Google Jedi Training Academy

I’m usually not a fan of teaching technology skills in isolation, but lately I’ve noticed students struggling when trying to use Google Apps in the computer lab. When a project takes twice as long to complete because students don’t know how to manipulate objects on a slide or share a document for peer feedback and collaboration, then technology no longer enhances the learning. It actually gets in the way. Every single lesson you design should have at least 1 of the 4Cs (Read more about Using G Suite to Foster the 4Cs here). The flow of your lesson can come to a dead stop if students aren’t proficient in even the basic skills of navigating G Suite. I’ve been working on a new section of Rock the Lab where students can earn Jedi Lightsaber badges to demonstrate mastery of Google Docs, Slides, Drawings and Sheets. 

 

When students click on one of the badges, it will take them to a page where they can choose the K-2 or the 3-5 Lesson. Upon completion, students will share the documents with their teacher. Each page has a link to a Google Form where the teacher of record then fills in the information so students can be sent their badges. For logistics purposes, the badges are only available for NEISD students, however, anyone with the links can access the activities. Feel free to use and modify to fit your needs. 


Wicked Star Wars Gifs. (2017). Abduzeedo.com. Retrieved 22 October 2017, from http://abduzeedo.com/node/82097

To access the Google Jedi Training Academy, click on the Technology button located on the homepage of Rock the LabI highly recommend you preview each activity before you allow students to begin. Directions and gif tutorials are embedded throughout, but be prepared to provide additional support if needed. Taking the time now to teach these skills will allow for more content creation and use of the 4Cs throughout the year. A student’s future teacher will thank you!

Google Classroom Vs. SeeSaw

The question most often asked by teachers is, “What’s the difference between Google Classroom and SeeSaw?” It’s then usually followed by, “Which one should I be using?” The tech nerd in me always says BOTH, however, I do see how maintaining 2 different digital spaces can be time consuming. I recently created a professional development for teachers to learn about the similarities and differences between the two platforms. We start off as a whole group by discussing the purpose and functionality of each, then the rest of the time is spent independently exploring the teacher’s preferred platform. Feel free to use and modify if you wish. Click here to make a copy.

Learn Smore Stuff

Smore was one of the first online tools I discovered that allowed me to create engaging resources for students, and served as a tool for student content creation. The Smore blog recently featured one of my lessons, which made me revisit the flyers I created a few years ago. I thought I would dust them off and share some with you. 

Made with Padlet

Tips for Making Engaging Flyers

Begin by focusing on the learning objective then find multimedia resources that support the learning objectives. Include them in your flyer using a scaffolded approach. Use videos to engage the student followed by interactive websites that allow the student to practice skills that reinforce the concept discussed in the videos. Finally, provide them with opportunities to independently demonstrate mastery of content.

Students work best when given multiple ways to learn concepts. Provide various types of multimedia content such as text, videos and interactive games that help students master learning objectives. Also provide them with a way to record their learning and be accountable for their time on the computer. They can make a screencast, write strategies in a math journal, or take screenshots of online quiz results that will help you determine their level of understanding.

Make sure that the interactive content you are linking to works on all devices and in multiple browsers. Test your links prior to publishing your flyer and include any directions that will help the end user have a positive experience. For example, “This site works best on Chrome.”

10 Wordless Videos That Teach Problem Solving

A couple of weeks ago, I read a blog post about using short Pixar animated videos to teach problem solving written by Speech Pathologist, Sarah Wu. The idea intrigued me because this type of activity forces students to use their own language in order to answer questions and retell events. Summarization is a skill needed in all content areas, not just Language Arts. I think that by not providing a word bank or piece of text that they can refer back to increases the level of critical thinking on the part of the student. You can also take this opportunity to teach them about utilizing online tools such as a thesaurus. KidThesaurus.com is kid friendly and doesn’t fill the screen with a whole bunch of adds.

Click here if you would like to make a copy of the lesson.

Web Apps + Sutori = Pure Joy

Yes, I recognize that I obsess over certain web based tools, but there’s a reason. We are in the middle of an educational transformation. Think about how we taught students just 10 years ago. There were no iPads (those came in 2010).  Web 2.0 was still new to most educators who didn’t even know the difference between consumption vs. creation. We had dry erase boards instead of SMART Boards, and books had to be held up to students at the front of the room because there were no document cameras. 

Technology didn’t just change the physical classroom. It also changed the way we interact with students and the way in which students interact with the world. So when all of my favorite tools jump into the giant technology pool together, I get giddy. 

Sutori (formerly known as HSTRY) recently announced that you can now embed content from other web based platforms. The ability to utilize multiple tools to engage students in the learning process increases attention, motivates them to practice higher-level critical thinking skills and promotes meaningful learning experiences. You can read more about their embeddable content on this blog post.

