ride from the SLC airport to MasteryCon, may we suggest scheduling with our preferred transportation partner.

If you’re not staying onsite, you can park for free in the Red Hawk lot, located just below the Silverado Lodge.

Get Your Gear Ready

Dress is casual and comfortable (it is summer camp). But, because MasteryCon is nestled in the most beautiful mountains in the whole wide world, it’s best to bring along the right gear. You’ll want to pack up that sunscreen and a light jacket (warm days, cool nights). And, if you want to join the vista-filled group hikes, don’t forget comfy hiking boots and anything else you may want on the trail.

Make the Most of It!

You’ll want to take in everything at MasteryCon! Be sure to attend conference meals and evening entertainment; they’re all included in your registration, and they are awesome for networking. Also, keep your eyes peeled at the conference for ways to get involved, including earning MasteryCon merit badges and participating in activities wherever you see this guy.

See You Soon!

The MasteryCon counselors can’t wait to meet you at summer camp! Join the fun NOW by connecting with MasteryConnect and other attendees on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Remember to use our conference hashtag, #masterycon, and follow us for updates while at the conference.

See you in seven, campers!

cx-series-unpacking

As part of our Client Success series, this is the first of a two-part guide to unpacking and prioritizing standards like a pro. 

Have you ever looked at a standard—local, state, or national—and wondered, “What is this? And how am I going to teach it?” If so, you’re not alone!

In the ever-changing world of which standards are we using this year?!, the work of learning and implementing new standards must often happen quickly. Implementing standards effectively requires teachers to dive deep into the standards to fully understand expectations and make them clear to students.

Why “Unpack” Standards?

Because standards are sometimes written as overarching—and often complex—statements that can be interpreted in different ways, it’s important that teachers share a common understanding about the goals and targets of a standard. (You’ve probably been in a PLC conversation and thought, “I had no idea that’s what that standard meant!” or “Whoa, we’re reading the same book, but we’re not on the same page.”)

“Unpacking” is a technique teachers can use to make sense of standards, and then create focused learning targets to make them actionable. This process, also called “deconstructing” or “unwrapping” standards, fosters a collaborative dialogue that supports growth and effectiveness.

Once you have unpacked standards to identify what students should know and be able to do, you can do three important things:

  • Craft your vision of mastery for specific standards.
  • Align lesson plans and accompanying resources to that vision.
  • As you teach and report progress, create student-friendly learning objectives to better communicate required skills to students and community stakeholders.

So what does unpacking look like? Read on as we break down the unpacking process and go through a couple examples to help get you started.

The Unpacking Process

There are four key steps to unpacking standards:

STEP 1: IDENTIFY KEY CONCEPTS & SKILLS

Identify what students need to know and what they need to do. We like to highlight nouns (content) in blue and verbs (skills) in green.

STEP 2: IDENTIFY LEARNING TARGET TYPES

Next, you’ll determine which concepts are content/knowledge targets, reasoning/cognitive targets, skill/performance targets, and product targets.

STEP 3: DETERMINE BIG IDEAS

The next step is to list the conceptual understandings that students discover during the learning process (the ah-ha! moments).

STEP 4: WRITE ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS

To focus and guide classroom instruction and assessment, write open-ended questions to help stimulate student interest and make new connections.

Think of this unpacking process as a journey with a destination in mind. The journey will include packing and preparation, travel arrangements, perhaps some new experiences, and ultimately an endpoint (student learning), which may very well begin a new journey.

An Unpacking Example

With the journey theme in mind, let’s use the analogy of planning a destination trip to help illustrate the process (it’s summertime, after all!). We’ll start with the learning target and break it down with Steps 1 and 2.

DESTINATION TRIP 101.1

Organize and plan for a trip to the beach.

What should I know?

  • Lodging availability
  • Location of area restaurants
  • Day/night temperature at location

What should I be able to do?

  • Swim
  • Locate the surf shop
  • Apply sunscreen evenly

What should I understand?

  • Recognize changes in tide
  • Assess surroundings for safety
  • Devise a plan if stranded at sea on catamaran

This breakdown of the familiar process of planning a trip makes sense: It provides clearly outlined steps and a better vision of the target after unpacking the original standard.

