Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Making Posters with Google Drawings

As mentioned in earlier blog posts, Google has loads of awesome tools, but one thing that seems to be missing is a dedicated desktop publishing app to create brochures, newsletters, flyers, and greeting cards. (There are, of course, great third party tools, such as Lucidpress.)

However if you are willing to get a little creative, Google Drawings can serve as a good option for some desktop publishing needs. Google Drawings is a very flexible program, allowing you to add text boxes, wordart, images, shapes, and more, to any part of the Drawing, and at any angle, much like a desktop publishing program would.

One such project you can achieve with Google Drawings is creating a poster.

To try this out, I recently used Google Drawings to make a chemistry-themed poster that could be displayed in a Science classroom. See below for some tips and tricks on how to use Drawings to make a poster, as well as download links to get your own copy of the Chemistry poster for your classroom or your science-teaching colleagues.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

6 Ways to Write Bad Gmails

Over the years Google has improved and expanded Gmail to make it one of the easiest but most powerful email programs in the world. Despite the simplicity and flexibility of Gmail, if you really try hard, you still can use the program poorly.

That's right! It is still within reason that you can misuse this amazing tool so that you stay disorganized, send confusing messages, mishandle attachments, reveal people's personal addresses, display poor judgement, and more.

See below for six ways that you can send bad Gmails, while avoiding all of the tools and options designed to make your life easier.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

You're So Random (with Google Tools)

As educators we like to be well planned, prepared, and organized. However, sometimes it can be good to be a little random.

Randomization can be useful in a classroom in many ways. These may include:

  • Choosing a student at random in a discussion to make sure no one dominates the conversation, and that a diversity of students can express their ideas.
  • Randomly selecting questions or vocab terms for review in class.
  • Randomly generating math problems with a variety of numbers.
  • Randomly generating data to be analyzed, graphed, and explored.
  • Creating random writing prompts for journal entries, stories, poems, and such.

Thankfully there are a wide range of technology tools that can be used to generate random numbers, data, and other information. In this blog post we will explore several Google tools you can use for this purpose.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Learn Math with your Face (and Google Docs)

We all know it is best to learn math by using our hands (interactive stuff) and using our heads (critical thinking). But how about if we also use our faces?

Back when I was teaching middle school math (in technically a different century ... that's sad) we used to do a very hands-on activity to teach unit rates. The students would use rulers to measure a partner's facial features, then put the measurements into unit rates to see how close they were to the Greek Golden Ratio. It was a really fun activity, but definitely one that would benefit from a technology update. (Hint: Middle schoolers plus wooden rulers plus classmates' faces are not always a good mix.)

So, I have updated the activity with the use of Google Docs, webcams, and a digital ruler web app. See below for all the details on how the "Golden Ratio Face" project works, as well as access to all the needed templates and resources.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Video Mash-Ups with Google Slides

Mash-Ups are a fun and popular way to express creativity whether you are combining different styles of music, or art, or memes, or such. Mash-ups can also be educational when the creator uses the two items to explain or express an idea, or for one of the items to complement or expand on the other.

One fun way to students to try this out is by using Google Slides to mash-up videos. Google Slides makes it easy to insert videos from either YouTube or Google Drive. Slides allows you to adjust your video options so that your videos automatically play when the slideshow runs. The end results is a presentation with two videos that play at the same time.

This could be used in several creative projects such as:

  • Adding music or popular songs to famous historical speeches, or science videos, or scenes from story. 
  • Or having one video explain a concept, while the other shows examples or demonstrations of that idea.
  • Or the videos could be used to show contrast, by playing two videos that demonstrate different processes or ideas or time periods or such.

See below for directions on how students can do this activity, along with a free template they can copy and use, as well as an example mash-up to show what a final product might look like.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

My 2017 SC Midlands Google Summit Sessions

I am excited and honored to present at the 2017 SC Midlands Summit Featuring Google for Education in Columbia, SC this June 7th and 8th.

I look forward to this opportunity to see old friends, make new friends, share some ideas, and learn so many new things from others.

Below is a list of sessions I will be presenting at the SC Midlands Google Summit, along with any associated resources. Please feel free to join me for any of these sessions. I look forward to sharing, learning, and chatting with you!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Self-Editing Tools for Student Writing in Google Docs

One of the best features of Google Docs is the ability to share your work with others so they can offer comments and suggestions. As awesome as that is, sometimes a student may not have another person available to provide feedback, and will need to do the editing on their own.

Thankfully there are loads of useful tools that can help students to self-edit their writing, including text-to-speech, grammar checkers, dictionaries, and more. With these resources students can take ownership of the editing process to improve their writing. Even if they can also receive peer feedback, these tools can help student do a majority of the editing on their own.

