Famous Firsts for $400!

“I’ll take Famous Firsts for $400, Alex!” For a number of years in my life, statements like that were part of my daily routine, as I prepped and made dinner while watching Alex Trebek host Jeopardy, a long-lasting tv quiz show. I loved testing my “useless pieces of information” brain against the questions and savvy contestants. Jeopardy was hosted by Alex Trebek, a Canadian, from 1984 until he passed away recently.

So in tribute to Alex, this week’s blog post is about creating your own Jeopardy game to use in your classroom. And in a neat (and by this I mean you’d almost think I planned it this way) twist of fate, creating a Jeopardy game involves hyperlinking, a skill which has been featured in several of my posts as of late!

I could explain, step by agonizing step, how to create a game from scratch. However, I have a really busy week coming up and really, there’s no point in reinventing the wheel, sooo…..

Here is a link to a template for creating your own Jeopardy game using Google Slides. The template was created by Eric Curts from Ctrl-Alt-Achieve and the second slide contains instructions on how to use his template to create your own game. And the slides are already hyperlinked for you – all you have to do is enter the questions and answers – easy-peasy! Not to be outdone, the people at slidescarnival.com have a very realistic looking template that can be used for Google Slides or PowerPoint.

And if you really want to create your own game from scratch, here’s an informative blog from the people at slidesgo.com. 

So, as noted above, a short post. Alex, Jeopardy fans around the world miss you and Canadians are proud to claim you as one of our own. Stay safe everyone!

Making The World Better, One App At A Time!

I bet if I asked your students what their favourite apps are and why, they would have a wide variety of interesting answers. As would teachers in your school, if I asked them! After all, for many of us (both students and teachers) we spend a fair amount of time using those apps that we like and we can be quite attached to them (sometimes embarrassingly so!) 

https://www.familyeducation.com/10-apps-for-parents-to-monitor-kids-mobile-use

How many of those same students and staff have actually created an app? Likely none. Some will have ideas for apps they would like to create, but few, if any, will have the actual skills (design and programming) to carry through with their thoughts.

Well, I have a fun and educational challenge for you and your students! Using the branching logic and linking skills from the blog post of two weeks ago with the information from last week’s sustainable goals post, I challenge you and your students to dream up, design and “faux create” apps that could help to make the world a better place! All from the safety of your own classroom without needing to write a single line of computer code! Intrigued? Yep, me, too!

Recently, Jason Trinh, a fellow Apple Distinguished Educator and I worked through this whole process as we created a webinar called “Coding From the Heart”. 

The basic timeline goes like this:

  1. Choose a sustainable development goal.
  2. Brainstorm app ideas related to that goal.
  3. Think about the functionality of the app.
  4. Create first design. (on paper)
  5. Get feedback.
  6. Redesign.

By the way, steps 5 and 6 could happen a number of times!

  1. Move the design to your chosen slide deck base (Keynote, Google Slides or PPT) and build. By using hyperlinks and different shapes, colours and images, your students can create a clickable “faux app” that runs on the slide platform – too cool!
  2. Get feedback from potential users.
  3. Redesign / rebuild.
  4. Present app and celebrate!                                                                                                                              

Okay, in retrospect that looks like an awful lot of work! But…the good news is that there is already an existing unit plan that you can work from. The good people at Apple have put together an awesome template for the entire process! The template is called the App Design Journal and it walks you and your students through the whole process! If you want to use the template in its Keynote format, you can download it from near the bottom of this webpage. Here is a link to the PDF version and here is a link to the shortened PDF version. NOTE: Although the Design Journal is designed in Keynote, if you and your students don’t have access to Keynote, you can do all of the same things in Google Slides or PPT, as noted earlier.

