Social Studies and EdTech? I Co-Wrote the E-Book!

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I am honored to announce my Imagine Easy blog posts about Social Studies and educational technology have been combined with work from Matthew Farber to form an e-book, A Technology Toolkit for Social Studies Teachers. This e-book can be downloaded for free. I hope it will be useful for your practice. Please comment below or tweet me at @edtechtom if you would discuss or share feedback. Thank you for reading.

Ten Things You Can Do This Summer To Prepare For Teaching In A 1:1 Classroom With Chromebooks

Has your district told you your students will bring Chromebooks with them to class in the fall? Are you eager to integrate this technology into instruction but unsure how? Here are ten things you can do this summer to hit the ground running in the fall, brought to you by a teacher who has been in your shoes.

1. Ask your administration for a Chromebook to use this summer.

You want to know the Chromebook user experience before school starts. What better way to learn than by doing? This teacher loves Chromebooks in the classroom for many reasons. You will too, especially if you understand the platform your students use. See if your administrators are willing to loan you the same model students will use in the fall. Use it for everything this summer and you will be prepared.

2. Become a Google Educator.

If you want to successfully use Google Apps for Education (GAFE) in classroom instruction, you need to be proficient in them. Go through Google for Education’s process to earn Google Educator certification. The process involves online modules and five $15 (as of Summer 2014) tests. Author’s Note (6/28/15): This process has just changed. Please have a look at Google’s new options and see what works for you. Going through the modules will make you more than proficient in Google Apps. Taking and passing the exams will earn you a Google Educator certificate, a nice asset for your CV.

 3. Upload your files to Google Drive.

This is essential for you to work with your students in a 1:1 classroom. After the Google Educator modules, you should be able to easily upload folders to Google Drive. Or, you can watch this video about doing it with a Windows computer:

Or this one about doing it with a Mac:

 

4. Get to know Google Classroom.

First, watch this video introducing Google Classroom. Imagine the possibilities. Get excited!

Then, read up about Google Classroom and how to use it to do transformative things such as seamlessly include absent and home-bound students in your class.

5. Learn from the experts.

There is so much great content about integrating technology into the classroom. It can be overwhelming. Start small by following these eight experts on Twitter and reading their blogs regularly. If starting a Twitter account seems overwhelming, read Alice Keeler’s blog post about signing up for Twitter. Here are my favorite education technology experts. Their names hyperlink to their blogs.

6. Digitize your print documents.

Do this during the summer to save time during the school year. Once a print document is digitized, it can be altered and, hence, improved.

7. Convert your multiple choice assessments to paperless Google Forms your students can answer on their Chromebooks.

My visual tutorial will guide you through this process. Doing this during the summer will save you untold time at the photocopier and ScanTron machine during the school year. If you are curious about grading, read my grading tutorial, but it will not be necessary until you give your first multiple choice assessment.

Author’s Note (12/3/15): The visual tutorial linked above will work for you if you are working with the old Google Forms. If you are working with the new Google Forms, please read this post to get acquainted. 

8. Use TEDEd to change the way video is used in instruction.

Rather than have the whole class watch a projected video, you can add short-answer and multiple choice assessment questions, discussion prompts and links to further resources to any YouTube video. Make a list of your favorite YouTube videos used in instruction, and make them into powerful instructional tools with YouTube this summer. Students can work with videos at their own pace on their Chromebooks and you can use TEDEd’s tools to assess understanding.

Author’s Note (12/3/15): EdPuzzle is also a great tool for engaging students with video. Additionally, please read my Five Strategies for Using Video in the Classroom

9. Use PDFSplit to break up large curricular PDFs into smaller documents.

Instead of printing the pages of the PDF you want your students to read and scanning them, use PDFSplit to make original quality PDFs of the exact pages you want students to read. PDFSplit connects to your Google Drive to access your PDF. It makes a new file with only the pages you specify. Students then read beautiful PDFs on their Chromebooks, not scans of photocopies.

