Posted in G-Suite for Education, Google Classroom

Updated Stream Options in Google Classroom

I opened up my Google Classroom this morning to find the most awesome update ever! My biggest complaint about the updated classroom for the 18-19 school year is that I felt like the Stream was a hot mess of information and that for some of our students, the visual noise was too much for them to deal with. Announcements, assignments, student comments – all flooded the stream.

But as of today, I can control exactly how my Classroom Stream looks. My three options are:

Show attachments and details

This option will keep your Stream looking exactly the same as in the past – no changes will be made.

Traditional Stream View
Teacher Stream with all details
Student View of Stream
Student Stream with all details

Show Condensed Notifications 

This view minimizes the assignments and collapses all the content. Stream shows full announcements, but only titles of assignments.

Condensed Teacher View
Cleaner view – Announcements are still mixed between assignments, but there is less visual noise.

Clicking on the title takes the teacher directly to the grading view and takes students to the directions and attachments.

Hide Notifications

This will remove everything from the stream except for announcements (and if you have them allowed, student stream comments). With this view, students will have to navigate to the Classwork page to be able to see and interact with assignments. Notifications Only

To access these new options, click on the setting gear in the upper right-hand corner and look for the “Classwork on the stream” option.

 

You also have the ability to move any items, assignments or announcements to the top in the Stream. Move to topNow, if only Google would let us pin items to the top, all of my Google Classroom dreams will come true!

 

Posted in Google Drawings, Google Slides, Quick Tech Tips

Use the Magic of Google Drawings to Create Teaching and Learning Backgrounds for Slides

Often times, we want our students to interact with content that we have curated within a Google Slide. Maybe we want them to read a small excerpt and then use that knowledge to label a diagram. Or maybe we want them to work on a graphic organizer. The biggest worry with curating content for students to work with on a Slide is knowing that a student can accidentally delete an image, move a shape into the wrong position or delete important content. Instead of giving them the content as individual items on a Google Slide, why not use Google Drawings to curate the content, turn it into an image, and then add that image to your Slide as the background? It is a relatively easy process. Watch the short video below to see how it is done!

Posted in Creating Accessibility, G-Suite for Education, Google Calendar

Why Are You Not Showing Your Students How to Use Their Digital Calendars?

Two years ago I began this website with a blog post about my angelic son and his inability to keep track of assignments, materials, and generally, anything school related. I am dismayed to say that in the time that has passed, not a single thing has changed for him. Some of this is directly related to his 14-year-old self, but more of it is related to the fact that his teachers still do not allow their students to use their devices in any way that isn’t teacher directed. And since they aren’t directing him to use his calendar, he isn’t.

See, we are an extremely calendar driven family. With two kids that are in multiple sports, guitar lessons and a husband that travels extensively for work, we use our calendars to keep our lives in check and make sure we never miss anything. While my son uses his calendar on his phone to keep track of outside of school stuff, he doesn’t use his calendar to keep track of school assignments because his teachers don’t let him pull his phone out in class and they are not yet a 1:1 school were students have regular access to devices. If he were able to access his phone at school, he could easily add assignments to his calendar as the teachers assigned them. He could even take a picture of any of the documents related to the assignment and then immediately attach them to the calendar event, ensuring that he never really loses an important paper. But, alas, this is not allowed.

The district that I work in is slowly going 1:1 and we are at the point where our entire student body from grades 3-10 have their own Chromebooks to use each day. Many of our teachers are using Google Classroom. Some teachers even let their students have their phones out during the day.

But, very few of them are showing their students how powerful their Google Calendars can be. Why are we ignoring this tool? Why not expose our students to as many ways to get themselves organized as possible? Learning how to be organized now will only pay off in spades in the future!

Did you know that as soon as you add an assignment to Google Classroom with a due date that it shows up on a student’s calendar? Did you know that not only does the name of the assignment show up, but the directions and a direct link back to the assignment in Classroom appears as well?

Did you know that students can add their own events to their Google calendars? If their teacher isn’t using Classroom but still giving them assignments, the students can add it themselves. They even have the ability to include content from their Drive and customize reminder notifications. Just imagine; Students can create an event related to the due date of the assignment, set notification reminders that range from a few minutes to a few days before it is due, and they can include a direct link to their work! No more hunting for their work or trying to remember when things are due.