Some tips:

  1. Have students work in small groups of 2 or 3. 
  2. Once teams have chosen the sustainable development goal they are going to base their app on, encourage them to think about their own lives and how that goal might relate to their lives. When Jason and I went through this process, we chose Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production. In relating this to our own lives, since it was close to Christmas we decided to focus on building an app that helped people shop from companies that used sustainable practices or sold items that were manufactured in an eco-responsible way.
  3. Don’t feel you need to do the whole project digitally. Much of the design progress can be done on paper and many people actually find it easier to start that way until they have firmed up their ideas!
  4. Give students opportunities to seek feedback from other teams. Real app developers do a lot of this and it helps drive the design cycle!
  5. Whichever slide tool you use, show students how to scale the slides so they have the same basic ratio as a cel phone. If we use an iPhone 11 as our test, set up the slides as follows:
    1. On Keynote, Document -> Slide Size -> Custom Slide Size and set the width to 298 pts and the length to 594 pts.
    2. On Google Slides, choose File -> Page Setup -> Custom and set the width to 2.98 inches and the length to 5.94 inches.
    3. On PowerPoint, choose File -> Page Setup -> Custom Size and set the width to 7.6 cm and the length to 15.08 cm.
  6. During the design phase, make sure to take some time to discuss both colour and font. Use real apps and advertisements to analyse what works and what doesn’t!
  7. Find a way to celebrate everyone’s hard work at the end. 

Now, I know some of you are wondering about assessment, right? Well, the good news is that you can pull all kinds of marks out of this project. Art? Check. Social Studies? Check. English Language Arts? Check. ADST? Totally! And what about the core competencies? Well, there’s definitely Communication, Collaboration, Creative Thinking and Critical Thinking. All of that and who knows? Your students might actually dream up an app that could help make the world a better place. And that’s worth more marks than you can imagine!

17 Ways to Make the World Better

Seriously, I am the only one lately who alternates between wanting to watch the news 24/7 to see what is going to happen next with wanting to move to a remote off-the-grid cabin to escape the craziness? I feel like I am living in the middle of a YA dystopian novel! And if I’m feeling anxious about the future of the world, I can only imagine how kids are feeling!

If I know anything about myself, it’s that when I am anxious the best way to handle it is with action! (By the way, I am sure the reason I think that way harkens back to Smokey the Bear telling me “Only YOU can prevent forest fires!” Score one for the power of PSAs!) I imagine I am not alone in feeling that way. Indeed, many people who give advice about helping children deal with anxiety talk about helping children take small actions to calm their anxieties.

As educators, we are in a very privileged position in that we can work with our students to learn about and take actions which will help make the future better. There are lots of great resources out there to help us teach kids about things like pollution, plastics in the ocean, food scarcity and clean water (to name a few).

One of the best resources I have seen lately is the United Nations 17 Goals for Sustainable Development

Within these 17 goals (which the UN hopes to achieve by 2030), there are issues that can be tackled from a fairly simple level of understanding (for our younger students) to issues that are multi-faceted and meaty enough for older kids to delve in to. These 17 goals address the big problems our world faces. The problems our current students will need to help solve if we want humans to continue to exist as a species.

Now, obviously, if all you do is show kids the website with the 17 goals, not much will happen. And even more obviously, most teachers are so busy and stressed out that they don’t really have a ton of time to develop completely new lesson plans, no matter how important the topic is.

Fortunately, other people have thought of that! The World’s Largest Lesson is a website that contains resources and lesson plans to support the entire range of K to 12  learners. Very young students can learn about six of the goals from Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends. Slightly older students can learn how to become Climate Action Superheroes. Each superhero has a “mission” that includes facts they can learn about, as well as actions they can take to make the world better. There are digital picture books: Frieda, The SDGs by Yak and My Hero is You. And if you and your students are looking for ways to help enact the 17 goals, then the ideas in 170 Actions are perfect! Here are some more resources on the Teach SDGs website.

Aside from the fact that I think the UN SDG Goals are great things to work towards, I also happen to think that they are awesome learning opportunities. So, stay tuned…next week I am going to take last week’s concepts, pair them with the UN’s SDGs and show you an entire unit (designed for Grade 4 to 10) that you and your students can do. It’s fun, creative, collaborative and best of all? It might cause one of your incredible kids to come up with a unique way to make the world a better place!

Choose Your Own Adventures, Branching Logic and Slides Presentations!

How many people remember the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books from the 80s and 90s? Chances are good that you either read them or have a sibling who read them. My brother was obsessed with them! For those who are unfamiliar with the series, created by Edward Packard, each book presented readers with an adventure that they could control, by choosing what decision (out of several) the main character should make. Each decision took the reader down a different path in the book (that they arrived at by going to the page associated with the decision). Eventually the reader would arrive at a conclusion, based on the choices they made during the story. Of course, part of the appeal was that you could re-read the book, make different choices and get a different ending!

