Archive for the ‘Technology Integration’ Category

Why Google Apps?

I mentioned in my last post about my current love affair with Google Apps for Education. Before I go any further, I thought I should share with you what this is and why it is great for teaching and learning. If you are already on the bandwagon, have a great day and look for my next post.


Google Apps for Education is a suite of cloud computing apps that include word-processing (Docs), spreadsheets (Spreadsheet) , a presentation software (Presentation) , and a website creation capability (Google Sites) that are all contained in “the cloud” instead of on a local machine at school or home.

Why is this a big deal?

  • If the software is in “the cloud” there are no more compatibility issues with work happening at school and at home – no worry about what version of PowerPoint the child has or if they have Word, but not Excel, etc. If they can connect to the internet, they have access to the same software they were using in class.
  • If the work is in “the cloud” there are no more issues with “I left it at school” or “I left it at home” or flash drives that may or may not work or file compatibility. If the work is in “the cloud” it is always accessible any time an internet connection is available.
  • Google Apps for Education is cross platform – which means that it doesn’t matter if you are working on a PC or a Mac, an iPad or an Android tablet – Google Apps is accessible across all devices.
  • Google Apps is free. Your school or district may have already set up accounts for your students, and if it hasn’t, suggest it to them!

Still with me? All of these things are awesome, it is true, but that is not what really makes Google Apps special. What makes it special is how it allows students to collaborate and how it makes feedback from peers and teachers easier and more direct.

For example:

  • For peer conferencing, students share their Google Doc with another student and they leave written comments for each other embedded in the text. Student can highlight awkward or unclear sentences to point out or make suggestions. The teacher then has access to every comment made within the text.
  • Teachers can insert feedback where it is needed in clear typed notes – pointing out grammatical errors, or highlighting words that would benefit from stronger word choice, or whatever writing skill is the focus of the piece.
  • The teacher has access to the document without physically picking it up, so comments can be made on works in progress.
  • Comments can be made via your iPad, laptop, or desktop computer without taking stacks of papers home to assess.
  • In my experience, students are much more likely to revise typed work versus handwritten work. It allows students to focus on the revision versus the sometimes laborious task of rewriting an entire assignment.

In short, these are some of the reasons I love working with Google Apps, and in my next few posts will be focusing on how I use Google Apps for Ed in the classroom. My first experiment was in using shared folders, which I wrote about here.


Working with Google Docs

Edited to add this note: If you are new to the idea of Google Apps, you may be interested in this introductory post.

It all started a couple of weeks ago when I came across this image on Pinterest:

Google Workflow for Blog

My district is going 1:1 iPads in grades 3-5 next year, so I was searching for ways to go paperless. I am a leap in and try it out kind of girl, so I immediately implemented this as a way to keep our electronic work for War Horse and World War I organized. These are my thoughts two weeks later.

1) Google Apps is so much easier to manage than Edmodo.

I can access their folders anytime, make comments, and students can revise their work. I like being able to pull up their folder with all of their assignments, versus having to go into each individual assignment in Edmodo. Edmodo is still useful for student communication and a classroom hub for this year, but I think next year I will be all Google all the time.

2) The folder works as a portfolio.

I really love being able to see all their work for the unit in one place. I can easily click on a previous assignment to see if they are making the same mistakes or to monitor their growth. When I used Google Forms to have them reflect on the unit, it was really great for them to access their first assignments to compare their writing with their later assignments and they recognized the growth they had made. Powerful. Next year, I think I will have them create folders for each of the main categories of the Common Core Standards so that they can track their progress all year.

3) Feedback rocks!

I love being able to comment directly in their paper at the point where I notice the “glow or grow” area. Students can easily read my comments because they are typed and they don’t have to struggle with “squished” notes in the margins. I allowed my students to revise their work, and had them change the name of the document to “revised” if they wanted me to look at it again. Since their work was typed already and easily accessible, several students are actually revising their work!

This experience has led me to more advanced ways of using Google Docs. I will be experimenting this week with adding a script called Doctopus – something that will automate the file creation process and then using another script called Goobric, which will attach a rubric into the document that you are grading. If you are currently using Google Docs, and want to take it to the next level, please do an internet search for these scripts. Teachers are generous, and there are many videos and “how to” pdfs online.

Wish me luck!

Edmodo – My Class Online

Edmodo is an amazing service, and it is free. I’m going to write in this post how I am using Edmodo in my classroom as you can easily Google it to find out anything else.

Assignments: Every assignment I give is on Edmodo. You can actually assign tasks to individual students or whole groups. You can attach handouts, links, or videos to the assignments – no more lost instructions. Students can comment on the assignment asking for clarification. These assignments then show up in student notifications, and can be turned in online. When I grade them I can use Edmodo’s annotate feature, or I can type feedback directly in to the student’s turned in assignment. They can continue to revise until the assignment is graded.

Calendar: All assignments show up in the student’s calendar, and they are clickable. This has been amazing for parents. Also, you can add dates for quizzes/tests/events. My teaching partner is on Edmodo too, so we can see each other’s assignments and coordinate due dates.

Updates/Announcements/Pictures: I can share what we are doing in class, and I can choose what to make public – Edmodo is a closed, safe environment but you can choose to make certain things public – no more double work on the school webpage. Also, students can interact with this content – asking questions or commenting.

Quizzes – you can create all types of assessments in Edmodo – short answer, fill in the blank, multiple choice. These can be graded within Edmodo and show you at a glance where the class is and where understanding is breaking down.

Parent Involvement: the absolutely best thing about Edmodo is parent communication. Parents receive everything you send the the student – every assignment, every direct message, the calendar, the quizzes – everything.

Slow shift to paperless – my district wants us to become 90 percent paperless in three years. Edmodo has allowed me to start that – I don’t print copies of study guides for the entire class anymore, only those without access to a printer. Edmodo also plays nicely with any Web 2.0 service you use via links or embedding – projects are completed, submitted, and graded online.

Students use Edmodo at school and home, and it is leading my class to a more blended environment.

Website – Build a Sod House Online

Building a Sod House

The above interactivity is part of the OurStory Website, put together by the Smithsonian. You click through a series of questions asking how you to make decisions about building your sod house. You receive feedback about each decision, right or wrong.

It would be great to use on an interactive whiteboard for a whole class activity, or as a link on your website for individual work at school or home.

Making Online Review Games

“Mrs. Gannon, I studied for an hour last night and it was so much fun!!!!!”

No, not sarcasm.
Nope, not a dream.

The student was very happy to play the online review games I created to go along with the test I’m giving next week. They’ve been coming in all week asking if I’m going to put up anymore, and encouraging each other to go my website and play.

The best part? The games are free, and easy to make.

Website 1:

Classtools Flash Cards and Arcades Game

This site offers a very simple interface. You type in question*answer, for as many questions as you want to include. Students can then choose which game to play with the information. This has gotten a big thumbs up from my fifth graders. You can save your game as html or embed in your webpage. You can also password protect your questions so only you can edit them. These are also the people who bring us the fruit machine random name generator that I wrote about in a previous post.

Website 2:

superteachertools who wants to be a millionaire

Each game can hold fifteen multiple choice questions. With this site you can either link to the game you create, or download it and play it with the offline player. I like that it gives practice with the multiple choice format. Fifteen questions also allowed me to target specific topics, so my students could focus where they needed it. This is also fun to play whole class with a Promethean board. There is also a “speed match” and a “jeopardy” flash game, but I haven’t experimented with those yet. The Jeopardy looks like a “whole class” game to me.

Website 3:

Screenshot - Review Game Zone

This is a website I just found tonight, and I will be experimenting with it this weekend. It is free for teachers, but it does require you to register (email and password only) and validate your email address. You type in up to 10 multiple choice questions on a topic and the student can choose from one of six sports theme games.

I have reserved a computer lab for Monday’s class so that all of  my students can review using these games. My hope is that the students who haven’t played them yet will be interested enough to pursue them on their own time.

Do you know of any other online review sites? Please share!

Buehler? . . . Beuhler? . . . Anybody? . . . Better ways to call on students

Susie in the front row has her hand up, as always.
Damian, off to the side, looks like he might actually suffer some sort of injury if you don’t call on him.
Scott is just glad those two have their hands up so he doesn’t have to.

It is a scenario that plays out in classrooms across the country on a daily basis. The same kids put their hands up, and the same kids “check out”.

One way to avoid the scenario completely is to use cooperative learning structures instead. That’s another post.

Another way to avoid this is to use some method of randomly calling on students so that they never know when they are going to be called on – only that at some point, they will.

Traditional Methods of Random Calling

  • Craft/Popsicle Sticks. For each class you teach, write each student’s name on a stick. Keep them in a jar/cup. Choose as needed. I like using the colored sticks for this, because I can give each class a color.
  • Index Cards. On the first day of class, have students fill out index cards with basic information and their names in print letters big on the blank side of the index card. Shuffle the deck, choose as needed. A plus for this is being able to jot down notes on students as you go.
  • Playing Cards. Print out labels with your students names and attach them to playing cards. Shuffle. Choose as needed.

I used to be a big proponent of the craft stick – it just takes up so much room, and writing the names out is so tedious. With the introduction of my Promethean board, I prefer the following techie options. (If you don’t have a smart board of any kind, this still works on a computer. I believe most handhelds (pdas) also have some type of name generator software available.

Techie Ways of Random Calling

  • Super Teacher Tool’s Random Name Generator   –  I really like this one as it makes it easy for you to type in your class list once, and be done with it. The Name Generator is a cute clipboard graphic with the chosen child’s name on it. I made each class page a favorite in the same folder so I can bring up all four pages with one click. You can also use the same class list to generate groups and seating charts.
  • Class tools random
  • Classtool’s Fruit Machine – If you haven’t Classtools they are definately worth a visit. This particular tool allows you to input your class list, and then either use the “fruit machine” which looks like a slot machine to randomly select students or use the typewriter function to do the same. You can either have your kids typed up in a word document and paste in as needed, or you can embed the finished product in your webpage. Thank you, Mrs. Smith for the idea. I teach four classes, so I just embedded four different fruit machines on my page.
  • fruit machine

If you have any other ways of randomly selecting students, please share!

Technology Options – first steps

This week I started rotating my students through the four laptops I have in my classroom during independent work time. I gave them a choice of four simple items – play a review game, participate in compass learning, create a one slide presentation about the four ecological zones around the Niger River, or draw a freehand map of Africa in Paint and show the zones.

This is what I learned:

  • My laptops are slooooooooooooow. No big surprise, I inherited them in the great tech upgrade. Therefore:
  • It would be best to have the first students log on immediately, then go over when it is time.
  • Web options will take longer than program options due to the slowness of the connection. I will also need to consider sending the students to computers out of the room that are faster for some choices.
  • Other reflections:
  • The kids doing it loved it, the kids not doing it were distracted a bit by it, but as they all rotate through I think that will diminish.
  • I will need at least two work periods a week when I can maximise the rotation – 3 a day means it will take 2 weeks to rotate the children through.

It was a simple experiment, but overall I think it worked well. This time I had the students complete the activities as an experiential activity as I was simply testing the method- and I’m wondering if I just want to leave it at that. There are beautiful rubrics on the web, and I’m a pretty good hand at writing them myself, but I gave each child feedback as they completed their option. Must everything be “graded”? As Einstein said “Not everything that matters can be counted.” Hmmm.