I would also encourage students to include their own events, like sports practice, extracurricular activities, or time with friends or family on their calendar. Since they can download the calendar app, their responsibilities can follow them everywhere!!! (They might not think this is a good thing, but I sure do!)

We don’t need to force all of our students to use their calendars, but showing them the power of a tool they have at their fingertips is essential. If they don’t know what they have access to, they are missing on gaining critical life skills they will need as they try to adult later in life. Give them all the tools they need to be successful and let them select the one that works best for them!

Posted in Feedback, G-Suite for Education, Google Classroom

Quick and Meaningful Feedback Using The Google Classroom App

Giving feedback to students is an essential part of the teaching and learning process. Google Classroom has an APP that makes it easy to give your students fast feedback! Access student work, use the tools to give feedback and then save a PDF copy of the edits for your students to review. You can also use the microphone on your phone or tablet to dictate private comments! 

To deliver feedback of awesomeness, especially while you are on the go, all you need to do is:

  • Open the app and navigate to the Classroom where the work is located:classroom app
  • Click on the “Classwork” tab

view of google classroom classwork

  • Click on the assignment and click on the individual student to open their content:

student content

  • Click on the pencil at the top of the screen:

click the pencil

  • Use the pen, marker or text tools to give feedback

use the markup tools

  • Click the Save button to turn the marked-up content into a PDF

pdf copy of feedback

  • Add a private comment to let the student know you have provided feedback (or to provide additional feedback not provided on the content). You can even use the microphone tool to dictate that feedback.

 

And just like that, you are done! That is it! Feedback delivered. Students taught. Life goes on. Everyone is happy. Remember though; The most effective way to have students respond to feedback is to not give them a final grade until they have looked at your feedback and made necessary changes to their work.

Posted in Cool Tools, Google Drawings, remove.bg

A Dinosaur Tried To Eat Me! and Other Fun Things You Can Do With Remove.BG

Take that boring old selfie and make it something special with Remove.BG. With this site, you can upload any person focused image and it quickly and automatically removes the background for you. No lasso tool. No snipping scissors. Just upload and go. It then provides you with a new png image that you can download and use in whatever way your heart desires.

See what I mean:

Original Selfie
Yeah, you don’t have to tell me how good I look!
A dinosaur wants to eat me!
Oh no!!!

The classroom uses for this are endless! Your students can use this tool to really immerse themselves in their learning, amIright?

To create this awesomeness, once I used Remove.bg to get rid of the background, I created the new image in Google Drawings and then downloaded it as an image so that I could splatter it all over the internet.

If you are a visual learner and want to see how it is done, here is a video showing how to remove the background from the original image and then create the new image using Google Draw.

And here is a quick video showing you how to download the Google Drawing as an image that you can then use in other locations like Slides or the interwebs.

Have fun!!

Posted in Creating Accessibility, Teacher Workflow

Small Changes – Big Impact

The high school where I work for is in the process of going 1:1 and while some of the teachers are very excited about the change, some of them are trepidatious and are worried about the technology taking over their classrooms. My mantra is always, “It isn’t about the tech, it is about the teaching and learning.” I also want them to understand that just because we have the tech, it doesn’t mean that students need to be on their devices all day. Here are the suggestions I am sharing with them about small changes that will elicit the biggest impact.

Small Changes - Big Impact - Revised

If you would like your own copy of this document, click here!

Posted in Google Classroom

New Semester, New Google Classroom!

You, my friend, are a Google Classroom rockstar! You have embraced your Classroom and use it to share all of your awesomeness with your darling cherubs. But with all that use, your Google Classroom has probably become a very busy place with a lot of content that your students probably don’t really need to access on the regular. If that is the case, it is time to embrace the new semester with a new Classroom.

Now, before you say to yourself, “Self, I will just go into my current class and delete previous assignments to clean things up!” make sure you understand that deleting assignments is very, very bad because once deleted, there is no way to recover an assignment. This means that if you want to reuse that assignment in another class or during another school year, it is gone. FOREVER.

forever

Plus, deleting the assignment also removes any comments, feedback or grades that you might have shared with students. And while this might not be an issue, you never know when you might need to access that kind of stuff. Sometimes, parents can be parents and they have questions about assignments that were turned in months ago. Not like I am speaking from personal experience or anything. Did I ever mention I have a 13-year-old with organizational issues? By creating a new Classroom, you are giving your students a fresh start on the second semester of school. It is a simple thing to do and I promise, your students will appreciate it!

