Power of Publishing: Publish those Google Apps!

One great feature of Google Apps that I don’t think is very well-known is how you can publish pretty much any of them to the web. When you do this, you get a new URL as well as an html embed code. Both of these things are very useful.

When you publish a google app, it:

  • It is somewhat like a copy of the app
  • It is like a view-only version
  • It takes away most functionality, only leaving the content to view
  • It updates every 5 minutes if you change the original
  • It creates a new url for you to share (no “share” function like regular apps)
  • It creates an html embed code

There are many advantages to publishing including:

  • Not having to worry about sharing settings.
  • Getting your content out to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. (Sometimes you can overload a doc or other app if too many people are trying to view it at once.)
  • Inserting your content inside something else like an LMS or blog or website
  • Taking away all Google apps bells and whistles. (This is sometimes positive for those who only need content and might be confused by functionality)

Want to learn more? Check out my presentation here. You could also register for the EdTech Team Google Education Summit this January 30th and 31st where I’ll be presenting. 


Chrome Extensions for Differentitation

One of my favorite things about Chrome is chrome extensions. They are just so versatile and handy and solve so many problems. However, do you teach your students how to use them? Do you use them in your classroom to differentiate?

Luckily for you, I’m presenting at an EdTech Team Google Summit this January in Minnesota and I’ve just made my slide deck explaining all my fav chrome extensions for differentiation. There’s actually still spaces left to register and attend! (Also, these are amazing summits. I’ve learned so much at them. Plus, they’re on the weekend so you don’t have to beg for $ to get a sub to cover for you.)

You can get the presentation here. Just go ahead and make a copy. Tweet away! Mention me or DocentEDU and we’ll be sure to fav and retweet.

There are some great, well-known extensions in here as well as some ones that may be new to you. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions.

Teaching Materials for Entrepreneur/Startup Unit

I am a believer in sharing, so I thought I’d share my materials from my entrepreneur/startup unit that I’ve posted about.

Here ya go!

  1. Logical Fallacies in Advertising/Types of ads
    1. Prezi is linked in the notes
    2. Teaches types of ads as well as why you can’t trust ads
  2. Advertising basics presentation
    1. Goes over basic advertising principles and design
  3. Advertising basics continued presentation
    1. (Target market information like demographics, psychographics, geographics, behavior)
  4. Review of target market, psychographics, geographics, behavior presentation
  5. Ad scavenger hunt activity
    1. analyzing ads for type of ad and target market
  6. Student handout for whole project
    1. 8 phases with directions and links for students
  7. Brainstorming for your target market 
    1. Doc that walks them through figuring out their target market based on advertising principles
  8. Designing your marketing campaign presentation
    1. Reminder hints for designing their campaign
  9. Rubric for judging final presentations
    1. How I judged my students

Makerspace in 6th Grade English/Language Arts

Many people, when hearing of makerspaces, automatically assume technology and design are the classes in which it is implemented, perhaps science class. What would you say if I told you that I have a makerspace in my language arts classroom?

Perhaps you’d say that in no way can a makerspace connect to ELA standards. Perhaps you’d say that it’s a waste of time. Well, perhaps you’re wrong. : ) Having a makerspace in my classroom has really helped underscore my students’ application of literary terms AND helped them with the 4 C’s.

I have implemented a makerspace the past 3 weeks in my classroom with 6th graders. It has been an outstanding success. Not only are they loving it, (I have received emails from parents telling me how happy their kids are), but the kids are applying their language arts knowledge to their creations as well as using communication standards while in the makerspace!

Makings of the Makerspace

Students have a choice of 4 main options:

  • Cardboard badge (I have washi tape, patterned paper, and lots of drawing utensils)
  • Play-dough
  • Blackout poetry (done with old books and markers)
  • (I also have a 3d doodler that they can use)

How the Makerspace is Run

Each turn in the makerspace is directly connected to a language arts standard with which we are currently working.  First, they read their book. Then, they have watched a video and written about a literary term. Then, they write a journal entry about their book and that literary term. It is only after those three steps that they move into the makerspace.

While in the makerspace, they should make something which is connected to their book and the literary term that they are currently studying. It has worked really well so far since they have had so much buildup to the actual makerspace itself. The frontloading of the term and think time has really produced some great creations which reflect and help cement student’s understanding of the literary term.

 Reflection on their Creations

After students have created their, well, creation, they then move on to reflection. Students will then record a video explaining:

  • their creation
  • how it connects to their book
  • how it connects to the literary term

I have used several different technologies to record their videos including Youtube’s my webcam and Movenote. However, I don’t think that the tech necessarily matters; I think that the verbal explanation matters.

Finally, students post their videos to their Google Classroom as a class comment on an announcement. They are then encouraged to watch each other’s videos.

Going forward

Overall, students are not only being creative in connection with analyzing a literary term in a book they are reading, but they are also verbally explaining and communicating their ideas to others.

I would highly recommend doing this in any language arts classroom. I will be looking for ways to continue this in my upcoming units. It might be a little hard to figure out, but I think the rewards will be worth it!

