Posted in Cool Tools, G-Suite for Education, Student Creation

Students as Creators in a Digital Space

Learning is more than listening and writing down correct answers on a worksheet or test. Learning is when students take concepts in, turn them this way and that, look at them from all angles and remix them with concepts already discovered, and then create something new as they construct new knowledge for themselves. Students need to be more than consumers, they need to be creators. They also need the opportunity to share their creations with a larger audience which allows their creations to be more meaningful and authentic. If you want to give your students some opportunities to create in a digital space with Chromebooks as their platform, try out one of these awesome edtech tools.

Google-Drawing Google Drawings: An often overlooked and definitely underused program in G Suite is Google Drawings. Drawings gives the user a blank canvas that, just like every other application in the Google product line, allows for creativity and collaboration. At its most basic, Drawings acts as a desktop publisher. Start with a blank canvas, add text and images, then download or share. Drawings can be downloaded as a PDF, png, or jpg. Drawings can also be published directly to the web! As a creation tool, the possibilities are endless, but here are a few suggestions:

  • Students create diagrams during lab work
  • Students create an infographic to showcase understanding of a concept
  • Students create a Drawing that explains their process and thinking about a math problem
  • Students use Drawings and Google Maps to teach about historical or geographical concepts
  • Students create a poster for projects like the science fair – look at my amazingly awesome example!

    science fair poster

bookcreatoriconBook Creator for Chrome: Book Creator bills itself as “the simplest way to create and share ebooks in your classroom.” The program runs as a Chrome app and students (or teachers) can combine text, images, audio, and video to create a media-rich book that is hosted online and can be shared with other students, teachers, parents, and communities. The creation tools are very easy to use and making high-quality pages is a cinch even for the youngest user. The camera and microphone features allow the creator to add personal images and narration of their text.  Creators are able to link to their Google Drives and pull content directly into their ebook, which allows for app smashing where students create content with other tools and then bring the content in from where it is stored in Google Drive. There is also a feature that allows for a Google image search (the best part is that the search will only bring back images labeled for reuse). When it is time to share, the book can be published online, downloaded as an epub, or printed.

Of course, a natural use of Book Creator would be to write and publish stories and poetry books. However, it can be used by your students to create a wide variety of products like nonfiction text, research journals, or how-to manuals. If you want to see how other teachers have used Book Creator, check out this Pinterest Board or look at the book below.

powtoon

Powtoon: Powtoon is an animated story builder that allows students to create engaging explainer videos on a wide range of topics. By using storyboards or templates along with items and sounds from an extensive library, students can create a professional looking video that will wow even the most critical teacher. Concept explanation and idea sharing take a brand new path while students learn design elements and video editing techniques. Instead of having every student get up in front of the classroom and read from their notes, have them create a Powtoon, post the link to it in a shared space like Padlet or Google Slides and then have students interact with the videos. You could even have the creator of the video create an exit ticket that students need to complete after they have watched the video selections.

Here are a few examples of concept videos created by students:

There are a multitude of creation options out there on the interwebs. These three just happen to be some of my personal favorites. Introduce these to your students or allow them to go and search out one of their own. The point is to get them creating. Let them show you what they know in new and innovative ways instead of ending every unit with a paper and pencil test or a worksheet.

Posted in Cool Tools, G-Suite for Education, Google Keep

Google Keep – The Gift That Keeps on Giving the Whole Year: Part Two: Students

In a previous post, I extolled the virtues of using Google Keep to get yourself organized and Keep an eye towards the future. This post is going to focus on how your students can use Google Keep to become organized rock stars that can conquer the world! I am a big fan of Keep and would use Keep with my students to help them become more organized, manage homework or other tasks, research and curate content, collaborate, capture quick thoughts and work, and create images or grab photos of important (or not so important) materials. That is a lot of responsibility to put on one little app, but I know Keep can handle it!

