Friday, June 23, 2017

EdTechTeam South Dakota Summit in Sioux Falls

If you have not yet been to an EdTechTeam Summit in or near your area, quite simply you do not know what you are missing. I have now been to three Summits and I have enjoyed each of them in their own way and brought so many ideas, tips, tricks, tools, apps, and so many other things back with me for my own use as well as to share with other educators. I attended the Sioux Falls, South Dakota Summit on June 15-16 at Sioux Falls Christian Schools. My friend, Kristin Mulder who is the Technology Integration Director for the school, worked with the EdTechTeam to plan an amazing conference for about 205 attendees. We were honored with some excellent speakers from the EdTechTeam and other local presenters to provide us some tremendous summer tech training.

Our Spotlight Speaker was Dominique Dynes and the other great EdTechTeam speakers were Sandra Chow, Mark Hammons, and Jay Atwood. Mark, Sandra, and Dominique gave the keynotes, each with a wonderful message. While Mark had us rethinking the ‘noise’ of learning in our classroom and why we can’t be so quick to quiet our students, Sandra helped us think about our Solla Sollew and who our JoJo’s are in supporting us in our career and what we do as well as help us with ideas that we want to try in our classrooms. The closing keynote from Dominique Dynes encouraged us to think about our story and the risks we take. Don’t be afraid to take risks and not be afraid to fail. I’m sure many of us have heard the acronym, F.A.I.L. But in case you haven’t yet, it stands for First Attempt In Learning. Dominique asked us to share our stories and risks with the people at our table and tweet them out; it seemed like many people were courageous enough to share their stories and risks.

I attended some great sessions from the presenters. I picked up some great ideas from each presenter, but some of the great ones came from Mark Hammons with some excellent ideas for importing data into Google MyMaps and the additional things students can do. I knew I had to attend the Google CS First session that Sandra facilitated and I walked away with a strong foundation as I prepare my own coding class this coming school year.

At this year’s Sioux Falls Summit, I decided to submit two session proposals, Makerspace Madness and Google Expeditions. I had the honor and privilege to present those sessions to full rooms and some great attendees. I shared some ideas and resources about the makerspace concept and brought a bunch of tech resources to give the attendees plenty of time to play. And play they did! It was quite interesting to see people’s reactions and how they just dove into learning. In my Google Expeditions session, again I shared some ideas and resources as well as went through my own Google Cardboard site (New Google Sites). I brought with me about 32 VR headsets and we had some fun going through the Grand Canyon expedition. People had to share VR headsets so everyone could experience the great thing that is Google Expeditions. Hopefully, in the near future I can present at another Summit.

Attending tech conferences is so much fun! We get to meet other educators who want to learn more, we get to meet up with friends we may only see from time to time, and we get to learn new things and share things with others. What’s not to like about going to them? I often realize there’s a balance I have to find when I attend them. I want to look and listen during a keynote and a session. I also want to crack open my laptop and take some notes or even get my hands on the tool or site that’s being presented. I find that having my phone out with me and toggling back and forth between my camera (to take pics of the projected material) and Google Keep to help me easily and quickly take some good notes, which I can easily go through and import in Google Docs.

If you’ve made it this far, perhaps you can take to Twitter and post your ideas on how you find the right balance to follow along, take notes, and get your hands in the tool you’re learning. If you’re so inclined, let’s use the #geekynotes to share ideas. Be sure to include #edtechteam in there too so we can catch as many people as possible. Thank you for reading!

Chad Sussex
Hinton Community School
Technology Instructor | Technology Coach
GFE Certified Trainer
TheTechSuss website

Want to attend your very own Google Summit? Find one near you here!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

2017 Second Annual DAIS Google Student Summit

Recently, we had the opportunity to attend the Dallastown Area Intermediate School’s Second Annual DELTA Google Summit. Inspired by Kern Kelley’s Tech Sherpas, DELTA is an acronym for Dallastown Emerging Leaders of Technology Association. Each year there is a summit to welcome the newest members to the team. As current sixth grade members of the DELTA Team, we were able to welcome next year’s group since we are moving on to the Middle School.

An excited hush fell over the crowd as Mr. Hartman, one of our teacher advisors, welcomed everyone to the Summit and spoke into the microphone, “It’s a bittersweet day for all of the 200 new and old DELTAs sitting in the auditorium.” We then were greeted by Representative Kristin Phillips-Hill, who came up to the stage and spoke about how technology needs people to make it work. Dr. Dyer, the school’s Superintendent, came up to say that he was very excited to see that Kern Kelley had tweeted that Dallastown Area Intermediate School had won the Google Summit award this time last year. Today, a year later, the old DELTAs will pass down their legacy to the new DELTAs.

After the assembly, the new DELTAs went off to their first class of the Summit. They learned about animation and Google Sites. The student teachers were amazing, and they made the websites so fun and interesting. We could tell that the new DELTAs loved the teachers, and we could see that they were so engaged in learning about the Chromebooks. Walking into another classroom of new DELTAs learning all about Google Earth, I could hear many whispers about where they went or what they were looking at. They seemed so amazed by all of the little things in the app, and I know that they will learn a lot in the 2017-2018 school year. At the next station that I visited, the new DELTAs were learning about Powtoon. I, myself, do not know how to use Powtoon, and I can admit that I learned a few things from the slides. Coming into the library classroom, they were doing Screencastify. I really like the extension for Screencastify and I like to use it for all school-related video projects. In another room, DELTAs were learning to use Pixlr photo editor. I love using Pixlr for all photo editing needs. I think that this team of DELTAs is sure to be an awesome one.

I know that being a DELTA was an amazing opportunity. I loved to be a part of this group, and the leadership opportunity was an amazing way to express myself through technology. As we watched the new DELTAs, we could see that little sprouts were starting to blossom and next year they will bloom into the leaders that they are meant to be. The new DELTAs are coming to help our school, and we know that they will fill our shoes - and maybe, just maybe, they will make the shoes bigger.

Raena Lawton
6th Grade DELTA Team Member
Dallastown Area Intermediate School York, PA

Piper Weikel
6th Grade DELTA Team Member
Dallastown Area Intermediate School York, PA

Ken Midgett DELTA Teacher Advisor
Google for Education Certified Trainer
Dallastown Area Intermediate School York, PA

Want to apply for a Student Summit Grant of your own? Check out this LINK!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Biggest Shift in Education

The 2016-2017 school year is officially over for us!  We are so beyond ready for summer. For weeks we’ve been fighting the “fidget spinner battle” and that combined with trying to keep students engaged during the last week of school got our wheels turning. As teachers we tend to understand the last week of school is often something the students aren't going to put much time or effort into, they're "checked-out" and so are we. We were both undecided going into the last full week of school (That's the beauty of teaching for a combined total of 21 years, we could pull something together over the weekend!), then LaDonna said, "Wanna do a project about Spinners?" Of course Andi’s answer was “yes.”

Our Eastern Hemisphere teacher also got in on the action. So, we started creating it on a Thursday, and continued adding pieces over the weekend. However, we’re really proud of what we came up with:

Learning Objectives
Students will:
  • Collect data.
  • Graph and analyze data using circle graphs, scatter plots and box plots.
  • Calculate mean/average.
  • Convert time (minutes to seconds) using proportions.
Students will:
  • Collect evidence for and against spinners as fidget toys
  • Present an argument to:
    • Persuade your teachers and principals to accept and see the benefits of fidget spinners
    • Convince your peers to stop spinning and to see the challenges it causes for others
Students will:
  • Research toys through the 20th-21st centuries
  • Generate a list of the top 20 toys of the 21st century
  • Design a toy

You can find the Math piece here and the ELA piece FREE here.  The projects were actually pretty great! The students loved working together for the four days, and even though we only had four school days left in the year, a lot of the students really worked hard to create a solid presentation for our last full day. They took ownership of their learning and their projects.