See below for an overview of each of these tools, how to access and use them, and how they can assist students in the self-editing process.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

What's New in Google - May 2017

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 May 2017 Google User Meeting, along with the meeting agenda and all the awesome resources and Google Apps updates from the last month. This includes 21 new Google updates and 27 Google resources for your class.

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
The video from the meeting is recorded and available for later viewing for those who cannot attend or connect live. See below to view the recorded video, agenda, and all the resources from the May 2017 meeting:

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Making Google Searches more Personal

Out of everything Google is known for, its search engine is most likely at the top of the list. We use Google many times every day to search the entire Internet for answers to our queries. But what if the answer is not located in the far reaches of the world? What if what you are looking for is right under your nose?

Recently Google has added a new advanced filter to its search that allows you to run "Personal" searches. This means rather than searching the entire world, you can just search your own data, such as your calendar, your images, your email, and more.

This can be a quick and easy way to find personal files or information across many of Google services, all from one place. See below for details on how to take advantage of this new "Personal" search option.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

6 End-Of-Year Google Classroom Clean-up Tips

As the school year winds down, most teachers go through some sort of check-out procedure for their physical classrooms, making sure everything is properly organized or put away for the summer. In much the same way, you may want to do some clean-up and close-out steps for your digital classroom ... Google Classroom.

Google Classroom is a powerful tool to help you and your students collaborate and communicate, but when used year after year, it can start to become a bit of a mess and a management challenge. To help with this, there are several suggestions to consider for Classroom when wrapping up the school year.

See below for six steps that may help you clean up your Classroom as you transition from one school year to the next. However, keep in mind these are all just suggestions and each is optional. While some may not apply to your situation, hopefully several will assist you in keeping your Classroom organized, clutter-free, and efficient for a new year.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

30 Free Google Drawings Graphic Organizers

Several years ago when I started making webinars, my first one was on creating Graphic Organizers with Google Drawings. This was before I had started the this blog, so I never really shared all of that information in an official blog post. Until now...

Graphic organizers are a great tool to share information, explain a concept, or illustrate a relationship using elements including images, shapes, text, colors, and connecting lines. They can be used in education with any age group or subject area.

There are many excellent tools for creating graphic organizers. Some are installable programs, while others are online. Some are free, while other cost money. Educators and students should be encouraged to try out many different tools to determine what works best for them and for specific situations.

However, one great choice for graphic organizers is Google Drawings. See below for directions on how to create graphic organizers with Google Drawings (including a help guide and a recorded webinar) as well as 30 free sample graphic organizers that you can copy, use, and modify as needed.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Create your own Lit Trips (and more) for Google Earth

Recently I shared a blog post on how to use Google Lit Trips in the new web-based Google Earth. Lit Trips are a great way to put students in a story, helping them see where the events took place, and bring the story to life.

In addition to just using Lit Trips, you (and your students) can also create your own tours for Google Earth. This can be a powerful learning tool, or a way for students to collect and share what they have read. Of course, beyond just Lit Trips, students can create Google Earth tours for any subject including documenting the key locations and details in a historical battle, visiting different biomes, a tour of geometric architecture, and more.

There are lots of tools that can be used to create a Lit Trip or other Google Earth tour. Whatever tool you use, the final product will need to be a .KML or .KMZ file that will then be opened in Google Earth. In my opinion, one of the best tools for creating Lit Trips (or other tours) is Google Tour Builder.

In this blog post we will take a look at how to use Google Tour Builder to create you own Lit Trip. See below for detailed directions on the process.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

My 2017 ITIP Google Summit Sessions

I am excited and honored to once again present at the 2017 ITIP Ohio Summit Featuring Google for Education in Sandusky this May 1st and 2nd.

I always look forward to this opportunity to see old friends, make new friends, share some ideas, and learn so many new things from others.

Below is a list of sessions I will be presenting at the ITIP Google Summit, along with any associated resources. Please feel free to join me for any of these sessions. I look forward to sharing, learning, and chatting with you!

What's New in Google - April 2017

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 April 2017 Google User Meeting, along with the meeting agenda and all the awesome resources and Google Apps updates from the last month. This includes 18 new Google updates and 29 Google resources for your class.

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
The video from the meeting is recorded and available for later viewing for those who cannot attend or connect live. See below to view the recorded video, agenda, and all the resources from the April 2017 meeting:

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Creative Google Slides Uses for Students

We all know Google Slides is an excellent multimedia presentation tool. But it can be so much more than that. There are many non-traditional ways students can use Google Slides for learning, creating, and expressing their understanding.

I recently had the privilege and pleasure of joining Thomas Rup and Eric Lawson for a YouTube Live event to discuss "Souped-Up Slides". Thomas is the Network Administrator and Eric is the Director of Technology & Libraries for the York School Department in York, Maine. Together they are "The Blended EdTech Guys" and they create and share educational technology videos that are just as funny as they are informative.

See below for the recorded video where we talk about loads of creative ways students can use Google Slides, as well as other tech topics that came up in the process. You will also find links to all of the resources discussed.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Lit Trips on Chromebooks with the New Google Earth

Google Lit Trips have been a popular learning activity for many years. With the new version of Google Earth, they are now available for Chromebooks!

If you are not familiar with them, a Lit Trip plots locations from a novel on Google Earth to create a 3D geographic tour of the story. At each location the Lit Trip can also include annotations, web links, images, videos, activities, and more, all related to that part of the story. This is a great way to put students in the story, helping them see where the events took place, and bring the story to life.

Lit Trips run in Google Earth, so unfortunately for years this has meant you could not run them on a Chromebook. Google Earth has always needed to be installed on a traditional computer, such as a Mac or PC.

However, Google has now released their new version of Earth which runs entirely inside of your Chrome web browser. This means Chromebooks can now run Google Earth, and take advantage of awesome activities such as Lit Trips.

See below for a brief video explaining how to do this, along with written directions and links.

Update: If you are interested in having you or your students create your own Lit Trips (or other tours), see my new blog post: Create your own Lit Trips (and more) for Google Earth

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Pattern Block Templates and Activities with Google Drawings

Pattern Blocks are popular math manipulatives that seem to have been around forever (at least they were around when I started teaching math 25 years ago.) The standard set includes:
  • Yellow hexagons
  • Red trapezoids
  • Blue thick rhombi
  • Tan thin rhombi
  • Green triangles
  • Orange squares

There are loads of fun learning activities that can be done with pattern blocks, including exploration of symmetry, fractions, tessellations, angles, and more. Pattern blocks can also be used outside of math for creativity, art, writing, and such.

As useful as pattern blocks are, the physical versions have a few drawbacks:
  • They cost money to buy.
  • You will always have a limited amount.
  • They can get lost.

One alternative is to use digital pattern blocks. Although there is nothing quite like handling the plastic blocks in real life, students can still do loads of activities with the virtual version.

To help with this, I have created a free Google Drawings template with virtual pattern blocks. In addition to the blank template, I have also made several sample activities to show some ideas for how these could be used. See below to get more details and to get your own copies of all these resources.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Using Google AutoDraw for Sketchnotes, Infographics, Drawings, and More

A while back, Google launched a fun tool called "Quick Draw" where you drew pictures on your computer or device, and Google's AI tried to guess what you were drawing.

Well it turns out that wasn't just a game, but was a way for Google to test out and improve the ability of its artificial intelligence to interpret doodles. One of the first applications of this has now been released in the form of AutoDraw.

AutoDraw is a very simple and easy to use drawing tool, with most of the normal features such as drawing, filling colors, resizing, adding text, and more. However, there is one big twist. AutoDraw includes Google's artificial intelligence to help you draw by taking your squiggles and doodles, and offering to replace them with professional images.

Can't draw a dog? If you can sort of doodle a poodle, AutoDraw will try to recognize what you drew and let you replace your questionable canine with a cute clipart version.

See below for more details about AutoDraw and how it works, as well as ideas for how teachers and students could use this tool for creating and learning.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Create Cloze Reading Activities with Google Sheets and Other Tools

A "Cloze Test" is a reading activity where a student is given a reading passage with certain words removed. Sometimes the student is also provided with a word bank, listing the missing words, while other times they are not. The task is for the student to fill in the missing words.

This is a great activity to help the student develop reading comprehension skills. It is necessary for the student to read the passage carefully and consider the context to try to determine what words would best fill in the blanks. This also helps develop and assess the student's understanding of parts of speech and vocabulary.

There are a lot of pre-made cloze activities and worksheets to be found, but what can be really useful is the ability to create these yourself. This will allow you to select your own reading passages that may be a better match for your students' reading levels and interests.

Thankfully there are several free online tools you can use to generate your own cloze activities. These include websites, and even a Google Sheets template. See below for details on these tools and how to use them.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Stop Motion Animation with Google Slides

I have always been a giant fan of stop motion animation. As a child I grew up on "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "The Year Without a Santa Claus". In more recent years I have enjoyed "The Nightmare Before Christmas", "Fantastic Mr. Fox", and "Kubo and the Two Strings".

As much as I enjoy watching stop motion movies, it can also be fun to create your own. With technology there are many programs and apps to make the process much easier, so that anyone can make a stop motion animation.

One easy tool to use for this is Google Slides. Many times we think of Slides as just a program for creating multimedia presentations. However, with just a few tricks you and your students can actually use Google Slides to make stop motion movies.

This can be a creative and fun way to:
  • Tell a new story
  • Retell a story read in class
  • Reenact a historical event
  • Demonstrate a scientific concept
  • Explain how to solve a math problem
  • Define a vocabulary term
  • And much more
See below for examples of stop motion animations with Google Slides, as well as detailed directions on how to make your own.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

What's New in Google - March 2017

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 March 2017 Google User Meeting, along with the meeting agenda and all the awesome resources and Google Apps updates from the last month. This includes 17 new Google updates and 25 Google resources for your class.

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
The video from the meeting is recorded and available for later viewing for those who cannot attend or connect live. See below to view the recorded video, agenda, and all the resources from the March 2017 meeting:

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

How to Show Non-Printing Characters in Google Docs

I recently received a question about how to show non-printing characters in Google Docs. This is a feature in Microsoft Word that can be very helpful when editing a document.

These characters could include:
  • Spaces
  • Tabs
  • Paragraphs marks
  • Tables without borders
  • Page breaks

Sometimes the text or alignment a document is "acting funny" because there are non-printing characters and elements that can't be seen but are affecting the layout of the page.

In Microsoft Word you can turn on this feature to temporarily display these normally invisible characters. When you can see the spaces and paragraph marks and tabs, sometimes that can help you to find the problem in the document, such as a hidden table or a long string of spaces.

Unfortunately this is one of the few Word features that is not natively included in Google Docs. Thankfully though there is a Google Docs add-on that can replicate this feature pretty well, at least until Google officially adds this to Docs. See below for details on how to use this helpful add-on.

Check Out the "Check This Out" Podcast

Podcasts are one of my favorite ways to stay up to date on the latest educational technology news, resources, and ideas. I can listen to them when driving, mowing the lawn, or exercising (if/when that actually happens).

Currently I subscribe to dozens of EdTech podcasts, but one of my favorites is the "Check This Out" podcast by Brian Briggs and Ryan O'Donnell. They do a fantastic job of sharing creative ways to use technology in schools, while always making the podcasts fun to listen to.

Recently I had the honor and pleasure of being a guest on episode 60 of the podcast. It was a great opportunity to chat with the guys about creative uses for Google tools (of course) as well as other ways to stay caught up on EdTech ideas and resources.

You can listen to the recording here: Check This Out Episode 60

You can also access the show notes with all the links and resources discussed in the episode here: Google Docs Show Notes

While you are at it, be sure to subscribe to the podcast to never miss an episode (and even catch up on older ones)
Thanks again so much to Brian and Ryan for having me on!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Equatio: Yes You Can Type Math and Science in Google Docs and Forms!

As a previous math teacher, I have a soft spot for the pains teachers and students can feel when trying to use math symbols and expressions in technology. The same thing can be said in science when typing chemical formulas. Technology seems to play best with normal letters and numbers, rather than exponents, subscripts, fractions, and such.

Although there are many tools to help address these issues, one I have often recommended has been g(Math). This is an add-on for Google Docs, Sheets, and Forms, that provides a variety of ways to enter and insert mathematical expressions into these files.

Recently I found out that g(Math) is getting an upgrade with a new name, new features, and new format! The new version is called Equatio and it makes it easier than ever to write with math and science symbols in Google Docs and Forms. Rather than being an add-on, this version of the tool is actually a Chrome extension, meaning eventually it will be able to work in many apps beyond just Docs and Forms.

Update: This new version launched April 4, 2017, and you can see below for an overview of this new tool complete with detailed directions, screenshots, and animations.

Best Google April Fools Videos

Each year Google releases a new set of prank videos for April Fools Day. I always look forward to these videos as they are so well produced and poke fun at current trends and technology and even at Google itself. Even better though, they provide more professional development materials for me.

Here's what I mean…

Technology training can be challenging for novices as well as seasoned users. There is a lot of content to cover and new features to learn. Depending on the school, organization, or event, the training may also last a long time, from a full day inservice to a 5-day bootcamp.

During any professional development training it is important to break things up, add some variety, and most importantly have some fun and laugh. Google's April Fools videos are perfect for that! As often as I can I try to insert one or more videos into the PD session depending on which ones relate to the content we are learning.

These videos can also be great for your next training session, or staff meeting, or technology instruction for your students, or even as examples of parody videos for your language arts or media classes.

Thankfully Google keeps producing new videos each year to add to this collection. I can't wait to see what they have made for us this time! In the meantime, see below for my top 20 favorite Google April Fools videos (in no particular order) and the PD topics they best relate to. Hopefully you can use these yourself to make your next teaching or learning experience more engaging.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Hipster Google - Google Tools You Probably Never Heard Of

Google is well know for certain tools and services - Search, Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Docs, Slides, Sheets, Maps, Chrome, and such. These are all powerful and useful tools that are transforming teaching and learning in schools around the world.

However, in addition to those tools, Google has also created a wide range of services, apps, extensions, features, and other tools that are not as well known. Even though these tools may not be as popular or as widely known, they are still very useful in school settings.

These are the "Hipster Google" tools.

In our culture, one of the defining characteristics of the hipster movement is to appreciate things that are not mainstream, to use services that are not well known, or to embrace something before it becomes popular among the masses. With that thought in mind, I have collected a list of tools from Google that the average person may not know about yet.

Of course with any such list, there will be some tools that you do know, but hopefully you will pick up a few new ideas and resources from the bunch. And of course simply by sharing this blog post I am potentially making these tools more well known.

Below you will find my 1-hour recorded webinar covering each of the tools, as well as the session slideshow, and a write-up for each tool with a description and related links. So, jump on them now while it is still cool to say you used these before they were popular!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Black Out Poetry with Google Docs

March 21st is World Poetry Day, so this is a good time to revisit some ideas for creative ways for students to write poems. In the past I have shared activities for Random Writing Prompts for Poems, as well as drag-and-drop "magnetic" poetry templates in a Winter Theme and a Valentine's Day Theme.

Another fun way to engage students in poetry is by having them create "Black Out" poems. Basically you give the student a page of text pulled from a book, article, websites, or such. The student then blacks out all of the text, except for the words they want to leave behind to form a poem. This can be helpful for students struggling to write a poem, since they do not need to come up with any words of their own, but instead are working within a set collection of available words and in a particular order.

A lot of times you see this activity done with physical paper and big black markers. However, "Black Out Poetry" works great in a digital format. Using Google Docs and a few simple tricks, students can easily create and share their poems. See below for detailed directions on how to do this, including a short tutorial video and a step-by-step example.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Using Google Keep for Grading Comments in Docs

One of the great features of Google Docs is the ability to leave comments in the margin. This is a useful way to provide helpful feedback to students when grading their work. You can offer suggestions, point out areas that need correction, highlight great work, and even provide links to additional resources or videos.

As great as that is, one of the challenges has been getting easy access to your list of comments. Over time, you may have collected quite a large list of often used comments. Rather than have to type them in each time, it would be much easier if you could simply pull up the list and copy and paste the comments you need.

Certainly there are creative ways to accomplish this, such as having another Google Doc with all the comments listed, and then switching back and forth between that Doc and the one you are grading.

Thankfully though there is now an even easier way to do this. Recently Google announced that Google Keep is now integrated right into Google Docs. That means anything you record in Keep can easily be accessed in a panel in Docs. This can be an easy way to organize all of your comments in Keep, pull them up when in Docs, and copy and paste the ones you need.

See below for details on how to do each step of this process, as well as a short tutorial video.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

What's New in Google - February 2017

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

Each month we usually hold a meeting of the Google Educator Group of Ohio where we go through all the latest Google Apps updates and other helpful resources. In February we did not have our normal meeting, since we had a social meetup at the OETC conference instead.

However, I still thought it would be useful to share all of the latest updates and resources. See below for a list of everything new in Google for the last month. This includes 24 new Google updates and 41 Google resources for your class.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

"One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" Sorting with Google Slides

With the birthday of Dr. Seuss coming up this week (March 2nd) millions of children will be doing activities related to many of his wonderful books. I have always been a fan of Dr. Seuss' work, having read his books more times than I can remember to my four kids.

At my wife's school they are highlighting one book each day, with projects tied to the book of the day. In preparation for the week, she asked if I could help out with some technology ideas for some of the activities.

I was more than happy to connect my love of Dr. Seuss with technology! For the first day this week the book will be "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish." As we thought about the book, we decided a fun related activity may be using a graphic organizer to sort fish based on their characteristics.

To do this we created a Google Slides template. Some of the slides have students dragging fish into Venn Diagram bubbles based on characteristics, and other slides have the fish already in the bubbles so that the students need to figure out what rules have been used.

See below to get your own copy of the "One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish Sorting Template", as well as detailed directions on how it can be used.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Have Students Create Educational "Motivational Posters" with Google Drawings

We are all familiar with motivational posters. They typically have a black background, one large image at the top, then a word or short phrase in large type below it, and finally a short inspirational sentence at the bottom. These motivational posters have been around for decades, and most likely can still be found in the classrooms, libraries, and offices of your schools.

However, beyond just providing some encouragement to students, motivational posters can actually be used as a fun and educational activity. With some simple technology tools, students can create and share their own motivational posters. These creations can be used to show students learning and understanding of any concept being taught in your subject.

See below for some free templates, directions on how students can create the posters, and ideas for how this activity can be used in your class.

Monday, February 13, 2017

My OETC 2017 Sessions

I am excited and honored to once again present at the Ohio Educational Technology Conference (OETC 2017) in Columbus this February 14th through 16th.

I always look forward to this opportunity to see old friends, make new friends, share some ideas, and learn so many new things from others.

Below is a list of sessions I will be presenting at OETC 2017, along with any associated resources. Please feel free to join me for any of these sessions. I look forward to sharing, learning, and chatting with you!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Spreadsheet Activities for all Subjects

Spreadsheets are often thought of as a tool for math or statistics. Something just for crunching numbers and making graphs. Although those are excellent uses for spreadsheets, there are so many other ways they can be used for teaching and learning in all subject areas.

Recently I did a webinar where we took a look at five main ways that spreadsheets can be used by students. There are certainly more uses than five, but these activities provide a nice variety to show how spreadsheets can apply to a wide range of subjects. The five activities include:
  1. Random Generators
  2. Educational Games
  3. Pixel Art
  4. Learning Databases
  5. Analyzing Data

For each of these examples I demonstrated how to do these activities with Google Sheets, although you can accomplish the same activities with Microsoft Excel or other modern spreadsheet program.

See below for the full video, as well as links to additional resources for each of the activities.

Friday, February 10, 2017

50 Fabulous EdTech Blogs to Follow

One of my main sources for new educational technology ideas, tools, and resources is reading blogs. Every day is an adventure to see what new technology integration ideas I can learn, explore, and share with others.

Over the years I have collected a large list of EdTech blogs that I read. To make this process manageable, I use Feedly to pull all of the blog posts together so I can visit one single location to see everything that is new. For more details on how to use Feedly, see my earlier post on the topic.

In case you are looking for some new EdTech blogs to follow, below is a list of 50 of my favorites. Two quick notes of clarification first though:

First, the blogs are simply listed in alphabetical order. Some of the blogs are very well known, while others have a smaller following. Some generate new posts every day, while others only add new content a few times per month. The one shared characteristic of all of these blogs is I have found them to be valuable and have learned from each one. To keep things simple, the list is alphabetized.

Second, the list is far from complete. I am sure I am missing many, many excellent EdTech blogs … and I want you to let me know what I am missing! As much I hope to expand your PLN, I am also hoping to learn about many other blogs. Please use the comments section below to recommend any valuable educational technology blogs that you are aware of.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Have Students Build Learning Databases with Google Sheets

Google Sheets is an amazingly flexible tool, allowing you to randomly generate writing prompts, create pixel art, and discover mathematical properties. Another great use for Google Sheets is for students to create interactive learning databases.

"What exactly is that?" you ask.

Here's the idea. While in your class, students have to process a large amount of data. Maybe it is:
  • Characters in the novel they are reading
  • Animals in their elementary science class
  • Careers they are exploring in high school
  • Countries of the world they are studying
  • Artists and the works they created
  • Properties of geometric shapes
Using Google Sheets your students can
  • Collect important details as they are learning, and build their own database of information, either individually or collaboratively. 
  • Once complete, students can use the sorting and filtering features in Sheets to answer questions about the content they have been learning.
See below for several examples from a variety of subject areas, as well as directions on how to build these spreadsheet learning databases and use the sorting and filtering tools.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Pixel Art Activities for any Subject with Google Sheets

Growing up with video games in the 70's and 80's, I was well aware of pixels. When video games first started out, the screen resolution was so low that all your game characters and items were made of big blocky squares called pixels. With some imagination we could see a jumping plumber or a flying spaceship in those 8x8 or 16x16 grids of colored dots.

Today video games are so hyper-realistic that you can't tell if you are watching a real-life video or a computer simulation. However, everything old is new again, so there has been a resurgence of love for retro-games and their nostalgic pixelated style.

And so we have "Pixel Art" which is making images out of a small grid with limited number of colors. As with any creative activity, pixel art can have many applications for education. Lots of educators have created pixel art templates and activities including Alice Keeler here and here and here and Patrick Johnson here.

In this blog post you can get a copy of a free 20-color pixel art template I have created for Google Sheets which includes several built-in activities. We will also look at directions for how to use and modify the template as needed for a variety of activities.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Creating Fractions in Google Slides and Drawings

As a previous math teacher I always have a soft spot for the challenges faced when trying to use technology in math. A common pain point involves trying to put fractions or mixed numbers into a Google Doc or Slideshow or such.

Adding normal text, numbers, and symbols is a snap. However, things become tricky when attempting to properly represent a numerator over a denominator in a program that only wants you to type from left to right.

Thankfully for Google Docs and Google Forms you can use an add-on such as g(Math) which will let you create a fraction or mixed number, and then turn that into an image that you can add to the Doc or Form. Get g(Math) for Docs or g(Math) for Forms.

Unfortunately, Google Slides and Drawings do not support add-ons yet (please Google!). So if you want to add a fraction or mixed number to a slideshow presentation or a Drawing diagram, you will need to get a little creative.

One option is to use tables, with a little twist. See below for directions on how to do this, as well as a free template with lots of pre-made fractions and mixed numbers that you can copy, paste, and edit as needed.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Valentines Magnetic Poetry with Google Drawings

Valentine's Day is just a couple weeks away, so what better time to have your students work on their creative writing skills with a Valentine-themed writing activity.

Back in December I shared a Google Drawing template for students to create winter-themed drag-and-drop "magnetic" poetry. You can access that template here: Wintertime Magnetic Poetry with Google Drawings

This time I have updated the template for Valentine's Day. Just like before, doing this activity with technology such as Google Drawings provides many benefits:
  • No limit on the quantity of words provided. Just copy and paste more of them as needed.
  • Great tech skills practice with dragging and dropping and copying and pasting.
  • Ability to edit the words provided if needed.
  • Ability to add your own words.
  • Easy collaboration with others.
  • Easy to share or download your final creation.
  • No pieces to get lost.
  • It’s free!
See below to get your free copy of the Valentines Magnetic Poetry template to use with your students (or yourself) however you want, as well as directions on how to use it.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Triple Differentiation in Google Classroom - Beginning, Middle, and End

Choice is a wonderful thing. We all love choice in our daily lives from what clothes you dressed in this morning, to what food you ate for lunch today, to what entertainment you will enjoy tonight.

What is true in our personal lives is also true for learning in schools.

I have four children of my own, and each one thinks, learns, struggles, and succeeds differently. As educators, rather than trying to force all children in a preset mold, we need to meet them where they are, accommodate for their struggles, tap into their interests, and help them grow as best as they can.

Thankfully technology can provide some assistance with this daunting task. One particular tool that can help us and our students is Google Classroom. With Google Classroom we can differentiate our students' learning at each step of a project:

  • Beginning - Who the students are
  • Middle - How the students learn
  • End - What the students make

See below for details on how to use Classroom to differentiate at each of these steps through the beginning, middle, and end of a learning activity.

Friday, January 27, 2017

4 Fun Literacy Activities with Google Docs

Google Docs is a great word processor, but is much more than just that. Although we can certainly use it to type up a report, take notes, or write a story, we can also get creative with the features and functions built into the program to make some fun learning activities.

Recently I did a video training webinar where I took a look at four creative ways to use regular Google Docs features in new fun ways to practice and develop literacy skills. These include:

  • The highlighting tool for the activity "Improve Reading Comprehension with Google Docs Black Out"
  • The special characters tool for the activity "Emoji Learning Activities with Google Docs"
  • The word count tool for the activity "Have Students Write Better by Writing Less with Google Docs"
  • The header tool and hyperlink tool for the activity "Choose Your Own Adventure Stories with Google Docs"

See below for the full 1-hour training video, as well as resources, ideas, and templates for each of the four activities.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Use Timestamps to make your YouTube Videos Better

When it comes to making a video engaging, most everyone will agree that shorter is better than longer. Like it or not, most of us have short attention spans and a long list of things we need to do.

However, sometimes videos are simply not going to be short. For example:
  • I do periodic video webinars that are one hour long each. The reason for the length is so I can provide a thorough, detailed exploration of a topic, rather than just a quick overview. I also provide certificates of attendance for educators to turn into their schools, and one-hour increments work well for that purpose. You can access all my recorded webinars here: Eric's webinars
  • I also host monthly Google User Group meetings as a video Hangout On Air. These recordings end up being about two hours long because we are covering all the new updates from Google over the last month, and questions participants have, and a load of practical ideas and resources for using G Suite in schools. You can see the most recent video here: What's New in Google - January 2017 and all of the past videos here: Google User Group Playlist
So in an age of instant messages, snapchats, and short tweets, how can I possibly expect someone to watch a two hour video?

Well, I don't. Instead I use YouTube timestamps, a simple, but often overlooked, feature in YouTube to help people see a list of all the topics in the video and jump to just the parts they want. See below for how easy and helpful it is to add timestamps to your YouTube videos.

Monday, January 23, 2017

What's New in Google - January 2017

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 January 2017 Google User Meeting, along with the meeting agenda and all the awesome resources and Google Apps updates from the last month. This includes 15 new Google updates and 27 Google resources for your class.

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
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, agenda, and all the resources from the January 2017 meeting:

Saturday, January 21, 2017

5 Emoji Learning Activities with Google Docs

A while back I did a blog post on the "Emoji Random Writing Prompt Generator" I had created with Google Sheets. Basically the sheet randomly selected a set of emojis that the student could use as inspiration for writing a story, poem, or such. With a simple reload, a new random set would be produced. You can see the post and get your own copy of the template here: Emoji Random Writing Prompt Generator

In this post we are going to dive deeper into creative ways to use emojis in Google Docs beyond just writing prompts. As mentioned in my previous post, emojis are a great tool to use in student learning activities for many reasons:
  • Since emojis are images, they can be used with students of any age, language, or reading ability.
  • Also since they are images, they can provide and represent a wide range of ideas since each student will have their own interpretations of the pictures.
  • Emojis are very popular with students, so they will likely have familiarity with the images.
  • They are fun!
See below for details on how you can insert emojis into Google Docs, and five fun ideas for learning activities the involve emojis.

Note: Emojis appear differently on different operating systems. Because of this, the images may not look the same on every device. If you are using any modern computer or device (Chromebook, Android, iOS, Mac OS, Windows), the emojis should display well. However if you are using an older version of Windows earlier than Windows 8.1, the emojis do not appear in color and many may be missing.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Make Sequencing Questions with Google Forms

Google Forms is a great tool for assessments, and it provides a wide range of question types, including multiple choice, checkboxes, short answer, and more.

However, it is becoming common for our students to see high-stakes online assessments with more advanced question types, such as drag and drop, hotspots, and ordering items. Unfortunately Google Forms does not support these more interactive types of questions yet.

However, if we get creative with some of the features in Google Forms, there is a way to do ordering or sequencing type problems. These types of questions have students put randomized items in the proper order, such as dates of historical events, stages in a science process, parts of a story, and more.

In this blog post we will take a look at how to create a randomized sequencing question using just Google Forms with written directions and a short tutorial video. We will also try out several examples to see what the end result would look like.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Solving Story Problems with the Highlight Tool Add-on for Docs

If Bob leaves at Noon on a west-bound train traveling 60 miles per hour, and Mary leaves at 1pm on an east-bound train traveling 70 miles per hour, how many minutes will it take before you suffer a math induced panic attack?

If solving story problems brings back grade school anxiety, you are certainly not alone. Many students struggle with word problems. Such problems are more challenging because they require skills higher on Bloom’s Taxonomy, including evaluating, analyzing, and creating. We may feel comfortable (relatively speaking) with math when simply given an expression to evaluate, but it can be quite a bit more difficult to decide what is important, determine relationships, see what is missing, and construct a plan to solve a problem.

A while back I did a blog post on "Highlight Tool", an add-on for Google Docs that allows you to assign meaning to colors with which you can highlight text in your document. In that example I primarily applied the tool to language arts situations. See here for that blog post.

In this blog post we will look at the same tool, but this time see how colored highlighting can help student solve mathematical story problems. See below for details.

Friday, January 13, 2017

7 Super Screencasting Activities for School

Screencasting tools are a popular option for use in schools. At their most basic they allow you to record a video of what is on your computer screen, along with your voice, and depending on the program perhaps your webcam as well. Some may go further to provide you with annotation tools to write on or highlight portions of the screen while recording.

There are many tools and programs that can be used for screencasting, and better yet, there are many ways for students and educators to use such tools for teaching and learning.

In this blog post we are going to take a look at seven creative activities that can be done with screencasting. Although these activities can likely be done with many of the common screencasting tools available, for the demonstrations I have included here I will be using the free Screencastify Chrome web extension.

See below for a detailed tutorial video as well as seven examples of how your students and you can spice up learning with screencasting!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Have Students Write Better by Writing Less with Google Docs

Certainly one of our goals as educators is for students to write more. However, that does not necessarily mean to write more words. Quite the opposite, there are actually several benefits that come from having our student write fewer words.

By that what I mean is having students distill their ideas down to just the most important, relevant, clear, and concise words. By putting limits on the number of words or characters our students can use, this forces students to:

  • Summarize key points
  • Select what is most important
  • Choose words that best convey meaning
  • Restate concepts
  • Avoid unnecessary filler and fluff

In this blog post we will take a look at how students can use the "Word Count" tool in Google Docs to easily check the amount of words and/or characters they have written. This can be used for writing activities where you put a limit on how long the students’ writing can be. See below for details and directions.

And I will try to keep it short. As Shakespeare said, "Brevity is the soul of wit."

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Video Dubbing Learning Activities for Students

When I was a kid, we used to find creative ways to keep ourselves entertained. One of our favorites was the Dubbing Game. Basically we would turn on the TV, find a good show, and then turn off the volume. Then we would make up new lines for the characters on TV (bonus points for using funny voices). I am sure we thought it was much funnier than it really was.

As an adult, I have seen the same idea done on the show “Whose Line is it Anyway?” where they play the improv game called “Film Dub”. (I am sure they are much funnier than we ever were.)

Although dubbing a video can be a great source of entertainment, it actually can be very educational as well. There are quite a few learning activities for students when they take a video, remove the original audio, and add their own narration.

See the rest of the blog post below for ideas on how video dubbing can be used for student learning and creativity, and a free and simple technology tool they can use to create the dubbed videos.