Back to School with Google Docs


Google Docs is truly one of my favorite tools for teaching and learning because of the features it offers to support research, writing and collaboration in the 24/7 classroom. Here are some things to try with Google Docs as you make plans to use a little more tech and embrace change this school year.





Google Docs for Research

Google Docs supports a full-featured integrated Research Tool that is conveniently located right on the page of any Google Document or Presentation. This powerful Research Tool provides students with convenient access to information in manageable chunks that are ready for use. Students can narrow search results to find images, quotations, definitions, and more. 

In addition to helping students efficiently find information, the Research Tool can help students engage in real world writing by streamlining the process of creating hyperlinks and appropriately formatting citations. All this can be done with the click of a button found directly under each source in the Research Toolbar. The push button features provide teachers with the opportunity to introduce important digital citizenship skills to students as part of the research process in a way that is efficient, timely and manageable. 



Google Docs for Collaborative Writing

According to Sharon J. Washington, executive director of the National Writing Project: 
“Today’s young people are using a range of digital tools to compose and create in new and exciting ways. It is a game-changing moment for teachers of writing. The very notion of what it means to write is shifting, and educators are faced with adapting their teaching practices to integrate new technologies while redefining writing and learning for the 21st century.”

Google Docs provide teachers with a great starting point for helping students develop 21st century writing skills because they are collaborative, available 24/7, and stored in the cloud. The tool is well-suited for facilitating digital writing workshops that combine peer editing with cooperative grouping and small group fine-tuned writing instruction. Here are some of the powerful writing features:


Sharing and Commenting
Sharing and commenting options provide students with opportunities to receive immediate feedback on their writing from teachers and peers in the 24/7 classroom. Student can write, edit, revise, collaborate and share one copy of a live document, providing them with the resources and opportunities to significantly improve their writing. Students can collaborate in real time, creating opportunities for virtual mini-conferences. Of course, students are more likely to revisit their work if they know someone else will be commenting on it and they are more likely to edit their writing if they have the opportunity to publish it for an audience.  





Integrated Writing & Reference Tools

The integrated writing and reference tools provide students with convenient writing support right on the page.  A built-in dictionary  supports 12 languages and allows user to look up words without leaving the  document. Word Count capability provides feedback on number of words in a selection or the entire document. Built in Google-powered smart spell check allows students to easily identify spelling and grammar errors and access  suggestions as they type. For students using a variety of sources, EasyBib will save a bibliography in a student’s Google Drive with the click of a button. 





Revision History

The revision history features provides users with access to digital documentation of changes made to any Doc. Review edits or revert to a prior version of a document at any time. Use the Revision History to track contributions made by individual students or to measure progress made on a document. 


Final Thoughts

Google Docs is an efficient tool for for use as a starting point for teachers who want to provide students with opportunities for research, writing and collaboration in a digital workspace because of the availability of so many amazing features. If students in your school have access to Google Docs, it is definitely worth exploring beyond the basic features to discover the benefits of the using the tool for teaching and learning. If you are looking for more ideas, be sure to check out additional resources on this blog.


Google Docs for Teaching and Learning



10 Terrific Tools in My Toolkit

Flexible Learning Paths

The key to successful technology integration is the efficient use of digital tools tools that are appropriate for the task. Technology provides us all with the ability to develop our own toolkit of flexible resources for use when needed. Here is a toolkit I assembled that is filled with tools I frequently use for designing flexible student-driven learning experiences. Starting with a good toolkit is essential.



Explore this interactive image to take a closer look at my collection of resources for use with these 10 terrific tools. Try them yourself and remember to start with something simple.

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Class Badges for 1-1 Goal Setting

Class Badges is a free online tool designed to help teachers use digital badges as rewards for accomplishing learning goals. The badges can be a useful tool for teachers to keep track of individual student accomplishments as they help learners focus on making progress.

Teachers can request a free account to generate a class code for students. Just add your students and choose from the many available badges. If you are in need of a unique badge of your own you can work with the folks at Class Badges to have them create it for you.

Uses in the Classroom:

  • Work with individual students and their parents to identify their own specific attainable goals and create a Google Doc for reflection and progress monitoring. Use comments to provide students with feedback.
  • Attach badges to your grading rubrics and hold regular mini-conferences with students at checkpoints as they work towards completion of the assignment to increase their motivation to take their learning to the next level.
  • Reinforce positive behavior and increase students’ self-awareness by focusing on badges designed to reward students for demonstrating specific behaviors that might be useful to increase instructional time. For example: Reward time on task or organizational skills.
  • Make sure the badges are designed to encourage self-improvement rather than competition among students in the class.

I really like Class Badges because the badges serve as a useful reminder for teachers to work with students on an individual level to set goals and assess progress. If used appropriately, they can improve students’ self-esteem as they work towards attainable goals. I believe this tool that can help teachers get a little closer to a 1-1  learning environment.

