Posted in Creating Accessibility, Feedback, Google Classroom, Teacher Workflow

Feedback of Awesomeness in Google Classroom

Giving feedback to students is an essential part of teaching. Back in the dark ages, before tools like Google Classroom had been invented, I taught language arts. I would collect assignments and then spend my entire weekend giving students meaningful and useful feedback on their writing. Oh, the suggestions I made! The wit with which I dispensed my wisdom in the margins of their papers! I was certain that this valuable feedback would change the course of their work and lead them to be the Pulitzer Prize winners of the future! Of course, when I handed it back to them, all of my meaningful and useful feedback would wind up in the recycling bin with no one ever looking at it, fueling my eternal rage. But, you know, bygones…

In the past, it seemed that most of my feedback was after-the-fact feedback. Students were already done with their work and the feedback I was giving was no longer meaningful. Since the students had already received a grade on their work they felt that they were done with the assignment and were not willing to dig back into it. The feedback would have been worthwhile if I could have offered it while the students were working, but short of cramming more writing conferences into my already packed class period, I struggled to give the feedback in a timely fashion. Fast forward to 2018 and a little tool (Google Classroom) and her useful friends (private comments, Screencastify and Google Keep). Feedback no longer has to be scribbled in the margins of student work with the hopes that students will read it and do something with it, I can now reach the students while they are working and guide them in their work even if I don’t have the opportunity to speak with them face to face. Providing students with digital feedback as they work creates more personalized learning for students.

Private Comments: Google Classroom has a neat little feature where you can send private comments to individual students. To do this, simply open up the view of student work and click on the individual student. A private comment box will be below their work attachments.

Private comment in Google Classroom

The student will get an email notifying them of the comment and when they click the blue reply button, they will be taken directly to the assignment. You can have an entire conversation with the student about their assignment via private comments.

The important thing to remember with this is to create comments while the student is still working and not after they have already turned in the assignment. Once that assignment is turned in, the student counts it as done and any feedback you give will be wasted. With this in mind, it is a good idea to not give students a grade on their work until after they have attended to any feedback.

Private Comments and Video Feedback: Sometimes you really want to dig into the work of a student and just leaving a few sentences is not enough. To do this, I like to use a program like Screencastify in conjunction with the private comment feature. When I want to give more detailed feedback, I open the student’s work, open Screencastify, record my screen and voice while I give feedback and then share the link to the video in the private comments. The student can then access the video and see/hear the feedback while they revisit their work.

Here is an example of how to create this type of feedback:

Once I have created the video, I simply grab the link to the video (which is now housed in my Drive in a folder called “Screencastify”) and place the link in the private comment section for the student.

Google Keep, Screencastify and Private Comments: I am a huge fan of Google Keep and feel like it is the best-kept secret in the Googleverse. I have written a few blog posts about the awesomeness of Keep. Check them out here. If you find that you are giving the same feedback over and over, creating that feedback in Keep notes will help streamline your workflow. You can easily open up the Keep notepad in Docs, Slides and Drawings and copy and paste the feedback from the Keep note into a comment dialog to quickly give feedback. You can even include links to mini-lessons or videos to help the student understand the concept they are struggling with. An even fancier idea is to combine the Google Keep feedback with video feedback. By doing this, you are not only giving them solid and concrete visual feedback via Keep, you are also giving them verbal feedback. I don’t know about you, but it seems like students pay a lot more attention to what I say than to what I write.

No matter how you slice it, Classroom makes it easier for you to give meaningful feedback to your students before they finish an assignment. I’m not going to lie and say that it will save you a ton of time. In fact, once you start using private comments, your email is going to blow up. One of my favorite edtech gurus, Alice Keeler, has written an excellent post on how to manage the private comment workflow and email explosion. Rather than try to recreate her awesomeness, here is the link to her original post: My Respond to Private Comments in Google Classroom Workflow. Her suggestions will help save a lot of headaches and keep you from just deleting your email app and heading for the hills.

Inspire your students to revisit their work. Inspire your students to dig back in and make their work better. Do this by giving them meaningful feedback.

 

 

 

Posted in Cool Tools, Curating, Teacher Workflow

Curating Content From Your PLN

When creating a PLN, the sheer amount of content that you interact with can be mind-boggling. You read a great tweet that has content you want to remember for always!  You stumbled on a blog that has realistic suggestions that you want to incorporate into your classroom. You find an article that was meaningful and full of insights that you relate to.You found a rock star blogger and you want to read every single thing that they write! Oh, what to do with all of these knowledgeable people and their amazing resources? How do you organize or curate the content that you want to keep?

