Friday, April 28, 2017

Google Sites as Digital Portfolios

Put an end to messy backpacks and binders and document learning with digital portfolios

A scene all too familiar for educators: the teacher asks the class to get out an assignment to turn in for grading and at least one student pulls out a binder that looks like it got hit by a tornado. The student next to her forgot it at home. Another left it in his locker. The teacher sighs.

Is there a better way to collect work from our students in today’s classroom? Does anyone really think that our students look back in their binders to find a packet from earlier in the year?

Enter digital portfolios to the rescue.

This year, my college anatomy class is lucky enough to have access to chromebooks in the classroom daily. After years of trying to help students organize notebooks and binders and determine what is important enough to keep for review later in the year, I decided to test out digital portfolios. I knew it would take some planning and would evolve as the year progressed, but I was eager to help my students become more efficient digital learners. When I introduced it to the class there were mixed reactions. Most thought it would just be extra work. However, as I explained it more, the students were eager to hop on board and test it out.

I decided to use Google Sites, since our school had adopted the Google Suite of apps and chromebooks. It turns out, the students really like it because of the wide range of features, such as embedding flashcards, videos, and slideshows.

My students organize their portfolio by unit to make it easier to find all of the content later on so it is a truly a digital notebook. Each unit must contain all of their original work that they submit for grading, which includes:

*Slide shows from microscope labs including labeled photos taken with digital cameras

*Digital projects for alternative assessments - such as presentations about disorders or videos of songs and tutorials for review of content

*Lab reports

Students are encouraged to add any other materials that will help them to review and document the important content for the unit such as:
*Vocabulary flashcards - embedded from Quizlet usually
*Videos from YouTube or other sources for tutorials on major content
*Notes from class or outlines from text (doc or take picture of handwritten notes)
*Pictures of posters, graphic organizers, or other visuals from class
*Online games for review and mastery of anatomy terminology

To help reinforce the importance of the portfolio, I count it as a test grade for the quarter and also grade their assignments directly from their site. When students are ready to submit it for grading, I have them enter their site URL into a form with a brief comment about what has been added that they would like me to focus on. Feel free to take a look at my form here.

As the year has progressed, I have learned several important points for success:

*Help students see usefulness of portfolio by using it in class and for review
*Grade submitted work from the portfolio to reinforce its use
*Use peer review to help students get ideas from others on how it can be set up

I have also made some mistakes that I have made changes to or will change for next year:
*Give students time periodically during the quarter to work on the portfolio during class
*Periodically check on portfolios so students do not save work until the last minute
*Post a running list of items that students must include and should include
*Create a full working sample for students to see

Overall, I am quite pleased with using digital portfolios. As I become more accustomed to integrating the portfolio into my lessons, the students will also improve the content and how it is used. I will continue with using portfolios next year with all of my classes.

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

Jennifer has taught science since 1999 and has been a district technology leader since 2002. She is also a Google for Education Certified Trainer and an Apple Certified Teacher. Her interest in technology started with an MS in Instructional Technology from NYIT where she learned ways to effectively teach technology integration. She has always loved integrating technology in her class starting with using probes for science experiments in the early years to leading a 1:1 chromebook pilot in the last few years. As she delves deeper into a SAMR model of teaching, she focuses on creation tools instead of simply consumption, which includes students creating digital portfolios to document their learning.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Inspirational Perspectives: Summit Soundboard Indiana

A Teacher’s Perspective
Christy Harshbarger

I am not a tech guru, and as a classroom teacher, this poses a problem. The Integration of Technology movement in education means I have three options: I can be one of those educators who bemoans the fact that one more thing is being added to the curriculum AGAIN, dig in my heels, and get left in the dust. I can be one of those educators who nods her head and acts like I am on board but really does nothing to integrate technology in the classroom. Or, I can be one of those educators who tries to join in, learn, and find ways to integrate technology in my classroom to provide a better education for my students. Option two is very tempting, but I am going with option three - which led me to the EdTechTeam Summit in Indiana (on a weekend, in April, the first seventy degree day since last fall) ...and it was worth it!

