Summer Learning

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It’s that time of year…summer weather has arrived, report cards have been written and both students and teachers are counting down the days to freedom. We’re all tired and ready for a break – the lazy days of summer stretch out in front of us and September seems a long ways away.

So, what I am going to say next might not be all that popular, but I am going to say it anyways. After you’ve had a bit of time to decompress but before September looms large, take some time to learn something new. Let the teacher become the student. We’re always telling kids they should be lifelong learners. Well…so should we!

What you choose to learn doesn’t really matter. I mean, sure it would be great if you chose to learn to code with Scratch or took the Google or Apple Educator tests. It would be awesome if you picked to learn an app you wanted to use next year or decided to dive deeper into something like DiscoveryEd. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t encourage digital exploration and learning, right?!

However, you could just as easily learn to windsurf, knit, bake bread or speak Spanish! What you learn isn’t important – it’s the process of learning that’s important. That feeling of nervous anticipation when you start something new, the frustration and challenge of failure and the eventual elation of success – those feelings are universal to all learners. Adults and children. Remembering what that feels like makes you a better teacher.

My own summer learning starts at the end of this week, when I head off to Chicago to attend ISTE, the biggest ed tech conference in the North America, if not the world. I am uber-excited and somewhat nervous and I can’t wait to learn all kinds of new things I can share with you next year. And in case you are worried that all I do is work…I’m also going to learn how to sail my boat single-handedly and I’m going to try learning Russian.

Whatever you do this summer, have fun, relax, recharge, reconnect and learn.

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Year End Clean Up

 

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It’s that time of year when the days get long, “popsicles for dinner” seems like a reasonable option and both kids and teachers reach the countdown to summer stage. Most schools give teachers a “year end” list – you know, clean bulletin boards, return textbooks, sort through the lost and found. Digitally, there are a few things you and your students should do or know about at the end of the year, too! Hopefully the following tips help you and the kids finish the year off properly!

Math IXL

For those teachers who are using Math IXL, students will be able to continue to use their accounts during the summer. They’ll get rolled into their new classes sometime in September.

Discovery ED

For teachers who want to do some planning or exploring over the summer in Discovery ED, have at it! Your account will remain active throughout July and August!

Fresh Grade

For teachers who have been using this, you will have access to add or change things in your current students’ portfolios until around the second week of July. After that, your class will get archived. You can still access it but will be unable to change anything. For teachers, archived classes show up on the right, under your name. For parents and students, archived classes show up on the left under My Account. Note that archived work is read-only – there is no way to comment on it or change it.

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Google Classroom

At the end of the year, it’s a good idea to clean and archive this year’s Google Classroom. Start by checking assignments you’ve given and make sure you’ve returned work to students.

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After that, archive your classroom. I say archive rather than delete because there may be something on that classroom that you will want to re-access in a future year. Note: if you archive a class you can still copy and reuse old posts and assignments from it in a new class! Here’s a great video that explains it.

Once you’ve archived your classroom, go into your Google Drive and archive your Google Classroom file by creating another file called Archived Classrooms and adding it.

Your students can either unenroll from your class or archive it.

Google Drive

You might be one of those people who meticulously files things right after creating or receiving them. In which case, your files, docs, etc are likely already where they need to be! If, however, your Google drive looks as crazily populated as the streets of Hong Kong, take some time to organize and delete. Your September self will thank you!

For your students, encourage them to put all of their work from this year into a file called “Grade _, 2017/18”. That way, they can start September off with an organized Drive, ready for the new year’s work!

What About Grade 12s and Other Movers?

If you teach or “own” a Grade 12 student, if you have a student who is moving to a new district or if you yourself are taking a new position elsewhere, it’s important to know that your West Van GSuite account will be deactivated once you exit the West Vancouver Schools system.  Please make a point to transfer any files you want to take with you. 

The easiest way to do this is to use something called Google Takeout or Google Transfer, which we have now enabled for people within the SD45 G Suite for Education domain.

Google Takeout will create a zipped file with all of your Drive in it. You can then load this zipped file into an external hard drive, store it in a cloud service like Dropbox or move it to the hard drive of your computer.

Google Transfer should be used if you want to move your school district Google “stuff” over to a personal Google account. Three things to keep in mind when you do this:

  • Storage in your school GSuite account is unlimited. That is not the case with a personal Google account, so make sure you are only transferring things you really want to keep!
  • The privacy settings on a personal Google account are quite different from a GSuite for Education account. Make sure you are aware of that.
  • Also, all sharing permissions are “broken” when you transfer so anything you had shared with other people they will no longer have access to (unless they made a copy for themselves). Here is a video that shows the process.

Hopefully this post will help you and your students clean up your digital closets and get  ready to enjoy summer!

What I Learned From Star Wars

It’s report card time and, as usual, I’m finding ways to procrastinate. Luckily, Showcase channel has been running a Star Wars marathon for the last few days, so as I sat and collated report information over the weekend, I got my fill of favourite characters, places and stories. And that got me to thinking. Star Wars had been a large part of my life – how has it influenced me? Since this is an ed-tech blog, here are 7 things Star Wars has taught me about life and educational technology!

Have A Mentor, Be A Mentor

This, of course, is important in all walks of life. Like Luke when he goes to Dagobah to find Yoda, we can all use someone to challenge us, support us and guide us to our true potential. My ed-tech mentors have ranged from my UBC profs to people in my PLN to students of mine. People who push my thinking and question my ideas help me grow and become the Jedi I want to be. I’m still looking to connect with Yoda, so if you have an inside track, let me know!

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Just as important as having a mentor is being a mentor. No matter how little you think you know, there is always someone who knows less and would benefit from your guidance! As Yoda so wisely says, “Pass on what you have learned.”

You Can Be A Princess and A Warrior

Princess Leia showed a young me that girls could be girly and tough, too. It’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten. As a female ed-tech teacher I am aware that it is now my turn to be a role model and to show young girls that women CAN code, build and run robots and know just as much about computers as boys can (maybe more!) Don’t let your gender dictate what you can or can’t do!

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You Don’t Have To Be Fluent

At one point, C-3PO informs us that he is “fluent in 6 million forms of communication.” Teachers often fear that they need to be fluent in a given technology in order to use it. But guess what? 6 million forms of communication didn’t always help C-3PO and you don’t have to be fluent. You just have to be willing to give it a try! Start somewhere! I teach coding to kids and I can assure you, I am not yet fluent in any coding languages! But I do know how to learn and where to look when I get stuck. Which brings me to the next one….

Have A Flexible Point of View

Obi-Wan cautions Luke that “many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” Change your perspective or point of view and the “truth” can change. As educators, we call this “having a growth mind-set.” Don’t think “I’m too old to learn new technology” – instead, think “this looks interesting, I’m going to give it a try!” Which leads to…

You’re Capable of Amazing Things!

This idea weaves itself through all the Star Wars movies and many of the characters. Who thought a crop-dusting farm boy could destroy the Death Star or a that a scavenger from dusty Jakku could use mind tricks on a Stormtrooper? When Luke doubts himself and fails to pull his X-wing out of the swamp in Dagobah, Yoda does the job easily and Luke is incredulous. Yoda then tells Luke, “That’s why you couldn’t do it. You didn’t even believe it was possible.”

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Over and over, Star Wars tells us that we can do amazing things if we just believe in ourselves and try. Not sure if you can use green-screen technology with kindies or teach middle schoolers to create a proper digital bibliography? Of course you can – believe me…I’ve done it!

Failure Leads to Strength

Obi-Wan tells Darth Vader, “Strike me down and I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” Through Star Wars we learn that falling down and getting back up again is okay – it leads to strength. And it leads to knowledge. I am constantly stumbling when it comes to using technology in the classroom! And each time I stumble I learn a little more and I get a little better at what I am trying to do.

And Finally…Know When to Let The Wookie Win!