Click here for the NEISD Sutori Training

Using G Suite to Foster the 4Cs

One of my summer projects was to take about a billion Go Slow Workshops facilitated by Alice Keeler. I can honestly say I have learned more over the past few months than I have in my 12 years of being an Instructional Technology Specialist. Some of my classes included Google Classroom, Google Scripts, Google Sheets, DOK and Working Collaboratively with Google Apps. It’s perfect timing because one of our district initiatives this year is to provide students with more opportunities to incorporate the 4Cs within curriculum objectives. I’ve taken the knowledge I’ve learned from Alice and applied it to, what I think, is the best PD I’ve ever offered. It can probably be completed in a 3 hour face to face training, however, it’s really meant to be an asynchronous and self-paced exploration. The curated resources allow for differentiation, so if you are comfortable using G Suite then you can skip over the parts that deal with functionality and navigation. The “meat” of the training is embedded within a Google Classroom so teachers can see the workflow and digital discussions that are such a huge part of a student-centered environment. Unfortunately, our district does not allow people from outside of the NEISD domain to join our classrooms. I decided to wrap it all up in a HyperDoc so you can get a basic idea of how the class works. Many of the resources in the Google Classroom come from Alice Keeler, Eric Curts, Christine Pinto, and Nadine Gilkinson. I’ve been Twitter stalking these 4 for quite some time. Click here if you would like a copy of the HyperDoc.


ClassroomScreen is a Teacher’s BFF

ClassroomScreen.com is a simple webpage full of digital widgets that help your students stay on task as they work. Think of it as “Command Central” for your classroom activities. Here are just a few things you can project on your screen:

  • Choose from 21 different languages
  • Add a background from their library or upload your own
  • Copy/Paste a list of student names for a random pick
  • Display an interactive calculator
  • Paste a URL to generate a QR code
  • Display a full screen or widget size drawing pad
  • Open a text editor to display instructions or agenda for the day
  • Display work symbols to identify individual or group work
  • Display a traffic light to control voice level
  • Show a timer or a clock

 

It is not possible to save your screen, but you can quickly customize within seconds. Check out the video walkthrough.

Updated SMART Notebook 17 Resources

If you are an employee of NEISD, you now have access to the
new version of SMART Notebook 17 (must be manually downloaded from the Software Center). I’ve been updating my resources to reflect the new features of SMART Notebook 17 and SMART Ink. I’ve also included videos to walk you through troubleshooting a common problem that we are seeing across the district. It’s pretty simple to do and if you have these steps memorized, you will avoid interrupting the flow of your lesson if your board loses interactivity. This first resource is a Notebook file that provides the following information:

  • Connecting your SMART Board at the beginning of the year
  • Learning what all those buttons are on your remote
  • Orienting the board and fixing the interactivity problem (THIS IS THE ONE I WANT YOU TO MEMORIZE!)
  • Tutorials on how to use the new SMART 17 ink and how to annotate using Word or PDFs
  • SMART Tools
  • Using your Document Camera with your SMART Board

Click here to download the Notebook file:

I’ve also updated my Ultimate SMART Survival Guide to include information on SMART AMP and SMART LAB. Click here to learn more

Make Your Techsperts Do It!

Teaching is hard. It takes years to learn how to juggle curricular, administrative, management, and instructional tasks all at once. Untied shoes, stomach aches, and unexpected schedule changes thrown into the mix can create a long and unproductive day. So what usually happens when there are technical issues with your classroom equipment? In my experience, teachers tend not use it and go back to more reliable, yet outdated, analog activities. What if you had help? To be more specific, 22 extra sets of hands to manage and maintain your classroom technology?

The answer is simple. Teach your students (yes, even the littles) basic skills that become part of your classroom routine. Here’s just a few examples of how they can help take some things off your plate:

  • Explore new iPad apps and teach the rest of the class using your Document Camera or Reflector
  • Make sure mobile devices are plugged in and charging
  • Organize laptops and untangle cords in carts
  • Dust power cords and smart boards
  • Update apps (unless it asks for your apple id password)
  • Help other students who are struggling using a device during a lesson or station
  • Unplug and replug the Smartboard when it loses interactivity

By identifying your classroom “Techsperts”, you not only have more time for actual instruction, you are allowing the students to take ownership of THEIR digital tools. Take some time to train a small group of students the basics of whatever you have access to in your classroom or computer lab. Rotate your “Techsperts” on a weekly or monthly basis so all students have the opportunity to be class leaders. Below you will find a set of Techspert badges that you can print and laminate. It’s a Google Doc, so feel free to modify the content to fit your needs. Click here to make your own copy.

