Monday, March 5, 2018

Indestructible Maps

Map hyperslides? Why do that?

(Note: I use hyperdocs and hyperslides interchangeably. Hyperslides is not an official term, but I use it.)

I'm a firm believer that technology should not be used unless there is some functional improvement to the task a teacher wants to accomplish. Technology for technology's sake is counter-productive. So when it comes to utilizing tools within GSuite, the tendency is that it becomes a digital worksheet; complete substitution for a paper-pencil activity. I want to combat that when it comes to the creating of hyperdocs or hyperslides. The purpose of a hyperdoc is to increase the level of access and collaboration. We'll explore this thought throughout the post.

A member of the social studies department at Angola High School asked me for ideas on how he can change what he is already doing and convert it something the students can accomplish on their Chromebooks. He has tons of blank maps where students have to mark and label various regions based upon historical eras. You can't use Google Maps very well for this activity because it is based upon historical regions that you cannot see on a present-day map and quite frankly there are a ton of historical maps that already exist online.  Despite those arguments, I take the stance that students need to be accomplishing a hands-on, creative task in order to lock important information in their brain. I also think it is important that students know how to use their Google tools in order to accomplish unusual tasks from time to time. Creative uses outside the norm will hopefully transfer over into future classwork.

There were also a couple of other thoughts I had as my colleague was reaching out for ideas. First, I thought making maps on the Chromebook would not be worthwhile because it would not be time efficient. Second, there wouldn't be a whole lot of functional improvement and we are borderline using technology for technology's sake. Regardless, I came up with some ideas on how it could be accomplished and make it worthwhile. I'll share my thought process when I'm in hyperdocs mode next.

What's up with the hyperdoc?

I'm going to take a detour for a moment; please hang with me. 

I've presented at numerous conferences and spent a lot of time within my own school district talking about hyperdocs. I get the question of what it is all about frequently. That's actually a tough question to answer because there are many avenues it can take. I want to dispel the notion that a hyperdoc is merely a means of creating digital worksheets. You can easily take a worksheet and turn it into a Google Doc; this same rule of thumb applies to learning management systems (Canvas, It's Learning, Schoology, etc.) A hyperdoc should take on a different role. So when you are creating a hyperdoc, here are some good questions to ask yourself:
  1. How will the organization within a hyperdoc help guide as opposed to creating confusion? Is it necessary to give a link to the entire resource or just a single page? Can you get away with a screenshot of the portion you need? (Cited of course.) The less traveling around on the screen the better. How are you going to break the information up so that it meets the needs of your students?
  2. What are you asking the students to do with the information? Are you asking questions that they can answer with a simple Google search or require them to construct a response with the various resources you provided? Will they need to provide their own links to resources?
  3. Is the response easily integrated into the hyperdoc? If you are requiring video, a hyperdoc via Google Slides might be more appropriate as they can insert a video directly into the presentation. If you are requiring a text response, are you giving them a table to work in so that it doesn't destroy the formatting of the rest of your hyperdoc? If they need to combine images and text to construct a response, the built-in Google Drawings in Google Docs or a single Google Slide will work wonders. 
  4. How will you have students collaborate? Students have great ideas and we need to harness that. Are the questions you're asking good enough that students may need to bounce ideas off of one another in order to get the most of the learning experience? Are you going to have students share the document with one another or merely sit side-by-side and chat? Will you set up the entire document to be a collaboration space for groups of students to respond? If you are doing the later, make sure you check out my post on how to hack collaborative hyperdocs in Google Classroom.
As you build and implement hyperdocs, you'll get a feel for what is effective in the layout and implementation of hyperdocs. Now, let's get back to my story. 

The Indestructible Hyperdoc

When creating a hyperdoc in a map format for my friend in the social studies department, I decided that a Google Slides presentation would be my best option. I also decided that I needed to make it "indestructible" so that students cannot move around the original map. I merely want them using the shape, line, and text tools over the top of the map without the trouble of the map getting moved. Also by making it an indestructible hyperdoc, a student could accidentally remove Slides and the templates are completely recoverable. If you aren't familiar with creating an indestructible hyperdoc by editing the master in Google Slides, feel free to check out my video. 

The other issue I thought about is that the students will not be familiar with using Google Slides to mark up a map. It is an awesome idea, but how can you quickly train the students to utilize the polyline tool, add custom colors, and provide hyperlinks to resources all within the map? For this, I created a second video and sent it to my colleague. He took my student map tutorial and placed it in the assignment in Google Classroom. If you choose to insert a map in your hyperdocs, feel free to use my demonstration video below as a resource. 

So what about collaboration? That was the fourth question I asked previously about hyperdocs. Do students need to talk about what they are learning? Yes, as long as learning is the focus of the assignment and not a traditional grade. A simple way to accomplish this would be to create small groups, provide multiple maps that are needed in the hyperslides. They could be all the same map and the students could focus on different aspects or even several different regions. Each map could be on a separate slide in the same Slides presentation. All the while students have access to the group's work and can comment and make suggestions, or speak orally during group meeting time. However, I encourage the comment feature so that teachers can access the document and view the feedback. Teachers are not omnipresent and may have other groups to tend to while and still need to check in on another group's progress. 

If you aren't sure how on the setup of these groups within Google Classroom, please check my Google Classroom hack that I linked previously for more information. It will guide you through the process of selecting students and utilizing the "reuse post" feature in order to not have to make tons of copies in Google Drive. It saves a ton of time! 

My goal

If you're still reading at this point, I hope I've challenged your ideas on how to build hyperdocs. The digital environment is just as important to the learning experience as the physical one. Hyperdocs can be fun and exciting. They won't be if they merely replace a worksheet. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

Classroom Collaboration - Hack Google Classroom

ICE Conference

Fall is my favorite season. I love the turning leaves; I love the cool, sweatshirt weather. One of the best things about living in the mid-west is that you never get bored with the weather; it is always changing. One gem that happens each fall is the ICE conference. I look forward to it each year, but it has been especially beneficial the last several years as Michele Eaton has done a fantastic job of bringing some great keynote/featured speakers on board and organizing great opportunities for Indiana educators. I'm excited to see how the conference will continue to grow and evolve.

I've also had the pleasure of presenting at the ICE conference over the last several years on various topics. Its been interesting to think back to just a few years ago because I was presenting primarily about iPad integration for primary students. Now I'm very focused on utilizing GSuite in all classrooms, but that's very much due to my job change to MSD of Steuben County. Change is a good thing whether it is a slight refinement or a 180 like I did; it has certainly helped me to expand my understanding of the role of technology in the classroom.

Before I became enthralled with Google, I remember attending ICE 2014 and many individuals attempting to present on Google Classroom. It was downright terrible! Not Google Classroom, but the ability to present on the topic was because the only option was to project Google Classroom on the screen and talk about it. There was no hands experience and no interaction because it was a new, barely charted territory. (Really it probably has more to do with my learning style because if I have to sit-n'-get through a session, it is hard for me to get much out of it.) Classroom has come a long way since it debuted. Back in 2014, you couldn't white-list domains or allow for just anyone outside of your school district to have access to your Classroom. After ICE 2014, I vowed I wouldn't do presentations specifically on Google Classroom...until October 2017 rolled around.

For ICE 2017, I broke my promise to myself for a couple of reasons. First, Google allowed for outside access to Google Classroom in 2016 which means I can create a training scenario for teachers to try instead of just presenting on how Google Classroom works. Second, I really saw a need to help people create efficient and effective collaborative spaces for students. Too often I've witnessed teachers give up on the "students can edit file" option that exists in Classroom due to poor, past experiences. Lately, I've been on a mission to help teachers develop and prepare collaborative spaces in the most efficient and effective manner I know how.

Classroom Collaboration

So what are your options for collaboration with what Google has to offer? So much that I created a half-day workshop designed just on collaboration within Google. There are a lot of online spaces that allow for effective collaboration, but how many of them have premium features that are ever changing? How many of them are free for now, but have a plan to get your hooked later? Google is pretty committed to the education realm. Not only that, but the spaces you build are transferable and downloadable. (The ability to transfer is a huge reason as to why I try to build everything within Google.) For my Classroom collaboration workshop, I provide teachers with several scenarios. 
  1. Questions provide a forum-like setting where students can easily reply to one another. When students reply to a reply, it attaches the Google username to the post so that everyone in the space knows where the reply is directed. It is the simplest and easiest way to throw a spontaneous space when you provide students with a short-answer question and the option to reply. 
  2. Comments are also a simple way to provide a collaborative space for each question, announcement, or assignment has space already provided. It is a matter of allowing the students the freedom to do so. It is also a matter of training the students how to utilize it responsibly for assistance and guidance while the teacher is working with individuals or small groups. I frequently find this feature turned off when in reality it is the same as training a student to raise their hand instead of blurting out. 
  3. Google Docs it the classic space for collaboration. It is really what got the ball rolling for GSuite for Education. When I train on utilizing docs as a collaborative space, I focus not so much on the sharing aspect withing Google Classroom, but how do you develop an effective space for student resources, reflection, and response. Some advice I give teachers is to include lots of tables, colors, use the Drawings tool for images and other fun drag-n-drop tools, and have students include links. to resources along the way. If you want to see these tips in action, check out my video below.
  4. Google Slides is my favorite collaborative space because the teacher can create layout elements that are not movable and there are so many versatile configurations teachers can create. You can have multiple students responding on one slide or give every student their own. Teachers can utilize different color backgrounds to organize groups or response locations. I spend a lot of time training teachers to create custom layouts with unique titles to give students choice on what questions they answer or even how they want to respond. By editing the master and creating custom layouts the learning experience is completely recoverable. If a student deletes a slide, you can easily bring back the slide by creating a new slide and selecting the desired layout. But what really separates using Google Slides over Google Docs are all the resources at the students' fingertips. Whether it is video, images from the web, snapshots, shapes, charts, or diagrams, the students can quickly and easily access these items without visiting a ton of tools. There is a lot of potential in utilizing Google Slides, but the best way to do so is to edit the master to create custom layouts. I have a video as a resource for editing the master slides to create a template. This is not focused on a collaborative set of Slides, but it will at least give you an idea of how to edit the master slides to create your own template if you are not familiar.
  5. The other Google products (Drawings, Forms, Sheets, Hangouts, Keep, and Sites) are also effective for collaborative spaces. I tend to spend more time in Docs and Slides because it covers most of what teachers want to accomplish. Drawings, Sheets, and Sites work well in conjunction with Google Classroom as far as the distribution and sharing of these resources. I recently did a post on utilizing the new Google Sites as a collaborative space. It does give a unique option for publishing with the incorporating of all items residing in Google Drive. If you are a middle or high school teacher, I highly recommend giving it a shot. 
With all of the various options for setting up collaborative spaces within Google Classroom, it is hard to justify spending the time elsewhere. Google provides the portability and recycle-ability that teachers need in order to feel that the time spent on preparing these online learning spaces were worthwhile. 

A Google Classroom Hack

Last year, Google added the capability of selecting individual students for a post. This was a huge game changer as teachers could utilize this capability to differentiate assignments. This also greatly impacted the ability to set up collaborative spaces. Teachers could now create collaborative questions, Docs, or Slides and only allow specific students to access the space. However, organizing these spaces was still a bit cumbersome. The teacher would have to go to the prepared document and make multiple copies and name them accordingly so that each group would have their own space. Then the teacher would have to create the number of assignments and attach each document separately to keep everything organized. This can make a teacher's head spin! There has to be an easier/efficient way to set up a series of collaborative documents within Google Classroom. 

The "reuse post" option in Classroom brought to light a great opportunity to give me the time efficient method I was seeking. Within this option is the capability to create new copies of all attachments and that means the teacher doesn't have to go to Google Drive and make a bunch of copies, rename them, and organize them in a folder! Here are the steps: 
  1. Create an assignment and attach the template so that students "can edit" the file, but don't assign it; save it as a draft. This will be your template post for the entire activity.
  2. The next step is to reuse the post and make sure that the "create new copies of all attachments" button at the bottom of the assignment is clicked and reuse it. You'll see it as it will be labeled "draft" instead of having an assignment date. 
  3. Name your assignment according to the activity and the group name. This merely helps you with organizing in the long run. The stream in Google Classroom can get really messy quick. 
  4. The fourth step is simple; select the students in your first collaborative group that are to receive the assignment. This can be found at the top of the post in Classroom. You should see a drop-down arrow beside the words "all students" to access the students you need. 
  5. This step is completely optional but is helpful in organizing the learning experience. I like to utilize the topics feature in order to organize my groups. Then I can quickly click on a group name in my topics to access any of the collaborative documents I've sent their way. If your groups are never the same, using a topic in relation to the activity is your best option. 
  6. Repeat steps two through five for your next group. You'll reuse the draft post each time in order to keep the integrity of your template. 
  7. After you've created all your group assignments, you can delete the draft. You'll have to go into your "saved posts" in the stream, select the assignment, and click on the three-dot menu on the right-side of the draft. The option to delete it will be there. The integrity of your original document template will stay intact in your Google Drive. 
Here is how to do it in video format:

