Use the Impossible to Fail Quiz to Give Students Instant Remediation

Does your gut (and your assessment) tell you some students didn’t get it the first time you taught it? Would you like to give students remediation exclusively for concepts they don’t understand? Isn’t it impossible to deliver precise remediation to each student in your classroom?

The solution to these challenges is the Impossible to Fail Quiz. I had the opportunity to learn about this tool from Chris Aviles at EdCamp New Jersey. The Impossible to Fail Quiz uses two components of Google Forms that had previously been unexplored frontiers for me: “Go to page based on answer” and inserting page breaks. This tutorial takes you step-by-step through the process of designing an Impossible to Fail Quiz. If you are curious about the student experience, take an Impossible to Fail Quiz before we get started. Two quick points before we start:

  • The quiz is impossible to fail because it directs students to a review video when they incorrectly answer a question. Students then re-try the question. Every time they answer incorrectly, they are directed to the video. When students answer correctly, they move on to the next question.
  • The quiz is meant as a opportunity for students to practice and receive remediation when needed. It is not meant to be an assessment tool. Each student will eventually choose the right answer to the questions.

Start by opening Google Drive and creating a new Google Form:

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Follow the pattern of adding a page break and a question for as many questions as you want. I recommend keeping it short. I like five questions.

Now it is time to add the magic of the Impossible to Fail Quiz: videos! Wrong answers will direct students a video that reviews the concept addressed by the question. I use videos I make using SnagIt on my Chromebook. However, you can use any video on YouTube. My suggestion is to keep the video short so students watch and quickly return to the question. To add videos to the quiz:

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Now return to your multiple choice questions. You have to tinker with them so that correct answers advance to the next question and incorrect answers advance to the videos.

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This is what students will see after they correctly answer the final question:

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Take care of one last detail on each of the video pages and you have an Impossible to Fail Quiz ready to go!

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With that your Impossible to Fail Quiz is ready to go. Take the quiz designed in this tutorial to acquaint yourself with the student user experience.

Use This Website to Have Your Students Read Like Historians

Do you want your students to read primary source documents, engage in close reading activities, debate and cite evidence to support arguments? If so, you have to use The Stanford History Education Group’s Reading Like a Historian website. I have to thank my colleague Mr. Washam for showing it to me. Take a tour of the site with me in this video:

Links from the Video:

The Stanford History Education Group’s Reading Like a Historian website

Using Google Drive to Digitize Print Documents (including PDFs)

Reading Like a Historian US History Lessons

Reading Like a Historian World History Lessons

Reading Like a Historian Reconstruction Structured Academic Controversy Lesson

Register for a FREE account with the Reading Like a Historian website

Making Lesson Recap Videos with SnagIt and a Chromebook

I went to to EdCamp New Jersey at the end of November where I heard Chris Aviles suggest teachers should make video recaps. He argued that in a 1:1 classroom, video lesson recaps are a powerful tool to fight learned helplessness. A student doesn’t know the answer to a question? Have them watch the video recap. Chris also made the point that video recaps give students multiple opportunities to learn and help absent students catch up.

Intrigued, I set about using December to incorporate video recaps into my practice. I made this video about what I have done so far:

After you create your account (I used my school Google e-mail), SnagIt creates a folder in your Google Drive. It is called “TechSmith” after the company that makes SnagIt.

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When you record using SnagIt, the app will capture your screen and the Chromebook’s microphone. I use the Chromebook camera so students can see my face rather than listen to a disembodied voice. When you stop a recording, it will appear as ” unfinished video” in the TechSmith folder.

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You can rename your video in the SnagIt video player and push it directly to your GAFE connected YouTube account.

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When SnagIt is finished processing you can access the video file in the TechSmith Google Drive folder.

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From Google Drive, you can download the video. I take this extra step because I post videos to my personal YouTube channel.  I want the videos to still exist should my job change. It is very easy with only upload and download time as minor inconveniences. Login to your personal GMail account and go to YouTube. From there:

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Then simply click on upload and you’re good to go.

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Pixiclip is another tool with great potential for video recaps. As I explained in the video above, I stopped using Pixiclip because when my students play it back on their Chromebooks they cannot rewind and fast forward.

Video lesson recaps are one way educational technology transforms educational practice. I am only one month into using them and am thrilled with the opportunities they create for my students!