I will never forget trying for hours to get something to look right on Google Docs. I felt so frustrated but I was determined to make it work. Finally, in a moment of desperation, I tried the same thing on Google Slides and it worked perfectly. As R2-D2 learns in “A New Hope”, sometimes it’s just better to “let the Wookie win.” Know when to give in.

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Well, I hope you enjoyed my light-hearted, somewhat tongue-in-cheek mash-up of Star Wars and educational technology! Next week’s blog will be all about wrapping the year up digitally!

A Coding Story

This week’s blog isn’t so much a tip as it is the story of what happened when someone passed a tip on to me. It’s also an argument for inclusion and a story of successes.

A few months ago, one of our elementary administrators, Cathie Ratz, forwarded an email to me about something called Hackergal. I’m automatically intrigued by anything with the word “hack” in it, so I opened the email. It was all about an organization called Hackergal, whose goal is “to empower young girls to explore the possibilities in code.” I dug deeper. I found out that all I had to do was register and my female students and I could start learning Python (a coding language) and participate in a Canada-wide hackathon! So cool! Never one to shy away from a challenge, I called one of the organizers, found out a bit more and signed up!

Rather than running our Hackergal’s group as a single class or in a single school, I put the challenge out to Grade 6 and 7 girls across the district. Who was interested in knowing more about coding? To my delight, I ended up with a group of 36 girls from 4 different schools – all willing to try something new! We were the only “district” participants in all of Canada!

One of the great things about Hackergal is that they have teamed with Codesters to provide every Hackergal participant with a Codesters account where they can learn another programming language; in this case, Python.

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The girls and I got together one morning in late April, to meet each other, set up our Codesters accounts and start learning. It was apparent quite quickly that some of us knew a bit more than others but the energy in the room was great and we all helped each other over the little bumps we encountered as we began to explore a new platform and a new language.

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The next time we met was on May 2nd – Hackathon day across Canada! It was pretty exciting knowing that we were joining thousands of other girls and women across the country!

For those who don’t know, at the beginning of a hackathon, you are given a problem to solve. You solve the problem by combining the design cycle and coding. The problem we were given was to use the Codesters platform to create an interactive story about an endangered species. I put the girls in groups of 3 and I purposefully organized the groups so that they were multi-school. The first 20 to 30 minutes was spent choosing an animal, getting to know each other and beginning to think about design. Then it was off to the races!

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Throughout the day the groups encountered many challenges. Some were of the coding variety, some were design challenges and some (the trickiest ones) were collaborative/social challenges. Codesters and Hackergal had staff online to help us with coding challenges but the other challenges were up to us to overcome.

The day wrapped up with judging and awards. There was no first place winner – three teams were given “Honourable Mention” stickers based on their Coding, Design or Game Play prowess. In addition, each girl chose a sticker for herself based on what she felt her strength was – Coding, Leadership, Creativity or Teamwork. And for taking part in the hackathon, all of the girls now have a year long subscription to Codesters!

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For me, the day and experience held many successes. Even though some of the teams struggled to complete their project on time, everyone progressed and developed their hard skills (coding in Python) as well as their soft skills (negotiation, teamwork). We got to participate in a Canada-wide all-girls STEM event…and we had lots of fun doing it! The girls got to meet other girls with similar interests and make connections. And they got to see that girls who like coding can be quiet girls, athletic girls, bookish girls, funny girls, girls who like fashion, girls who like animals – there is no stereotypical coder!

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One of the biggest successes of the day involved a girl who loves coding but struggles in social situations. She has a full-time aide. Her teacher, her principal, her aide and I all agreed that it would be a great thing if she could participate but we all worried that the challenges of the day might be too much for her. We prepared for the fact that she might need to go home at recess or maybe lunch – we agreed that she would stay as long as things were working for her in her group. We were hopeful but nervous.

The challenges started right away! She had to meet two new girls. They had to agree on an animal – her favourite animal is not endangered – would she accept a different animal? She did and the group moved on. Several times during the day she had small meltdowns but the prospect of getting to code helped her calm down and return to the group. At the end of the day, her group did not get one of the honourable mentions but she was singled out as being a great coder. She left with a smile on her face and the confidence that she could do a hackathon. Just like all the other girls! Now, that’s success!

Hackergal runs events twice a year – I am already starting to plan for the next event. Thanks for the tech “tip”, Cathie!

Infographics Are Awesome!

According to Wikipedia, an infographic is a “graphic visual representation(s) of information, data or knowledge intended to present information quickly and clearly.” According to one of my Grade 7 ELA students, an infographic is “a cool and colourful way to show what I know.” Here is an example of one of the infographics my students created recently:

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Based on the image, I think you’ll agree that both of the definitions above are correct. I’ve wanted to create infographics with my students for a few years now but the timing hadn’t seemed right until this spring. We’ve been learning about plastics in the environment and our ELA focus has been “communicating our knowledge and opinions in different ways.” Perfect timing for introducing the idea of infographics.

We started by finding 12 data-driven facts about plastics, pollution and the environment. I allowed the students to search online and find the facts anywhere (I know what you’re thinking but I had a reason to let them indiscriminately search! Stay with me!) They collected their facts in a table, along with the url of where they found the information.

Following this, we had a discussion about the reliability of online information and I showed them this video about the TRAAP test (like the CRAAP test but less giggle-inducing in a room occupied by 12 year-olds).

Now they went back and reviewed their data through the lens of the TRAAP test. Each team chose 6 to 8 pieces of data that they found both reliable and interesting.

Next, I showed them some infographics about kids and social media. We talked about how the data was shown and what made it different from an article on the same subject. Was it as reliable? Was it as in-depth? Was it more interesting to “read”? (Yes, no and way more were the answers, by the way!)

Now it was time to create our own infographics! There are a number of great infographics sites online – some free, some paid and some freemium. However, you can do all of the same stuff using Google Slides and a little know-how!

The first thing to do is to change the size and set-up of your slide. You can find out how to do that here. Basically, you want a portrait orientation that is 8.5 by 11 inches. Then choose a background colour that works with your theme (I tasked my students with sticking to a 5 colour scheme, with two of the colours being white and black/grey – for example: blue, green, orange, white, grey).

From there, you are basically adding words, images/icons and charts or graphs while thinking about the design and overall look and appeal.

Google has lots of great fonts you can access. For adding images and icons, I talked with my students about not using real pictures, choosing images that have a transparent background (.png files) and staying away from copyright and watermarked images. You can find more here about using images. One of the best places to find these sorts of icons or images is pixabay.com.

Finally, to add in charts, tables, graphs and “data images”, you can use Google Sheets or an online tool like ChartGo, where you can quickly and easily create several different types of charts/graphs and save them as jpegs, without having to create an account. NOTE: This will generally leave the chart or graph with a white background. There are ways around this (like using a tool like Lunapic to create a transparent background) but for your average student that might be more fussing around than they want – white backgrounds on those elements are ok!

Once you have all of your elements, you can add them to your slide and play around with adding things like shapes, callouts and arrows.

When you’re satisfied with how things look, save the slide as a pdf or jpeg file. From there the kids can upload it to their blogs or FreshGrade accounts or you can print them out on 11 x 17 paper and display them!

I am thrilled that I finally got to experiment with infographics in my classroom. I am really happy with the results and pleased that I’ve found yet another way to help my students learn to communicate in an increasingly complex and digital world.

Read & Write for Google Chrome

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This year we added another awesome tool to our Google tool kit – Read & Write for Google Chrome. This tool is available to all district staff and Grade 4 to 12 students on laptops as long as they are using the Chrome browser.

So….why is Read & Write such an awesome tool? It provides users with a number of functions, such as the ability to have websites read out to them and the ability to talk and have the computer type what you say. Although the most logical uses will be for ELL and Special Ed students, there are tools in Read & Write that could benefit all students (and teachers). Intrigued? Read on!

