Tag Archives: Educational Applications

7 Great Things you can do in Google Classroom

This is reblogged from my post on Daily Genius.


Recently, Google Classroom issued a new update: posting a question. This reminded me that Google Classroom has come a long way since its original release. While it’s still a great place to assign and collect homework, Google Classroom has become far more robust in the last year. Here are seven great things that you can do with it.

google classroomAssign & Collect Homework Across Media

With Google Classroom, you are not limited to what type of instructions you can post or what type of work you can collect. As a teacher, you can post an assignment with written instructions or a video “how-to,” and distribute a Google Doc for students to edit and resubmit (just to name a few examples). Even better, if you have an exercise you regularly assign in class (a weekly journal or blog entry), then just select “Reuse Post” to save time. When students complete an assignment, they can turn in a standard Google file (Doc, Sheet, Presentation), files (from Google Drive or the hard drive), a video posted on YouTube, and/or a link. This means that students can submit multimedia projects in a variety of formats; for example, they can submit the completed video of a documentary that they created, attach a written version of the script, and include a storyboard completed via Google Slides (or even PowerPoint uploaded as a file or linked from OneDrive).

Create an Assignment, but Save it as a Draft to Assign Later

Most teachers work ahead. Originally, Google Classroom offered no flexibility when posting assignments. When you wrote it, you had to publish it. Now, you can create an assignment and instead of hitting “assign,” click the down arrow next to it and select “save as draft.” Then you can publish it when you are ready! Now, keep asking Google to allow us to schedule when it should post and I’ll be a happy teacher!

Post an announcement

You can tell your students about a delayed quiz, remind them you are meeting in the computer lab, or make any other announcement to your students. Click on the plus button on the bottom right and select “Create an Announcement.” Just like assignments, you can save an announcement as a draft and publish it when you are ready.

Post a Question (Much more than a Question Tool)

Using Google’s new “Create a Question,” teachers can now post a question for a class discussion or a simple poll to check for understanding. When you select “Create a Question,” you have two options: multiple choice or short answer. With multiple choice, you can ask a question for a quick check for understanding; for example you can ask students to assess a short passage about a reading assignment or check how well they understand a math concept. With the short-answer option, students can even engage with each another by replying to one another’s comments. This is a great resource for an online class discussion.

Take your time Grading

One of my favorite new features in Google Classroom is that now I can take my time grading. With longer assignments, like essays, it was a challenge to effectively grade them. I would generally keep a spreadsheet where I recorded their grades and comments and then transpose them to Classroom when it was time to return the graded assignment. Now, Google Classroom will save your grades as you progress. Students don’t see grades until you hit the return button. No more using multiple tools or pulling an all nighter to grade big assignments.

Team Teach your Classgoogle classroom

Google Classroom is also no longer limited to one teacher per class. Now you can invite another teacher to your class. This is great for teachers who team-teach, student-teachers with a mentor, or a way to collaborate on classes across the school. To add a teacher to your class, open your course, click on “About” and then click on “Invite Teacher.” Simply enter the teacher’s email address and invite them to your course.

Google Calendar Integration

Now, assignments appear in your Google Calendar. This is a great way for students to keep track of their homework at a glance. Classes are uniquely color coded (they can change them in the calendar app). Students can even set the calendar to give them email, pop up, or sms reminders in advance.

No doubt Google Classroom will continue to evolve over time and more features will be added (like scheduling a post!). These robust features make Google Classroom an even more powerful tool in teaching and learning.


My First Attempt at Employing Digital Storytelling in the Classroom

Today, my students turned in their Digital Storytelling projects. I set the bar high for them and they more than delivered. I first learned about Digital Storytelling while at a Learning Conference at the American School in London. It was an amazing presentation and demonstration, presented by Leah Treesh.

My overall goal with this project is:

  • To help students to learn how to research topics, develop a topic focus, and to present material in a coherent, logical way to their peers.
  • Teach students to learn to read both text and imagery as it relates to historical topics (my pet concept as I’m a trained archaeologist).
  • To help students develop their research skills, especially to recognize and utilize reliable and informative sources (be they written in a book, an academic journal, a magazine, and/or an online blog).
  • To have students employ and exercise multiple senses and activities to promote understanding and retention of material. In ‘regular english,’ having them use visual, audio, and tactile skills in production they are more likely to remember what they learn.
  • To help students focus, hone, and develop their own time-management skills. This was a project that was intensive and most students were working 100% of class time and then working about 20 minutes in the evening. It required planning ahead and managing their workload. Waiting until the last minute would result in a timely investment at the very end.
  • To have my students push the envelope and challenge themselves not only with new material, but new tools.

I posted my lesson plan and project objectives at the beginning of the week. You can read up on that here: “Digital Story-Telling Lesson Plan.” Here were the written instructions that I distributed to the students:

We went over the instructions step-by-step in class. I also showed them an example of what I produced so that they could see a finished product.

I also developed a thorough rubric that emphasized the fact that the video productions were not about the “razzle dazzle” but the content. The students were given the rubric in advance.

We then went to a prepared library orientation where students were shown how to use our school’s resources for finding books and journal articles. Our librarian did an amazing job and the students were given an introduction on how to find useful information.

Our entire focus this last week in class (and as homework) has been working on the project – we have all been either in the library or the computer lab. Students picked their own topics of interest and then developed their topics. We hit some bumps in the road, but ultimately came up with an amazing product.

