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.
Show Condensed Notifications
This view minimizes the assignments and collapses all the content. Stream shows full announcements, but only titles of assignments.
Clicking on the title takes the teacher directly to the grading view and takes students to the directions and attachments.
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.
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. Now, if only Google would let us pin items to the top, all of my Google Classroom dreams will come true!
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!
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:
Click on the “Classwork” tab
Click on the assignment and click on the individual student to open their content:
Click on the pencil at the top of the screen:
Use the pen, marker or text tools to give feedback
Click the Save button to turn the marked-up content into a PDF
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.
Use the microphone!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This space now becomes an interactive math problem.
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!
Having students sort materials to show their mastery of a concept is not new to education. As a heavy user of Words Their Way, I used word sorts in my classroom each week. I am being honest when I say I came to loathe the day we started our new sorts. My main pain points were having the students use class time to cut their sorts out and the number of words that would go missing from each sort when a piece of paper fluttered to the ground or when a student lost the entire bag or envelope that contained their sort. Sort activities were not my favorite! I finally had the brilliant idea to use GSuite tools to attack these sorting activities and make them more manageable for students (and me, of course!) By digitizing sorts and assigning them through Google Classroom, I cut out the biggest pain points and made life easier for everybody.
Using a Google tool to create a digital sort is a lot easier than you might think. The two tools that work best for this type of activity are Drawings or Slides. Drawings will function more like a one-and-done type of sort whereas Slides will allow you to create multiple activities housed within the same Slide presentation.
The idea is simple. Use the white space (or canvas) in the middle of your screen to create sort topics and use the gray space around the slide or drawing to place items for sorting. These items can be text boxes or images.
Here are some examples of sorts that I have created:
To create the sorts, follow these simple directions: (I like to create within a folder in my Drive so that I always know where my items are)
Go to your Google Drive and navigate to the folder where you want your sort to be housed.
Click New, mouse over More and select Google Drawings (or Slides)
Give it a name!
Click “Insert” and select “Table” from the drop-down.
Create a table by mousing over the squares until you have the columns you want for your sort.
Click and drag the corners of the table until it covers the entire white space in my Drawing.
Using the traditional formatting tools, I can then add titles to each box of my sort.
Click on the text box icon in the menu and draw a text box in the gray space
Change your font style and size to what you want and type in your first word.
Copy the text box (ctrl c on the keyboard) and then paste it (ctrl v) the number of times equal to the number of text boxes that you need.
Separate out the text boxes you have created by dragging them around into the gray space around your drawing.
Change the text to the words you need for your sort.
When you are finished, assign the sort through Google Classroom with the “Make a Copy” for each student option.
If you are more of a visual learner, here is a video that shows how this is done.
This particular sort that I created is a word sort, but you could easily make it a concept sort by putting images instead of text boxes in the gray space around your drawing. You can also create this same activity with Slides, you just have a little less gray space to work with. The nice thing about creating with Slides is that you can have multiple sorts all housed within the same file.
Here are some helpful tips:
Insert a table for your background if you are using columns. That way, kids won’t accidentally click and drag individual lines out of the way. They can always use ctrl z if they accidentally move the entire table.
If you have a more complicated background that is not just going to be using columns, create the background using Drawings. Then, publish it to the web and then insert it as a picture. Here is a video.
Create one template and then duplicate it/copy it/reuse it often
UPDATE: I believe that this tool is no longer available. When I attempt to visit the link for the add-on, I get a 404 error. Perhaps they have discontinued this add-on due to the roll-out by Google of the new option to add audio to Slides. Regardless, AudioPlayer for Slides no longer seems to be working.
I have a love/hate relationship with Google Slides. I love the collaborative nature of Slides. I love how creative I can be and how easy it is to pull materials out of my Google Drive as I create Slides. What I hate is that sometimes I miss a few of the features of PowerPoint, most notably the ability to add audio to my Slides presentation.
As of today, that is no longer an issue thanks to EdTech Team! With the release of their AudioPlayer for Slides, I can now add music or voiceovers to my Slides. AudioPlayer allows me to pull music files (mp3 and mp4) from my Drive or downloads or EdTechTeam has also included a few short music clips that I can select if I don’t have easy access to any music files. I think the most exciting feature of AudioPlayer for Slides is that I can record my own voice and narrate my Slides. Just imagine what your students could do with this!
AudioPlayer for Slides is a free Google Chrome extension. Once you add it to chrome, you will need to click on the green megaphone icon to login with your Google credentials. From that point forward, you will access the extension exclusively while you are in Slides.
After you have created your Slides presentation, adding audio is as simple as a right click (or two finger touch if you are working on a Chromebook).
Adding music is as easy as 1, 2, 3!
Recording your own voice is a snap!
I would imagine you are as excited about this new extension as I am! Get busy making the most amazing Slides presentations ever!