So…what does this have to do with ed-tech? I’m getting there! These books were written using something called “branching logic”. In computer science, branching logic is also known as a “conditional” or “if-then-else” statement. As teachers (and parents), we use conditional logic with students on the daily – you know, IF you have cleaned your room/finished your Math problems THEN you can draw, ELSE (otherwise) get back to work. Branching logic is used to help a computer program/app/machine/robot make a decision, based on which conditions have been met.

Following so far? Awesome! So, what does this have to do with slide presentation tools and choose your own adventure stories? Well, you and your students can use hyperlinks and and slides to create your own choose your own adventure stories!!

I would start by mapping this out as a class activity. Choose a simple story the kids already know, where the character has to make decisions. With the class watching and contributing ideas, map out their journey on the whiteboard (or on Jamboard if you are virtual). Every time they have a decision to make, use arrows to indicate their choices and then more arrows to show the consequences of each choice. (This is trickier than it seems at first!) Your eventual drawing might look something like this:

Once your students feel comfortable with this, they can start on their own stories (alone or in groups of 2 – groups of 3 or higher get tricky). I would limit the number of “branches” or paths the story can have or some kids will start creating something so large that they can never finish it! Maybe you decide that each story can have three “big branches” and that each big branch can have two “little branches” – this will be based on the age and experience of your students, as well as the time you have!

Once your students have drafted and edited their stories, they are almost ready to move them on to slides (this will work with Google Slides, Apple’s Keynote and Windows PPT). Before they do that, there are two tasks they need to finish. The first is to decide which slide they will put each part of the story on, like this:

The second task is to decide how they will handle the illustrations for the story. There are choices here: kids can draw them and then take pictures so the images are digital, they can use an iPad app like Sketches School by Tayasui or they can find common use images online.

On to the slides! Obviously, the first slide will be the title page of the story. Then the next slide (or slides) will contain the first part of the story, before the first decision making point. Students will continue building the slide deck, adding text and images according to their story plan.

Now for the cool part…the linking!

On the first slide where the character(s) have to make a decision (let’s imagine the decision is between eating a magic chocolate lava cake or drinking an evil-smelling potion) have the students add in two button shapes (Insert Shape). They can add the following text to each button: “Eat Cake” and “Drink Potion”. From there, they can click on each button and insert a link to the correct slide. They now continue through the slide deck, inserting buttons and hyperlinks where needed. NOTE: This video shows how to do this on Google Slides, the premise is similar on Keynote and PPT.

Once they are finished they can share a link to a “view only” version of the slide deck to Google Classroom.

Students can also use this hyperlink technique on Book Creator if you would prefer they build their stories there!

I hope you and your students enjoy creating hyperlinked Choose Your Own Adventure stories and even if you never do this activity, at least you have learned a new computer science term!

Self Care and The Silver Lining

Disclaimer: Before you read this, please know that I am not making light of (nor am I insensitive to) the difficulties so many of us have gone through this year. 

As an educator, parent and spouse, December, for me, has traditionally followed the same pattern: busy, crazy busy, insanely busy, next-year-let’s-do-less busy and then total exhaustion. And just about the time I start to feel like I’m ready to totally relax, it’s the weekend before school starts up again! Now, I realize that a certain amount of this is self-imposed but I also know I am not the only one that feels this way.

Then there’s this December. Just as crazy as before and it’s coming at the end of the most insane year most of us have ever lived through. 

Well, there is (if you are willing to look for it) a silver lining to all of the Covid craziness heaped on top of holiday insanity.

So many of the things that we normally do – travelling, big family gatherings, dinners, parties, events, cookie exchanges – are off the table this year. Not allowed. And as much as this is hard to hear I will be 100% honest and admit that there is a little part of me that is relieved. Not that I don’t like all of those things…I (mostly) do. Christmas is one of my favourites! But….you know. It can be a lot.

So this year, instead of fretting about all the holiday events I can’t do because of Covid, I am going to look at the silver lining. I am going to focus on the things I can do.

I can wear whatever I want on the 25th. My immediate family is okay if I serve dinner in jingle jammies and slippers!

I can spend more time snowshoeing or walking along the beach because I don’t have to travel to holiday events.

I can spend an entire day curled up on the couch with a good book and a mug of tea because I don’t need to prep all the food for our annual Boxing Day party.

