Thursday, January 12, 2017

Google Classroom Differentiated Assignments

January 2017 Update

Google recently updated Google Classroom with a feature that has been much needed. One of the most common questions I get when training teachers on Google Classroom is what to do about differentiated/personalized instruction. In the past, I've recommended to those teachers that if they want to differentiate they will either need to create separate classrooms for each group or use a consistent title for the assignments when dealing with groups of students. The problem with that theory is that groups are often ever changing. As teachers continue to assess, students will continue to shift around in learning experiences/expectations. Within the last year, the edition of topics helped with that issue as the teacher could then at least categorize posts. The students could then click on the topic in order to see only the stream of what pertained to their group. Regardless, Classroom didn't seem to be the friendliest to the differentiated teacher. 

With this update, questions, announcements, and assignments can be pushed out to selected students instead of the entire class. This is great in the instance that you need to provide special instruction for various students, and yet the teacher does not have to switch from Classroom to Classroom as it is all contained in his/her Stream. Along with the feature to be able to select students, I recommend using the topics feature because it would allow the teacher to quickly filter through Google Classroom from the groups he/she has created. Using topics to quickly select is much more time efficient than creating separate Google Classrooms and switching between them. 

What's in the Video?

In the video, I demonstrate how to utilizing the tool to select specific students in an assignment. I also demonstrate how to organize collaborative groups with it along side using the topics feature. Being able to select students aids in organizing collaborative experiences as Google Classroom will not be near as crowded with extra information in the Stream. 

I hope you find this demonstration helpful. Let me know if you have questions in the comments box. 

Google Classroom Guide

I went ahead and updated my Google Classroom Guide with my update. If you need video resources on how to use Google Classroom, you can find them here. I attempt to update it regularly. There is quite a bit of content on it and some of it is of older versions of Google Classroom. I apologize if some materials do not appear exactly the same. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Tinkercad and Polar 3D

Creation is Key

Amy Heavin, Principal at Ryan Park Elementary, had a vision. She has been inspired to build a maker-space for the staff and students. She wants to cultivate thinkers and problem solvers. She's building a creative culture within her school. This process started during the 2015-2016 school year as Amy has quite a few fun tools available for her students to try. Kids are programming Spheros, building with Legos, and creating contraptions with Little Bits.

Before this year started, Amy contacted me about another tool she added to her collection; she purchased a Polar 3D. 3D printing has been around for quite some time, but here in more recent years, it has become extremely affordable. She purchased the Polar 3D mainly because it was in her price range and those that had purchased it had pretty good reviews. Ultimately, she was looking to provide students with the experience of being able to create solutions to problems. The Polar 3D provides a good starting point for students to achieve her goals.

I don't have a lot of experience with other models of 3D printers, but this one is fairly easy to set up. They provide video tutorials to walk you through the process and it also works via WiFi. So teachers can see if it is being used via the device's webcam and send print files without having to be in the presence of the Printer.

So is 3D printing merely a fad? I don't think so. Because of 3D printing measurement, area, and volume can come to life. Students can look at a situation where a problem needs to be solved and not rely on a manufacturer to build the parts they need. 3D printing will be the future for us all as we can fabricate the parts we need in the convenience of our home. That's a powerful thought as I look at all the things I want to do in my home in regard to home improvement projects. Things break and wear away. What If I could design my own replacements instead of wondering if the manufacturer still has the part I need available at a decent price?


To create these 3D printer files, Ryan Park Elementary is using Tinkercad. It is easy to use and teachers can create classes to keep track of student progress. They provide quite a few lessons and project starts to get students oriented with the tools. Just like any digital resource, there is a learning curve in order to be able to work efficiently and effectively. Allowing students to "tinker" with it awhile and try some of the lessons first will be beneficial when project time comes. So when you want to propose a problem for the students to solve, Tinkercad will not cause the frustrations and get in the way of completing the project. This should really be the rule with any tech tool. If you throw a brand new tool as students and then expect them to magically create a masterpiece, you will be disappointed and the students will be frustrated. 

Video Resources

Amy asked me to build some resources for her staff, but I'm sharing them here as well. She wanted me to put together some videos to help with the Polar Cloud and Tinkercad process so that her teachers could access them when they are ready to jump into the world of 3D printing. I have a playlist from YouTube setup that goes through how to create your Tinkercad account, get students connected, setup your Polar Cloud account, and how to print STL files (3D print file format). If you are not using a Polar 3D printer but want to get started using Tinkercad, you can still use some of these resources to get you started with creating your classroom account.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Google Drawings: Student Landing Page (Googliloo)

Snowy day!

Today was an e-learning day for the students of MSD of Steuben County. We had quite the winter blast on Sunday as was predicted as we sent all students home with a school issued Chromebook. I went out several times with my snowblower to clean the driveway in phases in case waiting till the snow stopped falling would be too much for my little Toro to handle. It probably would have been fine, but better safe than sorry. 

The following day many school districts, like mine, called an e-learning day. MSD of Steuben isn't quite ready to launch an e-learning day the morning of severe weather as some districts are. The day is probably coming in the next few years as I'm continuing to provide training opportunities to learn/refine virtual learning options. My goal is to train teachers to provide learning experiences that are just as beneficial as the experiences students have while in the physical classroom. 

