Wednesday, April 12, 2017

CUE Tips

The annual CUE Conference (Computer Using Educators) was filled with interesting Tips, Tricks, Strategies and Inspiration.  

As always, it is a little overwhelming to attend as the number of class choices is a mile long!  

Aaron Stephens and I would each like to share with you a favorite Tip we learned while there.

Graphic Novels in the Classroom: A Multimodal Approach to Literature and Technology

Are you looking for a way to spark your students to be more creative, while practicing their communication skills and writing? Try having them create an online comic strip that communicates what they have learned or are thinking.

This year at the Computer Using Educators Conference (CUE) the workshop I enjoyed the most turned out to be quite different than I was expecting. When I sauntered into the Graphic Novels in the Classroom: A Multimodal Approach to Literature and Technology, what I was expecting was a survey of the various comic book styled educational texts that are coming out. Instead what I experienced was an exciting and dynamic way to fan the flames of student creativity by having the students demonstrate their thinking through creating their own comic strips.

Melissa Baldwin, the workshop presenter, shared with us a list of the most useful online tools for creating creating graphic novels/comic strips (see link below). While the application of creating comic strips is a little more straightforward for subjects such as literature and history, wherein students can depict events and interactions, they can certainly be applied to even math and science. While teaching Earth Science and Biology, I would often use an approach called Model Based Reasoning, in which students were to grapple with their understanding of a phenomenon. In this approach students often needed to depict their thinking in a visual way. Here is where the students could engage in creating a comic strip that shows their thinking.

I can attest through personal experience, that creating comic strips is really fun. The best part for someone like myself, who lacks artistic ability, is the fact that these online tools provide the artwork for you. So even the least artistic student can create wonderful comic strips.

I highly recommend setting aside some time to give this creative process a shot in your classroom. The students will have fun, and I think you will be amazed at the creative output from your students.
Online Comic Book Creator Sites


Aaron Kelly Stephens
VUSD Digital Education Coordinator

Graspable Math

This one if for all the Math Teachers who may feel a little left out of the technology train we are on.

Graspable Math has given students and teachers a truly interactive and manipulative approach to math using a math canvas.  Please start by viewing the video tutorials here.  

As the website explains  "In a world where technology has advanced at astonishing rates, the technology of math notation hasn't really changed in 400 years.  The easiest way to write and solve an equation is still by hand, on paper."

I loved their analogy of learning to play chess by marking and notating your moves on paper rather than physically manipulating the chess pieces.  Very difficult to truly grasp the skills and strategies needed to succeed without being able to physically manipulate the pieces.

With Graspable Math Canvas, Teachers can demonstrate and manipulate the algebraic steps and graphing.  You can undo, redo, and experiment with different problem solving strategies safely.

Teachers can post a Math Canvas link through Google Classroom to distribute to students.  Students then manipulate the equation through a variety of tools, save their work and submit their completed link to the teacher. Students are able to save their work for later completion or revision as well.

Check it out for yourselves here   Click on the "Applications" tab - then "Canvas".  Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Dawn Marsh

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

I See What You Did There!

Check in on Your Students' Document History

The ability for students to collaborate on a Google Doc or Slide is one of the hallmark features of G-Suite. However, as with most tech features, there are good uses and not so good uses.  G-Suite provides teachers with the ability to obtain a detailed view of the document activity so you can check in on your little darlings.

Have you had students collaborate on a Google Doc or Slide? Would you like to see if they contributed equally to the final product?

Have you ever suspected that a student received help from a fellow student on a document when they were not supposed to?

Would you like to see a history of the comments that were made during the production of a Google Doc or Slide?

You can check the Revision History of a Doc, Slide or Sheet when the student turns it in and view the document activity.   This is important information that most of you are aware of, however, it's always worth a reminder.

Please click on the link below to access the How-To doc.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The New and Improved Google Sites!

Looking Good Google!

If you have ever used Google Sites you probably know that it did the job, but had a clunky interface and editing was often a challenge.

The New Google Sites is a very welcome change!  It has a sleek new look with very simple editing tools.  See this video tutorial for a quick look!

Uses in the Classroom

Classrooms around the country are using Google Sites to create digital Student Portfolios or as a platform to present project research. 

Teachers can create a Google Site and make a page for each student to share their work with their classmates.

High Schools students create Google Sites to store College and Career Readiness Information, work samples, resumes, career research, college requirements, 4 year plans etc.

Younger students can create a beautiful Site and add weekly writing or work samples to share with parents at Conferences.

With the new Google Sites, students can collect all their artifacts in Google Drive and embed slide presentations, videos, Google Docs and more into their site.

Check out our new Google Tech Help Page (a Google Site by the way) for more on using Google Sites and other Google applications.

G-Suite Training Extension

This next little tip was brought to my attention by our own Monica Buescher.  Have you ever been working within a Google Application and had a question about how to do something?

