Each May, our science department hosts Science Night. It has been a lot of fun to involve our school, local high schools, and community in science! Many students bring their families, and participate in labs and activities together. Additionally, we invite local museums and science organizations to set up interactive displays. I love science night!
Since most of the work we do is digital, there isn’t a ton of student work to physically display. Instead, we display interactive labs. To show off student work, I have them each create a slide in a collaborative deck to showcase their work. Then, this is projected as a slideshow all night.
This is a perfect way to have students reflect on their learning or on a particular assignment. Each student claims a slide, adds in a piece of work they are proud of, and reflects on it.
Here is a template you can try with your class! Duplicate the portfolio slide x # of kids in your class.
A few tips for getting started:
This is a perfect time to talk about digital citizenship, especially not intentionally editing someone else’s slide. No matter the age level, everyone needs this reminder.
Encourage students to get all the content on their slide first, before decorating. Otherwise, a student may spend 2 hours finding the perfect font for their name.
Do a virtual gallery walk! Play some music, and have students scroll through the slides. When the music stops, they add in a comment (try using TAG feedback!) where they stopped.
If you have a school or class open house or display night, play these reflection slides in the background. On Slides: File > Publish to the web > pick your settings, including “restart slideshow after the last slide” > publish > paste the link in the address bar.
Try using this same idea for an introduction slide deck for all your students! Replace the work section with a selfie, and answer a few basic questions, such as what are your hobbies?
Out of the classroom? I’ve seen schools/districts with a tv in the front office. Have each teacher create a spotlight slide to sprinkle between announcements and important information.
PS. When you iterate on this and make it better, I’d love to see your example! Add it in the comments below, or share it with me and I’ll link it in this post.
Google MyMaps is one of my favorite Googley gems! And, it doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. It’s easy to use, can be accessed from any mobile device, and it’s versatile for a variety of academic and fun uses.
If you’re brand new to MyMaps, here’s a quick intro video.
Start with a purpose:
What are you hoping to share? What do you want your students to get out of this experience?
My purpose here is to show off how awesome MyMaps are, and how collaborative maps can add authentic student engagement into your classroom.
Before we dive into classroom ideas, let’s play! I invite you to add your name & a favorite place to this map. There’s also a layer to add in your university. Use the description to share a bit about why you love this place. Remember to customize your pin!
MyMaps in the Classroom:
MyMaps pair really nicely with HyperDocs and the 5E lesson model, and can fit in at any point in a lesson sequence.
I’m lucky my friend Austin Houp shared out a collaborative MyMap with me last year, all about natural disasters. It was perfect timing, as my students were working on natural disasters projects in science! My students, along with students from all over the world, added in projects on different natural disasters. They loved clicking through the pins and seeing the information, pictures, and links to external projects created other students! And, knowing they were sharing with the world, they took extra care in their work.
Additionally, my AVID students have plotted their college projects on a MyMap, making it easy to share resources with peers, other classes, and potentially other AVID classes at other schools.
Since my oldest students at my current school are juniors (class of 2019), I’ve made a MyMap to track where they head off to college in a year. It’ll be awesome to keep adding to this map throughout the years. They want to keep in contact with me because my class food rule is “no eating or drinking (other than water) until you have a college degree!” — and, I promise if they come back after they’ve graduated, I’ll buy them lunch and we’ll eat together in my room.
The more advanced tools on MyMaps, such as drawing lines and polygons, is perfect for practicing perimeter and area, calculating distances, or reinforcing measurements.
MyMaps for Fun:
MyMaps is great for personal use, especially planning trips, marking places I’ve been, and sharing favorite spots. I use a MyMap to track which states I’ve been to in the US–I still have a long way to go (16/50 as of May 2018), but it’s fun to change the pin color and switch it to the “Where I’ve Been” layer.
In summer of 2018, my friend Nick will be visiting San Diego for a few days, and we have a MyMap of San Diego places to visit.
My Next Steps:
Next year, one of my goals is to connect with at least one other classroom to collaborate on a map project! Anyone want to join me? Specifically middle school science or any level of AVID.
What are your favorite ways to use MyMaps for fun and in your classroom? Leave a comment below, I’d love more ideas!
In May 2016 we welcomed Google Expeditions Pioneer program to our school (read about it here), and our students and teachers loved it. I am so excited that we were able to host the Google Expeditions AR Pioneer program at the end of April.
I signed up for the Google Expeditions AR Pioneer program back in June 2017 at ISTE, when I got to play with a demo of the augmented reality (AR) app. Finally I received an email that they would be in San Diego. I quickly reserved my date and got to planning!
Setting Up Google Expeditions AR
As I prepared for our Expeditions AR experience, I was chatting with my friend Ben Kovaks. He shared this awesome See, Think, Wonder (Ve, Piensa, Pregunta) chart with me. It ended up being one of the most transformational parts of the day because it kept students centered and focused on the learning. Most of our teachers ended up using it or creating their own version, and agreed that it was integral to their students’ engagement with the technology. As Ben so wisely puts it, “there NEEDS to be a structure to help kids think through innovative tools.”
We had two rooms for simultaneous Expeditions, my classroom and our school library. I provided support for the teachers coming through my room, and our Expeditions Googler, Calvin, assisted the teachers in the library. We had 18 classes and about 450 students participate in the Expeditions experience over the course of the day.
The day began with the training session for our participating teachers. Calvin showed us how to use the devices, went over rules, and allowed for plenty of teacher exploration time. Once the bell rang, we started running Expeditions AR with classes.
Expeditions AR is similar to VR in how it is set-up in the Expeditions App (iOS & Android), and with a Guide and Explorers. One major difference is that it is not necessary to have a student:device ratio of 1:1 or 1:2. Instead, 1:4 was just fine, and everyone was able to participate. Because students had to share devices, they interacted a lot more, described what they were seeing, and talked to their peers, and asked more questions.
Using Google Expeditions AR with our Classes
I got to be with my own students first, and my wonderful sub, Mr. Smith, helped out and explored with us–it’s even cooler because he subbed for me 2 years ago when Expeditions first came to our school! This was my favorite class all day because we had multiple teachers, our principal, and even our campus assistant join in for a while.
One of the best parts of our day was when our campus assistant came in to deliver a pass for one of my kids, and I convinced him to come take a look. He rarely gets to be involved in positive things around campus, as he is picking up students, delivering passes, and keeping students safe in the hallways. I watched him interact with my students, and he had the biggest and realest smile on his face! Even better, I heard from multiple people throughout the day that he kept talking about his experience!
Throughout the whole day, everyone was engaged and curious. We are grateful for this opportunity, and we can’t wait for the Google Expeditions AR app to launch!
A while back I blogged about my newfound love for Google Slides. Slides has been such a versatile tool–it is very easy for my students to edit and insert photos/screenshots on their iPads, and simple for me to walk around and see we’re all on the same page (literally).
I’m slowly transitioning our labs to Slides. I push out everything with Google Classroom, and I love that I can pop in and see students’ progress as they are working (or not working…).
As you read more about the following three examples, I encourage you to not get hung up on the specifics of the content, but instead focus on how Slides can work in your classroom to build skills and assess mastery.
Insert pictures and selfies
Our first lab of the school year is the Paper Airplane Lab, where we review measurement and the engineering design process by building and testing paper airplanes. This lab also helped us teach and reinforce key skills with Slides, such as how to add text in a text box (already created, in this case) and inserting images.
One of my favorite parts of this lab is Step 4, where students had to insert a selfie with their chosen design. With permission, some used Snapchat on their phone to jazz up their selfies. Others earned themselves a Ms. V photobomb!
Analyze data and create graphs
Another lab we love is the Heart Rate Lab! My favorite part about these Slides is the averages graph. The bars are already created, and students just had to drag the bars up to the right size. We also used this lab to reinforce average. If we were solid on calculating average, I would use this version to teach students how to analyze data in Sheets. There are benefits to both versions, it just depends on what skills we’re working on.
Screenshots of learning evidence
Our Math 7 team has been using Slides for each CPM lesson. One idea I’ve borrowed from them is inserting a screenshot or picture of work at various stages of learning. We use Phet Simulations to teach or reinforce different concepts, such as in the Atom Builder Lab. Students explore the Phet simulation, and insert screenshots of the atoms they create as learning evidence.
Growing up one of my favorite games to play was Mad Libs, I would play with my friends during recess, or with my family on car trips. I still have a giant stack of half-used Mad Libs books in my classroom waiting for some more love. I can’t remember a time I laughed harder than when playing Mad Libs.
I love using Mad Libs with my students. When playing with my class, it can be tough to keep all students engaged because only one person contributes for each part of speech. I started using Google Forms so each student can play: each student fills out the Form and receives their copy via email. Then, a few volunteers read their examples out loud. It’s a great activity as part of a lesson, as a review, or just for fun at the end of the day.