From some of the input I got from colleagues, here were some of the problems that I anticipated and tried to plan for as much as possible.

  1. Having to teach students a ton of new software and then play tech-support monkey. I can honestly say that software instruction and tech support was far more limited than I anticipated. I tried to pre-empt this as much as possible with my “Troubleshooting Suggestions.” Whenever a student asked me a question, I asked if they had tried one of the first few suggestions – most of the time they replied “no” and went to work on the list. They were, 90% of the time, able to solve their own problems and thus developed some self-reliant skills. Not to say that there weren’t any tech issues, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed and found that if I had several students with the same problem (e.g. how do I upload to YouTube), I could show one and then they would teach their classmates.
  2. Uneven access to resources – would all students have access to computers and internet outside of school. I tried to make as much time as possible for students to work in the classroom. Most of them still had to do some work outside of the class. However, due to the nature of my school, all of my students had internet and computer access outside of school. Still, I realize that this is not the reality for many educators.
  3. Some students will wait until the last minute and thus won’t complete it on time. Since this may require that they access software or information unevenly available (e.g. a program at school vs. one at home and vice versa). This requires a lot of time management skills that many teenagers do not have. This is a real concern as teenagers are just learning this skill. However, like adults sometimes they have to learn the hard way and suffer some consequences. My students know that there is a 10 point grade penalty for all late assignments. I had about 10-15% of students who did not have their projects completed on time. If they had a reasonable explanation/excuse then they were granted an extension. However, if it was a time-management issue they had to take the penalty. What I did was plan in a 10 point extra credit assignment. If they watched a classmates video (posted on our classblog) and meaningfully commented, they could earn up to 10 points. This rewards those who followed the instructions, managed their time, and completed their work in a timely manner but also provided a safety net for those who struggled so that they can make-up their missed points.
  4. There will be technical difficulties and some students won’t be able to solve them. This is always the reality be it making a PowerPoint slide or a video production. We didn’t have a lot of true technical difficulties – most of them were simple errors (like storing pictures in the wrong folder). Sometimes, students needed to do more research on how to use their elected program (PowerPoint seemed to be especially a struggle when it came to saving it as a movie). Even I can’t learn all of the tech elements of every program to teach them effectively. If a student waited until the last minute, this hit them harder.

In addition to planned hiccups, there are also unplanned problems that I had to deal with:

  1. A few parents were uncomfortable with their child having a public video on YouTube. Many parents are reasonably concerned about their child’s public presence on media. I had a few parents that expressed concern and I made allowances for their child to put their video on a flash drive and show their video without it being shared. 
  2. The power went out at 9am. Yep, power outage. Fortunately, it didn’t last very long. However, it reset all of the servers. So in my first period class we started about 20 minutes late. Fortunately, our tech team was on the ball and made a point to reactivate my YouTube access right away.Teamwork!
  3. Not all students have video capable bandwidth. This actually surprised me quite a bit. I assumed that everyone would be able to upload a small video from home, but I had a few students (about 2 or 3) that were unable to upload videos from home to either YouTube or our shared DropBox. I had them bring it on a flash drive to school where I uploaded it to YouTube (students cannot access YouTube at our campus).
  4. Sometimes YouTube is a jerk. If the server is heavy or busy, videos can take a long time to upload and process errors can occur. A few students had videos that were seemingly ‘stuck’ in ‘processing’ mode on YouTube. When they messaged me, the problem was generally solved by having the student repeat the process.

The next time that I do this project (and yes, there will be a next time) there are definitely some things that I will do differently. Likewise, I assume that there are some things that my students will do differently. Overall, the successes far outweighed the fall-backs. Also, I set the bar really high for my students and they not only hit it – they jumped over it. I was so impressed with their presentations; they were well researched, thoughtful, creative, and professional. Several of them told me that they felt proud that they had accomplished something meaningful – that they had challenged themselves and met it head on. I’m going to include a few examples here (but keep in mind, there were so many amazing examples that it’s hard to pick a few). Of course, not 100% of the students were thrilled by this – some I’m sure will be happier when we do our ‘standard’ research paper in a few weeks (or perhaps they will nostalgically look back on this project).

Top 10 Educational Apps for Facebook by David Kapuler

Facebook and other Social Media is new and tricky ground for all educators. Many of us recognize that it can be a valuable tool and asset. For those who do use Facebook with their students (I cannot – we are not allowed to friend students), here are some great apps as shared by David Kapuler (and you don’t just have to use them with students). If you have others, please share them!

Top 10 Educational Apps for Facebook by David Kapuler.

  1. Send Files –  Easy way to send all different types of files, up to 2 MB.
  2. Study Hall – Great whiteboard app that’s ideal for displaying lots of different content. Also works on a variety of mobile devices.
  3. Slideshare –  Excellent way to share any style of presentation.
  4. Flashcardlet – Fun app for creating flashcards to study on Facebook.
  5. Quiz Monster –  Simple and fun way to create quizzes.
  6. Zoho Onlione Office –  Nice way to use the complete Zoho suite, with a good drag-n-drop interface.
  7. Webinairia –  Great way to create screencasts through Facebook – very innovative.
  8. Booktag – An app for sharing and commenting on books with others.
  9. To-Do-List –  Easy app for creating lists to get things done and then making them public or private.
  10. Typing Test – Fun way to practice your typing skills and then share your results with others in a friendly competition.