Harnessing the Power of Technology for Innovation in Education
I am a Google Certified Trainer, blended learning coach, and all around awesome person! I have been an educator for over twenty years, serving in every capacity from classroom teacher to media specialist to digital learning specialist. Currently, you can find me serving as a technology integration specialist for the Lebanon City School District in Ohio.
My full time job is to serve as an instructional technology specialist/coach for a small district in Southwest Ohio. Last year, I ran a badging program for my staff. The whole purpose of this program was to slowly introduce teachers to the features of tech tools and then show them how to use those tech tools with students.
The tools I focused on are all things that are in house at my district. I covered Google tools like Google Classroom, Docs, Slides, screencasting and more. There were a few district or state specific tools in there, but for the most part, each training is designed around a program that is free to use. When you look at the materials, anything that is labeled as “Pathfinder” is designed to teach about the basics of the tool. How do you create an amazing doc? Look in the Pathfinder Docs Toolbox badge. You can do all that with Slides? Oh, yes you can. Just look at the Slides Superpowers pathfinder badge. Did you know you can put audio in your Slides? Find out more in the Slides Audio pathfinder badge.
The trailblazer badge for each tool is how you turn around and use that tool in meaningful ways with students. The focus of that challenge (as I call them) is to create teaching and learning opportunities that use the tool as a base. The program was very successful and so many teachers said that completing the challenges helped to prepare them for remote learning.
I want to share these challenges with you, my dear reader. Feel free to look at my badging site: lcspd.org and explore the different materials available to you. If you look under the 19-20 challenge page, you will find 24 learning opportunities.
If you take a look at my site and decide to use it, I ask two things!
1: Drop me a comment and tell me how my site helped you do something amazing with your students.
2: Do not take and reuse my stuff without giving me credit. I happily and freely share my work and it really bums me out when I see it posted on someone else’s site or in TpT and no credit is given to me. All of my work has an attribution creative commons license. Please respect that.
Again, that website is lcspd.org. Take a look. I hope you find something valuable there.
Students have suddenly had to adapt to a new digital learning environment and it can be overwhelming even for the most organized student. If the student has one teacher and is in one Google Classroom, figuring out what needs to be done does not require much more than a quick check-in on the stream or classwork page. If the student has more than one teacher or is in more than one Google Classroom, figuring out what work needs to be completed can be time-consuming as students navigate to each of their classes and view the stream or classwork page for assignments.
There is a feature in Google Classroom that few people seem to be aware of, but can be an amazing lifesaver for students (and teachers)! It is the To-Do List.
If you are looking at your Google Classroom homepage, click on the three lines to reveal the link for the To-Do List.
Once you click on that To-do heading, all activities that have been assigned will appear in order of due date. If there is no due date attached, the assignment will be at the bottom of the list. As you can see, my student has some serious work to do.
Each class has a sidebar color that matches the heading color of the classroom the work came from, but you can also see which class the assignment is from if you look under the title of the assignment. To access the assignment, simply click on the title of the assignment and it will take the student right to the directions and attachments for said assignment.
Students can also click on the “Done” tab and see all assignments that have been turned in along with any digital grades that have been given.
So, my fabulous teacher friends, let your students know about this amazing feature in Google Classroom. I guarantee that you will be helping at least one of your students get a better handle on how to manage their workload. And teachers, did you know that you also have a to-do list? It helps you know what you need to grade and return to your students. (Remember to return graded work to your students so that it doesn’t live in yourGoogle Drive for the rest of your life!)
I have been getting a lot of questions from teachers about issues they are having with Google Classroom and Screencastify while trying to teach remotely.
The first, and probably most pressing issue teachers seem to be having is that when they create their Screencastify videos, their words don’t match their mouths. Nobody has time to look like they are a star in a poorly dubbed film! The fix for this is hard, arduous, and absolutely necessary. Are you ready for it?
RESTART YOUR DEVICE!!!!
Seriously, when is the last time you actually did something other than close the lid on your Chromebook or laptop? If you can’t even remember when, then you must shut down and restart right now (or after you finish reading this). Your device is managing a billion processes that you started and just left running. Doing a hard shut down and restart will help immensely.
The other way to fix this issue is to close the gabillion tabs you have open before you start recording. If your device is trying to manage a gabillion things at one time, your video is not going to get priority attention.
