Comparing Digital Breakouts in New Google Sites and Classic Google Sites


The New Google Sites is live in personal GMail accounts. It is vastly different from what is now known as “Classic Sites.” Here are my thoughts on using both tools to make digital breakouts.

Looks are important.

Students are more likely to engage with a breakout if it is visually appealing. The New Sites makes much nicer looking websites. Have a look at my digital breakout templates in Classic Sites and New Sites to see the vast difference. Speaking of design, use Canva to make beautiful header images. 280 pixels high and 767 pixels wide are the ideal dimensions.

It is so easy!

Classic Sites is difficult to work with. It is not intuitive. New Sites could not be any easier to use. Make one site with it and you’re a pro. I am thrilled to share New Sites with teachers because they can point, click, and make a beautiful website!

The one drawback.

Beautiful, easy sites! So what’s the catch? There is one, and it is big. Third-party sites that embed in Classic Sites, such as EdPuzzle, ThingLink, and Quizlet, don’t embed in New Sites. Instead, there is a preview that opens a new tab when clicked:


New Sites is still better.

New Sites’ beauty, ease, and fantastic G Suite integration make it well worth it. EdPuzzle doesn’t work? Find a short video and pair it with a Google Form! Google Slides, PDFs in Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, and even My Maps embed flawlessly – with no code needed! Simply click and drag to move or change size.

I am perfectly willing to use only G Suite tools in New Sites while I wait for embeds to be added to the platform’s functionality.

Beware the navigation!

New Sites has two navigation settings:


This means that all site pages are visible by default. However, you can hide pages individually:


Here are some suggestions.

For what it’s worth, here are some suggestions from someone who made many digital breakouts in Classic Sites and can’t wait to get started in New Sites:

  • Figure out what you want your students to work with before making your digital breakout. What PDFs, Google Docs, Google Slides, YouTube videos, Google My Maps, etc. do you want your students interacting with during your digital breakout? Figure that out and your locks will flow from there.
  • Keep the elements on each page minimal. Do not overload students with too many things to view on any one page. Keep it simple and visually appealing. New Sites and Canva help those of us (like me!) who are not artistically inclined.
  • Make one lock super easy. Once students crack one lock, they are hooked. I don’t always follow my own advice on this one. I should.
  • Make digital breakouts in personal Google accounts. No one has a crystal ball. Making a Google Site in a school domain means it could go away if employment status changes. Use personal Google accounts to ensure sites do not disappear when changing jobs.
  • Beta test! Before students try a breakout, have your PLC beta test it to make sure everything is correct. Errors from incorrect links to grammar are common when making digital breakouts. Beta testing makes sure students work on a refined finished product.

Thank you for reading. Comment below or send me a tweet @edtechtom with questions.

Digital Breakouts in the New Google Sites


The new Google Sites is live. This is a template website to give you ideas for making digital breakouts in the new Sites. Currently, there is no way to copy sites or publish them as templates. The good news is that the new Sites is so intuitive that making digital breakouts is easier than ever!

If you have never tried a digital breakout, please watch this video where I take you through the template to show you how it works:

Please make copies of the files in this Google Drive folder to help you make digital breakouts. This template site uses Google Forms, an embedded PDF, an embedded YouTube video, and Google Slides. Google My Maps and Google Sheets are other G Suite tools that are great for embedding in digital breakouts.

Comment below or send me a tweet @TomEMullaney with questions.

All Digital Breakouts I make are inspired by the innovators behind BreakoutEDU,  James Sanders and Mark Hammons, as well as by the creators of Digital BreakoutEDU,  Justin Birckbichler and Mari Venturino.

Use These Templates to Make Your Own Digital Breakouts!


Author’s note: This post is intended to help teachers make Digital Breakouts in Classic Google Sites. The New Google Sites has gone live. Please read my blog post about making Digital Breakouts in New Google Sites. Additionally, please read my post comparing the classic and new versions of Google Sites.

Digital Breakouts, the entirely online offshoot of the BreakoutEDU movement, are a great way to help students fall in love with problem-solving. I make and use them, as do my colleagues who have found innovative ways to incorporate them into instruction.

Recently, I have had colleagues and educators on social media tell me they would like to make digital breakouts but the task seems daunting. One colleague asked me to build a template website to help him get started.

So here it is – a Digital Breakout template website, a replicable Google Site template, and a Google Folder with template files. Makes copies of them and have at it! The website is a Digital Breakout itself. Go through it to see how they work.

The site demonstrates some great tools for digital breakouts: Google Forms with Quiz Mode enabled for feedback, Quizlet, EdPuzzle, and Thinglink.

Comment below or send me a tweet @edtechtom with questions.

All Digital Breakouts I make are inspired by the innovators behind BreakoutEDU,  James Sanders and Mark Hammons, as well as by the creators of Digital BreakoutEDU,  Justin Birckbichler and Mari Venturino.

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.

Screenshot 2016-06-17 at 4.45.46 PM

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.”

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