Example 2: Unpacking a Complex Standard

Now let’s take a closer look at examples of Steps 1 through 4 with a more complex, real-world standard. For this demonstration, we’ll use a sixth grade English Language Arts national/state standard.

STEP 1: IDENTIFY KEY CONCEPTS & SKILLS

We’ll start by highlighting the nouns (concepts) in green and the verbs (skills) in blue, just like we did in the destination trip example.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY – RI.6.8

Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not.

STEP 2: IDENTIFY LEARNING TARGET TYPES

Next, we’ll identify the types of targets the standard represents. You may benefit by using a graphic organizer like the one below.

Knowledge Targets Reasoning Targets
Define argument

Define claim

Define evidence

Evaluate an argument

Distinguish between supported and unsupported claims

Skill/Performance Targets Product Targets
Trace an argument in a text Not applicable for this standard

Identifying specific targets within a standard provides clear direction for instructional planning. It helps to not only focus on important content students should know, but also what skills they should develop. This is a critical balance that can easily get a little lopsided if there’s too much on content and not enough the skills.

STEP 3: DETERMINE BIG IDEAS

You’re halfway there! Determining Big Ideas is next, and it’s one of the most important parts of the learning process. This is where we help students to make connections and attach relevance to new information.

We want student thinking to extend beyond fact retention, because, let’s face it, facts alone aren’t going to get you where you need to go unless you’re a contestant on Jeopardy!

Below are some examples of Big Ideas for our standard:

  • Presenting an argument with evidence is more persuasive than sharing an opinion.
  • Unsupported claims can lead to an invalid argument.
  • Identifying a claim supported with evidence is a skill applicable to all areas of life.

These Big Ideas go beyond one standard, unit of study, or even a class. They are the key learnings that move with students to new targets, new applications, and new connections.

STEP 4

In our opinion, the real fun begins in Step 4. As teachers, our favorite moments were those that allowed us to watch a student learn, grow in understanding, or have an ah-ha! Moment. Essential Questions can get you there every time!

These questions are open-ended opportunities to stimulate interest, stretch thinking, make connections that haven’t been made before, and much more. They can be used at the beginning of the instruction on a learning target or during instruction to advance the thinking process.

Examples of Essential Questions for our standard include:

  • Why is evidence important?
  • Why do we need to be able to recognize an argument that has support versus one that does not?
  • When do we use argumentation in daily life?

One important point to remember when using Essential Questions is to keep them truly open-ended. Craft questions to have more than one possible response or to generate discussion when different or conflicting ideas are presented. As teachers, our role in this process is to facilitate thinking and discussion, not to validate. Be wary of responding with, “I agree with you” or “That’s correct”; other students may not speak up if their thinking is different than the answer you’ve identified as “right”.

Get Unpacking!

Congrats! You’ve now gone through the unpacking process. By unpacking this standard, you now have a clear path forward. This process will enable you to plan effectively and ultimately save you time to focus on your students. Not only will you have a deeper understanding of the standards you teach, but your students will be more engaged in their learning. Sounds like a win-win for everyone!

Be sure to check back in a few weeks for Part 2 of Unpacking Standards – Moving from Content Standards to Student-Friendly Learning Targets. We’ll explore priority standards and student-friendly “I Can” statements.


MasteryConnect has Every Standard for Every State!

Looking for solutions that support state or Common Core standards? Check out our FREE apps for educators or take a tour of the full MasteryConnect platform for school and district-level features.

socrative-acquisition

MasteryConnect acquires Socrative to bring you integrated student response for FREE. Learn more.

MasteryConnect is proud to announce a partnership with Microsoft Education. Microsoft has an incredible history of supporting technology in education, and is recognized as a leader in providing solutions for educators. Out of the 17,000 education apps on the Microsoft platform, MasteryConnect will be one of six that are highlighted at the upcoming Florida Educational Technology Convention (FETC) and in other presentations throughout the country.

Here’s an awesome statement of support from the Microsoft VP of WW Education, Mr. Anthony Salcito (author of the widely-read DailyEdventures Blog).