Try it at ClassBadges.com

Edublogs 2012 Nominations



Nominations for 2012 Edublog Awards are open. 
The purpose of the Edublog Awards is to 
promote and demonstrate the educational values of these social media.” 



The nomination process supports the goal of the contest because it requires nominations via a blog post with a follow up link to that post submitted to Edublogs. What a great way to share, discover and credit the folks whose work inspires us and contributes to our own success!


My nominations for the 2012 Edublog Awards:

Individual Blog – The Innovative Educator

Group Blog – Mind Shift
EdTech Blog – Edudemic
Teacher Blog – Engage Their Minds
NewBlog – EduTech for Teachers
Library/Librarian Blog – The Daring Librarian
Administrator Blog – Life of an Educator
Twitter Hashtag – #edchat
Free Web Tool – ThingLink
Educational Wiki – Web Tools 4 You to Use
Social Network – Twitter

Learn more about the Edublogs awards.

Research Tool Added to Google Presentation


Good news for Google Docs users! The powerful integrated research tool made available in the Google Document last spring has made it’s way to the Google Presentation at last. The tool couldn’t be easier to use. Just pull down the Tools menu, click on Research and search for information in the research pane that appears on the right side of the screen. Users never have to leave the page.


This Research Tool is the perfect compliment to the Google Presentation because it supports the idea of using tech as a tool for learning rather than an add on at the end of a traditional unit of study. Students can find information, images, maps and quotes as they create a multimedia presentation without having to sort through the overwhelming amount of content yielded by a typical Google search.  Here are some of the highlights of the features found in the research pane:

  • Web results display a relevant snippet of information with citation information and a link to the full website. Select the Insert Link button to include a link to the full website in the document or select the Cite button to include a footnote citation in your document.
  • Maps are displayed in the search results when searching for geographic locations. Edit maps by zooming in and out and choose Insert to add the map to your body of your text.
  • Search for quotations with the click of a button, then choose the Insert button to include a properly formatted quotation in the document.
  • Choose Scholar to access a link showing the number of times an article has been cited and a list of sources that have cited the article. View the full website and insert a footnote citation into a document by selecting Cite.
  • Select your default citations format by clicking on Settings in the research pane. Choose from MLA, APA or Chicago.

Use the Research Tool to Check for Plagarism

In addition to the obvious ways to use the new integrated research tool, it can also be useful for checking for plagiarism. Just copy and paste a few sentences of text from a document directly into the search box of the research pane and the search will lead directly back to any article from which text has been plagiarized. I like to teach students how to do their own plagiarism check before turning in their work to help them understand the importance of creating original work.

What About Video?

Google Presentation already supports an efficient video tool. Just click on Insert Video to access a search tool for finding, previewing and embedding video into a presentation with the click of a button. Once again, users don’t have to leave the page.

Digital Tools for Differentiating Vocabulary: K12Online

If you’re looking for innovative ways to use free and user friendly digital tools to help students acquire vocabulary, please check out my session, Digital Tools for Differentiating Vocabulary Instruction at the K12OnlineConference. While you’re there you are sure to discover more terrific 20 minute sessions, available for viewing at your convenience.

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Teaching vocabulary today? Get ideas to “Kick it Up a Notch” at  conference.      innovate

TeachEm: Create Guided YouTube Lessons

TeachEm is a free and user friendly digital tool that allows users to capture YouTube content, organize it, and add time stamped flashcards to guide the learning. It’s simple, smart and efficient which makes it a good tool for busy teachers interested in implementing a Flipped Classroom instructional model.


Teachers can sign up for a free account with an email address and create a school. The school is not meant to be the school that employs you, it is supposed to be “The School of You”.  Once you’ve created your school, you can create classes of organized YouTube videos fairly easily.

To create a class just copy and paste links from your own collection of pre-selected YouTube videos or use the built in search feature to find and preview videos without leaving the TeachEm site. Add timestamped flashcards to associate text with specific parts of a video. Create public classes to share with the world, or create private classes that can even include videos that are not publicly available on YouTube. The TeachEm site hosts a very nice set of TeachEm FAQs, created with their own tool, to help users learn to use it.

When students participate in a TeachEm class they simply click on a flashcard and the timestamped video will jump to the associated spot.  They can flip the flashcards for more information or to get the answers to questions. As  they watch the videos and respond to the prompts on the flashcards, they can also type their own SmartNotes.

The set of Flashcards and SmartNotes can be emailed as live links which open to specific parts of the videos when clicked. Although I didn’t find any features for embedding a class, you could copy and paste the set of live links into your own online learning platform or website for quick and easy student access.

