#DBC50Summer 25/50: Teaching Math with Google Apps

I love the fact that book 24 and book 25 in the Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc line up came out back-to-back! These two books flow well together as they both discuss that the most important thing in math isn’t the answer itself, but is found in the process of finding the answer. When students ask, “when am I ever going to use this” the answer is now clear, no matter what concept being covered…the critical thinking skills developed in math will be used every. single. day.

Book 25 is the third book published by DBC for Alice Keeler. (The first two released were 50 Things and 50 Things Further, both co-authored with Dr. Libbi Miller.) Alice co-authored book 25 with the late Diana Herrington. Sadly, Diana passed away unexpectedly on May 17, 2017, just a few weeks after the release of their book. Diana’s love of teaching math and her passion for making math fun for students lives on in her words in the book. Teaching Math with Google Apps is book 25, and marks the halfway point in #DBC50Summer!

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Choosing from any of the Alice Keeler Google Apps books will result in a beautiful read. These pages are printed completely in color and organized in such a way that the content is easy to navigate and understand. Teaching Math with Google Apps can be used as a cover to cover professional development read, or as a quick reference guide (I’ll be using it as both)! In this book in particular, the sections of reading are color-coded in the top corners. I personally enjoy a good color-coding system, so this immediately spoke to my heart. I also love that Alice & Diana brought in some familiar faces to contribute! We get to hear from Shelley Burgess (co-author of P is for Pirate and co-author of Lead Like A Pirate), John Stevens (Table Talk Math and co-author of The Classroom Chef), and Denis Sheeran (Instant Relevance).

There are so many amazing tips, tools, activities, examples, and templates included in this book! The complete list of links is available when you purchase the book. That list of links alone is worth every penny! There are examples and templates for elementary through high school math classes, so there’s something for everyone here!

Some of my favorite activities within the book are Pixel Art using Google Sheets (I know, right? Genius stuff! It’s like a digital color by number), utilizing all that Google Forms has to offer through the implementation of self-graded quizzes that offer students immediate feedback, and using the Explore feature in Google Apps to make math relevant to students through maps, shopping, and can even be used to complete a scavenger hunt to find math “in the wild”.

Alice and Diana suggest using Discovery activities to learn collaboratively. Another idea they have is to put the beginning of the lesson in the middle. So think about this… typically students come into math class (or any class) and we quickly review (those who got it yesterday are now tuned out while those who didn’t get it yesterday are already frustrated), probably go over homework (waste of time – both the giving it and the going over it), and then start your lesson for the day 10-15 minutes later having wasted valuable class time. Diana challenges us to switch that up? What if we put our beginning in the middle? What if we didn’t go over homework (or give it for that matter) and we start with an extension from the day before? And… wait for it… they do this collaboratively so those that excelled yesterday have the opportunity to refine their knowledge by peer tutoring those who struggled yesterday. Their peers, those that struggled, get to hear the information from a different perspective and will likely have more understanding. Meanwhile, the teacher is monitoring and asking questions. After completing the extension activity and discussing it as a class, you transition into the day’s mini-lesson and allow students to discover the math using activities in Google Apps rather than telling them (Alice & Diana give the example that we typically TELL students the Pythagorean Theorem… why not ask the students what it is? They have Google! Google will tell them!) This shift in teaching and learning even sounds as though it would flow better. Makes much more sense to me anyhow. Great thinking, Diana!

Some of my favorite quotes from this one are listed below. (Y’all, Alice Keeler has a way with quotes, by the way. After meeting her in June, I can hear her saying some of these in my head now. I can hear the conviction behind some of these quotes and even if you aren’t really sure if you agree, you’ll find yourself nodding along, because the passion in her voice makes it so that it’s the gospel truth.)

“No matter the medium, design for student engagement.”

“Teach like YouTube and Google exist.” (one of my favorite favorites) Going hand-in-hand with that one, Alice says, “I have a rule: Do not tell students things they can look up.” [see Pythagorean Theorem statement above]

“Glitter, scissors, and glue should not be abandoned. Sometimes technology is not the best tool. While work can be created on paper…the work can still be submitted digitally…insert an image”

“The conversation becomes a risk-free learning zone – and that’s where the magic happens!”

