Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Screencastify and Share to Classroom


Screencastify is a great resource. I've blogged about it numerous times. It is extremely user friendly as teachers can quickly make a video of their screen or using a document camera. Just as quickly, they can upload the lesson to Google Drive and/or Youtube. They can even control the privacy settings of the video from Screencastify before you send it off to Google Drive or Youtube. (Pay for the full version and you can trim the start and finish of your video.) It just works.

Like Peanut Butter and Jelly

As it turns out, Screencastify has become even better. As soon as a teacher is finished with their video, a "Share to Classroom" icon appears as long as the video privacy is set to unlisted or public. What's the big deal? The teacher can create the assignment/announcement/question straight from Screencastify without even going to Google Classroom! The teacher can click on the Share to Classroom icon, select their class, and create the assignment. 

Save as Draft

It is my recommendation (as mentioned in my video) that you save your assignments as a draft when you use this tool. Mainly because using the Share to Classroom icon will only allow you to add one video item. What if you need to add a document or a link to a website? What if you want to do a multi-post to several of your classes? By saving your assignments as a draft, you can quickly add those extra pieces to it. 

Saving it as a draft especially holds true if you are wanting Classroom to "make a copy" of the documents for your students. If you assign the classwork and go to edit the assignment later, you cannot upload documents and set them to "make a copy for each student." That option disappears altogether when you go to edit an assignment (I don't know why.) 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Tour Builder with Google

As you can see from the Tweet above,  I recently had the opportunity to visit Mr. Winter's class. Here they were to plan out an entire European vacation (not related to the movie) with destinations and total cost of the trip. Students did quite a bit of research about locations, airfare, hotels, points of interest, etc.

Interested in what it looks like? Check out this example.

Why Tour Builder

Tour Builder with Google provides a unique map exploration experience where the user can pinpoint specific locations, add detailed information, images, and utilize Google Earth/Streetview images all in a format similar to using a Slides Presentation. It is user-friendly and fun as users can create a learning experience far greater than the traditional report. 

Get Started with Tour Builder

All you need to get started is your Google Account. Just like in Google Slides, all your presentation slides are in a row on the left side of the screen. Each time you add a slide, you type in the next location you want to visit. From there, users can select images, add text, or Youtube videos. When searching for a specific location, users can also choose from an overhead map view or zoom in using Google Streetview. (Depending upon whether or not the Google Streetview car visited the location.)

Here's an overview on how to get started:

Using Google Classroom?

Tour Builder is still in beta. So it is not as intertwined with all things Google as many of their other products. (Google My Maps works perfectly with Google Classroom.) It is still feasible. The key is that the tour creator makes the tour available to view through a link. Then the link can be posted on Google Classroom as part of the assignment. This will allow the teacher to quickly look at the work and assign a grade. 

Classroom Ideas

Please share your classroom ideas for how you envision Tour Builder working in your classroom. I'm interested in the cool classroom projects you try with your students. Leave your ideas in the comments section below this post. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Preparing iPads for Virtual Learning

Recently I posted about preparing elementary teachers for virtual learning. (For more information, here is the link to that post.) The teachers have much to contemplate as they prepare for their first round of virtual learning on February 19th. They are building lessons, making videos, and attempting to sort out all the logistics of the students taking their devices and completing a school day from home. 

Preparing iPads

The tool we are using to prepare iPads for virtual learning is Google Drive. The reason being that students can access digital materials offline through the Google Drive app. So whether a teacher supplies a video, image, or document, the students can access it offline. 

Teachers start by having a shared folder in Google Drive. The students only have view access to this folder so that they cannot change or delete the shared learning content. To get iPads ready, I would highly recommend having students start off by making the shared folder part of their Google Drive. It makes finding the shared folder much easier in the long run. To help teachers and students know exactly how to take this step, I created a quick slideshow. 

Practice Virtual Learning Lesson

To help prepare students for virtual learning, it is a good idea to do some practice lessons so that students are aware of the location of their learning materials. It is also good for them to get in the routine of watching a video and following the directions that are listed within it. I recently had the opportunity to visit first grade at Ryan Park Elementary. To help spread the word, I had Mrs. Moor video me working with first graders on how to "pin" their items in Google Drive so that they are accessible offline. After I finish explaining the process, the students headed back to their seats to try the video lesson that I shared with them. 

Action Verbs

In case you're wondering what the video lesson was like, I will post my short lesson on action verbs below. To make it, I used Google Slides and recorded it with Screencastify. To add music, I used the editor available in Youtube. If you want a copy of it, I'd be happy to send it to you. Feel free to email me or a direct message from Twitter. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Flip Your Classroom - Hangout with Jonathan Bergmann

Flip Your Classroom

On January 7th, the Flip Your Classroom book study group met together for a Google Hangout with Jonathan Bergmann. It was an awesome experience as teachers were able to get their questions answered straight from the author. I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity to meet with Mr. Bergmann as were my teachers.