If you are using the Chrome browser and logged in to it with your school Google id (your sd34 email for teachers and their edu.sd45.bc.ca email for students) you should automatically have Read & Write installed to the right of your omnibox. If you have to go through the process of installing Read & Write, you likely are not logged into Chrome with your school account – check it out!

RW4C

Once you have the extension installed, you can use it in Google docs, Google slides, and most websites and PDFs. Here is a video that shows all of the features and a basic “how to” for using them.

For those of us that would prefer to read our instructions, here is a “cheat sheet” for the functions. If the functions aren’t all showing up on your puzzle toolbar, click the down arrow to the right of the toolbar. From there, choose “Options”. In the Options screen you will see that you can  do many things. If you click Speech, you can change the reading voice as well as the reading speed (very helpful). If you click “Features” you can toggle on and off the features you wish to use on a regular basis (this might come in handy if you are working with a student who get overwhelmed easily – just choose the features you know that student will need). If you choose “Screen Masking” you can change the size and colour of the screen mask tool and in “Prediction” you can change the number of words that the student can choose from.

Finally (drum roll, please!!!), you can actually get Read and Write to work in French and Spanish. To get this to work, start by choosing Options and then Speech. From there, choose either a French or Spanish Vocalizer and change the translation to French or Spanish. Then go to Languages. Change the Language and Features drop down to French or Spanish, click OK and you should be good to go!

I’m sure everyone will have their favourite features. For me, I love the Simplify button, that allows wordy, ad-riddled websites to be distilled to just the text. I also love the Mask tool, especially when I have to read a lot of text on my device (like reading over report cards!). What is your favourite Read & Write tool?

Life Hack or Google Extension?

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By now, we’ve had G Suite for Education (formerly GAFE) in our district long enough that most staff are at least somewhat familiar with the basic functions of Docs, Drive, Classroom and Slides…right?! Well, that’s all well and good but it’s only just the tip of the Google universe! So, this week we’re going to look at one of the lesser known elements of Google – extensions!

Extensions EXTEND the capability of Google Chrome and they exist attached to the browser. But before I get started…a few cautions. Extensions are (mostly) made by third party companies. Because of this, they do not fall within G Suite for Education’s “safety net”. In other words, you need to be careful of privacy. If the extension is asking permission to see into your Google Classroom, for instance, maybe it’s not the extension for you! In addition, having too many extensions installed can slow down your browser, so, choose carefully and if you find you aren’t using an extension, uninstall it!  

You get Chrome extensions from the Chrome Web Store and you need to be sign in to Google Chrome as your web browser for them to work. Once you’ve installed extensions, they live to the left of your omnibox. If you sign in to Chrome (not Google Drive….Google Chrome) on another device, the extensions will port over for you.

There are literally hundreds of extensions, so how do you choose which ones work for you? It can be a very personal thing – what interests you might not interest someone else. While you like an extension that tells you what time it is in 5 different countries, the teacher in the next room might prefer an extension that shows the stars available in the night sky! Having said that, the extensions below are pretty generic and generally useful.

Save to Google Drive

This extension allows you to save stuff you find on the web directly to Google Drive. Kind of like bookmarking it but better! This is a great way to save stuff that you want to use with your students.

Pocket

If Save to Google is a great way to save information you might want to use at school, Pocket is a great way to save personal stuff. And the great thing about Pocket is that the stuff you save can be accessed on your mobile device, too. Even offline!

Pinterest Button

Let’s you quickly save things you like to your Pinterest account….’nuff said!

Read and Write for Google Chrome

Fantastic extension that helps support people who struggle with reading and writing or who are learning English or who just need a bit of help! Our district has enabled Read and Write for everyone who has a G Suite for Education account – look for more information about this extension on next week’s blog!

One Tab

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If your Chrome browser looks like the one above, One Tab is the extension for you! With one click of the One Tab icon, all of your tabs are converted into a list. You can then restore the whole list or just parts of it. One tab saves memory and might even make your browser faster!

LastPass

Are you one of those people who has a hard time remembering your passwords? Then LastPass is a great extension for you – as long as you can remember the password you used when you started up LastPass!! Not only does LastPass remember your many passwords, but it also helps generate good password for those of you that find this an issue (yes, I am talking to you 1234 and you pswrd – I know who you are!)

Screencastify

If you want to be able to record what’s happening on your screen, if you’re thinking of flipping your classroom, or if you want to easily explain how to do something online to someone else….use Screencastify! While it’s not as powerful as a capture tool like Camtasia, it does a pretty great job, and it’s free! Awesome sauce!

Wayback Machine

Recently I was looking for a particular page on a website I used to use with my students. But….it’s no longer there! ACK! Luckily, thanks to the Wayback Machine I can still access archived versions of the website. The Wayback Machine lets you go back and view previous versions of websites that have been archived.

Extensity

If you wind up with lots of extensions on your Chrome browser, Extensity is a great way to manage them, as well as turn them on and off!

Grammarly

If spelling and grammar are not your strong suits and sending emails to parents leaves you worried about mistakes you might make, then Grammarly might be the extension for you!

Bitmoji

Lets you add fun little avatars of yourself to emails, etc.

 

As I said before, this is just a small selection of extensions you can add on to your Chrome browser. Some are helpful, others are just fun. Anyone who uses Chrome as their main web browser likely has their own favourites – try a few out and see what you like!

Be An Image Whiz!

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We’ve all sat through boring lectures or presentations where the prof or student reads the words right off the slide…verbatim! BOOORING! So much better when there is an intriguing, inspiring or engaging image on the slide. We listen to the speaker with our ears and “read” the image with our eyes – much better! A picture really can be worth a thousand words!

So…read on for some tips for how to deal with images in a multimedia digital world! Quick disclaimer – I am not going to discuss copyright, “fair use” and citation in this blog, as I have covered them in other posts – you’ve been warned!

First, a few basics. Digital pictures are made up of thousands of little coloured squares – pixels. The more pixels or megapixels in an image, the better the resolution.

There are several types of image files that you while likely encounter. The first, and probably most widely used is a JPEG (.jpg) file. This is most likely what you’ll find when you google for an image. JPEGs are great for the internet because they aren’t large files and they run on almost all operating systems.

Another file type you will encounter is a GIF (.gif). The colour on these does not tend to be great, the files are often quite large, but the big attraction for your students (who will likely be quite familiar with GIFs) is that they can be short bursts of animation. Here’s one I used in a recent presentation…SLAM!

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The third file type you will likely encounter is the PNG (.png) image. The best thing about these is that they can have a transparent background. This is great for adding images to slides or uploading sprites to Scratch or other web based sites. Here are two images of a dolphin on a Google slide – the one on the left is a .jpg and comes with a white background. The one on the right is a .png…transparent background!

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So, how do you and your students get better at using pictures in your work? Start by using the tools available in Google Search!

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From the picture above, you can see that once I click “Tools”, I can search for images based on file type, size, colour/transparency, usage rights and several other things.

Found the image you want? Well, you can right click it and save it to your files. You can copy and paste it, although this does not always work (for magical computer reasons that, tbh, escape me). And, if you are using Google Chrome as your browser, you can actually just “grab” the image, drag it up to the tabs and along to the tab where you want to use it and then drop it into the doc or slide!

What if the image is the wrong file type? You can use an online converter like Zamzar to switch file types. This works well, although if my students need this, I do it for them, rather than having them enter their emails.

What if you want to edit your picture? Most laptops have basic photo editing tools built in – you likely have the ability to crop and modify the transparency, colour and a few other things right at your fingertips. Not sure? Google the name of your laptop with the words photo editor and you should get what you need. You also have access to basic photo editing in Google Photo!

If you want more photo editing tools but don’t want to splash out for Adobe Photoshop, there are online sites like Lunapic and Pixlr.

If you want to add words and arrows and shapes to an image, you can play with it in Google Drawings (part of GSuite) and also in Google Slides.

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So, whether you’re adding class pictures to a weekly newsletter or teaching your students how to build a great slide deck, hopefully you’ve found some tips in this post to make you a real image whiz!