There are three tools that could be very useful in the curation of content from your PLN; Feedly, Diigo, and Google Keep. Each tool has definite strengths and depending on your needs, can be used in isolation or together for maximum, professional librarian style curation! Feedly and Diigo offer a free basic account for users, but as always, there are upgraded accounts available. Google Keep is a free component of G Suite.

green feedly logoFeedly: www.feedly.com – At its core, Feedly is an old-fashioned news aggregator. Select websites, blogs and Youtube channels that interest you and add them to your news feed. Instead of having to remember to visit your favorite websites and blogs each week, you can instead just visit Feedly and review everything you missed since the last time you checked in. What makes Feedly so useful though are the ways you can customize your feeds by category. Your feeds can be categorized into topics such as edtech, innovation in education, classroom management, or frosty beverages to make after a really long day at school. Feedly also has a cool feature called “Boards.”  Boards are digital spaces where you can pin material from your current feed or directly from the web using the “Save to Feedly Board” chrome extension. These boards are great for when you are working on an initiative and you want to put all of your research material in one place. With the free account, you can create up to three boards. No more desperate searching for that article or blog that touched your soul but disappeared when you accidentally closed your browser! Feedly will keep it all in one place for you.

diigoDiigo: www.diigo.com – Diigo, which stands for “Digest of Internet Information, Groups and Other Stuff,” is a tool that allows the user to store, organize and annotate content found on the web. By using the bookmarking and tagging system in Diigo, you can create an online library or collection of material that is useful and meaningful to your projects and personal learning. Whether the content is from a blog or webpage, you can simply use the Diigo chrome extension and save it to your Diigo library. When saving material, you have the option to add tags for easy organization and retrieval. You can even mark the item as “Read Later” which will then show it as new content when you login to your Diigo library. One of the best features of Diigo is the ability to annotate any content that you find online. Once material has been saved via the extension, Diigo provides tools for the user to highlight specific phrases or content and add personal sticky notes. If you want to do more than just collect URLs, then Diigo is an excellent option for your curation needs.

google-keep-iconGoogle Keep: keep.google.com – Google Keep is a multi-use app that has recently seen some upgrades which could make it a valuable curation tool! Every G Suite user already has a Google Keep account, and you might have even used it in the past to make a to-do list or jot down some important information you didn’t want to forget. Keep’s sticky note feature is excellent because within each sticky note you can copy and paste links, add images and type in your own material. Individual notes can also be shared with collaborators in the same way that Docs, Sheets, and Slides can be shared. There is even a new feature where you can load your Google Keep notes as a side panel in Google Docs. This will allow you to drag and drop items from Google Keep right into the flow of your writing. (See this article by Eric Curts at Control Alt Achieve for more on this). But what makes Keep an excellent curation tool is your ability to save web content to Keep by using the “Save to Keep” extension. After you have found an article or blog that interests you, click on this extension and then “add a label” so that you can easily find it in on your Keep board later. As your PLN grows, you can add new labels to Google Keep at any time! And since Google Keep is always free, you will never need to worry about your curated content disappearing. For more on Google Keep, visit my earlier posts, Google Keep – The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Whether you choose to use one of the three suggested tools or decide to travel down your own path, curating your PLN content is valuable and worthwhile! You just never know when you are going to want to revisit something you read, and falling down the black hole of Google trying to re-locate it can be a very frustrating experience! Happy curating!

Posted in Cool Tools, G-Suite for Education, Teacher Feature

Risk Takers – Susan Bost and Her Bad Tech Mojo

Susan Bost, Spanish I teacher at Lebanon Junior High, is always looking for ways for her students to be able to practice their burgeoning language skills. Since students are in the initial phases of language acquisition, they are often shy with their language sharing and feel intimidated when attempting to speak in front of other students. Knowing this, Susan wants to give her students opportunities to practice their language skills in as many ways possible. I send out regular suggestions to the staff here in Lebanon about innovative ways to use GSuite tools or other apps like Flipgrid and Pear Deck. Sue reads these suggestions and her mind starts racing with potential ideas for how to implement them in her classroom. However, Sue is a possessor of very bad tech mojo. Like, very bad. Very, very, very bad. Sometimes you come across a person in life who just has really bad tech mojo. You know that person; nothing ever works the way it is supposed to. Apps won’t open, programs won’t run, projectors just randomly shut off. There is no rhyme or reason for these things happening, it is just bad tech mojo and Sue is infected with it!

Even knowing this, Susan still wants to use edtech tools to give her students the best learning opportunities and that is why she is my featured risk taker this week. She is willing to try something new, even though the chance that it will go horribly wrong is always present.

One of the first big activities we tried was using Flipgrid for a formative assessment activity. As part of her program assessment, Sue gives the students prompts that they orally respond to in Spanish. In the past, this formative assessment activity has eaten up a lot of her class time since she has to sit with each student to give them the prompts and then listen to their responses. We used Flipgrid to create an assessment platform where she recorded the prompts as a grid topic and allowed the students to Flipgrid their responses. I believe that this took a lot of the pressure off since students could take time to collect their thoughts, rehearse what they wanted to say, and then record themselves without worrying about other students hearing them. She was also able to whittle down the amount of class time that she gave up for the assessment process using this method. Now, we did run into a few issues with the bad tech mojo and there were a couple of frantic emails from her the morning she began the assessment process, but if you ask her, I think she would say it was a great success! She has gone on and continued to use Flipgrid for other speaking activities and is using the private feedback option to respond directly to students and coach them on their language acquisition.

Another activity that we took on was creating opportunities for students to practice their Spanish writing skills through digital collaboration. Knowing that in order to be competitive in a global job market students are going to need to be able to collaborate with a person that they might never see face-to-face, Sue came up with an idea for the students to have “silent conversations” on a digital platform. She created a group work assignment for the students on a Google Doc. Using Google Classroom, she assigned the Doc to a group leader who then added his or her group members as collaborators. The students had to complete the assignment together, but they were not allowed to speak in class. They had to use the “comments” feature in Docs to discuss the work to be done and then collaboratively make the changes before turning their completed project back in through Classroom. Sue was able to monitor the work they were doing through Classroom and also use the comments feature to give the students just-in-time support and lead them forward on their projects. All in Spanish, of course. She tweeted a small snippet of this activity- check it out here.

There have been many other activities that we have tried, including animating Google Slides to illustrate Spanish vocabulary, teaching the students how to use Screencastify to annotate their digital work, and most recently using Pear Deck to give students photo prompts to respond to with appropriate forms of tener. This activity not only forced her students to think creatively, it also gave them an opportunity to anonymously share their writing. Sue was able to lead a class discussion based on their responses, leaving the students with a much better understanding of the concept.  Have all of these edtech based activities gone off without a hitch? Not even close. But, she keeps trying and we keep finding successes!

Step out of your comfort zone and be a risk taker. It might be a little scary, but if you start with sound pedagogy and teaching methods, the lesson will stand up even if the tech does not.

 

 

Posted in Cool Tools, Creating Accessibility, Teacher Feature

Teacher Feature – Risk Takers – Roxana King

Risk taking in education is nothing new. For centuries, teachers have been willing to push the envelope, leap over obstacles and climb any mountain in the name of reaching our learners and making school meaningful for all students. As educational technology has begun to change the landscape of our schools, some teachers have charged ahead and jumped in with both feet, but others are slowly testing the waters and learning how to work outside of their comfort zone. These teachers consider themselves to not be very techy and in many cases, would call themselves technophobes. These are the teachers I want to celebrate! They are taking risks, putting themselves out there, and doing things that scare them. And they are doing all of this because they want to engage and empower their students!

With this series, I am going to feature different Lebanon City School teachers that are working outside of their comfort zones and taking big risks for their students. First up, Roxana King:

Roxana King – Family and Consumer Science Teacher

Roxana, a long-time teacher at Lebanon High School, is one or two years away from retirement. Her course load this year is foods, careers and consumer economics. I especially love working with her on cooking days and have had more than my fair share of fudge when I go to visit her. Roxana first reached out to me because she wanted to get a better handle on managing her Google Drive, her email, and just general computer processes.

During one of our work sessions, Roxana began to talk about how she really wanted to find a better way to engage her learners. She was looking for digital opportunities that would get students to participate in their own learning and would allow them to show what they know throughout the learning experience, not just at the very end. Roxana also wanted her students to have access to course information from anywhere so that they could review concepts whenever they needed, not just during the time they were in the four walls of her classroom.

After looking at the many different edtech tools available, Roxana settled on Edpuzzle and Quizlet.

EdPuzzle:

When I worked with Roxana, she told me about video content that she shares with her students. This video content is really well done and has fantastic and applicable information, but she knows that when she shows the videos in class, the students tend to tune out and not really internalize or engage with the information. When she discovered Edpuzzle, she immediately felt that this tool could be a game changer for her. With a little bit of practice and a lot of patience, Roxana learned how to use the voice over and quiz features in the program. She now feels that her students are much more engaged with the content since they know that there will be checks for understanding scattered throughout the videos. The feature that allows students to rewatch video portions over again until they understand the concept is an especially powerful learning tool. In addition, students that were absent in class (or students that just need a little review) can access the videos from their personal devices at any time of the day or night.

