Friday, October 23, 2015

Digital Madlibs with Google Forms

Today I was working with a group who wanted to collect information through a google form , but who also wanted a nicely filled out template that they could reference if needed.  So I went to investigate.

About 1 second into looking at Google Form Add-ons, I found Form Publisher.  Said it would take form submissions and turn it into a document by filling out the template.  I decided to test this in the most professional method possible.  Madlibs!!

If you want to fill out the Form to see what it does, click here.  To view the template and the output, click here.

Form - Create the form with the questions you would like to ask.  Obviously this has more power than Madlibs...but I like Madlibs.

Doc Template - Create the Document or spreadsheet you would like this to fill in.  Use the <<question title>> (case sensitive) to create a field filled in by the form.

Start the Form Publisher Add-on - It pretty much walks you through the steps.  I set mine up to name the document based on the First Name entered in the form.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Walking through the Google Classroom Updates

So I open up google classroom today and I see this message.

So I read and create a new class.  When I get inside the class, there is no Announcement/Assignment button at the top of the stream.  Seriously, what the heck?  They also took away the question mark in the lower right hand corner and added a PLUS sign...

TOUR TIME.  You can now do an announcement, an assignment, or ask a question.  Cool, I think.  When I click on the + sign there are 4 options.

I can reuse posts from other classes.  SICK.

So I Try them...

  • Reuse Post - here you choose your class, pick the post, then grab the information and assign it as if it were created today.  It even grabs the document and gives you the same options as if creating an assignment for the first time.
  • Create Question - You can attach documents to ask questions, and have the student responses compiled in one place.  You can choose to let students see each others' answers and comment or not.

  • Move to Top - Once an assignment is created, you have the choice to move the assignment to the top.  Nice for loading assignments then rearranging them.
Then I opened a class I had already created, with assignments.  I click on an assignment and the page had changed... Good and Bad.
  • Good - Looks so much cleaner and there are thumbnails of the documents on the right of the page.
  • Bad - No folder button.  I liked going to the google drive folder for the sole purpose that I could single click a document, click the preview eye, and quickly scan through documents.  Please request that is put back.  When you click the documents, you get a new tab for each.

From the Student Side

  • When a Student opens an assignment, they can see both the instructions, and their assignment on the same page, a nice change from before.
  • Less buttons when you open an assignment.  Students click on the Add button and they have the following menu.

All-in-all, I like the changes.  I do wish there was an alternative to the folder button, but I can live.  It is a large improvement.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Infographic Trap

I enjoy an infographic as much as the next person.  I think they have a lot of information and they are a different way of presenting information.  There are times when I hate them.  There are plenty of slide show presentations on how not to do slide show presentations.  Too much text, bad color choices, etc.  Today I saw an infographic that broke every single one of those rules, but its ok if its an infographic, right?  Wrong.

In fact, the infographic that I saw today was simply a bunch of slides on a page.  Even worse, it was grey writing on a red background, not the easiest to read.  It was text and titles, then a line, then more titles and text, then a line, rinse and repeat.  It was missing much of the graphic from the infographic.  Yes there was a graph here and there, but it was just a slideshow.  So what is the point of an infographic if all you are going to do is scroll down the thing and stop between each set of lines and talk about what is there.  That is a slide show.

I began to think, what is the difference between a slide show, a prezi, and an infographic?  There are plenty who will disagree with me, but they have pet pieves that which I would disagree with as well.  So here is my break down.

Slideshow:  Linear presentation or story.  Like the pages in a book, they have an order for the most part and follow a logical book-like path.  You go from one slide to the next.

Prezi:  A semi linear story.  Many times these presentations reveal larger parts of a story, have twists and turns, can be a mystery, etc.  I have seen great prezi's that zoom in on different aspects of a larger picture to show interrelations of concepts and information.  If you have not seen these, just google amazing Prezi and you will find some pretty cool stuff.  I call these semi linear because they do follow a path set forth by the presenter, but the audience has no clear idea what is coming next.

Infographic:  Nonlinear presentation of data.  A presentation of data and facts related through design elements used by the author.  However, although the author tries to guide the audience around the graphic, it is up to the audience how to proceed around the graphic.  A great graphic is not dependent on advancing slides or moving along a path, motion is determined by audience focus and design.  The idea is that what info can the audience get from first glance, from a slightly deeper view, then by a deeper view.  With each subsequent view of the graphic the reader moves deeper into the argument in the graphic and the interrelated information in the graphic.

Regardless of what you use to present, make sure you use it in a way that is appropriate for what you are doing.  Don't just make an infographic because you recently learned about canva, venngage, or piktochart.  It may take away from your presentation and actually make what you are saying more difficult to understand.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Flipping through papers using the great eye of google drive

Opening and closing documents is not a cumbersome activity, but when you have over 200 students it can be a pain. Throughout this year of training teachers in google drive and google classroom during 14,000 chromebook rollout the issue of saving time has been a carrot to help teachers buy in to the program.  So far the favorite tip has been that of the great eye.

In google drive, rather than double clicking a document try a single click. In the upper right of the page are options to get a link, share, remove, and THE EYE.  Click the eye to preview a document. Scroll through, mark the grade in your gradebook, then click the arrow on the right to get to the next document in the folder.  You cannot edit or comment in this mode, but if you want to comment in a few documents click on "open" at the top of the preview, do your thing then close that tab, preview kept your spot. Since it doesnot completely open the document, things open fast.

If you have assigned something in classroom, open the assignment folderand go through the preview of documents. The titles (with student names) are in the upper left, all documents for a class are in the same folder. For those who enjoy comparisons it is like flipping through a stack of papers like the good old days except it is minus the loss of trees and the process can be completed at any point to show that assignments, especially writing are iterative and nonlinear, that students should be constantly working, editing, and rethinking as they work toward the mythical final draft.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Google Docs - Research and Hyperlink shortcut

Here is a great trick for turning text into a hyperlink quickly.

To all you right-clickers out there. You probably have figured out that you can highlight a word in a google doc, right click (2 finger click on chromebook), and select Research "(highlighted words)."
Highlight, Right-click, Research
Leave the words highlighted.  Once you find the link you want, click insert link and the words become a hyperlink.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Using Public Data Explorer to show the significance of historical events

Online data visualizations can show things that are interesting.  Watching the life expectancy or fertility rate over time in different countries can bring students to question what was happening in that period of time.

Why introduce students to a topic with a story?  Have students look at the data with public data explorer.  By watching the visualizations of the data you can guide students to ask questions about why data points are moving, then have students find the answers to these questions through the wonder of the internet.

Today, I had students looking at wealth distribution versus GDP over time.  I just wanted students to come up with trends.  Students started by following a country and noting when something interesting occurred on the graph.  They then noted the year and search the internet for events occurring in or around that country.

After all students collected historical and graphical data, students looked for trends across all information submitted by other students, regarding other countries.  Students looked for general correlations.  Nothing that we found would be considered ground-breaking, but through the process students learned about many countries and seemed to understand the idea of distribution of wealth as it refers to the economic health of a country.

It was a fun lesson and a great way to reinforce reading graphs of complex information and data in context.  It was interesting to see that the students following Japan felt that every economic disaster correlated to an earthquake.  They later found out that every event in Japan correlates to an earthquake.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

My Maps

So I have been playing around with My Maps lately.  Kind of a forgotten Google thing.  I know there are those that use it, but I think it is a fun tool.  If you haven't tried it, here are some things you can do with it.  If you have no idea what it is, My Maps is a place where you can personalize maps with locations, details, names, and pictures.  You can also share your maps with others.

If you have never been there, Google "My Maps" and it should show up near the top.

Things to do on My Maps
  • Add Layers - had a teacher add a layer for each of the European Explorers, so the points would be colored differently.
  • Share the map with students - Rather than color and draw the route, allow students to plot a voyage on the map using points and lines.
  • Add Points - click the point, then place it on the map.  You can name the point, add pictures from the internet, type in information, add links to other information, etc.
  • Add Lines - Connect points to show a route.  Connect multiple points (like the Indiana Jones maps if you remember those).  Name the route and add details about it.
You could use My Maps to trace the routes of explorers, military movements during wars of the past, travels of literary characters, and I am sure there are many more.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Professional Development to Professional Learning Network

Fairly recently I became involved in the twitter community of educators.  Hashtag chats and networking with others has been fun and I have learned quite a bit from 140 character blurbs.  Beyond Twitter, I have read blogs and watched video.  In each of these, I feel a lack of connection to those I work with.  Being a teacher who consistently works with others, the pseudo-interaction with others is not necessarily enough to make the interaction personal.

I have taught PD, worked with others to create learning walks, continued discussions with teachers about best practice and applications in their class.  I have built connections that allow me to see the transformation in another class and also to learn how teachers evolve in their learning journey.  Where twitter and blog reading lacks the personal connection, this time of deep professional development lacks the number of teachers.

What is the missing link?  How can professional development remain personal, but also impact a larger number of teachers?  How can it incorporate the fun of gamification, the focus of content groups, and innovative best practice?

I am currently working on a professional development network.  One in which teachers traverse a series of levels.  From learning technology skills, to observing teachers at their school, discussing practice with teachers at other sites, and then inviting others into their class and discussing practice and sharing techniques.

The idea is to start by first learning, then slowly expanding the professional learning network (PLN) to the school site and beyond.  Discussing with teachers using video conferencing.  Sometimes a PLN withing your department or school is large enough.  Other times, you need to move beyond that network to find those who are willing to push the boundaries too.  That is what I am hoping to create.  If you are a teacher who wishes to to know more about this or are interested in hearing more about this, leave a comment on the blog or pm me on twitter, @thedrmorgan and I will let you know how to get involved and will probably ask you what you think.

I have a lot built out now, but as I work through this, I would enjoy feedback from others.  Thanks.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Tools for digging into Text

There are many tools out there for digging into text in the classroom.  Here are my 4 favorites for getting into text with students.