10. Join Google Plus education technology communities.

This will serve as another great source for education technology information. Just like with education technology experts on Twitter, start small. Here are four great communities to join:

Teaching in a 1:1 classroom with Chromebooks reignited my passion for education. I hope it does for you too! If you would like to talk more about successful technology integration in the 1:1 classroom, please comment below or send me a tweet at @edtechtom.

Google Classroom Experts Name My Absent Student Strategy a Best Practice

I am honored Google Classroom Experts named my strategy for including absent students a best practice:

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Google Classroom Experts are posting a new best practice to their Google Plus page weekly. To read more about how I use Google Classroom to fully include absent and home-bound students, please have a look at my blog post about it.

If you would like to discuss ideas for using Google Classroom to include absent students, please comment below or send me a tweet.

Make Paperless Assessment with Google Forms – Part 2 of 2: Grading with Flubaroo

In part 1 of this post, I showed you how to create a Google Form, import questions from a Google Doc or Word Doc and collect answers. Now it is time to grade your Google Form and give students quick, helpful feedback.

Start by going to the Google Form assessment you shared with your students:

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Then return to the Google Form’s answers spreadsheet:

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Now it is time to install the Flubaroo add-on for Google Sheets. This is what makes grading the Google Form so easy:

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Now that it is installed, use it to grade the answers by taking these steps:

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Flubaroo is very valuable to teachers. It highlights students who struggled and questions many students answered incorrectly. It has one other great feature: the ability to quickly give students detailed feedback. To e-mail students their results:

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Some teachers might not be comfortable e-mailing the answer key. I prefer total transparency when assessing students. The nice thing about Flubaroo is that it gives you options for how much you share with students.

If you would like to know more about creating assessments in Google Forms, take a loot at part 1 of this post. If you would like to ask me any questions about making paperless assessment in Google Forms, comment below or send me a tweet at @edtechtom.

Make Paperless Assessment with Google Forms – Part 1 of 2

Are you teaching in a school that recently went 1:1 or is about to go 1:1? Do you hate stacks of paper burying your desk after you give students a test? Do you want students to take tests on their devices? Do you hate it when your school’s photocopier jams? Do you want to reduce cheating on assessments?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above, read on. This is a visual tutorial for making an assessment with Google Forms. By the end of this post, you should be able to create an assessment and add questions from assessments you have in Microsoft Word and Google Doc formats. In part 2, I show you how to automatically grade paperless assessments in Google Forms.

To get started creating a Google Form, go to the Google Drive folder where you want to store the form and:

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Checking “Shuffle question order” means the questions will appear in a different order for each student taking the test. This makes cheating during the test very difficult.

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My students use HP Chromebooks. The touchpads are sensitive. This causes students to accidentally submit forms before they have answered all questions. Making each question required prevents forms from being submitted until all questions have been answered.

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Now that you have started entering questions into your form, here’s a suggestion: get rid of all numbers for the questions and letters for the answer choices. Those are relics of the Scantron era. In part 2, I will show you how to automatically grade your assessment. You won’t need numbers or letters. The absence of letters and numbers makes cheating harder. Additionally, to tell another student an answer, a cheater would have to state the question and the answer. Instead of saying “2 is b,” a cheating student is re-teaching content!

Once you have entered your questions, get your form ready for students’ eyes:

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Your form will open in a new tab.

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After students have taken the assessment:

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The answers, on a Google Sheet, appear in a new tab:

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This is where I will end this post. Now you should be able to create a form and view answers. In the second post, I demonstrate how to use Flubaroo to easily grade the assessment and give students fast feedback. If you have any questions about Google Forms for assessment, please comment below or send me a tweet at @tmullaney23.

Making Lesson Recap Videos with Screencastify

Making video recaps of my lessons has revolutionized my teaching. I am so grateful to Chris Aviles for suggesting it at EdCamp New Jersey. A parent told me she wishes every teacher made video recaps. A learning support teacher uses them to help my students study in her instructional support classes. Students who need multiple opportunities to learn and absent students benefit the most from video lesson recaps.