Personal Organization – Checkboxes, Reminders, Color-Coding and the Search Feature:

When a student creates a new note, they have the option to show checkboxes. This is a perfect way for students to create a to-do list for that independent project they are working on. In addition to the checkboxes, Keep allows the user to create a reminder. For those students that have a hard time remembering to follow timelines or to attend to due dates that are rapidly approaching, these reminders will help keep them on track.

Google Keep note with checkboxes showing
Create Checkboxes to Organize Tasks and Mark Items as Completed
Google Keep showing the reminder menu
Teach students to set reminders so that they don’t forget about the task at hand

Keep notes can be color-coded and labeled for easy organization and retrieval. If you have students using Keep as a research tool or as a way to curate content for school activities or passion projects, labels and color-coding will be invaluable. Keep is completely searchable by color (and type, label, things and people)! Category labels can be created when a new note is made or from the Keep notepad.

Search by Type or LabelSearch by Person or Color

Research/Curation of Content – Color Coding, Labels, Save to Keep extension and Keep Notepad in Docs:

How have your students curated their research materials in the past? I am willing to take a gamble and say that there is a lot of copying and pasting going on. Students either copy and paste the text from the source or just go even more basic and copy and paste the URL into a Google Doc because they are totally going to refer to it later. Then when they go to actually write their paper or create their projects, organizing their research in any sort of meaningful way can be challenging. With Keep and the Save to Keep extension, students can find resources online, click on the extension to save the source and immediately add a label to the newly created note. Once the note has been created, students can then color-code it by topic, research paper, class, etc. By dragging and dropping or pinning them, students can organize their research into a meaningful pattern. When they are ready to begin writing or creating, they can open their Keep notes right in Google Docs or Slides and either use them as a guide or drop their notes directly into their Doc or Slide.

Note Taking and Text Annotation:

Students can use Keep to take class notes. Once they have written the note, it follows them everywhere their device does! Even better, they can use the picture tool in Keep to snap a photo of anything you have written on your board or passed out in class. They can add their own thoughts and understanding to your words. Once they have their notes created, they can share their notes in order to crowdsource class concepts for the most amazing study session ever!

Speaking of the photo-taking tool in Keep, one of the coolest features is the ability to take a photo of text and then use the “Grab Image Text” option to turn that photo into editable text. Imagine the text annotation goodness your students will now be capable of.

Capture Image Text
Grab Image Text

Once the text has been converted, students can annotate on the note or copy the text directly into a Google Doc. Or they can use the Notepad tool to bring the text in while they are creating and need to quote source material. This is a great option for teachers who want students annotating text since the teacher can create the Keep note and share it with their students to interact with.

Drawing and Voice Tool:

Drawing
This drawing of awesomeness was created with the Keep mobile app.

While this is only available through the mobile app, enough students have their own phones that I believe these tools are worth mentioning. The Draw tool allows the user to create a drawing as a note. Once the drawing has been created, that drawing can then be dropped right into a Google Doc or Slide. For those students that have an artistic eye or a need for an image they can’t find anywhere else, this draw feature comes in pretty handy. Unfortunately for me, my drawings skills are pretty weak.

As for the voice tool, students can record their thoughts, much like the television lawyers and therapist from yesteryear. Not only does Keep transcribe their words for them, it also keeps the audio file for playback. This is great for students to take notes on the fly (think of those field trips to the museum or zoo that we all love to take – student sees an amazing work of art or fancy animal; opens up Keep; snaps a photo and records an audio clip about their impressions).

The student uses for Google Keep are wide and varied and I would bet dollars to donuts that your students could come up with a million different uses for this highly accessible and totally free tool. What do you think your students will do with Keep? What do you want them to do with Keep? Add your ideas in the comments!

 

 

 

Posted in Cool Tools, G-Suite for Education, Google Keep

Google Keep – The Gift That Keeps on Giving the Whole Year – Part One: Teacher

If you haven’t discovered Google Keep yet I am about to give you the best gift ever! Keep has been hanging around for some time but it has had some recent updates that make it indispensable for you and your students.