What can I say? I'm cheap...

Upon the announcement of our virtual learning day, I also received another notice. As I kicked on my Amazon Music and slipped on my headphones to help me focus while I work, I got a notice from Symbaloo stating that I'm exceeding the traffic permitted on a free account. They kindly recommended that I purchase a pro account. I understand that they have to make money. I understand that they are a business, but I'm cheap, and I know exactly why I'm generating too much traffic...all of the kindergarten, first-grade, and second-grade students in the school district are accessing my Symbaloo pages as their landing page. 

Unfortunately for Symbaloo, I'm willing to do some extra work so I do not have to pay for a service that is merely a collection of links for students to access. Since I'm very much a fan of Google for Education, I look to 'Googlify' everything I possibly can  so that issues like this don't happen again. Google seems pretty committed to the education world by offering all their goodness for free to schools. Therefore, I'm pretty committed to replacing much of what the web has to offer by using Google products. So I'm proud to introduce my "Googliloo" using Google Drawings. 

Google Drawings works amazingly well as a landing page for students and functions much the same as Symbaloo when embedded in your website or Google Site. Especially in the new version of Google Sites. You create your drawing, create a page to insert it on your Google Site and select it from your Drive. Do a little resizing and you are pretty well on your way. Need to update it? No problem. As soon as you update your Google Drawing, it is updated for your students to use as well. No extra buttons. Where the trick lies is knowing a good workflow for using Google Drawings to accomplish this task. 

I embedded a video below to demonstrate the workflow with Google Drawings as a landing page in Google Sites. I know that the video is quite lengthy, but I go through some workflow tips on resizing and grouping items for changes in sizing and positioning on the canvas. I also go through some steps on the embedding on the new version of Google Sites (Click here for more information about Google Sites). As a bonus, I also explain how to quickly get it to your students' devices using the Share to Classroom extension and the settings students need to go through to make it work as their home button on their Chrome browser. 

It is worth your time to take a look, but keep in mind that the final steps of placing it as a home button are exclusive to school districts that have the home button enabled in the Google Admin Console. If you don't see a house icon right beside your Omnibox on your student devices, ask your tech department to add it! It makes it simple for students to be able to click on the house whenever they feel lost on the Internet. 

Here is how to get rolling with a Googliloo: 

If you want to see an example of a Googliloo, check out mine I made for my Google resource page. I'm still working on it, but it is slowly coming along. Click here! 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Mystery Cards Template

The Best Ideas...

The best ideas come when you least expect it. Awhile back I was visiting with Mrs. Antos and her 3rd grade class from Pleasant Lake Elementary, she wanted her students to work in Google Slides to create Mystery Cards in relation to the plot of the story. It was the first time students had experienced Google Slides; it took them roughly 30-45 minutes to build the template without any clues created. All things considered, they were able to accomplish much in a short period of time!

The idea behind Mystery Cards is that they give three clues to an important event in the text. The next card had the answer to the clues as well as a short explanation. The fun part of doing it in Google Slides vs. on note cards like her original activity suggested is the vast number of images available that students can access. It also makes for a great presentation for students to share in front of the class to introduce a book. What a great way to build and exciting reading culture and learn a bit about the student's understanding of a text! If time does not lend itself to students giving a presentation, these slides could easily be stored on a Class Google Site. Imagine the wealth of information if you had a collection of these about various texts/topics organized on a Google Site. If a student is stuck as a reader, send them to your class collection and let them see if they can find a text that peaks their interest.

An After Thought...

After visiting Mrs. Antos, it got me thinking much about building these templates for students or even having one of your students that needs a little extra challenge to get the job done. Yes, her students needed to have some exposure to Google Slides, but if time does not permit one could easily build the template for the students in advance so that the students can focus more on the text and less on the technology. 

If you would like a copy of my mystery cards template, feel free to make yourself a copy in my slides presentation here: 

Editing the Master

I've written quite a bit over the last year on the topic of 'hyperdocs' because teachers can organize learning experiences all within the products that Google offers. (In contrast to using a learning management system that is not transferable and could disappear at any moment.) Teachers can easily lay out learning experiences that are for solo work or collaborative via Google Docs. They can accomplish the same experience via Google Slides. They can even be made 'indestructible' by using Google Drawings in conjunction with Google Slides. But if the teacher wants to make the template quickly, editing the master in Google Slides in the way to go. It allows the teacher to create elements that the students can and cannot manipulate within the slide. It is also easier to wrap your mind around in comparison to building it first in Google Drawings and setting it as a background in Google Slides. 

As of late, I've been training teachers quite a bit with the workshops I've been running for MSD of Steuben. It is a great way to distribute e-learning/virtual learning materials on the Chromebook in case there are students that have limited Internet access at home. This would ensure that learning materials are easily accessible offline without an abundance of extra steps as Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides can all be synced to the device for offline use. I've also been training teachers to edit the master in my Google Make and Take workshop. Here, teachers are creating graphic organizers and other learning resources that they have ready to import into any learning experience at any time all via Google Slides and Google Classroom. 

If you want to get a feel for how to create one of these templates, I created one for the Mystery Cards template that I made that is linked above. Now you can have an idea of how to build and create your very own templates all through Google Slides!