Using Google Fonts

I don’t know about your district, but our Technology Department won’t let us install anything on a district issued computer. I totally understand why and agree with it…with the exception of fonts. Fonts are the most important thing to an elementary school teacher, except for their students, of course. I recently discovered the Google Fonts page and figured out how we can use them in our district. Below are 2 videos. The first explains how to add and use a Google font add-on called Extensis Fonts, and the second will show you how to download and install Google Fonts to use in a Word Document. I hope this brings you peace and joy.

 

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!

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.

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.


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:

 

App Flows Aren’t Just for iPads Anymore

Graphite App Flows (Now called Lesson Flows from Common Sense Media) were something I discovered a couple of years ago. A Lesson Flow is a lesson planning framework that helps you integrate digital tools with pedagogical insight. They helped teachers in my district move away from unstructured “skill and drill” use of the iPad to a purposeful lesson that made students accountable for their time spent on the device. 

Since then, app developers have realized that districts purchase multiple types devices, not just iPads. Many popular productivity iPad apps now have an online alternative. This allows for more flexibility when teachers are planning and checking out iPad, Chromebook, laptop carts or scheduling time in the computer labs. Here is a list of some of my favorite apps that now have a web based counterpart.

G-Suite                              Thinking Blocks         
Thinglink Haiku Deck
SeeSaw Virtual Manipulatives
Book Creator Learnzillion
Google Earth Math Learning Center
Google Maps BrainPop
Canva Educreations
Nearpod Padlet
Edublogs Popplet
Google Classroom Snapguide
Quizlet Animoto
YouTube

In my district, elementary teachers usually have about 3-4 iPads per classroom. That’s all fine and dandy if your lesson is designed to be in a workstation or center. It’s also difficult to manage multiple users logging into different accounts on 1 device. That may be a simple task for secondary, but try that with a kindergartener. Turning your App Flow into a Web/App Flow may be your solution. It’s the same lesson using the same resources, but now you have a choice of which device you would like your students to use. I just finished this one to support 4th grade Equivalent Fractions. Here is the link if you would like to use or modify it to fit your needs: https://goo.gl/t5devp

 

Using HyperDoc Format for Unit Reviews

It’s that time of year again in Texas (Insert sigh). Reviewing for the STAAR exam does not need to be a painful process. Instead of the traditional STAAR formatted worksheet, try a HyperDoc full of engaging multimedia content. I’ve created a template, examples, and even a list of multimedia resources to help make the creation process less time consuming. 

For the past 6 weeks, I have been tutoring a group of 5th grade math students. They handed me a binder that is literally 3 1/4 inches thick. Yes, I measured. The tree hugger in me had a little tiny stroke. That’s what inspired me to turn this binder full of worksheets into engaging HyperDocs using a template created by Nadine Gilkison (@nadinegilkison). The content in these HyperDocs is not my intellectual property. It belongs to my district, so the privacy settings require end users to be logged into their district NEISD Google account.

I created another Science Review HyperDoc that supports all of the 5th grade Life Sciences TEKS. This one is open to the public, so please feel free to make a copy and modify to fit your needs. It is filled with multimedia content to support over 8 TEKS. It also includes a reflection component (Google Drawing) where students answer essential questions.

I really liked the flow of the format and the fact that teachers can choose which sections students need to focus on based on assessment results and benchmark data. It’s also great for differentiation. You may have some students that need to focus on Interactions in Ecosystems, while others need to focus on Life Cycles. HyperDocs, by nature, are designed to be self-paced to accommodate the different needs of individual learners. 

If you are interested in creating a HyperDoc Unit Review for your class, you can use this template to help get you started. I’ve also curated some of my favorite resources that can be embedded within the activity.

 

Creating Drop-Down Menus in Google Sheets

Did you know you can create a drop down menu in Google Sheets? This is a handy feature if you are wanting students to choose from a list of questions to answer. The cell directly under your dropdown menu can be used for the students to type their answers.

  1. Click on the cell where the questions will be added.
  2. In the main menu, click on Data and then Validation
  3. Next to criteria, choose list of items. Type your questions in the box, separated by commas. 
  4. Check the box next to show dropdown list in cell and add directions in the description box if desired.
  5. Click on save.

