Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Teacher Tech Tip - Controlling Collaborative Hyperdocs

Hyperdocs rock!

The true advantage of Google Apps for Education is the use of real-time collaborative documents, but how often is it really used? I frequently hear about the horror stories of when a teacher allows all students to edit a document simultaneously as they fight for position. This frustration is why many teachers abandon the use of whole class collaborative documents. This creates the need for a hyperdoc. It creates learning space. Space for students to gain access to materials. Space for students to respond. Space for students to collaborate. For collaboration in the classroom, a hyperdoc is a necessity. 

So let's say you start up a collaborative brainstorming activity. At some point in time it is really handy to turn off access so that the items listed can be kept and discussed verbally. The process is simple if you share a document through Google Classroom with "can edit" access. The document is not shared with the entire class. It is actually shared with a group name representing your classroom. Edit access can instantly turned off by clicking share and changing your Google Classroom group to "can view" or "can comment" so that students can semi-interact with it.

Check out the process in my teacher tech tip

Need more about hyperdocs?

Not familiar with hyperdocs? Check out these previous posts:

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

"Orange" Ya' Glad You Tried Rubric Maker?

Rubric Maker by ThemeSpark

I love utilizing rubrics to set the expectations for projects. What I do not like is the creation of rubrics. It is painful to create all the learning indicators. It is like experiencing a bad case of "writer's block." Way back in the day, I used Rubistar for all projects/presentations my students completed. It worked great as they have a ton of pre-made/customizable rubrics ready to go. It is still a viable resource today as I occasionally refer teachers to it. 

If you are looking for a quick way to create a rubric and fully customize it without all the intense brain labor, try Rubric Maker! With this tool, teachers can create a rubric based upon the Common Core Standards. This is somewhat of a strange thing to say since I'm from Indiana and they do not use the Common Core. However, the standards are very closely related. There are some variations here and there, but for the most part the skills lists are the same. The process is simple as you just need to select your desired skills and the indicators for mastery are automatically created.

So here's how to get started with Rubric Maker!

Orange Slice/Rubric Maker Smash!

It is no secret that I'm a huge fan of using Orange Slice to give students feedback. It is a great add-on within Google Docs that allows you to quickly create and score a student's work. (Click this link for other posts I've created regarding the use of Orange Slice.) The built-in rubrics are very much based upon the feedback for a writing piece with some customization. What if you want it based more upon the specific skills you want students to master? Rubric Maker will help you evaluate the specific standards covered within a lesson as you can easily search the Common Core Standards and plug them into a rubric.

Here is the process for teachers to utilize Rubric Maker with Orange Slice:

  1. Create a rubric with Rubric Maker, go to the share view, and highlight and copy the table that's created there. 
  2. Paste the table in a Google Doc and run Orange Slice to set up the initial grade sequence and expectations.
  3. Share the document with students via a Google Classroom assignment with each student getting their own copy. 
  4. Use the copied document to grade any project whether it be an oral presentation, visual display, or multimedia project. 

Need a more detailed explanation? See my video below: 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Teacher Tech Tip - Ctrl + F

"Seek and ye shall find..."

Scanning for specific pieces of information in a website can be very frustrating and tedious. Take out the stress by using ctrl + f. When looking for information, hit ctrl + f in your Chrome browser to pull up a search box. This tool will then highlight and created a clickable list wherever that exact combination of letters exists. This allows for quick identification of key terms or phrases. 

From a teacher's perspective, this is especially handy when you are discussing an online text. Instead of scanning through the entire website for a key point or term that you want to chat about with the students, use ctrl + f to quickly jump to your needed text. Teachers could have students do the same thing when looking for important points and directing their attention to them. 

Forms and Sheets

I actually use this keyboard command on a daily basis. I use Google Forms to keep track of conversations and other various helps I provide for teachers. I use this find feature to quickly find names in my lists of teachers since I work with all of the staff at MSD of Steuben County. It also works in Google Sheets if I need to find a listing of activity related to a specific app or website. In my video below, I demonstrate the use of the shortcut in Forms and Sheets. I also demonstrate that you can find and replace data in Google Sheets with this feature. No extra formula or add-on necessary. 


One of the interesting topics (maybe not that interesting) is the issue of the children's online privacy protection. I frequently check websites and tools to see if students under the age of 13 can legally participate. I use ctrl + f to check terms of service and privacy polices for the key terms: 13, 18, minor, parent, and permission. This helps me make quicker decisions on whether or not to recommend a site as it takes me directly to the locations in those documents where it discusses the issues of children utilizing a tool on the Internet. If I'm still uncertain after those key terms, I sift through the documents more thoroughly. Most of the time, using ctrl + f helps me find exactly what I need. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Interactive Q & A with Google Slides

Q & A on Slides

There as been much said about the new feature of question and answer on Google Slides. I'm probably a little late in the game as many videos and blog posts have been pushed out about it. However, I typically am not a headliner when it comes to the newest and latest. I pretty much reserve my posts for things that I believe will work really well for my teachers and students. 

