Monday, December 10, 2018

Google Slides: A One-Stop Resource for Authentic Assessment

With so many edTech tools available to you, it can be easy to overlook some of the features and potential of your G-Suite applications.  In a recent podcast, The Google Tribe appropriately titled G Suite's - Google Slides the "Swish Army knife" tool for the classroom.  And this could not be more true.  Notice three ways to use this FREE and intuitive tool to raise the level of engagement in your classroom.

#1 - Interactive Table of Contents

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a student group discussion centered around how information has been lost or removed from the group presentation? Assigning interactive tables of contents with internal linking in Google Slides could be the answer.  
  • What is it? A designated slide within a Google Slides assignment listing the titles of each requirement and internally linked to the slide representing the information. 
  • What is the benefit? Interactive Table of Contents helps when grading group assignments as teachers will clearly be able to distinguish one student's work from another.  Nor will there be a need for student conferences about group members who refuse to complete their parts of the project. 
  • Assignment Ideas: Novel Studies - Chapter Summaries / Characterization / Iconography / Figurative Language, Math Study Guide, Interactive Vocabulary, Research Project
  • Link to NEPF Standards: (I.S. 3, Indicator 4), (I.S. 5, Indicator 3), (4 C's - Collaboration, Critical Thinking)

#2 - Stop Animation 

Want to add a little creativity to your classroom?  Consider assigning your students to demonstrate a learning concept by creating a stop animation with Google Slides. 
  • What is it? The use of images, graphics, and text on multiple Google Slides that when "played" creates a mini video presentation of a learning topic/concept.  
  • What is the benefit? Provides an authentic assessment opportunity for students which requires both critical thinking and creativity to demonstrate mastery.  Allows for student voice and choice in the assessment process.  Finally, when sharing student creations, classrooms are able to experience learning topics in multiple ways.
  • Assignment Ideas: Visualize - Chemical Reactions, Steps of Math Problem, Battle Reenactments, Visual Chapter Summaries, Interactive Vocabulary 
  • Link to NEPF Standards: (I.S. 2, Indicator 1), (I.S. 3, Indicator 2), (I.S. 5, Indicator 3), (4 C's - Creativity and Critical Thinking) 

#3 - Moveable Digital Activities 

  • What is it? Interactive assignments which allow students to move and manipulate objects (i.e. sorting) to demonstrate mastery of topic(s)/standard(s).
  • What is the benefit? An engaging way for students to demonstrate working knowledge of a topic/objective.  Can be easily submitted as a form of formative assessment.  Could be used in place of manipulative activities and minimize "clean-up".  Appeals to visual and kinesthetic learning styles. 
  • Assignment Ideas:  Categorize Figures of Speech or Types of Energy Exchange, Demonstrate Volume, Calculate Addition/Subtraction of Integers, Sort Historical Events on a Timeline
  • Link to NEPF Standards: (I.S. 2, Indicator 1), (I.S. 2, Indicator 3), (I.S. 5, Indicator 3), (4 C's - Critical Thinking) 

Looking for more inventive ways to utilize G-Suite applications?  Be sure to tune in to The Google Teacher Tribe podcast featuring creative ideas from Kasey Bell and Matt Miller.


(Material adapted from The Google Teacher Tribe Podcast ep. 60)

Monday, December 3, 2018

BYTE-SIZED BLOG: What is Computational Thinking?

A guest blog by Cindi Chang in celebration of Computer Science Education Week 2018
What is Computational Thinking?

Computational thinking is using special thinking patterns and processes to pose and solve problems or prepare programs for computation.

There are four pillars that comprise computational thinking:

·         Decomposition

·         Pattern matching

·         Abstraction, and

·         Algorithms (sometimes referred to as automation)

Decomposition is breaking a problem down into smaller, more manageable parts. Multiplication is an example of decomposition. Take 436 x 12. This can be a bit challenging to solve. We can break it into (436 x 2) + (436 x 10), which is 872 + 4360, which equals 5232.

Pattern matching is finding similarities between items as a way of gaining extra information. “Pattern recognition can be associated with common acts like knowing how to open a new book or even being able to seamlessly hop from using one brand of phone to another.”

Abstraction is ignoring certain details in order to come up with a solution that works for a more general problem.  In other words, removing details that are too specific so that one instruction can work for multiple problems. An example is making a bed. You don’t need to know the exact pattern of sheets in order to tell someone how to make a bed, or the color of the blankets, or how many pillows there would be. Those details can be abstracted out when giving instructions on how to make a bed.

Automation (algorithms) is the act of controlling a process (by automatic means) and reducing human intervention to a minimum. For example: we could create a computer program that asks us for n number of sides and returns a polygon for us.


