Friday, July 29, 2016

Welcome to the New Google Sites!

Early Release!

Toward the end of June, MSD of Steuben County gained access to the early release of the New Google Sites. It is a very exciting opportunity as our teachers can start to get a feel for how to implement it as a key communication tool and implementation in the classroom. Due to the upcoming changes, I've already canceled a training I had planned for a blogging template I had created using Google Sites. Now that there is a new version, I ultimately decided that it was a matter of time until that training would be obsolete. So I'm excited to present the new version of Google Sites to the administrative team on Monday, August 1st and teachers Thursday, August 4th. 

MSDSC was also planning on utilizing Google Sites for school websites. That plan is now on hold as the transition takes place. So for now, teachers and administrators get to test and get familiar with the new format as we prepare to make the transition along with Google. 

What's in the New Version?

 I'm excited with this new version as it is much more user-friendly. Not that the old Google Sites was difficult, but some items were difficult to locate and operate. The new version features drag-n-drop objects and easily manipulated embedded items. What always made Google Sites great is the ability to embed items from Google Drive. This still remains, but even easier as users do not have to determine numerical dimensions. Embedded items (docs, slides, videos, etc) can be resized just like an image in a Google Doc with dots around the corners and edges. What is especially awesome is the collaborative nature of the new version. There is no need for saving as users can edit the site simultaneously with other users just like items in Google Drive. The site is essentially a living document with the appearance of a simple website. 

Want to get started?

At the moment, the new Google Sites can be accessed via the address: I've provided tutorials via an interactive Google Slides presentation so that you can pick and choose what aspect you need. I hope you find this resource useful!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Google Classroom Guide

Chromebooks Required

Throughout this summer, I kicked off a training series for my staff that I titled "Chromebooks Required." Mainly because we are shifting completely to the Chromebook for students vs. a mix of devices. We are excited for this focus on all that Google has to offer our students. There certainly be some growing pains as many of our teachers transfer technology integration from the iPad to the Chromebook. 

Part of my training has been on the topic of Google Classroom. It has been a basic orientation of how to connect students as well as how to utilize the various methods of communication as well as how to utilize other tools to enhance the experience with Google Classroom (Share to classroom, Doc Hub, Orange Slice Rubric, etc.) Google Classroom is much more than an assignment creator. I also have been holding training sessions on the topic of hyperdocs which is much more about lesson format and how to more efficiently create learning experiences via Google Docs and Classroom. Providing organized learning experiences can streamline the process for students so that there is less focus on problem solving on the device and more time for learning the content and collaborative response. Overall, teachers have walked away better equipped on how to efficiently and effectively distribute and receive learning content. 

Google Classroom Guide

Creating a traditional Google Slides presentation to teach Google Classroom is a painful process. It works much better to work straight from Google Classroom and just demonstrate on the aspects while having teachers try it simultaneously. I created a slides presentation anyway, but it is not in the traditional sense. It is an interactive presentation so that users can pinpoint and find the specific resource they need. You'll notice that there is a picture of my Bitmoji face that will take you back to the menu of options. It is designed that way so that you can quickly navigate. I hope you don't find it disturbing. :) I especially hope you find this resource helpful. 


Google changes their products often. If you notice that my content it outdated, please feel free to let me know. I'd be happy to get the new material updated as soon as possible. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Google Forms Quizzes!

Can I Have It Auto-Grade?

I frequently get the question about how to create quizzes that will be automatically graded.  If you already have a quiz you are planning on using, you might as well take advantage of it being fully automated, right? It saves a great amount of time if you are planning on administering a quick quiz all based on multiple choice or true and false. 

Toward the end of June, Google launched the ability to create graded quizzes via Google Forms. Using a Google Sheets add-on (Flubaroo) is no longer necessary to accomplish this task. Teachers can quickly make a quiz, set the correct answers, and instantly have all the results within their Google Form. If you are wanting something quick and extremely user-friendly, this is the route to go. If you are wanting to have more control over point values and weighted grades, Flubaroo is much more feature-rich as it has been in existence much longer. Both tools are great, I recommend trying them both. Why not? They are both free. 

Create a Form Quiz

Thoughts about Assessment

Though I get the question about automatically grading quizzes/tests often, I also get a lot of questions regarding students cheating. Yes, Google Forms makes it extremely easy to digitize and automate your test, but ultimately multiple choice and true/false questions make it easy for students to cheat. If your question is easy to Google, then it is easy to cheat. So how do we get around the issue of cheating?

I think back to my freshman year of college and there was one type of test I hated the most; the blue-book exam. It was painfully difficult because I had one massive question to cover a ton of information. These tests were painful to complete in comparison to multiple choice, but it forced me to demonstrate what I really knew. It was completely focused on my thought process about the information I took in from the class. 

What if teachers focused on the process more than a right or wrong answers? For example, what if math teachers had students create a video explaining how they solved a problem? You could use a fancy Orange Slice Rubric to hit on multiple facets of the problem-solving process instead of grading a ten to twenty question test. This would eliminate the issue of cheating as the teacher would be able to hear the student verbalize his/her understanding of the problem. 

So you have to decide what is more important to you as the teacher. Is the convenience of having a quiz automatically graded worth the stronger possibility of cheating, or is the amount of time grading a learning process worth making a test "Google-proof?"

Friday, July 8, 2016

My Experience with ISTE and COPPA

ISTE 2016

ISTE 2016 was awesome. The Denver Convention Center is probably my favorite location out of the four ISTE conferences I've attended. The building is easy to navigate and in a great place, downtown Denver. I walked away from ISTE with some great ideas of how to supplement teacher training as well as a taste of the new features Google is offering schools this academic year. I'm excited for the new version of Sites to be launched, Android apps on Chromebooks, as well as some new features within Google Classroom that will certainly make the lives of teachers much simpler. Many of these features will be discussed in future posts. This post is focused on an issue that seems to be regularly ignored within the realm of educational technology. We're talking about the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

What's the Big Deal?

Schools need to follow the rules. That's the simple answer as to why I'm writing this post. We as educators have a responsibility to the community and to students to maintain a high level of  integrity when it comes to legal matters. Online services need to address how they maintain personal information of users under the age of 13 and how they go about protecting the rights of children. Most websites avoid the issue altogether and slap a blanketed protection in their terms of service and privacy policy documents that state that no one under the age of 13 is to utilize their services by any means. However, some services are targeted towards users that are under the age of 13. In those cases, parent permission is required for the creation of accounts. Usually, this process is as simple as gaining that parent permission and having the documentation on hand (see SeeSaw's Terms of Service).

There are some instances where the teacher must jump through some hoops in order for students to gain access to a site legally. Take Scratch for example. In this scenario, Scratch requires that students have a parent create their account as a parent email address is to be used to confirm account creation. This is an interesting topic altogether as teachers have openly admitted in Scratch forums to not have followed through with Scratch's terms and have gone ahead and created accounts for students.
One loophole that I wonder is a possibility is if parents sign off stating that the teacher can utilize his/her teacher email address in order to verify the Scratch account? It makes sense as the parent is fully aware that they are granting permission for the teacher to create the account with the understanding that they can still do the account creation on their own accord. This idea is something I should explore with Scratch's input.

What's COPPA have to do with ISTE?

ISTE is a huge organization. They produce the best of the best as far as ed tech goes. What I do not understand is why there are so many presentations promoting the use of products for elementary students that clearly state in their terms of service and/or privacy policy that users under the age of 13 cannot use it. I"ll give you a couple examples:

Adobe Spark

Adobe Spark was originally introduced as Adobe Voice. I was extremely excited when it launched as it made making photo slideshows with audio super simple to use on iOS devices. The downside? It clearly states that users must be over the age of 13 to use Adobe products. I even recall requesting to Adobe to address this issue and change their legal documentation to make their products usable for users under 13. I don't know how you can get around this clearly stated sentence in their terms of service documentation: 

As I was traveling around poster sessions, I was surprised by the number of elementary teachers promoting the use of Adobe Spark. I shouldn't say I was surprised by the number of teachers having their students use it as it is a great resource, but what surprises me is the fact that ISTE allowed them to do a presentation on it. These teachers are unknowingly promoting illegal activities in their classrooms. If you were to question them on the terms of service of these products, I guarantee you'd get a blank stare. (I know because I asked a few of them.) Wouldn't you think that ISTE would be aware of this issue as they go through the presentation selection process?


I'm a huge fan of Google Apps for Education (GAFE)! That is very evident as I'm a Google Educator Level I and II, Google Certified Trainer, and a Certified Google Apps Administrator. I do struggle with their terms of service. Blogger is part of Google, right? Students can use their GAFE accounts to create a Blogger blog freely, right? This is where it gets a bit confusing because the answer is no.

Google Apps for Education only includes what they call the "Core Services." The Core Services only include Calendar, Contacts, Groups for Business, Drive, Hangouts/Talk, Gmail, Sites, and Vault. All other Google services are considered "Additional Services" and the school district is responsible for turning them on and off according to who can legally access them (users over 13 enter a personal agreement not protected by GAFE).  The Core Services are the only ones that Google discontinues data mining for advertising purposes within a school district. So if a student creates a Blogger blog, their information is susceptible to the data mining process. If a user is under the age of 13, they cannot legally agree to those terms of service. 

So what did I see at ISTE? Fourth-grade teachers telling other teachers how their students can use their GAFE accounts to create their own Blogger blogs for the purpose of writing about their reading. Great idea! I did the same thing six years ago in the classroom, but not with Blogger. I'm sure that the teachers were doing it completely out of ignorance of COPPA and Google's additional services. However, should ISTE be ignorant/ignoring the issue? ISTE ultimately allowed these individuals to present. 

I certainly wish Blogger were part of the core services. If you are a teacher of students over the age of 13, please use it! Blogger is a great platform for students to communicate their learning to a global audience. 

How do we get better?

I truly do not expect teachers to be checking the legal documentation to make sure their students can use certain products. Especially since the legal documentation changes from time to time. What I do expect is for teachers to be at least aware of it. I don't mind checking to see if students can use various products as it seems to have become one of my roles in my school district. Teachers can ask me to do the investigation for them. 

The ISTE presentation selection committee should certainly be aware of the issue. We cannot have presentations that promote schools participating in online activities that are not COPPA compliant. I want to know why this is apparently being ignored?