Emoji Mania!

 

Emoji Mania

So, when I’m not doing ed-techy stuff, I teach Grade 7 ELA. I really like teaching reading and writing; adolescents are old enough to read some pretty cool books and they’re really beginning to find their voices as writers!

However, as writers, there are a number of things that my students do that drive me nuts! You might recognize these triggers yourself! You know, the lower-case “i” for “I” and “u” for you. Or what about “4” for for?! Have you ever read “i hope u like my paragraph” at the end of a piece of writing?! AARGH! And then, to add insult to injury, they tack on a few emojis!

So, why do they do this? While I am convinced that there are one or two of them that do it to drive me crazy, most of them do it because in their daily lives this is how they communicate! And really, I guess I do, too, when I’m texting, engaging in social media or sending casual emails!

As a Language Arts teacher, part of my job is teaching my students how to communicate effectively. And how to communicate in a variety of settings and ways. Can they write an effective paragraph? A moving poem? A gripping story? What about a proper letter? A passionate speech? All important ways of communicating, to be sure!

But in our increasingly digital world, I’ve come to realize that I also need to help them understand how to communicate digitally. Do they know how to send an email to a boss and how that might be different from sending an email to a friend (what a minute…do kids actually even email each other?) What about emojis? Should I teach them how and why to use emojis?

So, after Spring Break, I decided to spend a bit of time honouring the way the kids mostly communicate. Enter Emoji Mania! The first assignment we did when we got back from break was to write a paragraph about what we did over the break. The twist was that they had to use emojis in place of words as much as they could. I had them build their paragraphs in Google Slides because it’s easier to move things around in slides instead of docs.

Once they understood the assignment they were hard at work and there was a buzz of excitement in the room. I didn’t tell them how to get the emojis into their paragraphs as I wanted to see how resourceful they would be and…they figured out a whole bunch of hacks and work-arounds! However, for you here are two quick ones! On a macbook, after you’ve created the text box, click Control-Command-Spacebar. (Or just copy and paste them out of Messenger.) On a pc, go to www.copycharacters.com, click on emojis and just copy and paste from there.

Here is one of the paragraphs – see if you can figure out what is being said!

Emoji Mania (1)After writing, the kids really enjoyed going around and trying to read each other’s paragraphs. I guess, given how often they use emojis,  it’s not surprising that they were better than me at it!

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Harness The Power of Hyper!

hyperdocs

Any teacher who has spent time in a classroom knows what hyper is and anyone who has surfed a website knows what a hyperlink is. But do you know how to harness the power of hyperlinks so that your lesson plans appeal to the wide variety of students in your class, including the hyper?

Welcome to the world of hyper-docs! Hyperdocs are interactive Google docs (or slides) that can replace the lecture or worksheet method of delivering instruction and appeal to kid’s natural sense of curiosity. Hyperdocs harness various digital tools to engage students while presenting them with learning opportunities. Students can work at their own pace, either independently or collaboratively while you, as the teacher, can wander through the class helping, explaining and encouraging as needed.

There is a growing legion of teachers who use hyperdocs, led by Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton and Sarah Landis who coined the term and have a website as well as a book dedicated to the idea. The website has lots of ideas as well as templates to get people started.

I’ve played around with the idea of hyperdocs for awhile. As we are a G Suite district, as well as a BYOD district, hyperdocs seemed like a great fit. And they are! My only tweak is that I use Google Slides rather than Docs, as I find them easier to customize and design. Here’s an example of a hyperdoc(slide) that I’ve just created for my students to start working on this week.

I like making my hyperdocs(slides) multi-directional so that students can work on the parts in whichever order works for them, although I do recognize that this isn’t always possible. My students enjoy the independence they gain and I like being able to work with individuals or small groups to clarify, encourage and extend the learning. Since we have access to Google Classroom, I “pass out” the hyperdoc(slide) on Classroom as an assignment. That way each student can get a copy of the information.

If you’ve never used hyperdocs, challenge yourself to give it a try! Start small or jump right in – your students will love it!