“It is important for students to approach a problem with strategies rather than procedural steps. Strategies help them make connections when confronted with new situations.”

My implementation for this book is two-fold.  There is an activity (and template, woo hoo, get the book and you have access to the template, too) in the book where students take a selfie and upload into a collaborative Google Slides presentation and share a couple of things about themselves. I want to do this during my first media class with my 6th grade students. It introduces students to Google Classroom, Google Slides, and allows me to get to know the students’ names and faces as well. Secondly, at some point in time this year (and knowing how much Alice loves her spreadsheets, she would recommend sooner rather than later), I want to complete the Google Sheets activity included in the book where students will discover how to input data and manipulate Google Sheets. Using Google Sheets more will only help my students in the long run, so giving them a strong foundation with this template on the basics is a great place to start. I’m excited to see where this takes my students, and the staff! This book is specifically geared toward math teachers, but there’s so many activities here that can be adapted across the curriculum that I would truly recommend this book to anyone! The back of the book even has some Google tutorials for those moments when you’re reading and think, I have no idea what they mean by revision history. Detailed information with a beautiful screenshot is included here as well!

As usual with books co-authored by Alice Keeler, there is a vast world of information on her website. Go to alicekeeler.com and knock yourself out! Check out the hashtag #GoogleMath on Twitter for more. You can also subscribe to the Google Math Newsletter here! Don’t forget that if you want that link with ALL the resources, templates, examples, and other amazingness included in the book, you need to purchase a copy for yourself! You can do that here! Finally, you can always contribute to the flipgrid using the password DBCSummer (if it asks for one). Andrea Paulakovich had the brilliant idea to create a space for global collaboration around each DBC book, and I love it! Please share your thoughts there! We always include a prompt, but that prompt isn’t required. If you have something better in mind, share that! We just want to learn together in that digital space!

***One of Diana’s visions was to create a scholarship fund to encourage students to go into STEM fields. There is a gofundme page here or you can donate directly Fresno State in memory of Diana Herrington. These donations go toward an endowment at California State University Fresno for students who want to teach math! Diana’s passion for math lives on! Any donation is appreciated!***

Well, we’ve reached the halfway point! Next up is a book by one of the sweetest ladies I’ve ever “met” (well, met virtually…on Twitter, but I will meet her face-to-face one day, I hope)! If you want to know how to make small changes for a HUGE impact, check out book 26 in #DBC50Summer: Shift This by Joy Kirr!

 

You down with GPD? Yeah, You Know Me!

Good luck getting that out of your head!

What is GPD?  Gamified Professional Development.  Microcredentialing, badging, gamification… these seem to be the latest and greatest buzzwords in education.  Normally, I am immediately turned off by buzzwords.  For example: “21st Century Learning”… y’all, it’s 2018 – for the love of everything holy, let’s move on from that one, please!  “Innovation”… putting a worksheet in Google Classroom is NOT innovation, it’s a digital worksheet.  “Project-Based Learning”… doing a class project at the end of a unit does not merit the label of PBL.  I get frustrated because the buzzword becomes a “thing” and everyone rushes to do “the thing” without giving “the thing” any real thought or due diligence.

With that small rant behind me (I’m sure it won’t be the last though), I have to say I’m a huge fan of the move toward gamifying professional development.  For the first 8(ish) years of my career, professional development was the one thing I dreaded more than any other.  Give me all the paperwork, grades, conferences, faculty meetings, or any other <insert educational acronym here>, and I’ll do it with a smile on my face.  Give me some ridiculous professional development where I sit through an hour workshop of something someone with a higher pay grade than me thought I needed to know, and I was immediately rolling my eyes and mentally checked out.  I had numerous CEUs from professional development I’d attended, but hadn’t learned a single thing, other than how to refine my ability to pass notes more stealthily.  Then, Lucas Gillispie was hired by my district in 2014 and his first PD with us was #Education, in which I learned what I was missing in professional development.  I realized that I needed to personalize my professional development.  I immediately started using Twitter professionally and following the folks Lucas recommended following; my Twitter PD exploded from that moment.

I continued to learn from Lucas as a pilot participant in the gamified professional development he created called “EPIC Academy” in 2015.  I was immediately hooked by the aspect of a leaderboard and earning points!  Above all else, the learning that happened here was RELEVANT!  If the quest didn’t pertain to what I needed at the time, I just dropped the quest and chose something else.  I had CHOICE in what I learned.  The quests in EPIC Academy were designed to be bite-sized pieces of information.  Showing mastery of each bite led to another bite, and before you know it, you’ve created a product that shows mastery of something much bigger.

In 2016, Lucas asked me to come onboard as a quest designer for EPIC.  I was terrified as this was “his baby” and I wanted to be sure to maintain the level of awesome he had precedented, while keeping the “buzzword” aspect out of it.  I wanted to give each quest I designed the forethought it deserved, and have participants create a product that was relevant and useful to them and their learners.  I designed the quest chains for Augmented Reality and Digital Formative Assessment that year.  Since then, I have been privileged to design the quest chains for Digital Storytelling, BreakoutEDU, Digital BreakoutEDU, Teacher Productivity Tools, Classcraft, and BreakoutEDU 2.0.

EPIC Academy has taken off exponentially since 2016.  Lucas applied for, and was awarded, a Digital Learning Initiative Showcase Grant from the NC Department of Public Instruction to expand EPIC Academy, to connect and share the content to educators from across the state.  As part of this grant, Lucas designed a model for mentors to assist those in EPIC Academy.  As an EPIC Mentor, we support and encourage educators new to the gamified professional development world.

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I have watched this model flourish under Lucas’s leadership.  There are no educators in EPIC that were required to join; participation is completely optional.  With some of the latest buzzwords being “microcredentialing”, “badging”, “gamification”, I am thankful that EPIC Academy is untarnished by the effects of buzzwords thus far.  Through EPIC alone, I have gained over 8 Digital Learning Competency CEUs, but more importantly, my students and staff have been exposed to the benefits of Google Drive, Coding, Skype, Augmented Reality, Digital Formative Assessment, YouTube, Virtual Field Trips, BreakoutEDU, Flipgrid, Appsmashing, QR Codes, Game Based Learning, and much more.  My teaching has been taken to the next level, and my desire for continuing learning is piqued.  GPD is the way to create life-long learners of educators; the days of one-hour professional development is ancient history for me. So… who’s down with GPD?

Battle of the Books – Gamified

I gamified my Battle of the Books team using an online gamification platform.

I’m getting ready to upset a lot of people with my next statement.  I despise Battle of the Books. (waiting for the shame bell and rotten tomatoes….)  I realize some are 110% adamant about the benefits of Battle of the Books (BoB), but I struggle every year showing enthusiasm for something that I truly believe is detrimental to many students.  My reasons for not liking BoB? (So glad you asked!)

  • A required list.  Let that sink in… a REQUIRED list for reading.  I’m a huge supporter of self-selected reading.  I agree with the oodles of research that states that one way a student develops a love of reading is to choose their own books.  I – as many educators – want students to have a love of reading.  This is not only a required list, but a LONG required list.
  • TWENTY-SEVEN books for middle school in one year.  27 = 2 tens and 7 ones.  I realize these are usually phenomenal reads, but let’s think for a minute about how long is takes the average student to read one book, let alone 27.  Oh, and competition is typically before Spring Break.  This will immediately turn off many students who might otherwise be interested.  I believe it raises a concern of quality vs quantity here, too.  I’d rather see the students invest in half the amount of books, really internalizing their themes and learning life lessons through empathy for characters.  Who’s with me?
  • Retention rate of students throughout the year is low.  I may start the year with 20-30 students who show an interest in being on the BoB team.  Only 12 students are allowed to attend competition.  This isn’t typically a problem for me as I am lucky if I end up with 8-10 students on the team in March because the others choose to quit.  Why do they quit?  Read, Accelerated Reading test (don’t get me started), answer questions, repeat.
  • Let’s talk about those questions… “In which book is there a white house in the bend of a river?”  Honest.  “In which book does a character send a note to a friend through a nurse?”  True story.  How about we ask some real thought-provoking questions?  The white house was barely a blip in the story, and the note was sent to a friend because the girls weren’t allowed to see one another due to their race, so they resorted to passing notes through a compassionate nurse.  Let’s focus on what’s important in these books (like the reason behind the note, and not the note itself).

These are just a very few of my grievances.  Also in competition, we can always use the “we’re all winners” approach, but let’s be honest… unless you win & advance in a competition, you lose the competition.  Ever had to ride a bus back to school with a group of students who have spent all that time reading and studying mundane questions to have them come in last place?  Yeah – it’s not fun.

With all that said (my personal opinions), my district participates in BoB.  So… I participate in BoB.  Every year, I get a team together.  Every year, we continue the “read, answer questions, repeat” tradition.  Every year, I lose several students due to a lack of continued interest.  Last year, I decided to try something new.  I had dabbled in this idea while working at an elementary school, but really dove in this past year.  We didn’t practice from August until February.  You heard me.  No practice… My students had so many extracurricular activities, and those that really would have success comprehending the books were the students who were involved in Robotics, Drama, Debate, various athletics, etc, etc.  I agreed that if the students would read the books on their own and complete projects, we would meet virtually, with no physical practices until the final team of 12 was chosen – typically in late January, early February.

How did I ensure that the students were reading the books in the meanwhile?  I gamified Battle of the Books using Rezzly, formerly known as 3DGameLab.  This platform allows me to create quest chains in which students complete quests to earn badges, achievements, and rewards, which also equates to experience points (XP).  Each student who showed interest at the beginning of the year received the log-in information.  They learned about BoB through a quest, learned how to earn points through a quest, and learned how to earn additional XP through a quest.  For each book, there was a thought-provoking question and a short project (a service project, a research project, a collaborative project, etc) that must be completed in order to earn the badge and XP for that book.  I attempted to create questions that were similar to questions in ELA class, thus targeting specific skills as needed.  There were NO Accelerated Reader tests… I repeat, NO Accelerated Reader tests.  In order to keep the landing page from overwhelming students, they were presented with a quest called “Are You In” first.  This outlined the basic ideals behind BoB and presented them with the opportunity to opt out or opt in.  If they opt in, basic information on Rezzly was available as a quest, as well as a quest for their first book (usually a shorter book, or a book with a fairly straight forward project attached) as a starting point.  From there, it would spread as the branches of a tree, allowing the student more choice in selecting the next book.

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Examples of quests can be seen below.

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Upon completion of the question/project, they would submit the quest.  I was then able to approve or return the quest.  I would return the quest if it was evident the student struggled with the response (typically reflecting a quick skim of the book), and would approve if it was sufficient.  If the response was exemplary, the student earned awards, such as a gold coin, which earned additional XP.

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Various badges, achievements, and awards were given as additional forms of XP and bragging rights for those who earned them.

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As students completed all 27 books, they earned a Bookworm badge with 200 additional XP.  Then they were presented with new quests that encouraged students to think of comparisons and contrasts between two or more books on the list and reflect on those similarities and differences.  Finally, the top 12 students were chosen in late January/early February.  These were chosen with as much objectivity as possible.  Basically, the 12 students with the highest XP were on the team and would attend competition.  The top 6 students were designated as mentors.

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I must also mention that we had a guild (basically a virtual meeting space) available on our district LMS page.  This allowed us to have conversation in discussion boards, polls, and share our projects with one another on a virtual platform, which took the place of practice until the month before competition, freeing those students to participate in other extracurricular activities.  We met twice a week for the 4 weeks prior to competition to perfect the dynamics of the team and participate in mock battles.  After competition, we had a party, celebrating one another and what we had learned thanks to these books.  I guarantee you that my students learned more than there was a white house on the river, and they understood significance of a note being passed between these two girls.  We didn’t win the competition; they won so much more.