Reflections

2018-2019 School Year Reflection

This is one of my favorite blog posts of the year! I love reflecting back on a whole school year, seeing how I met my goals, and how I’ve grown as a person and as a teacher. Plus, it’s an excellent opportunity to look back on 2017-2018, and see areas of growth and success.

When I set my 2018-2019 school year goals, I had no idea what this year would bring. Though I planned to be more reflective, I didn’t regularly come back to my goals throughout the year. However, when I read back on what I wanted to accomplish, I did a fairly good job of meeting my goals. Next year, I’ll have to put my goals in a more visible place.

Working at work, relaxing at home

At this time last year, I was borderline burned out. I know I wasn’t fully burned out because I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel or search for a different job; however, I recognized that I was exhausted and needed to make a change. I did so much better with leaving the majority of work at work. Overall, I felt much better and more relaxed this year! I reversed a lot of the burnouty feeling, and kept up my energy better.

I love this quote painted on the wall at Robert Anderson MS (Anderson 5 district, Anderson, SC)! 

I was thrown a curveball in December when a teacher in my department decided to resign and left us scrambling to cover the classes. This, paired with the district cutting our resource positions, left me teaching two additional classes, including a new prep: AVID 0 period, 4 sections of 7th grade science, and 1 section of 7th grade science elective. It was exhausting, but I loved every second with my kids. With the added load, I somehow managed to complete the April No-Work Challenge again this year.

Additionally, there were some serious personal ups and downs this year. I had a huge life change in the fall, and spent the better part of December – February rearranging some pieces. In February, I turned 30 and celebrated by committing to work on myself and invest in my own happiness. I celebrated my 30th birthday with a solo trip to New York City!

Building relationships

Of my seven years of teaching, this year was one of the best, relationships-wise. I built strong relationships with my classes. It was tough to gain two new classes at the semester, and it took a while to build a functional relationship; the time and effort was worth it, and we ended the year on an amazingly positive note. I often received random hugs from my kids, and we ended most classes with, “I love you, bye!”

Google Expeditions AR in 7th grade science!

For the entire year, my fourth period class was a dream. They were this unique blend of students who figured out how to work well together, asked great questions, and knew how to transition between joking and serious–you all know that’s a huge deal in middle school. Academically, they weren’t the most skilled, but they made up for that in determination and joy! In fact, when I did my last day of school thank you speech, a few raised their hands and contributed their own thank you’s.

On the other hand, I really struggled with my third period class for the first two-thirds of the year. There were multiple behavior challenges, and students negatively fed off of each other’s energy. Teaching that class made me exhausted and a little frustrated; it was a great opportunity to model restorative practices and being honest about my own emotions. But, I didn’t give up! In late February, they began to turn a corner and became a goofy, empathetic, and productive bunch.

Finally, this year my first group of 7th graders graduated high school! I attended graduation with a few colleagues, and I’m so proud of my former students! It was great to see so many familiar (and grown up!) faces, and cheer for them and all they’ve accomplished.

Mentoring new teachers

Even though there weren’t many science student teachers and I didn’t have one placed with me either semester, I spent some quality time informally mentoring new teachers. We had the most awesome

Celina (history student teacher) came to observe during a science lab. Safety first! 

right-out-of-college first year teacher at our school this year, and she and I really hit it off! I enjoyed teaching science in her classroom, sharing advice and silly stories, and providing some support. Additionally, we had an incredible history student teacher; she and I spent quality time together, discussing teaching, life, and kids. I am grateful for these opportunities to give back and live the “it takes a village to raise a student teacher” idea.

Back to school!

I’m excited to share that I was accepted into the 2019 Boise State EdD in Educational Technology cohort. We started our first class in mid-May, and it has been non-stop work since then. With an expectation to devote 18-25 hours per week to school, I have had to be more proactive with my self-care and balance. Despite it being a significant time investment, I love the work I’m doing, and I’m grateful for this opportunity. It’s a much different feeling being in school because I want to, not because I have to.