Last year, I used the “About” section in Google Classroom to post links and resources that my students would need throughout the year. These were materials that were not necessarily tied to a specific assignment, but items that students might need to revisit or access randomly.
With the “About” section gone, I have had to make a quick change in how I manage this need. Fortunately, Google just released a new feature in Classroom called “Materials.” This “Materials” option will allow me to create a space in my Classwork feed where I can place these items for student access.
To create a space in my feed, I simply need to:
Create a topic and call it something like “Class Resources” or “Class Materials.”
Once the topic has been created, hit “Create” again and select “Materials” from the drop-down list. Add materials like Docs or Slides from my Drive or paste in a link to a website for my students.
Before I post the material, I need to make sure that I select the “Class Resources” topic.
Once I have created this “Materials” post, I can then go back to my Classroom feed and by clicking on the three dots to the right of the “Class Resources” topic, select “Move Up” from the menu to essentially pin this topic to the top of the feed.
And just like that, I almost have my “About” section back! Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
Recently, I had a high school French language teacher approach me to ask for help designing an activity where students research Parisian monuments and locations of interest, report pertinent information and show pictures and location of the monuments. And of course, since this is a French class, they would need to use their French language skills as they report on all of these interesting sites.
I immediately knew what tools to share with her; Google MyMaps and Screencastify. MyMaps allows for students to collaborate on the same map, write interesting information right on the map, and add images to their points of interest. Once the students create the written and visual portion of the assignment, they can use Screencastify to record a personal tour guide narrative as they click through their points of interest.
The steps to set-up the project were relatively easy since students will be doing most of the creation. Michelle, the French teacher, created a MyMap with the satellite view that plunked the user right in the center of Paris. She copied the map four times to share with each of her classes, made the maps editable by anyone with the link and then grabbed the share link to put into an assignment in Google Classroom. Expectations for students are that they are to pick three or four points of interest in Paris to research and provide basic visitor information that would entice tourists to come to take a look.
Since multiple students are sharing the same MyMap, they can create their own layer to house their points of interest. The layer building process is very easy:
Click on the layer name (should currently be called Untitled Layer). Students type in their names. Once someone grabs the first layer, they will need to add a new layer by clicking the “Add Layer” button and then add their name to
Students type their place of interest or monument into the search bar at the top of MyMaps
Once the location has been identified, they can either click the “+” button on the details dialog box or click the “Add a Marker” icon next to the hand icon on the map.
Now they can add details by typing in the text box and add images by clicking on the camera icon. Images can be added from a Google search or pulled from a student’s Google Drive. Multiple images can be added to any point of interest on a MyMap.
They can then use the bucket tool and select a color for all of their pins. This allows them to quickly differentiate their pins from those of other students.
Now comes the fun part! Once the students have created their 3-4 point of interest, they will act as a tour guide and share their findings by narrating (in French, of course) as they click through their map points and images. They will use Screencastify to record their work since it so easy to use and stores right in Google Drive.
The final part of the activity will have the students posting their Screencastify videos into a collaborative Google Slides presentation. Instead of having to sit and listen to presentation after presentation like they have done in the past, students will select five or six videos created by their peers, watch them and then talk about which Parisian sites they would like to visit based on what they saw in the videos.
I love this project! It allows students to choose the sites that interest them the most, gives them opportunities to create in a digital environment while they practice their language skills, and allows for peer-to-peer feedback on the final project. I can see this type of activity being used in so many different subject areas and classes. Why don’t you give it a try?
Susan Bost, Spanish I teacher at Lebanon Junior High, is always looking for ways for her students to be able to practice their burgeoning language skills. Since students are in the initial phases of language acquisition, they are often shy with their language sharing and feel intimidated when attempting to speak in front of other students. Knowing this, Susan wants to give her students opportunities to practice their language skills in as many ways possible. I send out regular suggestions to the staff here in Lebanon about innovative ways to use GSuite tools or other apps like Flipgrid and Pear Deck. Sue reads these suggestions and her mind starts racing with potential ideas for how to implement them in her classroom. However, Sue is a possessor of very bad tech mojo. Like, very bad. Very, very, very bad. Sometimes you come across a person in life who just has really bad tech mojo. You know that person; nothing ever works the way it is supposed to. Apps won’t open, programs won’t run, projectors just randomly shut off. There is no rhyme or reason for these things happening, it is just bad tech mojo and Sue is infected with it!
Even knowing this, Susan still wants to use edtech tools to give her students the best learning opportunities and that is why she is my featured risk taker this week. She is willing to try something new, even though the chance that it will go horribly wrong is always present.