This process is simply beautiful. No longer do you have to create separate copies in Google Drive and organize them. No longer do you have to worry about ruining your original or misplacing your template. When you reuse the post, all new attachments created go straight into your Google Classroom folder under the associated class. Everything is copied and organized just as it should be in Google Drive. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Collaborative Playground in Google Sites


The powerful thing about using Google in the classroom has always been the collaborative nature of their products. If you are a lover of GSuite, do you recall the first time you experienced a collaborative doc? My mind was absolutely blown away by the thought of not having to email a document to my colleague and getting it back. The multiple versions of a document created a nightmare! I was instantly done with the email tag with attachments. I felt like William Wallace for a moment and wanted to yell, "freedom!" Okay, maybe not that dramatic, but it was awesome. 

Out of Site(s)

2017 was an interesting year of changes for Google's lineup, but my favorite was the update to Google Sites. A user could get used to the old version and it ended up not being too bad as long as you put the time into learning it, but the new Google Sites is intuitive, clean, and simple. Teachers actually love the fact that there are not a million font or color choices. "Just pick one already!" will not echo through the hallways of school as much. If you haven't had a chance to try the new version of Google Sites, get started by visiting your Google Drive. Act as if you are going to create a document by clicking on the "new" tab. Google Sites is now able to be organized just like a file in your Google Drive. Pretty awesome, huh? Also, if you're new to it, I created an entire guide about using Google Sites when my school district received an early preview of it. You're just a click away! 

Collaborative Space

Remember that feeling of first experiencing collaborative documents via Google I mentioned earlier? That same sense of freedom is also available in Google Sites! I have teachers that will use it much like a Google Slides presentation. We have a great space in our middle and high schools that have tables with televisions attached. Students gather together there and collaborate on building a website around an entire project. There they can pull in images, text, videos, and even directly embed items from their Google Drive (Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Drawings) into their project. It really ends up being a project to house multiple other projects much like a portfolio for the learning experience. 

So what about you? What would you have students do with Google Sites? It is a great place for students to jigsaw their learning for an all-encompassing topic. As they include links to outside resources, they can also link to one other's content. Thus forcing them to read and digest what their peers produced. This format obviously works in the small group setting, but it could even be used with the entire class. Here are some ideas:
  • Inventors or inventions are always a fascinating topic. Students could produce a website advertising their invention as a product for purchase. These inventions could be broken up among individuals or small groups, but the entire class could essentially be building their own company featuring the products and the inventors. Classmates could even provide fake reviews of the product like it is for sale on Amazon. This could be easily done with a few screenshots pieced together within Google Drawings
  • For you geography teachers (earth science could be included here), a vacation guide website featuring a region of the world would be a lot of fun. Videos, custom maps, and banners with Google Drawings could be all inserted throughout the site to feature places of interest. Geography class can be a complete vacation guide. 
  • Khan Academy, couldn't the class become Sal Khan? Several videos and learning resources could be built and the best options would make the cut. Initially, I was thinking this would be a great resource for future classes, but the reality is that every class would need the experience of building this resource. It isn't about having a resource. It is about the process of creating it. Creating is powerful.
  • In history, a website could be built all around an era and the propaganda of the day. Several websites could be built for the purpose of having a political bent of the time. Students could choose which direction they want to go based on what interests them most and not necessarily their own opinion of the topic. It would be interesting to have students try to support the opposing viewpoint. 

Getting Started

So now that you're all fired up to have your students building Google Sites, you need to get things organized. You'll need to think about the structure of your site. What are the major breakdowns of the topic and group size are all questions we ask when students are going to embark on a group project regardless of the use of technology. In my video, I discuss the setup of a site and how to structure pages to fit the learning experience. This is especially dependent upon the student experience with Google Sites as well as the age level of the students. As a former elementary teacher, I'd at least want some structure in place to get the topic rolling and then allow students adjust it to match the need. I hope the video is helpful in getting rolling with your collaborative Google Site

Have Fun

Students will be excited about the process of building their own site. The collaboration that could take place in making decisions of what pieces/elements need to be added and who will complete the tasks is a powerful process in the learning experience.