Thursday, October 20, 2016

Simple Search Lifesavers for Students

Recently one of my sons brought home a school assignment where he was supposed to visit five websites and then answer a few questions from each. Sounds pretty simple, right?

I thought the same until I noticed his attitude change from positive (well as positive as an attitude about homework can be) to confused to frustrated. I went over to investigate what the problem was and to see if I could help. What I found was a printed worksheet that asked him to visit the following five sites:

This was a paper worksheet with printed web addresses. Not a Google document, or a blog post, or a Google Classroom announcement, or any sort of digital format with clickable links.

As a 6th grade boy with a short attention span and basic keyboarding skills, he was trying to type in these URL’s … and failing miserably. Between the five sites that’s 353 characters to type in, without messing up any of the slashes and dashes.

Thankfully this was a great chance to turn a challenge into a learning opportunity. See below for two simple searching tricks I showed him that made the assignment a snap, and may help you and your students as well.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Creating Punctuation Practice Activities with Google Docs

Capitalization and punctuation are skills addressed with students at every grade level in school. In fact the Common Core has a standard that spans all of K-12:

CC.K-12.L.R.2 Conventions of Standard English: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

There are many ways for students to learn, develop, and master these skills. One popular option is to provide students with a sample selection of text that is missing proper punctuation and capitalization, and then have the students make the needed corrections. With a quick search you could probably find quite a few worksheets with such activities already created for you.

However, what if you want to make your own practice activities for your students? Thankfully with Google Docs and two simple tricks you can easily convert any sample text into such an activity.

See below for detailed directions for how to make your own punctuation and capitalization practice activities quickly and easily with Google Docs.

Watch the Video from the October 2016 Google User Meeting

Catch up on everything new in Google Apps over the last month, and see great ideas and resources!

Below is the recorded video from our October 2016 Google User Meeting, along with the meeting agenda with links to all the resources and Google Apps updates from the last month.

The monthly meetings are hosted by the Google Educator Group of Ohio, but are open to anyone from any location. The purpose of these meetings is to:
  • Connect Google-using educators
  • Share the latest Google Apps news and features
  • Provide tutorials, demonstrations, and how-to’s
  • Share best practices of how Google Apps is being used within schools
  • Ask questions and get answers
For those who cannot attend in person, the meetings are broadcast live using a Google Hangout. Users can join the Google Hangout remotely to participate in the meeting, or can simply watch the live stream. The video from the meetings is recorded and available for later viewing for those who cannot attend or connect live.

See below to view the recorded video from the October 2016 meeting:

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Grading Extended Response Questions with Google Forms Quiz Feature

For many years Google Forms has been a great tool for creating online assessments. This process became even easier when Google added the new Quiz feature to Forms, allowing the quiz to be auto-graded without the need for a third-party tool such as the Flubaroo add-on. Although the new Quiz feature was very easy to use, it did lack some of the more advanced options and flexibility provided by Flubaroo. For a detailed comparison of Flubaroo versus the Forms Quiz feature see this earlier blog post: New Google Forms Quiz Feature vs Flubaroo

Recently though Google has added some new options to the built-in Quiz feature, making it more powerful and beginning to close the gap with Flubaroo. One of the new options is the ability to hand-grade extended response questions. This is very helpful as it allows teachers to build assessments with higher-level questions that move beyond multiple choice. Open-ended, essay-type questions can provide a better picture of student understanding, assess higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, and reduce the potential for cheating on assessments.

See below for detailed directions on how to create and grade extended response questions using the built-in Quiz features in Google Forms.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

21 Chrome Extensions for Struggling Students and Special Needs

Technology can be a powerful tool to assist students with special needs or any sort of learning challenge. In particular the Chrome web browser allows users to install a wide variety of web extensions that provide tools that can help all learners, regardless of ability level.

In this blog post we will take a look at 21 Chrome web extensions that can assist students in five main categories:
  • Text to Speech
  • Readability
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Focus
  • Navigation

Some of the tools fit into more than one topic, but each is only listed once. Certainly this list does not cover all of the useful web extensions available for struggling learners, but it is a great place to begin. In addition to the list of extension, I have also linked in the video and help guide from a webinar I did a while back on "Google Tools for Special Needs".

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Improving Reading Skills with YouTube Closed Captions

Closed captions, or video subtitles, are an easy, free, and engaging way to help improve student reading abilities. Many times we may only think of closed captioning as an assistive technology tool for people with hearing impairments. However, much research has shown that using closed captions when viewing videos provides reading benefits to all students, regardless of hearing abilities or literacy levels.

Personally I have been using closed captions for every video I watch for over twenty years. It all began when I had my first child, and wanted to watch TV or movies at night without waking her up. It became such a habit that I continue to turn on subtitles to this day for everything I watch. Over time I have realized how much it helps me to pick up dialog I may have missed due to distractions, poor audio, or a noisy house.

The same thing is true, and even more so, for our students who are still learning to read or working to improve their reading skills. In this blog post we will take a look at what the research says about the benefits of closed captioning for students, as well as learn how to find and use closed captioned videos on YouTube.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Interactive Clock Face with Google Drawings

Google Drawings is a fantastic tool for many tasks (diagrams, graphic organizers, infographics) but is also a great option for making digital manipulatives. For example in an earlier post I shared a bunch of ways Drawings can be used in math for interactive learning (see here:

Recently I decided to see how Google Drawings could help with another math topic: telling time. This is a Common Core Math standard for grades 1, 2, and 3:

  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.1.MD.B.3 - Tell and write time in hours and half-hours using analog and digital clocks.
  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.2.MD.C.7 - Tell and write time from analog and digital clocks to the nearest five minutes, using a.m. and p.m.
  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.3.MD.A.1 - Tell and write time to the nearest minute and measure time intervals in minutes. Solve word problems involving addition and subtraction of time intervals in minutes, e.g., by representing the problem on a number line diagram.

To address this I created a Google Drawing template with an analog clock face and two rotatable clock hands. See below for a link to get your own copy of the interactive clock template, as well as directions for using it.