Uses in the Classroom:

  • Use TeachEm to create levels of differentiated classes on specific topics to provide students with access to content to meet their instructional needs.
  • Design student-driven learning activities to deliver content with TeachEm, then require students to create something original based on the learning. 
  • Create your own instructional videos and use them in place of traditional lectures to maximize instructional time and give students a chance to use the pause and rewind buttons to take the learning at their own pace.
My Wish List:
  • The ability to record sound and insert links into flashcards would make this a more powerful tool for meeting the needs of all learners and providing students with flexible options for responding to the video content.  
  • It would be useful to be able to easily embed a class into a website or online learning platform for quick and easy student access.
Try TeachEm at teachem.com.

Common Core Connections: Using Multimedia to Present Knowledge & Ideas


Technology can be a powerful tool to help us meet the Common Core Standards and move our students forward to prepare them for success in school and beyond. In general, the Common Core calls for the seamless integration of technology into the curriculum. There are also specific Common Core standards dedicated to using technology. The Speaking and Listening strand across all grade levels asks students to create presentations that are enhanced by a spiraling complexity of multimedia components.

am excited and nervous about this standard. My excitement stems from a strong believe that students can construct deep knowledge about a topic as they engage in building a multimedia project. If used efficiently, a well designed student-driven learning experience can take the place of traditional methods of teaching content.

My nervousness stems from the possibility that some teachers might simply add a multimedia enriched project to the end of their unit as a culminating activity and then spend large amounts of class time giving each student an opportunity to present to a passive audience of their peers. In this case, there will be loss of instructional time, loads of frustration, and most likely lack of enthusiasm from students as technology is used to make them do more. Effective instructional technology integration calls for using technology as a tool for learning, not as an add on.

To truly make a difference, there needs to be an adjustment in instructional practices. My suggestion is for teachers to abandon the role of “Content Deliverer” and take an approach in which they become a “Facilitator of Learning”. 

Tips for designing an efficient and effective technology powered multimedia project:

  • Start with an Essential Question to drive the learning. Make sure the answers to the questions are complex and can’t be answered with a copy and paste.
  • Provide students with multimedia platforms that allow them to take flexible learning paths to meet their unique learning styles.
  • Allow students to work in collaborative groups to prompt discussion and decision-making.
  • Serve as a Facilitator of Learning. Spend instructional time interacting with students as you informally assess, reteach and challenge them on the spot.
  • Provide students with built in tech support so you can focus on the content, not the technology.
  • Design sharing opportunities that are engaging and non-traditional. Return to the Essential Question and assign a related task for accountability. Provide students with access to a portable learning device and let them learn and explore instead of watch and daydream.
  • Most important tip: Start by creating your own sample to fully understand the task you are asking students to engage in.
Here is an example of what a student might create as the result of a learning experience driven by an Essential Question. This Common Core aligned student-driven multimedia powered project is one that requires students to construct knowledge and it was created with ThingLink.

Essential Question:

Why and how did people struggle for social justice during the Civil Rights Movement?
This image was created with ThingLink

A Playlist to Guide the Learning

http://www.mentormob.com//learn/widget/61812/580/99cc33/3-0

Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!

327 Common Core Aligned Playlists from MentorMob & LearnZillion

MentorMob and LearnZillion have teamed up to create a comprehensive collection of Common Core aligned learning playlists perfect for providing students with easy access to guided learning experiences. Currently there are 327 Common Core aligned playlists ready and available for free on the MentorMob site.




MentorMob playlists are displayed in a step-by-step format that allow users to interact with live web content right on the page, keeping students on track without getting lost in a stream of open tabs and new pages. As students progress through a playlist at their own pace, MentorMob keeps track of completed steps. Flexibility to move within a playlist is provided by a preview that’s always accessible on the side of the screen, allowing users to jump to different steps as needed for  reteaching and challenge.

The newly added LearnZillion Common Core aligned lessons focus on the use of narrated video for instruction. The pause button allows students to tackle the learning at their own pace, while built in learning supports make this an instructional tool that addresses a variety of learning needs. A Coach’s Commentary on the side of each playlists provides teachers with additional information and support. Most of the math lessons provide guided practice opportunities and some of these playlists are also available in spanish. 


Here are a few playlists to test drive.

http://www.mentormob.com//learn/widget/136844/580/99cc33/3-0

Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!




http://www.mentormob.com//learn/widget/137729/580/99cc33/3-0

Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!



Uses for Teaching & Learning:

  • Differentiate instruction by assessing student needs and assigning specific learning playlists to individual students for reteaching and challenge.
  • Try the Flipped Classroom by assigning learning playlists as homework and applying the learning during class time.
  • Use playlists as a resource for parents to provide them with the tools needed to support students at home.
  • Publish playlists on a website, blog or wiki for easy access, 24/7.

Coming Soon!
MentorMob Beta will be organizing all of the Common Core Content into one place in the months to come. In the meantime, perhaps the easiest way to find the playlists you need is to click on the link below and then use the drop-down menu to sort by alphabetical order.