4. NewsELA - I have had some fun with NewsELA, but I feel, as a high school teacher, that this is geared toward elementary school classes.  The content is great and I like the idea that you can differentiate by allowing students to choose different levels of difficulty for articles.  This site has a class feature where teachers can create classes and students can join the class with a code, this allows teachers to assign readings to classes.

3. ThinkCerca - A great tool that has current content, class creation features, and text separated by subject.  One nice feature is the ability to choose assignments and also view them as the students will view them.  Many of the articles have 3 components that offer support for weaker readers, ELL's,  those without extensive vocabularies, and comprehension/critical thinking assessment.  The components attached to the readings gear students and classes to not only take the readings at face value, but also dig deeper and think about impacts, themes, and relationships to the article.  I really enjoy this cite, but almost wish that teachers could customize the vocabulary section.  With internet connectivity, students could find and define more difficult words.  ThinkCerca is great, but the lack of customization makes it number 3.

2. ListenCurrent - Ever hear a discussion on NPR and think, "that would be great in class." is where you find those things.  Although it does not have the assessment piece that ThinkCerca has, I like that students can listen to the stories and read them as well.  That choice marks this up as something the assists and develops language learning and bridges to the acquisition of academic language learning.  The articles and audio are great resources to catapult discussions, lead into themes discussed in literature, and relate content to current issues.  Teachers can create classes and students can join the class to receive assignments.

1. DocentEDU - Although I think this is the newest/youngest product of the 4 I am reviewing, DocentEDU does offer one thing that the others lack.  Customizability.  Each of the other products is limited to the content curated on the websites.  DocentEDU allows you to go to any source of text and turn it into an assignment.  There are so many sources of text that curating all of them is not a feasible request for any one product to do.  With DocentEDU you can go to a website and turn it into a docent (text assignment).  You can use to find articles from other areas and add discussions, questions, notes, and highlighting to the articles and assign them to the class for students to read and use.  Generate discussions in the middle of a document, highlight evidence in support of a point and ask a thought provoking question.  Highlight difficult words and define them or ask students to define them.  I have had more fun with this tool and have seen it grow so much over the last month.  If you haven't, give it a try.  One big downfall, at the moment you can only be a student or a teacher.  When I test these things out, I like to be able to be a teacher and a student to get an idea of what both see, but I have been told that may come soon.

Thursday, April 23, 2015


For those who are not familiar, backchannels are discussion forums where students can interact with other students and the teacher while other things are going on in a class.  During a lecture, students could be in a discussion on Today's Meet and be asking and answering questions, giving the teacher feedback, expressing ideas or connections, etc.  It is another type of communication that can take place during a class.  As a channel for feedback, they are called backchannels.

I have had a lot of fun playing with Backchannels in both training and in the classroom.  What I have found is that backchannels fall into one of two categories, anonymous and not anonymous.

When I say anonymous, I mean that students can create a nickname or a pseudonym to join the chat.  It is possible that they could choose a name to be anonymous to the class if they are afraid that others will know who they are.  This is great because those who might not speak may have a voice in the backchannel.  This is problematic as those who say inappropriate things are also anonymous.  The programs like Today's Meet function like this and are great  for what they offer.

Discussions like those on Google classroom are not anonymous, meaning that the name is chosen based on the google login.  These are great because they hold students accountable for what they do, but do not allow anonymity for those who participate more due to the anonymous feature afforded by online tools.

What I would like to see is a program that recognizes the difference between a teacher and a student and allows teachers to see the identity of those in the discussion, but keeps students anonymous to other students.  So far, I have not found a free backchannel for this.

An alternative that works right now.  There are teachers in my district who have assigned students numbers.  These numbers are the pseudonyms for students.  While other students do not recognize the numbers and students can be anonymous to other students, increasing participation by "shy" students, teachers know the identity of students based on the number of the participant.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Student-Centered or Tech: What came first?

As part of a large school district, a trainer of teachers working with over 14,000 chromebooks, I have often asked this question.  I see teachers giving responsibility to students as I walk around the classes at the different schools.  Students are in charge of their learning and extending what the teachers give them to come with their own information.  There is a shift in focus from the "Sage on the Stage" to the content and how students can work with it and relate to it.  For those who let technology transform their class, which came first?  Where they teachers who lead student-centered classes or was the chromebook a conduit that allowed them to transfer some control of learning to the students?

I ask this question, because I have seen teachers transform their classes.  In order to transform their classes and create innovative learning experiences for students, teachers must shift their classes to student-centered learning environments.  What works best to support a transformative classroom?

As we select teachers for subsequent rollouts of chromebooks, do we look for teachers who conduct classes in a student-centered manner to create student centered lessons on chromebooks, or do we look for teacher-centered classrooms and given them chromebooks as a catalyst for changing classes to more interactive spaces.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Multiple Teachers and Draft Assignments in Google Classroom

I believe it was today that Google updated Classroom.  Here are the changes and some thoughts on them.

