Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Cool Google Stuff to Check Out!

One thing I really love about using G Suite is that Google is really good at listening to ideas we share with them and then finding ways to make those wishes a reality! Here are two new things you can do that might be really great for you to use!

Schedule Send in Gmail

After composing an email, you will see an arrow next to the Send button. Clicking on that brings up the option to schedule when you'd like that email sent. This can be a real workflow time saver! Do you have emails that you send out regularly? Draft them ahead of time and schedule them to send when you want them to send! Here are two examples of how I have used it recently:

  1. I needed to send an email to the 8th graders giving them information about how to save the items they have in the Google Drive before they leave CSD for high school. I composed the email about a week in advance and scheduled it to send on the day it was needed. It turned out to be a good idea because I ended up calling in sick the day it was scheduled to send so I likely would have forgotten to send the email had I not already scheduled it!
  2. I just completed an online class and the email I received about it told me I can't request my transcript for 2 weeks, so I forwarded the email to myself, but I scheduled it to send to me on the day I request transcripts. Easy reminder!
Add Audio Files to Google Slides
Have you ever wanted to add narration to a Google Slides presentation? Now you can! You just need to create the audio files first and save them to your Drive. There are a number of easy ways to create audio files (need help? just ask!), and they need to be saved as .mp3 or .wav files (no worries -- these are very common audio file types). Then it's just as simple as clicking Insert>Audio in Slides! You can then place the sound icon where you want it on the slide as well as set it to play when clicked or play automatically! This is a great feature of you want to flip a lesson or have kids go through a slide deck on their own. You can also have kids create their own narrated slide decks -- imagine having kids do a unit on poetry then write their own poems. Each student can then have one slide in a slide deck where they type their poem, add graphics to enhance their slide, then you can insert an audio file of each student reading their poem. Share with parents and voila! You just created a fun poetry presentation! Want the scoop on how to accomplish the whole process? Check out this nice, detailed blog post!

Monday, April 29, 2019

The Why

Have you ever heard someone say, "Why do kids need computers at school? I didn't have a computer when I went to school and I did just fine." Or maybe you've heard comments like this: "Why do kids need to learn coding? They're just playing games. They're not really learning anything useful." Or even a statement like this: "What's the point of the kids making videos? That's not teaching them anything that's on the tests they take."

I can answer that question in one Tweet.

The learning that kids do today -- from what they learn to how they learn -- is not the same as it was for most adults. It's not even the same as when my own daughter was in high school less than 10 years ago. That Tweet I shared is a prime example why kids need access to computers, the internet, and tools that allow them to create, communicate, and collaborate. Because that's how kids learn.

Sometimes teachers feel like kids don't want to learn. But that's not really true. They DO want to learn. They just might not want to learn things the way we are presenting them (or even the things we are asking them to learn). Obviously, there are some skills that are just necessary to learn, but if we can give kids the right tools to learn with -- meaning the tools they are accustomed to use for learning -- and if we can give them some autonomy in their learning, then we as teachers just might be able to hook them into the things we want them to learn, like photosynthesis, geometry, the Constitution, or Shakepseare's sonnets.

When kids have the right tools and when they have some voice in their own education, they do indeed learn. But when we try to force a square peg (learning today) into a round hole (learning the way we used to), it sure looks like kids don't want to learn. But look at that Tweet again. There she is. Learning, Creating. Collaborating. For FUN!

What a profound lesson Miss P taught us.

This post also appears on my personal blog about education.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Tough Love

Today, I want to encourage you to use tough love with your students when it comes to their Chromebooks! Like any school supply, Chromebooks sometimes get lost, damaged, mishandled, mistreated, or become victims of mishaps and general wear and tear. The Chromebooks have become so much a part of the learning environment that kids and teachers both feel a tad lost when suddenly a student doesn't have a Chromebook to use due to one of the things mentioned above. The best thing to do is be as preventative as possible and keep those Chromebooks safe and in working order! That's where the tough love comes in! It's okay for kids to face natural consequences when they don't have their Chromebooks. It is important for all of us -- kids AND teachers -- to make sure all the Chromebooks are working and available, so if a kid drops his while walking down the hallway with it open or it gets left on the floor and stepped on while others are walking by, the Chromebook will need to be repaired. Tough love would include things like

  • Asking students not to leave your room until they close their Chromebooks.
  • Stopping students in the hall to ask them to close their Chromebooks if they are open or to tell them to use two hands to carry their Chromebook.
  • Asking students to pick up their Chromebooks when they are on the floor.
  • Having students return to their desks to move their Chromebooks away from the edge.
  • Reminding students to use care when packing their backpacks if you see them just cramming things in hurriedly.
  • Having students work on another activity while their Chromebook charges if they forgot to charge it at home.
  • Having students do their work on a desktop computer or using good ol' pencil and paper if their Chromebook is at home or needs to be charged.
  • Having to pay for repairs to damaged Chromebooks (well, the parents will get a notice -- the kids don't pay directly!).
  • Contacting parents personally to talk with them about when Chromebooks are mishandled, forgotten, or uncharged on a regular basis.
Kids may not like having to stop and close their Chromebooks, return to their desk to move their Chromebook to safety, or have their parents called, but none of these things are out of line for teachers to do to help kids be responsible with what has become a really valuable learning tool.