(Material adapted from Computational Thinking and Coding for Every Student by Krauss and Prottsman)

Nevada Academic Content Standards for Computer Science:


Cindi L. Chang, M.Ed. 

Friday, November 9, 2018

The Power of the Anticipatory Set

The anticipatory set is an activity that creates focus and sparks the attention of the class for the lesson that will follow. It is the hook, lead, or set induction. It is utilized at the beginning of a unit or lesson, where students complete a short activity to pique their interest and build prior knowledge.

For your anticipatory set to have maximum impact, provide ways that it can directly relate to the lesson topic, make points of connection throughout the lesson being taught and bridge to previous skills, strategies or lessons. To save time and yet always have the impact of the anticipatory set present, create your own top five list of anticipatory set strategies to reuse in future lessons. Also, consider implementing strategies from For instance, try Affinity Mapping.

Affinity mapping gives us a sense of where most people’s thinking is focused. Use an affinity diagram when you want to find categories within a cluster of ideas and when you want to see which ideas are most common within the group.”

Chromebook integration and the anticipatory set; create a connection with your lesson.

  • Select a key video or audio clip, photo, comic, article, or website related to the topic and upload to Google Classroom, Canvas, Padlet, etc.for students to respond to.
  • Present a connected discussion question on your Google Classroom homepage or in your class Canvas Discussion forum.
  • Digitally poll your students. Provide an analogy, story, or scenario that relates to your topic.
  • Provide T/F statements for your students to predict answers to.
  • Make a screencast where you tell a story. Having a screencast clip makes sure all learners have access to the lesson hook, even those who are absent.
  • Have students design something digitally.

NEPF connection suggestion: Standard 1: 

New learning is connected to prior learning and experience. 

Monday, October 15, 2018

Are you trying Canvas? Try these help documents

Congratulations on trying to develop courses in Canvas! Below are some links to help documents that you might try. Remember that your Professional Development Strategists are available to help you.

Canvas Help Documents

Copying a course from another WebCampus course
How to copy a course from one semester to the next

Importing content into your course from a course export .zip file
How to upload files and materials from a .zip file
Modules as an organizational structure
An introduction to the main organizational structure for Canvas. Modules create the structure through which students interact with your pages, discussion boards, quizzes, assignments and more.
Populating your module structure with content
How to add files, pages, assignments, quizzes, discussion boards and more to your course within the module structure.
Uploading files in your course
How to upload and maintain a list of files in your course for access by you or your students
Creating a new content page
Content pages represent the core of many courses in WebCampus and can be used to create instructional content and even an attractive landing page for your course.
Creating an announcement
Announcements are an important way to get critical information communicated to students within your course.

Creating discussions
How to create and maintain student discussion boards in your course.
Creating an online assignment
How to create and configure assignment drop-boxes for online graded student submissions.

Creating a graded column for offline assignments
How to create a column for manually entering grades for in-class student submissions.
Creating Accessible Content in Canvas (PDF)
Learn how to ensure your WebCampus content meets the mandatory accessibility guidelines with universal design that benefits all students.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Thinking Routines

Pairing classroom thinking strategies with tech integration

Harvard's Project Zero-Headlines Strategy:

This routine uses newspaper headlines to capture the essence of an event, idea, concept or topic. It works especially well at the end of a class discussion in which students have explored a topic and gathered new information and opinions.
Ask students,
If you were to write a headline for this topic or issue right now that has captured the most important aspect to remember, what would the headline be? If you ask the first question at the beginning of the discussion, follow up with these questions:
How would your headline change after today’s discussion? How does it differ from what you would have said yesterday?

Thinking Routines: A Tool for Making Thinking Visible
Developed by Project Zero researchers. See for more information.

Chromebook Integration Ideas:

  • Use Google Docs at the end of the discussion to write-up thoughts and ideas.
  • The teacher provides a class Padlet link, or similar application, for students to publically post follow up thoughts.
  • Teacher share’s a common Google Doc for all students to collaborate on in real time.
  • The teacher’s Google Classroom could be used as an open forum for final thoughts after the class discussion.
  • If Canvas is used, the teacher could post a class discussion thread to extend productive discourse after the classroom discussion has occurred. 
  • Students create and share out a WeVideo or FlipGrid.
  • Students use Google draw or generate a digital comic to relay opinions. 

Making NEPF Connections:

This strategy aligns with the Nevada Educator Performance Framework (NEPF); consider connections to standards one, three and four.
Standard One: New learning is connected to prior learning and experience. Indicator 4: Teacher provides students opportunities to build on or challenge initial understandings.
Standard Three: Students engage in meaning-making through discourse and other strategies. As the teacher provides opportunities for students to make connections and recognize relationships through productive discourse, (Indicator 1) students could also be engaging in Standard Four; Metacognitive Activity increases the understanding of and responsibility for their own learning.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Simple Screencasting with Screencastify

I have to admit that one of my favorite screencasting tools is the Screencastify Chrome Extension! I have been using this for over a year and have found so many different applications. Screencastify is one of the easiest ways to record your entire desktop, browser tab, or webcam with no complicated screencasting software required. The best part is that Screencastify integrates with Google Drive.

I often use Screencastify to record myself when offering blended or online learning, to explain difficult concepts, and as a way to explain how to do something when I receive an email from a teacher or student.

The Screencastify team has spent over a year talking to teachers and scouring the internet to find some of the best classroom screencasting ideas. They have recently created and shared this ebook, 50 Ways to Use Screencastify in the Classroom, with their favorite Screencastify classroom activities that can be implemented by any teacher.

The uses for Screencastify are countless. What will you do with Screencastify?

Friday, September 28, 2018

21st Century PD for the Busy Teacher

The NR21 Strategist team are followers of #DitchThatTextbook. Thus, when an opportunity arose to be a part of the September encore session of their CUE Craft Ditch the Textbook Digital Conference sponsored by AdobeSpark - jumping ensued.  Each session featured the amazing Matt Miller (founder of Ditch That Textbook) dialoguing with influential innovators in BlendEd. Sessions included Google-powered learning discussions with Kasey Bell of Shake Up Learning, The HyperDoc Girls, The Cult of Pedagogy with Jennifer Gonzalez, and many more. However, again what was unique about this experience was the delivery method.

Every conference session was presented in a Google Hangout session.  Wait, what? These heavy hitting innovators sat down in their t-shirts and jeans to chat about the latest trends in edTech. The conference was FREE and on-demand, allowing the ability to access the sessions at any time. Each session included presentation notes as well as Professional Development certificates.

Sessions were not edited for perfect quality.  Jazzy transitions, backgrounds, and sound effects were not added.  Why? The focus was how to change our mindset, how to blend our classrooms, and how to truly create 21st century learners.    

What an exceptional way to deliver PD!  If you missed this FREE learning opportunity, don’t worry. Another CUE Craft Ditch the Textbook Digital learning conference is coming soon. Be sure to check out the CUE page for other innovative PD events.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

UPDATES to Google Classroom

This summer BIG changes were announced to Google Classroom.  Here are a few of NR21's favorite updates as well as links to experts demonstrating these new features.
  • NEW Classroom tab: We asked and Google heard us.  While topics was a useful way to sort assignments and posts, this option was not as user-friendly as it could be.  With the creation of the Classroom tab, teachers can create modules to sort assignments into. Users also have the ability to move these assignments up or down the stream.  While not perfect, this is an improvement.
  • NEW Grading Features: If you are like us, grading written responses and essays in Classroom was a bit of a chore.  Each document had to be opened within Classroom to be annotated, but there was no location to input scoring.  Classroom now allows users to shift between assignments without closing each document. Teachers can create a bank of responses to include as annotations and quickly insert using the # symbol.   
  • Ability to Create Forms within Classroom - This is an important change COMING SOON. Forms have been a resource to educators for a number of years as a means of formative and summative assessment. There will no longer a need to venture outside Classroom. Simply create right within Classroom. Keep an eye out for this change.

Warning: These new Google Classroom features will only appear in NEW Classrooms created after August 7.  Existing Classrooms will retain the older features.  At least for now. 

Be sure to make some time to explore the new features of this amazing tool!  Or, take a virtual tour of the NEW Google Classroom.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Project-Based Learning

What exactly is Project-Based Learning aka PBL?  The Buck Institute for Education defines PBL as
"students work on a project over an extended period of time--from a week up to a semester--that engages them in solving a real-world problem or answering a complex question". Dr. Sylvia Chard, a professor at the University of Albert and founder of Project Approach, states "one of the major advantages of project work is that it makes school more like real life.  It's an in-depth investigation of a real-world topic worthy of children's attention and effort".  So, if the purpose of PBL connects the real world to school, what are some other benefits of why teachers should do it?  The answers are as follows:

  • Promotes personal and social responsibility
  • Planning, critical thinking, reasoning, creativity, and collaboration are presented
  • Harnesses communication skills (interpersonal and presentation needs)
  • Enables visualizing and decision making
  • Stimulates cross-cultural understanding
  • Allows for students to assess how and when to use technology and to choose the most appropriate tool for the task.
If you are considering creating or using an already-made PBL for your classroom, consider Edutopia's four rules for authenticity.

  1. The project meets a real need in the world beyond that classroom, or the products that students create are used by real people.
  2. The project focuses on a problem, issue or topic that is relevant to students' lives or on a problem/issue that is being faced by adults.
  3. The project sets up a scenario or simulation that is realistic, even if it is fictitious.
  4. The project involves tools, tasks, or processes used by adults in real settings and by professionals in the workplace.
If you are interested in learning more about PBL, here are some resources to get you started.
PBL Project Search
PBL University
A Step-by-Step Guide to the Best Projects
PBL History

Felicia Wilson
Las Vegas

Monday, June 4, 2018

AVID Strategies for STEAM

Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID for short, provides a framework educators can use to “shift to a more equitable, student-centered approach” to teaching (source).

The foundation of an AVID lesson is “WICOR,” which stands for Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, Organization, and Reading. The idea is that a teacher can support AVID students by incorporating WICOR into their everyday lessons. For example, a teacher can plan opportunities for students to write, use inquiry and critical thinking, collaborate with other students, use a system to organize their work, and read. When teachers use WICOR in their plans, they help AVID students achieve their academic goals and will ultimately set these students up for success in college.

Integrating WICOR into lessons works great in STEAM Academies, too, since students are using the science and engineering practices as they learn. The following list includes AVID strategies that will support STEAM teachers.

Strategy: Cornell Notes

How it Works

Students divide their notebook page into something that looks like this. Students fill out the topic and the essential question. Students write their class notes in the notes section. The notes can be informed by a reading passage that aligns with the lesson objectives. Afterwards, the teacher asks the students help each other come up with higher-order questions based on the content of their notes. Students are also asked to synthesize a summary of what they learned in the summary section.

  • Students write their own notes, questions, and summaries. 
  • Students use inquiry to come up with higher-order questions. 
  • Students collaborate with other students as they write their questions. 
  • Students use the Cornell notes structure to organize their work. 
  • Students read from the provided passage.

Tech Infusion

Have students create a Cornell notes template in Google Docs.

Strategy: LENSES Graph Analysis

How it Works

LENSES” is an acronym students can use to navigate their way through a graph. This process works great in small groups, as it gives a chance for students to collaborate with each other. When students see a graph in a textbook, test, or handout, they should Label and List the essential components of the graph like the graph’s title, independent variable (including units), dependent variable (including units), and the high and low data points into a graphic organizer. Students then find the Equation of the graph and determine if the line is showing a direct, indirect, linear, or exponential relationship between the variables. Students then ask themselves, “What do I Notice about the graph?” Specifically, what is the story the graph is trying to tell? Students then Speculate on what may happen to the dependent variable if the independent variable increases or decreases. They can extrapolate the next data point and predict what that value might be. They are asked to make inferences about the graph. Students then Explain their predictions and inferences by writing a paragraph. Finally, students Summarize what they have learned from the graph.

  • Students write throughout this process. 
  • Students use inquiry skills to predict and infer. 
  • Students collaborate with each other in a small group. 
  • Students use a graphic organizer to organize their thoughts. 
  • Students read all parts of the graph.

Tech Infusion

Have students make their graphic organizers in Google Docs.

Strategy: One-Pager

How it Works

A One-Pager is a creative response to a student’s learning experience. It allows students to use their imagination as they make connections between vocabulary words and ideas from a curricular unit and it creates an opportunity for students to share their work and use it collaboratively to study. Students are asked to use unlined, white paper to create their one-pager and follow these specific instructions: Title the one-pager to reflect its topic. Students may use pencils, markers, and colored pencils and are encouraged to fill up the entire page. Tell students to be purposeful about how they organize their one-pager and have a reason why a certain color is used or for placing an object in a certain place, for example. Have students include two quotes from their notes, draw three visual images, place five essential vocabulary terms around the images, and write a main idea from one of their readings. Have students write two of their higher-order questions from their Cornell notes onto the one-pager and answer them. Finally, students are asked to draw a symbolic border around the edges of the page.

  • Students write throughout this process.
  • Students use inquiry skills to translate their thoughts and notes from one medium to another.
  • Students collaborate with each other by sharing their work and using the one-pagers to study. Think of using cooperative learning structures from Kagan or do a gallery walk.
  • Students are encouraged to be purposeful in how they organize their one-pager.
  • Students synthesize a main idea from one of their class readings. They also will read and interpret other students’ one-pagers.

Tech Infusion

Have students create their one-pager in Google Drawings.

Chris Justus
Las Vegas

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

End of Year Google Classroom and Google Drive Clean Up

The end of the school year is a time when many teachers find themselves cleaning up their classrooms and files and beginning to organize things for the next school year. While it is often more obvious that the physical classroom needs to be organized at the end of the school year, so do our digital classrooms and storage spaces.

Now, is a great time to clean up and organize your Google Classroom(s) and Google Drive.

The following tips will help you clean up your digital classroom and files as you close out one school year and prepare for the next.

Tip #1:  Remember to return all student work

When students submit their work through Google Classroom, Google automatically changes the permissions of the file(s) that were submitted making the teacher the owner and reducing the student's right to "view only." While this is helpful when having assignment deadlines and grading students' work you don't want to leave it this way.

After you have graded assignments you want to make sure to return the work back to the students so that the ownership and access permissions of these files revert back to the students as well. This is critical to remember when you are cleaning up your Google Drive folders and files. If you do not return the assignments back to the students and you delete these files from your Drive you are really deleting the file. However, if you return the work to the students and they resume ownership of the files when you delete them all it does is remove the file from your Drive.

Tip #2:  Un-enroll students who have left your class during the year

If you prefer not to have students accessing content, assignments, information, etc. from your class you can un-enroll them and remove them from your Google Classroom.

Tip #3:  Archive old classes

When you are done with a digital class you can archive the class so that your Google Classroom current class list is cleaned up.

Archiving a Google Class not only removes the class from the list on your main Classroom homepage, it also freezes the class so that no new changes can be made and allows you to still reuse posts and assignments in new Google Classrooms.

Tip #4:  Move old class folders in your Google Drive

Many teachers don't realize that as they use Google Classroom, Google automates the workflow and organization by creating class folders and assignment folders in your Google Drive as you use Google Classroom throughout the year.

Every time you create a class in Google Classroom a folder is created for that class where all the assignment documents and other files are stored. It is important to know that you are able to move class folders in your Google Drive to a new location so that only the current class folders and files are easily visible.

I recommend that you locate your "Classroom" folder in your Google Drive. Within that folder, you can create a new folder and name it "Archived." Now you can simply drag and drop the old (archived) class folders into the new folder you just created.

Moving Google Classroom folders doesn't change anything in your Google Classroom or with file permissions. It just allows you to more quickly and easily find your current Classroom folders and files.

Tip #5:  Remove old Google Classroom calendars

Not only does Google create folders in your Google Drive to organize your digital class it also creates a Google Calendar when you create assignments with due dates. The calendar is a great way for students and teachers to see upcoming due dates for class assignments and projects during the school year.

When the school year is done you don't need the calendars from your Google classes cluttering up your calendar list. You can prevent this by either hiding these calendars or deleting them from your calendar list.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

We Can All Breakout!

Elevated heartbeat, sweaty forehead, and the anxious anticipation of whether I will escape.  Yes, I am referring to the challenge of an escape room.  There's nothing like that feeling of anxiously working to uncover the clues and escape the room.  As a teacher, I liked to challenge my students to answer mentally puzzling questions or riddles.  My opening activity was always a riddle.  This served as a way to get them focused and ready to think critically.  Another activity that I enjoyed incorporating was a scavenger hunt that I'd create using whatever unit or lesson we were focusing on.  Much like scavenger hunts and escape rooms--Breakout boxes incorporate the same elements.  Students have to critically think about clues to uncover the answer and if they are working in teams they must use collaboration and communication skills to break open the box.
Breakout boxes have gained popularity this year.  As I have observed different classrooms at different schools around the Las Vegas valley, I have seen students breakout or at the very least attempt to breakout.  Students must uncover clues and work with each other to unlock the many locks on the breakout box. has a plethora of ready-made breakouts for a fee, but  I have seen many Nevada Ready 21 digital coaches and teachers make their own customized breakouts for much less.  Units, lessons, and books from every content area can be customized into a breakout.
If you are interested n having a breakout happen in your classroom, do not feel like you must use the traditional box and locks.  There are digital breakouts that have the same effect and the best part is---they're free.

If you want to know more about Breakouts in the classroom, here are some resources to get you started.

Felicia Wilson
Las Vegas

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Take Note and Transform Note Taking in Your Classroom

Note taking is a skill prized by teachers and professors but the process is often disliked by students. After all, note taking is difficult work that requires active listening, the processing of information on-the-fly, and synthesizing shorter messages, sometimes involving symbols, that hopefully convey the spirit of the original, longer message. Setting our students up for success in this process is critical to their developing this skill over time. If teachers do it right, students will have a skill they can bring with them to college, their career, and beyond.

In this blog post, we will explore analog and digital note taking ideas teachers can use in their classrooms tomorrow.

Cornell Notes

The Cornell Note system has been around since the 1940s. The system was developed in response to observations a professor made of his students at Cornell University. He noticed students struggled with taking notes from scratch and studying from them. The Cornell Notes System was born!

Students are asked to draw a vertical line 2.5 inches from the left side of a notebook page and a horizontal line 2 inches up from the bottom, as shown in the image on the right.

The resulting two columns have specific roles. The column on the right is for notetaking and the column on the left is used for students to write higher-order thinking questions based on those notes. The idea is that when students study, they can cover up their notes and try to answer their questions. If they need a little extra help answering their questions, they can peek at their notes to find the answers.

The bottom section of the note page is reserved for writing a summary of the notes, which is helpful when studying but it also forces the students to go back through their notes and translate them into a shorter paragraph.

Some teachers reserve the larger column on the right for content other than notes. For example, a teacher might ask students to glue a reading passage or a list of vocabulary terms onto the page. If students create concept maps, they can draw them in this section, too.

Peer-Reviewed Digital Notes

One of the challenges teachers face when transitioning to a 1:1 classroom is what to do with student notes. Way back in 2016 BC (Before Chromebooks), teachers lectured from PowerPoint presentations as students quickly scribbled down notes into their notebooks. But in 2018 AD (After Device), some teachers found the notebook option lacking, especially with all of the things you can do with Google Docs.

The Cornell notes method of notetaking works great when students are using notebooks, pencils, and paper. Teachers working at 1:1 schools, however, may want to harness the power of Docs and transform notetaking with peer-reviewed digital notes.

Teachers can increase collaboration between students, which is one of the skills identified by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills as important for today's students to master. To get students to collaborate with one another, pair students up and make both partners peer-reviewers. Students can share their notes with their collaborative peer reviewer and help one another come up with annotations, ideas for questions, and a review of summaries.

Like the Cornell Notes setup, the peer-reviewed digital notes use columns. There is a column for higher-order thinking questions students can write based on the content of the notes and a section to write a summary of the notes. But one of the biggest differences between the peer-reviewed digital notes and the Cornell Notes setup is that the teacher provides the notes to her students. The idea behind giving the notes to the student is that this frees the student up to synthesize their own notes in the third column. Students can use the power of Docs to define vocabulary terms they might not know, and to add images, links, and additional research to their notes.


Want to make the note taking process more visual and access your students’ creative side? Sketchnoting can do just that! Mike Rhode, author of The Sketchnote Handbook, says, “Sketchnotes are rich visual notes created from a mix of handwriting, drawings, hand-drawn typography, shapes, and visual elements like arrows, boxes, and lines.” Taken together, sketchnotes can convey the overall big ideas from a lecture or reading.

Why should teachers bring the sketchnoting practice into their classroom?

When students use sketchnoting to take class notes, students become active listeners as they translate the written and spoken word into a visual representation of the discussion. Students use their critical thinking skills to do this, which is one of the 21st century skills identified by the Partnership for 21st Century Learning as important for students to be successful in college and career. Studies have also shown that “longhand notetakers outperformed laptop notetakers on conceptual understanding and long-term recall” (source).

If a teacher wanted to integrate sketchnoting in their classroom, she should start small at first. Teachers are encouraged to take it slow with students at first and model the process as much as possible. One way to do this is through a “Think Aloud.” During this strategy, a teacher explains their thinking behind why they chose a specific image to draw, or placed an arrow, or wrote text, for example.
The image above is used with permission from Creative Commons and was created by Wesley Fryer.

Concept Mapping

Slides presentations are classroom staples used to transfer knowledge from the teacher to the student. This "sit-and-get" style of information input, however, can be very teacher-centered. Note taking doesn't have to be so one-sided! You can make note taking student-centered by having your students create concept maps as notes.

Concept maps help students organize their thinking, and are made up of a series of terms or concepts linked by connecting phrases. The concepts are enclosed within a rectangle, which are called nodes. Students draw arrows and create connecting phrases between the nodes.

Teach your students to build simple concept maps by imagining the two nodes and the connecting phrase are parts of a sentence. Node 1 is the beginning of the sentence and node 2 is the end of the sentence. The connecting phrase links the beginning with the end. Look at the green graphic for an example of a simple concept map. Note how the direction of the arrow tells the viewer which direction to read the concept map.

From there, students can begin to add more nodes and connecting phrases to their concept map. I tell my students to add interconnections between nodes so their concept map looks like a spider web rather than the spokes of a bicycle tire. Teachers can use the number of interconnections between nodes as a type of formative assessment. The more interconnections between nodes and the more web-like the concept map, the deeper the understanding of the content.

While concept mapping should be mastered first with pencil and paper, students can eventually transition to an online tool like Drawings or Lucidchart to create and share their concept maps.

Chris Justus
Las Vegas

Monday, May 7, 2018

Google Experiment Spotlight

Ever since 2009, computer programmers have pushed the limits of what you can do with Google and Chrome through the design of Google Experiments. These web-based apps can pack a big punch and supplement your digital-infused lessons. For example, art teachers can have students study color palettes from famous paintings using the the Art Palette Google Experiment from its Arts & Culture subdomain.

Users can upload or take a photo and find other art works with similar color palettes to the one you submitted. Take a look at the looping GIF below to see Art Palette in action! If you can't use this in your art classroom, maybe you can use it for your next interior redesign of your living room!

Another cool Google Experiment, Song Maker, can be harnassed by music teachers during a composition unit. Our students can easily make music in Chrome! Students can click on one of the boxes on Song Maker to place a note. Adding more notes can make a song! Students can change the tempo, the musical instrument they're using in their composition, and even the scale. There's a "Mic" option on Song Maker which I did not check out (trust me, I'm doing you a favor) but I'd love to hear from you what it does and how it works! The best part is that once the student saves their masterpiece, the system generates a link students can turn in to Google Classroom or your class's Canvas LMS.

Check out my attempt at writing the theme song to Jeopardy... It (kinda) sounds like it!

The last Google Experiment I'll spotlight in this blog post is, in my opinion, the COOLEST! You know how sometimes you write lessons that ask students to draw a picture? And every time, it seems, a few of the students say, "But Mister, I can't draw, I'm not an artist!"

Enter AutoDraw

AutoDraw takes the frustration out of drawing by using artifical intelligence to guess what your chicken scratch is supposed to represent. A professional clip art-style version of your drawing is then swapped out for your doodle.

For example, if you are attempting to draw a top hat, the system may guess that it is a top hat or a boat or a shirt or a hot dog or a building or a... you get the point. You choose which of those guesses you want to replace it with.

The cool part is now you have a pretty good drawing you or your students can use in a Slide show or in a Google Drawing. Take a look at the looping GIF below to see AutoDraw guess that the lobster I am trying to draw is, in fact, supposed to be a lobster!

-Chris Justus
Las Vegas

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Transform Your Lessons into 21st-Century Lessons

BoostEDU is a program that supports teachers in transforming their traditional lessons into 21st-century lessons through an inquiry-based self-assessment and guided lesson design process. It's like having your own EdTech Coach sitting right next to you!

Megan Kelly created BoostEDU as part of her Google Innovator project in order to create a solution to the traditional sit and get, one-size fits all, approach to professional development for educators. She wanted to develop a program that would personalize professional development for educators and allow them to reach higher levels of SAMR in their lessons, projects, and activities.

In 4 easy steps, Megan has created a process for teachers to be able to self-reflect on their current lessons and be able to see how incorporating purposeful technology doesn't have to be difficult.

Step 1:  The teacher takes a lesson, project, or activity that they would like to review (ideally it is one that they have already taught or created)

Step 2:  The teacher completes a self-assessment of an original lesson to determine their current level of SAMR/ISTE/4 C’s within their lesson.  During the survey, they will be able select suggestions and tech tools to “boost” their lesson. These results will then be emailed to them in an editable Google Doc.

Step 3:  The teacher will use an online, interactive form to transform their original lesson based on their results from the self-assessment.  The form will be interactive and offer suggestions for technology integration to assist him/her in building this boosted lesson.  When they submit the form, they will receive a digital copy of their lesson plan.

Step 4:  In this step, the teacher will have the opportunity to share their self-assessment results and “boosted” lesson on a Google Plus Community.  After their lesson is complete, they can share the lesson on the BoostEDU website for other teachers to access and use.

Monday, April 30, 2018

I’VE GOT THE WHOLE WORLD IN MY HAND...(well, computer)

Alison H. Graettinger, PhD
Assistant Professor, University of Missouri-Kansas City, KC, MO

We all live, for now, on Earth. That means understanding the planet using geography, environmental science, and geology is important for understanding our history and our future. The problem is, the planet is large and class sessions are only so long. As I study volcanoes, the places I want to talk about are far away, and frequently dangerous (eruptions, harsh weather etc.). Thankfully, technology has come a long way to help us bring the planet, in very tangible forms, into the classroom using one of my favorite tools, Google Earth.
Google Earth lets us, through the desktop application or web application, travel anywhere we want during a class session. This allows us, as teachers, to relate students’ own back yard, to anywhere else in the world, and back again, in a single lesson, or throughout the school year. Google Earth is a simple Geographical Information System (GIS) that is used in geography, geology, infromatics, public health, homeland security, wildlife and ecology studies, law enforcement, utilities, and political science. Knowing how to use GIS is a highly marketable skill for our students and the sooner we introduce them to it, the more than can apply it beyond the classroom. Even better, Google Earth is user friendly and only has the tools that are used most often, making it easy to introduce to students and have them using it within a single class session (30-50 minutes).

Additionally, numerous teachers have already developed lessons and exercises that are easily adapted to whatever topic you wish to incorporate (Sample LessonScavenger Hunt). The rest of this blog is about how I use Google Earth in my introductory and upper level class undergraduate courses and personal research, but I have also helped sixth graders incorporate Google Earth into their Earth Science projects and have had great success taking these same exercises and using them at science outreach events where much younger participants, with no preparation, benefit from the exposure to Google Earth.
I use Google Earth in all of my classes from Introductory Geology, Volcanology, and even the writing intensive senior seminars for Geography, Environmental Scientists and Geologists. We use Google Earth in class, with homework assignments, and in student presentations. The first step is always to introduce students to their own backyard. In Kansas City we have two large rivers that dominate the landscape, but many students have no idea how to recognize their hometown from a satellite image until we take the time to look. This is a great opportunity for students to practice observations skills. They can turn the concept of a long squiggly dark thing to a river, then figure out where school is, their favorite park, their house. Suddenly the complicated becomes familiar.

It is then an easy step to jump to what we were there to talk about, landscape and politics. Kansas City is split by the state line between Missouri and Kansas. The Kansas City Metropolitan area includes both sides of this border, with the larger portion in Missouri, annoying students on Geography quizzes since 1850. This border partially follows the Missouri River, easily noted on the satellite image, and then turns south in a wholly human construct.
Google Earth Image of Kansas City with 20 km scale bar. Using the landscape students are familiar with is a good way to introduce them to Google Earth and even discuss relevant topics.


This part of the border is delineated by State Line Road, but is not obvious from above. This is an important opportunity to discuss how borders are assigned and the challenges they pose socially, politically, and practically (snow removal). All we had to do to make this discussion happen was open Google Earth and navigate around with the mouse. The students are now warming up to the program and we are ready to dive into something more subject specific.

I then take students on a tour of some location that matches what we are discussing in class. We could find another river, in the US or half way around the world, to compare and contrast the locations. We can travel to various volcanoes and find examples where political boundaries dividing the volcano in half (a common occurrence)!

Tungurahua (toon gu rah wa) Volcano in Ecuador is divided by a political boundary between to provinces (similar to our US states). This is an easy way to get students to start thinking about how different places are similar to home, but get them to think about how each place is unique.

Now that we’ve started looking at volcanoes around the world the options are limitless. I frequently assign students their own volcano to babysit for the semester. That is, they check if the volcano had any activity by looking at monitoring websites, webcams, and the news, then report back to the class. When one erupts (as volcanoes erupt frequently even if they don’t make news in the US) we can go find out where it is and test out our observation and analysis skills by looking at the landscape. We sometimes are even lucky enough for Google Earth to capture and post images of the volcano in eruption!

Masaya Volcano in Nicaragua has lots of exciting features that we can see in Google Earth. Note how much closer this image is than the previous images. Google Earth is good at many scales!

In my research I use Google Earth because it is low cost and accessible. I can have students conduct research with minimal training, and they can work at home or at school. My particular interest is a type of small volcano that doesn’t build up a cone, like the volcanoes you think of normally. Instead they have lots of explosions before the magma reaches the surface of the Earth and produce small craters. I am interested in the size and shape of these craters as they preserve evidence of those explosions. We need more information on these past eruptions to be prepared for future eruptions. By using Google Earth imagery I’ve been able to study 250 of these volcanoes so far, mainly through student research projects, and am hoping to reach 500 in the next few years.

My research focuses on small volcanoes that don’t build cones, but rather make craters at ground level. They are smaller than caldera type volcanoes, like Yellowstone and Crater Lake. They look like unassuming lakes, but are the result of lots of explosions.  I study their shape, size and distribution all over the planet, and Google Earth is an excellent tool to do this. A) Oregon, B) Alaska, C) Saudi Arabia, D) Nicaragua, E) Australia, F) Ethiopia.

 If you are interested in general volcano teaching resources, my colleague Janine Krippner from Concord College and I have a catalog of resources on our blog and we add things as we learn about them!