For the past year, my class has been piloting Chromebooks as our corporation rolls out a 1:1 initiative. Consequently, I am somewhat familiar with the many features Google offers educators. Google Classroom, Slides, and Forms have allowed me to see the advantages digital technology provides teachers and students. But I need to go deeper (SAMR reference intended), and if I am going to use technology, I want it to enrich and expand my students’ classroom experience. So I went to the Summit to explore HyperDocs - and there were so many sessions available! The greatest benefit of the Summit sessions was the hands-on experimenting the presenters allowed; there was time in every session to create and dabble with my newly acquired skills. As a result, I had something to use the very first day back in the classroom! The Summit was also collaborative - every presenter shared their Slide Deck and said to use it with other teachers or my students to help with technology integration! Usually at conferences I have to purchase anything presented, so having access to the presentations has allowed me to go back and review anything I didn’t quite master during the sessions. The Summit can be intimidating because there is so much to learn, but by attending, I feel I can do this! The network of support provided by the EdTechTeam and the atmosphere of collaboration among presenters and fellow educators means I can contact experts as I use HyperDocs and try things from other sessions I attended. I am inspired and have so many ideas - my first Google Summit was worth missing that warm and sunny spring day!

An Administrator’s Perspective
Pamela Chambers

Technology is developing at such a rapid speed that if one does not take the time to learn, opportunities for creation, collaboration, and communication will surely be lost. The Tippecanoe School Corporation recognizes the importance of providing meaningful training opportunities. Thus, the commitment to send 40+ educators to the Spring 2017 Google Summit was made. As an administrator who was accompanied by three of my teachers as well as my school’s Instructional Coach, I can say that the opportunity to learn alongside my teachers was invaluable.

From the enthusiastic greetings at registration to the flash of lights of the Delorean, the first few moments spent at the Spring 2017 Google Summit set the tone for the whole weekend of techy professional development. A little out of my comfort zone, I sat down in my first session, entitled “So You Want to Go Paperless?” With the opportunity to follow along on my device I gained many skills, which is the telltale sign of an effective PD experience! The next 7 sessions rolled along quickly as I learned basic skills like setting up groups within GMAIL, to utilizing Google Slides to develop pleasing to the eye publications, as well as slightly more advanced skills like developing templates in Google Docs to promote organized collaboration. My teachers and I are grateful to have gathered skills and ideas, such as going on adventures with Google Cardboard, to take back to our school and corporation!

A Coach’s Perspective
Tammy Younts

I was excited to have the opportunity to attend the Google summit for the first time. Technology is our school-level focus next year. We will be exploring the potential of having more devices in the hands of students and having technology embedded in the way we structure teaching and learning. At the summit, I was able to extend my knowledge in a variety of areas and was amazed at some of the possibilities for connecting students to the world and to each other. I attended two sessions focused on the use of Hyperdocs in the classroom. I appreciated the many resources that were shared and the classroom examples. The session on Google forms opened my thinking to a much wider range of uses for this tool. I plan to share some ideas with both my administrators and teachers about how Google forms can efficiently help you gather data. Finally, I learned more about how Google Classroom can serve as a powerful learning management system. I am already working with a teacher to set up her classroom and begin to experiment with changing both the nature and flow of student work.

A Tech Coach’s Perspective
Sarah Margeson

The Tippecanoe School Corporation has always made professional development a priority for our teachers. When we decided to “go Google” a few years ago, the EdTechTeam conference became part of our routine. This year we were lucky enough to take 46 teachers to the conference. With so many people coming we decided to organize a Google+ community just for this event. We communicated travel plans, offered session suggestions, and had an area for general discussions. This provided a clean platform to organize all the information our teachers needed to feel prepared for the new experience. During the conference teachers were encouraged to take notes on a Google Doc and share it with the group. This helped us see patterns in what our group was interested in learning. Finally, we asked everyone to set a goal after we returned from the conference. What #onenewthing do you want to try? And how can our Connected Learning Team help? These results were shared with our technology team, instructional coaches, and administration. We’re taking these and grouping teachers based on their interest. Teachers will be encouraged to share their experiences with their buildings, as well. As in years past, this conference surpassed our expectations and our teachers were excited to return and try the things they learned over the weekend.

High Ability Teacher
Mayflower Mill Elementary

Assistant Principal
Burnett Creek Elementary

Tammy Younts
Instructional Coach
Klondike Elementary

Coordinator of Connected Learning
Tippecanoe School Corporation

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Digital Book Clubs: Cross-Country Literature Discussions

My journey with Digital Book Clubs all started because I responded to an EdTechTeam Community post on Google Plus. Deanna Hussey, fourth grade teacher from Esquire Elementary School posted, “Are there any 4th grade teachers who'd be interested in doing global/cross country book clubs? I need some new way to motivate my students to read and have some accountability. I'm in Washington State and have a class of 23.” The thought of starting Digital Book Clubs at my small school in Wisconsin intrigued me, so I quickly emailed to talk more to Deanna about this unique idea. This started our journey of creating an experience students would never forget.

Reading Groups Created by Reading Level
To create Digital Book Clubs successfully was a lot of behind the scenes work. The first thing we did was approve this idea by our principals. Once we got the okay to move forward, we split up our students based on reading level. We created six groups with about 3-5 students in each group. We then developed a Google Sheet with students names, student emails, and reading level for each group. This organization helped when sharing documents and working throughout the school year.

‘Get To Know You’ Day
Before introducing the idea to our students we provided them with a Get To Know You Day. Deanna and I started a Google Hangout that connected my class to hers and we had students ask any question they wanted. Some inquired about the geographic differences between our hometowns, football teams, school size, or even favorite ice cream flavors! The conversations were important in creating a open and safe climate between our two classes. When we were done with the Hangout, we gave each student a “buddy” to learn more about that was in their group. The students shared and answered questions to learn more about this student. The students had a BLAST with this Get To Know You Day and we were all excited for what more was to come. That day I sent home a Digital Book Club information sheet to parents and they were thrilled with their child being able to participate in this experience.

Pick Great Books!
Each group at a different reading level received their own book to read. When we picked out books for each group, we had to think about student interest and books that we knew students would love to read. Then, we created a planner for each book sectioning off each part of the book. This planner would help keep Deanna and I organized and be handed out to the students in each group to let the kids know what section of the book we would like to read and by what day.

One-to-One Check ins
Throughout each week I met with each student independently and check that they are reading the selection of text required. These meetings usually last about two or three minutes. The check in times are a way for me to prepare students for our discussion and check for appropriate comprehension. While students read, they are asked to come up with at least three flags (post-its) filled with questions, comments, ideas, things they noticed, etc. These flags are vital for our conversation during the Google Hangouts.

Discussion Day
Deanna and I normally only have one or two groups discuss on each day. Students and their teacher gather around a computer with their books and flags. Then, we have used Google Hangouts to facilitate a connection across the country and discuss the text. They use their 10-12 minute block of time to discuss anything they would like in the text. My students have a list of conversational moves above my reading table that they can use to foster discussion. For the majority of the time, the teachers are quiet facilitators of the discussion, however, at times there are necessary prompting to help focus our discussion. At the end of our discussion, we go over the text for next time. Students have absolutely LOVED this experience. I have groups that are so excited about talking with the group that they are meeting before every Discussion Day just to prepare what they would like to say to our reading buddies in Washington!

Write About the Text
Directly after our discussion, students are asked to answer a writing prompt about the text. This writing prompt is on a shared Google Document and sent to all students. We set it up this way because we want students to continue collaborating and discussing electronically. Students are allowed to use the comment feature to respond to others’ response to the question. Here is an example of the way we set up these written responses.

These Digital Book Clubs have been an amazing experience for my students. Becoming connected with a school across the country has inspired each student to read, talk, collaborate, discuss and write about what they’ve read like they have never before.

Reach out to me if you would like more information about our Digital Book Clubs!

Christine Perkins
Purdy Elementary School
Fort Atkinson, WI
Mrs. Perkin's Classroom Website

Want to set up your own cross-country literature discussion or connect with other educators across the globe? Join Christine and others on the EdTechTeam Global Community!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Area of Shapes Scavenger Hunt via Google Slides

Geometry is one of my favorite units to teach. In this unit, there are so many ways to create lessons, activities, and projects that are easily aligned to the real world. I’m not saying that is not the case for other units but I do have to get a little creative when we start working with advanced operations with exponents.

In the past, I have done many different activities and projects with my students, such as:

*Calculating the circumference and area of doughnuts.
*Designing cities based upon geometric figures and terms.
*Creating and designing Pythagorean Theorem spirals.
*Measuring and labeling (with chalk) the dimensions of objects around school, as well as calculating the perimeter and area of these objects.

…and more!

All of those activities/projects have been great because they have been engaging to students. Especially, the doughnut one – which I will continue to do this year. I mean, who doesn’t love to eat doughnuts in class? However, I wanted to find a way to allow students the opportunity to explore the perimeter and area of these shapes in the real world.

