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!

 

Posted in Blended Learning, Cool Tools

Formative = EdTech Tool of Awesomeness

As educators, we know (hopefully we know, please say that we know) that we should be using formative assessments to drive the learning in our classes. Formative assessments are assessments for learning, providing the teacher with important information on how to adjust the learning experiences in the classroom in order to meet the learners where they are. When formative assessments are used on a regular basis the teacher discovers where they should provide instruction and/or alternative pathways to ensure that students are mastering the learning targets and objectives throughout the course of study. This is in direct contrast to waiting until the end of a unit and summatively assessing students only to realize that they were not truly learning or applying content. When formative assessments are given, you know right away if a student has not gained mastery of the skill and can then provide additional or alternative opportunities to learn. Using formative assessments to create a responsive teaching and learning environment is something that every teacher should strive to do. Some popular ways to formatively assess include exit slips, self-reflection opportunities, use of Google Forms, Kahoots, Quizizz or other game platforms. The problem with these formative types are that you still have to wait until the student turns in their work to see where they are in their understanding of the concept. (Click here for more on formative assessments).

Wouldn’t it be great if you had a way to see how students were performing on a learning task as they were working? Guess what?!?! When you use an amazing tool called Formative, you can!

Formative is an online program that bills itself as a classroom response builder designed to track and accelerate student growth. Using a host of Formative tools, teachers can create media-rich assignments or assessments that allow students to respond through traditional means like multiple choice, short/long answer and true/false, or by showing what they know using drawing and creation tools. What sets Formative apart from many of its counterparts is that the teacher can see what the students are doing in real time and can give immediate feedback digitally through Formative or in person as the student is working in the classroom. You no longer have to wait until the lesson or skill practice has ended to give your students valuable and meaningful feedback. As students interact with the content, you can immediately see where struggles and successes are happening and create new and responsive learning opportunities for them. Here is a brief video that gives a nice overview of Formative in action.

Formative is free for teachers and students to use. A free account with Formative is pretty robust and offers question and content creation tools that make any edtech fan giggle with delight. A Formative can include images, videos, text, diagrams, and even allows for a direct embed from other third-party tech tools like Flipgrid, Padlet and Edpuzzle. There is a feature that allows the creator to upload a PDF or Doc and have the students write right on it. (This is limited to 20 pages per month on the free account.) Sharing a Formative is a cinch with the Google Classroom integration, and the student response view is a thing of beauty!

The whole reason to use Formative is because of how you can interact with students as they are working, but the build tools are easy to use and extremely accessible to teachers. When creating a Formative, a teacher can choose to make an assignment, benchmark, classwork, do now/warm-up or exit slip. Question options for the free account include multiple choice, multiple selection, short answer, essay, true or false, and my favorite, show your work. When creating the Formative, the teacher has the ability to indicate correct answers and assign point values if the activity is being completed for a grade. Watch this short video to see the different question and response types.

Giving immediate feedback to students through the dashboard is an easy task. Once the assignment has gone live, you can see and interact with student work. If you see a student making an error or struggling with a task, you can immediately intervene and provide feedback digitally or pull the student and work with them one-on-one before they even have a chance to leave your classroom.

live-responses-grade

Any feedback that you give to the student shows up immediately on their screen! Instead of finding your carefully created feedback tossed carelessly in the garbage (or left on the floor), you know that students will see your amazing words of wisdom right there on their screen.

Formative also has a nice tracking feature. You can see how students do on individual activities and track their work over multiple assignments. There is also a standards option where you can link standards to specific questions. Did the student just get lucky and answer something correctly, or do they actually have a handle on the material? Now you can tell by tracking the trending data over time.

track

If this post has sparked your interest and you want to learn more, mosey on over to www.goformative.com. They recently launched a new community page where educators just like you can collaborate, share, learn and grow. If you are a Lebanon City Schools employee and would like some coaching time with me, just shoot me an email and we can get started. As you can see by my amazing video, I am a Formative expert… 😉

Caveat: As you try new tools in your classroom, remember, it is crucial that you include your stakeholders and onboard your students. A quick letter or email home to parents to let them know what tool you are using and why is a great way to head off any concerns. Don’t forget that many of our families learned in traditional school settings and view programs like Formative and EdPuzzle as a negative because they mistakenly believe that you are not teaching and are just having their kids watch videos or work on computers all day. Be sure to explain that you are using these tools in order to give their children a more personalized and targeted learning experience. Students also need to know the purpose of a new tool, as well as an overview of how to actually use it!

Posted in G-Suite for Education, Google Classroom, Quick Tech Tips

Academic Integrity in the world of Google

In this day and age of G-Suite for Edu, our ability to collaborate and share on a world stage has opened amazing doors to our students. Unfortunately, it has also opened an easy door for students to walk through when it comes to cheating. Google has made it so easy to share that students not willing to do the work have figured out how to take full advantage of share, copy and paste features. If only they would put as much time into their work as they do into figuring out how to cheat!

Some educators have decided that the threat of academic dishonesty is so great that they have will forgo using any Google tools in their classroom. This is an absolute shame since students are really missing out on a large number of collaboration and creation opportunities. Rather than closing the door, there are ways to keep that door open while maintaining academic integrity standards.

One of the first ways to prevent copy and paste style cheating is to create assignments and projects that allow for unique and creative responses from your students. Of course, this isn’t always a reasonable expectation for every assignment and there are lots of times when you will be having your students answer questions in a digital environment. And, as you know, that is where the cheating comes in.

Revision History

Fortunately, Google has provided you with the way to track your little cheater friends and catch them red-handed! Enter Revision History! When a Google Doc, Slide or Sheet is created, all edits, additions, and changes are tracked. These edits are accessible to any editor. When a student shares their work with you, you become an editor and should be able to track the document’s revision history. Every time something is typed, every time an edit is made, every time something is dumped into the document, you can track it! As an added bonus, if students are working on a group project, you can see which student worked on each part of the project. It is like you just stumbled onto some sort of magical powers!

To see revision history:

  1. Open the Doc, Slide or Sheet
  2. Click on the “File”
  3. Mouse down to “Version History”
  4. Click on “See Version History”

Need to see it in action? Watch this video:

If a student has a lot of edits, you can feel pretty comfortable that they have done the work for themselves. If they have only one edit, this is a pretty good indicator that the student has copied and pasted the bulk of the material.

Google Doc with one edit showing
There is evidence of only 1 edit on this entire document
Google Doc with 35 Edits in the history
This student has 35 edits on her document

Be warned, there are ways for your students to work around this as well. Making a copy of something will automatically delete any revision history, but a lack of edits on an assignment is a pretty clear indicator that something fishy is going on.

To be able to see the revision history, you must be an editor (or collaborator) on the document. The easiest way to accomplish this is to assign the work via Google Classroom. Since you are the owner of the Classroom, you are automatically made an editor on any of the work a student creates and turns in through the Classroom engine. Here is a great video by Eric Curts from controlaltachieve.com.

Another creative educator discovered a second way to check for academic integrity on materials students have turned in to you via Google Drive or Classroom. I can’t believe I never thought about this before. Thanks to Dennis Neufeld @mrdennisneufeld for this creative suggestion!

If we lived in a perfect world, none of this would be necessary. But, we know that kids will be kids and many will go to Herculean lengths to avoid working on assignments. If we let our students know that we have all the powers of “The Great and Powerful Oz” and can catch them in their dishonesty, maybe they will be less likely to mosey down that yellow brick road of dishonesty. Have open and honest conversations with your students, ask them what forces them to cheat, and explain that there are easy ways to catch them. Maybe, just maybe, they will learn some valuable lessons while they are in school!

 

Posted in Blended Learning, Teacher Feature

Teacher Feature – Beth Mele and offering students voice and choice in a blended learning environment

I am a frequent visitor to Bowman Primary School (in Lebanon, Ohio for those of you that aren’t local), and every time I pass by the art room, I find myself stopping just to enjoy a few moments of the scene in front of me. Students are all engaged in their work, awesome products are being created and crafted, and everything is running like a well-oiled machine. Beth Mele, the art teacher at Bowman, has created an impressive blended learning environment for her students by utilizing six classroom iPads and some Google tools. The way she teaches her subject is truly an art and the techniques that she uses can be easily lifted and recreated in any other subject area.

empty art classroom
The Calm Before the Storm!

Blended Learning is an educational pedagogy that combines traditional teacher-led instruction with a digital component that gives students some control over time, place, path or pace. In order to provide an integrated learning experience, what happens in the classroom informs the activities or materials that live in a digital space and vice versa. Some popular methods of blended learning include flipped classrooms and rotation models. (For more on blended learning, visit this resource from the Christensen Institute.)

