Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Time is Now

A few weeks ago, I attended the 2017 CUE National Conference and I had the opportunity and privilege of taking eight teachers and two administrators with me.  It was an outstanding learning experience for all.  If you ever have the chance to attend a CUE National Conference - I highly recommend it.

I always come home with some fun and useful things I've learned, but this year I came home with much more than that - in fact, my whole team did.  It is an overwhelming sense of urgency.  The time is now.

I think we can all recognize that there are some significant shifts happening in education right now.  The way our students learn and relate to their world, the skills they will need to be successful in their future jobs, and the way teaching and learning need to change due to the presence of technology.  This list can go on and on.  We are irrefutably in the midst of a huge transformation in our education system.  At this point, we can agree technology isn't a fad - it isn't going anywhere.  Our students learn differently and have different needs because of the way our world has changed.  Don't we owe it to them to change the way we educate them to match the world we are educating them for?

We are at the point where we can no longer wait and see how things go.  We can't keep saying, "I'll try it next year, next unit, next time."  The time is now.  Right now.  We cannot continue to stand on the sidelines and watch others do the changing.  It is time to jump into the trenches as fellow teachers and figure this stuff out!  We are told our students need more collaboration - it's true - but so do we!  Let's hunker down together and try new things, share our successes and our failures, observe each other and learn from one another.  The time has come to take our toes out of the water and dive in.  The time has come to try new things and learn through all the victories and the mistakes.

"The best chance you have to change the future walks through your classroom doors every morning." - James Sanders 

Look at your students as they walk through the door.  They need us.  They need us to climb out of our comfort zones, set aside our fears - of failure, of technology, of going "off the lesson plan".  They need us today.  The time is now.

"Tweet" Template with Google Slides

When you can't take your kids to Twitter, take Twitter to your kids!  Often age limits, privacy laws, and school policies prevent you from having your students use Twitter.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes having your students write a tweet works very well with your lesson plan.  After all, summarizing something into a 280 character tweet is more of a skill than you'd think.

There is a 5th grade teacher at my site who wanted her students to form a tweet, so I created a single tweet template in Google Slides.  I edited the master slide so the template became the background of the slide, and the only things the students could edit were the text boxes they needed.  Doing this made it so that they couldn't accidently delete the images in the template.  If you want to see how to edit the master slide - watch this quick video tutorial.

Here is what the template looks like:

We didn't have a ton of time for the activity, so instead of having students take a picture of themselves and put it in the image box, I placed some profile icon choices in the gray workspace around the slide so they could drag and drop the one they wanted to use.

If you'd like to use this template - feel free to click here and get your own copy.  You can edit the master slide to change the date and time on the tweet if you wish.

Happy "tweeting"!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Google Forms: Digital Assignment Tracking

You can use a Google Form to easily keep track of the turn-in rate of homework or other student assignments.  Make the first question the name of the assignment for easy sorting.  As the second question, use a multiple choice grid with each row being a student name and each column being a turn-in status.  You can even make it a required question so that you force yourself to never skip a student.

This type of form could also be used to take a quick snapshot of student mastery or progress on a particular skill.  The first question would be used to identify the skill or subject you are assessing.  For the second question, the multiple choice grid, you would use the rows again as student names, but make the columns be progress indicators - struggling, emergent, proficient, mastered, etc.

Make this even better by using the add-on for Sheets called Row Call.  This could put the responses for each unique topic or subject into their own tab in the spreadsheet for a more organized view of the responses.

I always mark the option to provide a link to submit another response, so after I submit, I’m ready for the next assignment or topic.

Thank you to Kyra Bowers (@KyraBowers) for sharing this idea with me!

What to ask?
  • Assignment name, Topic, or Skill
  • Multiple Choice Grid with student names as rows and assessment criteria as the columns. 
If you'd like to copy a sample form to make it your own - click here

Here is what this form could look like:

Google Forms: Anecdotal Student Notes

I have tried all kinds of ways to take anecdotal notes.  Spiral notebooks, 3x5 cards, Evernote, Google Docs with a table of contents, you name it, I’ve tried it.  Nothing was just what I was looking for.  I wanted something easily accessible, private while I’m taking notes, organized, and not something that someone can find lying around my desk.  Then it dawned on me - Google Forms!

I made a form that I use over and over again to take notes on students and it puts all the information into a sortable, searchable spreadsheet in my Drive.  I can sort by date, subject, or student.  Perfect!

I always mark the option to provide a link to submit another response, so after I submit, I’m ready for the next student.

What to ask?
  • Student Name - you can always enter your students in ahead of time so you just pick them from a dropdown menu.  Saves time!
  • Date
  • Subject
  • Leave a field for comments
If you want to get fancy - you can use an add-on for Google Sheets called rowCall to make a separate tab in your spreadsheet for each child.  This means you will have every note for Tommy in one tab, every note for Suzie in another tab, etc.  Try it - it's amazing!  If you do this, I recommend using a dropdown for student names instead of typing them in each time to make sure you always put their names in the same way.  This will allow rowCall to do its magic correctly each time.