“We’re excited to support student learning with MasteryConnect’s commitment to build on the Microsoft technology platform. MasteryConnect is an important partner and supports our focus to have a positive impact on student learning, and our education vision of anytime anywhere learning for all.”

Check out the video below highlighting MasteryConnect on the Microsoft Surface Tablet.

 

 

VLABOur CEO, Mick Hewitt, recently spoke about the changing education technology landscape and the influences of the Common Core at a VLAB event at the Stanford Business School.  VLAB is the San Francisco chapter of the MIT Forum at Stanford University.  The night got kicked off with Mick’s short presentation that highlighted the changing market in education technology and the opportunities and challenges presented by the Common Core for entrepreneurs.  The night went on to include a rousing panel discussion that included Karen Lien from ImagineK12, David Reilly from Sequioa Union High School District, Lane Rankin from Illuminate Education, and Scott Drossos of Pearson.  Lauren Hepler highlighted the events of the night in the Silicon Valley Business Journal article, “Online Kindergarten?  Tech bets on K-12 Disruption”.

sxswIt’s a magical time each Spring in Austin, Texas when the education technology community gathers at the SXSWedu conference.  With so many new edtech companies entering the market over the past couple of years, you can really feel the energy of the entrepreneurs and companies all working to move the needle to help teachers make gains in student achievement.

This year, Bill Gates gave the keynote address and discussed some critical issues in education technology including the market landscape, current levels of funding, and personalized learning.  After the keynote, I had the amazing opportunity to sit down in a small group setting to have lunch with Mr. Gates and some fellow edtech entrepreneurs/CEO’s (Jessie Woolley-Wilson of Dreambox, Eric Westendorf of LearnZillion, Jordan Meranus of Ellevate Education, and Laurence Holt of Amplify).  It was a wonderful discussion and I was pleasantly surprised by Mr. Gates’ great sense of humor, and impressed with his insight and optimism about the Common Core and technology being a game-changer for education.   I even had a chance to tell Bill about MasteryConnect’s Common Core app being launched on Windows 8!  Many thanks to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation team for the wonderful invitation to be a part of the discussion as well as give Mr. Gates some insight into the successes and challenges of our growing edtech startup.

Keep on Trackin’
Mick Hewitt, CEO

bill-gates-copy

2013 blog hatIt’s been an amazing year here at MasteryConnect, so I thought I would take just a moment to reflect back on where MasteryConnect has been, and talk a little bit about our plans for 2013.  As the CEO of an Edtech startup, it is an incredibly rewarding experience to be part of a team that took an idea from a teacher’s brain and built a technology solution that has a far reaching impact on students, educators, and parents across the country.   As the year draws to a close, we are humbled and grateful to our customers and the raving fans and supporters of MasteryConnect.

We started 2012 off with a bang after receiving financial support and backing from some amazing organizations in Edtech such as NewSchools Venture Fund, Learn Capital, and ImagineK12.  Their support jump-started our mission to help teachers across America share formative assessments and track mastery of state and Common Core standards.

At my desk in our offices, I have a close view of our “start-up dashboard,” which is a big TV screen that flashes the latest information and statistics about everything in the MasteryConnect community.  As I sit here today, I’m blown away and humbled by the amazing educators in this country that are working to implement mastery learning in the classroom.  A few highlights from the dashboard as of today:

  • Teachers from 22,108 schools have now joined MasteryConnect (representing about 25% of schools in America)
  • Teachers from 7,601 districts are now represented in the Learning Community (over 1/2 of districts in America)
  • Teachers have scored 2,763,291 assessments for mastery learning
  • Our Common Core app has been downloaded over 500,000 times and standards within the app have been viewed over 39 million times

2012 saw an incredible amount of feature development including tools such as curriculum maps, benchmark assessment features, and simple SIS integrations and API’s.  We’re excited to be working with some amazing new partners such as Solution Tree, Edmodo, and Clever.  2013 looks like another incredible year.  We’ll be announcing more financial supporters in early January, a new book in the early spring, and some Common Core features that we’re sure will knock your socks off!  Cheers to an amazing 2012 and wishing you a happy new year!

Keep on Trackin’
Mick Hewitt, CEO