Steps to a New You…er Classroom:

First, return all student work. Student content will always remain with the student in their individual Classroom folder (found in their Google Drive), but only if you return it to them. To see what still needs to be returned to your students, check your “To-Do” list.

If you see assignments where content has been turned in but hasn’t been marked as “Returned” you are going to need to get busy!

Turned In But Not Returned
You can easily see if you have returned content to your students from this view.

Returning work to students only requires a few clicks of the mouse.

Second, archive that class!

Third, create your new class and then add (reuse) any content from your archived class that you want your students to continue to access. This might be your syllabus, links to resources, or ongoing assignments.

Fourth, share your new code with your students.

And that, my friends, is the fastest way to start second semester with a clean slate, easy to navigate Classroom, and grant peace on Earth to all.

 

Posted in Cool Tools

Deck.Toys – The Lesson Packaging Tool that You Didn’t Even Know You Needed!

Are you a hyperdoc creating, lesson packaging maniac? Or, are you just looking for a way to create engaging lessons where your students have the opportunity to explore a topic in a variety of ways? If either of these descriptions fit you, then look no further than Deck.Toys.

Deck.Toys is an edtech tool that allows you to teach and engage students by taking your usual lesson materials and turn them into guided activities that let your students show you what they know as they work at their own pace. Here are some amazing examples of Deck.Toys made by other teachers. Click on the image to see the live deck. 

Map Skills   Long Walk to Water

Equations   DDay

Clue Mystery   Ecosystem

Students interact with content by working through one of three types of activities;

  1. Slides App: Presentation materials like images, videos, links, sites, or PDFs that you can create question/answer activities using text (280 characters or less), draw (sketch out a response), placemaker (students put a marker on an image) or a quick poll. 
    Slide App
    Not only do you have four response types, you also have a variety of tools to personalize the learning.
  2. Study Set App: give your student fun challenges to show they know the content. There are 18 different challenge activities for you to pick from!
    18 tiles showing the different types of activities Deck Toys offers
    If you can’t find something here to engage your students, I don’t know what to tell you!
  3.  Signpost  – This is how you get your students started. Signposts allow you to add notes, directions, or just some plain old anticipation for what is to come! Signpost

Creating Your Own Deck is a Snap!

There are a lot of Decks already available that you can edit to your specifications, but you can easily create your own. You begin with a blank canvas where you add a background of your choosing. If you want to create something quickly and easily, go for a default background. Or you can make your background soar by using the different images and clip art provided by Deck.Toys. If you like to personalize or use your own content, you can always upload your own images.

Once you have created your background, get to work by inserting activities and then dragging them into the order of your lesson and connecting the activities together with pathways for students to follow. Already have content created in Google Slides or a video? Cool! You can add those to your deck when you select the “Slides Activity” option. Not only can you add your Slides or video, you can also add images and other media. Once you have your content in place, you can choose from the four different response types. DT - Responses

If you want to go beyond the content you have already created, there are the 18 study set activities to pick from. You provide the terminology and definitions or images, select one of the activities, and shazaam, your students are able to engage with the content in new and challenging ways. 

Self-pacing and controlled access to activities is a synch with Deck.Toys since there are seven different activity lock types to choose from as described on the Deck.Toys website:

  • Text lock works well for passwords such as keyword. It accepts alphabets, symbols, and space and it is not case-sensitive.
  • Voice lock works with Chrome browsers only. The student will use their voice to read out the password to open the lock.
  • Numbers lock can be used for simple Mathematics question such as 4 + 2. The password for this lock can be in decimal number.
  • Teams lock is used so only the selected team can unlock the password. Before the lesson, provide the unique password to the respective team.
  • Direction lock is useful for orientation password. This lock can be viewed as such; ↑ means upward or north.
  • Activities lock is used to ensure the student has completed the specified number of neighboring Activities before proceeding to the next challenge. This lock can be used when you have Activities on divergent paths.
  • Treasure Key lock requires students to collect a Treasure Key with a matching Key ID to unlock the lock. This works well if you want the students to go through a certain difficult activity that was on a divergent path before unlocking the next activity.

Share Your Decks With Ease!