So here are my thoughts on the new feature and training needs for teachers:

1. The Q & A feature is not available on all Google Apps for Education accounts. In order for me to make my video, I had to use a personal gmail account. I'm sure that this update could be pushed out more rapidly if I would turn on the rapid release in my school district's Google Admin Panel.  A way to tell if it is working is to start up a Slides presentation and see if the laser pointer and presenter view options are available on the bottom left of your slides when in presenter view. If the new feature is not there, teachers could share their slideshow with a personal gmail account and launch it from their personal account. 

2. I hope there is an option to turn off anonymous questions on the Google Apps for Education version. Part of what we teach students in digital citizenship is that all things they do online are traceable and recorded. Any actions should be carefully considered before posting or participating online. Also, teachers like to have that sense of control that they can at least know who is participating inappropriately when a name is attached to the questions. Some teachers feel much more trusting of their classes depending on the class dynamic and connections they've made with students. If you are one of these teachers, Q & A is for you. Also, keep in mind that the teacher can shut down the Q & A session at any time if there are any issues. So very quickly the teacher can stop the session and students can no longer submit questions. The Q & A feature certainly lends itself to much discussion on digital citizenship and displaying good character. 

3. Users will need to know how to use an extended desktop on their device. Most users I interact with only mirror their devices to an external monitor or projector. Since the presenter controls are in a separate box from the slides presentation, they will need the control on their main device and the slides on the extended screen. This isn't necessarily a big problem, but just another topic I'm mentioning as I will be training teachers to use this in the future.

4. Q & A provides a totally new dynamic for students and teachers when presenting material. No longer will students be limited to creating a linear presentation for the entire class to follow. The option to move in different directions will play a big part in the preparation for users. The presenter will need to have a much better understanding of the content.

Want to see how it works?

Friday, May 6, 2016

Booktrack Classroom

Amplify your writing!

Booktrack Classroom is an awesome resource that lends students a couple of opportunities. First, it has free books available to read with a soundtrack assigned to it. Students can put their headphones on and become absorbed into the text through the audio playing in the background. Second, students can publish their own writing and add their own soundtrack to it. What a great opportunity to create a quality published piece along with sound effects and music.

Creating classes

Teachers can create their account with students connected to it. All the teacher needs to do is create a class and give students the class code. This is much like setting up a Google Classroom class. Then the teacher can see any booktracks created by students by accessing the bookshelf. The bookshelf will also contain texts that are built into Booktrack Classroom for free, but the items can be filtered so that the teacher can see only members of his/her class. From there, teachers can share booktracks directly to his/her Google Classroom account as the API for share to classroom is built into the site. Sharing examples to Classroom is a great way to celebrate exemplars and set expectations for work. 

Make a booktrack

Booktracks are fun to make as you can highlight sections of text and add soundtracks or sound effects to the text. This allows the author to enhance the message they were attempting to convey to the reader. I have an example video of how to get started creating a booktrack. However, you will not get the full experience as I had very little text written down in my test run. If you are wanting to hear a better example, create an account and try Snow White. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Teacher Tech Tip - Crunching Chromebook Tabs

Controlling Chrome

Usually my "teacher tech tips" surface due to questions I receive from teachers. Through the many conversations I've had over the last few weeks, I've noticed a need to discuss managing Chrome windows and other apps on their Chromebooks. This week's tech tip demonstrates how you can split items on your screen so that you can view two items simultaneously. I also demonstrate how you can quickly switch between items through using the alt+tab keyboard combination. I hope you find this week's teacher tech tip helpful! 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Google Summit Recap

Image Source:

Better late than never...

I had the pleasure of participating in my second Google Summit in the middle of April. It was a great experience of connecting with educators around Indiana that are passionate about what Google Apps for Education has to offer for students and teachers.

Ultimately, I love going to events like these because it gives me an opportunity to better know my staff. When traveling from building to building, understanding their needs can prove to be difficult. Attending these events proves to be extremely valuable just for the sake of making connections and building trust with staff. Of all people, teachers understand how essential a level of trust is when working with students. Being a resource for teachers is the same.

Earlier this week, I asked my teachers that attended to help out a bit by sharing some of their big takeaways from the conference. I felt this would be more beneficial than my own ramblings of lessons learned. So we'll start with Leslie Lantz.

Leslie Lantz (Angola High School English Teacher)

My favorite session was the Advanced Google Classroom training.  There were a lots of good ideas for how to use Google Classroom such as:
  • Sharing codes with other teachers to get a "glimpse" or "observation" of what they're doing in class, types of assignments they're giving...without having to actually be in their classroom.
  • Give students multiple options of assignments to choose from, rather than a "one-size-fits-all" assignment.  
  • If you have sub plans that don't require "technology"but you want to keep the kids accountable for being productive during class, have them take a picture of their pencil/paper work that they did and upload to Classroom. They won't ever know if you actually looked at it or not, but they will feel like you are going to and may actually work for the sub while you are gone.

Aurdra Morgan (Ryan Park and Carlin Park Elementary Special Education Teacher)

I wasn't sure what I was going to get out of GAFE Summit but I was excited to find out.  I knew I would gain some kind of knowledge to extend to my kids and help their learning.  

My first session was from a lady who taught middle school. She expressed how letting them have a voice was important. I have used but not in the way she used it. She used quick question, short answer, to have conversations with her students. She said, "I always have students that don't talk or raise their hand, but when I used this and asked a question, everyone had to respond." I would show the answers (the teacher knew who submitted, but the kids could not see) so that all the students could see everyone's response. Those students that weren't sure what to put, could read responses, learn from others or what she called "crowd-sourcing", and put together a response to submit. THEN, she would VOTE for who had the best response. It pushed students to give their best--she could choose to share who wrote it or just go on with the lesson.

I used this with my students when we were talking about fairy tales. They LOVED the voting part, but it also benefited the students that might not know what to put. They "crowd-sourced" and were able to put together something of their own. All students were engaged and wanting to be part of this fun way of learning. is a video recording website. It allows for students to record themselves and then they can submit the recording through a classroom assignment. If your class is reading a book and you want to know if they understood Chapter 3 or the beginning, middle, and end of the story, you could ask them to record themselves in less than 30 seconds and then send the link to the teacher. You can listen to the recording, either at school, at home, at a sporting event, etc. and figure out who in the class understands  or needs more help with the chapter or beg/mid/end. This can be done listening to a class of 20 some students in about 10-15 minutes.

Lastly, Googletone Extension is similar to classroom extension, but it will make a sound and the students chromebook/ipad will hear the tone, immediately pop up the website the teacher is on to the students. This is good for younger students that you don't want them to have to type in a long website. It is also beneficial for older students that may be asking questions and needing help to understand a topic. You might be able to Google and send them to a link/website that has the answers.

Laura Covey (Angola Middle and High School ELL Teacher)

I found the Summit beneficial overall. I learned several interesting things, such as more ways to use Google Classroom to make it more effective than just to create lessons and presentations. Helpful Chrome extensions to not only make life easier, but assist my students better and get them up and moving with the Move it! app. I met and made some great professional contacts across the nation to share ideas with and simply connect. I was able to play with some cool gadgets: Little Bits that I made move across the room with my IPhone, and made music with some bananas (Makey, Makey) and an apple coded with my Chromebook. These are just a few examples of the fun packed two days of sessions I experienced. There was also the tasty food provided by Panera, one of my favorite places to eat, and the opportunity to be with my colleagues and just enjoy the time learning.

I have already implemented a few of the things I learned last weekend into my classroom: The Move It! app of course which most of the students love because they get to get up and move. Plus, with the block scheduling, it has been a life-saver! Also, Announcify, which reads the text in articles to students cutting out all of the ads and other articles is very helpful! Another useful app in Chrome, OneTab. I tend to have quite a number of tabs open at a time causing slow motion, I hit one-tab and it closes all of my tabs and puts them into a file where I can click as needed. I showed the students this one as well. As for Google Classroom, I love Doctopus and Goobric, so very helpful when it comes to grading in Classroom.

Julie Rider (Angola High School Art)

I love knowing the extensions: Last Pass, Panic Button, QR reader, how to instantly share to Classroom, Eye dropper (borrowed from Photo Shop) etc. I am still working on getting to know these though. Learning about drones was particularly awesome and the "Sphero" has me thinking of painting applications!

Ashley Overton (Carlin Park Elementary Third Grade Teacher)

As an educator who is striving daily to integrate technology within the classroom, attending the Google Summit encouraged and motivated me to do just that!  The summit allowed me to meet other educators across the state of Indiana in order to witness the numerous ways that educators use GAFE within their classrooms.

While GAFE isn’t something that you can learn in one weekend, and unfortunately for some GAFE may make some educators feel overwhelmed, I left feeling empowered.  Empowered to try new things in order to redefine my teaching and enhance students learning within the walls of my classroom. Teaching in a district that supports 1:1 made me realize just how lucky the students of MSD of Steuben are.

Attending GAFE Summit, opened my eyes to over fifty new applications and extension, currently my most favorite is, Socrative, Padlet, Animoto, Google Earth, Slides, and Google Drawing. The summit also  provided me with numerous presentation tools and resources to help with ideas and new ways of delivery of classroom instruction.

In closing...

I left with a great respect for my teachers. MSD of Steuben County had 14 participants give up their weekend for the sake of improving the learning experience for their students. The dedication they have for this profession is something to be admired. I'm grateful for the opportunities I have to work with them. I hope this post does exactly what Ashley mentioned in her portion. I hope it opens your eyes to ways technology can be a powerful force in the learning experience.

I also hope everyone understands how awesome it is that there is a Bitmoji Chrome Extension now!