I Made a Jeopardy QR Code Board – You Can Too!

Jeopardy QR Codes

My colleagues Tara Hewitt and Ryan Miller developed the idea of a Jeopardy board to encourage participants at the Orange County Schools Summer Conference to tweet their learning. They wanted a physical Jeopardy board with QR codes participants could scan to access Twitter challenges. After the challenges – the answers in this Jeopardy – were written, it was up to me to use technology to make it happen.

Good thing I attend EdCamps! I met Jessica Schouweiler at EdcampWNC in Fall 2015. She shared a Google Sheet that automatically generates QR codes for websites. Make a copy for yourself. So now making QR codes is easy. But what should those QR codes point to?

I decided to use Google Slides to make the challenges. Using the Colorzilla Google Chrome extension, I matched the Jeopardy blue color and made it the background color. Each hint (fifteen in all) were separate Google Slides presentations. Each was exactly one slide. Making exact copies of each file is easy. Right click on the file in Drive and choose “make a copy.”

Screenshot 2016-06-17 at 4.31.25 PM

Then simply change the text. Make a copy of one of these slides for yourself. Then publish each slide to the web.

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I then put each URL into the QR Google Sheet referenced above. I screen captured the individual QR codes and pasted each into a new Google Slides presentation with 8.5in x 11in dimensions.

I used Canva to design the category heading images. I set my image to 8.5in x 11in. I used Colorzilla to set the color to the Jeopardy blue and used the Roboto font which does not quite match the Jeopardy font but is good enough. I downloaded each as a PNG (not a JPG) to maintain quality when printing.

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Here is how the board looked after printing and stapling:

Jeopardy Board

And how each Twitter challenge looked when participants scanned them:

Jeopardy on Phone

Have a look at the tweets with the conference hashtag, #FirstChoice4PD.

Thank you for reading this post. If you have any questions, please comment below or tweet me at @edtechtom.


Voice Typing in Google Docs

I recently read Kids Deserve It! by Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome. One tool Welcome speaks of using in his practice is the voice typing feature of Google Docs:

“…We need to be showing our kids how to utilize this tool, even more so than typing skills.

Kids still need to edit their writing, of course, but voice typing allows them to get all their ideas down without having to navigate the keyboard, which is challenging to many kids.”

-Adam Welcome

Kids Deserve It

I taught students with learning needs for ten years so I love when technology opens doors for students with disabilities. Here I am playing with voice typing in a screen-cast:

Thank you for reading and watching. If you would like to discuss this further, please comment below or tweet me at @edtechtom.

Please Vote for My Teachers Guild #ConnectParents Idea!

The Price of Admission

This spring I have been fortunate to connect with The Teachers Guild. Here’s how they describe themselves: We are teachers, just like you, designing better solutions to solve the biggest challenges in education today.

The Teachers Guild invites educators to submit ideas around a problem. They call these collections of ideas, “collaborations“. Their current collaboration aims to redesign parent-teacher conferences.

The topic reminded me of something I heard during a presentation by Special Education guru Rick Lavoie. He spoke about letting parents into his workshops for free if they brought a teacher and vice-versa. Often, teachers and parents would meet for coffee or dinner beforehand. His goal was to bring the two together to help them understand they each have more roles in life than being the parent or teacher of a specific child.

Inspired by Lavoie, I submitted an idea to the collaboration. As I worked on the idea to build it into practical strategies for schools and districts, I cold called Rick Lavoie. I was hopeful I could arrange a time to speak with him through an assistant. I dialed. The other end picked up and I heard, “Rick Lavoie.”

Rick Lavoie has long been a hero of mine. His F.A.T. City video delivers essential insight into the experience of children with learning disabilities. It is a must-watch for any adult who interacts with children. And he answers his own phone! We proceeded to have a twelve-minute conversation that will forever be a highlight of my education career.

Thanks to guidance from and collaboration with from Teachers Guild mentor Ben Gibbs, Teachers Guild coach Charles Shryock, as well as Emma Scripps, Brett Brownell, and Paula Marra, the idea has been refined and fleshed out. Please have a look at my idea and vote for it!

I have made a video explaining the idea:

I made a deck of slides explaining the idea as well:

Thank you for reading. If you would like to discuss this further, please tweet me @edtechtom or comment below.