1. Multiple teachers for a classroom.  On the About page of an assignment, you can now add another teachers to a classroom.  This is a great feature for those who coteach a class, have a special education aid or a TA.  Coteachers have all the rights of a teacher, except they cannot delete the class.

Likes - I think it is great, nice to have the ability to coteach a classroom.

Dislikes - It would be nice to alter permissions of the coteacher, but I personally do not have a need for that.

2. Draft assignments ahead of time.  I like this feature, but I think it is one step away from being awesome.  This feature allows you create assignments, rethink and modify them prior to actually pushing them out to a class or multiple classes.  When you are ready, you can assign the assignment to your classes for students to see.  To do this, when done creating an assignment, instead of clicking assign, click the arrow next to assign and "Save as Draft."

Likes - I like that you can edit the assignment after created as a draft, change the classes who will get the assignment.  Push the assignment to the stream when ready.

Dislikes - The draft only shows up in the class where the assignment was initially created.  I wish that, when you choose to assign the assignment, you could push it to one course at a time.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The comment feature on Google Classroom

Most Teachers, when creating a class in Google Classroom, change the class setting to "Only teacher can post or comment."  I would say, off all the teachers I have trained and visited, this has been the setting so there is not a projector surprise awaiting as some student who posted something inappropriate waits for their wonderful words to display.  However, today I visited a class where the teacher continues to use this feature and claims it has helped her students, especially English Language Learners.

Ms. S, as I will call her, gives students lists of vocabulary words.  There are assignments associated with them, but students are required to comment on the assignment.  Students write a sentence with the vocabulary word in them.  She claims that this practice is easy to grade and that as students practice this more and more, they get better at the sentences.

Deep Thinking Questions:
Ms. S will put her notes on Classroom or will create assignments associated with a book chapter or other reading.  Students will comment on the assignment with a deep thinking question.  She can quickly view them, discuss the need for a deeper question and work with students on better word choices to express what they mean.  Students then are required to address two of those questions for homework.

Discussion Participation:
Students are often asked to participate in class discussions.  The comment section of Google classroom is a place where students can add to the conversation even when they do not have the confidence to speak up during a conversation.

Management of the Comments:  All comment sections are associated with points, students who act up or type inappropriate comments are given zeros on the assignment and parents are emailed.  As of yet, I have only heard that Ms. S had to perform this once, and that may have been a setup.

Obviously not a complete list, but a great place to start.  How are you using the comment section?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Amazing Classroom Ideas from 2 days of walk-throughs

Although I work with schools and train teachers for 2 whole days of PD (1 prior to getting chromebooks and the other after 1 month of working with them), I find that I learn more from the teachers when I see them in action with their students.  I learned through my years of teaching and writing that what we say and what we write is interpreted in many different ways due to the prior knowledge and experience of the audience as well as the current situation of those listening/reading.  For this reason, after I train teachers in the use of a tool it is nice to see how they manipulate the functionality of that tool to come up with amazing lessons and engaging content that I would or could ever have created or thought of myself.  I see these ideas on walk-throughs, like the one I did today.

1. Kahoot and whiteboards in combination - A teacher used the Kahoot game to gather evidence of her whole class and how they were understanding problems in her AP Chemistry class.  After answering a question on the Kahoot, the teacher would then give them time to write out their explanation or an answer to a subquestion developed by the teacher when she saw the confusions students had with the question.  Kahoot was truly a formative assessment tool that allowed the teacher to assess students, then restructure teaching immediately.

2. Participation during presentation - Many teachers have students do presentations, but what do the students do as they listen to the presentations.  A teacher gave an assignment where the students needed to record information about the presentation in a table nested in a google doc.  Students then were required to use the research tool to gather an additional piece of information.  As this was delivered through google classroom, not only could the teacher coach students on presentation skills, but he also checked in on students during the presentations.

3. Socratic Seminars - A teacher in an high school Sophomore English class had students arranged in an inner and outer circle in her room.  Students in the inner circle were arguing as part of a Socratic seminar while the students in the outer ring added to the notes on the book the inner circle students were discussing.  The teacher mentioned that she was interested in having students share a google doc and have outer circle students feed answers and evidence to the inner circle students through the google doc.

4. Annotated bibliographies for research papers - a Junior English class was annotating bibliographies on American figures from the past.  The teacher collaborated with the US history teacher to make sure the project supported what students were learning in both classes.  The teacher had the students annotating and evaluating sources in google docs to later use in their research project.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Chromebooks Supporting a Culture of Learning

For those who have read this blog before, you know that I am a science teacher who now trains other teachers in technology and the effective implementation of technology in the classroom.  As I work with teachers, I notice that there is more than just resistance or acceptance of technology in the classroom.  To me, more than the idea of teacher resistance or acceptance is the idea of the culture of the class.  I know that all teachers want their students to learn, but what type of culture are they reinforcing?  Teachers can reinforce a culture of knowing by standing in front of a class and talking at students all day or they can reinforce a culture of learning by working with students at times to find and learn.