Google Classroom, Educational Technology and the Absent Student

I recently received an e-mail from a student who missed a week with the flu asking how she could catch up. This student’s class is not 1:1 so we don’t use Google Classroom daily like we do on my 1:1 classes. I replied to the student listing the ways she could use the resources I had posted to Classroom to catch up. It was a long e-mail. When I was finished, I was impressed with how much easier it is to meet the needs of absent students than it was a few short years ago. The student had missed lessons in our Civil War unit. I was able to point her to the following resources:

  • The homework for the unit was all on Google Classroom. This previously was print-based but I used Google Drive to digitize the print material, making it accessible to anyone with an internet connection and eliminating the problems of students losing it, absence and homework-eating dogs.

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  • I had a video recap on Classroom for each lesson she missed. I need to thank Chris Aviles, who made the suggestion of taping lesson recaps while speaking at EdCampNJ. For students in 1:1 classrooms, strategies like this transform learning and eliminate the “$1000 pencil” problem I heard Joshua Koen speak about, also at EdCampNJ. I have been making recaps of all my lessons since EdCamp. Even though this student’s class cannot access the recaps in the classroom, they can at home to review or catch up in the event of absence. I have been using SnagIt to make my video recaps on my Chromebook. I write more about this in another blog post.

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Technology integration in education should not be bells and whistles. It should be about simple strategies that make a big difference for students. This absent student was able to catch up in ways unheard of when she started her time as a student. These are just a few ways teachers can use technology to keep absent students on track.

Math Teachers: Add g(Math) to Google Forms!

g(Math) is a great add-on for Google Docs. If you do not have it, go get it! g(Math) is now available as an add-on for Google Forms too.

To get g(Math) for Forms, open Google Drive and create a new Google Form. While editing the new form, follow these steps:

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The form you are editing will now looks like this:

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To take advantage of g(Math)’s capabilities:

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Now your form will look like this:

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Have fun using Google Forms to assess math!

Four Awesome Tools to Get Started with Your SMART Board

My district has brand new SMART Boards (model M600) this year. My principal asked me to show teachers what this hardware can do. Because SMART Boards can do so much, it can be overwhelming for teachers to know how to get started. Here are four tools I recommend to begin incorporating SMART Boards into instruction.

Let’s Start with that Floating Toolbar

Some teachers do not like having this constantly on their screen:

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That is the SMART Floating Toolbar which is actually very useful. First, you need to easily customize it to make it a great resource. Follow these three simple steps:

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Now you can start playing with some great SMART tools.

Tool 1: The Screen Shade

This tool essentially acts as a curtain to hide and unveil areas on the screen. It can cover any rectangular area on the screen.

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Tool 2: The Spotlight

Our second tool works like a spotlight does: it highlights one area on the screen and excludes everything else. You can manipulate its shape and size too.

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Tool 3: The Magic Pen

For this tool to work, you have to be working with a SMART Notebook file. PowerPoint presentations can easily be converted into SMART Notebook files by using File—>Upload in SMART Notebook. The magic pen has two uses. As a regular pen it works as disappearing ink. What you write disappears in about three seconds. If you draw a rectangle with it, the magic pen becomes a rectangular magnifying glass. I enjoy using it to highlight something and discuss it with students.

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Tool 4: Gallery Essentials

Here is a truly killer app from SMART: a database full of images and activities organized by subject area. To access gallery essentials while in SMART Notebook:

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Once inside take a look at your subject area. There are so many great resources. Many of them involve interactivity with the SMART Board which can make a great center activity.

Enjoy these four tools. I hope they make your instruction more engaging. Send me a tweet to let me know how it’s going or ask me a question.

Why This Teacher Loves Chromebooks

Remember when consumers and schools had two computer choices: PCs and Macs? Both came with significant negatives. For PCs, it was computers that frequently crashed or froze. For Macs, is was price. Many schools now use the iPad for 1:1 classrooms. It still has a high cost and lacks a good keyboard. At last, a new solution is here.

The Chromebook outdoes PCs for affordability while being sleek and stylish like a Mac. Like the Mac I had at a previous teaching job, my Chromebook performs very well and does not crash. My students and I are loving our Chromebooks.

My district is using Chromebooks with eighth and ninth grade students this year as a pilot program. I am so fortunate two-thirds of my classes are with eighth and ninth grade. I hope the district makes the entire middle and high schools 1:1 with Chromebooks next school year.

How Chromebooks are Different for the User

Here are two slides I have used to explain the unique features of Chromebooks to my colleagues.  These are not the most beautiful slides; I used them to go over this topic quickly before a longer discussion on 1:1 classroom management.