Add this handy extension and get answers to your questions quickly and easily from Google. The extension knows what application you are in and has answers for you on the spot.
  Click on the Question Mark to open the quick help guide or search for your question through the search box.

Monday, October 17, 2016

New Features and Updates

Hello Everyone!

In this edition, Anna Kieschnick (Larsen) from Vacaville High School is sharing her experience with a new addition to Quizlet, which is a web-based Quiz software.  Please see her experience below.

If you’ve ever used Quizlet, you already know how amazing the program is. It, surprisingly, just got better! Quizlet live is similar to Kahoot, but is directly through the Quizlet Website. Students do not need to actually create an account to play this game; they sign into the game using a game code (just like what they do for Kahoot). Now, what is super awesome is that the Quizlet Live program automatically groups students (which you can change as many times as you want throughout the duration of gameplay). Within these groups, students collaborate with one another to answer 12 questions (which are directly from the Quizlet cards you’ve created initially). If they answer any question incorrectly, they start over from the beginning of the game. The first team to answer all the questions correct wins. Each game goes very quickly, but my students wanted to keep playing over and over again, so we did. You could use this during class or as a quick opener, an exit ticket, or review (which is what we did). Another awesome feature is that after the game ends, the program lets you know what the students knew AND what they need to work on. YAY! The students have fun learning and the teacher now has a quick formative assessment with data that can actually be used for re-teaching. Win-win!

The students loved it so much they wanted to play it every single day. I compromised and said we can play on Wednesdays for our vocabulary review.

I had a great time, the students had a great time, and I know ALL students were learning.

Here is a link to the overview for Quizlet Live:
I have never seen such focus and excitement out of my students. 
Anna Kieschnick (Larsen)

Explore Feature in Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides  

Have you noticed this new symbol at the bottom right of your Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides?  It is a pretty cool new tool that behaves a little differently depending on the application.


Explore will create charts and graphs related to the data on your sheet. These can then be inserted into your Docs, Slides, or Sheets.  
Use the "Ask a question about your data" function to ask for additional analysis.  Just ask Explore questions - with words, not formulas - to get answers about your data.  You can ask questions like "What are the top three selections?"  "How many students answered Question 2?"


Explore will help you create beautiful designs based on the content of your Slide.  See the example below.  Explore looks at the content on your slide and makes design suggestions.


Explore will offer suggestions for Topics, Images, and Articles based on the content of your document. You can also conduct a search of both your Drive and the Web through Explore.


One Final Note

The Research Tool is back!  It is now accessed through Explore.  Here is a short video explaining how to use.
Google Explore Tutorial Video

Friday, April 15, 2016

CUE Tips

(Check out the new Google Tip "Google Bookmarks"on the right )

Recently the Technology Department attended the National CUE Conference along with teachers and staff from other Vacaville Sites.   For those of you unfamiliar with CUE it stands for Computer Using Educators.   The conference offers a wide variety of classes ranging from Classroom Ed-tech tools to Administrator Level Management Practices.  

We would like to share a few tips and resources that you might find useful.

Bootstrap Coding

If you are looking for a free online place for students to learn and practice coding, could be the place for you.  In addition to coding Bootstrap  has a very mathematical slant, with particular attention given to algebra.  

The workshop was presented by a math teacher who was very enthusiastic about the application of Bootstrap in his classroom.  He was particularly pleased with the results he's been seeing in his underserved student populations.  In many cases students who would otherwise shy away from STEM careers have found a door into STEM thanks to Bootstrap.

If you would like to know more about Bootstrap please contact Aaron Stephens

Google Plus Communities

Google Plus Communities has some of the best resources and collaboration available.  Each of us has access to Google Plus through our District Accounts.

Many people are unfamiliar with the all the capabilities of Google Plus and think of it only as some obscure Social Networking Site.   It is so much more!  

I use my district Google Plus account to subscribe to several technology communities.  These communities are incredibly powerful as a means to share and receive amazing ideas on how to incorporate technology into the classroom.  They are also invaluable when you have questions.  There is always someone out there with great answers and ideas.

If you subscribe to any of the Google Apps Communities they even have people directly from Google who often monitor and answer questions.  Below is a list of some of my favorite Google Plus Communities.

To search for Communities, Click on the Home button to expand the menu and then select "Communities".  You will see a search bar where you can search for communities that match your interests.

Notice also that you have the ability to Create a Community.  This is a great way to share ideas within a department, school, or even district.  

If you would like to know more about Google Plus Communities please contact Dawn Marsh.

CUE Rundown    

Christy Ireland from Buckingham created a fabulous presentation, along with others from her site who attended, to share with their staff.  She has graciously offered to share here with all of you as well. Click here to view her presentation.  Great job!!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Guest Blogger - Andrew Hyland from VHS

When I was offered a chance to share a blog post on a topic of my choosing, I thought for several days about what I would like to share and what information I would have liked to have when I started delving into the world of Ed Tech. It was hard to know where to start looking as I was used to staying in my classroom and within my department. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to connect with other, better teachers than me (a lengthy list!), I just didn’t know where or how to start. The best I can do is tell you what worked for me to start this search.

Of course there are excellent teachers next door to me and there are some easy ways to get better professionally by connecting with them in several ways; however, this post focuses on online connections. I’ve found through several years of lurking and listening that there is a plethora of educational resources and connections to be made out there on the internet. It was sometimes difficult to sort through the mess to get to the gold nuggets.

To save you a little time in looking, here is my curated, partially annotated list of Ed Tech names to follow or otherwise look up on whichever platform you use. I’ve used Twitter handles because all of these people have a twitter account, while not all of them have a website or Pinterest etc.:

Here they are:

      Larry Ferlazzo - @Larryferlazzo
      A teacher at Luther Burbank High School and his blog has a huge amount of lists with links to resources on all topics from student motivation to ELL to subject matter and beyond. If you search for one person based on this post, find him and you’ll see most of these other names and resources on his blog.
      Pernille Ripp - @pernilleripp
      A middle school teacher in Wisconsin. Her blog covers all sorts of practical “how this worked in my classroom” topics. I also enjoy her reflections on teaching and the issues she’s dealt with and how she dealt with them.
      Joe Wood - @ucdjoe
      Instructional Tech Director at Natomas Charter. I participated in several sessions he ran at Computer Using Educators conferences. He has useful insights in integrating tech into curriculum.
      Jerry Blumengarten - @cybraryman1
      An educator and author, his website for teachers is an amazing encyclopedia of links to resources on nearly every topic that you would ever teach from K through 12 and beyond. This is a summer project to explore just one topic that he has combed through for us.
      Melissa Hero - @mdhero
      A former science teacher, now Instructional Technology Specialist. Her several blogs (here’s one) and websites are useful in science and also because she has real classroom experience of integrating tech tools into her science curriculum without making the tech the focus of the lesson. I met her at a CUE conference also.
      Laura Gibbs - @OnlineCrsLady
      An online professor at Oklahoma University. Here is just one of her many pages - if you are really serious about teaching online or flipping your class in any capacity, check her out.
      Josh Harris - @EdTechSpec
      An EdTech coach in Fairfield. A great local resource on integrating technology and especially on using google apps for education in your classroom.

Keeping up with Ed Tech and knowing which tool will fit best in your classroom and your practice is difficult. If you take a few minutes a month to see what some of these folks above and below are trying and succeeding with, I hope it will save you as much time as it has me instead of searching from scratch with nowhere to start.

Wisdom may be knowing how little we know, and I would say that wisdom is knowing where to look for the answers you don’t already know. I hope I’ve given a couple more options of where to look when you don’t have the answer already.

In the list below I have not annotated which levels and/or topics these educators work in, in the hope that not knowing will open a person up to more ideas from outside the normal places you look. Afterall, on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.

Honorable Mention (in no particular order):
Cate Tolnai                 @CateTolnai
Vicki Davis                  @Coolcatteacher
John Eick                    @John_Eick
Todd Nesloney           @TechNinjaTodd
Erin Klein                    @KleinErin
John Spencer              @spencerideas
Ben Rimes                  @techsavvyed
Alan Levine                 @cogdog
Scott McLeod              @mcleod
Ryan O’Donnell          @creativeedtech

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

New Year - New Tech

Well here we are in the last half of the year already! If you are anything like me, this is the time of year when you could use a boost to energize your teaching.  My hope, with this post, is that I can provide you with a new and exciting tool to add to your lesson repertoire.

Many of you are already deep into using Google Drive for both yourself and your students and are reaping the benefits of going Google.  Others have yet to enter the world of Google (perhaps I can persuade you with this post).  I'd like to show you a great way to use your Google resources to make your lessons more interactive and engaging for your students.

I'm talking about using HyperDocs.  A HyperDoc is an interactive Google Doc that guides students through innovative and inquiry-based learning lessons.  HyperDocs can include graphic organizers, links to websites, videos, quizzes or other interactive activities.  The learning can be made to be self directed, and students can work at their own pace.  These lessons can also be distributed through Google Classroom.

Have a look at a few examples below:

So how do I create Hyperlinks in my Google Doc?

The process is really quite simple .  

Step 1:  Copy the link to whatever outside source you are interested in having students access.  This can be a video, a collaborative GoogleDoc or Slide, a website or interactive game.

Step 2:  Type the words you would like to appear in your link.  For example:  "Watch this Video"
Step 3:  Highlight wording "Watch this Video" and then click on the "link" symbol in the tool bar     

Step 4: Paste the link to the outside source (video, doc, slide, website, etc ) into the dialog box that opens

Step 5:  Click "Apply"

That's all there is to it!