I know that not all would agree with me, I have had arguments with teachers who felt I was wrong in working with students rather than being the professional knower in the front of the room.  One argument was over the periodic table.  She told me that students at the school should be responsible for memorizing the periodic table, that students had done this for years in the school district.  I had to do that when I went to a neighboring school.  To this day, I cannot see the point in memorizing the periodic table, it is in every science book and there are millions of them on the internet.  Why do I need to memorize it when I can look it up in two seconds?  She claimed it was part of learning science.  I claim that by making students look it up and find it, I am teaching them that there are things that are out there and they should know how to find it.  They should learn to search for themselves.  This whole technology thing allows people to not memorize things, they just need to be proficient in finding things.  If nothing else, changing from a knowing culture to a learning culture is a transformative (the Modification and Redefinition in SAMR) use of technology in the classroom.

When the teacher with whom I fought asked me how I teach the periodic table, I told her this...

I tell the students to open a chromebook and look it up.  If they are really snazzy, they can look up interactive Periodic Table.

  • I tell them to find two periodic tables based on looks and functionality.  
  • Compare and contrast them.  Which one is more accurate?  Which one is more precise?  I even have students collect data on the average number of place values to the right of the decimal for average atomic mass and use this as evidence of which periodic table is better.  
  • I lay out glassware that we will be using during the year around the room, how precise is the glassware?  Does the precision of the periodic table matter in a calculation of values if using measurements from the glassware?  
  • I have students find enough evidence to support the use of one of their periodic tables.  Students then take this argument and work in groups to come up with the best periodic table in the group, then argue with other groups.  
  • Its like March Madness for periodic tables, only one wins.  This takes about a week.
Though I could talk about the periodic table, this lesson asks students to look at the periodic table, delve into accuracy, precision, measurement, significant digits, lab equipment, supporting with evidence, argumentation.  In short, they are learning and there is no clear cut right answer, or there would only be one periodic table on the internet or published in books.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Videos of Analysis

Common Core requires students to read and analyze nonfictional text.  As they get older, students will need to analyze multiple documents and write a DBQ (document based question) response.  Here is a way to scaffold the informational text analysis.  Teach students to annotate pictures of text.


  1. Some Text, picture, etc.
  2. Awesome Screenshot Extension
  3. Screencastify Extension
Use Awesome Screenshot to take a picture of the text.  

For those who have not used it, awesome screenshot allows anybody to take a picture of a webpage or a part of a webpage and then annotate it with arrows, shapes, text, etc.  Play with it.  It is how I made this picture.

But once you or your students find a document and take a picture... STOP.  We are going to use the annotation tools to create a video.  Get the picture and plan out the annotations.

Use Screencastify to create a video of the annotation.

Screencastify allows a user to record the action in a tab and the audio captured by a microphone.  Start the screencastify extension and begin recording.  During the recording, annotate the image and talk through the annotation.  This does not need to be long.  Just a quick analysis of the document.

Once the video is created, view screencasts.  Students can Share the screencasts and get a link to the video they created.  Turn that link into google classroom or however you accept assignments.


I have had teachers do this where they break the students up into groups and provide each group with a different primary source document.  The groups analyze the document then follow the procedure above. Groups turned in their video link via email.

The teacher then showed all videos and students had to choose 2 documents and analysis as evidence in their response to a DBQ as homework.  In a class of 8 groups, groups analyzed 8 informational text documents in 20 minutes and all students watched them, (8 x 1 minute videos).

Yes, there are other ways to do this and other applications.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Screencast your Solutions

With a history as a chemistry teacher I found that I solved many of the same problems over and over again throughout the years.  I would give a homework assignment and offer to go over all the questions students were unable or not confident in solving.  I found that, although this was a helpful task, it quickly ate up time in class.  How could I streamline this process?  I began screencasting problems.

The Tools:
Screencastify (or screencast-o-matic if not on a chromebook)- Allow the recording of up to 10 minutes of either a tab in a browser or using a webcam.  I just made sure I downloaded the video to google drive and shared it to free up my 10 minutes.

Daum Equation Editor - This is a web based equation editor where I could type in the problem end explicitly work through how I solved the problem.


Webcam - Like a webcam, many document cameras can hook up to a computer with a USB cable.  This will turn the document camera into a high resolution camera.  I often used this to record my hand writing out the solution to a problem on a piece of paper, just like you would do it on the board.  While doing this, you can also project the image that you are recording.

WeVideo - If I wanted to get fancy.  I could edit the video.  As I tried to keep these to quick videos, I rarely used this tool.

Tell the Class to be Quiet and hold their Questions.
As I would go over the problems, I would always save one problem to screencast.  When I got to this problem, I would tell the students to be quiet and that I would be turning this into a video.  I would record the video and audio of me solving the problem, then post it online for students to see.  Upon completion I would turn off the recording and ask if there were more questions.