To help with this even more, I'm going to share with you a quick slide deck I literally threw together that you can review with your kids about how to show the Chromebooks a little love. Plus if you have any tips for how you manage Chromebook care in your classroom, drop them in the comments and I'll bring you a really fun Google sticker!

Friday, February 15, 2019

This One's for the Math Teachers!

I'm not going to lie, I am always on the prowl for ways to be able to use G Suite tools and Chromebooks in the math classroom. I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling unsure of the best ways to do this. Well, this gem fell in my lap! It features Google Keep, which is my favorite of all the Google tools! I first learned about it from Erin Bettenhausen, and I decided that my love for it was so strong, I wanted to do a presentation about it, so I roped her into developing and sharing a presentation with me! Our presentation focuses on using it for writing and research projects, but what I am going to share here is 100% for you math teachers! Check out this great short video, and THEN when you are ready to try using Google Keep in your math class, let me know! I'll come show you how to do everything they shared in this video, and I'll show your kids, too! Plus, when you have me come help you with this, I'll bring you a totally cool Google sticker for your Chromebook or laptop! EPIC!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Get Certified: Google Innovator

If you thought you were "all things Google" by being a Google for Education Trainer, then you're "all things Google on steroids" by being an Innovator! Innovators are the rock stars of the Google for Education world -- they're the movers and the shakers, the ones with vision and gigantic amounts of growth mindset. As an Innovator, you get the opportunity to identify a need in the education world and then work with other Innovators to develop a way to address that issue. Becoming an Innovator is not easy. There are a lot of requirements and work involved in just applying -- yes, applying! You might work hard and not get accepted (that happened to me)! I can't speak to what it's like once you actually get accepted into the Innovator program (although I hope someday I WILL!), but our very own Jeremy can tell you as he IS an Innovator!

So, what do you need to do to apply to be an Innovator?

  • Acquire Google for Education Level 2 certification
  • Answer questions about yourself and your experience with innovation
  • Create a 90 second project idea video
It sounds simple, but it is really quite a challenge! But it is fun and you learn a lot along the way! If you have the desire to make your mark in education beyond your classroom and help educators all around the world, maybe taking on the Innovator application process is for you! Who knows, you might get to travel to a new, exciting place (I applied for the cohort in Denmark!), and you will for sure get to meet a great group of global minds all striving for the same things: the improve education for all!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Get Certified: Google for Education Trainer

Continuing the highlighting of various certifications available for teachers who want to turn their professional development into something personally meaningful and rewarding, this post will highlight what it means to be a Google for Education Certified Trainer. If you really enjoy sharing with others all the amazing things teachers and students can do with the G Suite for Education Tools, then maybe being a Trainer is something you should do! This is a little different from the Levels 1 and 2 certifications. In order to be a Trainer, you need to meet the following requirements:

  • Have Levels 1 and 2 certification
  • Complete the online Trainers course
  • Pass the online Trainer Skills Assessment
  • Film a Trainer Video
  • Submit your application (on a rolling basis)
If that sounds daunting, I'll be honest -- it kind of is. Being a Trainer is kind of weighty. People see that certification associated with your name and they know that means you are a go-to person for learning about G Suite tools. But as daunting as the process is, the rewards are equally as heavy. The thing I enjoy the most about being a Trainer is getting the chance to help teachers learn new ways to make Google tools work for themselves and for their students. It is incredibly rewarding to know I have some knowledge that can be of value to other people. I love when I get to sit down with a teacher and show them new things they can do and then get to see it happen in their classroom.

Maintaining certification is not super difficult -- here's what it entails:
  • Conduct 12 trainings per year
  • Share one resource with the rest of the Trainer community
  • Pass an annual product recertification
  • Maintain your Levels 1 and 2 certifications
None of these requirements are back breaking! Most people are scared at the thought of 12 trainings as they think this means they have to go to big conferences and present to large groups of strangers! The good news is you CAN do that if you want! But the better news is that you don't have to do that! A training can be something as simple as being in a department or grade level team meeting and sharing with them how to have students do peer editing using comments in Google Docs or sharing at a faculty meeting how to create appointment slots using Google Calendar for an upcoming school event or presenting at an institute day all the new features that Google Classroom has to offer.

So, if you love Google and love sharing the efficient and creative ways you and your students can use Google tools, maybe being Trainer is for YOU!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Get Certified -- Google Level 2

In my last post, I shared the benefits of becoming a Google Level 1 Certified Educator. Doing that is an accomplishment in itself for sure! But what if you're a Google tools super-user and just can't get enough of all things Google? What if you're really wanting to ramp up the way using all the G Suite for Education tools can really enhance your teaching and all the tasks associated with teaching? Then it sounds like you're a candidate for Google Level 2 certification!

Much like Level 1 certification, you can go through Google's online training modules for free. Once finished, you can then register for the Level 2 exam, which costs a little more than the level 1 exam (level 1 cost is $10; level 2 is $25). The level 2 advanced course will build upon the skills you have already shown you have from level 1 as well as add new skills to your repertoire! You will also learn interesting, practical, and innovative ways to use these tools to really enhance your instruction and improve your day to day tasks, saving you time and helping you be more efficient. We do have a few teachers in the district who are Level 2 certified; let me know if you want to talk to one of them to see what they have to say about the certification personally!

Interested in learning more about Level 2 certification? Check out the certification page! You can also check out the skills checklist that is shared on Eric Curts's blog Control Alt Achieve.