Upgrade Class Discussion with Verso

Upgrade Class Discussion with Verso

Teachers need to have students converse, discuss, and debate. At the same time, whole class discussion has some inherent challenge:

  • Classroom management – getting students to follow rules, take turns, etc.
  • Students who dominate the discussion
  • Students too shy to participate
  • Keeping a record to provide feedback to students

The good news is Verso solves these problems. Teachers can go to their website, signup with Google and get started easily.

Adding classes is easy. Click on “Classes “and “Add Class.” Each class has a code that can be shared with students:

Adding Classes

Students go to the Verso site, sign in with Google and enter the class code. They then see all discussions (Verso calls them “activities”) assigned to the class.

Creating an activity is easy. Click “Add Activity” in the dashboard:

Add Activity

An activity consists of a resource and a description where teachers can post discussion questions. The resource can be a link or a Google Drive file. Links to YouTube videos work really well in a nice preview window. Teachers can use hyperdocs in Google Drive to link to many resources. Author’s note: teachers can use the “record” option by installing the mobile Verso app on their phones. See Verso’s comment below. 

Add Activity 2

Here is the magic of Verso: when students participate, they do not see their peers’ names. All students are anonymous. Students lose the baggage of identity. Talkative students don’t dominate. Shy students can shine. Here is what it looks like for students:

Student View

Here is the teacher view of the same responses:

Teacher View

Unfortunately, profile images from GAFE do not automatically upload to Verso. Students and teachers have to add profile pictures themselves. Teachers should have students do this early in the school year so they see students’ faces when they read discussion posts and give feedback.

Thank you for reading this introduction to Verso. If you would like to talk about this more, comment below or tweet me at @edtechtom.

Here is a brief introductory video from Verso. The video refers to “flips.” Verso now calls them “activities.”

Blog Image URL: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/74/US_Navy_090617-N-9610C-029_Chad_Stober,_an_instructor_at_John_C._Stennis_University_,_center,_teaches_students_Japanese_in_a_training_classroom_aboard_the_Nimitz-class_aircraft_carrier_USS_John_C._Stennis_(CVN_74).jpg

Rejected for Google Certified Innovator? Don’t Freak Out!

Google Innovator - Don't Freak Out!

Viewers of The Young Turks are used to Jimmy Dore screaming, “Don’t freak out!” whenever Bernie Sanders has a setback.

That is my advice to all those who were not accepted to this round of the Google for Education Certified Innovator program. Does the rejection sting? Of course it does. I know that pain from two previous rejections before fortune smiled on me this time. Still,

Don’t freak out!

My argument focuses on this question: What are you doing to attain your goal of being a Certified Innovator? Are you documenting the awesome things you do on your website and YouTube channel? Are you speaking at GAFESummits and attending as many EdCamps and education conferences as you can? Are you connecting with other educators on Twitter? Are you active in your local Google Educator Group and sharing your blog posts and YouTube videos with it?

If you answered, “no” to any of those questions, I humbly suggest changing that.

If you answered, “yes” to all of them and still were rejected for Google Certified Innovator, I have good news:

All the things you do to pursue Google Certified Innovator advance your career, improve your skills, and open doors even if you are never accepted as a Google Certified Innovator!

Have I convinced you your pursuit makes you better? If not, I have a concrete example from my life.

A year ago, I was happily teaching secondary Social Studies for an awesome school district outside Philadelphia. Then fate moved my family to North Carolina. I needed a new job. I wanted to be an educational technology coach and assumed I needed to attain Google Certified Innovator to get that kind of job. Still, I saw an opening for one and e-mailed the principal:

I had an interview and offer within a week. The steps I took to attain Google Certified Innovator got me my dream job! Imagine if I had e-mailed the principal just a resume! I owe Anthony Gold and his ideas on career domination for making me realize I had to shine the light on what I did in my classroom because no one else would do it for me!

And finally…

If you are reading this, there is a good chance you are still processing the sting of your application rejection. I have been there twice. The first time was a Hail Mary pass – I had taken few of the steps outlined above. My video (long since deleted from YouTube) was a complete mess. However, in January 2016, I knew I had it. I felt strongly about my application. As Google e-mailed acceptances, they e-mailed me letting me know the link to my Google Educator Level 2 certificate did not work. I was humiliated. Claiming to be an innovator, I had messed up the sharing setting of a PDF in Google Drive.

If I can rebound to attain Google for Education Certified Innovator after that debacle, you can too. And if you don’t, congratulations anyway because you are so much better for pursuing your goal.

If you would like to discuss this topic further, comment below or tweet me at @edtechtom. Thanks for reading.

I used the Google Certified Innovator logo located at https://edutrainingcenter.withgoogle.com/certification_innovator in the image for this post.

21st Century Learning Space

Schools need to innovate both instruction and learning space to make themselves relevant to digital-native learners. Here is my concept of an ideal learning space. This is designed for middle and high school classrooms.

Note that the layout is teacher-centered. However, this is done intentionally to facilitate making instruction student-centered.

Please let me know what you think by completing the embedded form or by commenting below.

The Next Awesome Thing In Your Classroom – Digital BreakoutEDU

I have made twelve digital BreakoutEDU activities. Please have a look, attempt to crack the locks, and give me feedback! Can you succeed in 45 minutes?

For those new to BreakoutEDU, hints for cracking the lock are built into the site. Some are visible, some are hidden. Some are distractions.

Update 5/18/16: I documented how teachers use Digital BreakoutEDU at Gravelly Hill Middle School to engage students on the BAMRadio Network EdWords blog.

Poetry Digital Breakout

My colleague ELA teacher Suzanne DeConto and I made a poetry break-out to help 7th-grade students review poetry. Adults and students have enjoyed it. Update (7/1/16): I am honored to announce this breakout was featured in USA Today!

Decide the 1800 Election Splash Image

Decide The 1800 Election! is my attempt to capitalize on the Hamilton musical craze while teaching middle and high school students about Hamilton, the 1800 presidential election, and the Federalist-era United States. Be warned – cracking the date lock is especially tricky in this breakout!

Shirley Chisholm Thumbnail

Pave the Way for Barack and Hillary! teaches students about trailblazing 1972 presidential candidate Shirley Chisholm. This makes a great addition to any US history unit focusing on the 1970s.

Richard KNICKSon Splash Image

Richard Knicks-on blends some of my favorite things, Digital BreakoutEDU, US History, and the New York Knicks! The Knicks content is window dressing to give the site a nice orange and blue color scheme while making students feel like they are in the late 60s and early 70s. This breakout is good for teaching about Watergate, Nixon, and protests against the Vietnam War.

Ratify the Bill of Rights Splash Image

I challenged myself to make a digital breakout for the first half of US history. The result is Ratify the Bill of Rights. This is my first breakout using DocHub, a great tool for manipulating PDFs.

Sell World War I to the American Public

I made Sell World War I to the American Public as a relatively easy way to review World War I concepts. It is mostly from the US history perspective. This breakout is good for someone just starting out with digital breakouts as it focuses more on content and less on gaming.

Escape to Summer Vacation Digital Breakout

I designed Escape to Summer Vacation as a fun end of the year activity for Caroline Smith, my middle-school math teacher colleague. This challenging breakout tells the story of Caroline trying to escape to summer vacation. I hope you like order of operations and integers!

Escape the Guillotine Digital Breakout

I made Escape the Guillotine with 9th-grade World History curricular materials. This digital breakout will help middle and high school students review the French Revolution. I used EdPuzzle to include short videos and convey hints.


Liberate the Sphero Digital Breakout

I made Liberate the Sphero to commemorate the arrival of Spheros at our school and introduce math teachers to digital breakout.

Liberate Paris Digital Breakout - High School

Liberate Paris was made with curricular materials for 9th-grade students.

Liberate Paris Digital Breakout - Middle School

This is a different version of the Liberate Paris breakout. I designed it to help 7th-grade students study for their World War II test. If you have never participated in a BreakoutEDU, this is a good one to start with.

Cuban Missile Crisis Digital Breakout Currently in Beta

I made the Cuban Missile Crisis with materials I used for 11th-grade students. Beta-testing has shown this is a very difficult breakout. I will tinker with it and make improvements soon.

These breakouts were inspired by Justin Birckbichler‘s and Mari Venturino‘s work at DigitalBreakout. Additionally, I was inspired by the work of James Sanders and Mark Hammons at BreakoutEDU.com. The work of these fine educators was integral in designing these activities. I am especially grateful to Justin for the awesome Google Sheet I copied for use in some of these breakouts.

Thank you for reading this. Please feel free to give me feedback on Twitter, @edtechtom, or in the comments below.