Here is what my form looks like:

If you'd like a copy of this form so you can make it your own - click here.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Google Docs: Editing, Suggesting, and Viewing

Did you know there are 3 modes with which to view your Google Documents?  As long as you have editing rights to the document, you can move freely between the three modes.  They each have a specific purpose.

If you look at the top right corner of your Google Doc, you will see the word "Editing" with a little pencil icon next to it.  By default, you are put into editing mode when you create a new Google Doc.  Editing mode is exactly what it sounds like, it allows you to edit your document.

Suggesting mode is when you are suggesting changes to someone else's document you are looking over or working on collaboratively.  Once you are in this mode, you can type directly into the doc and it will track your changes in green.  It then puts in a comment letting others know what you are suggesting.  They can click to accept your changes or comment back to you.

Viewing mode is just how it sounds - it gives you view only access to the document.  This is great for testing links, table of contents, bookmarks, etc.

There you go!  All three modes explained.

Google Docs: Insert Table of Contents

Did you know you can make a clickable table of contents in Google Docs with just a few clicks?  You can - and it's simple.

Highlight all the parts in the text that you'd like to become a 'title' in your table of contents.  Then click on the drop down to the left of the font title and change "Normal text" to any of the heading options.

After all your 'titles' are changed to a heading setting, like "Heading 1", you can go up to the "Insert" menu and choose "Table of Contents" at the bottom of the menu.  Then you can choose to have your table of contents show as blue links or black text with page numbers.

Now all of the things you've marked as a heading style are titles in the table of contents!  You can personalize the table of contents by highlighting it and changing the size, font, or color.  You can change the size, font, and color of the things in the table of contents, just as long as they are still designated as a heading style.

If you want to be taken to a certain part of the document, click on the link in the table of contents.  It will pop up a small link.  Click on it, and off you go!  This works really well when you are working with a long document.

If you want to update your table of contents after editing your document, simply click somewhere in the table of contents and then click on the refresh button you see appear.  It will take any additional titles and add them into your table of contents, or take away any you may have deleted.

It's quick, it's easy, it's useful!  Thanks, Google!

Google Keep Chrome Extension

I've introduced you to Google Keep before - basically a website where you can store digital sticky notes with access across all your mobile devices.  Click here to get more information about Google Keep.

They now have a Google Keep extension for Chrome that is just wonderful!  You can click on the extension and it will take the web address and title of the web page you are on and let you add a note to it.  It will put it directly in your Google Keep notepad without you having to actually browse to the site.  Super useful!

To get this handy extension - browse to the Chrome Web Store or click this link.  Search for "Google Keep" and watch for it under the extensions - NOT apps.  Go ahead and click the blue "Add to Chrome" button.

It will prompt you for permission.  Click "Add extension".

Now you will see the Google Keep icon next to your address bar (Omnibox).

Next time you are on a website that you'd like to save for a specific purpose, you can just click on your Google Keep icon and it will pop up a little box for you to add a note to.  When you are finished typing your note, just click the Google Keep icon again to close it.   It saves automatically.

Now when you visit Google Keep on your computer or mobile device, your note will be there along with the web address ready for you to return when you need it again.

So handy!  I know I'll certainly make good use of it!  Hopefully, you will too.

TabCloud Chrome Extension

There are times when I know I need a certain set of tabs open in my Chrome browser.  For a specific lesson or presentation, I'd like certain things to be open each time I start.  TabCloud is my hero in these situations.

TabCloud is a Google Chrome Extension that takes all the tabs I have open in my Chrome window and saves them.  I can give that tab set a name, and then reopen it on any device I'm logged into that has a full Chrome browser (does not work on iPad, tablet, etc.).  Whenever I need that tab set, I can click on the TabCloud icon and load my saved set.  It's a beautiful thing.

To get TabCloud, head on over to the Chrome Web Store and search for TabCloud (one word).  Then click on the blue "Add to Chrome" button.

It will ask you for permission - click "Add extension".

Now you will see the little TabCloud icon in the upper right of your Chrome Browser.  The first time you use it will ask you to click to log in, then you will have to allow it access to your account.  You should only have to do that once.  After that, whenever you have a set of open tabs you'd like to save, click on the cloud, name your set, and click the little disk icon to save it.

To load a saved set, click on the TabCloud icon and click the green plus sign next to the set you'd like to load.  Then watch the tabs open right before your eyes.

Now when you go to teach a lesson or do a presentation where you need multiple tabs open - the preparation is quick and easy.  Walk in, log in, load your saved TabCloud and you are ready to go in just a few clicks.

Helping teachers incorporate technology, one tech tip at a time.