Small Steps

The biggest takeaway that my teachers took from the experience is to start small. Jon's recommendation was to start with one class. Try to flip a lesson once a week. That way you and your students can get a feel for the format. Flipping a few lessons also helps breakup the routine. Often times students need some variety and a change of pace to keep the learning experience fresh. 

The Elementary Flip

Many of my teachers had questions regarding what the flipped model looks like for elementary students. Especially when the students do not take their devices home. Jon viewed it as a great opportunity for differentiation. Use videos to differentiate learning so that you can work with small groups of students while another group of students get started through a video format. You more independent learners can especially benefit from this method as the faster pace of a video lesson may allow these students to do a more in depth study. Another term one could use for this format is a "blended learning" model where students learn through traditional and digital modes. 


One of the main reason for considering a flipped model is the issue of homework. In the traditional sense, we teach a lesson and send students home with more work. Work they more than likely cannot do independently. This causes much frustration for all parties (student, teacher, and parent) as the amount of time on homework varies depending upon the student's ability to demonstrate the concept.

Through the flipped model, homework is based upon a video (podcast, article, website, etc). The materials should take each student roughly the same amount of time as they are receiving the content in a short, concise format. The heavy lifting is then done in class where they can receive the support they need. This eliminates the frustration of completing a pile of homework with little support.

It is about the Students

Shawn Snyder, Angola Middle School math teacher, summarized the entire experience well as she ultimately decided that it would be what is best for her students. 
"It is all about what is best for our students.  I can see this having a big impact in the way I teach.  I have been dissatisfied with whole class lecture for a long time, but struggle to use other methods exclusively because some students still need direct instruction.  This will hopefully help me find a solution that works.  It will be a lot of work, but I will start small and see how it goes."

Other Flipped Classroom Resources

A Final Thoughts about Online Book Studies

The Flip Your Classroom book study is actually my first book study I've ever lead. I really enjoyed the opportunity it provided for teachers to receive PD in a convenient format. We only met physically one time. It worked great for teachers across the district to participate and collaborate as they were able to do so on their own timeline. The fewer time constraints, the better. I will be looking to do another Book Study this year.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Google Plus Communities

What is Google Plus?

Google Plus is Google's social media network. It first launched in 2011, but became more widespread in 2012. Sure, just like any other social media platform, you can follow various topics, keep up on celebrity gossip, and post a picture of your dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. What truly makes Google Plus of great value to an educator is the option to communicate and collaborate through Google Plus Communities. 


Within Google Plus, users can create or join various communities on about any topic you like. In these communities, individuals share resources and their expertise through images, links to websites/articles, and text. All of these items can be categorized by preset categories made by the creator/moderator of the community. This makes it much easier for users to find  items as the community is searchable and sortable. Users can also comment on one another's posts so that any questions or thoughts can be addressed. 

Communities deliver a great opportunity for educators to share with their colleagues or even with other teachers throughout the world. Teachers can help each other as they find great digital tools or lesson ideas by posting these items in a community. Students can even use it for collaborative projects. Resources, images, and thoughts can be contained and organized all within Google Plus.

Want to Start a Community?

If you want to create your own, I would recommend reaching out to some individuals with which you want to collaborate. Discuss some of the categories and topics you want to post/discuss in your community. Getting traction going in your community may prove difficult if you don't have an initial buy-in. Also, decide if you want to restrict the community to users that are invited or make it open for anyone to join. All of those options are available in the settings when you first create your community. Here is how to get started.


There are a number of ways to participate in a community. You can post images, links to websites/articles, or leave posts in text format. Users can then comment on your items and you have the ability to reply back to those specific issues. One item I would like to see Google add is the ability to add Google Drive items to Google Plus. At this point, the only way to do so is to provide a sharable link. The process to share documents works, but eliminating that extra step would be nice. 

Google Plus Chrome Extension

The previous video demonstrated all the different ways you can post items directly on Google Plus. If you want a faster way to post, try the Chrome extension. There are quite a few different choices of Chrome extensions from which to choose as many are third-party extensions. I tend to trust items created by well known companies. Therefore, I suggest sticking with the Google +1 Button because it is made by Google. 

Try It!

Try testing out communities by creating one. You can set it as private and test out different categories and posts you may want to include. Jumping in and testing it out is the first step to brainstorming all the possibilities a Google Plus Community holds for you. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Seesaw Blogs

Why Seesaw?