The big question is, how did an art teacher, who serves – with limited technology – about 200 grade 1-2 students a day create a blended environment for her students? Well, read on to find out!

On the morning that I arrived, Beth told me that she had just introduced the students to collage making the day before. She explained that the way she runs her classroom is that she uses the concept of studios. Once she has introduced her students to a specific technique, it now becomes an option for them to choose from to create a project using any of the techniques that they have already learned. By the time I visited in mid-October, she had introduced four different art techniques to her students with plans to begin fiber techniques next week.

picture of studio options: drawing, collage, painting, sculpture
Students can select from any of the open studios during their class time.

Beth said that she felt a few of the students needed to see the technique again, so she was going to start the day with a mini-lesson review of how to create a collage. Using her document camera, she quickly modeled for the students how to cut and arrange paper to create a scene and then told them to go ahead and get started on a project of their choosing. With zero fuss and surprisingly little chaos, all of the students immediately got to work. The beauty of it all was that each kid was working on a project of their choosing at their own pace! As I circulated around the room, I saw students painting, drawing, sculpting and making collages.

students creating sculpturesstudents drawing

What turns this classroom into a blended one is the way that Beth has created accessibility to skill videos for the students. Scattered around the room are QR codes. When a student needs to learn or revisit a technique, they simply grab one of the six classroom iPads and scan a QR code. It brings them to an instructional video created by Beth. Students have the ability to watch, pause and then rewatch short videos for the chosen skill. This allows them to move at their own pace, and since they can select any of the projects that are listed in the open studios, they are given voice and choice. Beth has created a learning targets wall where the QR codes can be found by all students. One of the most beneficial parts of this is that by creating these instructional videos, she has freed herself to work with students on a more individual basis. Instead of answering the same question over and over again, she can redirect them to the appropriate QR code and free herself to work one-on-one with those students that need it.

bulls eyes and qr codes on a wall.
QR codes can be found aligned with the learning targets for the unit.
QR Codes for watercolor technique
Students can scan any of these QR codes to watch a tutorial video. Try it yourself!

To make sure that students are getting ample practice with each skill, Beth has created a way for the student to chart their progress. Each student has a tracking sheet where they simply color in the cart with the color of the technique that was used. At a glance, Beth is able to quickly see if a student is on track, if they have only focused on one task and need to expand their skill set, or if they aren’t keeping an appropriate pace for learning.

graph showing weeks, artists and technique
Students track their work and practice from each technique

To showcase (or prove) that they have grown and learned each skill, students are required to write an artist’s statement on each completed piece. They are then given the chance to upload their completed work to a website called Artsonia. Artsonia is an online portal where teachers and schools can curate student work in a museum-style setting. By using Artsonia, Beth has given her students a platform or stage to share their work with the world (or just their families…guess I got a little ahead of myself.) Look at this photo story of one of my little friends. He is taking his sculpture to completion, writing his artist’s statement and uploading it to Artsonia for his parents to view.

Since Beth sees 200 hundred students a day, she felt that it was important to be able to quickly monitor student work in a digital format. To do this, she has created a Google Form that she uses on her iPad. It allows her to circulate through the room, stopping at random students, and collecting data on how they are doing in her class on any given day. She has even set up her Form so that she can take a picture of their work and upload it through the Form. While this helps make report card time easier, it also helps her make sure she is meeting the needs of each student since she can see her data in spreadsheet view.

Google Form on iPad
Beth is quickly able to spot check and assess student progress.

I cannot stress enough how wonderful my experience in Beth’s art classroom was. She has created a well-oiled machine. Students are able to work on projects that inspire and excite them and by using technology she is freed up to meet her students where they are. She does all this with a document camera and six classroom iPads. Beth uses an iPad to record her videos and then either places them directly on Youtube or right into her Google Drive for easy sharing. Her students know exactly what is expected of them, and she has even figured out a way to make clean-up a breeze. Beth has an old iPod sitting near her desk that she has programmed with musical alarms to go off about 5 minutes before the end of the class period. Students hear that music and they know it is time to clean-up! No more of that frantic rush to put things away once somebody notices that the time has come to an end.