Get it Done Before Class.
Prior to class I would do the same thing and I would post them to my class webpage.  As students entered the room, I would check their homework and then tell them where to find the videos in case they had questions.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Google Slides

This last weekend I attended a conference and purposefully went to sessions that had nothing to do with chromebooks.  That has been my area of expertise and what I have supported the most.  But I still get asked a lot of questions about the things that iPads can do and what is the comparable app or extension on chromebooks.  After listening to how teachers are using iBooks author and screencasting with explain everything, a truly brilliant use of app smashing, I wanted to see if the same thing could be done on chromebooks.  There are many screencasting apps, I recommend screencastify.  The creation of the content was the challenge for me.  I came up with Google Slides.

Most people use google slides as a replacement for powerpoint presentations.  Yes, it is nice that you can create a presentation online with the ability to collaborate and quickly insert pictures and text.  It is the other facets of the program that I think are better.

Change it from a Slide to a Poster
Open up a Google Slide and select a theme (I like the blank theme).  Once open, select the file menu and choose page setup.  Here you can change the size of the slide to a custom size, for a poster, brochure, book, etc.

Format the Poster
The best part about slides is the lack of format rules.  In a Doc, there are limits to where text can be (left, right, center, and in a table).  In Google Slides, you add a text box where you want the text box, put a picture where you want that.  Move it around, design the space, super easy.

Displaying the Slides
Publish the Presentation - on the File menu, there is an option to publish the presentation to the internet.  Choose this and the presentation can be embedded or linked.

Make it a PDF - on the File menu, select Donwload as, and choose PDF.  Put that PDF in your google Drive and share the link with others.  Much like the publishing to the internet, but it is possible to zoom in on PDF files.

One Page is a Poster, More Pages are a Book
Just because it is thought of as a presentation tool does not mean that there are additional functionalities built into it.  I have seen teachers use them for students to creatively display book reports and character studies, political cartoon identification and analysis, propaganda poster creation, product presentation of engineered solutions, and calculation problem solving posters.  One thing that I know could be done, but have not yet seen, is the creation of a multipage poster that essentially turns the posters and presentations into a book.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Video Through Google Chrome

To create videos in Google chrome I have found that there are several tools you need, if you want to do this for free.  First, you need an extension for capturing the video.  Second, you need an app or a website for editing the video you have captured.

Capturing the video.  

There are 2 extensions I use to capture video, screencastify and skiblz cam.  Skiblz is limited in that is only captures video, no sound, but you can create as much video as you want.  Skiblz will record what you do in your browser, so you can be creative in the silent movie manner.  Screencastify allows you to capture video from your web browser tab, your webcam, or your desktop.  This will capture audio and video, but there is a 7 minute limit for free accounts.

Editing the Video

Up until recently, I had only used wevideo for the editing of videos.  The tools available in wevideo are comparable to some of the page software video editors.  you can add menus, background sounds, transitions between video segments, voice-over, etc.  Recently, youtube has altered their uploading of video content page and included an editor.  Prior to publishing videos it is possible to edit videos, capture videos, or even create a slideshow from images.  There is music available to use as background sound, transitions for video segments, subtitles, etc.  For a great synopsis on this, here are some places I read about before trying it out myself.  Youtube Teaching Resources.  Slide Shows with Audio on Youtube.

Now, to be perfectly honest, as much as I love Chromebooks there is no combination of app or extension I have found that rivals the video tools on the iPad.  Should you have one of those, I highly recommend iMotion HD for stop motion video creation, and Touchcast for creating professional videos (both free).  As my district has gone with a mass adoption of chromebooks, I can figure out ways to do everything I want to do with the free video creation and editing tools on the chromebooks.

Chrome Extensions

Though chrome extensions are not solely for the chromebooks, they are a large part of why I like Google chrome.  I can make by browser do other things for me rather than take me to websites and help me create and share on Google Drive.  As you read through my list of extensions, there are some that everybody lists as their favorite, so I will not describe them much.  The others, I will go into depth with, just to let you know what they do.

The Popular

  • Awesome Screenshot take browser screenshots and annotate.  When used with an equation editor, students can take picture of math problems, step-by-step, and use the annotation tools to describe rationale.
  • Tab Scissors - Use tab scissors to split your browser window into two different browsers for multitasking.  
  • OneTab - open a set of pages that either you visit or that you would like your students to visit, onetab combines them all into onetab and allows you to create a webpage that you can share with students. Complete with link address and QR code.
  • Clearly - Get rid of adds when reading articles.
  • Diigo - annotate what you read, share your annotations, follow others.  Great research tool.
  • Screencastify - create videos of your browser and the actions taken in a tab.  Great for making training videos.
The Not-So-Well-Known
  • Google input tools - change the language of your keyboard to type in different languages.  Great for world language classes and simple access to accents, special characters, etc.
  • QR code extension - Creates a QR code of the page you are on and scans QR codes using your webcam.  I like this for sharing Google drive folders or for sharing specific webpages or tools.
  • Improvedtube and Herp Derp for youtube - customize the way youtube looks on your computer.  Get rid of suggested videos, set the default size for a video you wish to watch.  Change the content of all comments from actual comments to herp derp.  Kind of fun to read.
  • Notable pdf - a pdf annotation tool that allows you to annotate pdfs, collaborate on the annotations, and export the document with or without the annotations.
  • Citable - highlight content on a webpage and click on citable.  This extension will save the quote with all the citation information in a spreadsheet to access later when you are writing a paper and need actual quotes from reliable sources.
  • Black Menu - my favorite extension.  This is a customizable window that gives quick access to many of google's services.  Shorten a URL, search youtube, search google, maps, literally everything.  There is a more button that lets you skim through each of the lesser known google services like public data explorer, flu trends, etc.
This list is, by no means, extensive.  These are simply the extensions I use in chrome and what they allow me to do.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Creative Uses for Google Slides and Drawings