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Why My Students and I Love Them

Let me list the reasons:

  • The quick boot-up time. Please, Google, do not change this. Please do not switch to Android. The Chrome OS has no applications save for the Chrome browser, a calculator, and a camera. I often have students close their Chromebooks for class discussion. Students are right back where they left off upon re-opening them.
  • Automatic log-in to Google Apps for Education. Using a COW or a computer lab meant that students would boot up the computer, log in to the computer and then log in to Google Apps for Education. All this took some time. Chromebooks change this process to one essentially instant step. Once a student has logged in, they can click icons for GMail, Google Drive, Google Classroom and Google Calendar and arrive instantly.
  • Great battery life. I have been using a school-issued HP Chromebook since July. During the summer I worked with it all day. By the end of the day there was a good deal of battery life remaining. This included a lot of use of video and music too. Students at my school leave their Chromebooks on chargers in their homerooms overnight. Battery life has not been an issue for them.
  • The keyboard. My school-issued HP Chromebook has a nice keyboard. I much prefer my students use it than type on an iPad or an iPad add-on keyboard.
  • The screen! My school-issued HP Chromebook has a beautiful wide HD screen. YouTube HD videos look stunning.

My One Concern

As you can tell, I love the Chromebook. There is one concern I have with it: the touchpad. The touchpad requires two fingers next to each other to right click. I have been doing this since July and have not mastered it. I plug a mouse into the Chromebook to be as productive as possible. If you have students with motor issues, I highly recommend pairing mice with their Chromebooks.

The Chromebook touchpad is also very sensitive. When they started using Chromebooks in the classroom, some of my students would inadvertently click “submit” on Google Forms I used for assessment when they did not mean to. My work-around for that has been to make every question in my forms a required question.

Set each Google Form question to required and sensitive touchpads won't be a problem.

Set each Google Form question to required so sensitive touchpads won’t be a problem.

The Ideal 1:1 Solution

That issue aside, Chromebooks are the ideal solution for 1:1 classrooms. They are more affordable than iPads and PCs without the crashes and clunky-ness of  PCs. They are cheaper than iPads with a better keyboard and seamless integration with Google Apps for Education. The Chromebook is an efficient, powerful machine. I have a feeling it will become a big part of education, personal and business computing in the next few years.

My Guest Post on Teachers as Technology Trailblazers

I am so honored Kristen Swanson asked me to write a guest post on her blog, Teachers as Technology Trailblazers. My post is about how I use John Green’s Crash Course to review content with my students.

Kristen’s blog is an invaluable resource to teachers looking to innovate in their classrooms.

While you’re here, take a look at my posts about Google Classroom, using TEDEd to add accountability and engagement to YouTube videos, digitizing print documents with Google Docs, using SMART Response XE clickers for formative assessment and the Brown University Choices Program.

We Can Digitize That: A Visual Guide to Using Google Docs to Digitize Print Documents

Google Classroom is a great tool for moving towards a paperless classroom. But what happens when curricular materials are in print with no Google Docs or Microsoft Word copies available? Don’t worry, we can digitize that!

You will need a scanner to turn your print document into a PDF. I am fortunate to work at a district that uses some nice Canon copiers that scan and e-mail PDFs. This tutorial is based on how I digitize print documents with Canon photocopiers.

Start by selecting “Scan and Send” on your copier’s display.

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I then choose “New Destination.” This allows me to send the PDF to any e-mail address in the world. I could send it directly to an absent student if I wanted to.

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Once you have inserted your e-mail and pressed OK, all you need to do is press the Start button.

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Check your e-mail to see that your PDF has arrived.

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This is what it will look like in the body of the e-mail:

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You have two options for the attached PDF:

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To successfully digitize the document as quickly as possible, save it to Google Drive. You can place it any Google Drive folder you wish.

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You can now go to the same Google Drive icon and, rather than allow you to save it in Google Drive, it will take you to the folder where the PDF is saved. Please note that the file is named with a number. You have to change that:

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Now it is time to digitize and manipulate the file.

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You will then see this in a new tab that has opened in your browser:

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I love seeing that processing screen. It means I am seconds from having a document digitized. The result is a Google Docs file that has both the text of the original document and images of each page of the print copy you scanned. You often need to play with the format to make the Google Docs file look like the original copy. Sometimes you don’t. Either way, I like having the images there as a reference and they can easily be deleted. The transition to digital is not always perfect because of formats and some letters can get changed. The letter “O” is sometimes changed to a zero. Proofread the Google Docs file and make necessary changes.

Now the file is not only ready for Google Classroom, but you can edit and improve materials you were locked into when they existed only on paper. The possibilities to make them more engaging for students (add writing prompts, images, maps, links, etc.) are endless!

Thoughts on Google Classroom a Month into Using it and Training Colleagues

This summer I waited not so patiently for the arrival of Google Classroom. After watching this video in June, how couldn’t I be excited?

The video is a very good preview of what Classroom is an does. I also like Alice Keeler’s list of 20 things Google Classroom can do.

I have used Google Classroom for my classes since the start of this school year on September 2nd. I have also trained teachers in my district. The consensus among my colleagues is that Google Classroom is a game-changing tool that can be improved. I agree.

How Google Classroom Makes My Practice More Sustainable

Before I discuss how I would improve Classroom, here are my two cents about why it is so useful to teachers. I dislike replying on photocopiers and bringing home stacks of paper assignments to grade. Classroom changes that. As long as you have your assignment ready as a Google Drive file, it can be used to make a paperless assignment. This is through the magic of a wonderful setting called “make a copy for each student.”

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This creates a copy for each student they manipulate independent of other students’ copies and your original assignment file. Each student’s assignment automatically goes into a folder that is easy to access.

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Clicking “FOLDER” brings you to a Google Drive folder with every student’s assignment. You don’t have to wait until assignments are submitted to look at student work. You can click on any assignment in the folder and look at your students’ work in progress. What a great tool this is! Comment on work and let students know how they are doing before it is due. This reminds me of the scene in Spaceballs where they watch the movie as it is being made:

Room for Improvement

Here are some ideas for how Google Classroom can be improved so it can further enhance the teacher and student experience.

Delayed Posts
I would love the ability to set a post to be added to the Google Classroom feed at a specific time. This would be similar to setting specific times for tweets in HootSuite. I like to have students with 1-to-1 computers start the class with an assignment placed in Classroom. If I post the assignment too far ahead of the start of class, students can get confused and think it is an assignment they have to complete ASAP. They might work on it before class if they have some free time. I would prefer to put the assignment in Classroom in the night before and have it appear in the students’ feed precisely when class starts.

Unit Buckets
Before Google Classroom, I used a combination of Moodle and Wikispaces. I prefer to use Classroom but I do miss Moodle’s unit buckets. At present, Classroom is like Facebook or Twitter in that the students see one long continuous feed. I would like to compartmentalize content into different buckets. This would make review and finding things (such as unit projects and unit anchor activities) easier for students.

Differentiation/Group Work
One aspect of Google Classroom needing improvement is it’s inability to differentiate. There are no tools to have different components of an assignment assigned to different students in the class. Teachers can work around and get creative but this really should be built in. I had pairs working on a presentation and only the presentation owner could submit the assignment. The partner who shared the Google Slides presentation could not attach it to submit the assignment. To these students it appears they have an overdue assignment.

When I helped a teacher in my school’s learning support department, we discovered that two teachers can not teach the same class in Classroom. This is unfriendly to team-teaching inclusion settings.

I am certain Google will address this sooner rather than later but they have not as of yet.

Google Calendar Does Not Talk to Google Classroom
When you create an assignment, you can set a due date and time to the minute. This is nice but it is not synced with Google Calendar. I have to create a Google Calendar for each of my classes. Each calendar is independent of Classroom. How nice would it be if every time I created an assignment in Classroom it automatically appeared on Calendar? My current workaround is putting a link to the class Google Calendar in the “About” section of Google Classroom.

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This puts my calendar on Classroom but I still have to create the assignment in Classroom and separately create it as an event on Calendar. These two steps should be combined into one. The one benefit to this situation is that while my calendar with due dates is public to the world, Classroom, with my curricular materials, requires a log-in.

Google Classroom Does Not Talk to Blogger
An English Language Arts teacher asked me how she could use Google Classroom to have students maintain blogs. I investigated and besides the “publish to the web” function in Google Docs, which is not really a blog, there is no way to make this happen in Classroom. Google has Blogger but it does not talk to any Google Apps for Education. I hope that Google integrates Blogger into both Google Apps for Education and Google Classroom.

A Great Tool with Room for Growth
Do not let these needs prevent you from trying Google Classroom. If your district has it, play with it. Do you like all those trips to the photocopier and those stacks of paper needing grading? Do you want to work with students on a digital platform that matches their life experiences much better than antiquated pen-and-paper do? If you answered “no” and “yes” to those questions, give Google Classroom a try.