Now, just imagine if you took her techniques and put them in your own classroom? Tricky math problems? Lab instructions? Repeating the same grammar instructions over and over again? Try creating short tutorial videos (or finding them in places like Khan Academy), create a QR code and place it either in your classroom or on their actual papers and see how much more independent they become! Every technique that Beth uses can be something you use in your own classroom. There are even websites like Artsonia that allow students to share their work outside of the four walls of your classroom. (Seesaw and Class Dojo are names you are probably most familiar with.) If you ever get a chance to watch Beth Mele in action, I highly recommend you do. Her classroom feels like a magical place and the kids don’t even realize they are learning!

 

Posted in Cool Tools

BrainPOP Will Blow Your Mind!

When I was still in the classroom, BrainPOP was a great resource for me to be able to show a short video illustrating a concept. The kids loved it, but to be honest, I used it more as a reward or to fill up free time than as an actual teaching tool. I kind of drifted away from BrainPOP and hadn’t really explored it all until just last week when somebody said to me, “Hey, have you seen all of the cool things that BrainPOP can do?” Intrigued, I signed in using my district G-suite for Education credentials and my mind was blown at the amazing lessons, student response options, and concept packaging that is available.  

If you haven’t checked out BrainPOP in awhile, I highly recommend that you give it a second glance, especially since the district has provided each teacher and student with a full subscription!

Features:

G-Suite Sign In:  No need to remember usernames and passwords. G-Suite Login ScreenTeachers and students can simply sign into BrainPOP with their G-Suite credentials. A click quick and you are in!

 

My Classes/Google Classroom Integration: BrainPOP allows you to sync your current Google Classrooms with their system. This sync will pull your Classroom roster and make it easy for you to see individual student progress on any assignments you create within BrainPOP. The My Classes tab shows detailed progress for each student. You can view where they currently are on an assignment, how they have done on any of the items already completed and interact with student work in spreadsheet form. If you want, you can download scores and progress records as an Excel file (don’t worry, you can turn it into a Google Sheet once you upload it to your Google Drive).

Assignment Builder: Instead of just giving your students one video clip to watch, you can create an entire package of learning opportunities. Each video clip has predesigned activities. If you want your students to explore a concept and then apply it, simply select from any (or all) of the activities and have BrainPOP package and deliver them. You can then use the My Classes tab to monitor success and struggles. Assignment Builder

Quiz Mixer

Movie Quiz/Mixer Quiz/Quiz Builder: Each BrainPOP movie comes with a movie quiz, but you also have the ability to create your own quiz. When you use the Mixer tool, you can write your own quiz questions or choose from a bank of questions already written. 

Make-a-Map: Take concept mapping to new heights with this tool. Students can make meaningful connections as they create graphics based on the video concepts by using BrainPOP images, keywords, and movie clips.

Make-a-Movie: Students and teachers love the concept of movie cremake a movieation. Usually, we are searching for tools that students can use to create their own movie, and now you don’t have to look any further than BrainPOP. This extremely robust tool allows not just students to create, teachers can create as well! Click on the image to see some videos created by BrainPOP users!

Creative Coding: Have you been thinking about offering coding opportunities in your classroom? BrainPOP has decided to capitalize on this new focus on coding and STEAM opportunities by developing their own in-house coding activities! Don’t know how to code? Don’t worry, all the resources you and your students need are right at your fingertips!

BrainPOP Challenge: BrainPOP’s auto-graded Challenge feature now accompanies more than 100 topics, from Edgar Allen Poe and Plate Tectonics to Copernicus and Stocks & Shares!  These playful activities challenge students to put their critical thinking skills to the test in fun, interactive ways while seamlessly enabling teachers to assess what their class knows. Each BrainPOP Challenge is a set of topical activities emphasizing cognitive skills including concept mapping, diagram labeling, matching, text highlighting, multiple response, sequencing, and Venn diagramming. Source

Games: So many games! So many fun concepts! So many linked lesson ideas! What a great way to help make learning fun. These aren’t just games for students to waste time on; they are directly linked to content and standards. Each game even has an aligned lesson plan to extend the learning beyond the game situation. Students can create their own games as well!

Newsela: BrainPOP has taken the work out of finding resources for you by including Newsela articles right in the assignment builder.

FYI: Need your students to dig a little deeper? Assign an FYI sheet as part of student work. The FYI link provides vocabulary, quirky information, real-life examples, and possibly even a comic strip!

FYI

Teacher Resources: BrainPOP is not expecting teachers to just create assignments and have the students experience the concepts only in a digital environment. Every concept in BrainPOP includes lesson ideas, printable resources, and additional ways to explore in the classroom with teacher-led instruction or activities.

What are you waiting for?

I am just amazed at all of the resources you have right at your fingertips! And before you decide that BrainPOP isn’t right for the age of your students, know that you can toggle back and forth between BrainPOP and BrainPOP Jr. With the combined forces of these programs, any teacher from Pre-K to 12th grade should be able to find materials for their students!

If you are interested in getting started with BrainPOP and like to learn on your own, check out the beginner’s guide at https://educators.brainpop.com/.

If you are interested but would like to have a little one-on-one coaching, feel free to contact me and schedule a collaboration time. Believe me, BrainPOP has something for everyone and you won’t be disappointed.

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

Teacher Feature – Kat McAndrews and her Digital Portfolios

Kat McAndrews, a sixth-grade science teacher at Berry Intermediate, has decided to throw caution to the wind and jump headfirst into new ways for her students to show themselves as learners and scientists. We had a quick discussion one day about this, and next thing I knew, she had turned her ideas into reality and is using Google Slides and Team Drive with her students as they create digital portfolios to showcase all their learning and growth this year!

I decided that I wanted to see all of this in action and scheduled some time to visit with her and her awesome students. When I first entered her classroom, I could feel the thrum of energy from the kids.

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 They were getting ready to head outside with their soil kits, and even though it was close to 92 degrees, the students were excited to be out in the field. This was day two of their soil quadrant work, and the students were using their interactive science notebooks to record data on the experiments they were conducting. As they were working, Kat walked amongst them, snapping photos and discussing their procedures and results. As the class drew to an end, she began uploading the images to Team Drive so that the students would be able to access them tomorrow in class when they continued working with their digital portfolios.

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I made a second visit later in the day to see a class that was a little further along with this project. These students had finished their lab work and were now ready to show what they knew by creating short skits or presentations about the topic. I watched a newscast, a rap, a scientific demonstration of techniques used, and some very awkward kids hiding behind posters! Kat recorded all of these presentations with her trusty iPhone, and just like she did with the images, uploaded them to the corresponding Team Drives for her students to access.

The next time I was in the room, it was an inside work day (Thank goodness, as the heat was slowly killing me). I circulated around to get a good look at what the students were creating. Since their photos were already in Team Drive, students were able to quickly get to work grabbing images to add to their Slides presentation. Kat gave them free reign to showcase themselves as learners and to share their data. She simply asked them to not select a bold background image because that might interfere with their data and their images.

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The students now have a digital portfolio that showcases who they are as learners and sciAACDC236-062B-4BE1-BCF6-0F895348C06F.JPGentists. Not only can they show their teacher this, they can also share this with family members or other students. Using Slides makes this uniquely portable, and this sixth-grade portfolio can now follow them through their entire school career and even beyond if they decide to make a copy of their school Drive when they go out into the big, exciting world! I am so pleased that Kat has taken this sort of risk and figured out all the pieces necessary to make this a success. She has done a great job troubleshooting any issues that have come up, and even though this was her first time using some of this tech, she has created a vibrant learning community with her students.

Their portfolios are a work in progress that they will continue to add to all year. Here are a few examples (I have removed some Slides to protect privacy)

 

Here are the nuts and bolts of how Kat accomplishes these student created and designed portfolios.

  1. Using the new Team Drive feature in Google Drive, Kat created a Team Drive for each of her science classes. She then added her students to the corresponding Team Drive
  2. Each student created their own Slides presentation that will be used as a working portfolio for the school year and shared it with Kat.
  3. While students are working as scientists, she takes pictures of them in the field. She also records them giving their group presentations. These presentations are designed by the students to show what they have learned in a new and creative way.
  4. Using the Drive app on her phone, she then uploads the pictures and videos to the Team Drive so that students can then add them to their own portfolios.

Using technology in her classroom has opened the door for Kat’s students to create and show their learning all while putting their personal stamp on their work. She could have done something similar with just paper and pencil, but being able to quickly add images, videos, and creative elements to a digital portfolio that can be shared on a global platform brought this activity to a higher level. It isn’t about replacing a paper portfolio with a digital one, it is about the ability of the students to create and share with other people inside and outside of the four walls of their classroom. Good edtech doesn’t replace an activity, it allows you to do something that would be impossible without the tech. This is a perfect example of doing something Kat couldn’t have done before!

I know many of you are doing equally awesome things in your classroom. I would love to hear about what you are doing and spread the good word. Please contact me if you want to share your awesomeness with the world!

Posted in G-Suite for Education, Quick Tech Tips

Force a Copy

We do a lot of sharing in this day and age. Fortunately, not just cooties…amIright?

When we share Google Docs and Slides with our coworkers or students, there is always the gamble that they will make changes to our work. Sometimes those changes are ok, but frequently, we didn’t want them to make changes at all. Using revision history, we can always take our work back to where we left it, but there is an easier way to deal with this by preventing it from even happening in the first place.

With the magic of Google, you can share with people and FORCE them to make a copy. Instead of opening YOUR materials, they will be prompted to make their OWN copy, leaving your original work fully intact.

To do this look up at the top of your screen when you are working in Docs or Slides and notice how the url currently ends in edit. Simply move your cursor to the end of the url, click on and delete the word edit and replace it with copy. Then copy the entire URL and either email it, add it to a presentation, or share it in classroom. Whoever clicks on the link will now only be able to view the materials by making their own copy of it.

Here is a quick video so that you can see how this works!

Posted in Cool Tools

Explore Math with Desmos

I am going to let you all in on a little secret. You see, math and I…well, we just don’t have a very good relationship. In fact, you might say that we broke up a long time ago and have just never been able to reconcile. I am relatively certain math hates me, and believe me, the feeling is mutual.

Fortunately for me, in my recent years, I have come across a few teachers that not only love math, but are advocates for their subject and got me excited about the way they teach and the tools that they use. Anderson High School math teacher, Kristen Fouss (@fouss) and Trailblazer and Turpin High School math teacher Ben Schulcz (@BSchulcz) are masters of their crafts and both of them use edtech tools to reach all of their learners. If you want to learn about blended learning, using tech to differentiate, and dynamic classrooms full of FUN math (I can’t believe I just said that), then follow these people on Twitter!

In particular, Kristen introduced me to Desmos. Desmos bills itself as “the next generation of graphing calculator.” They also claim: “Desmos wants to help every student learn math and love learning math. But “every student” is a lot of students so we create digital math tools and let the Internet take them to anyone who wants them.” Wait a minute…love math? Like, for real and true? That is exactly what Desmos aims to do through their interactive activities that focus on math concepts like conics, expressions, functions, quadratics, inequalities and a bunch of other math stuff that I don’t understand.

Desmos has a library of activities that teachers can draw from for use in their own classrooms. Activities are easily shared out by creating a class code, and student responses are recorded for the teacher to view.

Here is an activity I assigned myself on Parabolas:

Parabole

Yes, I know my math is wrong. I don’t even know what a Parabola even is. No matter though, because as I am working through this problem, my teacher sees this in her dashboard:

Teacher Dashboard

When I get stuck, my teacher can see where I am stuck and swoop in to save the day! Please, somebody, swoop in and save the day!

The activities are varied, fun, and truly explore the pedagogy and application of math. Desmos is not just limited to high school students. The platform is designed to be accessible to all learners and when you explore concepts and modules, the brains at Desmos have notes and postscripts that help you to identify which activities are appropriate for different grade levels or different types of learners. Lessons are marked as “Introduction,” “Development,” “Practice,” and “Application.” If you are unable to find an activity for your concept, you can even create your own using the Desmos tools.

Desmos has great teacher tools to help you, as an educator, understand the concepts and the best way to work through the activity by providing a teacher guide for each Desmos activity.

One exciting thing that you need to know about Desmos is that it is completely free! There are no hidden costs, no upcharges, and no desire to pinch your wallets since Desmos is paid for by partnerships with textbook companies and other organizations.

Another thing that you need to know is that the Desmos calculator runs seamlessly on any platform. You can add it as a Chrome app, an iOS app, or run it on your android. The calculator has also been chosen to be the calculator provided to Ohio students when they take the AIR test this school year (read the notice here), so the more exposure you can give your students to this amazing tool, the better!

Desmos Calculator
Desmos calculator as it appears in the Chrome app.

There is already a community built around Desmos, and if you do a Twitter search using Desmos as a keyword, you will see how math teachers all over America are implementing this tool in their classrooms. Why don’t you take the risk and join them! You won’t regret it!