One of the first big activities we tried was using Flipgrid for a formative assessment activity. As part of her program assessment, Sue gives the students prompts that they orally respond to in Spanish. In the past, this formative assessment activity has eaten up a lot of her class time since she has to sit with each student to give them the prompts and then listen to their responses. We used Flipgrid to create an assessment platform where she recorded the prompts as a grid topic and allowed the students to Flipgrid their responses. I believe that this took a lot of the pressure off since students could take time to collect their thoughts, rehearse what they wanted to say, and then record themselves without worrying about other students hearing them. She was also able to whittle down the amount of class time that she gave up for the assessment process using this method. Now, we did run into a few issues with the bad tech mojo and there were a couple of frantic emails from her the morning she began the assessment process, but if you ask her, I think she would say it was a great success! She has gone on and continued to use Flipgrid for other speaking activities and is using the private feedback option to respond directly to students and coach them on their language acquisition.
Another activity that we took on was creating opportunities for students to practice their Spanish writing skills through digital collaboration. Knowing that in order to be competitive in a global job market students are going to need to be able to collaborate with a person that they might never see face-to-face, Sue came up with an idea for the students to have “silent conversations” on a digital platform. She created a group work assignment for the students on a Google Doc. Using Google Classroom, she assigned the Doc to a group leader who then added his or her group members as collaborators. The students had to complete the assignment together, but they were not allowed to speak in class. They had to use the “comments” feature in Docs to discuss the work to be done and then collaboratively make the changes before turning their completed project back in through Classroom. Sue was able to monitor the work they were doing through Classroom and also use the comments feature to give the students just-in-time support and lead them forward on their projects. All in Spanish, of course. She tweeted a small snippet of this activity- check it out here.
There have been many other activities that we have tried, including animating Google Slides to illustrate Spanish vocabulary, teaching the students how to use Screencastify to annotate their digital work, and most recently using Pear Deck to give students photo prompts to respond to with appropriate forms of tener. This activity not only forced her students to think creatively, it also gave them an opportunity to anonymously share their writing. Sue was able to lead a class discussion based on their responses, leaving the students with a much better understanding of the concept. Have all of these edtech based activities gone off without a hitch? Not even close. But, she keeps trying and we keep finding successes!
Step out of your comfort zone and be a risk taker. It might be a little scary, but if you start with sound pedagogy and teaching methods, the lesson will stand up even if the tech does not.
We have all probably experienced Google Forms in their most common, er, form. District admins love to use them for PD planning or information gathering. Teachers love to use them as quizzes, quick exit tickets, surveys or ways to get contact information from parents. Typically, the Forms you have interacted with before have been designed in a linear fashion where the user starts with the first question and works their way through until all questions have been answered and the submit button is the final option. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
But, what if I told you that every student does not have to answer every question you have in a Form? Would your mind be blown if I told you that you could customize your Form to guide students through an activity that levels itself for their specific skill level? Would you kick your heels in glee if I told you that you can create a Form that allows students to review important concepts if they get a question wrong? Or a Form that allows students to engage in challenge or enrichment activities while freeing you up to work with students that need more assistance? All of these things are possible with the magic of Google Forms. Read on to discover how you can use the magic of sections to create Forms of Awesomeness!
Case Study for Forms of Awesomeness:
The students have learned a new math skill and I want to be sure that they have ample opportunities to master the skill or try out the skill in new situations. To do this, I create a Form where the first question asks the students to reflect on their comfort level with the unit we just finished.
Based on how they answer the first question, they will be directed to a specific section of my Form.
Within each section, I build activities that have the students complete leveled practice or enrichment activities. Within these sections, the students will find videos, tutorials or other resources that will help them as they work through questions that, based on how they answer, will allow the student to move forward or repeat the learning activity until they are able to get the question right.
While students are working independently, I can pull individuals or small groups of students that have either indicated they need help or are not making any progress on their section of the Form. If students have overestimated or underestimated their skill level, they can always start over by going back to the Form and selecting a different response to the first question. As they work, the Form is collecting data to show their progress and instead of standing in the front of the room, I now have the freedom to meet the students where they are as they work independently.
If my Google Fu is strong and I am so inclined, I can even set the sections to loop the student to the other sections I have created. If they cruise through one of the easier sections, I can have the student advance to a more complex section with a simple click of a button. Or, if they continue to get answers wrong, I can set the Form to have them wind up in the guided practice section. Sections allow for so many possibilities!
Building Your Magical Form of Awesomeness
To create a nonlinear Form, you will need to use the “Sections” feature. This feature is located on the quick menu the scrolls along the right side of the screen as you are building your Form.
Sections are essentially self-contained content and question sets. When I am creating a multi-section Form, I like to build each section as if it were going to be given to the students by itself. I find it easiest to build each of my sections first and then set up the navigation later once I have created the content I want my students to interact with. Here is a quick video that gives a basic overview of how working with sections in Forms works.
I used a math lesson and a funny little cheese activity for my Forms, but really, there are so many ways that you can use these with your students. Science lab activities, social studies lessons about government types, choose your own adventure style writing and reading activities. Can you think of ways that you would like to use the magic of Forms in your classroom?