5 Things I Love About Google

This is a bit unorthodox for me lately. I used to blog more about ed tech tools, tips, and ideas, but since #DBC50Summer, it’s become more about reflection and professional growth. However, the only way I could see sharing my implementations of several books from #DBC50Summer is a list of all things Google! So… let’s go.

  1. Google Sheets: Seriously, friends, if you aren’t using Sheets, you’re missing out! I took a Go Slow course on Sheets from Alice Keeler in the Fall and was blown away by all the things Sheets can do that have nothing to do with formulas and data. From this, I have two suggestions… 1) Take an Alice Keeler course. Any of them. Really. I learned *SO* much! 2) Use Alice Keeler’s Template Tab. This was my #DBC50Summer implementation for Google Apps for Littles and I loved it so much that I shared it with teachers and administration in a PD session this year. It’s amazing. For more info on how it works, check out Alice’s blog post!
  2. Google Keep: It’s sticky notes with all the GAfE functionality that we know and love! We have used this to communicate classwork with homebound students and their parents. Teacher creates to-do list, shares with student & caregivers, and as work is completed it is checked off. I use it at conferences to create a list of sessions I’d like to attend, then create another note with sessions I actually attended for CEU credit. Check it out at keep.google.com! You’re going to love it! One student emailed me after I introduced it as the month’s tech tool, saying, “Google Keep is the best!!!! I can now remember what exactly I have for homework and other things! Thanks so much for introducing us to this!” Using Keep was my part of my #DBC50Summer implementation for Shake Up Learning and Be The One For Kids!
  3. Google Certified Teacher: It’s a thing! I took both of the Google Certified Teacher Exams this winter and learned so much about the functionality of Google and many of the apps I wasn’t aware of! I’m very interested in the next levels, which are Certified Trainer and Certified Innovator! This also completed my #DBC50Summer implementation of Shake Up Learning! If you’re a bit uneasy about attempting these, check out Kasey Bell’s resources here & her reasons why you should get Google Certified hereGoogle Certified Level 1 and 2
  4. Google Classroom: I use Google Classroom as my primary method for delivery of instruction for media classes. Each month’s media class is given a topic (month and year) so students can easily find our activities for the day and reference them as needed. As my #DBC50Summer implementation of Alice Keeler & Libbi Miller‘s 50 Things To Go Further with Google Classroom, I had planned to number my assignments as suggested in the book. However, I found that simply using the topic feature to put assignments and activities had the same results. If I had my own classroom however, I would definitely be numbering assignments!
  5. Google Forms: I have a problem. I’m obsessed with surveys. I teach the entire school, nearly 400 middle school students, and I cannot possibly remember all the feedback I’m given verbally. Enter Google Forms. I create surveys and collect information using Forms all the time! I get information from students and teachers. I ask for feedback on lessons, students give me a numerical grade (1-5) each quarter, and I collect responses to hold students accountable for goal setting and research topics. I also used Forms to collect responses for a bulletin board matching game in which students had to match teachers with their favorite book! Google Forms are quick and easy to make, and the responses tab creates quick charts for you so you can see certain data visually! Recently, Matt Miller created an epic blog post highlighting 40 Innovative Ideas for Using Google Forms in Your Classroom.

So there you have it! Five things I love about Google (and several #DBC50Summer implementations)! If you’re ever wanting to know more about Google Apps for Education, Chrome Extensions, etc, your GO-TO websites belong to (in no particular order) Alice Keeler, Matt Miller, and Kasey Bell!

 

**Helpful Hint: Did you know that you can open a new tab in Chrome and (when logged into your google account) simply type forms.new, slides.new, docs.new, sheets.new to get a new Form, Slides Presentation, Doc, or Sheet respectively?! Yep! Go try it. Mind. Blown.

Creating a Stronger Foundation

Nearly three years ago 150(ish) 6th graders began their first day of middle school. I also began my first day of middle school (well, my first as a teacher) that year, after 10 years teaching in elementary school.

Now it’s the spring break before they leave for high school and I’m already dreading the last day of school. You see, for over 50 of those students, we didn’t just go through the challenges of making a transition from elementary to middle school together, learning the rules, procedures, and PBIS motto, together… we’ve been together since they were in 3rd grade. This is the group of students that I started in the media center with; I have been their media coordinator for SIX school years. We, and their families, have a bond that is super strong. From the time they were eight years old, we have laughed together, learned together, and matured together. To put it in perspective, my youngest daughter wasn’t even a year old when this group of children and I started our journeys. She’s finishing Kindergarten in a few weeks.