Pictures from the Makerspace!


Social Justice Startups in 8th Grade

So, I posted a little while ago about how I was teaching a unit that is essentially a mini-startup incubator or entrepreneurial unit. I was very excited to start it off, and now we’re almost done with it. It has been a great experience for students and teachers throughout the unit. I thought I’d update a little bit here about how it’s going. When the unit’s over I will post the final products and a final reflection as well as all of my teaching materials.

1: Here’s the outline for the whole project, if you want to take all or parts of it. I will post all my teaching materials when the project is over. 

2: Some of the student ideas of organizations and products are here:

Social justice issue          Product/Service

Equal pay/pay equity   Club for young women to support each other being                                              CEOs.

Local Hunger                 App for grocery stores to donate food to foodshelves

Refugee crisis              Headphones pre-loaded with calming music for                                                      children who have PTSD

Pay Equity                     Ride sharing app for women to get to protests more                                              easily


3: Update on what we’ve done so far

Students have figured out their target markets, written a paper identifying that market segmentation, and have just finished creating their two advertisements for those target markets. They had to make one print ad (most used Canva) and then either a podcast commercial, a TV commercial, or a social media profile.

These next three days they will be presenting their whole marketing campaign to local business people, marketing professionals, and other community members.

Like I said, we I will update later with their final ads, the winners, and my whole gamut of teaching materials.

Google Docs: 8 types of interactive lessons (with examples to copy!)

One thing that I love so much about Google is how versatile all of their apps are. Each app easily spans the gamut from a simple substitution tool on the SAMR model, to a complete redefinition of what was previously possible in the classroom.

I’ve been using Google Docs for years now as the main vehicle for curriculum with my students. However, I’ve also started not only using docs for content but actually for lesson delivery. How? DocentEDU, of course.

This presentation, which I will be giving at the TIES 15 conference on December 15, goes over 8 types of lesson plans that you can do with Google Docs in conjunction with DocentEDU (as well as a few other online tools).

Lesson type #1: Text-based

This lesson is what most of us English teachers (or many content-area teachers) think of most often when we think of lessons. Read something, interact with that something in a few ways, lesson done. However, by copy/pasting anything into a google doc, publishing it to the web, and then using the DocentEDU toolbar, you can make that “interact” part much more interactive! Add questions right into the text (instead of at the end); highlight words and phrases and then add your insight on them just like you were right next to every student; embed background info and extension activities with a simple embed code from (count ’em) 70+ sites and apps; you can even add a live, auto-updating class discussion anywhere in that text! Game changer, for sure. Here’s an example lesson.

Lesson type #2: PDF lesson

PDFs are a great way to transmit information. However, by nature of the type of file, they are static. No longer! Google Drive and Chrome the power to change a PDF into a google doc, and then you can do the lesson just like above. First, find a PDF with text that you like. Second, copy/paste into a Google doc. (You can also import the PDF to your drive, right-click and say open as doc.) Just do a little cleanup, publish to the web, and make into a lesson with the DocentEDU toolbar like above.

Lesson type #3: Close Reading

We’ve all heard of close reading. Our students have all probably rolled their eyes or made gagging noises whenever they hear the term, too. Close reading can be a way to make our students hate reading, closely. Using Google Docs and DocentEDU can make it less gag-worthy. Get a text in a google doc, publish to the web, and click on the DocentEDU extension. Then, use the toolbar to encourage close reading by your students. For example: highlight and add comments for important passages, highlight and add comments on vocabulary words, embed vocabulary using a web app like Quizlet, add multiple choice and free-response questions very frequently for reading comprehension practice, and embed any background knowledge presentations or videos as well. Here’s an example lesson to copy.

Lesson type #4: Differentiation

For this lesson, follow the steps to get a published Google doc and the DocentEDU toolbar. Then you can add in assistive embeds to differentiate for your students. These might be audio books from Youtube, your own voice from Clyp.it, vocabulary help from Quizlet, background knowledge Prezis and other presentations, Thinglinks, and more! Here are some more accessibility ideas. Here’s that list again of the 70+ embeddable tools as well. There’s more than likely one that will benefit your students. Here’s an example lesson to copy and use. 

Quick tip: I make a lot of my own materials for differentiation; however, I also think that there’s no point in reinventing the wheel. I find many of my differentiation materials from other teachers on the web. There are some great YouTube channels out there with audio books for almost everything, lots of great Prezis and other presentations all over, not to mention vocabulary sets for pretty much every book or story I’ll ever teach. Just do a search and you’ll be amazed at the materials that already exist!

Lesson type #5: Review

There are always times that we want our students to have the materials needed for review right at their fingertips in an organized way. I’ve tried many ways of doing this like putting everything into a folder or linking 10 things under an announcement in my LMS. However, this always seems to fail for a few reasons including death by tabs as well as unclear order. Also, who wants a Google Classroom post that takes up the whole entire screen with 15 links below?! So, I use Google Docs and DocentEDU to fix this problem.

