Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Google Classroom Updates & Best Practices Fall 2016

Best Practices for Setting Up Sections of Google Classroom Courses:

  • DON’T delete students from prior year/semester courses and invite your new students. They’ll have access to everything you did BEFORE you probably want them to!
  • DO archive your old courses to clean up your “home” screen clutter. This will also help clean up student screens, as they won’t see your archived section from last year.
  • DO plan on a common naming convention for assignments in Google Classroom within your PLC. (You’ll see why...)
  • DO plan on having your students join your class via the Class Code. Much easier than inviting each one.

Setting Up a “Storehouse” in Google Classroom For Your PLC

One of the nice (new-ish) features in Google Classroom is the ability to reuse old posts from any of your other sections. A useful tip for anyone working with others in a PLC is to create a section in Google Classroom that has ZERO students. Name it after your PLC or something that denotes its function as a digital file cabinet of sorts for Google Classroom posts. Have one person in the PLC create this course.In the “About” tab of the classroom, click “INVITE TEACHER” to add all members of your PLC to have edit rights to this student-empty section.Decide on a COMMON NAMING CONVENTION for all of your assignment posts. For example, the 3rd assignment for Unit 2 could be named with “2.3” - Title of Assignment”. Also, one of the new features explained below is that you can now ORGANIZE your posts with tags, so you could tag that post and all in that unit with “Unit 3”.

Now, you can split up the work of creating assignments that all teachers may want to reuse in their ACTUAL sections with students!**THIS is why it is important to have a common naming convention for your Units / Assignments in Google Classroom. It will be much easier to find these posts that you want to reuse.

Brand New Features in Google Classroom!

Organize Posts With TOPICS
Sort of like a hashtag for each of your posts!An automatic list of topics appears in the left sidebar of the Classroom StreamDecide on a naming convention for units to easily display related posts!

Invite Guardians
Up until now, the only way parents could see what their students were doing in Google Classroom would be to have the student log in and show them. Not a bad thing as it forces a conversation about their work, BUT there’s now an easier way for parents to stay up-to-date on the goings on of your Google Classroom course.

Under the STUDENTS tab, for any active/enrolled student there is a new link to “INVITE GUARDIAN”. For now, it’s a manual input of email. This might be something you want to give parents the option to be included in, rather than looking up emails and just entering them!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Google Summer Updates from ISTE 2016

Hi everyone! Here are some of the really great updates that were released by Google this week (June 27-30). I hope you spend some time challenging yourself and exploring these great new features this summer!

50% OFF Google Level 1 Certified Educator Code (expires July 6)

Google said we could share out a code to to take the Level 1 Certification Exam. I challenge anyone and everyone to take some time and try this out. You can do it! Costs a mere $5 with the coupon code (GOOGLE_ISTE_LVL1_50) Check out the training site here, and then click on "Learn More" in the Educator Level 1 box. Plus, you get a cool digital badge that you can display with pride! **Check out sidebar of this blog on the right :-)

Quizzes in Google Forms

Many of you have probably used Flubaroo to auto grade quizzes you made using Google Forms. This add on is AWESOME, and still has some additional features not in built in Quizzes, so it shouldn't exactly be discarded. The new feature in Forms DOES make it quite a bit easier for quick formative assessments and results, especially if you push the quiz out to your class via Classroom. The first time you open Forms after June 26 or so, you'll see the notification embedded above. They also made it so you can turn off student ability to see results, getting around the tech savvy student that would send form results to friends!

Google Cast for Education

This was pretty much my favorite of the product announcements that were announced! It solves a problem we've been trying to figure out with third party apps, none of which were making the cut. Best part is, it's free and there's no additional hardware needed. Take a look at the demo video, but just know that it will allow students to cast their content of their Chromebook screen to your desktop computer via the new app, and thereby be able to show up on the projector. It works pretty well in my tests and the demos I saw at the conference!

Synergyse Now Free for All to Use

Many of us at WO are familiar with Synergyse training tutorials that are embedded in Google Apps, and they did such a nice job with them that Google bought them and is now offering the extension/service free for all Google Apps users. The extension appears in the top right of all Google Apps, and is the BEST place to start if ever stuck trying to accomplish something within Google. It's automatically pushed out to all WO staff and student accounts!

Google Sites is ALL NEW

In my humble opinion, this was a long overdue and very welcome update to Google Sites. For a while now, I've been suggesting to people to use Weebly over Google Sites because it was not only easier, but much more aesthetically appealing. NO LONGER! Google sites can be accessed in our domain (we applied to be "early adopters"!) by visiting **Disclaimer** - because the new Sites is still in early adopter mode, only accounts that are within our domain can access sites that you create in the new environment. This is important to know because any site you create right now will only be accessible by student accounts! Google representatives at the conference said they hoped it would be fully released soon, but I did not get a definitive timetable.

More Cool Updates:

  • Q & A for Google Slides - Has been around a few months, but they still chose to highlight at the conference. Great feature for "backchannel" discussions during a presentation.
  • App Bundles for Chrome -
  • Google Expeditions is released - - very cool Google Cardboard app. Virtual field trips guided by the teacher!
  • Google CS First for coding curriculum in grades 3 (or so) and up. This isn't a new program, but they've added content & resources.
  • Project Bloks - An amazing way to teach computer programming basics to even the youngest students. Very impressive and fun!
Project Bloks

Monday, March 14, 2016

MACUL 16 - Guest Post by Katie Steenstra

MACUL 2016

Originally posted at Katie's blog
After attending the two-day MACUL conference with several of my WO folks, I am re-energized about next year's 1:1 adventures.

Keynote speaker Jaime Casap emphasized the importance of preparing our students for the real world that awaits them rather than the one that many of us experienced in our youth (Research then = a trip to the public library. Research now = the world at one's fingertips). He talked about what education has made possible for not only him, but also his three kids and the generations to follow. It was a great big-picture reminder of why I do what I do.

Blended Writing Workshops with Joanna Van Raden
Van Raden, a veteran elementary special-ed teacher whose tech-savvy methods helped her find success in her 1:1 classroom, demonstrated how she uses the flipped-classroom format to teach K-5 blended writing workshop. She finds value in allowing students to work at their own pace by providing linked minilessons and mentor texts, partnering students up according to ability and current projects. Here are a few apps, sites and add-ons she likes that looked pretty fantastic:

  • WriteAbout: An online venue dedicated to providing students with high-interest writing prompts, an authentic audience, and ways to get feedback. This is a great site for any ELA classroom, or for any teacher trying to engage reluctant writers. Love the authenticity of this site's writing groups and the collaboration among writing classrooms across the country.
  • Pixton: An app that allows students to create comic strips. What a great way for students to storyboard dense texts, or chunk longer works into manageable, visual pieces. Hello, Romeo & Juliet!
  • Kidblog: A blogging site with a few more kid-friendly, privacy safeguards in place than most. The teacher moderates all content before it goes live, and it's easy for students of all levels to use.
  • Website that allows students to create infographics. This would be a great way for students to make sense of informational text or create a list of character traits for a novel character, for example.

ELA & Digital Storytelling with Amy Brown

Brown is a literacy specialist whose way with words appeals to the book nerd in us all (e.g., “You’re either a Gatsby person, or a Holden Caulfield person"). Her work emphasizes how educators can help students construct their own meaning in an information-rich culture.

  • Digital Footprints and Critical Thinking: Resources that help students answer the question, "What is a digital footprint, and what does yours convey?" Great digital citizenship resources.
  • Actively Learn: Active reading site with a repository of texts that has some incredible potential for 1:1 ELA classrooms. Allows the teacher to import classes from Google Classroom (yesssss), and assign a text containing cues and questions they have personalized for a class. Students respond to assigned questions and can then respond to their classmates' responses. Great for annotation of texts from many genres. The free version allows a teacher to assign up to three texts per month and do all of the above. The premium version includes analytics like activity reports for all students. Both versions look awesome. I love the idea of students annotating a text, responding to each other's critical-thinking questions, and then discussing related video clips (“This Youtube link is a video for a song that relates to this text.”)
  • Zoho: A backchannel site that allows students to view and respond to teacher slides, ask questions, and interact virtually with the class during a lesson. Provides the teacher with reports about active student engagement, ratings of lessons, and which slides were most engaging to students.

Vollrath, a HS English teacher at Saline Area Schools, began to see some of the writing he was teaching as unrelated to most adults' real lives. He decided to create a writing course that is more relevant to the work lives his students will face. Thus, Zines 10 was born. Students’ focus in this core class is to write to publish in student-edited, online, special-interest magazines (zines).

  • Students produce a total of 17 zines for 2 sections.
  • Each group of 3-4 kids produces one zine. Same groups all semester.
  • Each team chooses the topic of their zine, but must pitch topic for teacher approval.
  • Students earn writing awards from peers (“Zulitzer”), teacher, and No Red Ink.
  • Students are in teacher-assigned teams (assigned after one month of class), which then they’re in for the whole semester. Collaboration with non-friends = forging good working relationships.
  • Success depends on how many of their peers they can get to write for them. Must sell their product, so everyone’s a freelancer.
  • Students may only use one piece of their own writing. Other writing in their zine must be pitched and done by others. Zine students may hire writers from Zine 10 class, or “work the hallways” to get students outside class. Social media is very effective for this.
  • Know Your Audience: To find writers, Zines 10 students put on a bazaar. They advertise their zines at stations featuring posters and snacks, and pitch zines to potential writers in other English classes.
  • Grading and accountability: Students evaluate groupmates; teacher grades collaboration.

Storytelling with Google Maps with Karen Chichester

Chichester is a veteran ELA and special-ed teacher (grades 6-12). She uses Google Maps to generate text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-real-world connections in her writing lessons. Some related apps and sites that provided some food for thought:

  • Secret Door: A website that takes the user to one of several panoramic virtual settings. To get students writing at the start of the year, a teacher might give them the link and require a quick-write about the scene they see. Teachers could also incorporate grammar (Ex: describe this scene using at least three correctly-punctuated appositives, to/too/two used correctly, etc.).
  • Student Memoirs with Google Maps (My Maps): Students create a memoir by choosing and describing five important places from their past. Student samples are sweet.
  • Google Lit Trips: Library of student-created geographical journeys of book characters, real and fictional. Mapping out the present-day locations mentioned in The Odyssey, for example: so many cool possibilities!
  • Google Tour Builder: Students create a tour, embed their own images & video (or search for related ones) with Google Earth. Could be good for documenting location-rich works like The Things They Carried (O’Brien’s tour of duty, story locations), historical fiction, Romeo & Juliet, world languages, important events in a novel, or events in a student’s own past.
Final Reflection
My time at MACUL 2016 provided some great ideas, new connections, fine camaraderie, and lots of added excitement for next year's 1:1 roll-out. Here's to an excellent adventure in the weeks and months ahead!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Force Recipient to "Make a Copy" of a Doc

Sorry for lack of posts here, have been sharing many tips & tricks on the WOPS YouTube Channel! Very excited for the first day of Secondary WO Tech Academy today also! See you there 6-12 teachers...

Detailed instructions are below, but here's a short video that details how to do this also:

This is a very useful tip for those of us that share Doc or Sheet templates with others on a regular basis. It's always a bummer when someone inadvertently changes the template you shared with them, even with the instructions "DO NOT EDIT THIS TEMPLATE!" somewhere in the share email, or in the Doc itself! Fortunately, there's an easy fix. Check out the actual Doc of the info below if it suits you to see it in that format.

I want them to have to make a copy of this document on their own so they can edit & store it wherever they want, while not messing up the original.

Enter: the copy function - sneaky fix
(Thanks to Alice Keeler, which is where I first heard about this trick. She’s got loads of tips & tricks on her site too!)

The CURRENT URL that you’re working on in a Google Doc (no matter what the sharing permissions) has the last five characters “/edit”. Like this:

If you want to send a copy of this document to anyone, simply select that entire URL, but when you paste it in an email or somewhere to send the link, back off the word “edit” and type in “copy”.  When you go to send the email of the link and the recipients do not have access to view the document, you’ll get a nice reminder pop up, and if you expand it you can see both options for sharing the link, like this:

Upon clicking the link that you send with the “copy” text appended to the long URL, your recipients of the link will see this message:
Make a Copy Test.png
Once they click the “Make a copy” button, a new window will open with a fresh copy of the Doc you sent. Meanwhile, your original template will be left alone! It’s similar to what Google Classroom does when you share an assignment with your students and select “make a copy for each student”, with the notable exception that you won’t have any access to the copy that your recipient makes (which can be a nice feature of this trick), unless they choose to share it back with you.

Copy of.png

Friday, September 4, 2015

1st Week Back: WO Rocks Twitter

It's been a great first week back!

Staff returned earlier this week after another "Pure Michigan" summer. The heat & humidity will make it feel like summer is going on for another few weeks at least, but we're just about to have students back in our classrooms!

It seems like the last few years, there's been an increase in social media presence on behalf of our staff. Specifically, if you're following and checking (even infrequently) you can see the excitement out there from your colleagues for the beginning of another school year.  As a parent new to the school experience (my son is about to start kindergarten) I know that when I see engaged and excited teachers it makes me feel better about sending my own child off to learn in their hands. It was summed up best by an awesome WO parent, and when I saw this on Twitter, I immediately hit retweet!
Mr. Hendrick is exactly right. If any one has checked Twitter recently on #woplc, #GoWO, the newly created #woms for the middle schools, you've seen that the digital footprint that WO educators are creating is real, and it's awesome! Follow all of the elementary accounts out there too! @WoodsideWO, @LakeshoreWO, @WaukazooWO, @WOPineCreek, @Sheldon_WoodsWO, @North_Holland, @GreatLakesWO, & @LakewoodEL.

Not a singular event, it's embedded in our WO culture

All of this online sharing & positive energy doesn't feel like an isolated event that we're pushing technology to accomplish, but part of our every day existence. For people that have been on Twitter for years to someone that just made an account, you should jump in, the water is nice!

I was reminded of something I heard from keynote speaker Steve Dembo, while were attending Leyden 1:1 Summer Symposium in July.  He talked about something called "Ambient Intimacy", rather than long form newsletters to communicate to community and parents. Essentially, this means that a series of small points of connection (i.e. Tweets, short blog posts from class, etc.) rather than more infrequent large forms of connection (i.e. multi-page newsletters) can often create a much deeper and meaningful relationship between parent/community and classroom or school. This hit home. My son's pre-k teacher sent a blog post home every single week last year. It wasn't long. Usually no more than a couple sentences about something they did in class... but there were pictures! I loved seeing my son in his classroom element, having fun and learning. It gave me something specific to ask him about, and watch his face light up when he told me all the details. As a way to illustrate this "Ambient Intimacy" further, Steve showed a clip he'd made using the app 1SE (One Second Everyday). Here's a month of my summer using this app. It's pretty fun! There are for sure ways to use this app in schools & classrooms! (CHALLENGE PUT OUT THERE)

This got me thinking about how we can create cultures in our classrooms where utilization of technology to enhance teaching and learning isn't something that's seen as a "big event" in class, but something that is expected, a part of the culture of the school and room.  It doesn't have to be Twitter or other social media of course, but various tools and resources that are out there that we're going to be testing and exploring more and more as our ratio of devices : student increases. 

It's about culture

The way this becomes a part of our regular school experience, and the only way we can keep improving is if we have the courage to try. Of course, this means we have to have the courage to fail sometimes in the process, and then learn from it. I hope any readers outside of my own district have the support that I've felt and that many teachers I've spoken with feel. We are encouraged to be risk-takers. We are encouraged to try. Get out there and do. Be creative. Be excited.

It's going to be an awesome school year!

Last, but not least

Huge thanks to our tech staff at WO for making our 6-12 staff Chromebook roll out this week a success! Got a ton of positive feedback, both in person and on Twitter, so also thank you to all that participated in the distribution and training. It was awesome! And... did I mention the one & only Coach Lloyd Carr was here! #GoBlue

Sunday, August 2, 2015

WO to Leyden July 2015

#LeydenPride is on full display around the school
They use if often to spread good news on Twitter!

Spending the last three days in July at East Leyden High School with 17 other WO educators (plus about 350 like-minded professionals from around the region) was fantastic!  We had a great three days of learning from the presenters, and sharing with one another using #lhs1to1 and #woplc on Twitter. If you've never used TweetDeck to follow a conversation and add to it on Twitter, it's a pretty great app/interface! We also created a Community in Google+ to share longer posts and resources from sessions.  Whole lotta sharin' goin' on.  The great folks at Leyden kicked off the Summer Symposium with enthusiasm (and some humor), letting us know that the theme of the conference was The Princess Bride, which is one of my favorite comedies of all time, so that was a good start! Presenters did a nice job of working in movie quotes too that gave us all a frequent chuckle.

You keep using this word.
I do not think it means what you think it means.


The keynotes that started each of the three days were all awesome. Catlin Tucker shared about her experience as an ELA teacher using technology to engage students and truly develop a culture of collaboration and student directed learning in which she backs up the statement: "The smartest person in the room is the room."  On day two, Steve Dembo talked about building a culture of innovation in education, which can often be difficult as many in our profession want to wait for someone else to lead the way. One of my biggest take-aways from his talk was about when he was discussing the evolution of communication.  He mentioned the notion of Ambient Intimacy, which simply means that over a series of many small connections from a school or classroom (i.e. Tweets, posts, pictures, YouTube or Vine videos) a very meaningful relationship develops. Instead of the traditional monthly newsletter that ends up being TL,DR (Too Long, Didn't Read), these short posts are convenient enough for your audience to get something out of each an every one of them. It made me think of my son Jude's pre-K teacher, who sent us blog updates each week. The text was short enough for me to get an idea of a cool thing they did as a class that week, and of course, I scanned the many pictures posted to see Jude doing his thing in class.

Ken Shelton's talk on day three focused on "The Power of Voice in the Digital Age". He shared some pretty staggering cases of the power of social media in today's world, both positive and negative. One thing that really stuck out from his presentation was about our "digital footprint" and how it can stay with you. He suggested that "footprints can be washed away, it's really more like a digital tattoo." Mind=blown.

Tech Support Initiative (TSI)

One of the sessions led by their tech director (Bryan Weinert) showcased their student run level 1 tech support for all of their Chromebooks (about 3500 devices between the two high schools). Students answer the help desk phone, take walk in repairs or even uncharged Chromebooks and manage the entire flow of work tickets to get devices back in the hands of students. Bryan was very adamant that their promise in a 1:1 environment is that a student would always have a device ready to go, and they've been able to live up to that. Part of the session was a q & a with TSI students, all of which are on different chosen "pathways" toward industry-standard certification in various programs. They were very proud of their roles as TSI students, and the culture of celebrating success was on display on the wall! (Each certification earned was framed and hung on the "wall of fame.)

Bryan Weinert shows off the TSI headquarters at East Leyden HS

Me with my new friends, Leyden TSI students and teachers. Great to meet them!

Overall Reflection

We've developed a relationship with Leyden District 212 over the past few years. I was able to attend this symposium in it's first year in 2013 (after their first year as a 1:1 Chromebook district).  The connections made that year were so important to my own growth and learning as an educator. More important than that though, are the ideas to help build culture we've been intentional about developing. In talking with teachers there and hearing many of the sessions offered, it's clear that there's a culture of "It's okay to fail".  It's what's done with that failure. They see it as an opportunity to improve, and it allows staff and students to be risk-takers.  First and foremost, all of the hard work to maintain a 1:1 environment is for the students. Our coming 1:1 initiative is going to be a challenge, but one we should fully embrace and be excited for. In conversing with several of the WO attendees, we all are excited that we are currently in a great place in our journey to 1:1.

To quote our second day keynote speaker, Steve Dembo: "We can't predict exactly what the classroom of the future will look like. Even better though, we get to invent it.

Big thanks to the folks at Leyden for putting on the symposium, Follow them all on Twitter. Nick Polyak, Bryan Weinert, Jason Markey, Mikkel Storaasli, and Tatiana Bonuma.