For ELA Mrs. Adams wanted the students to focus on one last argument piece. Articles were chosen to outline positives and negatives of spinners as a useful fidget. The students also needed to create a survey to track their argument.  Some of the groups were surprised. They thought everyone would vote yes in favor of spinners in the classroom, however about half of the students they surveyed were against them. After gathering all the data and creating displays, students were expected to present their math data and their argument showing evidence to support their stance on spinners.

For math, LaDonna wanted to focus on applying useful math skills in a meaningful way. She also wanted students to apply skills that they had learned this school year. LaDonna not only wanted students to take ownership, she wanted them to answer that age old question, “When am I ever going to use this?” Students were given opportunities of choice and were able to share their opinion of this hot topic. Although the ELA focused on the debate of the topic, students had to take a stance and develop a survey question for their position of “To spin or Not to spin?” with statistics in mind. The math of this project focused on collecting and analyzing data to back up their argument and test the quality of these overnight sensations. The price of these little gadgets range from $5 to $40 and are made from a plethora of materials. After gathering all the data and creating displays, students were expected to analyze their data in such a way to decide if price and materials plays a role in how well a fidget spinner spins.

This brought us to this blog post today. I thought of how we embraced this item that has become the bane of teacher's existence.  We took something that challenged us and turned it around on the students. As many say, “if you can’t beat them, join them.”

What we as teachers need to do is help our students take ownership of their learning. We need to help them make that shift.  I think Ownership is the biggest shift in education. Ownership is by definition the “fact of being an owner.” This may not be true for all but when you own something, you have a sense of pride about it. You want to show everyone and you sometimes brag about it.  When you think about all of the buzzwords and phrases that have been around for the past 10 years: project-based learning, one-to-one, flipped learning, blended learning, flexible seating, flexible spaces, genius hour, makerspace, growth mindset... What do they all have in common?  We're trying to put the student in charge of the learning. All of these things were also created with the student in mind  and tend to promote a student centered environment.

Why do we get so frustrated over small objects spinning in our peripheral vision?  It's because we feel like they are distractions from the learning. They usually are, but that's because the students are taking ownership of everything in front of them instead of their own learning. It is also frustrating to see the way fidget spinners are being marketed. Let’s face the fact that they are indeed toys.

If you want to continue teaching the way you were taught and the way your parents were taught, stop reading NOW.  If you want to embrace this shift:  Try, and really do it, don't just say it, but try to focus on one of those phrases from above.  If you already do one, add in another! All of these practices are meant to help students take ownership of their learning. Which should be the ultimate goal, to get the students to care equally or even more than you, as an educator, do about their learning or education.

I had a principal a few years back who constantly said, "Focus on only what you can control." This means if you are the only teacher embracing student ownership, so be it. You can't control the others in your building or on your grade level team.  You can also say over and over that you wish the parents would instill this concept themselves, but you can't control that either.  You can only control your classroom.

So, when the next annoying fad comes in, embrace it. Your students will love you for it and will learn so much from it.  Show your students how they take ownership of that fad, and they can take ownership of their learning too. Enjoy the end of the school year if you are finishing up. Rest, Relax, and Rejuvenate over the next few weeks.  

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Beyond the Play: Code Career Day

Fact: Children love toys. Who am I kidding? Everyone loves toys. So when “toys” are brought into the classroom, students think it is one of the greatest things to have happened since fidget spinners and slime. Teaching coding with robotics allows for that perception; toys in the classroom. While students are using iPads to program robots like the Wonder Workshop Dash, they do not recognize they are learning things like sequencing, problem solving, collaboration, and maybe even the robo-boogie.
Robo Boogie Gif Link via Flight of the Conchords
But after this moment of perceived play, what do students think? Was it just fun and games? Was it only to provide a brief respite from the typical trials and tribulations of the nine circles of school? Do they recognize they have started to learn a skill that could turn into a career one day? Depending on how these robo-play/robo-code sessions are led, students may not have any idea what coding and/or robots can do outside of the classroom, besides the idea of a toy and/or video game.

Enter Code Career Day.

Hidahl Elementary School in Ceres, CA, a school in Stanislaus County, has started incorporating coding into their annual Career Day. This event has local businesses and organizations speak to students about careers and the importance of education. They have reached out to the COE, though, to incorporate robotics and coding.

This is where I come in.

Explaining to students how coding and robotics can still be considered fun when career, future, and adulthood are concerned. How am I perfect for this topic, you ask? I graduated college with a History degree and now work with technology. How does that even work?! What helped push me to this wonderful Ed Tech area was a sense of “playing” with code. I learned basic html coding through a once popular website called MySpace. I wanted my profile to look, what the kids at one time referred to as “cool,” with animated gifs and such, and needed html to make that happen. I took something that was being done for fun, a blinged-out MySpace page, and ended up learning a skill, on my own, that I could use more readily than much of the history I had learned while earning my degree.

While this is not meant to undercut a college education (we all know that is very important), I do think it is important to recognize that something I learned at the end of my high school tenure, that was not in class, helped secure a career in Ed Tech. Cannot the same be said for coding and robotics today? But, while I learned these things outside of school, students now have the opportunity to do so in class through STEAM labs, Robotics Clubs, Hour of Code activities, and Code Career Days. Students can learn these powerful skills of coding and programming with robotics at school, many times, for free. With resources like, Code Combat, Codecademy, Twine, and Lego Bits and Bricks learning about and how to code is now fun. Having schools incorporate coding into a career day takes this idea to the next level by not only showing that it is an important skill, but also something that can be used to earn a living.

When we present on coding, we always touch on the many careers available because of this technological language. Starting with the incredible (sending a robot to another planet) and ending with fun (Dabbing Robots); touching on how websites are made, and briefly mentioning those things no kid is really aware of...uh...videogames, and how they are all made or operated using a language of code.

What are some famous robots you know of? How is coding/programming used in your life? A couple questions we ask students. A million other ways code is being used in our students’ lives offers up a plethora of student-led examples.

Should these ideas take away from the sense of wonder and amazement that students have when robots or coding is done at school? Of course not. Can we instill in them an idea that learning can be fun and productive instead? Of course. Plus, doing these things gives us teachers a chance to play with “toys” at school as well. Empowering students through code, offering examples of future use of code in multiple job opportunities, and conditioning students to view learning as a perpetual goal and not something that ends after school is why a Code Career Day is always successful.

Brandon Schut
Twitter: @NodnarbTuhcs
Resource Page:

As Program Coordinator, Educational Technology at the Stanislaus County Office of Education, Brandon has the pleasure of working with many different things. Helping the Induction Program train new teachers on the use of tech in the classroom, editing PSA videos for a Tobacco Cessation County run program called P.H.A.S.T., conducting the technology portion of the New Employee Orientation, helping curate content and train editors to edit the SCOE website, holding tech training each week on Google, Microsoft, and/or Adobe products, helping students learn Digital Citizenship, teaching students about coding through robotics, as well as second level help desk support are the many things that keep him busy. From time to time, he also enjoys wearing a tuxedo to work.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Game Changer! Geo Tool Add-On to Sheets

Co-authored cross-post from Jen Cauthers and Brian Cauthers at

Have ever tried to integrate Google Sheets data with a Google Map (need help with this take a look at this tutorial)? If you have there is one critical problem with that workflow… If the data in the sheet is continually being updated you will have to update the map to reflect the current data.

Well, not anymore! While attempting to figure out the easiest way to do a collaborative map for a class that we are taking through EdTechTeam, we found a new add-on to sheets called Geosheets! This add-on will allow your spreadsheet data to be automatically updated to reflect real time data entry into your map. Game changer! Before Geosheets, auto-updating a map required a bit of programming knowledge and was just a hassle for most of us.

Geosheets at its basic level will allow you to create custom maps with simple equations in your spreadsheet. It will allow you to create a Google Form and when the form data is updated in the sheet, Geosheets will allow the automatic update of the map.

Some of the advanced functions in the classroom will be to create all sorts of custom maps to illustrate human impacts on global temperature, urban heat sinks, travel maps, major weather event mapping, historic events. All of these maps will allow you to customize the map with colors, lines, and interactive features such as attaching links, pictures, and videos.

The website for Geosheets contains examples for each of the functions and tutorials on how to create maps with your data. There is even a set of demo data for you to experiment with prior to using your own data.

Getting Started

  • Install the Add-On in Google Sheets
  • Activate Geosheets in your spreadsheet

  • Authenticate/link your google account.

  • Create a spreadsheet with at least one column containing locations to be mapped
    (or gather your data using a Google Form):
  • Location info can be in the following formats:
    • City, State
    • Address
    • Landmark
    • Latitude, Longitude (decimals or degree minute second values)
  • Additional information to include in your spreadsheet for mapping
  • Label - label for the pin to place on the map
  • Color: A color name or hex code (e.g. #ececec) for the marker representing the given location.
  • Icon: The name of an icon to render within the marker for a given location. Allowed names are any from, e.g. "lodging" or "rail".
  • Type: The type of the feature in this row, one of marker, circle, line, geodesic. If omitted the row is assumed to be a marker.
  • Radius: If the feature type is circle, the radius in pixels.
  • Image: The url of an image to show in the infowindow when clicking on a feature.
  • Any other attribute you add into a column will be added to the popup window when you click on the pin for that location.

If you are going to include additional information besides location, you need to include a header row with labels.

This is just the very basic type of map placing a pin at a location on the map with some labels, different pin types, colors, etc. Geosheets is much more powerful for mapping than any other tool I have seen. You can also create maps that will use your data and lookup information based on the values or assign values for mapping based on the data provided.

  • Lookup latitude, longitude values for a location
  • Heatmap: creates a heatmap from the locations and assigns intensities based on the data
    • =GEO_HEATMAP(locations:range, label)
  • Color: color codes pins - you can provide your own color or Geosheets helper functions can assign colors
Generates distinct colors for each unique value in a column. Use this when you're trying to color-code discrete values like strings.

To see samples of the main types of maps you can create with Geosheets with their interactive features, please visit their sample page here.

For our class, we wanted students to collect data from others around the world about the plants and animals living in their habitat so that our classes could guess what type of habitat they live in. We created a form here to collect the data from classes around the world with the data and also a picture of the habitat and called it Guess the Habitat.

The data is sent to a Google Sheet where we use the Add-On to create a map. The questions in the form drive the labels for the columns so that the formula to create the map is quick. For our example, we collected:

  • Location
  • Flora: plants found in the habitat
  • Fauna: animal found in the habitat
  • Image:  URL for a picture of the habitat
  • Email: so we can collaborate with the respondents

Here’s a set of sample data:

Once you have at least a shell for your data, you need to enter the formula to create your map. The Add-On helps you to build your formula.

In a cell in your spreadsheet, start typing the beginning of your formula:
=Geo_Map(range, “title”)

  • Range - range of cells for your data or column - you can click and drag in your sheet
  • Title - title for your map

You will get a preview of your map on the right side of your sheet and a link will be inserted into the cell that you can copy and paste into an email, website, etc. or you can get an embed code. Here’s a sample map for our project.

The one downside of the Geosheets is that in the free version you are only able to have 5 active maps and 200 responses per day. For most of us, this is plenty. For high end users, you would need a paid plan, which is $19.99/month which is too costly for educational use.

Overall, this is an amazing tool to create fully interactive maps that update in real time as data is collected. We are so excited to use the tool in our classes next year. We would love to hear how you use it in your classes too. Thanks for learning with us.

Jennifer Cauthers
Mahopac High School
Mahopac, NY
Twitter: @cauthersj

Brian Cauthers
Science Teacher
Google Certified Educator
Mahopac, NY