The last activity that I listed was one of my favorites. The students really enjoyed exploring the shapes that were outside of our classroom. In fact, some of them found some very creative ways to form shapes from multiple objects. This year, I decided that the best way for the students to document their work was to create a digital Slide Deck documenting the shapes that they have found, as well as calculating the perimeter and area of these shapes.

Click HERE to create your own copy of the Slide Deck.

The idea behind this “scavenger hunt” is simple. Students will:

*Explore the campus to find and take pictures of the given shapes.
*Document the dimensions (length/width, radius/diameter) of the shape.
*Upload the image into the Slide Deck.
*Calculate the perimeter and area.

That’s it!

Although my students have not completed this activity, I will be posting some of their projects once they have completed their Slide Deck. Within the Slide Deck, I have given examples and instructions to get you and your students started. As always, feel free to reach out to me with any questions or if you plan on using this activity. I love to hear from other teachers when they use these projects to give me ideas on how to modify it for future teachers and students.

Re-posted from

Meagan Kelly
Math & AVID Teacher
Team Technology Leader
Hesperia, California
Twitter: @meagan_e_kelly

Monday, April 24, 2017

Students at the Forefront: Blended Learning & Math

Math seems to be at the forefront of many districts’ agendas. With the Common Core State Standards launching in 2009 and textbook publishers having to recreate their curriculums, many districts were left with their teachers having to come up with their own curriculum that met the new state standards. Luckily, the publishers have caught up and we are back to being able to adopt a Common Core aligned math program. In my district, I was one of the many teachers that chose to pilot a few different curriculums.

However, like many schools these days, our district is moving farther away from traditional teaching methods in which we teach specific subjects at specific times (which is what the curriculum publishers supply us with) and is instead encouraging us to teach in a more blended learning/project based learning approach. Blended learning combines digital methods and traditional teaching methods in which the teacher is present, but the students have more control over the pace in which they learn. Project Based Learning is when students work to answer a question, problem or challenge over an extended period of time. In addition, when incorporating technology into our curriculum we keep the SAMR Model at the forefront of our minds so that we know the technology that is being used is meaningful and transformational in our students learning.

While finishing up a recent graphing unit in second grade, my teaching partner and I decided to put the scripted curriculum aside and relate our students knowledge to a real life question that affects every student in our school…”What is your favorite spirit day?” Yes, I know, a hugely important topic in the age of a five to ten year-old. Needless to say, their engagement in the topic was impressive.

First we had to decide what the choices of our survey would be, which included past spirit days and new ones the students had never even heard of (i.e. twin day...spoiler alert, it was a huge hit.) After the students voted on the final four choices they worked in groups to visit classrooms around our school to gather data with tally marks. When returning to the classroom the students turned their data into a hand drawn bar graph, pictograph, and line graph. Our main goal though was to see what the entire school voted as their favorite spirit day and with that, we needed to combine our data.

I took the students data and created a Google Sheet with each of the individual classroom’s data. This information was sent to all the students through Google Classroom for the students to view. The students logged into their Google Classroom accounts on their iPads and began to calculate the total number of students per grade level and the total number of votes for each choice.

A second sheet was also sent to the students through Google Classroom with a copy made for each student where they would log their very own tabulations for the total number of votes and number of students for each grade level. After they finished and submitted their sheet, I was able to individually assess the students on their totals before we went over the results as a class.

After the students finished their totals and we went over the results as a class, as well as all the different methods students used to be able to solve the problems, they took the final data and created hand drawn bar graphs based on both grade level specific results and entire school results.

With this project there is a wide range of ideas you could give students who finish early. Early finishers were first given the task of totaling the entire school’s results by taking all the individual grade level data and totaling it up. Further ideas include using the data to create graphs within Google Sheets itself, after they had drawn their bar graphs so as to check their hand drawn graph against a technology created graph. Finally, students could work collaboratively in a Google Slides project to present their data to the school during a whole school assembly, or in our case, as a suggestion, supported with data, for our student council.

Ann-Marie Skaggs has been teaching elementary school in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2005. She has received her Masters in Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Dominican University. Her passion lies with technology in education. She is an Apple Teacher and a General Board Member of North Bay CUE. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @TeacherSkaggs and on her blog at

Friday, April 21, 2017

Educators Guide for Designing a Makerspace

Over the past few years, I have had the privilege of leading a team to create a makerspace in leading international schools across the globe.

Main goal of creating an educational makerspace “the Innovation Lounge” has been to support and encourage students with hands-on learning, multi-disciplinary collaboration, design, development, invention and innovation as they meaningfully engage in STEAM activities.

Makerspaces, Genius Bars, Idea Booths and Fab Labs are mushrooming all over the world. Consequently, educators around the world are exploring various options to encourage student collaboration and creative thinking by designing Makerspaces in their institutes. This is a quick guide for all the fellow educators interested in designing a best suited makerspace for their own institution.

Where to design a makerspace?
Identify a some physical space in your learning environment to engage students. Makerspace doesn't have to be a fancy room full of various equipments. It has to be a safe space with easy accessibility where students can tinker, collaborate and communicate freely. Think about how you can convert an extra room in the school, libraries, unused breakout spaces in the corridor, courtyards or even a corner in your classroom into an exciting learning space.

Who are the users of maker space?
While designing the makerspace always remember your students are your main audience. Ask yourself these simple questions while developing your makerspace.

  • Is it safe for children?
  • Will it encourage independent learning for students?
  • Will the students collaborate and communicate during the project creation?
  • Is it an engaging and enjoyable learning environment?

If the answer to all these questions are yes then you are on the right track.

It is also quite rewarding to open the doors of your makerspace to fellow colleagues, parent community and other educators. Makerspaces play a great host to events such as parent coffee mornings, student conferences, parent teacher meetings, parent workshops and professional development session for educators.

How to design a makerspace?
Designing a makerspace is a collaborative effort. Ensure the involvement of Leadership Team, estates team, IT Support team and school community during various stages of planning and development of the project.

Visiting other makerspaces also crystallizes your thinking and vision about goals and expectations you have from your own makerspace. Whether you are seeking help from the parents body, volunteers or professional architects for designing and layout of your makerspace, it is a good idea to provide them with list of resources and furniture you are expecting in the makerspace. These details are very helpful for creating specific electricity points, data points or simply arranging the furniture ensuring the space is well used, functional and child friendly.

What resources to have in the makerspace?
It is a common misconception that makerspaces are fund guzzlers. It definitely does not hurt to have a latest 3D printer or a robotic kit in the learning area however think about common materials such as cardboard, ice cream sticks, blu tack, feathers, scissors, tape, aluminium foil, plastic water bottles, crayons, paintbrushes and colours to get the creativity flowing. For more technology focused makerspace the following list of resources might be useful.

  • Bee bots
  • Dash and Dot
  • Makey makey kits
  • Sphero balls
  • Ollie
  • Big Trak
  • Arduino kits
  • Lego EV3 Mindstorm kits
  • Osmo Kits (Coding, Words, Numbers, Tangram, Monster, Newton and Masterpiece
  • Tiggly Kits (Word, Numbers and shapes)
  • LightUp Kits
  • Little Bits
  • Green Screen
  • MakerBot
  • 3D printer
  • Xbox Kinect
  • Child Friendly headphones such as BuddyPhones
  • Promethean Active Tables
  • Display TV screens
  • iPads
  • MacBooks
  • Apple TV
  • Short Throw Projectors

These resources will get your makerspace off to a good start. However, never shy away from having a wish list to further improve teaching and learning in your makerspaces. Virtual reality and augmented reality tools such as Microsoft HoloLense and Google Cardboard are currently topping my wish list.

Finally, which ways to keep student engagement ongoing?
Student engagement is an ongoing process. Make efforts to keep students engaged or better yet let students take the lead. Make a group of interested students and tap into this talent. Create peer groups such TechWiz, Innovators and Genius Guides to keep “ Student Leadership in Technology “ alive.

Run weekly professional development sessions for interested teachers with “Tech Tuesdays” or “Fab Fridays”. Develop common understanding of expectations and set a few rules to follow in the makerspace.

Receive feedback and try to improve with evolving needs of your students. Learning Forward Makerspaces are unique to each school and to its learning environment. These questions support development and planning of makerspaces keeping in mind specific requirements and needs of students. No matter what resources you use, learning by doing remains the main focus of all educational makerspaces.

Mayuri Ambule
Apple Educational Trainer
Apple Distinguished Educator
Google Certified Innovator
Common Sense Certified Educator