Friday, October 30, 2015

How to Win a Demo Slam

My heart is racing, my breaths are quick, my palms are sweaty, and I feel like I’m about to faint. “You can do it, Syl” I say to myself over and over again, as I await my turn. “And now….. Sylvia Duckworth!” the announcer says, and I force myself up to the podium, placing one shaky foot ahead of the other. I am filled with dread but walk purposefully to the front of the stage, and start my Demo Slam.

The Demo Slam is one of the highlights of an EdTechTeam GAFESummit that takes place at the end of a full day conference. This is a quick-paced, high-energy session where presenters have three minutes each to demonstrate something Googly in front of the crowd, who will vote for a winner at the end.

After watching and participating in many Demo Slams over the past three years, I have become a keen and curious observer of the sport, mentally taking notes about what works and what doesn’t work. What became clear to me from the beginning is that winning the competition has very little to do with technical expertise and everything to do with delivery and maximizing entertainment value.

Here are my top 10 tips for a winning Demo Slam.

  1. Choose something fairly easy to demonstrate. Nerves can trip you up if there are too many steps.
  2. Everyone loves a good story. Try to tell one during your Slam. String a few ideas together in a cohesive way.
  3. Be original. If you use a Demo Slam that people may have seen before, put a unique twist to it.
  4. Perform your Slam beforehand in front of your friends and ask for honest feedback and suggestions.
  5. Time your Slam while performing it out loud and make sure that it does not go over 3 minutes.
  6. Practice is key. Practice your Slam over and over again until you can do it without thinking.
  7. Trash talk the competition: they love it and the audience loves it, too.
  8. Play up the home court advantage if you have one. Remind the audience that you are from their home town and that they should vote for you.
  9. Play up the foreigner advantage if you have one. Throw in flattering comments about their city. Bonus: attempt to speak in their language if different from yours.
  10. It’s all about attitude. Try to exude confidence even if you are not feeling it.

After my turn at the microphone, the audience is applauding, and I stumble back to my seat, the other competitors high-fiving me as I pass. Regardless of the outcome, I am proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone for three excruciating minutes. After all, how can I ask my students to take risks in my class if I don’t take risks myself from time to time? It’s the only way to learn and grow, and to discover your true potential.

“The greatest failure is the failure to try” (William Ward).

NOTE: For inspiration, check out Google Demo Slam: Live on Air.

Sylvia Duckworth is a Google Certified Innovator from Toronto, Canada. She recently won the Demo Slam crowns in the Ottawa and Toronto GAFESummits.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Google Drive: The Basics

Google Drive is changing today's classrooms for the better, but how does it work exactly?  Come learn the basic ins-and-outs of this incredibly powerful (and ridiculously easy to use) free app!  Looking for classroom applications, too?  Donnie will be sharing how you can use this app to promote creativity, collaboration, and learning from your students on a daily basis.  Office is officially on upset alert: Google Drive is here to stay! Donnie Piercey joined us live from the Kamloops, British Columbia Summit this week to deep-dive into the basics of Google Drive. Check out his live session and resources!

 Donnie also will be leading a special EdTechTeam Online Coaching cohort on Google Apps in the Elementary Classroom. Space is extremely limited: register here!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Just Get Going! How to Start Flipping Your Learning Today with Videos

Is flipped learning only about having students watch educational videos at home? Watch Molly Schroeder, Director of Summits for EdTechTeam, cover:
  • What flipped learning is
  • Different ways to flip, including in-class and at-home viewing
  • Common questions about flipped learning
  • How to get started

Flipped learning is changing teaching and learning because we are really personalizing the learning for the Students.

To me, flipped learning means anytime anywhere learning. Where you are cloning yourself or some of the lessons that the students are needing to have. All of my students came into my classroom at a different point of their learning. Yet when I was up in front of the classroom teaching everybody was learning the exact same thing on the exact same day. So with Flipped Learning I could put my students in smaller groups and instead of being the teacher up in the very front of the classroom and having everybody learn the same thing at the same time, what you're doing is you're taking the direct instruction moments and you're putting it into individual moments.

What my teammates and I did was we decided to do 3-4-minute videos on some of our power standards, or the things that we knew the students needed to know in that unit, so for example in my class, since teaching fifth grade writing my students struggled with there, their, and they're. If I was correcting that paper and I had 27 papers to correct or look over, I would just correct it for the students and hand it back and they would change it. And there really wasn't any guarantee that the next time that they did that they would use the correct version. I started thinking that there could be a lesson that was videoed, a 3-5-minute lesson that the students watched and then if they had some sort of activity afterward I would have an idea that maybe there was some learning that happened. So I took a lesson that might have been for the whole class and put it into an individual moment where the student was doing it just when they needed it.

When you're working in a flipped environment, when you're using video to clone the teacher, they can pause me, they can rewind me, and they can really kind of take that at their own pace to review the learning that was happening in the classroom.

Getting Started with Flipped Learning:

I think the best way to start with flipping your classroom is to just get going. Find a video that  matches some sort of curriculum or standard that you have, and have those kids review that video and talk about it afterwards. And you can use it for pre-teaching. Pre-teaching allows the students to come in with a little information for what you want them to know in class. You can create videos or even use videos that are already out there that other people are publishing. there's a lot of educational content out there that we don't have to be the creators of videos. So if you find something that helps you teach the lesson or the content that you need to, you can just use that and start building some links or resources on your website. One of the things that we did in my school district is, we made an entire collection  of all of these little screencasts that our teachers were making and it was accessible to the parents and it was accessible to the students 24 hours a day.

Questions about Flipped Learning:

A big question that a lot of teachers will ask is if they are going to start flipping their classroom is, how do I know that the students watched the video? And so providing some sort of activity or feedback allows the teach to then see if they've learned what some of the students thinking is about after they've listened to that video. Sometimes the students didn't have access  to the internet at home so I had to make my classroom available for them to be able to stay late or come in early or use other parts of the class day.

What we did is if there was ever any sort of digital assignment whether it be on the computer or involving a screen or a flip or watching a video, I would never have it due the next day. Making sure that your videos are accessible on mobile devices is really important when you're working with different student populations to because a lot of the students or their families do have digital that can connect even if they don't have internet access at home.

How do I make engaging videos?

The most boring thing in a classroom is watching someone read bullet point off of a presentation. And a lot of the times when teachers get to videoing themselves they sort of turn into robots and there's absolutely no interaction. So when we were creating these videos for narrating and screencasts, we just ask the teachers to have a little interaction. To be themselves, be friendly, introduce themselves so that the video isn't like a robot. And reading some instructions that anybody can read on their own.

The Benefits of Flipped Learning:

When you're teaching the same lesson to the kids every day you might not know each of the students as personally or as individualized as you would know in a flipped classroom. Know what they need specifically and know what they need to  be re-taught or where they can move ahead and they can really enhance and advance their learning. When you are doing flipped learning you're creating the individual experience with direct instruction, but now you have all of this opportunity for the community  experience. You have this opportunity for one-on-one teacher experience. Smaller groups, people doing different things at the exact same time, it might look to the outsider a little bit more messy.  But what it is is more individualized and personalized for the student in meeting them where they are at. you just have to try it once and get that into your classroom and you'll be surprised in a really great way about the students and how they are able to learn.

Monday, October 12, 2015

10 Ways to Take Your Google Docs to the Next Level

Using Google Docs in the Classroom? Check out these 10 Tips on maximizing your Google Docs experience. Great tools for metacognition development, writing reflections, verbal feedback, and more. 

1. Use Tables 
2. Utilize Comments
3. Revision History
4. Install Draftback
5. Install Grammarly
6. Use Read&Write for Google
7. Suggested Edits
8. Use Kaizena Voice Comments

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Everything You Need to Apply to Become a Google Education Trainer

Applications to become a Google Education Trainer open up on Wednesday, October 7th! If you train other educators in Google for Education, you definitely might be interested in this program and community. Check out Monica Martinez, EdTechTeam's Director of Professional Development, as she shares her 411 on the application.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

5 Easy Steps to Design the Google MyMaps Lesson of Your Dreams

Earlier in the school year I introduced the idea of using Google MyMaps in the classroom.  Over the last week and a half, I began using it in a couple of my classes.  The result of the students using MyMaps was stunning.  While these maps are imperfect (missing details periodically due to student error), they demonstrate so many possibilities for student creation.

So how do you start designing your My Maps Lesson?

First, determine what your goal/objective is for the lesson.

For both World Geography and European History, it was an easy and natural fit to use MyMaps.  In European History, I have always had students do some type of presentation (Powerpoint, Keynote, Slides) to detail the trips and explorations of various explorers. But as I prepared for that annual lesson, I decided to give MyMaps a go around in order to have a completely student created product.
For World Geography, I have always wanted them to get a greater understand of the world's natural resources and the disparity of their use/production throughout the world.

Second, provide the guiding questions and objectives for students to quickly access and research. 

New this year, I have been using Google Classroom for my classes.  To get students the questions and topics, I posted an "assignment" on Google Classroom with the following:
  • Topics/Questions
  • Types of resources to use
  • How to cite sources
  • Link to MyMap (Created by me, but will explain how later)
  • Initial Due Date (To help critique student work)
Pro Tip:  When creating the MyMap link as a teacher, go to  Then click share and change access to "Anyone at *School Domain* with the link" and "Can Edit."  Next, copy the URL and post it on the Classroom Assignment.

Third, students begin researching and posting their information to the linked MyMap.

I had each student (or in my case pairs) create a "layer" on their MyMap for a couple different reasons.  First, I wanted to be able to easily assess the students without having to search throughout the map for each students work.  Second, it prevented students from accidentally deleting or changing other students work.

Pro Tip:  There is a limit to the number of layers (10 Total) you can create, so be cognizant of the amount.

Fourth, review student work and provide immediate feedback on their design and information.

As students begin posting their information to the map, give them insight on how best to improve their layer.  For example, having students use different colors/symbols in order to differentiate their work from other students (Ex. Christopher Columbus being the yellow line and markers).  Some other ways to improve their map would be to include the following:  Pictures/videos on markers, journal writings or data information for each marker, proper structure/organization on the side information bar.

Pro Tip:  Unlike the other Google Apps tools, Google MyMaps does not automatically update as students work on it.  However, if you reload the map, all the other work will be updated to your map.

Fifth, share the student work with the rest of the world!

After students have completed the assignment, change the share settings to "On - Public Web" and "Can View."  Then copy the URL and share it out to the rest of the world! What other ideas do you have for student created maps?  Ways to make the process even better?"

Austin Houp is a graduate of Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. He has been a teacher for 9 years and currently teaches and coaches at Ash Grove High School in the Ozarks and is the Instructional Technology Director for Ash Grove School District. He is married to his wife Amanda Houp and is the proud father of son Eli with another on the way.