To say that Seesaw has revolutionized technology integration in the classroom is an understatement. From the first day that I became a technology integration specialist five years ago, I longed for a tool like this. I went to the extent of attempting to create this same magic with iPads using email and Kidblog. At the time, those were my best (free) options to increase student/teacher/parent communication. (Minus Edmodo, but that was very cumbersome for primary students.) 

With Seesaw, students can not only submit work from other great creation tools on their device, but can utilize the creation tools within it to increase communication at an even higher level. Students can record their voices over images and drawings, create videos that record their voices while drawing simultaneously, and can comment/like their classmates work. Parents can also participate by adding their own comments and likes to their child's work. 

This being the first year for my K-2 teachers being 1:1, it has been a challenge but teachers have quickly jumped on board with Seesaw. They are using it to leverage learning in fun and exciting ways. We have kindergarten students using it to create presidential campaigns and virtual voting booths. First grade teachers are using it to share images with the whole class so that the students can add their own comments/thoughts/knowledge about them. The rapid progress that has been made has been exciting because now we have a great tool for students to participate in virtual learning days so that students can participate in their lessons all from the comfort of their home!

Seesaw Blogs?

Believe it or not, Seesaw just upped their game again. A few months ago, they put into beta the edition of blogs. Now that blogs are officially part of Seesaw, teachers can essentially create a public page/website to communicate what is happening in class. This page could be used for announcements, sharing links to great learning websites/resources, or even file uploads. Better yet is the real purpose of the blog; teachers can post student student work. Students also have the power to submit their items for posting and the teacher can choose to approve it. As the teacher approves them, the work samples appear on the public blog page.

So What?

What's the big deal? Time. Consider the amount of time I might take to post items to my Blogger site. I must download images/videos from students/teachers. I must upload them to Youtube or to Blogger. While downloading and uploading, I need a good organizational system so I can keep track of the original items. If I choose to use Google Sites, I run into similar issues. Blogger and Google sites require very little time in terms of building websites...especially considering I was using Sharepoint when I taught fourth grade. However, with the simple push of the globe icon in Seesaw, the items I want for the public eye to see are shared instantly. I can do this from my iPad or Chromebook so it is extremely convenient. What I'm really trying to say could replace your teacher website!

Share to blog icon in Seesaw

How to Start a Seesaw Blog

Recently, Seesaw posted a great overview on how to get started with a blog. Their video is a lot better than what I can produced and they kindly gave me permission to post it here. So please check it out and try it for yourself. See if a Seesaw blog would be the right communication tool for you. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Virtual Learning Snow Days

Staying Warm During a Snow Day

Virtual Learning Snow Days?

This year, MSD of Steuben County has been approved to participate in virtual learning snow days. That means that we are preparing to allow students to still participate in school even if it is canceled due to severe weather. This is the the first year that MSD of Steuben County is considered a full 1:1 technology school district. The opportunity to provide a quality learning experience at home is ultimately our goal, and the availability of our digital resources makes it even more possible.

Training Opportunities


To get prepared, I've been working all week with kindergarten through second grade teachers as this is the first year that their students have devices. They have certainly rose to the challenge as adding devices to the classroom creates a new dynamic and mindset while teaching. They are utilizing digital tools in a meaningful manner by provide opportunities for students to participate in a blended learning environment and prioritize the expression of learning through digital tools. I'm very proud of the progress they have made this year.

One of our biggest challenges is providing for the needs of students without Internet access at home. In order to do this on an iPad, MSD of Steuben County will be utilizing the Google Drive app. Teachers can easily share digital content through Google Drive so that it is all in one convenient location. Students can then set each document/video for offline use. This will allow students without Internet to participate. At first glance, this may not seem like a difficult task, but training kindergarten students to know the location of shared learning materials in Google Drive takes time. I recommend the staff practice this over the next few weeks so that students get comfortable navigating in Google Drive.

It was great to discuss strategies, digital tools, and lesson plans throughout the training sessions. If you participated or are just curious as to what was covered, my presentation slides is shared below.


The process of providing learning opportunities offline is not as complicated for Chromebook users. As long as the teacher is using Google Classroom and students click on the the assignment materials while connected to the Internet, all items needed will be saved in each student's Classroom folder in Google Drive. 

Third through fifth grade teachers will be receiving training in the near future. It was deemed necessary due to this being the first year that the teachers and students are using Chromebooks in those grades. We will focus on Google Classroom, creating assignments, and ensuring students have all learning materials saved prior to heading home with their device. We will also explore digital tools that do not require Internet access since much of what is available on a Chromebook requires it. I look forward to the opportunity to work with them.  