First, let’s play!
Fill out this Form then check your email to see your Mad Libs.
Next, let’s build!
Create a Google Doc with your story. This works great with short fables, primary source documents, or informational texts.
Replace parts of speech with the tags. For example, “Replace <<plural noun>> of speech with the tags.” For duplicates, use <<plural noun 1>> then <<plural noun 2>>.
Create a Google Form with short answer questions for each tag. Remember to also ask for email address.
Create your Sheet, and install the Formule add-on.
If your student don’t have email set up, but do have Google Drive, then use Autocrat instead. You will still need a question for email/Google account. It will use the Form and a Doc, then share the merged Doc with the student. Watch this video where I show how to use Autocrat.
Also, Formule does limit to 100 emails per day. If you have 100+ students, either spread the fun over a couple days, or use Autocrat.
Last, let’s teach!
Send out the Form to your students and get ready to laugh!
We’d love to see your examples. Create one and share it below in the comments.
Class presentations are a lot of fun, and it’s essential to give students the experience of speaking in front of others. Very early on in my teaching career, I realized it was difficult to keep presentations flowing, because in the transition time between presenters, students saw this as an opportunity to chat–and they had a tough time settling down again. Repeat this 30+ times, and we have one frustrated Ms. V.
Around the same time I decided to have students start to provide peer feedback for student presentations. They would fill out a Google Form (here’s an example or make a copy) after each presenter. Yes, after. I expect their iPads “apple up” on their desks while their peer is presenting, both as a sign of respect and to eliminate other distractions.
Unintended results! Off-task behavior between presentations was almost nonexistent! Students had something meaningful to do between the time it took for the presenter to sit down, and then next student to get up and connect their iPad.
One of the things I’m working on with students is how to write feedback. I’m realizing that I need to provide more sentence frames to help students share what the student does well, and what they can do to improve. I’ve used TAG Feedback, and it has helped!
This peer evaluation form has been such a big hit, that now I’m tasked with creating copies for all our AVID teachers when we do presentation projects.
Below are some tricks I’ve made data analysis even easier!
Conditional Formatting I use conditional formatting on Sheets to change the fill color for each rubric level. I can glance at the spreadsheet, and see overall how peers feel the presenter did.
Form Values Form Values is an incredible add-on for Forms. It creates a template spreadsheet where you can create lists that can then be imported into a Form for a multiple choice, checkbox, or dropdown question. I use this for my class lists, so I don’t have to constantly type in names into the “my name” and “presenter’s name” questions.
RowCall RowCall is an add-on for Sheets that takes all the unique values in a column, and creates individual sheets for each value. The way I use it is to separate each student presenter into their own tab. Then, I can quickly see how each student did, without having to sort or filter the main sheet. In the past, I’ve printed each student’s tab. Lately, I’ve asked students if they’re ok if I share the whole spreadsheet view only with all students (via Google Classroom), and I have not had any objections. They like seeing their own feedback, and also learning from how their peers were evaluated too.
I’d love to hear how you use peer feedback in your classroom!
Digital citizenship is a hot topic, and there are a lot of high quality resources out there. I knew I wanted to do more with my students, but I felt overwhelmed and paralyzed into inaction because of how awesome others were doing in their schools and classrooms. (I definitely was should-ing myself.)
I wasn’t even sure where to start. I checked out the Common Sense Media lessons, and decided to give it a shot. Since then, it’s a constant growing and learning process.
Becoming a Common Sense Media Certified Educator
In the 2015-2016 school year, I taught my way to becoming a Common Sense Media Certified Educator. I implemented Common Sense Media lessons in my AVID 7 classes, had discussions in my Science 7 classes, and ran a few parent engagement opportunities (including a presentation from our School Resource Officer, sent home CSM Family Tip Sheets, and posted resources on the school website).
Now, the process is much more streamlined and simplified. Teachers must complete 2 hours of learning (digital citizenship + digital teaching), 2 hours of teaching, and write a reflection. Plus, they ask that you join the Common Sense Educators group on Facebook–this is a phenomenal community of dedicated and inquisitive teachers.
For the past 2 years, I’ve upped my game, and extended my certification to become a Common Sense Ambassador. I love the access to extra professional development, resources, and encouragement to share digital citizenship with my PLN.
Journey to Becoming a Common Sense Media Certified School
This school year, I finally got everything together to get us ready to become a Common Sense Media Certified School! As of right now (February 2018), we are in the process of completing our certification requirements.
The requirements are similar to that of the certified educator program, just on a school-wide basis. We are teaching 5+ lessons across 2 grade levels, engaging parents/families in at least 3 ways, and I am providing PD to all our teachers. All 4 core content classes (math, English, science, history) plus PE are teaching lessons. Our elective teachers are teaching lessons if they choose to.
It is essential to note here that we have two self-contained special education classes. And, these classes are participating too. I am teaching four lessons from the K-2 curriculum to each class. It’s developmentally and academically appropriate for these students, and the teachers and I are differentiating as needed. Many of our students in moderate-severe will have cell phones in the future and regularly use tablets and computers. Our students in the moderate class frequently play video games online (including PS4, XBox, etc) and many already have cell phones.
Each department and grade level is responsible for one 45 minute lesson. I used the Common Sense Media lessons and turned them into Pear Deck presentations (read more about how Pear Deck engages students!) that incorporate some content too. The reason I did all the leg work here is to build buy-in from my teachers; the majority are more likely to implement these lessons if they can just project and go. As I shared these lessons with each individual department during our weekly PLC meeting, I saw faces perk up, both for the content and Pear Deck.
I am also using our poster printer to print Common Sense Media posters for any interested teachers. I created a Google Form for teachers to put in their requests, and I will print and deliver the posters in the next couple weeks.
Similarly to when I completed my CSM Certified Educator certification, we are engaging families with a presentation from the School Resource Officer, sending home digital & paper copies of the Family Tip Sheets, and hosting Parent Tech Breakfasts to talk about digital citizenship.
Cyberbullying and digital citizenship are issues on our campus, and I am confident our students will benefit.
We are going to have our certification complete before the end of the school year. I set a goal to have all lessons taught before spring break, and I will complete the certification application after spring break.
I am packaging up the lessons I created on Pear Deck and compiling some additional resources so the rest of the middle schools in my district can implement what we are already doing.
In the next few years, we’re going to become a Common Sense Media Certified District!
How do you address and implement digital citizenship in your classroom and school?
One of my favorite tech tools in the last year has to be Pear Deck! I had heard about this tool at a bunch of EdTechTeam summits and participated in the Demo Slams–finally I bugged Nick about it and got a personal demo between sessions. I quickly went from “oh this is cool” to “hold on, I gotta update my Monday lesson to include Pear Deck!”
Pear Deck is an “AND” not an “OR” for me. It seamlessly integrates into what I’m already doing in my classroom, rather than something extra to implement. We are 1:1 iPad, and my kids had no problem joining into a session. After using Pear Deck a couple times, I asked my students what they thought. Overwhelmingly, they liked it!
For my students in the back, they were able to see what I had projected. And, it made it easier for them to take Cornell Notes. Assignment instructions were right in front of them, eliminating excuses for not knowing what to do.
And Then the Add-on was Released…
The Google Slides Add-on was a total game changer. My only initial frustration with Pear Deck was editing my slides after I had imported them into Pear Deck–I always make mistakes (sorry 1st period). This was 100% fixed with the new add-on!
Bigger bonus: our IT department pushed out the add-on to all teachers this week! That’s huge! I’m hoping it’ll up the usage district-wide, and provide more opportunities for engagement. Some of our high school teachers are huge Pear Deck fans, and my fingers are crossed that (1) more will get on board, which means (2) more effective & engaging use of 1:1 laptops in high school. For a teacher looking for a way to begin to integrate technology, Pear Deck is an excellent starting point.
A Few Reasons Why I Love Pear Deck:
I project from a laptop, but can have the presenter dashboard on my iPad. This frees me up to walk around the room, while checking in on student responses. It’s easier to interact when I’m not tied to the front of the room. Teaching feels more conversational when it can happen anywhere in our room.
Seeing student responses in real time on the presenter dashboard (premium version — 100% worth it!) makes it’s easy to address misconceptions or student questions. I can also check for understanding by adding in questions on the fly.
It gives every student a voice, especially the introverts. Reading their responses followed by simple eye contact makes them feel valued and heard, without them saying a word! I get so many returned smiles when I read a response and give a silent thumbs up from across the room.
The premade interactive Slide templates make it ridiculously easy to up student engagement!
Student-paced mode is a life saver when I unexpectedly have to be out. I got called in for Jury Duty last week, and had to quickly adapt my Wednesday plans to work for a sub on Thursday (block schedule). With student-paced mode, my kids were able to login and complete the lesson. I went in later to check their responses.
The Biggest Reason I Love Pear Deck
The people. The people who work for Pear Deck are the kindest individuals, both those I’ve hung out with in person and those I’ve met on the Twitters. Knowing they’re approachable, willing to answer questions, receive feedback, and hear how I’m using Pear Deck in my classroom makes me want to use it and spread the word. The personal touch is the huge difference!
Thank you, Pear Deck, for being awesome humans who care about our students and teachers!
What are your favorite tips and tricks with Pear Deck?
Parent involvement is a huge mystery to me. Within the context of my school, I’ve learned that many of our students’ parents were once students at our school, and have not so positive memories of their time in middle school. That coupled with busy work schedules makes it difficult to get parents to come to school for events.
I’d like to take a moment to recognize that we do have some incredible parents who show up, volunteer, and are involved in our school. I’m so thankful for them. Every time I call parents, mostly positive phone calls with occasional behavior concerns, I reach friendly and caring parents. I know we have the support of our parents at home.
Parent Tech Breakfast
Last school year, I started hosting monthly Parent Tech Breakfasts. We’re 1:1 iPads, and we have lots of repeated questions from parents on how students use iPads at school, and how parents can more easily access technology for themselves. The set-up is simple: we provide coffee and breakfast pastries, and we talk about technology for 30-45 minutes. Since we have many Spanish-speaking parents, I usually have a fluent Spanish-speaking techy teacher present to translate and/or run a parallel group. Each month, I invite content teachers to join us as well. My Viking Tech Crew students have joined us a few times to show off tutorial videos and share projects they’ve created in their academic classes.
Discussion topics include: – Classroom uses of iPads, including student work samples – Accessing Jupiter Grades, our online gradebook – Managing iPads at home – Digital Citizenship, device contracts (shout out to Common Sense Media for amazing resources in English and Spanish!) – Google Apps for Education — we had parents on my Chromebooks experiencing collaborative Docs for the first time!
Even though it’s a fairly simple event to plan, there is a lot that happens behind the scenes. I couldn’t do it without our Coordinator of Intervention Services, or as I call her, Facilitator of Awesome. Her job includes bridging the divide between home and school, and supporting students academically. She sends out reminder emails and phone calls to parents, shops for the goodies, and gets the room read for parents. We host the Parent Tech Breakfast in her room, which is a parent-center, office, and conference space.
I’m thankful that we’ve been able to reach parents and families through the Parent Tech Breakfast! I’m always looking for new ways to connect with parents and families. How have you/your school successfully reached out to parents?
Sometimes, I’m horribly disorganized. Ok, a lot of time I’m disorganized. Over the summer, I got fed up with the black hole that is my work email, and reached out to a few people on Twitter for help. Big shoutout to Amy Illingworth and Joe Young for providing resources and guidance!
My goal: Inbox Zero!
Inbox Zero is based on a principles: “process email, rather than check email” and be intentional about responding and relocating emails. For more serious info, check out this summary of Merlin Mann’s Google Tech Talk about Inbox Zero.
My first thoughts were, “this is impossible!” — and with that attitude, it is. After considering Inbox Zero for a couple weeks, I realized that I need to shift my email habits.
Process, not check:
Old habit: My bad habit in the past was to have email open on my computer all day long, and look at everything as it came in. Yes, those notifications on the top right of my computer were very distracti…squirrel! The problem was, I never actually replied to the emails, so they would get buried.
New habit: Email stays closed, unless I’m actively looking at my email, responding, deleting, and filing.
Strategic email moves:
Old habit: Everything stays in my inbox, until I throw up my arms and have a email deleting party with myself for an hour on a Saturday morning. Oh hey, there’s that email from 6 months ago!
New habit: Every email gets deleted immediately, replied to, and/or read and moved to a folder.
End the day at zero:
Old habit: See above. Black hole. And feeling of adult incompetence for losing important emails.
New habit: Nothing in my inbox! It’s like a huge weight lifted off of me.I’ve been in school for 9 weeks, and I’ve maintained this Inbox Zero habit!
Remember, whenever you read about someone else’s habits, you have to keep your own personality and strengths in mind. Just because the above method and tips work for me doesn’t mean they’ll be perfect for you. Take it and make it your own. If you have an email tip, please share it with me.Now, in all efforts of transparency, my personal email is still a disaster….that’s the next habit-changing email project!