Ever want to use Google Docs with your younger students, but there's just too many steps to get them in and working? How would a single-entry document work for you? Just one link to share, and you've got your students working! But how? It's really not too difficult, just create an Entry Document.

The steps to create this Entry Document workflow are as follows:
1. Create a document for your students on which they will be creating content.
There are two options here:
  • Create one document for students to copy. (Click here for an example.) Make sure you set the sharing permissions to VIEW ONLY or you can guarantee students will inadvertently mess it up.
  • Another option is to create a document for each student. Just create the first document and then make copies. This works best for the self-contained class and for very young students. One thing to think about here is creating a student portfolio by utilizing Google Presentation. Change the slide set up to 8.5"x11" and consider each slide as a new "sheet of paper". Continue to add slides or sheets of paper to the document and develop a student portfolio of work. (Click here to view an example.) 
2. After you have created the document for student work, change the share settings to ANYONE WITH A LINK can EDIT, afterall, they will be doing all the work on this document as opposed to creating the one document that they will copy! Once you have set the permission settings, grab that link. This is what you will use on the "Entry Document."

3. Create your Entry Document which is actually just a spreadsheet. (Click here for an example.)
  • You will type each student's name and paste the link in the cell beside their name.
  • You can actually type the student's name and hyperlink their name to their document with the addition of a script.  (Click here to see a short tutorial video of this procedure.)
  • Also consider using multiple sheets within the spreadsheet to include assignment directions, tips and tricks.  (Click here to view an example of this; check out the additional sheets at the bottom of the Entry Document.)
  • You can also use this document for collaborative group assignments; you can assign the groups or have students add their names to the group they select.
4. After you have created your Entry Document, you need to set those share settings. If YOU are adding their names to the document, you will select ANYONE WITH A LINK can VIEW ONLY; however, if you are going to have the students add their names, you will need to allow them to EDIT this document. This is the single link you will share with the students...hence, the name, Entry Document.

I know this sounds like a lot of work on the front end. That's why I like the idea of creating and utilizing Google Presentation for a portfolio of student work. That makes the set up worthwhile because it will be used over and over. 

Below is a quick reference guide for the basic steps.
Read More
Follow my blog with Bloglovin We had a guest helper today during our 20% Project...here are her observations...

In first period, I helped Hunter. It was awesome to see that we could apply this project to any special needs kiddos. Instead of using any technology, we physically built an airship with popsicle sticks. I found just giving him a few guidelines were helpful in keeping him productive. I also showed him a few ways we could give airship more dimension.

Throughout first and into second periods, I walked around with my iPhone and asked the kids a thought-provoking question: “What is your ‘Life’s Big Question?’” This is my 20% Project. Telling them to think of something you would ask a person or thing and receive a complete answer helped to direct their thoughts. I continued asking this question throughout the rest of the day.

My brothers, Isaac and Jacob, are building a 3D printer for their project. Seriously!! Don't they know that is almost impossible? Because it is so impossible, every Sunday, after church, we have to go to Radio Shack and Lowes to buy them things to build their printer. It's not something, at first, I believed that they could do, but now, I know they can do this. (Check out this video to see some of my inspiration.) And do it so well. Even if they do not finish the whole thing, the educators have made it clear... "Done is better than perfect."

From what I could tell, by third period, this project was a fabulous way to keep kids' brains still turning after the state exams. Although the kids have ideas, they aren’t motivated. We need something, anything, to keep kiddos moving. A couple of groups were designing T-shirts for their brand. Mrs. Witherspoon got a little fussy (like any good educator would) because there was not any creativity flowing. Finding a way to move forward is what we need to do.

I guess this whole post is quite scatterbrained, but over all, the project was a wonderful use of time, brains, and resources.


This was a post by guest blogger, Isabella Valdez.

Read More
Today we completed our second of five days slated to implement a grade-level 20% project with 7th graders (about 270 students). For this project social studies, math, and ELA teachers collaborated to make this happen. I'm not going to lie, a project of this magnitude requires educators that are willing to take risks to do whatever it takes to make things happen for their students. As we met to plan for this project, we knew if we were to be successful, we needed to have some clear-cut goals.

Our 20% Project Goals:

  1. To create a learning opportunity that was student-driven.
  2. To create an environment that fostered inquiry and exploration...focus on the process, not the end product
  3. To expose students to a project-based learning opportunity with an authentic target audience, not their teacher
  4. To disrupt the learning environment to facilitate optimal success; to literally re-imagine what that learning environment could look like!

Yes, accomplishing our goals meant disrupting student schedules...in a very controlled and organized way. Once we worked out the "taking attendance" issue, our solution to accomplish this feat worked really well.

Our 20% Project Schedule:

  1. We paired up six participating teachers and created three "Home Bases" with two teachers at each home base: One group in the two side-by-side computer labs, another group is in the library, and a third group in one of the science labs.
  2. Students selected a home base of their choosing.
  3. Students followed their normal schedule (electives and science were not participating). During Social Studies, Math, and ELA, they reported to homebase, signed in, and got to work...three hours of their day dedicated to work on their project...so far, so good!  

It's been amazing walking around, helping students with a wide variety of topics and experiencing their enthusiasm. I had no idea just how creative this group was and our hope is, they will discover just how creative they are as well! Oh and that learning can be fun. While there is no denying a handful of students are probably taking advantage of the situation and not maximizing this opportunity, the vast majority are, and I for one am glad to see we are not holding those students back for the poor choices of a few! And  interestingly, we had significantly fewer students absent today than normal...especially for this time of the year...hmmm, something must be different!
Read More
Crowdsourcing seems to be a new term that is in vogue right now. I recently read a blog post from Catlin Tucker about Crowdsourcing Information in the Classroom, and I've got to admit, I was intrigued! With all of the success the Boston police had in identifying and capturing the culprits for the marathon bombing due to crowdsourcing, I thought this was a term my 7th graders needed to understand the value of for future needs. Coupled with my recent study of Design Thinking strategies, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity for my students to dig into the new content we were about to begin in class...Texas and the Civil War. So the assignment was simple. I divided them into groups and divided the topic into 5 categories. They were to find important pieces of information pertaining to their category. Throughout the day, students kept adding to the body of knowledge. They had to review what was already added and find information that was missing...it was some pretty engaging stuff! Below are some pictures detailing our progress:

Now, normally technology is the first tool we go to when we begin our work...in classroom, that is mainly our iPads. But for this activity, trying to be "nimble thinkers" generating lots of information quickly, our iPads became our second tool to use when we began to snap pictures of all of this content. Loading those images into our Evernote account made all of the information searchable once we synced our accounts.

Our next assignment...we're going to take this information and organize it into Thinking Maps...From there, they are going to construct some scripts to podcast the information. Finished products will be posted soon! 
Read More
I have been intrigued by the idea of implementing a 20% project for a while, but honestly, I haven't been brave enough to tackle it. Let's face it, I teach 7th graders! But fortunately, this year, I have a group of students that I felt would be a perfect fit something as unusual as this challenge...and I teach with some brave souls, so two weeks ago we launched what I hope will be an intellectual journey worth celebrating!

We launched the project with a presentation on exactly what the 20% Project was and included a video of some of Kevin Brookhouser's students describing their experiences.

We covered the rules and expectations for the project and I explained that I had shared a folder in their Google Drive with a variety of documents needed to progress through the project. We then participated in an activity called the Good/Bad Idea Factory activity modeled after the exercise I found on Kevin Brookhouser's website, I teach. I think. Students broke into small groups and had about 20 minutes to brainstorm as many topic ideas as possible. I told them not to focus on implementation of these topics or to get bogged down in what the end-product of the topics would be, just to brainstorm potential topics. 

The next day, we did a gallery walk to look over all of the ideas generated. Students had to select about 5 topics that seemed interesting. They completed this form to help narrow down their selection. After they narrowed their ideas to a final topic, they completed this form for their Proposal Pitch. This will be an activity in which they will pitch their proposal to their classmates who will then have about 2 minutes to give feedback about the proposal. I've included an article that discussed the importance of "pitching" your ideas to make them happen. Hopefully this activity will provide additional resources for students to formulate their best topic with a strong set of guiding questions.