Overall, I’m thrilled that this year was so successful. Looking back at all my photos, it’s fun to reminisce on the fun memories, activities, and journey we had together. Even though I am excited for next school year and making to-do and goals lists, I know I need to take this time to enjoy some sunshine. I’m grateful for summer break! I am looking forward to more schoolwork, relaxing, and a few fun adventures!

Classroom Strategies, Technology

Student-Created Kahoot Games!

Whenever we finish a task early, my students beg me, “Let’s play Kahoot!” They don’t care if it’s content-related or just for fun, they’re super competitive. Whenever we play, the top 3 winners in each round earn a prize–the prizes are usually the trinkets (pens, pencils, sticky notes, etc.) I pick up from conference exhibit halls. Or, if there’s only a couple minutes left in class, I’ll let the winners relax outside my room until the bell rings.

Back in March 2018, I wrote a post called Student-Created Games with Quizizz. At that time, Kahoot didn’t have an option to batch upload questions. Thankfully, Kahoot now has integrated a feature to upload a spreadsheet of questions too. My students like Quizizz when working on an early finisher assignment or stations rotation game, and prefer Kahoot when we’re playing with the whole class.

Using student created Kahoot games in class

Kahoot is a perfect platform for final exam review. To prepare for our upcoming final exams, I’ll assign different students topics, and have them write final exam questions. We’ll play their crowdsourced Kahoot in class. Inevitably, at least one student whines at how hard it is to write a question, a correct answer, and three convincing incorrect answers. Yep, welcome to teacher life!Student Created Kahoot Google Form

Creating a student crowdsourced Kahoot

1. Make a copy of this Google Form (view it here).

2. Have students fill out the Form.

3. Create the Sheet of responses.

4. Delete the timestamp and name columns.

5. Download the spreadsheet as an .xlsx file.

6. Create a new Kahoot game. Upload the spreadsheet.

7. Play and have fun!

I created a video walkthrough to show you through the process. Having them template makes the whole process very quick!

Thank you Debra and Cesar for contributing trivia questions to the example set!

My students love the opportunity to create their own Kahoot games, and are thrilled when their questions are up on the screen. Student-created Kahoots are such a fun opportunity to get everyone involved in the learning!

Books

Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom

One thing I appreciate about my district is our Teacher Leadership Book Study. This phenomenal professional development opportunity is spearheaded by Amy Illingworth, our Director of Professional Growth. For the past 2 years, we’ve had four book studies spread throughout the year–at each book study, we meet teachers from across the district, discuss the book, and reflect on our teaching practices. This year’s version allowed us to select from a list of books around a unifying topic.

The fourth book study focused on social-emotional learner, and I opted to read Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom by Kristin Souers and Pete Hall. This book was originally recommended to me by my dear friend Rosy Burke last year, and is such a great read. While the overall concept of the book was familiar to me, I learned a lot about trauma and how it affects our students’ lives.

My takeaways:

One of my biggest takeaways from this book is “the power of seven seconds,” which Pete Hall describes as, “every morning, ever student who enters the school has a story…we don’t know these stories, and we can’t control what has already happened. But we can control our ability to say, ‘Good morning!’ right off the bat. The first seven seconds of our interaction with every student in our school should be brimming with enthusiasm, joy, compliments, or some sort of friendly banter” (Souers & Hall, 110). These relationships mean everything to our students!

A student walks into first period 10 minutes late. Instead of putting them on the defensive by grilling them for why they’re late, cheerfully say, “I’m so glad you’re here today! I was worried we wouldn’t see you. You’re just in time for our lab!” The students’ entire demeanor changes when they realize they’re being celebrated, not scolded.

Another big takeaway from the book is the concept of the downstairs brain (fight or flight reflexes) and the upstairs brain (empathetic response). It made me sit back and realize that when a student is in their downstairs brain and acting out or refusing to work, I need to stay in my upstairs brain and not get sucked into the frustrating back-and-forth with the student. I know when I’m frustrated with a student’s actions, I’m not the empathetic and caring listener that they need at that moment.

Here are some strategies I already use in my classroom:

Restorative practices: Restorative practices is a mindset where students are held accountable for their behavior in conjunction with a high level of empathy. The goal is to have students empathetically understand how their actions impact those around them, and take steps to repair any harm caused. This can be a whole-class strategy for discussing an incident, running a mediation between two students, or having a conversation with an individual student. In any case, we use the same three guiding questions: What happened? Who was impacted? What needs to be done to repair the harm?

Fidget box: I know my students come to class burdened with all kinds of trauma and stress. Some is the everyday middle school drama, while others are deeply rooted life experiences. I provide a fidget box that students can choose an item to help focus or calm down in class. In order to use the fidget box, students must first meet with me to discuss expectations. These expectations include trying out a few different fidgets to see what works, not sharing a fidget with another student (it quickly becomes a toy that way), and to select and return their fidget without distracting their peers. It has worked out great for my students!

Behavior log: When we do have minor incidents in class, I track these with a behavior log. It’s a simple Google Form a student fills out as the second chance in class (after a warning). The purpose is to reflect on what happened in class, and how they can make a change. After class or during work time, I’ll quickly conference with the student to debrief the incident. One new thing I will implement next year is behavior log cards; these will allow me to nonverbally ask students to complete behavior logs.

Each student and each class presents their own unique set of challenges and successes. I am grateful to support my students, no matter their circumstances outside our classroom.

Classroom Strategies, Technology

Spark learning with a Fliphunt

I first learned about Fliphunts from Natasha Rachell (read her blog here!). It seemed like such a cool idea that I bookmarked it and made a mental note to try it soon. Soon came along just after spring break, and I couldn’t wait to jump in with my students.

A Fliphunt is a scavenger hunt using Flipgrid! Students work in teams to record videos for as many challenges as they can in the alloted time period. At the end, watch the videos and tally up each team’s points to determine a winner.

Setting up a Fliphunt

The setup was super easy — I created this Slide with three levels of challenges (one star, two star, three star) based on difficulty level. A quick Google search or scroll through #Fliphunt on Twitter will lead you to lots of examples and fun ideas. I also created a student handout they could take with them when they went outside to record and check off challenges as they go. At the bottom of the student handout is the class scorecard; I printed one per period, then recorded scores as we watched the Flipgrid videos together as a class.

I created one grid on Flipgrid for the assignment, and separate topics for each class period. This is where “duplicate topic” comes in very handy!

Fliphunt directions

Running the FlipHunt in class

I used this Fliphunt as an introduction to a new unit, so each topic was something new they needed to search up and explore.

Students worked in teams of 3-4 to complete as many challenges as they could in about 30 minutes. I released them for 10 minutes to record at least one video, then had them come back in to watch what had been submitted, record scores, and quickly debrief the recording process. They went back out for the remaining 20 minutes, then came back in to watch and record final scores.

Students recording a video for our Fliphunt

Some groups weren’t as into the Fliphunt as others, and other groups struggled with effective teamwork; breaking up the work time helped keep these groups on track. Next time, I’ll add our lab group roles as an additional teamwork scaffold. Even with all the progress we’ve made with Mastery-Based Grading, some still struggle with motivation if they know there isn’t a grade attached–we’re working on it.

Using one iPad to research, and another to record.

On the bright side, the groups that were participating and excited made this a lot of fun for all of us! Some groups were extremely competitive and worked super hard. Many students let their personalities and sense of humor shine in the videos. It will be helpful to look back on these videos as learning tools as we learn more about the Earth.

Additionally, my teacher next-door neighbor is interested in trying a Fliphunt at some point, so we may create another one for an end of the semester review!

I’ll definitely do another Fliphunt with my class. We had a great time, and it was fun to watch students explore a new topic, navigate effective teamwork, and share their creativity with the class.

What are your tips for running Fliphunts with your students or staff?
Comment below so we can all learn from you!

 

GSuite

Choose Your Own Adventures with Google Forms

Technology can take us on adventures, far and wide! Where will you go?

I love working with teachers from all over the country, and helping them find meaningful ways to integrate technology into their classroom. So often, I come in for a day or a couple hours and hope something sticks. Occasionally, I’ll receive an email or tweet from someone in a workshop, sometimes months or even a year later, sharing what they tried and how it went.

Back in November, I received this happy email from Norm Peckham, an edtech trainer in Mesa, AZ: “I already had a teacher at one of my junior highs call me and he’s changed his whole lesson plan about migration in science so that his students are creating a [Choose Your Own Adventure] story in the Google Form template you created, and I’m helping him and his students out on Monday!!…” He went on to share some resources and example Forms he created as models for his teachers.

Seriously, how cool is that! It’s the kind of email that puts a smile on my face for days!

Student-created example, CYOA to USC

You’ve probably already figured out that Google Forms is my go-to tool for just about everything in my classroom. However, I haven’t talked much about student-created Forms. These Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) stories are a perfect way to get students comfortable with building Forms, since the template is already done.

Last fall, I had my 8th grade AVID students create Choose Your Own Adventure stories to take us on a tour of a university. This required a lot of background research to create interesting and compelling CYOA campus tours.

Here’s how we did it:

1. Students first researched the university, including history, average freshman profiles, campus features, and interesting facts.

2. Students planned out their journeys using this CYOA Google Doc. This took a little bit of explaining on my part, to help them see how the doc would eventually lead to a branching Form.

3. Finally, students made a copy of the CYOA Form to take us through their adventure.

Excellent description with 2 new options to visit next.

Once students were done, they presented their story and allowed us to choose two different adventure paths. Each student received peer feedback using, you guessed it, another Form!

Looking back, I wish I had an example to share with students before hand (I know, rookie move) so they could see the vision for the final product. Luckily, Norm created this awesome tutorial video and an example story, The Online Adventures of Mousey and Mickey. Huge shout out to Norm for allowing me to share these with y’all!!

How have you used Choose Your Own Adventure activities in your classroom? Share your best tips in the comments!

 

 

 

 

Reflections

One Word 2019: Reclaim

This post has been a long time coming. It’s taken me two months to sit down and finish it. In fact, I’ve hardly blogged or tweeted at all in the last two months. There have been so many changes in my life, most of which have been positive.

In the last two months, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and reflecting. I’ve known my 2019 word since December, though I’ve only shared it privately with a few friends. I’m now ready to share it with the rest of my friends:

My word for 2019 is RECLAIM.

As I shared in my 2018 in Review post, I ended a 10 year relationship last fall. While picking up the pieces hasn’t been terribly difficult, I’ve realized how much I need to reclaim myself as a human and as an adult. I’m feeling very positive about the new direction of my life, even through the tougher moments.

On top of it all, we lost our resource positions due to district budget cuts, so I gained another class, plus a 6th class to cover for someone on leave–that’s 6 classes and 3 preps (4 science, 1 science elective, 1 AVID). Included in all of this is my 0 period, so my school day is 7:19 – 3:15, pretty much nonstop. I have a “prep” period on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but that’s the 7th class period. It’s exhausting. I love my kids so much, and they’re worth it.

Oh, and I turned 30 in February!

So, I’ve taken a step back and spent time focusing on myself. I’ve enjoyed making lots of plans with friends, taking a solo trip to NYC, and spending time with my doggie.

New York City solo trip in February 2019! 

Part of reclaiming for me is learning who I am. There have been a lot of opportunities to explore what I truly like and how I fit into this world. I’ve spent time thinking about both my short-term and long-term goals, while not allowing the future to create unneeded anxiety. It’s much easier said than done!

I’m grateful for so many phenomenal friends who have stood with me on this journey. Throughout the past few months, I’ve had so many insightful conversations with friends that have challenged me to think deeper and step out of my comfort zone. Thank you all!

Additionally, I’ve been reclaiming my physical space, which has taken a lot of time and energy. I’m in the process of re-doing my 3rd bedroom, which I’m turning into my office with an awesome navy blue gallery wall (I’ll post pics when it’s all done). I bought new bedroom furniture and lamps, which instantly made me feel calm and happy. It’s amazing how much making some updates and changes to my physical space has made me feel like a new person.

So, here’s to new possibilities and new opportunities as I reclaim in 2019!

Books, Reflections

What I read in 2018

I love reading and talking about books! It brings me so much joy to share this love with my friends and students. Last year I shared “What I read in 2017” to highlight my favorite books of the year.

2018 Reading Data

It’s crazy to say I achieved my 2018 reading goal of 100 books. Of these books, 42 were audiobooks and 58 were books (24 physical & 34 ebooks). I always try to read more than I listen. I read a total of 19388 pages, and listened to approximately 191.35 hours of books (rounded to nearest 15 minute, and divided by 2 since I listen on 2x speed). If I had been paying a little more attention to page data, I would have pushed myself to hit 20k pages.

One of my favorite parts is that I keep fairly extensive reading data. I used to use Goodreads, but found that I like entering and analyzing my own data. Make a copy of my book spreadsheet. Each year, I add a new tab and track the same data. It’s fun to see my trends and graphs as the year progresses. And yes, Harry Potter has its own category–do the math, 100 total books and 7% Harry Potter–yes, I did a full series re-read in November and December!!

There are a couple books that I technically read more than once this year, but only counted once. For example, 3 of my classes and I did a read-aloud with We Are All Made of Molecules (Susin Nielsen), but I only counted it once. And, all the edits and such of Fueled by Coffee and Love: The Refill probably equate to reading it at least 5x all the way through.

chart (3).png

As you can see from my graph, I read a ton of YA. I truly enjoy this genre, and I appreciate the complexities of the stories as well as the self-discovery. Plus, there are so many talented authors out there writing for my students, and I want to pass along these recommendations.

Some of my favorite books from 2018 are: 

  • Love, Hate, & Other Filters (Samira Ahmed)
  • Rebel Seoul (Axie Oh)
  • Dear Martin (Nic Stone)
  • Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda (Becky Albertalli)
  • Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)
  • At the Edge of the Universe (Shaun David Hutchinson)
  • The Porcupine of Truth (Bill Konigsberg)
  • I’m Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter (Erika Sánchez)
  • Children of Blood and Bone (Tomi Adeyemi)
  • The Poet X (Elizabeth Acevedo)
  • Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit (Jaye Robin Brown)
  • March, Book One (Andrew Aydin and John Lewis)

Even though I don’t blog about every book I read and I’m super far behind on blogging, I do enjoy sharing about some of my book highlights on my “What is Mari Reading” blog. It’s all just for fun, and a great distraction from chores and such.

This year I don’t have any big reading goals, other than to finish at least 52 books and read more than I listen. I’m also intentionally reading more diverse books, specifically LGBTQ+ YA novels and novels written by authors of color. I didn’t track this data in 2018, though skimming my list it’s over 50% of the books I finished.

As always, I’d love your book recommendations!

Reflections

2018 in Review

I’ve been putting off writing this post for the past week. I usually love writing these reflective blogs (past year’s posts: 2017, 2016, 2015), but this year, not so much. Out loud, I’m blaming the busyness of ending school on December 21st, then immediately diving into all the holiday crazy. However, internally I’ve been finding plenty of other things to do instead because I want 2018 to be a thing of the past and I don’t want to dig back into the less great things of 2018. It’s necessary to reflect and learn, so, here goes!

Where I was (December 2017)

  • A year ago, I was very intentionally navigating the never ending challenge of work-life balance. It wasn’t easy, and thankfully I have amazing friends around me who constantly check in.
  • Professionally, I was coming off of a fulfilling year. And personally, I was having a bit more of a rough time. But, I was hopeful things would get better (spoiler: they didn’t get any better until the very end of 2018).

Where I am (January – December 2018)

  • I was so fortunate to participate in our district’s Teacher Leadership Academy, led by the amazing Amy duo, Amy Hunt and Amy Illingworth! I learned a lot about being an effective teacher-leader, working with Difficult People, and how to say “I’m not going to take that on.”
  • Fueled by Coffee and Love: The Refill was published in July 2018, and I had the opportunity to share a bit about it on KUSI’s Good Morning San Diego and host a release party at Project Reo Collective.
  • I had the opportunity to share my love of teaching and technology all over the US at various summits and professional development opportunities. Some highlights include Atlanta, Nashville, Phoenix, Chicago, and Greenville, SC.
  • “Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.” – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I did a full re-read of the Harry Potter series in November and December, and I loved immersing myself in the magic again. It was so helpful to escape reality and the stress of life. I had to make a big choice this fall, and ultimately decided to end a 10 year relationship; though there are moments of sadness, overwhelmingly I feel happier and healthier. Along the way this year, I’ve had so many friends encouraging me and sitting down to have heart-to-heart chats about relationships and life. Thank you, friends.
  • I ended 2018 at a freezing cold New Year’s Eve party, surrounded by friends! I couldn’t ask for more (except maybe a heated blanket).

Where I’m going (January 2019 and beyond!)

  • New year, new me, right? For once, it really feels that way. After the stress of 2018, it’s as if a huge burden has been lifted. I’m ready for new opportunities and adventures! In the fall, someone asked me what 1 year in the future Mari would want for current Mari; that helped me put a lot of my life into perspective, and helped me make both hard and fun decisions.
  • In February, I turn 30, a gigantic adulting milestone. As my gift to myself, I planned a fun trip to New York City! I’ve never been, and it’s time I do something awesome just for myself.

As I planned out this post, I scrolled through my entire year on Google Photos. It’s fun to reflect back on the fun adventures I’ve had, and remind myself that, despite some setbacks and dark clouds in 2018, overwhelmingly it was filled with incredible friends. I’m really looking forward to 2019!

Goals, Reflections

#MyRelaxing5 – My Commitment to Take Time for Myself!

I love a good group blogging challenge, so I’m starting this one: let’s all share out 5 ways we commit to relaxing as we close out 2018. Please share out and tag #MyRelaxing5!

Lately I’ve seen a lot of us talking about work-life balance, and how we make sure we spend time to relax away from teacher lives–especially without feeling guilty! Shout out to Brian Costello for writing “Put Yourself First,” which inspired me to write this post. Despite what those on social media and trumpeters of eduspeak say, a good teacher doesn’t equal putting our 24/7 into teaching. Rather, it means putting our whole heart into our work, then stepping away to attend to our heart’s health (physical, social, mental-emotional) outside the classroom.

Each Friday, my teaching neighbor asks me what I am going to do for fun over the weekend. With the [annoyingly pointed and I-really-need-to-listen-to-this] caveat that presenting PD and snuggling my dog don’t count! Cue the total exasperation. But, it’s made me really think about how I spend my non-teaching time. And, I’m more aware that there’s a big distinction between “I’m having fun doing my work” and “I’m doing something fun outside of work.”

The #MyRelaxing5 are 5 non-work things that we will commit to doing for ourselves before the end of 2018.

Here’s #MyRelaxing5!

1. Crocheting — This keeps my hands busy and brain creative. Usually, I crochet while watching sports or something else on tv. The best part is, I can’t also be playing on my phone or computer while I’m crocheting. And, it’s always rewarding to finish up a project, especially when it’s a gift.

2. Baking & Cooking — I enjoy being in the kitchen and cooking, especially when I can share what I make with my friends! As the holidays approach, I love trying new dessert recipes, and bringing them to work where I always have a captive audience. Last weekend, I successfully made a beautiful lemon meringue pie, entirely from scratch, and brought it to work to share with my friends. .

Beautiful lemon meringue pie I made from scratch. My work friends and I enjoyed it at lunch on Tuesday!

3. San Diego Zoo / Safari Park — I have an annual membership, and it’s easy to go for an hour or two. A bonus of my membership is I have a +1, making it the perfect friend adventure. There’s something so peaceful about walking through the zoo, enjoying the animals and plants, and chatting with a friend.

4. Beach time — I live in San Diego, there’s no excuse for not getting to the beach every so often. The weather will be at least warm enough to walk on the beach, even if it’s not warm enough to lounge.

5. Make it to the gym — I’ve totally fallen off the workout wagon, and I desperately need to climb back on. It always makes me feel better after I go to the gym. So, by adding this to my list, I am officially committing to getting some more exercise. It’s easier to convince myself to go when I know I can get a free hydromassage after.

Ok, now that this post is written, it’s time to make plans to accomplish my relaxing goals. I know that I need to prioritize myself a bit more, especially facing the stress (even if it’s positive and fun) of the holidays and end of the semester.

What 5 things will you commit to as we end 2018? Remember to tag #MyRelaxing5 when you share out yours!

 

 

Classroom Strategies, GSuite, Technology

Getting Started with Applied Digital Skills

Raise your hand if you use any Google Apps (search, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, etc.) in your personal life?

It’s as simple as this blog post, which I drafted on Google Docs, and inserted images and links. Or the spreadsheet I created to compare and contrast different cars to organize my new car search. Even geekier, I use spreadsheets is to keep track of the books I read each year–this one is massive, complete with charts and formulas.

These digital skills, plus collaboration and communication, are essential for our students to learn to prepare them for the working world beyond our classrooms.

Teaching these skills

Student working through an Applied Digital Skills lesson.

This is where Google’s Applied Digital Skills comes into play!

Applied Digital Skills a student-paced “project-based video curriculum” where students create and collaborate on real-world-applicable lessons. And, it’s FREE!

Before you turn up your nose at the word “curriculum,” it’s not strict and boxy. Instead, it provides the skills for students in short video lessons, and allows the teacher to circulate the room and assist students. Additionally, these sample projects can easily be customized to your content class.

Watch Google’s intro video to learn more!

Getting Started with Applied Digital Skills

  1. Sign up for Applied Digital Skills
  2. Create your class
  3. Click “add a lesson” and pick which lesson you’d like to use. I highly recommend “If/Then Adventure Stories” and “Organize College Information in 
    My students use both their iPads and the computers in the lab to maximize their efficiency.

    Google Sheets” for starters.

I made a quick screencast to show you how to get started.

For each lesson, there are sample projects and a rubric too!

My students love Applied Digital skills because it gave them the freedom to create and explore, and work at their own pace. Students who finished their “Organize Information in Google Sheets” early added in additional columns and rows as they researched more universities.

College spreadsheet created by one of my students! They enjoyed coming up with their own research criteria for comparing universities.

Since we are 1:1 iPad, I took my students to the computer lab (you can’t freeze a row/column on the iOS app). Most either watched the videos on their iPad and created on the computer, or split screen their computer monitor to watch and work. I loved watching how each student organized their physical and digital workspace.

Try it out as a student

Join my demo class to see Applied Digital Skills from the learner perspective!

  1. Go to g.co/applieddigitalskills
  2. Click “Sign In,” and sign in with your Google account
  3. Select “I am a student”*
  4. Enter class code T2WZYB

In this demo class, you can get a feel for how students will access their lessons, watch the videos, and begin creating their project.

*You can switch back to teacher mode by clicking on your email on the top right > join a class > I am a teacher.

Have fun!

Applied Digital Skills is a whole lot of fun! K-12 and adult learners love the self-paced engaging curriculum.

Have you tried Applied Digital Skills? What are your favorite activities and how have you customized it for your classroom?