Digital Reflection Tools for PLC Book Studies

Something I noticed this summer in the Twitterverse was the abundant sharing of thoughts, ideas, reflections, and connections made by teachers to many popular books on the subject of educational pedagogy. In fact, most of my personal book choices actually came from #booksnaps or #sketchnotes posted in my Twitter feed. I started doing some research to find engaging ways for readers to use technology during a book study. I found this one resource from FLDOE (Florida Department of Education) that serves as a handy guide for staff book studies. The first paragraph states:

“Book studies can be powerful tools for developing the teacher expertise necessary for improving performance and enhancing student learning through deliberate practice. What sets an effective book study apart from an ineffective one lies in both the initial planning of the book study itself and the utilization of the knowledge, skills and practices acquired.”

Staff book studies are a great way to introduce the use of digital tools to teachers. Once they become proficient users themselves, they can then start using those tools to support classroom instruction. Nadine Gilkison, author of Franklin Township Tech Tips, recently shared this Google Presentation with 5 suggestions to offer participants. If you are an administrator who wants to kick your book studies up a notch, check out the presentation below:

The Ultimate Google Survival Guide Facelift

As with any online tool, change is inevitable, especially with Google. Modifications to platforms are, for the most part, positive even though there might be a slight learning curve for the end user. Google Classroom recently came out with several new features that teachers will love. You can read about them here. One of my goals this summer was to become Google Certified. As I was studying for the exam, I realized I hadn’t updated my Ultimate Google Survival Guide in quite a few years, and it needed a huge facelift. It’s more of a curated list of resources from various sites, but hopefully it will keep you from hopping all over the Internet to find the best of the best. Each tool includes tutorials from Hoonuit (login required), Google Training Center, Google Help Center, and links to Google Innovator’s blogs like Alice Keeler, Eric Curts, and Kacey Bell. If you teach Littles, make sure to check out resources from the amazing Christine Pinto.

I also wanted include instructional ideas to go along with the video tutorials that demonstrate the basics. You will find several examples of embedded content like Thinglink or Google Maps that provide ideas for implementation. This is a dynamic resource that I will add to on a regular basis as I discover or create lessons throughout the year. Enjoy!

The New Basics?

Last week, I finished reading The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros and started on Cultivating Communication in the Classroom by Lisa Johnson. Her first chapter discusses email etiquette. As I was reading, I started making connections to Couros’s book and remembered this tweet with the subsequent response from Matthew Haley (read his blog post here):

Because of the ability to search the Internet for almost any answer to most test questions, I tend to agree that the new basics are more about the 4 Cs (communication, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration.) All of these skills should be spiraled within the core subject areas. The problem I find, especially for elementary, is coming up with ways to teach email as a form of writing. In our district, students don’t have email accounts in grades K-5. If teachers expect to use this form of communication as a part of the student/teacher workflow process, then students need authentic exposure at a much earlier age. 

This is why Lisa’s first chapter grabbed my attention. Even though her book focuses on future-ready skills for secondary students, her observations completely apply at the elementary level. So, the question I’m now asking myself is what tools do we have at our disposal if email is not an option? Lisa gives several examples in her book that provide curricular connections such as emailing an expert or having students maintain the classroom newsletter. Another option would be to build this communication piece through consistent feedback loops via Google Classroom. Alice Keeler describes here how she uses private comments as actual assignments. This allows students to replicate a digital conversation in a meaningful way that is centered around their own learning. Modeling this type of digital interaction will definitely prepare our students for what lies ahead in the secondary classroom as well as the workplace. 

What’s New in Google Earth?

Back in April, Google announced they would be revamping their entire Google Earth experience. That’s great news if you are a Chromebook user as Google Earth can now be viewed right from your browser. But those aren’t the only changes to this amazing platform. About 10 years ago I started creating my own virtual field trips for students. It was a very time consuming process, and I didn’t have access to embeddable interactive content. Google now has a component full of interactive experiences from around the world called Voyager. These are curated journeys from all over the world that include Street View images and 360 degree videos. There are 6 categories for students to choose from:

One of my favorites was created by PBS Education called Explorers: Age of Encounter. Students are able to travel back in time to the late 15th and 16th centuries and follow the routes of 6 explorers that changed the way people viewed the Earth and interacted with each other from different countries and continents.

One way to turn this into a collaborative project would be place students into 6 groups using Alice Keeler’s Group Maker for Spreadsheets.  Each group can choose an explorer to research and document their findings in the spreadsheet. Once research is complete, the class can create one collaborative Google Presentation explaining how these encounters set the course for the modern, globally interdependent world. Increase the DOK level by asking them to describe an alternative history had these explorers not discovered new worlds and civilizations. There are many guided tours available, so I encourage you to check out this section by clicking on the ship’s wheel icon located on the navigation toolbar on the left.

Here are more resources about other new features in Google Earth and ideas for implementation: