Thursday, November 3, 2016

What are the Usage Rights of Images in the Explore tool in google?

For those unaware, the Research tool in google docs is being replaced by the Explore tool.  It is a fancy change and a cleaner look, but I have had some questions.  I work with teachers on technology integration and I have taught, through the research tool, how to change the usage rights of images.  Now that is gone.  What to do?

I have been trying to figure it out through Google help forum, through twitter, and through countless searching.  I finally found it by playing with the tool.

1. Open the Explore tool, search for 
something, and flip it to images.
2. Hover over an image and 
click the zoom symbol.

Below the large image is the usage rights of the image.
"Labeled for commercial use with modification"

Monday, October 24, 2016

Inspire #Digcit in Online Communication

Get past the rule: communicate appropriately online.

Rather than simply telling students what is right and wrong, I choose to look beyond the communication.  As a science teacher, I often told my students about discoveries made in science.  A discovery is only a discovery if communicated out to the world.  It is how people gather information, learn about new things, and how they identify with people.  Whether spoken or written, communication is the key to transfer of knowledge.  A person may have found the cure to all disease, but without communication, nobody knows and the disease continues.

Who discovered the double helix?  Who won the Nobel Prize for it?

So how can we inspire good digital citizenship in online communication.  Rather than give a set of don'ts, inspire greatness. Are your students communicating about a discovery?  Have they designed a solution to a problem? Are they trying to change the culture at their school?  None of these things can be done with poor communication.

Look at commercials, presidential elections, anything negative; people get sick of it.  Going back to my favorite book, Start with Why, people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it.  If you want people to buy your product, buy in to your culture change, and support your solution then you need to communicate in a manner that speaks to them.  A lesson in Digital Citizenship does not need to be about do's and don'ts, it can be more about marketing.  Changing an idea in your head to a movement takes communication.

Turn a dream into a movement, spread the positive, solve a problem.

Regardless of how you word it.  Students rise to a challenge and will surprise you with the things that they do.  If all we do is get our kids to "not say bad things online" then we are selling them short.  Have them communicate online to create something.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Inspiring a Digital Footprint #digcit

A digital footprint is like credit... Good digital footprint is good, bad is bad, none is bad.
- Jeremy Shorr

Digital Citizenship is not a set of rules. It is a guide for students to change the world.

Why do we only warn our students about having a bad digital footprint?  Show them what is possible with a good digital footprint.

I enjoy talking to teachers about student-centered classrooms.  The importance of innovative teaching methods and creating amazing learning environments for students is a passion of mine.  What if I posted image of my own classroom and everything showed students in rows, reading silently to themselves, or being completely disengaged.  My digital footprint would be in complete contradiction to what I was talking about.  I wouldn't be buying the very product that I am selling.  It is not that I have a bad digital footprint, it is just that the footprint does not "say" that same things I do.  Odd.

Now imagine if students wanted to change the world.  They identify a problem and design a solution.  One thing that I used to get my chemistry students to write, is the fact that a discovery is only a discovery if communicated to the world. To change the world you need to communicate your solution.  People will see and judge you and your ideas.

Simon Sinek said it best, "people do not buy what do, they buy why you are doing it."  That "why" is communicated through the marketing, communication, and by the people who are the face of the discovery.  What type of digital footprint do you want others to see so you can change the world?  If people truly buy why you do something, then they will find it in what you post, share, say, and advertise.  What digital footprint will people buy?

I refuse to leave digital footprint as something to keep from being bad.  I prefer to help students choose what their footprint is going to be and make it one that will allow them to change the world.  Every decision that they make will do 1 of 3 things.  1) it won't matter. 2) it will open a door.  3) it will close a door.  Make sure you leave doors open because you never know where they will take you.

This is all fine and dandy, but you can see from the presidential race, there is a negative side to digital footprint... That is all I have to say about that.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

#Digcit is not the goal, it is a step.

This year I have worked to help our school district become a CommonSenseMedia certified district.  Over the last 2 years our district has worked with the teachers to curate a curriculum, we have worked with principals to set expectations, and we have worked with the teachers union to ensure that what we were trying to do is not excessive.  Teachers curated content from CommonSenseMedia, Principals have agreed that digital citizenship, much like lab safety, should be done in the beginning of the year (rather than by June 1 when required by E-rate), and teachers have loved the idea of presenting digital citizenship along with classroom rules.

We have devised a method for collecting data on when the teachers report teaching lessons.  Principals are pushing to have these completed in the first month of school, and, since the lessons were pulled from commonsensemedia, teachers and schools and the district qualify for certification.  That is awesome.

We have also changed our student homepage.  When students log in to their google account (home or school) and go the homepage, they see a page with digital citizenship reminders.  There is the possibility that every day starts with a quick 10 second digital citizenship lesson.  Teachers can open the reminders, students can open them, parents can even access them.

Teachers are talking about digital citizenship, students are learning the material.  So What?

Do I hope that students are good digital citizens? Yes.  Did I spend all that time so students would be? No.  In the realm of my responsibility in the district, good and bad behavior are issues handled at the school sites.  I am not spending all this time so principals have a few less disciplinary issues at their schools.  I am happy that the conversations are starting to change.  As our teachers have learned more about Digital Citizenship, the conversation is less about the Do's and Don'ts of technology use and teachers are starting to talk about how these are guides for how students can change the world.  My goals, however, is beyond that.  I hope that students receive a personalized education where students can reach their potential.

My goal is that students learn in an environment where they can learn to change the world using the traits that make them special and unique.

What does that mean?  Students learn differently, at different paces, with different interests, and start with different experiences and differing degrees of initial competency.  In a classroom of 40 students, can a teacher manage all that and be an expert in every area that students are interested.  No.  That would be ridiculous.  Can technology help?  Maybe.  It depends on how it is implemented.  The first step is digital citizenship.

Students need to learn to communicate, collaborate, and create in a digital setting.  They need to understand how their digital footprint will affect their ability to change the world one day, and they need to understand how to respect the intellectual property of another so they understand the respect that others should pay to their intellectual property.

Digital citizenship is not an end game, it is a step towards creating a culture where students can be creators, entrepreneurs, and original thinkers.  As educators, it is not our job to change the world ourselves, it is our job to create an environment where students can change the world.  Digital Citizenship is a tool and guide that we can use to change education, so our students change the world.  Our students are going to change the world in some way, we get to help.

Digital Citizenship is less about Do's and Don'ts and more of a guide for students to change the world.

If the goal is for a student to behave, then we are selling ourselves short (like integrating technology without transforming education).  We are creating a culture of conformists, not a culture of innovators.  Innovators understand the strides that have been made before them, incorporate the experiences and understanding, and solve a problem to create something new.  That type of learning, collaboration, critical thinking, communication, and creation can only come from understanding the ethics associated with digital citizenship.  Changing the world comes when students apply what they have learned and amaze us.

So what is the next step?

Mindset.  Education is not only for our students.  It is for ourselves.  As educators we cannot let our ego get in the way.  If we think that we are there to bestow knowledge and students are merely there to soak it up, then we are missing out.  As students are learning how to change the world, teachers need to be ok with letting them.  That can only come when the teacher recognizes they are the smartest person in the room, only because they are willing to learn more than every other student.  Next we are working on our mindset.  That post will come soon.

What about devices?

Devices are technology.  Innovation lies within the education and learning, but more so in the products that the students create.

What is my goal?

Every student can learn.  Every student is different.  Every student interprets things differently,  constructs different ideas and solutions, and applies learned concepts in different ways and from different perspectives.  Why do we teach like an assembly line? Why do we teach students in a way that requires them to give up what makes them special to learn the concept a specific way.  My goal is that students learn in an environment where they can learn to change the world using the traits that make them special and unique.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Screencastify Still my Favorite Tool

If you have never used this one, then try it... Seriously, open a new tab and search for screencastify.  Find the link that is in the chrome webstore and install this extension (just a suggestion, but it is up to you).  Once you have done that, try to record something.  It is going to ask to set up the camera and microphone and ask where you want things saved.  I chose my google drive so I can share the videos with my students.  If you do this, understand that screencastify with hide all recordings in a folder called, wait for it...screencastify.

So you are good to go now?  Good.  How many of you nodded at or spoke to the computer?  Caught!

What does this little film strip in the upper right hand corner do?  It records your computer screen and your voice.  That is it.  Big whoop, right. Wrong.  Lets check out the things that you can do with this little ditty.

Lesson Ideas:

  1. Read Aloud or Document Analysis - Rather than having students read silently, have them read aloud so they can hear their fluency and practice or, if your students are older, give them a piece of complex text and have them record their annotations and rationale for their annotations.
  2. Presentation Videos - while nothing is more exciting than hearing the same, or similar presentations for all your classes over the course of a week, have your students record their presentations and turn them in for a grade every time, then call 5 students up to present each time.  Over the course of a grading period make sure each student presents.
  3. Anything on the internet! 
    1. My Maps: showing the journey of a hero, explaining the geography of a country, Plate tectonics, battles of a war, migrations of people, can I stop now and you figure some out.
    2. Cultural Institute: significance and historical connection of photos and artwork, cultural significance and time period influence of artwork, yada yada yada.
    3. Public Data Explorer:  Talk about points in the moving graphs that tell a story.  Connect the data to the story.
    4. Desmos: Explain how the graph comes from the equation or how it connects to real world problems.
    5. Sheets: Use the "show all formulas" toggle switch to have students explain their formulas and the order of operations inside the cell.  Have students give multiple answers and methods of typing an equation in sheets.
    6. Docs, Drawings, Webpages:  Screencast something there.
    7. There are literally Billions of things, I am going to stop now.  Leave a comment if you want more, I am happy to figure something out for another subject.

Benefits of Using Screencastify:

  1. Students who are afraid of presenting will thank you, but they will still be required to communicate through the video of their presentation.  
  2. There is no editing feature in Screencatify.  Students who are not good with the language will take 15 tries to get the word pronunciation correct, but when they are proud of their pronunciation of the words, then they will turn in the video
  3. Time.  It literally takes 30 seconds to make a 30 second video.
  4. Requires students to tell what they understand and not regurgitate what you have told them.
  5. You know your students voices.  Even if they got the information from somewhere else, they still need to speak it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

What is the big idea behing the 4C's?

Are we missing the big picture?

Growing up in California, I enjoyed going to the beach.  During the summer I rarely saw my parents as I would wake up early, go to the beach, come home for dinner, and get to bed early so I could wake up and do it again the next day.  While I was at the beach I would paddle, dive, stand, and turn.  It was the best time ever.

There are many ways to do the 4 activities that I did at the beach.  In fact they could be done in a pool if you wanted to.  Some of you got the point, I grew up surfing.  It is possible to understand how people could read this and have missed the point.  When we think of the 4C's (communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity) there are many ways to do them, but what are we actually talking about doing?

All he did was paddle, stand, and turn! Wasn't it amazing how he did though?

What is the big picture?
Design thinking.  If you have ever read or experienced design thinking, you have seen how it encapsulates the 4C's.  If not, then I recommend learning more about design thinking.

My point is step back and look at the cards on the table, in my example there are 4 (paddling, diving, standing, and turning).  These 4 activities can be done in such a way that is horribly boring and in no way innovative or intriguing, or they can be done in such a way as to produce the experience of surfing which, if you have done it, you understand the thrill.

In the realm on the 4 C's, it is possible to embed these in your class like a checklist.  Yes, everyday my students talk, there is work together time, there is problem solving time (worksheet), and there is creativity time (playdough).  The day is a success because I did all the 4C's, but it sucked for kids and did it increase their learning?  When these are done in such a way that the students themselves become innovators, that is where the design thinking element comes into play.

What is design thinking?

I would not say that I am an authority on that.  Reason being is that I would not want to dilute the things that I have heard and experienced.  What I can give you is how it applies to me, but please read, watch, and learn for yourself as it will inspire you in your own way.
I am the Interim Director of EdTech in my district.  My job focuses on getting teachers to transform their classes with the technology that is available to them.  In the past 2 years, we have placed 27,000 chromebooks in the classrooms and trained every teacher who has a chromebook cart in their class.  We have trained them on tools to collaborate, communicate, and create in their classes with their students.  We discuss SAMR and redefining the classroom through the use of technology.  We have limited the number of programs that we have taught as the sheer number of programs did not help us reach our goal of reaching and inspiring more teachers.  We have focused on a few programs and student creation.  If students are creating, truly innovating and making something new, then they need to be communicating, collaborating, and thinking critically.

So how does SAMR fit into Design Thinking?

It doesn't necessarily.  If technology is involved, we tend to ask how much autonomy do students have?  How much of what they do can be done without technology?  Are students reaching out beyond their physical limitations and looking to the internet for other authoritative sources, professionals, authors, etc.  What are students doing, creating, or being allowed to produce?  These are all things that the lens of the  SAMR model affords evaluation.

If SAMR is the WHAT, then design thinking is the HOW and the WHY.  How are students going through the creation process.  Why do they feel the need to do reach out to a professional, another source, etc.?  The are doing this because they are in the process of design.  They are asking questions depending upon where they are in the process.  SAMR is great as it is a reflective piece, answer the question, Are we innovating, but the design thinking process answer the question of how and why are students asking questions and pursuing answers to those questions.  I still hold that creation has a process that allows students to authentically communicate, collaborate, and think critically.  The design thinking process is an amazing model of how students and teachers can go through the creation process.

Have I missed the big idea?  

As I look back now and learn more about design thinking as a frame for how to get students creating I think that I understood the big picture, I needed a more concrete method of explaining it.  Does that mean that I have failed? Yes. Does that mean I am actively engaging in design thinking? Yes.  I am constantly learning and that is OK.

So what are the next steps? My team and I have gone out and talked to teachers, observed what they are doing, and gotten an idea of what they want and need.  From there we are going to redefine the integration problem we have and the work to brainstorm, select, prototype, and test solutions to the problem.  This will not be a quick, clean, or simple process.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Don't Forget about the Data

Formative Assessment, Summative Assessment, turn-in ration of assignments, zeroes, behavior, calls home, referrals, tardies, absences, etc.  There is data about your student popping out your ears.  Are you listening to it?

For many teachers, school has started and you are staring down back to school night.  Parent attendance may or may not be high at these events, but those who show up may wonder if there kid needs a tutor, what does their angel need to do to be successful, and what can they do to help their pride-&-joy succeed in your class.

It is possible that you have answers.  Ones that you have had canned for years, but are they the right ones?  With the amount of technology integration, you inevitably have data on your students.  You know how they write, when they do their assignments, how they do on formative assessments, what are their strengths, and what are their weaknesses.  Use the data to drive these discussions.

Not all data is quantitative.  When I collected data and completed my dissertation, this was the hardest thing for me to understand.  I had a bachelor's degree in chemistry, if it is not a number, then it didn't matter (not really).  You have many different kinds of data about your students, use these data points.  Inevitably, you have collected them while talking with your class.  Does the student make eye contact?  Does the student answer questions with the voice inflection of question?  Sure you may have data on the scores on tests, quizzes, and exit tickets?

Data is not something to be feared.  I love data because I have learned that I often get the following questions:

  1. Is what you are doing working?
  2. How do you know?
I can only answer this question with data.

Imagine that your principal asked you those two questions. What would your answer be?  How could you give them data?  What pieces of data have you collected?

Why are people afraid of data?  Data can tell you if what you are doing is not working.  That may be scary for some, but there are limits to data.  Make sure that you always put your data in context.  Use it to help you write a story, do not let the data be the only thing that makes up the story.  Give it context, faces, and make sure that you get (and give) the entire picture of what the data is helping to tell you.

Why do I bring this up? If there is no expectation of looking at data, then you have time to get comfortable with it.  If you are expected to collect data to rationalize what you are doing, then make sure your data is not just a set of numbers and charts, make sure it is a story.  

How do you get data if you think you have none?  Count the number of times kids speak in class, give a formative assessment through a google form so you can track the data (do this over several days to see improvement).  Talk to students about what they understand and what they do not understand and look for patterns.  Time yourself while you teach and measure engagement with anecdotal evidence or formative assessment.

What are you doing in class?  Is it working?  How do you know?

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Is not being innovative actually innovative?

Innovation is a word that is often misunderstood.  It does not mean being up to date on all the newest programs.  If you don't know it all, then you can still be innovative.  The trick is how you use what you do know.

I have seen posts about the 50 best programs out there and I have seen people share amazing resources.  I love that there are people out there who are always chasing the next thing.  I think it is a great thing... for them, but not for me.  Does that mean that I am not innovative?  No.

That is something that I have had to convince myself over the past 2 years.  Here is my context.  For the past 2 years I have been either the secondary EdTech TOSA (Teacher On Special Assignment) or the interim Director of EdTech for a LARGE school district.  That being said, if there is a program that I would like to implement in schools or see used widely, with fidelity, there are 2400 teacher who need to be trained in said program.

For the context where I work, I am done chasing shiny objects (programs that seem cool for a bit).  I have found a set of programs that I could use to teach a different type of lesson each of the 185 days of the school year.  Does it mean that I am not innovative for limiting myself?  I don't think that it does.  Sir Ken Robinson would say that I am a "divergent thinker."  Some might call me creative, some lazy, and others would say that I am vanilla.  The negative of the descriptions would only apply if you have never seen how I use the programs.

I use the following programs:

  1. Google Slides
  2. Google Sheets
  3. Google Forms
  4. Google Docs
  5. Screencastify
  6. Awesome Screenshot
That is all. As you can probably guess, my district has invested in chromebooks.  I know that there are other programs out there, but I have found a set of programs that I use.  Do I know others, of course.  Could I integrate them in the classroom, if I wanted.  Am I short-changing any student if I only use these programs, No!  In fact, I would say that by giving them choice to use other programs, but not supporting them, I am encouraging a growth mindset.

Why am I writing this post?  Who cares what programs you use.  I would bet that I can engage students, get them to learn to high levels on the Depth of Knowledge scale, and I can get them to create and think critically.  Most importantly, I can get them to enjoy doing it.

Do you have to spend hours upon hours finding the right program, no.  The ones I use are merely collaborative forms of the programs I used through college (powerpoint, excel, and docs) and a picture and video creator.  Innovation is not knowing the next, latest, and greatest app or program.  Innovation is finding a way to use the things that you know to get students to learn deeply and enjoy themselves while they do it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Digital Citizenship: Set the bar high

I was in a meeting today and was comforted when a member of the team remarked that what was expected was not good enough.  We are a school district that expects the best.  Make sure that we set the bar high.
Image result for pole vault

I couldn't agree more, but then I started to think about digital citizenship.  Are we setting the bar high?  Think about your implementation, are you implementing digital citizenship to make sure students stay safe and don't plagiarize or is the goal to empower students to create and innovate?

I do not think that there is a school district out there that merely hopes that their students don't get into trouble.  I have taught in several areas, some good and some REALLY bad, but I expected that my students did more than just... not bad.  If your district is one who believes, as it should, that your students are the future, that your students are the next generation of entrepreneurs, creators, innovators, decision makers, and leaders, then that is what your digital citizenship curriculum should show.

Rather than just having students learn the digital citizenship standards, empower them to create the world they want to lead.

In a recent meeting with Sue Thotz, of, I began to rethink digital citizenship.  If you think of digital citizenship as citizenship, then it is merely making the right decisions.  However, integrating SAMR with citizenship, how can technology redefine the way that we look at actions (both online and physical actions)?  Rather than make a good decision, how can technology amplify that decision to change a school culture, start a movement in the school, trend positivity, and encourage others to do the same?

There is so much more to digital citizenship than just a set of rules.

  • don't plagiarize
  • don't cyber-bully
  • etc.
Rather than "don't plagiarism", are we teaching students the rights that they have when they create something.  Have we shown them how to assign creative common rights to their work?

Rather than "don't cyber-bully", have we shown them how to make a movement public through the use of social media and to create the world that they want to live in?  If we rope in collaboration, then students are communicating, collaborating, thinking critically, and creating a movement.  That's the 4C's in case you were looking for a connection to standards.

I feel that the rest of the curriculum is shifting from a teach students content to teach students how to create with the use of the information embedded in the standards.  Why not take the same approach and, rather than just having students learn the digital citizenship standards, empower them to create the world they want to lead?

If we are truly teaching the future leaders of tomorrow, why not teach them to lead a world they helped create.  This is done through the ethical use of technology, through the use of digital citizenship.  By setting the bar high, we are expecting this rather than hoping that it may happen.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

A Makerspace for Teachers

It is time to get back to school.  The summer is over and it is time to get back in the classroom.  As teachers walk into their rooms this year, I hope they view it as a makerspace and not simply a classroom.

As a coach, I am the first person to say that coaches do not "make" great athletes.  Spoiler alert, even if you sprint every day of your life and have perfect coaching, you will not be as fast as Usain Bolt.  There are some genetics going on their.

What a coach can do is move students toward their potential.  Becoming faster, stronger and performing better than the athlete originally thought possible.

The same applies to teachers.  They will not make an Albert Einstein, but they can help their students reach their potential, much like students in a makerspace learn to transform materials into some product that is useful and solves a problem.

So what tools are essential for teachers to transform their classrooms in a makerspace?  The nice thing is that when it comes to this innovation, it is not at the speed of a PR (purchase request).  These innovations are free and accessible.  We just need to choose to implement them.

Change your classroom into a makerspace

  1. Growth Mindset - being open to allowing students to be the experts in their areas of interest and supporting them to aligning and accelerating.
  2. Curriculum - it is not the end goal that students know all dates in US history or the products of chemical reactions.  The curriculum is a tool to get students to think.  Researchers would call it a lens or perspective or angle by which we attack a problem.
  3. Classroom layout - Where is the front of the room?  If students need to ask that question upon entering, then you know the focus is in the right area.  It is not what the teacher says, but what the students create.
Cost = Nothing

Teaching is Hard

When you walk into your classroom this year, challenge yourself to remember that you are not teaching algebra, science, history, or english, but that you are teaching students.  You are helping students learn to approach problems from historic, scientific, and data driven lenses and communicating the findings in a manner that is eloquent and coherent to people, understanding the points and counterpoints in the argument.

Coaches do not "make" great athletes, they move students toward their potential. 

Our makerspace, as teachers, is a lab where we help to engineer adults.  We help students reach their potential, become better than they thought.  So go to your makerspace this year and make amazing things.  When you reflect on your practice, reflect on both the degree to which the students learned the content and, the ever-important, underlying curriculum by asking yourself.  How have you helped your students move toward their potential? What can you do tomorrow to continue this work?

Saturday, July 30, 2016

What is worth an educators time?

Have you ever listened to somebody speak and as they talk you know what point they are trying to convey, but you get something different.  That was yesterday as I listened to a presentation on 20% time (Genius hour).

Where we spend our time shows what we think is important and where our passions lie.

I listened to a teacher go on about how they incorporate 20% time (20Time) into the classroom with under-performing students.  It was inspirational.  However, I started to drift off and thought about what she was saying.  I loved how she spoke about students and their passion for identifying and solving the problems that they had identified.  Your passion dictates your 20Time.

It was apparent that her 20Time and passion was 20Time.  She has dedicated time to her students and getting them inspired to change their world and situation.  It is amazing how time is such a tell of our passions.  Where we spend our time shows what we think is important and uncovers our passions.  The belief that, if you think it is important then you show up.

I am a fan of reading.  It is kind of like going to a conference, but instead of listening, it is reading.  John C. Maxwell wrote How Successful People Think which is a great book that goes through different kinds of thinking.  I love how it highlights the importance of thought and setting aside time for it, but also how it delves into the different ways that a person can think.  I have found it useful.

Can you describe your passion in less than 30 seconds?

I spent 1 1/2 hours later driving home from the conference, thinking about this.  What did my time spent tell me about my actual passions?  We have our jobs, our mandates, and our goals.  If we are lucky, these meet our passions.  For the most part, I am extremely lucky.  I love what I do and feel that I can make a difference in the way that I do it.  But what do all of my actions and time add up to?  What is my overarching passion?  A common practice in Graduate programs is to give an elevator speech on your thesis or dissertation.  The more clear you get the direction of your paper and setting your topic, the more articulate and concise you can be.  Can you describe your passion in less than 30 seconds?  If not, is it a clear, well articulated passion or still a conglomeration of things that you are doing?

I know that we are all in education for kids, but don't cheat and say that is your passion, because we all have a different angle and belief in what is best for kids.  What do you think is best for kids and what do you think is an issue worth changing?  The problems that you see and the solutions that you work to create are the passions that you have.  What are your passions?  Where is your time spent, what problem do you want to solve?
Now What?

When you finally figure it out, at least for that day, because I feel it is like chasing a shadow, then what? What are you going to do about it and how are your efforts geared towards making the changes that you want to see?  If it is a passion and worth changing, what steps are you taking to try and make it happen.  How does your passion work its way into your schedule.  I ask as a reminder of what I need to do.  If I somehow put it online, will the internet hold me accountable?  No, just me.  I blog as a way of thinking and articulating.  This is definitely not an elevator speech.  Still working thing out.

So you learned something new, Now What are you going to do with it?

For those who deal with service learning, problem-based learning, makerlabs, etc., you are used to asking these questions of your students.  It is not enough to learn something, the power comes with learning to use the things that we learn to make/engineer/fix something that is real to the student.  The power comes in asking the student, "so you learned something new, Now What are you going to do with it?"

Finding our passions is like modeling problem-based learning for our students.  Even if we are not intending to, just the work we put in to the things we are passionate about is an example for our students of how to learn and what to do with the things that we enjoy.  Our pursuit of our passions shows how we are lifelong learners.  Not that we are always reading, but that we are learning things to apply them to our passions, our students, our children, and whatever else it is that we find worth our time.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Creativity - A measure of SAMR #NowWhatEdu

Makerspaces, computer coding, game design, minecraft, student-centered learning, project based learning, problem based learning, competency based learning... 

All of these are considered innovative teaching methods and curricular focuses.  They all have 1 thing in common, students are charged with creating to learn throughout the curriculum.

There are 4C's, I feel that 1 is a measure of the innovation in the curriculum.

Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking, and Creativity are the 4C's.  If you think about it, creativity is the only one that requires all the Cs to complete.  Truly creating requires collaborating with people and resources in and out of the class, thinking critically to identify and solve a problem, and communicate the creation to the class and beyond (nothing is a creation until it is communicated to the world).

Creativity requires the application of communication, collaboration, and critical thinking.

So What Does This Have to do with SAMR?

SAMR is a measure of technology integration and how much technology has transformed the classroom.  Are students doing things that could have been done without technology, or is teh technology a substitution for some non-tech method of learning.  Technology allows students to change from consumers to producers, aka creators.  If we look in our classes and the products that our students are making, are their products new and innovative, or are they reproductions of projects past?  Do you, as a teacher, receive 40 of the same product or 1 of each innovative product.  Are students regurgitating, reformatting, or creating something new?  Which is a measure of a transformed classroom.

Use Student Creativity as a Judge of SAMR and tech integration

The problem with this is the mindset required to achieve a redefined classroom as judged by the level of creativity afforded to the students.  True creativity and innovation goes beyond following directions, going to suggested websites, finding answers that are in the back of the book, and completing step-by-step projects.

If the teacher has seen the answer before, then did the student create it or regenerate it?

Creativity and innovation requires finding something new, applying a new solution to a given problem, or looking at a problem in a new way and applying a known solution in a different manner.  If it is innovative, then the teacher should not know the answer.  That is scary, that requires a growth mindset.

If your students are creating a bunch and using technology in the process to collaborate, communicate, and think critically then that is a transformed and redefined classroom.  You can figure out the rest of the SAMR continuum from there.  I always advocate for balance, but I like the idea of students being engaged and students are engaged when they are the ones leading the research and solving the problems that they identify, and creating new solutions to problems that matter to them.

How to get students creating?

Moving from a class of consumers to producers and creators starts with a single question...

Now What?

Students may present solutions, come up with answers, solve problems, and come to understand complex theories.  That is amazing and they should be congratulated, but, Now what?  What can you do with that, what can that information help to solve, what can it be applied to, how can it make the world or their neighborhood a better place, how can it solve a different problem.  Now What?  Technology may allow students to get to the information faster, or get to more information, Now What are they required to do with it? Simple question.

Now What?

So you have read this, hopefully you have thought of something in a different way, maybe you have realized something.  I hope that you have gained something.  Now What?  Like the cliche:

If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to hear it, did it make a sound, If you learn something and never use it, did you ever learn it?

So you read something, Now What are you going to do with it?  Nothing more than what I ask my students.  I never know what they are going to come up with, but have yet to be disappointed.

Challenge:  What did you try?  Tweet about it.


If you search for the hashtag, you won't find much, but lets change that.  This is just a practice that I have used in my class for years to get students to think critically and create in chemistry.  Now What am I going to do about that?  I told you about it.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

A Real Chance to learn some Digital Literacy from a Virtual Game

Is Pokemon Go a bad game?  Pickpockets, kids wandering off, car accidents, and ending up at bad locations, etc. are all due to playing the game.  I think the issue comes back to digital citizenship and informational literacy.  There is a level of common sense that is required.  "We should keep kids from playing this," seems to be the frequently proposed resolution.  Yes, there are things that go bad, but that does not mean that we stop doing them.

Stop Fishing!

Do I play the game? Kind of.

My son (16) showed me the game and I thought it looked neat.  My other 3 (18, 6, and 8) thought it would be fun to play.  I loaded it on my wife's and my phones.  I handed the two phones to my little ones, the older ones downloaded the app themselves and we set off on a mission to collect Pokemon. During the time we went out, my kids would if they "could go get that Pokemon." Sometimes I would say yes and other times I would say no.  There are just parts of the city where we don't go, because we don't.  We came up with some rules.  Not me, they did.

  1. Don't run into stuff.  I told them that they were allowed to look at the phone, but that I was not going to stop them from running into things, but that I would laugh if they did. You could get hurt.
  2. We also had a screens off when in or crossing the street rule (self explanatory). Everybody knows that would be dangerous. 
  3. You have to be able to tell me the name of the place we are walking.  If you don't know what it is, then it might not be safe.
  4. The Marco Polo rule (a constant in our family).  If I yell Marco, you have to yell polo. I don't like getting lost.
  5. Buddy system. It is safer than being alone.
When we came up with these, my daughter (6) was the one that gave the reason for each rule (in blue above).  Because if you didn't do that, then you could get hurt, lost, or other bad things might happen.

Should you play?

I don't care.  Some people like it while others hate it.  That isn't the point of this post.

What is the point of this post?

From what I heard on the news and the criticism of the app, I feel that people just didn't understand that there are things that can happen (some good and some bad) and we need to prepare our kids for them (as parents and educators).  

Just letting you know, there will be another game that comes out that is different than this and very popular.  Nobody knows what it is, what you will need to do, or what it will be called.  The point is that we teach our kids and students how to handle the games not that they are the devil.

No Football, No Girls, No Walmart...
I'm Just Saying.

Now What?

Maybe it is the teacher in me that saw this and decided that I needed to rant and rave.  Regardless, I know that at some point my kids will not want to play pokemon with me and they will go out and do something else.  I want them to act accordingly and keep their common sense as they play their games and have fun.

Yesterday, I handed my phone to my son and told him (8) that he was the navigator.  He needed to make sure that we were going in the right direction and to let me know in enough time so we could walk around the parks, pokestops, and gyms.  He had a blast.  There were times he told me too late and I would not turn.  He had to find alternate routes.  He had to go back and forth between the phone and the real world because I could not see the phone, he had to use real markings to let me know where to go.  Then we got out and chase pokemon around the parks.  He practiced directions, navigation, and learned that he had to pan ahead because I would not make an unsafe move while driving.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Giving a Poll without the Form - Google Classroom

Was working with a district Admin yesterday on how to create and manage a classroom for a group of teachers and we found this update to the Question in Classroom.  I am going to assume you have seen and used classroom before, so I will start from the STREAM.

Just like it was last year, click the plus (+) sign and Create question in the stream.

Here is where the difference is...

There is a new dropdown where it says Short answer. So I clicked it like a curious cat.  I changed it to multiple choice just to see what it would look like.

This is what I got.  So I created a question.  There are all the same other features, (multiple classes, add things from other sources, save as draft, etc.).

So I published the question.  Here is what another question looks like from the student point of view.

Hope that this helps.

Now What? Possible fun uses that I have yet to try.

  • Add a video or picture and a multiple choice question to it to check for understanding.  Exit Ticket.
  • Obviously there is the voting option.
And I continue to ponder.  Comment if you have nay more.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Managing Projects in and out of class - Trello @trello

It takes a lot for me to talk about a NEW app.  Not that Trello, is new (like buying a used car, it is new to me).  It is an app that I have played with this week due to the nature of the summer and the projects that we work on in the EdTech department, I decided to give it a try.

What is the Purpose of this tool?  
Simple, effective, collaborative project management.

My Need:

I try to do everything in google drive.  I like the ecosystem, apps tend to interact with each other very well, and I do not have to train my crew on something new.  I made a google doc for our weekly meetings and project updates.  I wanted to be able to highlight what was done in the past week, what are the goals for the next week, is there any carry over, etc.  I also wanted to be able to pull apart each individual thing that had to be done into steps, if necessary, and assign tasks to others quickly.

I made an outline in a google doc, but with the size of the team things became unruly quickly.  With the limitation of copy and paste, each team member needed their own set of the same sections (celebrations and setbacks, completed last week, goals for this week, support needed to reach these goals) I started thinking that this was something that I needed to look at a little differently.

Enter Trello:

I had heard of this platform for project management, but, like I said, I do not like to add new things to the mix.  I do not want to be the leader to chases shiny things and quickly changes directions.  1000 different apps for 1000 different purposes. I am glad I tried it out.

What can you do?

Make boards - entire project
Make teams - group of people
Make lists - a list of things
Make cards - the actual lthings
Assign cards
Add checklists, notes, and assign team members to cards. AND THERE IS SO MUCH MORE.

However, that means nothing if you have never seen it.

You can Manage Projects on Trello

Lets learn.  I have tried to click every button and take some screenshots of that for you.  It is important to note that team members need to sign up for Trello to be able to collaborate on the board.  Or you can invite them to a board, but they will need to sign up.  Totally FREE.

Here is the home screen in Trello
Notice that here boards are organized by the team who you have given access to.  In my setting, that is my team, in a classroom, this could be a group working on a project and tracking progress together.

Click on a board to open it up.

What does a Board look like?

Here is a board with 2 lists (Summer To Do and Summer Done).  The rest of the information is on the cards.  I tried to click every button just to give an idea of what it looks  like.

The orange line is actually a tag.  I will talk about that later on.

Edit a Card

So how do you do things to the cards.  Like everything else, just click on it (double-click) to open it.

On the right you see the things that you can do to the card.  The center and bottom displays the activity on the card and allows commenting on the card.  Recorded activity is emailed to those who have subscribed to the card.

The  Menu on the right side has some fun features.  When I opened it I clicked on ...More and this is a feature that I love.  When I am in meetings, there are times that I send myself email reminders.  In Trello, every board has an email address.  you can email your board and the subject and text in the email will be a card in the list that you specify.  Thought that was a fun feature and has proven very useful.

Click on the Menu  and find labels in the list.  Here you can change the labels.

Sure there is a lot more that you can learn and play with.  Click and try things out.  If you want a board to mess up either create it or send me a message and I can add you to my practice board.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Google Forms to Quiz

So I tried to create a form today and was asked if I wanted to change it to a quiz... So I investigated.

The fact that the gear in the upper right was highlighted told me to click it.  Here is what I found.

What?! There are 2 new tabs in here... Presentation and Quizzes.  Like Alice, I traveled deeper down the rabbit hole.


This appeared to be just like the old new forms.  Thought it was something about google slides.  Apparently, it is the presentation of the form.  How is it presented to the person filling it out.
Dreams = crushed.


Hoping for better, I lurched my mouse to the quizzes tab.  That was where the magic happened.

There are options for emailing respondents their quiz scores or releasing scores after teacher review.  This means that there must be a way to assign points to each response... There are also options for what students get after they submit their scores.

I wait with bated breath. What secrets lie ahead.

Further down the Rabbit hole:

That is right, I wrote a question.  Check it out.

I clicked on the ANSWER KEY button and added the correct answer.  I left out the picture so you can try it yourself, but it put a check mark to the right of the correct answer (next to the X).  That button becomes like a toggle switch.  This only shows up for Multiple Choice, Dropdown, and Checkbox questions.  When you assign the correct answer, you can:

  • Assign a point value for the question.
  • Create feedback for answers (incorrect and correct)
  • Attach links to the answer feedback for further investigation/reteaching.

I filled out the Form.  The question has the point value next to it.  See!

When I was done I got my confirmation page.  I had the setting checked to give feedback immediately.  Here is what it said.

What happens when you click that?


Notice that the things shown correspond to the options that I checked for this quiz.  Guessing that this changes based on what you have checked with your quiz.

What is the moral of the story?

Click that Dang Button!

To figure out what the other things do, go and create your own.  Change the settings and figure out what it does.  Not that I am trying to be a jerk, but clicking the button is fun.


Number formatting in Google Sheets

There are plenty of number formatting types in google sheets (and you can always copy them from excel and add more custom ones if needed), but that is not my issue.

The issue here is that these formatting options go away when a sheet is copied. Unless the cell is not blank.

So if you highlight a cell and make a specific number format, you can later go into the cell and add a number, it will fit that format.

save image                save image

But that only works if you have not made a copy of the sheet.

Why would you make a copy of the sheet?  What if I am giving out the sheet to a group of students or collaborating on a document that always has the same start point (you know, a template).

Put a number in the cell, in the template!

The trick is to have a number in the cell, in the template.  Just add zero, or 1, 2, 3, or 4.  Then when you make a copy of the sheet, because the cell is not empty, it will keep the number formatting.

save image

And you can fill them in with the correct numbers on the new copy of the template.

The more you know.