I can facetime my mom and dad and my brothers and we can open each other’s gifts in absentia but still together. At least I know I am keeping them safe.

I can take the time to play endless card games with my kids because I don’t need to worry about cleaning the house in case visitors drop by.

So, even though there will be things and people that we miss this winter break, try to see at least some of the silver lining. Take time to look after yourself.

And here’s hoping 2021 will be a much saner, safer and better year!

The Google Fairy and the Three Magic Spells

Once upon a time there was a plague that ran through the land. It caused people to change many things in the hopes that they could keep the plague at bay until wizards were able to develop an antidote. 

In many Scholarly Domains, one of the things that changed was the way the year was arranged. In an attempt to comply with the People’s Health Order of “Fewer Faces, Bigger Spaces”, the senior schools arranged the school year into 4 ten-week quarters. The People In Charge held many discussions about whether this system would work and in the end it was decided to give it a try. And so they did.

In the fair hamlet of West Vancouver, some months into the school year, several members of the Diligent Leaders Team decided it might be a good thing to ask students what they thought of the system. To no one’s surprise, opinions varied widely and there was much discussion in the halls of academia.  

Tucked away in the offices of the Illustrious Learning Commons I listened to the findings of the team and wondered what I could do to help. I picked out this gem. “Senior school students liked Google Classroom but wished teachers were more consistent with how they used it.”

How fortuitous, me being the Domain’s Official Google Fairy and all! Here is a chance for me to bring some calm to this troubled land! So, to help the students and teachers out, I am going to wave my magic Google wand and cast three magical Google spells!

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

Spell 1 – Magicus Topicus

Google Classroom does not have file folders. However, it does have Topics and if you use Topics consistently, to organize everything you put into Classroom, students will have an easier time finding things!

Topics can be found in the Classwork Stream, under the Create button. You can create all of your topics at the beginning of the year or you can create them as needed. Topics can be associated with: Assignments, Quiz Assignments, Questions and Materials. Google Classroom will group everything with the same Topic together in the Classwork Stream. Here is a screenshot of the Weekly Information Slides from the Robotics (I mean the Magical Automaton) Academy. Students can easily look for the “Weekly Information Slides” topic and find everything they need.

Spell 2 – Organum Magicus

Once my magic wand has convinced you to use Topics as a way to organize your Classwork Page you need to decide what method you will go with. Method One uses topics/units/Units of Inquiry to organize the things you post in Classroom for students. For instance, I might have a Topic entitled “Incantations” and everything (assignments, questions, material, etc) that has to do with Incantations will be grouped together under that Topic.

Method Two uses dates/weeks as a way to organize work. If I were the one teaching a 10 week course, this is the method I would use. I might create a Topic called “Week One – November 18, 2020” or “Week One – Organic Potions” and use that as a way to organize work for students. Everything they might need to be successful in that first week would be grouped together in Classwork, under that Topic.

One other thing: create a topic called “Class Resources” and put everything students will need to have regular access to under that Topic. This would include things like a digital textbook, an online graphing calculator, websites you will have them use regularly, etc. Then keep this Topic at the top of the Classworks page by dragging it to the top anytime it bumps down. Students will always know where to find that important information they need access to!

Spell 3 – Tempus Magicus!

How often do you post things to Google Classroom? Two times a week for two weeks and then three times a day for the next week? Imagine how confusing that is for the students? Try to be predictable – it makes life easier for everyone. Post twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursday. Or once a week on Monday morning. Remember, you can always set the post up and then schedule it for when you want it to “go live”.

Bonus Spell – Emojicus Organum

This is a special bonus – you can use emojis to further organize your assignments, etc in Classroom. Maybe you organize Topics by the week and then within that week, all ELA assignments have a book emoji in front of the title of the assignment. Here is a magic moving window example of how to do this:

Now, I am aware that these magical spells won’t stop the plague in its tracks or change the world. And I know that some teachers in our Scholarly Domain will be immune to the spells. But…if the spells help at least some of you and your students then I will count them a success….almost like, dare I say it…a happily ever after?!

Christmas Comes Early!