I have documented how I use SnagIt to make recaps on my Chromebook. SnagIt met my needs until it had a problem with static in March 2015. I researched and found that Screencastify does essentially the same thing. Screencastify is an extension for the Google Chrome browser so it works an any computer with the browser.

Watch this video where I discuss how I use Screencastify:

After installing the extension…

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Before starting the recording be sure “Desktop” is selected and “Embed webcam” is not.

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“Desktop” makes sure Screencastify captures the entire screen. “Embed wecam” puts a small webcam in the lower right corner of the screen when you screencast. I prefer to open the computer’s webcam and size the window to my liking.

When you stop recording, Screencastify puts the video file in a Google Drive folder.

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Overall, I have been thrilled with Screencastify. Its file sizes are roughly 10-20MB per minute. That is much lower than SnagIt-made video files. This saves me time when uploading videos to YouTube. If you do not want to be on YouTube, share the video in Google Drive with your students. The small file sizes mean less bandwith used when multiple students view it in your classroom.

Video lesson recaps have tremendously benefited my students. I am happy to share this strategy far and wide. Please be in touch if you want to discuss further!

Use Brown University’s Choices Program to Engage Students

Do you struggle to use textbooks as an effective educational tool? If you do, I want you to think about your students. Imagine you are a teenager. You go home from school with a textbook assignment to read. At the same time you are surrounded by screens calling your name. Your SmartPhone buzzes with texts and notifications from Vine and Twitter. Your laptop is the source of endless amusement from videos to the endless content of the Internet to social media. Your television has a new episode of the latest ABC Family drama. Your PS4 has a great new game. And that textbook, how excited are you to read that?

Teachers need to bridge the content gap from textbook disengagement.  They need a source of text that is well-written, informative and visually stimulating with pictures, charts and graphs. A source that clearly explains content with brevity.  It would be great if this text asked students to explore a perspective about a historic issue.

Meet the Brown University Choices Program. The program comes in different units for American History, World History and Current Issues. Each unit provides readings and assessment questions. I prefer to have students work on these in class rather than at home. I like to make Expert Jigsaw groups and divide the reading into chunks for each group. Each group answers questions I make for their assigned section and then shares with other groups. The assessment questions in the Choices Program unit then provide a great exit assessment to ensure students understand the reading.

The readings themselves are great but what makes the Choices Program special is the simulations it provides. The simulation starts with reading for all students involved. Then students weigh four options for a critical situation in history. Groups are tasked with arguing for a specific option. Each group member receives a specific role. Students read the assigned reading for their group and present their option. You can have students conduct further research on the Internet. There is a fifth group that develops questions for the option groups, listens to their arguments and chooses one of the options.

I have used the Choices Program to have students evaluate colonists’ response to struggles with Great Britain, senate ratification of the Treaty of Versailles after World War I, JFK’s response to nuclear missiles in Cuba, the United States’ response to 9/11 and other interesting historical issues.  Engagement is increased because rather than simply memorizing facts, students are considering perspective and building an argument.

Debating historical issues can be very controversial. The Choices Program ensures students are never asked to take a stand that would be considered morally repugnant by today’s standards. For example, the Choices Program unit on the Civil Rights Movement goes in-depth about the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) and its struggle to be seated at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. The unit consciously avoids asking students to argue that the MFDP should not be seated.

The Choices Program supplements your text and provides in-class activities that teach students through role-play and perspective. Is there a catch? There is. Cost. The curriculum units are not free but the price is very manageable. A PDF version of a single unit is $30. I like to order the PDF versions so that the images in the unit print clearly. The units have great images. I have printed large versions of the images and captions in the Civil Rights unit for display in the classroom. I have used PTA grants, my school district’s curriculum funds and my own wallet to pay for units depending on what was most convenient at the time. Colleagues at my school have some printed units (available for $35) but I prefer the PDF so that the copy quality is better.

Free Choices Program Resources

If you want to try some Choices Program materials for free, there are some on their site for free. Give them a try: