Creating More Lollipop Moments

This video from TEDx Toronto has really been resonating with me lately. It has me thinking about the kinds of learning experiences we create for our students. The relationships we build with our students. And also the learning experiences we create for teachers and the necessity of strong relationships there too. The video is about 6 minutes. It’s worth that watch. I’ve got some more thoughts on the other side.

Yes, You’re a Leader

Stop thinking that you don’t have something to share. That you don’t have insight to offer into making education better; whether that be at the district or school level. Or that no one can learn from you. We’re all leaders when it comes to the business of making teaching and learning better for our students. To existing district and school leaders: are you tapping into the full potential of the leaders you have around you every day? Are you giving opportunity to the people within your organization develop their leadership capacity?

So, what might this look like? It could look like sharing at a faculty meeting, joining in a chat on Twitter to share your expertise, joining a Google Hangout, joining a Google+ community, leading a conversation at an edcamp, or writing a blog post. Some are more comfortable with certain mediums than others. We need to be ok with this and allow it to count as professional growth.

Spreading the Love

Who makes your life better? Who makes you a better teacher? There’s no denying the power of words. No matter how they’re delivered to us. Sean Williams and I had a brief discussion about this on Twitter the other night:

You will never know all the people you have impacted in your lifetime. Chances are good someone has impacted you in some way. Have you taken the time to tell them?

Change the World

We have all experienced our own “lollipop” moments. We all have likely even been the creator of some whether we remember it or not. The power of sharing these moments with those that gave them to us I truly believe has the ability to change the world. It comes down to letting people know they matter. I think about this all the time when I think about the wonderful people I’ve become connected to in online and offline spaces. It regularly blows me away! I am working on being better about telling people who 1) I am thankful for them and 2) that they’re having a huge impact because of what they’re doing and in turn sharing about it, and 3) that I really appreciate it.

Think about the collective power that’s out there already. Now think about if we worked more to tell people they matter, tap into their genius, and help them find the best outlet to share it. Just imagine what could happen!


Google Drive’s “One More Thing”

During FETC 2014 at the end of January/first of February, I had the opportunity to present a short session in the teaching theater at Google’s space in the exhibit hall. I chose to share about all the extra things Google Drive will do beyond what we know it to do – Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, and Drawings (probably the first three more than anything). What most don’t notice is the option to click on that says, “Connect More Apps” when the Create button is clicked in Google Drive.

Google Drive has so much more to offer teachers and students than how it comes “out of the box”! We are talking about putting powerful web apps at our students’ disposal right from within Google Drive. Via the web and for free! Apps that edit photos, edit videos, create diagrams, dynamic presentations, and more. The beauty of these apps being connected to a student’s Google Drive is that the files save right into Google Drive. Some apps even automatically create a folder for you where the files are stored. These powerful web apps are now available to all students to access from any computer connected to the web.

Web-based programs accessible via the web isn’t necessarily new anymore, but I believe the integration with Google is a key component with as many schools that are “going Google” with Google Apps for Education and Chromebooks.

If you’d like to see some of my favorites check out the slides below!


One Device to Rule Them All

We see posts all the time that tote one device’s superiority over another. Things like, “Why the _______ is the clear winner in K-12 education” or “The _____ is now in ___ percent of all classrooms in America”. You know what I’m talking about. It’s no secret that there’s competition among companies to have their device most widely adopted. Who wouldn’t want their device to be the device of choice for K-12 school districts? Do you have a favorite device nearby right now? Do I have my favorite device(s)? Sure I do. If you follow me on Twitter or heard me on the Two Guys Show or Dads in Ed recently, you know what a couple of my favorite devices are.

'life-toolbox--richardstep-unleash-your-strengths' photo (c) 2012, Richard Stephenson - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

There’s an array of reasons why a district might choose one device over another. Cost likely being the biggest factor. Sometimes it just comes down to what you can afford and what you can’t. School districts have to also look at things like infrastructure, device management, tech support, etc.  There’s a lot to take into consideration.

However, this poses the question: do we give students a say on which device(s) they’d prefer to use? Are we actively seeking their opinion and input on which device(s) should be made available to them? Too many times this does not happen. Perhaps we are purchasing too many of one particular device and not enough of another? Do devices need to vary along a student’s K-12 education years? I think they do. I raised this point during last night’s #edchat. Districts and schools must be ready, willing, and able to support multiple device types; whether that be school provided or through a BYOD plan.  I believe the more devices students have exposure to the better. Do they need to be using all of them all the time? Of course not. Should a district buy an exorbitant amount of devices? No. As students use different types of devices, however, they will know which is most suitable for the task at hand. This is, of course, going to happen over time. Through careful decision-making, increasing teacher comfort level, and changing pedagogy through models like SAMR (Kathy Schrock has great information here) and T-PACK (Steven Anderson put together some great information here).

Trying to find one device that will be THE device students will ever need is like saying the only tool a handyman will ever need is a screwdriver. If we want students to be creators, publishers, and global contributors we shouldn’t limit them to only one platform. Something suitable for a primary grade student isn’t necessarily suitable for an 8th grader. We must be ready; and okay with this.

Thanks for reading. I welcome your comments.


Google Drive Workflows to Use with Students

driveOne of the most common questions teachers have had lately is regarding the best way to have students share work with them and vice-versa via Google Drive. In my opinion this is the best feature of Google Apps for Education; the ease of sharing and collaborating with your fellow teachers and students.  It really simplifies your workflow and we aren’t confined to emailing attachments back and forth or accessing items via a network drive that’s only accessible at school.

When you’re wanting to use Google Docs/Drive with students, figuring out which workflow works best for you is one of the biggest challenges. How to access something I want students to turn in to me? How do I put a file out there for my students to have access to? I wanted to share a couple ways that teachers in my district have been doing that. I know they aren’t the only ways it can be done but teachers have had a lot of success with them.

“Out of the box” Sharing

Teacher creates the folder and manages the sharing – The sharing features that are already built in to Google Drive are very handy. I’ve had some teachers that have found it useful to create a folder and then share that entire folder with their students. This gives students access to the folder, they can then move it to their “My Drive” work space, and can then place any necessary documents in that folder that they need to have access to. If you’re going to go this route I would recommend creating a class folder and then creating a folder for each student inside of that.  This brings up an important digital citizenship conversation at this point that needs to happen. At this point your students will be able to access each others’ folders. If this were to become an issue you would need to go to the sharing settings for each individual folder and take each student off except for the student whose folder it is. Then your students will see the class folder, and inside that they will only see their folder. This option can take a while depending on how many students you have but it’s a one-time setup at the start of a school year or each semester.

Student creates the folder and shares with you – This is the option that I usually suggest for students in grades 3 through 12. I would have the student create a folder and they share the folder with you. I would strongly encourage to create a standard naming convention you’d like all your students to use when they create the folder (ex. Name followed by 2013-14, hour 2, American History etc.). The teacher could even take it a step further and ask students to create more folders inside that folder (ex. subject folders or a folder called ‘work to turn in”, etc.). This option puts the student as the owner of the folder and it can easily become a digital portfolio of their work for that school year.

Google Scripts

Google Scripts is a part of Google Apps that I can always find something new to learn about. If you don’t know what Google Scripts are, they are additions you install on a Google Spreadsheet to create various automated functions.  One of those scripts is called gClassFolders; which is one of the most popular scripts out there for teachers to use.

Like I said before, a script is something you install on a Google Spreadsheet. So what a teacher would do is set up a normal Google Spreadsheet with all of their students’ information on it. This would be their email address, Name, class, hour, etc. Whatever identifying information you’d like to have for each student.  Then you will need to run the gClassFolders script. If you go to this spot on their site you can make a copy of their Google Spreadsheet that’s already ready to go or you can watch their video tutorial that explains how to install the script yourself.

So once you set up the spreadsheet and run the script, it automatically creates folders for you and all of your students with the appropriate sharing permissions applied. It looks something like this:

folders-with per

gClassFolders example from gclassfolders.com

As you can see above it automatically makes a folder for the subject, and inside that folder there are assignment folders for each student to turn in their work (private only to you and them), a place to put documents that the whole class can edit and a place to put documents that the whole class can view. There’s also a teacher folder that’s just for you. All the sharing and folder creation is done from one place (Google Spreadsheet) that you manage.

While I know these are the only ways to have a successful workflow in Google Drive, these have been very beneficial to many teachers. The first couple are usually what teachers start with once they have a good grasp on using Google Docs and then move to something like gClassFolders that’s a bit more advanced.

If you have any other favorite ways to manage student work please share them in the comments section!


Create a Digital Hub for Your Classroom with Google Sites

This blog post is a guest post for ISTE Connects.

For teachers in my district — and in many others — Google Sites is quickly becoming the preferred way to create robust, media-rich websites for classrooms, grade levels and departments. Because this free web design tool is integrated with Google Apps for Education, educators can collaboratively create websites from anywhere.

Continue reading this post over at ISTE Connects to find out how to get started and some tips for using Google Sites.


Make Time to Celebrate the (not so) Small Stuff

This video just came out on YouTube yesterday and it’s quickly going viral. I heard about it on my local radio station and The Today Show gave it a mention this morning too.  Give it a watch first then I’ll share some thoughts on the other side.

That’s your feel good video for the week right there isn’t it? The Dad’s reaction, and his son’s excitement to share with his dad, is priceless. If you don’t know the back story (and I don’t know many details) the boy had majorly struggled in Math for a long time. As in, he was failing and success in Math was looking bleak. I don’t know what steps the boy and his dad took to be successful at Math but he brought home a C (or at least a passing grade) and the son getting to share his great news with his Dad is what was captured on video.

Based on Dad’s reaction, I’d say this was a monumental accomplishment in this student’s school journey. What a sense of accomplishment the student must have felt! Dad did such a great job at what I can only assume was the beginning of a major celebration.  This was a milestone for this young man. I hope his teacher made a point to celebrate with him just as vibrantly.

My last post I shared some thoughts about how movement; no matter how small, always matters.  It likely wasn’t an A or B that this young man brought home to share with Dad, but it was movement in the right direction. It was a major victory for him. Dad didn’t say, “That’s all you could do?” or just give a “Keep up the good work” and a pat on the back. Dad made this a huge deal; a reason for celebration.

I think this is something we need to make the time to do more for our struggling students, not just for our students who success in school comes naturally. We want all students to be successful in everything they do. In school and in life. That’s our ultimate goal for them right?  I believe that a crucial part of that journey means to help them feel success as much as possible while they’re with us, no matter how small it may appear from the outside.


Don’t Forget the Little Things: Movement Matters

Forward movement matters. Remaining first and foremost a learner is a mindset that matters.

When striving to move administrators, teachers, students, support staff, etc. forward with technology, we need to keep in mind that movement matters.  Any movement. Even if you view what you’re learning/trying as minuscule or not as much as another colleague is doing, it still matters. You’re keeping a “learner first” mindset.  It’s a mindset that’s going to benefit you as an educator and it’s going to benefit the students we serve.

Whatever it is: Google Apps, social media, Chromebooks, tablets, etc. (the list can go on and on); you’re stepping out and trying something new. Don’t worry about how fast or slow you’re moving forward. The point is that you’re moving forward! You’re tackling the fear of trying something new head on. You’re modeling a learner mindset. We should be constantly be modeling this for our students, parents, the community, and those we lead.

I think sometimes we think that if our forward movement isn’t happening fast enough or in a big way in a short amount of time, we see it as not being a big deal.  As not mattering or having something worthy to contribute at a staff meeting, in a tweet, in a blog post, or at an edcamp. I’ve had teachers say things to me like: “Yeah but all I’m doing is (blank).” or “I don’t have anything worthwhile to contribute.”.

If you’re trying out something new you’ve learned, own it. Be proud of what you’re doing. Share it with your colleagues. Get comfortable with it, stick with it, and embrace the occasional “speedbumps”.  Just don’t forget to keep moving forward.


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