First, I gather all of the review materials. If I want them embedded, I also make sure to get their embed codes ready. (To embed google products, you just publish them to the web and you’ll get an embed code.) Second, I just make a new doc, put in numbers in my google doc, and maybe a title for each number. If I have 10 things I want them to review, I’d just put in the numbers 1-10 in my doc, for example. You could put in some text, but you don’t have to. Third, publish the doc to the web and get the DocentEDU toolbar just like the other lessons we’ve been doing. Finally, using the sticky note tool, I embed all of the review materials in that doc, one under each number.

You can even use the other tools on the toolbar to ask students questions under each review material. You can even embed a class discussion under each review material to allow students to backchannel about what they are doing well and having trouble with. How amazing that students can chat about the review materials right next to the review materials while they review (and maybe not even in your classroom)!

Now, my students see the order I want them to review in, and have ALL of their review materials in one single website. It’s like I’ve made my own personal website just for test review. Here’s an example to see what I mean.

Lesson type #6: Blended/self-paced

We all know that different students work at different speeds. If you try to get a whole classroom of kids to do the same thing at the same time, you know you can only teach to the middle and you leave out the quicker students and leave behind the slower students. Not only does this cause classroom misbehavior, but it also hinders effective learning for many students in your class!

On a side note, I really look doing self-paced learning in my classroom because then my students can listen to their Spotify all they want. Also, I don’t have to talk to the whole class and you know how well that can go if you’re talking for more than 2 minutes at a time. In addition, students really like to feel autonomous and giving them a few days of autonomy (or even a whole week or unit) really makes them feel amazing and increases responsibility.

To do this, simply create several DocentEDU lessons on published Google Docs. You might create a weeks’ worth of lessons (maybe culminating in a review?) or a complete unit. Then, to make them so that students have everything at their fingertips and can work through the materials at their own pace, there’s only a little bit to do.

In order to make a “trail” from one lesson to the next, simply at the end of use sticky note feature to put link to next lesson at the end of the 1st, then do the same on the 2nd lesson for link to 3rd, etc etc. One idea would be to make a docent for each “chapter” of a book or text you are reading and link them like above. You could make a complete textbook or novel this way. 

Lesson type #8: Google Apps all the way

Like I began, Google Apps are amazing. Their core suite: docs, slides, draw, sheets, maps, and YouTube really can transform your classroom learning all by themselves. Did you know that you can use all in conjunction with DocentEDU and put them ALL inside a Google Doc using the DocentEDU toolbar? In essence you can create your own interactive website including every single type of Google App! Pretty awesome for your students. Here’s an example lesson to copy.

First, you need to make a google doc with whatever text you want published to the web. This could be any type of lesson I’ve gone over earlier, including perhaps a review-type lesson. Then, gather all the Google Apps that you want to embed. You simply have to publish them to the web to get an embed code. Using the sticky-note tool, embed away!

Feel free to use the other DocentEDU tools as you see fit. Want a live class discussion after the google sheet analyzing the data and connecting it with the free-response question students had to answer after watching a YouTube video-you can do that! And what’s even more amazing is that everything is no in one place to make it seamless for students.


When the real world collides with standardized curriculum

Sometimes we are forced to teach curriculum by decision-makers that are never in our classrooms. Most of the time these decision-makers mean well. And most of the time, we (since teachers are awesome) do our best to make this prescribed curriculum fit our students’ needs.

So, every Tuesday and Wednesday during my homeroom, I sit with a script and some handouts and a DVD to teach my 8th graders a social/emotional curriculum. Now, I have no doubt that they need this information. I also have no doubt that the school board meant well when they mandated that this is taught. Like I said, I do my best to make it engaging and relevant for my students, even when holding a script. However, sometimes even my best efforts fall flat.

However, today reality outside our classroom walls collided easily with this curriculum. Today the text was about stereotypes and how they lead to bullying. Besides pointing this fact out, the lesson was focusing on how important it is a bystander to speak up when someone is stereotyping others.

This immediately hit me to my core. The political climate in the United States and much of Europe is absolutely toxic. Political candidates, not only in our country, but in other countries like France and Sweden are seizing on people’s fears of extremism and the unknown to quite literally bully children, orphans, and the elderly; those running in fear from persecution themselves. Just this past weekend in my town, this happened. This is not to mention all the hateful and inflammatory comments of political candidates, least of all Donald Trump.

This immediately came to my mind when teaching this lesson. I immediately deviated from the prescribed lesson a bit and pulled up the poem “First They Came” by Martin Niemoller. Here is the text:

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me. 

(Courtesy Holocaust Memorial Day Trust)

It is our job as teachers to teach our students so many many things. Sometimes we are prescribed what to teach them. Hopefully, the real world is connected to our lessons as much as possible.

I must also emphasize as much as possible that it is also our jobs to make sure our students are good people. Just as Niemoller states, we cannot stand by why nothing happens and we must teach our students this as well. Yes, we aren’t in charge of our students political beliefs, but we are in charge of teaching them critical thinking and empathy. We MUST do so at any and every chance–even when given a script.