The second issue people are having is that they will create Google Classroom assignments with the “make a copy for each student” option, but the attachments don’t appear for all students. This is a known glitch in Classroom. Alice Keeler wrote a blog post about it. She says that eventually, the attachment will appear for the students. I have also heard that if you send the student a private message on that particular assignment, it will force the attachment to appear. What seems to work best is if students follow these steps:
1) Click the classwork tab at the top
2) Click on the assignment title to expand the assignment
3) Click on “View Assignment”
4) Locate “Your Work” in the top right corner and click on the file with your name on it.
Just remember, you are awesome and amazing and you are doing your best for your students as you try to learn this whole new way of teaching! Don’t be too hard on yourself. You’ve got this!
Now that many of our schools have closed and we have converted to distance learning, you might be wondering how you or your students can access Google Classroom; especially in one computer households or for students without devices. Well, accessing Classroom is easier than you think!
Google Classroom App
I feel like the easiest way to access Google Classroom without a computer is by using the Classroom App on a phone or a tablet. Click here for the app on the App Store and here for Google Play Once the app has been downloaded to a phone or tablet, students login with their school district accounts and will find an interface that feels very similar to the one they find at school.
They can click on any assignment, interact with the content, watch any videos you post (did you know that you can record videos directly into Classroom by using the camera on your phone while you are using the app?), and even create Slides and Docs right on their phones! I have known quite a few students that claim they can type an entire paper on their phone. Now is their time to shine! Teachers can even grade assignments and give feedback directly to students with the app. It is really a great tool to have at your fingertips.
Xbox and Playstation
Classroom can be opened on Xbox and Playstation. There isn’t an app that the students can add to their consoles. Instead, they are going to have to use the built-in browsers that come on the two devices. On Xbox, it is Microsoft Edge. On Playstation, it is the “www” browser. Your students will probably know how to find the browsers on their consoles, but if not, each one has a search function they can access on the home screen.
Once the browser has been opened:
Type in classroom.google.com in the URL bar.
A prompt for a Google account will appear.
Type in your school district email and password – it doesn’t end in google.com and that is ok!
The Classroom home screen will open up.
If students have a keyboard they can plug in, they will have a much easier time of navigation. Otherwise, they will have to use their controllers to click on the classroom tiles, open up assignments and type. I did a trial run on both consoles and was able to open assignments and interact with video and written instructions. I was also able to open attachments like Docs and Slides and type on them. It wasn’t easy with a controller, but at least I could access the content. I will say, I have watched my son type faster with his controller than some kids can on a keyboard, so maybe I am worried about this for nothing!
As we all struggle with ways to meet the needs of our learners, I just thought it would be valuable to know that there are multiple options for students as they access your content.
I love Google Drawings and frequently share it with teachers and students because it is a great tool for teachers to use to create the assets they need for instruction. Students can create pieces that let them show what they know or create their own images for a project. If you aren’t familiar with Drawings, check out some of the other posts I have written about their awesomeness.
The only drawback that I find when I use Drawings is the ability to freehand draw is very limited. Drawings has some native line tools, but they are clunky to use and the scribble line doesn’t really allow the user to do much more than, er, well, scribble.
That is why I was so excited when I discovered Chrome Canvas! Chrome Canvas (https://canvas.apps.chrome/) is truly a drawing tool, complete with a blank canvas, different pen and pencil types, personalization of color options, and the ability to add layers to any drawing.
While I can use shapes and masking in Drawings to create, I have never been able to hand draw any of the elements I want. Canvas allows me to use my mouse or stylus to draw whatever I can dream up. (Caveat, I am not a very talented artist. My artistic career pretty much ended when I gave up safety scissors.)
When using Canvas, you can begin with a blank canvas or you can start with an image that you intend to create on.
Unlike Drawings, which have ordering (move to the front or move to the back) options, Canvas users will need to use layers to create scenes or images that require more fine tuned artistry, but the layers are easy to use and can be hidden, deleted or made transparent.
Once your Canvas masterpiece is finished, you simply click on the three dots on the bottom right of the thumbnail and save your work as an image.
The image will automatically save to your downloads folder on either your computer, laptop or Chromebook. Once it has downloaded, you can do whatever you like with it; even add it to a Google Drawing (or any other GSuite product).
Canvas lives as an app right in your Chrome browser and is free to use. This free tool opens up more possibilities when students and teachers are looking for ways to create and show their awesomeness!
Google Classroom has released a new feature called “Originality Reports.” This feature is designed to help your students avoid ‘accidental plagiarism” from all that copying and pasting from the internet that they do.
Here is the official description of the feature from Google: Originality reports is a new feature that brings the capabilities of Google search right to your student assignments and grading interface through Google Classroom. The learning tool helps both teachers and students thoroughly review and analyze coursework to make sure it is properly cited and avoid unintentional plagiarism. This feature was designed to help students improve their writing and spot potential issues while saving you time while grading.
You and your students can check work for unoriginal content with Originality reports. This tool uses Google Search to compare a student’s Google Docs against billions of webpages and millions of books. Originality reports then displays links to the detected webpages and flags uncited text. The reports can:
Help students identify unintentional plagiarism and uncited content before submitting assignments.
Help teachers see where students used source material and if they properly documented their sources.
When you turn on Originality reports for an assignment, students can run 3 reports per assignment before submitting their work. You can’t see the reports students run. After students run their last report, they can continue to improve their work before submitting the assignment.
This feature is actually pretty slick and easy to use. When you create an assignment in Classroom, you have the option of turning on the originality reports by simply clicking the button on the right of the assignment dialog.
Once you have built your assignment and clicked that button, the students will interact with the assignment the way they usually do. They can create content right in Classroom or they can add an already created document to the assignment. When their content is attached to the assignment, they then have the ability to run an originality report on their work up to 3 times before they turn itin.
The idea behind this feature is to teach the students how to write and cite and create original content. When the students run the originality report, Classroom basically runs a Google search and brings back any content matches that are found on the web. Students can then address these findings and rewrite for originality or create better citations for the content they have included.
Here I have a student writing a paper about the industrial revolution. In true lazy student fashion, I simply created a Doc in the assignment, did a quick web search and copies content to my doc.
Once I was done copying and pasting the content, I looked back at the assignment view in Classroom and clicked the “Run” button on the far right of the student assignment view. Classroom ran the originality report and then provided me with a link I could click on to see what was found. My teacher cannot yet see this report; it is private only to me at this point.
As you can see by the giant yellow highlight, Google caught that I had copied and pasted the entire text from a web source. Not only did it flag that all of my content was copied and pasted, it also gave me (as a student) the top web match for where I got the content. If I (as a student) can see that match, you better believe that my teacher can as well if I submit this document as is!
Because I understand the mind of a teenager better than I would ever want to, I then decided to “edit” this paper a little by taking out some key words, changing a few sentences around while trying to “make it my own.” After I made these changes, I then ran the second of three available originality reports. But, alas, Google once again caught my lazy work habits. But, since I am a teen, I went ahead and submitted this assignment anyway! I am sure my teacher won’t notice.
When I change roles and look at student work, you will see that, as the teacher, I do not have to do anything to run my own originality report. Classroom automatically runs an originality report for each submitted Docs file, visible only to you. If a student unsubmits and resubmits an assignment, Classroom runs another originality report for the instructor. These reports don’t appear on this view. You need to open the student work to be able to view the originality report.
When I open each individual assignment, I can see that content has been flagged.
I can now have meaningful conversations with this student about their work and this also lets me know that I have more work to do when it comes to teaching proper research techniques.
Originality reports are viewable for 45 days. After that, you can run another report by opening the student’s submission from within the Classroom grading tool.
When you share this tool with students for the first time, Google suggests that you preview it or share this post in Classroom before you begin.
This feature is not going to automatically check all student assignments. You simply need to enable it when you need it. Originality reports are still in beta, so check and see if your district administrator has asked to pilot this feature in your district.
The ability to add audio to slides has been on my want list since I started using slides years ago. Those of us who were PowerPoint users fondly remember the day when we could add a lovely melody to play over our entire presentation, but we were sadly shut out of this feature when we made the jump to slides.
Well, be sad no more for the ability to insert audio to Google Slides is here! (Or will be here for all users by the end of November if the rumor holds true) This feature is not just for playing sappy music over a photo show of your students at the end of the year; this feature is perfect for so many different teaching and learning activities!
But first, let’s look at how to use the feature. It is relatively simple.
First, you must have the audio file (it should be an MP3 file) in your Google Drive. You can easily use the New < File Upload feature to upload any audio files you might have on your computer. Need to make your own audio files? Check out my blog post about using Screencastify to create your own MP3.
Open your Google Slide presentation. (Remember, if you are starting from scratch, you can type slides.new into your URL bar to quickly create a brand new presentation).
Click Insert and select Audio from the dropdown list.
Once you have inserted the audio, you can choose how your audio will play
You can change the audio icon to an image of your choice if you so choose. Simply click on the audio icon and click “Replace image” from the toolbar. You can either pull an image from your Drive, computer or photos or you can search the web. (Excuse the yucky food images in my gif. I am in the process of lodging a complaint about my bean burrito with a certain fast food chain. 😉)
That’s it! That is all you need to do to add audio to Google Slides. Check in for my next blog post about ideas for using this new feature in your classroom. I mean, beyond that end of the year cry fest when your students fly away and leave you with nothing but the memories.
With the rollout of add audio to Slides finally on the move again, it is time to start thinking about how you are going to create the audio clips you need to make your Slides sparkle. Well, maybe not sparkle, but definitely be a resource for teaching and learning!
If you are a premium Screencastify customer, you might have missed their quiet roll-out of the export audio feature. With this feature, you can pull justthe audio from any of your Screencastify videos. The audio will export as an MP3 file, which is exactly what you need to take that audio clip on the road! You can use the audio file just about everywhere, but especially as an audio file on your Google slide!
To make the most awesome teaching and learning Slides ever, all you have to do is record your video, export the audio, and add it to Slides with the Insert > audio feature. Imagine the possibilities!
Read aloud text
Language acquisition activities
Student read alouds
Goodness, there are so many amazing things that you can do with audio in Slides as long as you know how to create that ever important audio file.
Creating that MP3 file is very easy. Just open Screencastify as you normally would and record your video. It doesn’t matter if you record using the webcam, desktop or tab view because all that matters is the sound of your voice. Once you have finished your recording and the preview/share screen for your video pops up, simply click the downward pointing arrow and select Export audio.
Since Screencastify automatically saves the audio clip to your Google Drive, you can now insert that clip right into Slides once the Insert > audio has hit your domain!
I am sure you have heard of breakout rooms and Google’s Breakout EDU program. One way that you can build a breakout activity is by using digital tools to create a digital environment for your students to work in. Digital breakouts are a great way to engage students and get them showing what they know, and the best part is that there are no physical locks to be reset or clues to be rehidden. There are many different ways to create your breakouts. And there are a wide variety of online tools that will make your breakout awesome. Sometimes all of these options can feel a little overwhelming. With that in mind, I created a simple guide to help as you build your digital breakout. Feel free to use this, but I would be even happier if you shared it with your students and let them build their own digital breakouts! Get your own copy here.
When students are practicing their oral fluency, a key component of that practice is for students to hear themselves reading aloud. Try using Screencastify and Google Classroom to create opportunities for students to record themselves reading, allowing them to hear their own oral fluency.
The idea behind this is that you give students a passage to practice their fluency. The students then use Screencastify to record themselves reading the passage. After finishing the recording, they listen to it and decide if their oral reading was fluid and with expression. If it isn’t, they can practice some more and create another recording. Once they are happy with their recording, they turn it in to the teacher via Google Classroom. Turning in a video created in Screencastify is super easy since the video lives right in the student’s Google Drive. The teacher now has a sample of the student’s reading fluency, and if he or she continues with this assignment over time, they will create a record of student growth and progress.
Creating this activity is relatively easy:
Find or create short reading passages in a digital format. Good places to find already created passages are Newsela, ReadTheory, Epic!, your local library, and if you live in Ohio, Infohio. I really like the idea of creating your own using content you are reading in class or short poems from some of our favorite children’s authors.
Create an assignment in Google Classroom. Remember, you can individually assign to students or assign to small groups of students. There is no reason that all students should be practicing their fluency on the same piece. Differentiation is key!
Students then access the fluency assignment in Google Classroom, open the attached piece and practice reading it. When they feel ready, they will open Screencastify from their Chrome browsers and record themselves reading aloud.
Once students have finished their recording, they can rename the video. They will need to change the privacy settings on the recording so that you can view it once they have turned it in via Google Classroom.
To change the privacy settings for the video, all students need to do is click on the share icon, make sure “Google Drive” is selected and click “Get Link.” This will change the video permissions to “anyone with the link can view.”
The final step is for the student to turn the video in via Google Classroom. To do this, they simply open the assignment, click on the “Add or Create” button on the top right and use the Drive icon to pull the video directly from their Google Drive.
Now that the student has turned their video in to you, you can watch the student videos directly from the assignment view in Classroom. Don’t forget that these turned in assignments also live in the “Classroom” folder in your Drive. You can access them at any time and use them to share with other teachers, administrators or parents. What an excellent way to progress monitor!
If you do not have content in a digital format, don’t worry! You can still do this activity. Students can read directly from a book at school they will just need to record using the webcam camera from Screencastify instead of the desktop or browser camera.
Screencastify is a wonderful extension for both teachers and students. There are so many awesome things you can use Screencastify for. If you don’t already have it on your Chrome browser, sign up for an account download it today!