Quizlet:

Roxana’s use of Quizlet is really exciting. Students are taking concepts covered in class and creating their own flashcards. Once they have created their own, they crowdsource them and share them with the entire class. As a group, they go over the flashcards and pick the ones that they feel best illustrates and defines the concept. Then, using the quiz and game features in Quizlet, the students play games and take quizzes over the concepts. Since the students have to create the flashcards and identify which cards best illustrate a concept, they are taking ownership of the material taught in class. It is no longer Roxana handing them the answers and hoping they take the time to learn it. They are engaging and creating, which is the fastest path to understanding.

I am so proud of the work that Roxana is doing and how she is pushing herself. When I say that Roxana is not a techy teacher, I am not exaggerating by any stretch of the imagination. It takes a lot of hard work and patience for her to figure out how to use these programs, but she is sticking with it because she wants ways to have her students engage more authentically with the material she is presenting in class. And for somebody who is nearing the end of their career to jump in with both feet and take these kinds of risks, I think she is amazing!

 

 

Posted in Cool Tools, G-Suite for Education, Google Forms

Use the Magic of Google Forms to Differentiate Instruction and Assessment!

We have all probably experienced Google Forms in their most common, er, form. District admins love to use them for PD planning or information gathering. Teachers love to use them as quizzes, quick exit tickets, surveys or ways to get contact information from parents. LuLaRoe sellers love to use them to take all of my money. Typically, the Forms you have interacted with before have been designed in a linear fashion where the user starts with the first question and works their way through until all questions have been answered and the submit button is the final option. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

But, what if I told you that every student does not have to answer every question you have in a Form? Would your mind be blown if I told you that you could customize your Form to guide students through an activity that levels itself for their specific skill level? Would you kick your heels in glee if I told you that you can create a Form that allows students to review important concepts if they get a question wrong? Or a Form that allows students to engage in challenge or enrichment activities while freeing you up to work with students that need more assistance? All of these things are possible with the magic of Google Forms. Read on to discover how you can use the magic of sections to create Forms of Awesomeness!

Case Study for Forms of Awesomeness:

The students have learned a new math skill and I want to be sure that they have ample opportunities to master the skill or try out the skill in new situations. To do this, I create a Form where the first question asks the students to reflect on their comfort level with the unit we just finished.

Question on Google Form that shows four levels of comfort with unit material

Based on how they answer the first question, they will be directed to a specific section of my Form.

Section View

Within each section, I build activities that have the students complete leveled practice or enrichment activities. Within these sections, the students will find videos, tutorials or other resources that will help them as they work through questions that, based on how they answer, will allow the student to move forward or repeat the learning activity until they are able to get the question right.

 

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While students are working independently, I can pull individuals or small groups of students that have either indicated they need help or are not making any progress on their section of the Form. If students have overestimated or underestimated their skill level, they can always start over by going back to the Form and selecting a different response to the first question. As they work, the Form is collecting data to show their progress and instead of standing in the front of the room, I now have the freedom to meet the students where they are as they work independently.

If my Google Fu is strong and I am so inclined, I can even set the sections to loop the student to the other sections I have created. If they cruise through one of the easier sections, I can have the student advance to a more complex section with a simple click of a button. Or, if they continue to get answers wrong, I can set the Form to have them wind up in the guided practice section. Sections allow for so many possibilities!

Building Your Magical Form of Awesomeness

To create a nonlinear Form, you will need to use the “Sections” feature. This feature is located on the quick menu the scrolls along the right side of the screen as you are building your Form. shows a Google Form with the section icon highlighted

Sections are essentially self-contained content and question sets. When I am creating a multi-section Form, I like to build each section as if it were going to be given to the students by itself. I find it easiest to build each of my sections first and then set up the navigation later once I have created the content I want my students to interact with. Here is a quick video that gives a basic overview of how working with sections in Forms works.

I used a math lesson and a funny little cheese activity for my Forms, but really, there are so many ways that you can use these with your students. Science lab activities, social studies lessons about government types, choose your own adventure style writing and reading activities. Can you think of ways that you would like to use the magic of Forms in your classroom?

 

Posted in Google Classroom, Mastering Your Google Drive, Quick Tech Tips

Easily Access Google Classroom Materials in Google Drive

Did you know that the materials you use in Google Classroom are easily accessible right in Google Drive? As soon as you create a class in Classroom, a new folder called “Classroom” magically appears in your Drive. Within that folder you will find subfolders with the name of each class you have created. Any time you create an assignment in Classroom, a corresponding folder with assignment name appears as well. What you will find in those folders will be the work that you have assigned to your students in whatever stage of completion it happens to be on any given day. You will also find any external files (not Google products) or attachments you have used with the different assignments.