1. Google Slides

One can quickly describe Slides as the Google version of Microsoft Powerpoint.  Create a slide show to deliver information, support a presentation, and collaborate through the process of creating that presentation.  That is rarely how I have used this in a class setting.

2. Google Drawing

A free space to add whatever you want to the space.  Oddly, I find it easier to insert and not as easy to draw in drawings.  Nevertheless, it is a nice functionality to have.

Slides and Drawings are both programs that have the same basic premise, free space for you to do what you want.  Set up a page and run with it.
Uploaded by Awesome Screenshot Extension

There are still the research tools available in docs, but docs likes to format, Slides and Drawings are free format spaces.  Add what you want, move it where you want.

  • Use an image as a background - Add an image and make it the size of the slide or drawing space.  Use the arrange option to send it back and format, image options to ,make it more transparent to use an image as a background or slide theme.
  • Use hyperlinks to link multiple drawings or make create your own adventure stories.
  • Citing images - click on an image, then click and drag the URL of the image to cite it quickly.
Through my training I have come across teachers who have found creative ways of using each of these tools.
  • Using Google Drawings as a book report.  Students used the drawing tool to summarize books, provide relevant images and then presented from the single-slide drawing.
  • Using Drawings for YOGA sequences - each student was individually responsible for creating a slide for a yoga pose.  Later, they worked with others to link together slides with four other members of the class to create a mini-yoga sequence to teach, present, and walk the class through.
  • Pecha Kucha style presentations - presentations made with slides containing a picture or less than 3 words.  Follows a time and slide format I used 6 slides x 10 seconds.
  • Newsletters and posters - due to the free flowing space, it is easy to create a newsletter or poster with either a single slide or a drawing, which is simply a single slide.
  • Making a website out of a series of google drawings.  Publish a google drawing and it is a webpage.  Link that drawing to other google documents or webpages you make later and you have a series of webpages.  Pretty simple to do and allows students to create effective designs.  I have seen teachers use this for student portfolios if they do not wish to learn google sites and they want students to have an e-portfolio.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Chromebook 101 - Review

Even if, for no other reason, you have students get out their chromebooks just to have them on their desk, you are leaps and bounds ahead of a wasted computer. If you don't know how to implement them in class, dangling them in front of students will inspire them to find a reason to use them in class. Research, looking up definitions, presenting, who knows what excuse they will tell you.

Regardless of comfort with technology, most teachers start implementation of technology at the lower enhancement level of integration (Substitution rather than Redefinition).  This is the same for the tech-phobic and the tech-philic (my science background... sorry).  AND THAT'S FINE.

Sure your administration might ask you how chromebooks have transformed your class... We'll get there, Rome wasn't built in a day.  If you are at least getting the computers into the students hands and letting them explore then you are on the right track and are setting yourself up for excellence.  

Students may get distracted with computers on their desks.  Rather that punishing every distraction, focus the distraction and challenge students to do something that makes their presentation, paper, or project more personal... Something that they are more proud of and willing to share.

Is it a little scary to see what students come up with?  Yes.  Is there a chance that it will be bad?  Yes.  It is therefore a good thing that you set up expectations for use and have a progression of consequences.  Most of the time, in my experience, I have found that students surprise me more with excellence, over-achievement, and originality.  So much so that I ask them to either share with the class or teach me and others how to do what they did.

Technology proficiency is making its way into the standards, and if students are actively trying to learn standards, go with it.  Even if it seems like they are only interested in the computers, use that motivation to engage them in projects related to content.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Chromebook 101 - Transfer Some Control

If you have read my other Chromebook 101 posts, then you have read how I feel it is important to set up a discipline and expectation structure as well as become proficient in 1 thing (I suggest Google Docs).  My suggestions on creating expectations and knowing google docs are simply to make sure that there is a level of comfort with implementing chromebooks in the classroom.  Often, teachers are more apprehensive about starting to use them and once they begin to see how easy chromebooks are and how seamlessly they can be integrated into current curriculum, they tend to continue to use them and learn new things.