Today is December the 1st. For me, that’s the day that I traditionally start celebrating Christmas – decorating, singing songs, watching movies, etc. But this year, things are different. Covid and all it’s ensuing change means the rules of Christmas have changed, too. For me, that means I started Christmas over two weeks ago! I always love Christmas but this year I need it. I need the glitter and the lights, the sappy movies, the traditional carols, the special Christmas blankets, the baking, the cards…I need all of it and so I started early. 

What does this have to do with ed-tech? Well, every year I write a blog post with ideas for digital holiday activities you and your students can do. I usually post it the last week before the holidays, but this year I’m thinking that like me, you might need this earlier, so here goes! (BTW, here are the links to previous years’ Christmas posts: 2017, 2018 and 2019.)

12 Days of Creativity

This Apple book was written by a group of creative Apple Distinguished Educators I met at a conference this summer. They’ve come up with 12 fun creative projects you and your students can do, using Apple tools like Keynote and Garageband. They’ve included templates and instructions and tips. Some of the activities need to be done on Apple tools and others could be done on Google as well! To access the book, go to Apple Books and search for “12 Days of Creativity”.

Tech the Halls

This site was created by April Requard (@APSEdTech on Twitter). On her site, starting on December 2nd she’ll be sharing 12 days of EdTech. It’s a surprise as to what these will be – but I’m sure they will be great! Check back here each day to see what she has for us!

STEAM Activities

This site has tons of fun activities to do, most of which are hands on. They’re more elementary than secondary but I bet there are tons of secondary kids who would have fun doing Rudolph Races or exploring the chemistry of snow!

Polar Post and The North Pole Times

Both of these sites are Christmas newspapers, with daily articles about what Santa and his team at the North Pole are up to! Both sites do have advertising so maybe better to have the teacher project the site to the whole class or copy and paste the articles to docs or something else ad-free!

Christmas Math for Littles

This website, Little Bins for Little Hands, has some great hands-on Math activities for primary kids.

Meditative Start of Class Activity

Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on Pexels.com

Okay, this might seem really primary, but I totally enjoyed this! If you click here, you have 250 bright Christmas tree lights you can use to decorate the house. When you are done, you can light things up and add Christmas music!

Digital Breakout Rooms

Digital Breakout Rooms require students to work to solve small puzzles, enter the answers in a Google Form and “breakout”! They’re great for days when you or the kids need a break and they’re even relatively easy to create. You can make primary level ones but most of them are geared to older students. It’s always best to try them out yourself, first! Bonus: If you create your own, you can tie them into whatever curricular goals you want! Here’s a link to a site that has lots of free breakout rooms, along with a great explanation of how to build your own. Here’s a Christmas Breakout. And a 12 Days of Techmas one (not related to the 12 days above). Here’s a Harry Potter themed one, and another. And yet another collection. Do note that some links will not work on our school network. If that’s the case, have the kids open an Incognito window on the Chrome browser and try from there.

And remember, try them yourself first!

Finally, as much as Christmas seems different this year, it’s still the holiday season. So, whether you celebrate or not, make sure you find the time to look after yourself and find joy.

Coding and Computational Thinking Have Not Disappeared!

Remember a number of years ago when the government realized that computational thinking and basic coding were future-ready skills, and they poured a bunch of money into coding in education? Yep, me, too! It was an exciting time! Lots of great grass-roots organizations like Hackergal and Kids Code Jeunesse got funding to help them grow and many teachers here in BC got some basic training. Fun times!

Since then, teachers have been busy staying on top of all sorts of events, not the least of which is a global pandemic. Many people in education have been in survival mode for most of this year, so it’s understandable that “coding” might not be top of the list for teacher concerns! 

However, the reality is that many/most (depends on who you talk to) future jobs will be code-related or code-adjacent, meaning that a basic understanding of computational thinking and coding will be vital to those jobs. And sure, we could wait until students are in those jobs to teach them the coding skills they need but at its base, coding is a language with syntax, structure and idiosyncrasies. And as educators, we know that children absorb languages more quickly than adults, so why not teach the “language of coding” while they’re young?

Getty Images/iStockphoto

The good news for those of us that don’t eat, sleep and breathe this stuff is that once a year, every year, coding and computational thinking are celebrated throughout the world during Computer Science Week (also known by some as Hour of Code Week). This week it occurs from December 7th to the 13th. The rest of this blog, then, is a guide to opportunities for you and your students to spend a bit of time exploring coding!

Hour of Code

Hour of Code is both a website and a movement. Either way, the purpose is to introduce K to 12 students and teachers to coding. The site is filled with hour long coding puzzles and activities that you and your students can do. The site also has links to Code.org, where you can find free online courses for students to take, as well as all the materials that you, as a teacher, would need to have to teach your students the courses (even if you have no coding experience!)

Every year, Hadi Partovi and his team at Hour of Code outdo themselves thinking of ways to get students interested in coding. Once year, the Anna and Elsa “Frozen” game was a big hit, another year it was the Star Wars game. This year there is a true plethora of activities, from basic puzzles for non-readers to Java and Python tutorials for keeners. Talk about meeting every learner where they are!

Scratch and Tynker

Maybe you’re planning on doing Coding Quest this year with your students (more info coming in an email later this week) and you want to get them up and running on Scratch or Tynker? Great idea!

For Scratch, the kids can create without having an account by just going to Scratch and then clicking Create. However, it would be better for them to have an account so they can save their work. To do this, you need to apply for a teacher account (it usually takes a few days, so do this well ahead of time) and then follow the Best Practices advice here. If you and your kids are new to Scratch, have them work on the Tutorials. If they are familiar with Scratch, have them try making some of the basic games mentioned in this blog post.

For Tynker, follow the Best Practices guidelines here, for setting up your class account. Then have you students do the activities in Programming 100. Then they can try building the same basic games as in Scratch. The coding concepts are the same, the language is a bit different. And the cool thing with Tynker is that if you have any advanced kids who know Java or Python, they can work in that language!

More Blog Connections

I have blogged about coding many times, as follows:

Unplugged Activities

If you and your students don’t have access to devices, or you’d rather kick it old school, there are loads of great “unplugged” activities you can do that will support computational thinking! Here is a “cheat sheet” with some great ideas, sorted by grade!

Homegrown Activities

One of our West Vancouver parents, Tomoko, is the CEO of a coding education company and she has kindly given us access to 4 lesson plans that we can use, for students from Grade 4 to 12, as follows:

  1. Intro to VR coding – What is a 3D coordinate system? (Grade 4 to 7)
  2. Intro to VR Animation – Moving an object in three dimensional space (Grade 6 to 8)
  3. Interactive 3D animation – How to use user interaction as a trigger for 3D animation? (Grade 7-10)
  4. Tell your story in VR – What is the effective way to use 3D animation to convey a message? How can I design and use my own 3D model in VR? (Grade 9-12)

To access these activities, click here. You will find set-up instructions on the second page of each lesson plan. It takes about 15 minutes to complete.

Apple Coding!

Apple has a number of great activities set up for CS week. You can download A Quick Start to Code to see some fun and basic activities that use Apple’s Swift Playgrounds (free and TOTALLY addictive, speaking from experience) a coding platform available on iPads and Mac devices. 

In addition, Apple has two awesome webinars running on CS week. The first webinar runs on Wednesday, December 9th from 4 to 5 pm PST and it’s called “Swift Playgrounds, A Quick Start to Code”. The other one runs on Saturday, December 12th from 9 to 10:30 PST. It’s called “Coding From the Heart” and it’s all about ideating and designing apps to help the world – no code needed! Bonus…I am one of the Apple Distinguished Educators conducting this particular webinar! Click here to register for either of these….they’re free!

So, whether you want to go unplugged or try something totally new, I am encouraging you (begging, pleading, imploring, asking, cajoling, etc) to engage in a class activity during the week of December 7 th to 12th. Help your students be future-ready!

Three Little Things (That Are Cool)!

You know that feeling you get when someone shows you some little tech trick you never knew of and you are like…”Wow! That’s so cool!” And then you go home and show everyone you know and they think you are really smart? Yeah, well hopefully you will have that feeling after reading today’s blog!

Images in Google Forms

Google Forms is one of Google’s underutilized tools. And yet, it can be used in so many ways! Want to give a quick quiz? Use Forms. Poll your students? Forms! Let everyone in the class give their opinion? Forms, again! Give a survey, get kids to apply for class jobs, track home reading progress…forms! You get the idea, right?

Due to what Forms does, people think of it as mostly a text based tool. However, you can add images to forms! This can be used in many ways. Here’a video that goes over the different ways of adding an image to forms.

In a quiz, having an image can make the question clearer. In this example, I used an image of the salmon life cycle with each stage numbered. I then used the “Multiple Choice Grid” question type for the question.

The other great thing about adding an image is that students who can’t read or are struggling readers can still respond, as in this example using images of ice cream flavours.

Since forms can easily be added to Google Classroom, even our littlest learners can be given a form if you are using pictures to help them understand!

Video in Google Forms

The picture thing is pretty cool, right? Well, you can also add Youtube videos to Google Forms. The video is not embedded in the question, like the images were. Rather, you put the video first and then the questions/comments afterwards.

You could use this as a provocation – show a video and then use the “paragraph” answer type for students to write in what they think about the video, or what they wonder. This is a great way to do things if you and your students are isolated or even hybrid! You could also show a video and use the paragraph answer for a prediction – what do they think will happen next? Or you could simply look for an opinion, as in this “pet a whale” example! 

Bonus Tip of the Day – Interactive Checklists!

I’m not sure about you but I LOVE ticking things off on a to-do list. It makes me feel productive! For students, checklists can be really helpful for keeping track of homework, tracking steps in a long project or in a Math problem or even counting down the days until a happy event!

Both Google Docs and Slides have the ability to put created a bulleted list with checkboxes as the bullets. I often use these in typed out instructions I give kids for projects. Here’s a quick video on how you do it:

And for those of us who like written directions, here it is:

Okay, so it’s not as exciting as the news about the potential new Covid vaccines, but you’ve gotta admit, cool little tricks like these impress people!

Next week….how to get ready for Computer Science/Hour of Code week!

Super-duper Screencastify!

Back in the spring, I wrote a blog post entitled “One Thing We Should Keep”. At that time I wrote that I felt one of the things we should keep from our initial lockdown experience, was the practice of recording parts of our lessons or creating video tutorials that students could watch repeatedly. 

I still think this is a great practice. It doesn’t seem that Covid is going away anytime soon and in our district we’re even starting to think that maybe some secondary courses will continue to have hybrid structures once the virus is vanquished. So the idea of screen capturing our teaching has longer validity than just in pandemic times.

So….what tool should we use? If you’re using a Macbook, a simple Command, Shift, 5 is enough to record what’s happening on your screen. Pretty simple. Then there are apps like Camtasia and Final Cut – expensive, professional quality results, to be sure! But the learning curve is steep and, as I noted, the apps are expensive. So, where is the middle ground? In our district, we’ve settled on Screencastify, for a number of reasons. 

First, it integrates seamlessly with Google, which is important for us from an ease of use standpoint. Videos save automagically to your Google Drive (into a folder called Screencastify), they’re simple to add to Google Classroom and you can even embed them on Google Slides! 

Second, Screencastify is easy and quick to learn to use. Teachers are busy – they need tools that work well and don’t take a long time to master. 

Third, the cost is perfect…free! Well, I guess technically it’s “freemium”. The free version allows you to do almost everything but your recordings cannot be any longer than 5 minutes. While that might seem like a problem, the attention span of an average student isn’t likely much longer than that these days! And if you really need to make a longer video, you just make multiple short ones! The paid version of Screencastify allows you to record for an unlimited time. 

Screencastify is a Google Add-on, which you can install by going here. Screencastify has some great resources on their website. There is a beginner’s guide here. At this point, Screencastify has three functions: Record, Edit and Submit. In our district we can use Record and Edit.

NOTE: The Beginner’s Guide says that with the free version of Screencastify you can only get a trial of the EDIT function. This has now been changed and the EDIT function is free for videos up to 5 minutes long.

Here’s a link to an ebook called 50 Ways to Use Screencastify in the Classroom. Screencastify runs frequent webinars, which you can access here and you can even earn digital badges by taking short how-to courses, located here.

So, this is all well and good, but you want to actually see how to use it, right? Here goes:

See what I mean? Easy to use! You’ll get the hang of it quite quickly. Think of the things you can quickly and easily do with this tool:

  • Create a tutorial showing students how to use a new digital tool
  • Create a tutorial showing parents how to access digital tools at home (great for ELL parents who can follow the video without having to know all of the language)
  • Create a quick video for a TTOC, explaining how to do a particular task with the students

I bet you can think of loads of other, even better ways to use this tool! Enjoy!