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.