Students have the same structure in their Drives as well. Once they join their first Classroom, they will now have a Classroom folder with subfolders titled with the name of the class. Unfortunately, their materials are not organized by assignment, they are just loosely placed in the folder for their class. The good thing about this folder is that their materials will now follow them from year to year, even after they leave your class and move on to a new teacher. What an excellent way to track personal growth!

Accessing these materials is a simple process for both you and your students. There are two ways to do this:

Option One:

  1. Go to Google Drive
  2. Locate the “Classroom” folder
  3. Open the “Classroom” folder, locate the folder for a specific class and view the materials inside

 

Option Two:

  1. Go to Google Classroom
  2. Click on the Folder icon on the bottom of the tile for the chosen class.

 

Students have an even better option where they can see all of their assignments and the status of all of those assignments with a simple click of a button.

  1. Go to Google Classroom
  2. Click on the icon on the bottom of the tile that looks like a person

A special note about document ownership: The way the materials in Google Classroom work are based on ownership. When you create the assignment, you are transferring ownership of the item to the students so that they can work on it. When they turn that assignment back into you, they lose ownership of that item to you. This means the student is UNABLE TO SEE ANY COMMENTS ON THE DOCUMENT OR MAKE ANY CHANGES TO THE DOCUMENT while the teacher is the owner. You must use the “Return” feature in Classroom to give ownership of the document back to the students so that it once again belongs to them and follows the student instead of the teacher. Watch this video for a better explanation and example of how this works.

Posted in Cool Tools, G-Suite for Education, Student Creation

Students as Creators in a Digital Space

Learning is more than listening and writing down correct answers on a worksheet or test. Learning is when students take concepts in, turn them this way and that, look at them from all angles and remix them with concepts already discovered, and then create something new as they construct new knowledge for themselves. Students need to be more than consumers, they need to be creators. They also need the opportunity to share their creations with a larger audience which allows their creations to be more meaningful and authentic. If you want to give your students some opportunities to create in a digital space with Chromebooks as their platform, try out one of these awesome edtech tools.

Google-Drawing Google Drawings: An often overlooked and definitely underused program in G Suite is Google Drawings. Drawings gives the user a blank canvas that, just like every other application in the Google product line, allows for creativity and collaboration. At its most basic, Drawings acts as a desktop publisher. Start with a blank canvas, add text and images, then download or share. Drawings can be downloaded as a PDF, png, or jpg. Drawings can also be published directly to the web! As a creation tool, the possibilities are endless, but here are a few suggestions:

  • Students create diagrams during lab work
  • Students create an infographic to showcase understanding of a concept
  • Students create a Drawing that explains their process and thinking about a math problem
  • Students use Drawings and Google Maps to teach about historical or geographical concepts
  • Students create a poster for projects like the science fair – look at my amazingly awesome example!

    science fair poster

bookcreatoriconBook Creator for Chrome: Book Creator bills itself as “the simplest way to create and share ebooks in your classroom.” The program runs as a Chrome app and students (or teachers) can combine text, images, audio, and video to create a media-rich book that is hosted online and can be shared with other students, teachers, parents, and communities. The creation tools are very easy to use and making high-quality pages is a cinch even for the youngest user. The camera and microphone features allow the creator to add personal images and narration of their text.  Creators are able to link to their Google Drives and pull content directly into their ebook, which allows for app smashing where students create content with other tools and then bring the content in from where it is stored in Google Drive. There is also a feature that allows for a Google image search (the best part is that the search will only bring back images labeled for reuse). When it is time to share, the book can be published online, downloaded as an epub, or printed.

Of course, a natural use of Book Creator would be to write and publish stories and poetry books. However, it can be used by your students to create a wide variety of products like nonfiction text, research journals, or how-to manuals. If you want to see how other teachers have used Book Creator, check out this Pinterest Board or look at the book below.

powtoon

Powtoon: Powtoon is an animated story builder that allows students to create engaging explainer videos on a wide range of topics. By using storyboards or templates along with items and sounds from an extensive library, students can create a professional looking video that will wow even the most critical teacher. Concept explanation and idea sharing take a brand new path while students learn design elements and video editing techniques. Instead of having every student get up in front of the classroom and read from their notes, have them create a Powtoon, post the link to it in a shared space like Padlet or Google Slides and then have students interact with the videos. You could even have the creator of the video create an exit ticket that students need to complete after they have watched the video selections.

Here are a few examples of concept videos created by students:

There are a multitude of creation options out there on the interwebs. These three just happen to be some of my personal favorites. Introduce these to your students or allow them to go and search out one of their own. The point is to get them creating. Let them show you what they know in new and innovative ways instead of ending every unit with a paper and pencil test or a worksheet.