One really engaging thing we did was the availability to host a Google Hangout with Mr. Juan deLuca from Mexico City who has implemented this type of project with his students. He explained the importance of generating bad ideas as well as good ideas because there's a fine line between the two. He also encouraged students to find a mentor to help with the project. All in all, it was a very productive first day. Stay tuned for further reports on our progress...I would say we're off to a strong start!
Read More
I've been doing some research lately on assessment: its purpose, its effectiveness, the role it plays in the learning process. As I worked on my masters degree, I soon realized we never had tests per se, but weekly papers and projects to complete. I was constantly amazed at how much I was learning...and with no testing? How could that be? But interestingly enough, I never made that connection with my students! At least not until this year...

My classes this year are an interesting bunch. From day one, I assumed the role of Lead Learner in my classroom. This year has been one of exploration and experimentation punctuated with implementing two pilots: Google Apps for Education and 1:1 iPad deployment. So the ground was fertile for additional exploration of transformational learning opportunities. 

Students this year really seem to relish challenge, look forward to projects (the iPad enabled students to create some pretty professional looking content), and really any type of activities that fell outside the norm. In contrast, test prep was non-existent. Even with testing being done online, the mundane routine of wrapping up a unit study with a test didn't yield the kind of results I was looking for. They really didn't know any more information after a test than they knew prior to testing. Yet I had students counting down the days until we begin our 20% project. (More about that in a series of upcoming posts.)

As we've progressed through this school year, I've come to observe that mere tests were 
passé to the majority of my students. Most wouldn't prepare and were satisfied with "good enough" grades. But more importantly, I didn't see these end-of-unit tests impacting the learning process. So...in lieu of these, I have begun to design assessments that require students to dig into the content and literally leverage it for the creation of something new. What I noticed was, they began to make connections that had been missed in the initial exposure to the content. Not only did learning continue THROUGH the assessment phase, it actually went deeper. It was much more meaningful and higher quality work was elicited when their work had an audience; therefore, I implemented peer evaluations of their work using the rubric I used to evaluate their work. I believe evaluating peer work is helping students to develop a deeper understanding of what's needed to "up their game" when it comes to content creation. Another element I added was a Reflection piece to the assessment phase. Reflection appears to be key to improvement! Taking time to reflect on their work, highlight what they did well, and contemplate what could have been better, seems to be a necessary component to improving work.

When I remarked to a student that no one was really preparing for tests and they seemed to be a waste of time, that student replied, "Oh, you're just now figuring that out?" Out of the mouths of babes...

Here are some examples of a recent Podcast Project we completed at the end of our Texas Revolution unit:

  • Battle of Goliad (Oct 9, 1835)
  • The Grass Fight
  • The Consultation
  • The Battle of the Alamo
  • The Goliad Massacre
  • As we completed the fall campaign of the Texas Army, students wrote an expository essay about the events we had just studied. Click here to see an example of an essay on student wrote.

    My Assessment on Assessment:
    1. Design assessments that are authentic, engaging, and require students to dive deep into the content-they may even be fun!
    2. Always provide a rubric so there are clear and compelling standards for expectations. For peer assessment, the rubric may need to be tweaked a little to represent information students, rather than the teacher, may be qualified to assess.
    3. Integrate an additional skill you would like your students to develop and identify that within the rubric and project instructions. This provides opportunities for engagement and equips them with 21st century skills that can be used in other content areas.
    4. Make sure that at the core of the assessment, content is the focus.
    5. Don't forget reflection time! Have students reflect on what was easy, what was hard, and where could they have improved. It's so easy to skip this phase, especially when time is tight. But I believe, when routinely adding this component to the assessment phase, you will begin to develop a "Reflective Mindset" in students that fosters improvement.

    We are about to embark on a 20% Project. We'll see if exposure to this new form of assessment has developed some skills that will translate into success in this project. Stay tuned; I will begin a series of posts on our 20% Project and its progress.

    Read More
    I read an article in Edudemic about the 5 Critical Mistakes Schools Make With iPads and How to Correct Them. I also attending a session at TCEA with Carl Hooker on the 10 Things Not To Do With iPad Deployment. Getting educated on others' mistakes I felt would be instrumental in eliminating at least a few unnecessary mistakes. As a result
    I am finally understanding why Apple touts the iPad as a single-user device. Don't get me wrong; I do think it's possible to implement a class set of these devices, but there are definitely some key tips and tricks that need to be considered for effective deployment.

    1. Lables: Create labels to place on the devices that list each student assigned to each device with their respective class period. This is helpful for quick reference when an issue occurs as well as for distributing/collecting the devices each period.

    2. Security: Implement a study of the importance of maintaining personal account security. It is imperative the students remember to log out of any accounts they use during class in an effort to keep their content secure and minimize the likelihood of someone posting content in their name. While we haven't had huge issues with this, there have been some incidences that exposed this problem that could be place students in very vulnerable positions. This is also a component I now want to include in our digital citizenship unit.

    3. Create & Delete: Once content is created on the devices, it needs to be moved to the cloud and deleted. Case in point...we use the Adobe Reader app a lot for notes as well as other activities, then screenshot the content to add to our Interactive Notebooks created in Evernote. Once this content is created in Adobe Reader, and the screenshot is taken, that content needs to be deleted. If not, what's to keep the next student from using this content for themselves? So, we have now added that additional step to our workflow.

    4. Protect: When using shared apps such as Pages for content creation, it's important for students to understand they are responsible for protecting ALL content created in that app, not just theirs, but their "device mates" as well. Sharing these devices really provides an opportunity for them to experience the understanding of the importance of the "do unto others" concept.

    5. Honesty: These devices have actually minimized cheating because of "time-stamping" and "revision history" especially when using our Google Apps accounts. Providing students with opportunities to understand the "ins and outs" of digital footprints may go a long way in developing their understanding of its importance.

    6. SWAT Team: Select a team of volunteers that distribute/collect devices every class period. The team for the last period of the day is especially important; I have microfiber clothes that are used to wipe each of the screens, then all devices are plugged into the cart. We don't plug them in during the day; they are only returned to the cart. 

    One last tip I have found particularly useful doesn't solely apply to a class set of iPads, but I thought I would share anyways:

    7. Video Viewing: If you are doing any screencasting and your district blocks YouTube, I have found the best solution is to upload the videos to Google Drive. Using the Google Drive app, students can view the videos without needing Adobe Flash.

    These devices are transforming my classroom. Students are learning to work more independently. We have been completing some "Station Work" that allowed them to proceed at their own pace through the content. I had one student yesterday remark that she wished she could work on it at home, but she didn't have an iPad to use...oh well, not a bad problem to have!
    Read More
    Well, we've been plugging along, using our iPads for all of our class work...taking notes, quizzes, and communicating without using paper...pretty cool stuff. While at SXSWEdu a couple of weeks ago, I happened to talk to Tom Burnet, who is with Strategic Initiatives, Apple Education, and I told him how much I was enjoying my classroom of iPads. We literally do all of our work on these devices. He asked what we were doing and I told him, not anything too transformative at this point. We were really still working out the kinks for workflow, things like: how we can type and draw on our notes (thank you Adobe Reader), how we can turn work in for a grade (thank you Edmodo and Google Drive), and how we can create the coolest content on the planet (thank you all Apple apps!). 

    This week we wrapped up our notes on a particular chapter and have begun a podcast project to reflect on our learning. Even with the Internet down for two days, my students created some pretty cool Thinking Maps® using Skitch as shown here. I love these iPads and tools like this because they allow my Special Ed students to create work that looks as good as their neighbor's who may just be Gifted!

    The best part this week though, was today. They were working in groups on their scripts for their podcast recording next Monday. One student's partner was absent today, but that didn't matter! They were working on Google Drive and the sick student was right there during class today, contributing her part! I mean, how fab is that? Ahhh...just doing a little work on a project in the life of an iPad classroom! (With a little help from the Cloud!)

    Read More
    This past week we've been playing catch up trying to mow our way through the Texas Revolution. Of all the content we get to cover in Texas history, this is the most engaging, interesting series of events. Our forefathers exhibited a great deal of gumption and demanded the Mexican government fulfill their responsibilities in upholding the Mexican Constitution of 1824. As we have been looking at this content, and attempting to design work that allows the students to be more actively involved in their learning, I've come to realize this paradigm shift requires helping the students to understand their role in accepting more responsibility for their learning. 

    I have been so focused on my "making the digital shift", that I haven't given much thought to my students' shift toward this new learning environment. I just naturally assumed they would easily adopt this new way of doing their work...but that hasn't been the case. It has become more and more obvious that this culture needs to be purposefully built within the learning environment.

    Daniel Pink has stated that the most dangerous word in today's economy is "Routine". He stated that any kind of routine work is going to disappear from this country. This will be the work sent offshore to be completed by people willing to complete this work for pennies on the dollar. Preparing our students for the STAAR or any other newly developed standardized testing reflects this new shift in preparing students for the future. So that brings me back to my dilema...how to I transform the way we do our work in our classroom that shifts the work we do from routine and sequential to crafting opportunities for my students to analyze and synthesize content in a manner they find important and significant? How can we develop and apply skills that will be utilized in an economy that values these "thinking skills"? And most importantly, how can we learn to take charge of our learning and value what it can do for us?

    I am convinced I need to build this culture within our classroom and fortunately, these iPads are going to be great tools to help with this. So, what needs to be encouraged? These are some areas I am going to begin with:

    • Learning to manage time effectively
    • Making the most of collaborative relationships
    • Maximizing the resources at hand 

    This is going to be challenging, but possible, if learning opportunities are well-designed and provide students time to develop these skills. But specifically how I implement work to develop these skills is going to be critical in their success. This past week, I've been looking at apps and abilities of the iPad that will facilitate the management of these three areas. Doceri, Baiboard, Nearpod, Reflector, Splashtop are all apps that provide access to iPads, allow for collaboration, can help in monitoring time management, and provide access to a wider variety of resources. Some of these work through wifi, others utilize an Airplay connection, which at this time is currently unavailable in our classroom. Over the next few weeks, we will be exploring which are best for our tasks at hand and how we can utilize these for effectively developing these much-needed skills to make our digital shift within the learning environment. Stay tuned for further developments!
    Read More
    I was fortunate to get to attent TCEA13 this year in Austin; I would say the best one to date! All handouts posted thus far can be found here. This convention provides so many great resources, tips, tricks, and valuable information on just what's trending in the edtech world. One of the highlights was attending a session presented by Carl Hooker, Director of Educational Technology at Eanes ISD in Austin. He presented a session entitled, Top 10 Things NOT to DO of an iPad Implementation. Another session led by Tammy Worcester was going on at the same time entitled, iHave An iPad, Now What Do I Do? While I love Tammy Worcester and all of her resources, I must admit, I was intrigued by what I shouldn't be doing! I mean, I figured I could come up with a lot of ways to effectively implement the iPads...I just wasn't sure I knew what I shouldn't be doing with them. My selection of sessions proved to be spot on. This session was filled with great information, tips, and tricks to maximize effective implementation. Here are some of what I considered to be the most significant take-aways:
    • Communication is key...communicate with administration, parents, students and utilize multiple forms of communication!
    • Give it time to see real transformation of the learning environment to occur...This was key for me because I tend to want everything to happen yesterday!
    • When evaluating the transformation or disruption of the learning environment, realize that without effective edtech support, true TRANSFORMATION of the learning environment won't occur...What he meant here was, introducing iPads into the classroom does substitute the tools of pen and paper and it definitely augments the learning environment because the very nature of these tools is engaging; however, the teacher is still the dispenser of all knowledge. True transformation won't occur until the learning environment becomes student-centered and prescriptive or individualized to meet the needs of each learner. Effective teacher support systems must be in place to achieve the upper levels of the SAMR model as shown above. This is why districts without these resources tend to see programs plateau and never completely achieve true transformation.
    • To achieve maximum benefit, teachers need to remember these tools can empower the students and teachers need to make sure they get out of the way and allow that dynamic to occur. An example he provided was this student-led project that produced this music video:
    This was an excellent session that provided a great deal of valuable information, but more importantly, a great deal of inspiration and ideas for truly transforming the learning environment...stay tuned for reports of progress made!
    Read More
    I have done a lot of study on brain-based learning over the last few years. I've experimented with some techniques in the classroom that have reaped many benefits, but I think I may have stumbled upon a new approach to integrating some BBL through the use of the iPads...and it involves Keynote...yes, Keynote and I'm not talking merely creating a slideshow presentation!

    We are currently wrapping up a chapter of content and it's time to prepare for our test. Our goal is simple...create a Keynote presentation of review material that contains visuals representing the information that needs to be learned for the test. We've talked a little about the importance of the organization of the information, as well as the font and formatting of the slides and how they can enhance the learning of this material. I even came across an interesting blog called The Keynote Classroom and I uncovered a lot of interesting tips and techniques as well as some great inspiration. I just didn't realize how powerful this little app could be...way beyond just building a presentation. So we are ready to take test prep to the next level. It will be interesting to see how this turns out...stay tuned. Below I've included the rubric for this project. 

    Read More
    Day One: Students Get Wallpaper Set
    Well, our iPads finally arrived yesterday! It was a much anticipated event and my students were thrilled. Over the next several months, I'm going to be blogging about our experiences, my observations, and the impact they are having on our learning environment...whether or not they are transforming our work and if so, specifically how.

    Our first task was to create a collage featuring pictures of the students who would be sharing each of the iPads along with the number assigned to each iPad. This collage would become the wallpaper for each device. We also had to get the apps that had been selected onto the devices and get the docks aligned with the apps we would be using most: Evernote  Safari, Google Chrome, Google Search, and Dropbox. We wanted to make sure we could hit the ground running and it gave us an opportunity to explore some of the apps we would be using!

    Students read primary source document
    While these devices appear to be shiny new toys we get to use in our classroom, by day two, a significant difference emerged! They provided an opportunity for me to differentiate instruction and allowed me to meet the individual needs of my students. Case in point...one of the standards the state of Texas requires of 7th grade social studies students is to examine and analyze primary source documents. Because we are a BYOD district, this year we have been using the app, Evernote for our history notes, an online version of our usual "Interactive Notebooks". Using Evernote, I recreated a newspaper article about Texas that appeared in a Philadelphia newspaper in 1835 talking about the opportunities Texas held for those who were willing to take a chance. Students were to read the article, answer some questions about its contents, and find a picture that reflected the essence of this article. Sometimes it's difficult for students to read primary source documents because the language is often archaic and cumbersome. This app allowed me to record myself reading the article so, if the students needed help in reading this document, they could simply press the play button and read along as I read the article to them. If they didn't need the additional help, they didn't need to bother with that, and could proceed on to the questions and activity at the end.

    I can already tell these devices are going to be a great tool for allowing the students to be active learners that dictate exactly what they need to learn better, learn deeper, and have information on demand at their fingertips! They will also provide me with the opportunity to deliver the resources needed to meet the individual needs of all of my students. 

    So, one of the main observations I will be making over the next several months is whether these devices actually transform learning, and if they do, then how...On day two, this was a very easy observation to make. In the past, to provide access to a lengthy reading passage for all of my students, required that I personally read that passage. While this was adequate help, the students could never "stop my play button and rewind me if they missed something!" These devices provided an opportunity for students to have access to this additional help on demand as needed. Gotta love technology! 
    Read More
    This fall our district became a Google Apps for Education school district and with that, a whole new world of opportunities opened up for our students. But, with transition and change always comes challenges and obstacles. The key to maximizing the effectiveness to any new initiative, I believe, is piloting the roll out with a small group of willing "cliff jumpers" as I like to call them, people willing to experiment, evaluate, and implement change. But I have come to realize, an important element of piloting an initiative is the willingness of all participants to:
    • understand the environment needed for piloting an initiative.
    • understand the importance of experimentation and evaluation.
    • understand the vital necessity of developing "best practices".

    When I began this new school year, we were piloting Google Apps, but we didn't actually get our accounts until a few weeks after school started. That meant we had to modify and adjust fairly early in the game. This was when I discovered the value of the flexible group my 1st period turned out to be. They were willing to explore and evaluate workflow and protocols. They would help determine the best way the other classes needed to proceed. There were many things we had to figure out:

    • File-naming conventions that were best to use.
    • Easiest ways to share documents.
    • Best ways to organize Google Drive.
    • Best ways to organize and manage Gmail.
    Understanding the importance of creating an environment that is experimental in nature is critical to any pilot program. Mistakes pave the way to success. The students loved being a part of that and understood their opinions were important. I had some real leaders emerge as trailblazers and many had never really experienced this kind of success or recognition. It's exciting to see students take ownership in their learning and find value in helping others learn as well. We are about to implement a 1:1 iPad pilot and I am depending on my 1st period class to step up to the plate once again. They are up for the challenge and I know they will be instrumental in developing "best practices" for those who follow. We are looking forward to the delivery of our new iPads...hurry! We're ready!

    Read More
    Next Post Newer Posts Previous Post Older Posts Home