These kids have been “my guinea pigs” when it comes to learning and taking risks. I’ve always tried things with them first, just to “see how it goes,” and they *LOVE* it! (So do I.) Seeing them finish eighth grade and move on to the high school makes my heart soar, and it makes my heart break. To say that I love these kids is an understatement. They are a special group. Amazing students, INCREDIBLE minds with way too much knowledge of how the world really works. They are go-getters and I’m 100% sure they will change the world. Many of their stories would break your heart and then you’d see their determination and you’d feel the same pride I feel when I see them persevere and destroy the barriers that stand before them. In the coming weeks, I will take several of them to Washington, D.C. for a three-day field trip and I will attend their 8th grade formal. I will take up their Chromebooks for the last time, removing the labels with their name on it; I will watch with tears in my eyes as they have their final celebrations and sign yearbooks. Then on June 11, I will stand in the hall in front of the media center with waterproof mascara on as we take red-eyed photos together one final time.

I dread that day; no summer countdowns this year as I don’t want to think about the dwindling amount of time we have left to make memories together.

∞∞∞∞∞

Screen Shot 2019-04-17 at 11.16.45 PM

Eight months ago, 150(ish) 6th graders started their journey in middle school. Nearly 50 of them were in 1st grade when we met for the first time. They had just finished 3rd grade when I moved to the middle school. We had a lot of catching up to do. During #DBC50Summer, one of my goals was to build a strong connection with this group. After reading Teaching Math with Google Apps by Alice Keeler and the late Diana Herrington, I was so excited to use Google Slides to learn student names and imported selfies using their Chromebook’s webcam. I mentioned in Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth by Aaron Hogan that I’ve really struggled getting to know the 6th graders as quickly as I’d like.

Knowing that relationships are e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g, I decided to use a portion of our time together in our first media class to have students use a Google Slides template to allow me to get to know them better. I would LOVE to be able to spend the entire class doing getting-to-know-you activities and culture builders, however I see students for media classes once a month for approximately 50 minutes at a time. During this time, we’re getting to know one another, getting acquainted with the media space, discovering expectations, checking out books, and learning a new tech tool and creating something amazing. Oh, and I try to embed standards from English Language Arts as this is the class they are coming from to have media.

With that said, the Google Slides template (my #DBC50Summer implementation) was a success. There are certainly things I will do differently next year, but I like the template itself (I may still add a slide for a selfie.) Next year, I will likely devote more time to this activity on the first day and determine who the student experts are in Google Slides, assigning them as peer tutors. This will give more ownership to students immediately and frees me to walk around chatting with students to get to know them, rather than answering their questions about importing an image.

The template I used is here. You will be forced to make a copy in Google Drive, then you can change it up as you see fit if you’d like to use it with your own students. (If you don’t have GoogleDrive, connect with me on Twitter or Instagram and I’ll happily send it via ppt or keynote).

Using these Google Slides has allowed me to get to know student interests and family dynamics faster than I have in the past. I commented on each submitted slide deck with more questions and responses about what we have in common. Next year I will share these with classroom teachers as they are available as a resource when teachers are designing learning experiences. Creating this as an assignment in Google Classroom made it so easy! If you use this approach, I certainly welcome feedback and even more ideas!

 

 

#DBCBookBlogs: The Revolution

“If you want to have students in your classroom, then keep teaching models from the twentieth century. If you want to have learners in your classroom, then keep reading…”

~Darren Ellwein & Derek McCoy

I spent ten years in the elementary setting. Even in my undergraduate courses, when I met middle school education majors, I would shake my head wondering what they were thinking. Why would they want to teach hormonally imbalanced children who were bigger than they were?! Those kids who were stuck between being a child and becoming an adult. I equated middle school to that incredibly awkward time in my life when I quit being “one of the guys” and became a cheerleader. This was a time before makeup and braces, a time of bangs, acne, thin, unkept hair… it was not. pretty. y’all. (And before you ask, no; there will absolutely NOT be a picture of this anywhere in this post)

So why in the world would I want to re-enter that world of awkwardness and getting picked on? When my Superintendent shared a job description with me that pretty much came straight from a dream world, he had me hooked. Then he informed me… “I’ll need you to move to a middle school”

…say what?!…

So for the past three years, I have been back in the world of middle school. Just like the authors of The Revolution (book 67 for Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc), I now believe middle school is THE place to be! I can’t imagine teaching at any other level but middle school! I love every second with these kids. They are truly going to change the world; heck, many of them are already changing the world… and they are somewhere between 11-15 years old. Darren Ellwein and Derek McCoy are both middle school principals who are revolutionizing education. But they don’t just talk the talk, they are walking the walk and they share their stories in their book!

TheRevolution

Throughout the entire book I was nodding my head, highlighting, and writing notes in the margin (by the way, I’d suggest a print copy so you can do the same). This is yet another book that I could write a few thousand words for a reflection; I’m going to try NOT to do that, though. No promises… I may get pumped up and not be able to help myself.

Darren & Derek talk about it all in The Revolution, calling those who are doing the hard work and changing education from the industrial age “Revolution@ries”! Some of the topics discussed are:

  • Classroom Management
  • Growth Mindset
  • Culture
  • Learning Spaces
  • Funding (Friendraising – oh em gee, I love this)
  • Empowerment
  • Collaboration
  • Global Learning
  • Empathy
  • Design Thinking
  • Makerspace & the Maker Culture
  • Learners as Revolution@ries
  • Revolution@ry Leaders
  • Personalized Learning (this example is on point, by the way)

When I say there’s something for everyone in this book, it’s easy to see why that’s not an exaggeration. Even though Derek & Darren are middle school principals and discuss their experiences as middle school educators, make no mistake – this is not a middle school ONLY book! This is for ALL levels of education!

Reflections & Connections

As I was reading, I made many connections. I immediately identified with the section about learning spaces. Upon arriving at the middle school, I wanted to change up the layout of the media center immediately. It screamed “old school” and I wanted to bring new life to it. I wrote a blog post about the Media Makeover a while back. It’s important to know that this space still isn’t complete! It never will be complete. As long as new students are coming into the space, things will change. Why? I get their input. Former students come in and see the changes, usually responding with “Mrs. Ray, why did you wait until I left to get the cool stuff?!” Ha! It’s ironic because every group says that, which must mean we’re doing something right! The space continues to improve and students still want to come back and visit. Even now, our space has changed drastically from the images in the Media Makeover blog. Here’s a tweet highlighting some of the changes.

Another BIG a-ha for me was the compliance –> engagement –> empowerment theme in the book! I was privileged to guest moderate a #champforkids chat (founded by Kelly Hoggard, a phenomenal educator and friend from Virginia) in September 2018. Our topic was “Engagement or Compliance” and we discussed this very idea. The idea that engagement surpasses compliance. Compliant students aren’t necessarily learning anything; they’re just playing the game well. They are answering the questions and doing what’s asked of them. There is no passion behind their eyes, no enthusiasm for learning. Engaged students are sitting on the edge of their seats practically begging for more. I don’t know about you, but when given the choice, I’ll take an engaged student any day! Then Darren & Derek throw in empowered students and I’m over here, like, “I want those kids now! As in right now!”

Part of my passion as a media coordinator is teaching students to be lifelong learners who are knowledgeable about finding relevant, reliable, safe, and accurate information in both digital and print formats. We have really dug into teaching research skills using the LAUNCH method (more on that in a later post) based on AJ Juliani and John Spencer’s book, Launch. Rather than requiring a certain topic to be researched, students have chosen their own topic and were required to find three sources that were relevant, reliable, safe, and accurate, summarize and paraphrase the information contained within those sources and have learned the basics of citing sources using APA or MLA format (and where to create those online). Yes, there are currently over 350 research projects going on at the same time right now and it’s an incredible feeling!

Implementation

This leads me to the implementation plan. In the chapter “A Final Call to Action” Darren & Derek share “It’s exciting to talk about revolution, but a revolt against the status quo doesn’t happen without action. The words on these pages have no meaning unless you put them into practice.” Sounds a lot like my favorite quote from Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess.

“Inspiration without implementation is a waste.”

This quote has guided all of #DBC50Summer and #DBCBookBlogs as I am trying to implement at least one thing from each book. I’m getting the point in the school year that I’m going to need to begin thinking about the 2019-2020 school year as the year for implementations. This year is rapidly coming to a close. I believe I can squeak this one in though, because it correlates with an idea I was already trying to work out in my head.

I wanted students to be able to share the information gathered from their research with their peers but wasn’t sure how to have them present it. That’s just the problem; I was trying to put them in a box and tell them how I wanted it presented. Ugh! I know better than that! Now I’m getting out of their way and allowing them to decide how they want to showcase what they learned in their research. The sky is the limit. We have an incredible makerspace, virtual reality, Merge cubes, and we’re 1:1 with Chromebooks and Bring Your Own Device. These students can literally do whatever they want to share their information with their peers. I’m excited to see what they come up with.

Two other implementations…

I’m going to finally make myself sit down and create a list of all the items we have available in our makerspace and devise a plan for teachers to get in the space and put their hands on the materials to connect it to their curriculum. (Fit the curriculum into the learning rather than fit the learning into the curriculum, as suggested in The Revolution)

I want to create a #RevoltLAP playlist that will get me amped before going to work! Songs like Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” Imagine Dragons’ “Whatever It Takes,” and others will certainly be in the mix. Share what revolution song gets you pumped to revolt against the status quo in the comments below! I’ll create a playlist of these songs and share via Twitter. I’ll also link it here!

#RevoltLAP

Be sure to follow the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #RevoltLAP! I’m expecting great things to come from this book and I know you’ll want to be part of it! I’ve known Derek for years and can personally attest to him being the real deal! I look forward to meeting Darren and loved reading all about his own revolution@ry journey! Soon, you will be able to find out more about Darren and Derek on the Where are the PIRATES section of the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc website. For now, check out Derek’s website here and Darren’s website here. I’d also suggest subscribing to both of their YouTube channels! Derek is here and Darren is here. Finally, go check out the Flipgrid space and leave words of inspiration for other Revolution@ries! We are all in this together, and we need support! A huge shoutout to Andrea Paulakovich for allowing me to copilot this space. It was her incredible idea to brought the Flipgrid to life!