Posted in Cool Tools, G-Suite for Education, Google Keep

Google Keep – The Gift That Keeps on Giving the Whole Year: Part Two: Students

In a previous post, I extolled the virtues of using Google Keep to get yourself organized and Keep an eye towards the future. This post is going to focus on how your students can use Google Keep to become organized rock stars that can conquer the world! I am a big fan of Keep and would use Keep with my students to help them become more organized, manage homework or other tasks, research and curate content, collaborate, capture quick thoughts and work, and create images or grab photos of important (or not so important) materials. That is a lot of responsibility to put on one little app, but I know Keep can handle it!

Personal Organization – Checkboxes, Reminders, Color-Coding and the Search Feature:

When a student creates a new note, they have the option to show checkboxes. This is a perfect way for students to create a to-do list for that independent project they are working on. In addition to the checkboxes, Keep allows the user to create a reminder. For those students that have a hard time remembering to follow timelines or to attend to due dates that are rapidly approaching, these reminders will help keep them on track.

Google Keep note with checkboxes showing
Create Checkboxes to Organize Tasks and Mark Items as Completed
Google Keep showing the reminder menu
Teach students to set reminders so that they don’t forget about the task at hand

Keep notes can be color-coded and labeled for easy organization and retrieval. If you have students using Keep as a research tool or as a way to curate content for school activities or passion projects, labels and color-coding will be invaluable. Keep is completely searchable by color (and type, label, things and people)! Category labels can be created when a new note is made or from the Keep notepad.

Search by Type or LabelSearch by Person or Color

Research/Curation of Content – Color Coding, Labels, Save to Keep extension and Keep Notepad in Docs:

How have your students curated their research materials in the past? I am willing to take a gamble and say that there is a lot of copying and pasting going on. Students either copy and paste the text from the source or just go even more basic and copy and paste the URL into a Google Doc because they are totally going to refer to it later. Then when they go to actually write their paper or create their projects, organizing their research in any sort of meaningful way can be challenging. With Keep and the Save to Keep extension, students can find resources online, click on the extension to save the source and immediately add a label to the newly created note. Once the note has been created, students can then color-code it by topic, research paper, class, etc. By dragging and dropping or pinning them, students can organize their research into a meaningful pattern. When they are ready to begin writing or creating, they can open their Keep notes right in Google Docs or Slides and either use them as a guide or drop their notes directly into their Doc or Slide.

Note Taking and Text Annotation:

Students can use Keep to take class notes. Once they have written the note, it follows them everywhere their device does! Even better, they can use the picture tool in Keep to snap a photo of anything you have written on your board or passed out in class. They can add their own thoughts and understanding to your words. Once they have their notes created, they can share their notes in order to crowdsource class concepts for the most amazing study session ever!

Speaking of the photo-taking tool in Keep, one of the coolest features is the ability to take a photo of text and then use the “Grab Image Text” option to turn that photo into editable text. Imagine the text annotation goodness your students will now be capable of.

Capture Image Text
Grab Image Text

Once the text has been converted, students can annotate on the note or copy the text directly into a Google Doc. Or they can use the Notepad tool to bring the text in while they are creating and need to quote source material. This is a great option for teachers who want students annotating text since the teacher can create the Keep note and share it with their students to interact with.

Drawing and Voice Tool:

Drawing
This drawing of awesomeness was created with the Keep mobile app.

While this is only available through the mobile app, enough students have their own phones that I believe these tools are worth mentioning. The Draw tool allows the user to create a drawing as a note. Once the drawing has been created, that drawing can then be dropped right into a Google Doc or Slide. For those students that have an artistic eye or a need for an image they can’t find anywhere else, this draw feature comes in pretty handy. Unfortunately for me, my drawings skills are pretty weak.

As for the voice tool, students can record their thoughts, much like the television lawyers and therapist from yesteryear. Not only does Keep transcribe their words for them, it also keeps the audio file for playback. This is great for students to take notes on the fly (think of those field trips to the museum or zoo that we all love to take – student sees an amazing work of art or fancy animal; opens up Keep; snaps a photo and records an audio clip about their impressions).

The student uses for Google Keep are wide and varied and I would bet dollars to donuts that your students could come up with a million different uses for this highly accessible and totally free tool. What do you think your students will do with Keep? What do you want them to do with Keep? Add your ideas in the comments!

 

 

 

Posted in Cool Tools, G-Suite for Education, Google Keep

Google Keep – The Gift That Keeps on Giving the Whole Year – Part One: Teacher

If you haven’t discovered Google Keep yet I am about to give you the best gift ever! Keep has been hanging around for some time but it has had some recent updates that make it indispensable for you and your students.

At the most basic level, Google Keep is a note-taking app. Users create sticky notes of information that can be color-coded and tagged for easy grouping. Notes can be pinned to the top, created as a checklist, and include links, images, and even drawings. Keep also has a search function that allows the user to quickly locate notes in the notepad.

Here is a quick look at my Google Keep:

Snapshot of Keep - Pinned
Pinned Posts on Keep
Keep - Other
The Finest Google Keep In All The Land

App FinderTo access Google Keep, simply go to keep.google.com or use your app finder to pull it up. If this is the first time you are accessing Google Keep, you might need to click on the “More” option to find it. Remember, these icons can be dragged and dropped so that you can easily reorganize them to meet your needs. However, Google Keep doesn’t only live on the web since you can find the Google Keep app for both Android and Apple platforms in the App Store or the Google Play store. Keep synchronizes across all of your devices, so if you add a note on your phone, you will immediately see the note across platforms.

Virtual Sticky Notes of Awesomeness:

Google Keep allows you to create a wide variety of sticky notes for all of your needs:

  • Regular old notes with a headline and a body – but in color!
  • Checklists – I love “to-do” lists and Keep makes all of my organizational dreams come true!
  • Image-based – take a picture or use an already saved image and then write your ideas all over it!
  • Free-hand drawing – No image to match your awesomeness? Draw your own!
  • Audio – (Only found in the Android or Apple app) – Have a lot to say but your fingers are too tired to type? Speak your thoughts right into Keep. The best part? It transcribes your speech to text and saves the original audio file.
  • Location-based reminders – Walk into the door at school and get an automatic reminder to do whatever that thing was that you couldn’t remember to do last time.
  • Share the love – All Keep notes can be shared with collaborators. Every collaborator has the right to view and edit your note of awesomeness.

Applications of Awesomeness:

The question you are probably asking is, “why is this the best gift ever?” The answer to that is very simple; Google Keep has become fully integrated with G-Suite for Edu applications. That means, aside from creating the most spectacular sticky notes ever, you can begin using them for teaching and learning. Your Google Keep notepad will now show up as a tool in Docs, Drawings and Slides. Anything that you have created or saved in Keep is now an item that you can drag and drop into your current project. Look at the new level of productivity you are bringing to your work!

Open Keep
Find the Keep notepad under the “Tools’ menu
Adding from Keep
Adding content from Keep

This process includes any images that you might have saved to Keep, even if they are hand drawn. My artistic abilities are not the best, but I can now add the most poorly drawn heart into anything I want!

Adding Images
Adding Content to Slides

Practical Applications for Use:

  • Feedback/Comments – if you find you are giving the same feedback on a consistent basis, write it in Keep so that you can drag and drop it into student work.
  • Store/share links you use frequently but don’t necessarily want to bookmark.
  • Take a snapshot of any board work or diagrams you drew throughout your lesson so that you have them for later (not all of us have interactive whiteboards, you know).
  • Teacher collaboration – instead of dumping all of your content into a shared Doc, create shared Keep notes. These are really easy to organize and place into a Doc once you are ready to start working on the final product
  • Teacher created materials like diagrams, drawings or playlists can be created in Keep and then inserted into multiple Docs, Slides or Drawings.
  • Research and resource gathering – I used to use Diigo to capture and collect resources or curate content that I needed for teaching and while I still find it to be a valuable tool, Keep allows me to capture resources and then bring them right into a Google Doc or Slide (with the appropriate citations, of course).
  • Save to Keep extension – Found something on the web that you want to save for later? Use the Save to Keep extension to not only save the resource but annotate and tag it for later use.
Save to Keep
Save to Keep Extension

Google Keep is an excellent tool to add to your edtech arsenal and will help to streamline your life in many ways. This article focuses explicitly on teacher use of Keep, but the applications for student use are numerous. My next blog post will focus on how students can use Keep, so stay tuned!

 

Posted in Creating Accessibility

Meaningful Onboarding When Using Tech in the Classroom

I started my teaching career back in the dark ages of 1996 and stayed in the classroom until the end of 2007 when I moved into the library/media center. Those first few days of school were always a wonderful flurry of activity where I would introduce myself, meet the kids, but most importantly, give them glimpses of how things in the classroom needed to work in order to create a positive experience for everybody. You know, things like: where assignments needed to be turned in; where to find supplies; where to find additional copies of class materials; how to keep track of individual progress; classroom roles and responsibilities; how our classroom economy would work; how to be a good classroom citizen; and most crucially, how to be excused to go to the bathroom! By the time we hit the middle of the first quarter, my classroom would run like a well-oiled machine and students were largely independent and able to function in the environment we had created together. Whenever a new student arrived, the kids would demonstrate their knowledge by teaching the new student the ropes.

Our classrooms of today have added a technology element that has big impacts on our classroom communities. Living in a technology-rich classroom has changed the landscape, but have we given any thought to how to introduce our students to these tools and how to best use them to keep our classes running like that well-oiled machine? When you walk into any classroom these days, the automatic assumption usually made is that every single child in that room has more tech knowledge and skills than the average adult. Teachers believe that all we need to do is hand our students a device and they are off and running. I suppose that is true if we are asking the students to use Snapchat, post on Instagram or create a playlist on Spotify. However, if we want them to use their devices for teaching and learning, there is a good chance that they need to be onboarded into our classroom’s digital environment.

Think about your experience as an educator. When you adopted an LMS like Schoology or Canvas or began using a content delivery system like Google Classroom, you probably (hopefully) received some sort of professional development to help get you started. Even if it wasn’t anything official from your school or district, you most likely watched the introductory training videos or read the quick start guide offered by the programs themselves. Now, look back to the first time you had your students work inside one of these systems. Did you talk to them about what to expect when they are working within the system? Did you walk them through the steps necessary to log in? Did you show them how to access the content you are sharing? Turn in their assignments? Add it as a favorite to their browser? Did you have any discussions about digital citizenship and your expectations for how each student should represent themselves in a digital environment? If you haven’t had these discussions with the students, I am not sure they know how to live in the digital space you are using. Just like you needed a little guidance to get started, so do your students. I am not advocating for long drawn out sessions of direct training, but the first few times that you have assignments in Classroom or in your LMS, walk students through access, creation and turn-in options so that they know how to effectively interact with the environment. When you see students writing “Heyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy everybody, I am so crazy!” on your Classroom stream, think about how you can discuss appropriate sharing in a digital space.

My district is a Google district and I spend a lot of time in different classrooms with students. The funny thing about our students these days is that they are able to figure out how to use just about any flashy tool that they stumble across, but if I ask them to create a Slide or Doc, there is a pause and students scatter to create in a weird variety of ways. I have watched students Google the words ‘Slides’ or ‘Docs’ and then randomly click on whichever search result is at the top of the list, even if it isn’t a Google product. When we are working on something on one day and I want them to access it on another day, they aren’t entirely sure where to find it. It has become apparent to me that I need to onboard these students by quickly showing them how to access their Google apps via the app finder (we call it the ‘waffle’), how to navigate to Google Drive, how to create folders in Drive and how to create within the folders for easy access at a later date. These are not all stand-alone lessons that take a bulk of the class time. Rather, these skills are what I show them when I model the set-up and routines expected in my class. They are not limited in their choice of creation tool, but at the very least, I know that they know how to organize their creations and share them with me.

When you create a digital environment for your students to live in, onboard them by defining:

  1. How to access the environment:
    1. How do they login? Username and password?
    2. Can they access it from home?
  2. Digital citizenship expectations:
    1. Are they free to comment and express themselves in the environment?
    2. What are expectations for interacting with peers?
    3. When digital media is created, how are images found and used and how are citations displayed?
    4. What external sites are ok for use in the digital environment?
  3. Workflow:
    1. How do students access assignments?
    2. How do students turn in assignments (share vs dropbox vs “turn in” features)
    3. Will your assignments be posted on a calendar or should students look in another location?
    4. If you are using Clasroom, are students expected to mark their assignments “done” even if they have turned in a physical copy instead of a digital copy?
    5. When you are collaborating and giving feedback on student work before it reaches the final form, how will that workflow be managed?
  4. Communication:
    1. Let the students (and parents) know how you will communicate with them digitally. Will you be using the announcement feature in Classroom or Schoology? Will you use an app like Remind?
    2. Let them know how feedback will be delivered to them for different assignments. Should they look in the private comments in Classroom, comments within a Google Doc or Slide, video links, handwritten on sticky notes? If they know what they are looking for, it will be easier for them to interact with your feedback.
    3. If you give grades, where will the students see the grades? On the assignment? In the Schoology grade book? On ProgressBook? Written on the top of a paper?

In my mind, these are the essentials your students need to know in order to be properly onboarded into your digital learning space. Just like you take some time at the beginning of the year to discuss how to leave the room to go to the bathroom and that your students should call you Queen of Awesomeness (just me?!?), you should spend some time making sure they are comfortable and prepared to learn in both a physical and digital space.

How do you onboard your students? What essentials did I miss? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments!