Posted in Chrome Canvas, Cool Tools, G-Suite for Education

Use Chrome Canvas To Create Your Own Images!

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.

white canvas with drawing tools on the side.
Blank canvas just ready for creation!

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.)

Chrome Canvas
Change drawing tools, tip size, opacity and color to create the sketch of your dreams.

When using Canvas, you can begin with a blank canvas or you can start with an image that you intend to create on.

image being uploaded to blank canvas from the New from Image button
Use any image as the base to your Canvas drawing

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.

showing a design with three different layers on the right side as thumbnails
Each part of this amazing drawing is a different layer. I can change each part as needed without ruining my other work.

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.

three dots on the right opens a menu with save as image as the second choice on the dropdown
This is some fine artistry

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!

Posted in Cool Tools, Google Classroom, Teacher Workflow

Originality Reports in Google Classroom

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. 

classroom dialog with originality report button showing
Originality reports are still in beta but if you see this button, you are ready to go!

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 it in

Originality Report 2

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. 

internet page showing professional content created by a program
Online content my student copied and pasted.
It was easy to just create a Doc and paste in whatever content I found online!
It was easy to just create a Doc and paste in whatever content I found online!

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. Originality Report 5Classroom 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.

Originality Report 7
Students simply click on the link to view the report.

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!

Originality Report 8
Guess I am a big, fat cheater!

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. 

Originality Report 11

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. 

Originality Report 12

Originality Report 13
When I click on that blue link, I can see the full originality report and identified web sources.

 When I open each individual assignment, I can see that content has been flagged. 

Originality Report 14

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. 

Posted in Cool Tools, Creating Accessibility, G-Suite for Education, Google Slides, how to

Add Audio to Google Slides

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. 

  1. 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.  
  2. 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).
  3. Click Insert and select Audio from the dropdown list. Add Audio to Slides
  4. Once you have inserted the audio, you can choose how your audio will play Format Options
  5. 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. 😉) Replace audio icon

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.

Posted in Cool Tools, digital breakout, how to

Level up by creating your own digital breakout

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.

Posted in Cool Tools, Google Classroom, Screencastify

Screencastify and Reading Fluency

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:

  1. Find or create short reading passages in a digital format. Good places to find already created passages are Newsela, ReadTheoryEpic!, 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.
  2. 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! assignment dialog box in Google Classroom with directions to the assignment.
  3. 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.Screencastify for Fluency
  4. 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. Screencastify Screen
  5. 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.” Share Screencastify
  6. 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. Turn in Screencastify Video
  7. Now that the student has turned their video in to you, you can watch the student videos directly from the assignment view in Classroom. Teacher Screencast FeedbackDon’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!
  8. 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!

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 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?

Posted in Cool Tools, Creating Accessibility, EquatIO, extensions, G-Suite for Education, Google Classroom

Math in GSuite with EquatIO and EquatIO mathspace

Math and GSuite have not always gone hand-in-hand. If you wanted to create math-rich Docs or Slides, you were pretty limited in formatting options, and many teachers wound up relying on screenshots and snipping tools to create materials for students. But, rejoice, for now there is EquatIO! The EquatIO extension allows you to add real math language to Google Docs, Slides and Forms. Equations, graphs, formulas, etc are all easy to create and use with your students.

Once you install the extension, you will have a new toolbar available in your GSuite products. With this toolbar, you can create expressions, formulas; all that crazy math stuff that I really don’t understand. 

equatio toolbar
EquatIO Toolbar – Available in Docs, Slides and Forms

Not only does EquatIO offer an easy to use equation editor that allows the teacher to either type or dictate mathematical sentences, it also has a nifty prediction tool that helps you add the correct math symbols in your work.

If you are more of a talker than a typer, try the voice input option. When you speak your problem, EquatIO will create the sentence for you. If you want to allow students to talk through their problem solving, they can continue dictating their thinking and add additional lines to their math as they work towards the solution.

EquatIO has paired with Desmos to offer an easy to use graphing tool.

Desmos Graph

Another bell and whistle EquatIO offers is the ability to handwrite your math. If you are one of the lucky ones and have access to a tablet or touchscreen, you can handwrite all of your amazing math problems. 

Handwriting

Sometimes we find the material we want to share with our students online. EquatIO offers a screenreader that not only grabs math from other digital locations and transfers it to your document, it also reads it to you! Here it is in action:

Since the free student EquatIO accounts are limited to Google Docs, I can create all of this math in a doc and then assign it via Google Classroom with the “Make a Copy” option. My students will then be able to use the same tools as they solve my problems. Well, not my personal problems, just my math problems.

EquatIO’s mathspace

Sometimes our math involves more than just numbers and letters and this is where EquatIO’s mathspace comes in. Instead of just adding equations and formulas to a Google Doc or Slide, EquatIO’s mathspace gives you a blank canvas where you can create the math (or chemistry or physics) problems of your dreams! 

When you go to equat.io, you will first land on your EquatIO dashboard. Once here, you can create a new mathspace or you can edit/work with an existing one.

shows squares with math work in them and a plus sign to make a new math canvas

The mathspace canvas is amazing! In addition to the equation editor, you have a freehand draw tool and access to a variety of shapes, symbols and clip art.

graph paper with a drawing canvas and shape tools
Different shapes and symbols available in the mathspace canvas.

This space now becomes an interactive math problem.

Advanced Problems

The teacher can create on the canvas and then share a link to the problem in Google Classroom with the “Make a Copy” option. As a user of a free account, your students will not be able to respond directly on the canvas you have shared, but they can open their own mathspace, construct their response and then turn in their work by adding a link in Classroom.

I am not a math or science teacher, but these tools really excite me. The EquatIO extension and Equat.io mathspace create endless possibilities! To get your free educator account for EquatIO, click here!

 

Posted in Cool Tools, Student Creation

Take The Boring Out Of Flashcards With Pear Deck’s Flashcard Factory

Flashcards are a tried and true educational tool that have a place in just about every classroom. From vocabulary words to math theorems to important places, flashcards have been used by students in just about every grade level.

Sometimes, students get together to drill each other on flashcards, but for the most part, the creation of flashcards is a very solitary experience. But now we can make the creation of flashcards a more collaborative activity for students by using Pear Deck’s Flashcard Factory.

two rectangles - the one on the left is for Pear Deck. The one on the right is for Pear Deck Vocabulary
Login to http://www.peardeck.com and select “Flashcard Factory.”

Using Flashcard Factory is a simple as 1, 2, 3:

One: Create your study set/vocabulary list in Flashcard Factory

Flashcard with the word "Cellular" and a highlighted definition from the dictionary
Write your own definitions or select a definition from Merriam Webster

TWO: Initiate the live activity with your students by clicking on the red “Play Flashcard Factory” button. Students will be paired up and separated into two groups; day shift and night shift. If you are unhappy with the groupings, you can use the shuffle button to remix the students. Once students have gone to sit with their partners, you can launch the factory and student pairs will draw images and write sentences that define the terms.

THREE: As a class, students and teachers review the created flashcards. If the flashcard is an awesome example of the definition of the term, it gets voted in. If the flashcard is weak and doesn’t pass muster, it gets left on the factory floor. Students are encouraged to discuss and debate each flashcard, building an even greater knowledge and understanding of the word.

When you have created a study set using student materials, you can then “ship” your new flashcards right to Quizlet. Quizlet then lets you share the completed study set with your students via Google Classroom so that they can study or play games with the sets when they are ready.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To use this new and awesome tool, go to www.peardeck.com and join up/sign in and click on “Start a Vocab List.” Happy flashcarding!