At the most basic level, Google Keep is a note-taking app. Users create sticky notes of information that can be color-coded and tagged for easy grouping. Notes can be pinned to the top, created as a checklist, and include links, images, and even drawings. Keep also has a search function that allows the user to quickly locate notes in the notepad.

Here is a quick look at my Google Keep:

Snapshot of Keep - Pinned
Pinned Posts on Keep
Keep - Other
The Finest Google Keep In All The Land

App FinderTo access Google Keep, simply go to keep.google.com or use your app finder to pull it up. If this is the first time you are accessing Google Keep, you might need to click on the “More” option to find it. Remember, these icons can be dragged and dropped so that you can easily reorganize them to meet your needs. However, Google Keep doesn’t only live on the web since you can find the Google Keep app for both Android and Apple platforms in the App Store or the Google Play store. Keep synchronizes across all of your devices, so if you add a note on your phone, you will immediately see the note across platforms.

Virtual Sticky Notes of Awesomeness:

Google Keep allows you to create a wide variety of sticky notes for all of your needs:

  • Regular old notes with a headline and a body – but in color!
  • Checklists – I love “to-do” lists and Keep makes all of my organizational dreams come true!
  • Image-based – take a picture or use an already saved image and then write your ideas all over it!
  • Free-hand drawing – No image to match your awesomeness? Draw your own!
  • Audio – (Only found in the Android or Apple app) – Have a lot to say but your fingers are too tired to type? Speak your thoughts right into Keep. The best part? It transcribes your speech to text and saves the original audio file.
  • Location-based reminders – Walk into the door at school and get an automatic reminder to do whatever that thing was that you couldn’t remember to do last time.
  • Share the love – All Keep notes can be shared with collaborators. Every collaborator has the right to view and edit your note of awesomeness.

Applications of Awesomeness:

The question you are probably asking is, “why is this the best gift ever?” The answer to that is very simple; Google Keep has become fully integrated with G-Suite for Edu applications. That means, aside from creating the most spectacular sticky notes ever, you can begin using them for teaching and learning. Your Google Keep notepad will now show up as a tool in Docs, Drawings and Slides. Anything that you have created or saved in Keep is now an item that you can drag and drop into your current project. Look at the new level of productivity you are bringing to your work!

Open Keep
Find the Keep notepad under the “Tools’ menu
Adding from Keep
Adding content from Keep

This process includes any images that you might have saved to Keep, even if they are hand drawn. My artistic abilities are not the best, but I can now add the most poorly drawn heart into anything I want!

Adding Images
Adding Content to Slides

Practical Applications for Use:

  • Feedback/Comments – if you find you are giving the same feedback on a consistent basis, write it in Keep so that you can drag and drop it into student work.
  • Store/share links you use frequently but don’t necessarily want to bookmark.
  • Take a snapshot of any board work or diagrams you drew throughout your lesson so that you have them for later (not all of us have interactive whiteboards, you know).
  • Teacher collaboration – instead of dumping all of your content into a shared Doc, create shared Keep notes. These are really easy to organize and place into a Doc once you are ready to start working on the final product
  • Teacher created materials like diagrams, drawings or playlists can be created in Keep and then inserted into multiple Docs, Slides or Drawings.
  • Research and resource gathering – I used to use Diigo to capture and collect resources or curate content that I needed for teaching and while I still find it to be a valuable tool, Keep allows me to capture resources and then bring them right into a Google Doc or Slide (with the appropriate citations, of course).
  • Save to Keep extension – Found something on the web that you want to save for later? Use the Save to Keep extension to not only save the resource but annotate and tag it for later use.
Save to Keep
Save to Keep Extension

Google Keep is an excellent tool to add to your edtech arsenal and will help to streamline your life in many ways. This article focuses explicitly on teacher use of Keep, but the applications for student use are numerous. My next blog post will focus on how students can use Keep, so stay tuned!

 

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

Academic Integrity in the world of Google

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

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

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

Revision History

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

To see revision history:

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

Need to see it in action? Watch this video:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Posted in G-Suite for Education, Quick Tech Tips

Force a Copy

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Cool Tools, G-Suite for Education, Google Classroom

Share to Classroom – The Extension of My Dreams!

I wanted to make sure that you are aware of one of the most powerful extensions out there for Google Classroom users – Share to Classroom.

The Share to Classroom extension allows you to take a web source and share it with your students in one of two ways:

  1. Immediately push the source to all students at the same time, allowing every student in your class to navigate to the source without having to type in the URL.
  2. Create an assignment, make an announcement or ask a question with the web source as your primary component.

The reason that I like “Share to Classroom” so much is that it allows me to use current materials with my students with minimal effort. Let’s say I want to discuss the current hurricane and how it is affecting the people in its path. I can go directly to a news source (no fake news here) or a site like weather.com or nationalgeographic.com and find news articles, images, or video that I want my students to use. Then, using the “Share to Classroom” extension, I can create an assignment where students have to interact with the materials and then create a disaster plan, write a personal connection paper, or design a social action plan where they define ways that they will help those affected by the storm.

Another way that I see a benefit in “Share to Classroom” is the ability to get every single one of my students onto the same resource at the same time. When I PUSH the web source or video to the students, it interrupts whatever they happen to be doing at that time and opens up the material I want them working with.

To make the extension work they way it is intended, students and teachers must have it installed. Fortunately for Lebanon City Schools teachers, our awesome tech department has already pushed out the extension to the students. You as teachers will need to install the extension. If you don’t know how to do that, click on this link and click the “Add to Chrome” button.  

To use this extension, follow these easy steps themselves:

  1. Make sure you are already signed in with your G Suite for Edu account.
  2. In Chrome, go to the webpage you want to share. Next to the address bar, click Share to Classroom. share to classroom
  3. Click the name of your class. classroom list
  4. From the drop-down list, choose what you want to do:
    1. To share the webpage to your class, Select Push to students and then click Push. The web material instantly appears in the browsers of all active students.
    2. To attach the web material to a post:
      • To create an assignment, select Create assignment, enter your assignment, and click Assign.
      • To ask a question, select Ask question, enter your question, and click Ask.
    3. To create an announcement, select Make announcement, enter your announcement, and click Post.

Just imagine all the possibilities that this extension opens up for you and your students! And I didn’t even mention the ability of students to share materials with you! More on that at a later day.

Posted in G-Suite for Education, Mastering Your Google Drive, Quick Tech Tips

Quick Tech Tip – Create in Google Drive

Do you want to be the master of your Google Drive? Do you want to conquer it and make it your b…. uh, make it supremely organized and easy to use?

Well, if you do, STOP creating materials on the docs, slides, or forms outside of Drive and START creating them in Drive itself. As I have been working with different people, I have noticed that many of them click on the waffle and select Docs or Slides from the apps manager to create or access materials. This can create confusion because whatever you just created gets dumped in your Drive in an unspecified location. Also, when you use the waffle to go to docs.google.com or slides.google.com, the default setting is “Owned by anyone” which means that any item created by someone in the district with shared rights will show up there. Way too much stuff for the average user to have to wade through.

A better option would be to actually create right in Google Drive. An even better option would be to navigate to the folder you will eventually put the item in any way and create right there. Watch this short video to see how this is done:

Posted in G-Suite for Education, Quick Tech Tips

Quick Tech Tip -Gmail – Archive vs. Delete

Mountains of emails in my inbox give me heart palpitations. Like, for real. Opening my inbox and seeing email after email has me break out in a cold sweat. So, like any reasonable person, as soon as I read something, I want it gone. Gone I tell you! The trash/delete button and I became close and fast friends. Of course, things that I thought were important would get delicately placed in a folder because I was most definitely going to go back later and read them again. Most definitely. Everything else? Trash city, baby.