This post is equally important for those with fears of using technology with students as well as those who welcome the use of technology in the classroom.  For those who are familiar with the SAMR and TPACK models of technology integration, you know that there are varied levels of integration and varied ideas of best practice integration.  Click on the link to get to know the levels of SAMR.  The lowest levels of technology implementation use technology to enhance learning (substitution and augmentation) whereas the higher levels transform the classroom (modification and redefinition).

It is important to know that computers are hard to break with a misplaced button click.  That being said, let students press buttons, click new things, search and learn.  Give up the choke-hold on the computer.  As long as your expectations are laid out, you can always reel students in with by letting them know when they are not doing what they are supposed to do.  Here are some simple suggestions to get you used to a classroom that lends itself to transformation.

  • Be a Guide.  Just because you know the answer does not mean you have to tell them.  Help students learn to find the answer.  This strategy works great for when you do not know the answer.
  • Are you going to have students type your notes?  Try changing them to collaborative notes (where students work on notes as a group) or enhancement notes (where you give students your notes and while you are talking they reword or add to their own copy to make them more useful and personal).
  • Give options.  Just because you would do something one way does not mean that they would.  Challenge students to be unique with how they word and display information.
  • You do not have to know it all.  If you give students a project, let students know that you can help them in Google Docs, but they are welcome to use Slides, prezi, powtoons, wevideo, etc.  
  • Show students how to find information.  I suggest Google search for technical support.  If you ever need to show them, I suggest "Let me Google That for You" (Google it).

Friday, January 9, 2015

Chromebooks 101 - Get to know 1 thing

I often hear teachers say that they are intimidated by technology because there are so many things to know.  Yes there are, but, by the same logic, there are so many people in the world so I should be a recluse.  Get to know one thing and try that out.  Trying one thing might peak your interest and get you into trying other things with the chromebooks or your students might ask to try something out that you can watch and learn.

My suggestion for the 1 thing is Google Docs.  Google Docs is a lot like Microsoft Word and Pages which are pretty universal.  So if you have a set of chromebooks, go ahead and play around with Google docs and check some things out.  If you want, play around with the doc that I have attached to this post.  Once you open it, make sure to click on File and then Make a Copy so you will be able to edit it.

Google Docs Training Document

As a trainer I like to get teachers working with Google docs right away.  Teachers play through the training document, ask questions that pertain to their content areas, and force me to cover things that I had planned to cover anyways.

Once I get them going on docs, they always start asking me about Google Slides, Google Classroom, and anything else that they can use in their classroom.  The teachers I have trained this way begin implementing Google docs as soon as possible.  They are both confident in what students can do and their content knowledge extends the applications of Google Docs in ways I would have never thought.  Attached is the document that I share with teachers new to Google drive and Google Docs.  Please feel free to make a copy and use it.  My only request, if you find a way to make it better, please let me know and share the document back with me.  I would appreciate it.

Google Docs Training Document

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Chromebook 101 - Setting Up Expectations

Like any activity that teachers implement in class or any tool that teachers provide for students in class, teachers are required to think about what can go wrong and what will be the consequence for the actions.  Many districts, mine included have created an acceptable use policy, a list of do's and don'ts with electronic devices and access to the internet.  That being said, once the acceptable use policy was written and printed, it was out of date.

You are never going to know all the things that can go wrong or all of the possible ways in which students can misuse technology.  Thought must be given to how you, the teacher, set up your expectations for electronic use and your consequence structure.  Here are a couple of things that have worked for me with both iPad and 1-1 chromebook implementations in my high school science class.

Read through the district policy on student electronic device usage.
  1. In some way shape or form, walk the students through the different things that are considered, by district standards to be wrong or inappropriate.
  2. You could read through it, jigsaw the reading, have a note-taking activity, video activity, or presentation activity showing examples of offenses to the Acceptable Use Policy.
Email the policy home to parents.
  1. It is not enough that students know the policy exists inside the classroom, let parents know what their kids will be held accountable to so they have the ability to support similar parameters for access to technology.
Avoid the consequence of taking away the chromebook.
  1. For the chromebooks to be an effective, transformative tool in the classroom, students need to use them.  The chromebooks should not be a novelty, a movie Friday, or a reward, they should be similar to a pencil, paper, or school book.  Would you take that away from a student for a day, week, or semester?  Find a way to discipline students without taking away the device.
  2. Come up with a progression of discipline.  In my class, there was a progression of consequence.  First, warning.  Second, warning and email/call home.  Third, warning, email/call home, and detention. Etc.
Parental contact early and often is important with technology implementations.
  1. This is often though of a best practice, so nothing new, but the more contact you have with the parents and the more you remind them of the expectations and how their sons/daughters are meeting them the more supportive they will be of the consequences.
Its OK for students to have them out and not use them.
  1. Personally, I had students get out chromebooks every day, even if I was not planning on using them.  Students would ask if they could do certain tasks on the chromebooks or ask to look things up on the internet.  Little by little, they became a larger part of the class.
  2. Chromebooks do not take a lot of time to power on.  Have students get them at the beginning of the period and put them away at the end of the day.  This will help with transitions between activities.  Remember, a closed chromebook is logged out and they will power on very quickly.