Once you have created your deck, sharing it with your students is a quick and easy process. All you need to do is create and name your classroom, assign your deck to the classroom, and then share the link to join your classroom with the Google Classroom option in the drop-down menu. 

Of course, like any edtech product these days, Deck.Toys is a freemium program. Any teacher can create a free account and with that free account, you have access to a limited amount of decks and classrooms. You do have full access to all of the features you need to create amazing decks, so I say get in there and start playing around! I bet that you will find this tool to be as versatile and engaging as I do.  

Posted in Cool Tools, Creating Accessibility, Student Creation

Student Created Read-Aloud Videos of Awesomeness

Recently, I read the article “Best Read Alouds on YouTube” from the website We are TeachersThis article is full of great YouTube channels where favorite picture books are read aloud by a variety of personalities.

The read-aloud portion of my day was always one of my favorites. Whether as a classroom teacher or as a media specialist, I relished the opportunity to share my reader’s voice with my students. I tried to bring the story alive and I felt an inner sense of pride when the kids would listen to the story with rapt attention. But there is always a moment in my teaching life that has stood out. One year, I was teaching language arts to a really rowdy group of 8th graders, most of whom were reading significantly below grade level. We were doing a unit on poetry, slugging through the classics, when a student asked if he could read his favorite poem aloud to the class. I was so excited that he had a favorite poem that I immediately agreed and listened in awe as he presented us with an amazing version of My Beard by Shel Silverstein.

This performance kicked off a really cool string of days where the kids searched out their favorite poems, practiced reading them aloud and then performed them for the rest of the class. Student engagement was high, but most of all, students were practicing their fluency and really digging into text so that they were able to read their favorites with voices that would entrance and capture the attention of their classmates.

I am thinking that it is time for students to share their read-aloud voices with us. Instead of listening to an adult voice, it is their turn to bring stories to life. I know that we don’t have the time in our day to have 25-30 kids read their favorite stories or passages to the class, but we can use our technology to give them the chance to record their favorite stories for their classmates. (Or their parents, or their siblings, or just you, or really, just themselves)

Students can select their favorite picture book or passage from a book and practice their fluency until they have all of the confidence of a kindergarten teacher singing the ABC song. Of course, students might need to see a few examples of awesome read-alouds, which is where you, oh amazing teacher come in. If reading aloud isn’t your thing, click on the article above and fill the brains of your students with excellent examples from one of the YouTube channels listed in the article. Once they feel like the read-aloud rockstar they are, choose one of the platforms listed below and let them get on with their bad selves. Imagine the listening library that your students will create for one another. Imagine the fluency practice they will be getting! And don’t think that this idea is just for little kids. Big kids like to read aloud too. They can choose picture books or pieces of their favorite novels. Just get them reading and sharing their voice with their peers!

Flipgrid: Create an entire grid dedicated to read-alouds. Students can choose to sit in front of their devices and show the pages of their book as they read aloud, or you can rig up a stand where the camera points at the book only and the student narrates from behind the screen. Shockingly enough, some of our students are a little camera shy. Students can then visit the read-alouds of their classmates, leave feedback, or suggest new titles for their friends to read. I bet you will find there is a lot of natural voice-over talent in your classrooms.

Seesaw: Students can add their read-alouds to their journal and their stories can be shared with families and other students in the classroom. Just like with Flipgrid, students can either hold their books in front of the camera or can hide behind the camera as they turn pages and bring their stories to life.

Padlet: Padlet has a nifty tool that allows you to record a video directly into a Padlet post. You can create a shared Padlet and student can record right on the Padlet for their classmates to see. The only drawback to the Padlet is that videos can only be five minutes long. This might be a great option for those shorter, favorite passages from older readers.

Screencastify: Using the free Screencastify chrome extension, students can record their read-aloud using their Chromebook camera and microphone. Once their video is recorded, students can then put their videos into a Google Slide presentation or upload directly to a class YouTube channel. If it were me, I would create shared Slides presentations that were themed by genre. Then I would put the links to the Slides presentation in Google Classroom, students could create their videos and add them to the correct presentation. My favorite part about this is that you will have have a library of read-alouds that you can use with future classes.

I would love to hear your ideas about how you would get your students creating their own read-aloud. What tools would you use? How would you get them to interact with your new library? How will you motivate them to join in?