Friday, March 24, 2017

MSDSC Technology Team

Moonshot Thinking

My moonshot thinking started about a year ago. I had long collaborated with Chantell Manahan (Director of Technology) for the need of a team of teachers with which I could collaborate, train, and encourage to develop leadership skills. Around December, this committee started to be formed. Chantell and I made a list of individuals in each building and sent out invitations. With the invitations that were sent out, I received responses from 16 individuals that will participate in quarterly meetings with myself and other various members of the technology department. We will plan professional development opportunities, analyze district needs, and provide support as MSDSC has many experts on utilizing technology. By forming this team, the members can glean information and resources from one another as we journey down the road of utilizing Chromebooks in a 1:1 technology setting. 

Our team had their first meeting here in March of 2017. It was a great experience to discuss dreams, goals, and vision for our district. To kick things off, I asked them to do some moonshot thinking; what dreams do you have in your classroom if there were no boundaries? Some wanted new furniture options, additional subscriptions to software/websites, new and fun ways to display content. Regardless, my point was that I wanted them to take the time to dream without restrictions. 

Mentimeter Word Clouds

Since this was our first meeting, we needed to establish expectations for the group. I utilized a tool called Mentimeter to collect their thoughts. These thoughts populated into the form of a word cloud. Mentimeter has other interactive presentation options, but I liked the idea of an automatic word cloud generated to accentuate consistent thought with the group. Mentimeter is a free product, but you are limited to two interactive slides per presentation (upgrades available). 

I started with the question of what the expectations were for the group as we met during meetings. It is interesting as we all desire specific elements. We want the opportunity to collaborate, communicate, and the sharing of ideas. We desire the time to be able to share thinking in a positive environment. We all need that support. If I were to write expectations for the group myself, the outcome would have been similar. My goal is to provide this opportunity. 
We also discussed the need for collaboration via the web. The expectations could be similar, but online learning spaces pose some different struggles. Commitment was a common theme as we discussed other virtual learning experiences in the past. Online learning requires involvement and commitment. It also involved a consistent meeting space. Though it isn't necessarily as flexible as I'd like, Google Classroom is a common place for us to meet as teachers already visit it. A school's learning platform typically makes for the best choice rather than requiring teachers to create new accounts for an unknown tool. 

Another major theme that stood out was the need for consistent deadlines. The team felt it was important to have specific days to expect communication and specific days on which they were to respond. By doing so, we will solidify the necessity of commitment and involvement. I was encouraged by the great ideas developed as it helps me plan and pursue meeting their learning needs. 

Leadership Graphic Jam

This team isn't as much about technology as one would assume. The main goal I have is to provide opportunities to grow as leaders. Whether is is opportunities to present and share with staff or collaborative discussions around the role of teacher leaders, opportunities are abundant. 

One way I'm working on my own development as a leader is through a few books I've been reading. (Which I am proud to say I've been doing while running on a treadmill. An amazing feat, I know.) One book in particular that I've found very useful is Gamestorming by Dave Gray, Sunni Brown, and James Macanufe. This book has very little with being a teacher, but all about organizing teams and developing vision/direction. It is full of great brainstorming activities to motivate groups and drive project refinement. The game we used in our session is "graphic jam". 

During our graphic jam session, we looked at the 8 Characteristics of an Innovative Leader by George Couros. I took each characteristic and wrote it on the dry erase board. Participants then took post-it notes and attempted to visualize what those words meant or what came to mind as they thought about that word. They brainstormed in silence and posted their thoughts on the board. (Can you believe a technology coordinator is having the technology leadership team use post-its on a dry erase board?) 

A post shared by Lance Yoder (@edgaged) on

When it was all said and done, we did a gallery walk and discussed thoughts and impressions from the responses. We discussed what a leader was and that they have the potential to be leaders even if they do not encompass the eight characteristics George mentions in his blog post. We as a team can be that leader as we all have certain characteristics that stand out more than others. That balance is important as some characteristics are more pertinent depending upon the situation.

I did digitize this activity on my own. I did take each image and drop it into Google Slides. This will be an online activity shared with them to allow additional reflection and conversation as these teachers will explore how they can develop into leaders.

Technology Showcase

As part of the leadership building process, I asked the team to come with one technology tool they either use to aid in their teaching or have their students use. I gave each member five minutes to share examples, discuss use cases, and field questions from the group. Presenting in front of peers is an important skill to develop in a position of leadership. Most teachers will tell you that they can talk in front of their students all day, but once they get in front of their colleagues, fear takes over.

The goal here was two-fold:

  1. Provide the opportunity to present in front of a safe audience. This is a group of people that had already stated clearly that they wanted to be able to share and discuss in an environment free of judgment. 
  2. Introduce technology tools and tips that could aid in the growth of the entire team. 
Videos were created of each member's presentation. I took each video and put it into a shared Google Slides presentation. I promised the group that I would not share their videos publicly this round but hoped that it was something they would feel comfortable doing in the future. For now, I can share one of mine so that you get a feel for what took place: 

Final moonshot

I'm excited for this team of teachers. I'm excited to work with them and help them build confidence as leaders in their schools and across the district. Bringing a moonshot thought to the close of this post is very fitting. What if one of these members becomes a leader in education in the state of Indiana or even nationally?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Google Docs Assigning Tasks

Let's get organized!

For quite some time, Google Docs has been the king of online collaboration spaces. They changed the way we work together. Google Docs has certainly spawned much of the collaborative online spaces that exist today. Even other technology giants have found their hand forced to rethink cloud-based workspaces due to Google's influence.

As a teacher or organizational leader, the tasks built within a Google Doc (Sheets and Slides as well) is fantastic. It allows the user to use the comment feature to highlight specific parts within a collaborative document and assign that highlight directly to an individual. To do this, add a comment (ctrl+alt+m), add a plus sign along with the user's email address. The comment box will suddenly populate with users within your organization and allow you to assign the task to that user. The assigned task will then alert the user via email and provide a checkbox within the document for when the task is completed.

Check it out:

In the classroom

Teachers can use this to guide and direct student group projects. As groups collaborate and build lists of needs to plan and prep their project, the teacher can assign specific tasks to students using the task feature. The teacher will then receive an alert when the task has been marked as completed. This is great for reminders to check in with that group when work time rolls around again. 

Using the assigned tasks feature would be great for students as well. Every group project needs a leader. The leader can assign tasks and receive the feedback to help manage the group. Their partners will know what jobs they need to complete in the grand scheme of the entire project. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Google Classroom Speed Grading


A teacher's time is so valuable. Technology is intended to aid in the ability to save time. Google Classroom is a tool that can do just that. You can instantly distribute content to students with just a few clicks. The teacher has an automatic checklist of who has completed an assignment and who hasn't without having to flip through a pile of papers and check off names. Teachers can access classwork everywhere! It is like having your paper turn-in tray everywhere you go as you can easily access Classroom via the web or mobile app. Earlier this year I posted how you can utilize an iPad or an Android device to handwrite on the students' assignments. This was a nice feature added that bridges the gap between our individuals that like to mark papers with a pen and technology.

With all of these positive aspects of Google Classroom, I still hear a cry for help as Classroom and grading is not a match made in heaven. The teachers I hear this complaint from are correct. There are still issues in the workflow. When teachers open a student's document/slide presentation, it takes a lot of time to load. If the teacher holds down control, he/she can click on multiple docs and they will open in separate tabs. Again, this requires a lot of load time. There has to be a faster way as teachers do not want to go through this process for every single assignment.

Speed Grading!

You may or may not have noticed it in Google Classroom, but there is a link leading directly to the Google Drive folder where the students are uploading their assignments. (It isn't the most obvious link; so don't feel bad if you have never noticed it!) When you arrive in your Google Drive folder containing the assignments, the teacher can then right-click on one assignment and see the preview button. Instantly the preview of the doc/slide assignment will appear with the student's name attached to the document name and nifty arrow keys appear to the left and right of the preview screen. The teacher can merely click on those arrows to move to the next student's assignment or even use the arrow keys on the keyboard! 

There is a catch! You cannot leave feedback directly on a document in the preview screen. So for the teacher to give feedback, it works best to have Google Classroom open in another tab, second screen, or a separate device. The teacher can then use the private comment feature in the assignment on the left column where all the student names reside. Grades can also be inserted. 

To see it in video action, check out my video on the entire process.


Sometimes typed comments are not enough. Think about how long it would take to go through a two to three-page paper and use the typed comments in Google Classroom. In these scenarios, you'll need reinforcements. In my example, I am utilizing Screencastify to create video feedback for the student. There are plenty of other options out there that you could use to create video comments. I am only using Screencastify because it is easy to create shared links to the videos and post them in the comments section in Google Classroom.

If you are unfamiliar with Screencastify, click here to view my previous posts.

Here's how to utilize Screencastify to create video feedback:

What's working for you?

Are you a Google Classroom pro? What tips and tricks do you have that are great to know for workflow? Please share those in the comments section!