Google and the Track Meet

Tomorrow is our district’s annual elementary track meet. Grade 4 to 7 students from all over the district converge on our only track and compete against each other and the clock as they run various races. Keeping track of all the times, heats, places and ribbons can be tricky!

About 5 years ago I mentioned to someone that Google Sheets could be used to make things easier on the people doing the stats and awards. Of course, if you step forward with an idea, you’d better be prepared to carry through with it! So, we now use Google Sheets for all the scoring for the meet! As I was explaining all of this to a friend today (and getting blank looks), I realized that not everyone knows how to use one of the most basic functions of sheets, so let’s dive in!

Let’s imagine you are trying to decide which of your students to send to your track meet! You start by having them run 100m and you time them. You enter this data into a Google Sheet so that it looks like this:

(Now, obviously, if you only have a small group of students like this, you can probably put them in order by yourself – no spreadsheet needed! But what if you are timing and comparing all of the Grade 6s in your school and there are 4 classes of them?! Spreadsheet to the rescue!)

Once you have added your data, select all of the data (names, times and “headers”), like this:

We want to put these in order, from fastest to slowest and keep the name attached to the time! There are several ways to do this but the way I like is to choose “Data” and then “Sort range”, meaning the range you have chosen.

Once you click on this, you get this little box. Click “Data has header row” and then choose to sort by time. If you choose “A to Z” you will get fastest time to slowest (and vice versa). Then click sort. You will see that your spreadsheet has now sorted the kids by time. You can easily choose your fastest runners and send them off to the meet!

Now, not everyone reading this will be timing kids for a track meet. How else could you use this? Well, an obvious one would be test results. What about the height of students? What about how far each student commutes to school each day or how many books each student has read by the end of the year?

Using a spreadsheet this way is not difficult. In fact, I bet you could teach it to your students – how could they use it?!

Update to Read & Write on Google Chrome

It’s Spring Musical week here at school, so this will be a short blog! Recently, the people at Text Help updated Read and Write for Google Chrome to allow it to speak what you type as you type it and to read sentences back to you once you add the final punctuation. This is a great way for students to edit their work or to make sure they’ve said what they actually meant to say!

To turn these two functions on, go to the “Options”, click on “Speech” and then toggle “Speak on each word” and/or “Speak on each sentence”, depending on what you want. This then automatically will start working when you start typing. If you don’t want this option, just go back in and un-toggle!

While testing the function out, I learned several things. First, it was not designed to keep up with the speed of teacher typing if you plan to go word for word. So, if your students are fast typers, have them just choose the “speak on each sentence” option. It will then read the sentence back to them AFTER they add the final punctuation. Second, if your students are slower typers and you choose the “speak on each word” option, it will only say the word once they press the space bar (it’s actually a good reminder for them!).

If you are finding that you or your students do not have this option, shut your device down completely and restart. That should be enough to make it work. Enjoy!

In Support of Tutorials

Full confession time! Some years ago (fewer than you’d think) my husband and I found ourselves in the position of having to cook Thanksgiving dinner for the first time. In theory, we knew what to do but the reality of a naked, raw turkey was a bit intimidating. We had two cookbooks that vaguely explained how to “truss” the bird but we weren’t feeling any more prepared after reading the instructions. The solution? Youtube tutorials, of course! Two tutorials later, the bird was trussed and dinner was on its way!

Tutorials can play a really important role in education, whether it’s in helping your students solidify their learning or in helping them show what they know. Here are 3 ways to use tutorials in your room!

Learn At Your Pace

Both of my kids struggled with Math in school. When my son was in Grade 7 we discovered the Khan Academy Math tutorials. He was able to watch the tutorials over and over, at his pace, until he understood a concept. It was truly a life-saver for our family. If you are willing to do a little detective work, you can find tutorials for all kinds of things, from Scratch coding to writing a paragraph. Share them with students and parents through Google Classroom, FreshGrade, email or newsletters!

Flip Your Classroom

A few years ago “flipped classrooms” were being touted at all the conferences. The concept makes sense, depending on the age you teach and the concept you want students to learn. In a flipped classroom, students watch videos and tutorials at home and then in class work on solidifying the learning with the help of other students and the teacher.

From what I’ve seen, this works best in subjects like Math or Science and with students who are more independent. Having said that, I could imagine a primary teacher sending home a link to a video that shows how to do a simple experiment like testing which of several things floats in water. Students could do the experiment at home with their families and come to school the next day ready to discuss what they learned.

If this is something that interests you, you can search online for tutorials or use apps like Explain Everything and iMovie to create your own!

Let Them Teach The Class

One of the most interesting units I ever did with my class was all about communication. One of the things we focused on was how to tell someone else how to do something they’ve never done before. Students worked in partners. Their first step was figuring out how to break the skill down into steps. They had to make sure the steps were clear and in order. Even though we were planning to film the tutorials, I had the students write their steps down first. Then they filmed them. Some filmed them at school, some at home. Many of them got parents or siblings involved. When they were all finished we watched them! Students loved the process of trying to figure out what they should teach their classmates and how to teach it! And they learned how tricky it can be to communicate.

Hopefully these ideas inspire you to try using tutorials in your class!

Fake Social Media Accounts!

Fake social media accounts?! Wait….whaaat?! I can just imagine what you are thinking….why is the district elementary technology teacher pushing fake social media accounts? Aren’t most elementary school kids too young to have social media accounts?

Well, technically, yes! But if you read through to the end of this post, you’ll see where I am going with all of this!

In one of my independent novel study projects, I have students imagine two of their characters are having a texting conversation back and forth. I encourage the kids to make it as realistic as possible, with emojis and everything. They have fun with it and recently, some of them have turned in conversations that actually look like screenshots of real conversations! I asked them how they did it and they replied “we made it online”!

That got me to thinking….could I use fake social media accounts to engage my students and get them to be creative and maybe dig a little deeper into fictional and real events and characters?! What would Captain George Vancouver put on his Facebook posts when he discovered Puget Sound? Would Anne of Green Gables make a duck face when she posted a selfie on her Instagram account? What would Marie Curie tweet about?

After as bit of online research, I found the following “fakies” that you and your students can use! But first….MAJOR WARNING!

Before you use any of these with your students, make sure you have a chat with your students about why you are using these and about why people might actually create real fake accounts. Also, remind them that if they are under 13 they should not have their own social media accounts and that if they do, their parents should know about it.


I found an awesome fake Instagram creator on the Teaching Tecknix blog. The Google Slides template even includes instructions for how to build your Instagram page!


There are a number of fake “Facebook” generators online but they all feel a bit sketchy to me. Here is a link to one created on Google Slides that I found on the Ignition Edu blog.


To create just a fake tweet, try TweetGen.


There are lots of “fake message” generators out there. This one seems to be one of the most realistic, with the most bells and whistles.

I hope you and your students have a bit of fun creating these fake social media accounts!