I created a couple of examples demonstrating how to use this feature. Hopefully this will inspire some ideas to help get you started.

Reflecting on 2016

As the end of the year quickly approaches, I often reflect on what I have accomplished and what I would like to set as my goals for the new calendar year. This year, you may have noticed I did not publish as many posts as I normally do. This is largely due to the fact that I have been working on 2 other websites. I’m happy to say they are both complete and now it’s just a matter of updating them with fresh content to replace older apps and software. I decided to showcase some of the new lessons and ideas that are now posted on these sites.

Rock the Lab

Rock the Lab is a website I maintain for student use. All of the lessons support Texas TEKS and follow the NEISD Scope and Sequence. It took me a year to build, but I finally have all 4 nine weeks complete. Most of the activities utilize free tools, but some require a subscription or license to paid content/software such as Kidspiration or Discovery Education. Every school year I pick out a new tool or website over which to obsess, and this year it was HyperDocs! I’ve tried to incorporate as many as I could in each 9 weeks and the feedback from students and teachers has been very positive. Check out some of my favorite lessons below:

Schoogle Your Content with HyperDocs

As I stated above, my obsession this year has been HyperDocs. I learned about them last year through Matt Miller’s blog post and never looked back. I love them so much that I decided to abandon my fear of public speaking and present on the subject at TCEA in February. I created a site to share what I learned this summer during the HyperDoc Bootcamp, and to house my growing collection of examples created by myself and the HyperDoc community.

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Click on the arrows at the bottom of the home page to navigate through the content. Start at the beginning if you are new to HyperDocs or skip straight to the examples if you’re ready to implement. I hope you will be able to attend my session on Wednesday, Feb. 8 from 5:00-6:00.

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Thinglink 360/VR 

Dare I say, Thinglink is still my number 1 go to tool for student created projects. This year they introduced a new feature that supports 360 images. I was fortunate enough to be able to create content for their new iPad app. Students can explore 360 images and interact with multimedia content to learn about different places or concepts. 2 of my lessons are now featured within the app: Earth’s Forces and Remember the Alamo!

Creative Writing Challenges

This year I’ve chosen creative writing as an instructional focus. Here are some HyperDocs that have a seasonal or monthly theme. 

PD in Your PJs

Can’t come to a training? No worries! Below are links to resources that provide you with anytime, anywhere, self-paced learning.

Goals for 2017

What does 2017 look like? At the rate things are changing, I have no idea yet. When you’re in this profession, tools are being developed at the drop of a hat. One thing I have learned is good teaching will never change. I think that’s why I fell so hard for HyperDocs. It’s not about the platform or the device. It’s about sound instruction that allows the student to engage with the content. Therefore, my goal for 2017 is simple…best practices.

End of the Year HyperDoc is Here!

STAAR Testing will be over with by the end of next week, so this is the perfect time to plan a tricked out “End of the Year” Technology project. Have your students reflect on a year’s worth of learning through various Google Apps. I’ve created a HyperDoc to house all of the activities and provided how-to gifs that will walk you and your students through the needed skills to complete the project. For more information on GAFE Smashing, check out Matt Miller’s blog post. Interested in becoming a #hyperdocaholic? Begin by exploring this folder of examples. The creators of the HyperDoc movement, Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton, and Sarah Landis, have a new website dedicated to taking up all of your free time. Enjoy!

HyperDocs Make Me HyperExcited

I want to personally thank Lisa HighfillSarah Landis and Kelly Hilton for introducing me to my newest obsession, HyperDoScreen Shot 2016-03-25 at 3.37.57 PMcs. Ever since I read this blog post about using GAFE to facilitate a learning adventure, I’ve lost sleep, ignored my family, and recorded copious amounts of favorite TV shows on my DVR. Needless to say, I have put their HyperDoc Template to good use. Below you will find my fledgling attempts that I recently posted on my Rock the Lab website for students. To learn more about HyperDocs, check out their HyperDoc Tour.