But, like any poorly thought out plan, this eventually backfired on me. Gmail automatically deletes any items placed in the trash after 30 days. That means anything that I realized that I really needed (registration details to a conference, parent contact information, emails extrapolating how awesome I am) were no longer accessible to me after the 30 day period had lapsed. If only I had ARCHIVED my emails instead of deleting them.

Archiving your emails is as simple as deleting them. It takes that email out of your inbox, removes it from your sight line, but keeps it safely stored away so that if you ever need it again, you can easily access it. How do you access it you ask? Simply use the search feature in your gmail.

Watch this short video to see how this works:

There is also a setting where you can include a “Send and Archive” button to your email. You can use this feature when you are replying to an email and know that you are done with the conversation:

Posted in G-Suite for Education, Mastering Your Google Drive

Use the Google Team Drive Feature for maximum teacher collaboration

For years, teachers working within the G Suite for Education environment have been able to collaborate and share resources with one another by using the share features embedded in Google Drive.  This system works really well until somebody changes grade levels, leaves the district or a new team member comes aboard.

This is why I am so in love with the new “Team Drive” feature that was released last spring. Google’s Team Drive creates a shared work space where team members have access to shared files and folders. Members of the team drive can create right within the drive or they can copy or move materials from their personal drives into the team drive. Materials that are created or placed in the team drive become property of the drive rather than the individual, so there is never the worry that you will lose access to a document if a member of your team leaves. Even better is that when you gain a new team member, you can easily add them to the drive and give them immediate and full access to shared materials.

Team Drive is an excellent place for teachers to collaborate and create materials. A master document or assignment can be created in the team drive, but then each teacher can make a copy of it and move that copy into their own drive in order to personalize it for their students. The original remains untouched for future use, and teachers always know where to go to find a clean copy.

Here are some additional suggestions for items that should live in a team drive:

  • curriculum guides
  • curriculum materials
  • benchmarking materials
  • common assessments
  • meeting agendas and minutes
  • team goals
  • student goals
  • student data
  • field trip forms
  • parent contact forms
  • special event planning

Create a Team Drive

  1. Open Drive
  2. On the left, find and click the link for Team Drives
  3. At top, click New
  4. Name your team drive

create-a-team-drive-e1503329868235.pngAdd Members and Set Permissions

When you add a new member to your team drive, that person is automatically given full permissions to be able to upload, edit and delete files as well as add other members. You can tailor permissions for each member as you add them or even after they have been added.

  1. Click on the Add Members link
  2. Type in the name of the person you wish to add – you may only add members that are already part of your G-Suite domain. Unfortunately, you cannot create Team Drives with educators from other districts
  3. Set your desired level of permission by clicking on the arrow below their name
  4. Write a quick message to let them know you are adding them to the group or just click Send to get the ball rolling.

adding-members-to-team-drives.pngCreate or Add Materials to the Team Drive

Screenshot 2017-08-21 at 12.22.26 PMNow that you have created the Team Drive, it will function in relatively the same manner as your personal drive. You, or any member of the team, can create folders or any other item from G-Suite apps within this drive. You can also upload files from other locations on your computer, including your personal drive, by using the File Upload link under the New button. An even easier way to populate the team drive is to drag and drop files from your drive into the team drive. Unfortunately, you are still unable to move an entire folder into the team drive, but you can select all of the items in the folder and move them over in the same way you would move items around in your own drive (contact me if you are unsure of how to do this).

Team Drive Etiquette – or How Not To Make Your Team Hate You

If you are working in a team drive and want to personalize any of the materials, be sure to first make a copy of the item and then move it into your own drive before you make any changes!

Additional Features or How-to Guides for Google’s Team Drive

If you would like to learn more about the many aspects of adding and controlling team members, creating and deleting materials, or any of the other fine points of team drive, please contact me to set up some one-on-one coaching time. If you prefer to be a self-directed learner, here is an excellent resource from the G Suite Learning Center – Get Started with Team Drives.