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. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

Life After the Interactive Board

Is It Worth It?

Long has it been that companies like SMART or Promethean have dominated display options in the classroom. SMART really revolutionized how we as teachers demonstrate or share content with students. Freedom is what it represented in those days. The idea that a teacher to could grab content from about anywhere and manipulate it before their students' eyes. It enhanced our productivity as content creators. 

Technology is ever changing. Students and society is ever changing. Therefore, the way we teach should change was well. Once schools began exploring options for all students to have a device, the need for the teacher at the front of the room (The Sage on the Stage) began to dwindle. Suddenly the students had access to thousands of teachers, and personalized instruction became a reality. If a student wants to know more on any topic of their liking, the resources are just a click away. This landscape causes me to question the need to spend thousands of dollars for teachers to stand at the front of the room with what is essentially a glorified overhead projector. (Actually, it is worse because the teacher's back is turned while operating a SMART board.) $5,000 - $7,000 is a ballpark estimate for an interactive display; that equates to a class set of Chromebooks. A class set of devices that can make personalized learning a reality. A class set of devices that can give students the experience, tools, and skills to be competitive in the marketplace. Can that be done by students watching a teacher write on a website at the front of the classroom? What wins in your book?


At MSD of Steuben, we are exploring options to still effectively display content and save money for other opportunities. The simple answer is merely using a television. A 65-70 inch display is reasonable. Especially when comparing to the likes of a SMART or Promethean Interactive television. The next typical response I get is how it can be interactive like SMART or Promethean products. I'll propose a couple of options. One is more focused on teacher-directed instruction. The capability of having a point of interaction and students utilizing the Interface is a reality at the fraction of the cost. The other is to allow for students to take control. Students can be in the driver's seat and sharing from their very own device. But before I move on, keep in mind that both of these options are with the thought that a teacher would still need to have a PC, Mac, or Chromebook connected to a television via the HDMI port. 

Chrome Remote Desktop

Chrome Remote Desktop run on a touchscreen device (iPad, Chromebook, Android tablet, etc.) provides the mobile interactivity that teachers need. We have a lot of teachers that love Active Inspire or SMART Notebook. You can still operate these pieces of software, but from a smaller touchscreen device. One that you can carry with you around the room. You are not stuck at the front of the room with your back turned from the class. You don't even have to have students go up to the board. You can place your device before a student so that they can respond from afar. Chrome Remote Desktop takes your touchscreen Chromebook and turns it into a remote control for the the device (PC, Mac, or Chromebook) connected to your television. This is a nice transition for teachers that are very comfortable with the software that SMART or Promethean offers. If teachers have invested quite a bit of time creating flipcharts or notebooks, Chrome Remote Desktop will ease the growing pains. 

Keep in mind that there will be some necessary steps for setup on your PC or Mac. The next video demonstrates the installation as well as basic use with Active Inspire. You can install Chrome Remote Desktop from the Chrome Web Store.

Google Cast for Education

Google Cast has come a long way since its inception in the summer of 2016. When it first launched, much frustration took place because of poor picture quality and failed casting attempts. The idea was great because it allowed for the teacher to turn the teacher PC or Mac into a Chromecast location. The best part was the fact that students now had the capability to cast their own screen! The teacher could choose to accept or deny the casting attempt as an alert automatically pops up on the teacher's device. There the teacher can see who is attempting to cast and choose to accept or deny the connection. What a powerful way to give students power. 

As I mentioned before, things were rocky for Google Cast for Education, but it has since greatly improved. I've utilized it numerous times during class visits with very few connection issues. Students love being my demonstrator. Like Chrome Remote Desktop, some installation and setup is required. The next video will give you an overview of how to set it up and utilize Google Cast for Education. 

You will need to first download the Chrome Extension for Google Cast for Education.


Life after the Interactive Board is not only the title of this blog post, but it is also the title of a half-day workshop I run with my teaching staff. During this session, teachers have the opportunity to try casting, Chrome Remote Desktop, and explore various interactive websites that work well on a touchscreen Chromebook. The teachers that have participated have expressed positive feedback as it eases the fear of change. Change is never easy, but my hope is that I can adequately provide support to make it palatable. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Google Forms Question by Question Grading

ISTE 2017

The ISTE conference never disappoints. It is a great opportunity to be oriented with great pedagogy, new technologies, and awesome people to build up your personal learning network. As far as GSuite for Education news goes, one of the awesome additions is the ability to do question by question grading in Google Forms. Forms have certainly transitioned much in the last year or so with an entirely new makeover, the edition of quizzes, automatic grading, and now the ability to grade question by question. It is a small update, but it is mighty in the sense that it fills a void that people have desired since the built-in quizzes debuted. 

Question by Question Grading

In the previous version of Google Forms quizzes, multiple choice and short answer questions could be graded automatically. The short answer has some issues of being unreliable. If a student spells a response incorrectly or add/misses capitalization, the answer is automatically counted as incorrect. This would cause the teacher to have to go into each individual response, scroll the specific question, and reevaluate the response. This is especially time-consuming. Now the teacher has the ability to look at that specific question and analyze every student's response. The teacher can then quickly adjust grades by simply selecting the green check-mark to accept a response; all other responses can be left as is. This is also handy if partial credit is necessary. If a question is worth two points and a student is on the right track, the teacher can simply add a single point to that response. 

The most important scenario as to why question by question grading is important in Google Forms quizzes is in the case of an extended response. To get a more accurate measure of a student's learning, multi-faceted and reflective questions are necessary. These types of questions obviously require more time. The best way to assess these types of question is to focus on one question at a time instead of looking at the student's entire quiz. It saves time for the teacher to have a specific focus while analyzing responses. The question by question feature allows the teacher to accomplish just that. 

Most people are hands-on and would rather jump right in and start trying this feature. You can find it in the exact same place as where the quizzes already exist. You'll see the option in the same place teachers could view student individual responses... 

If you prefer to see it in action first, I made a practice quiz and a quick demonstration of how the viewing of questions can be an asset to you.