Online Training

In December, I developed online training modules for virtual learning preparation so that teachers could participate at their own convenience. Participation by MSD of Steuben County staff are entitled to professional growth points for participation in online training modules. I built each module through Google Forms and like the format as I set it up to break down each portion on a separate page. The virtual learning training materials are just the beginning of larger plans that I'm making to create more online opportunities for teachers to receive training and professional growth points at their own pace. 

Click to view courses available

Community Communication

The community has much at stake as students will be coming home with devices and completing work from home. Our students in high school and middle school already take their devices home, but our elementary students do not. The challenge primarily lies with our elementary students as working with devices from home is not common at this point in time. Also, how students utilize devices is slightly different at home as not all students have Internet access. To help prepare the community, I built a resource site with guides on how to participate with the Chromebook and iPad as well as a few of the basic tools students use each day.

Click to view resources

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Google Classroom Data Analysis

Interactive Data Lessons

When teaching lessons, I love to poll the audience. It is great to see how students feel about a topic and using that data to drive future discussions and lessons. Not only that, but live data is intriguing for students. It is relevant to them; it is their voice.

The funny part is that I was doing this long before awesome tools like Google Forms and Google Classroom existed. I just made columns on the board and had students cast their vote by writing their name or using a sticky note. We would then pull the data together to form graphs so we could represent the data. On a big data analysis lesson, we would create polls on paper and have students walk around to each paper to cast their votes on various topics. Students love to create graphs on data that is relevant to them.

Google Forms Saves the Day!

Now with Google Forms, the entire process is streamlined. Teachers have been using Google Forms for the purpose of gathering data for quite some time. They can make a variety of assessments or use it for polling the audience. Either way, data is quickly gathered and easily analyzed as it pushes into a Google Sheet. If you are unfamiliar with Google Forms, I recommend learning how to use it first by visiting my Blog Post on the new version of Google Forms.

After you create your form, I recommend creating your spreadsheet destination right away. In the activity demonstrated in my video below, you need to be able to share the data with students right away. So if you are looking at the new Google Forms, here is how to quickly create your response sheet.

Create Your Spreadsheet

In my video, I demonstrate how to setup a Google Form in Google Classroom so that students can quickly participate in a poll/survey and see the results. Then students can make a copy of the spreadsheet of data to create their own charts to better represent the dataset. 

New to Google Sheets?

If your students are new to creating charts in Google Sheets, have no fear. Start with simple pieces of data. It is as simple as highlighting a column of data, clicking on "insert", and "chart." Not sure how to get started? Here is a quick tutorial on making a chart. 

Don't Have Time to Make a Chart?

No problem. The summary of responses will create instant charts. Just click on "Form" and then move down to "Summary of Responses" to view instant graphs. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Blogger for Students

Why Use Blogger?

Blogger is a great platform for students to have their very own blog. It is easy to set up, simple to customize, and provides a chronological record of student learning. Students can use their blogs for specific classes or even as a digital portfolio of their learning throughout their entire school year. Students can enhance their blog with their own images in their Google Photos account or videos straight from their Youtube channel. It can meet the needs of any learning outcome as students can utilize Blogger to document the learning process.

The Blogger Advantage

Blogger provides students with some advantages over other blogging platforms. This is especially applicable if you are a Google Apps for Education school district (GAFE). 
  • Access Images and Videos from Google/Youtube
  • Students control their own privacy settings (limit to public or specific readers)
  • Students can add authors to their blog
  • School districts with Google Admin Panel still have access to blogs 
  • Completely free, no unwanted adds pop up
  • Fewer storage restrictions 
  • Transferable (Students can download all blog content)

Getting Started

The first thing you'll need to decide is how you want to set up your student blogs. You can either create each blog on your own and give students access permission, or you can have students create their own blog and grant you access. The later would be much faster, but you are trusting that students will follow directions and add you to their blog. Here is how to get started. 

Blogger Reading List

You can access student blogs a couple ways. The first way is to just utilize your collection of blogs when you first visit It is there that you will see any blogs that you have either created or have at least have author rights to. The other option is to take advantage of the Blogger Reading List below your collection of blogs. Here Blogger gives you an RSS feed of all blogs you add to your list. So all you need is the link to each blog and then add it to your list. Anytime a student posts to it, you get a condensed version of the post so you can quickly overview what was written. It streamline the reading process for you in the long run. Students can do the same if all blog addresses were listed in a document or spreadsheet. Students could go through the same process by copying and pasting each blog address into their Blogger Reading List. Here's how to get started. 

Want a Class Blog Instead?

Not all teachers want each student to have their own blog. Another option would be for the teacher to have a class blog and allow students to access it. These details will be in a post in the future.