A Sheet(y) View, Improved

“Oh my goodness, that’s awesome!” said a fellow Building Level Team member when viewing the spreadsheet created from a Google Form. He was genuinely excited and surprised to find out that the data collected from the survey was automatically organized. Our BLT wanted to view individual responses, but since the default settings in a sheet are not ideal for that task, I made a few quick changes to improve the clarity. Knowing how you can (and that you can!) do the following in sheets will make your eyes smile.

  1. Freeze Rows or Columns
  2. Adjust column width
  3. Wrap text
  4. Show Summary of Responses/Explore (Automatically created Charts and Graphs! So magical.)

Use playlist button to switch between videos.

Google Forms Advanced Video Playlist

For my snow day, I decided to finish up my video series on Google Forms. In the advanced playlist below, you can see how to add section titles, pictures, videos, and sections (which are actually different pages). You can learn how to make respondents jump to different sections (different pages of the form) depending on their answer to a multiple choice or drop down question. Finally, and most importantly, you can learn how to add collaborators. Two heads are better than one, right?

Remember, click the jump button  to jump to different sections.

And here’s a post on how to best view your data.


Up Your Vid Game with eduCanon

My friend and colleague Shaun Spence shared eduCanon with our staff at the beginning of this school year, and I was immediately excited about it. It’s a website where you can find and create “Video Bulbs”–videos with questions built in at particular times. Their tag-line is “Deeply engage learners and accountably measure understanding”.

Here’s a 3 minute Video Bulb of Kid President that you can watch to see the possibilities. With a free account, you can add multiple choice questions, free response, and reflective pauses. If you upgrade to a paid account at $89/year, you add in Check all that apply, Skip Segment, Website and Fill in blank. eduCanon question types

The free options are just fine for my purposes. I’ve used eduCanon to have some of my 2nd quarter students watch and think about a video called “Why You Need to Fail” by Derek Sivers. If you’re curious about that, you can check it out below. (In the first quarter, I had them watch that video and take notes using videonot.es. It shows a video on the left and has a time-stamped note-taking feature on the right. But when I found out about eduCanon, I thought it would work better for the assignment). 

As they watched and answered in eduCanon, I was able to use the Monitor tool to see their progress, and grade the extended responses. Multiple choice are graded automatically. As you can probably guess, green=correct, pink=incorrect, and grey=not finished yet. Orange means they answered, but I haven’t graded. The whole grading process took much less time than I expected, because I was able to focus on one question at a time, instead of grading one kid’s entire assignment. Plus, I didn’t have to wait for them to be done with the whole video. So, I finished grading everything just after the last kid finished answering! I also caught one girl who was skipping the extended responses by typing a space, and was able to redirect her to go back and change those non-answers. With a traditional grading system, I wouldn’t have been able to correct that issue as quickly.eduCanon Monitor

You can also reset the bulb for individual students, that way, they can try again if they do poorly the first time around, or if they just enjoyed it that much and want to re-watch and answer. I had a couple of students take this option, and I love that it fits in with what the video is trying to teach them.

Setting up my class lists was simple, because eduCanon and Google Classroom work well together. Other friendly entities include Schoology, Edmodo, Moodle, Blackboard and more. Students can use single sign-on with Google or Clever, or sign up with a class code. If none of those work for you, upload a spreadsheet roster instead.

One way to use this that I haven’t tried yet is to take one of my own videos (created with Screencastify) and eduCanon-ify it. The level of relevance of content created for my students in that way could be swoon-worthy! But remember, you can start slowly, by assigning Video Bulbs that are already created. There are some really wonderful bulbs out there.

I feel like this is one of those things where you might think, “Cool, I’ll have to look into that when I have time.” And I totally understand that feeling. But carve out even just 10 minutes to play around with eduCanon. It’s really fun! More importantly, it’s a way to get your students engaged with the content.



See New Changes

The past 7 days comprise my best week ever.

  1. I got engaged!
  2. I got asked to be an ignite speaker at NEOTIE!
  3. Google Docs added a See New Changes feature on the precise day when it was useful to me!

Although #3 is in dead last considering the excitement factor, it is still pretty sweet and also the most useful to you, so that’s what I’ll write about tonight.

Last week, I opened my students’ partially finished assignments through Google Classroom to give them feedback. The next day, when I opened those same assignments to check on their progress, I noticed this:

See new changes blue

And in a couple seconds it changed to this:

See new changes grey

I was intrigued so I clicked. There I found something similar to the See Revision History option that is in the File menu. The new changes that the student had made since I last viewed the document were clearly marked. All of the new words were denoted by green text, and green lines struck through what had been deleted. There were options to see the full history and a counter of how many edits had been made. This saved me a lot of time, because I could focus in on exactly what was different from the last time I’d evaluated their work. It also made me feel like I had superhuman memory. Some academics are worried about the long term effects of humans using computers like external memory banks, but there’s no way I could have memorized all the assignments like this.

changes history

Knowing that this feature is a part of my toolbox makes me more likely to spend time giving feedback on partially finished work because I know I can pick up where I left off in an instant.  This will benefit my students and enhance the learning process for them. I hope that you will be able to use this feature to be a better teacher for your students too.

And I very sincerely hope this week is as good for you as last week was for me.

Beast Mode Think-Pair-Share with Google Drawings

How often does every student in your class get to see and hear about every other student’s response to what they’ve learned? Sometimes? Rarely? Never?! With Google Drawings and Google Slides, achieving this beast mode version of Think Pair Share is simple.

The basic steps are:

  1. Let the learning happen
  2. Ss (students) combine images, shapes and text to create a graphic representation of what they learned, using Google Drawing
  3. Ss publish their work to the web
  4. Ss add a slide to the class slideshow, using Google Slides
  5. Ss insert the graphic
  6. Ss add their name and what they want to say in the notes section of the slide
  7. You project the final product, a slideshow constructed by the class, and invite each student to talk about their work.

There are tons of benefits for individual students. First, creating a mini infographic requires students to really engage with the content by selecting an important idea and finding a way to show that visually. For the presentation, since they plan and type out what they want to stay to the class, they can practice and feel less nervous about the moment they are asked to share about their slide. Because there is a giant visual being projected, it’s not an all-eyes-on-me situation, which is nerve-wracking for most students. It’s just an all-ears-on-me thing. (That is super awkward to picture literally. Imagine ears attracted to a person like magnets to a fridge. Ugh, sorry.) Knowing everyone is listening, while admiring their work, leaves a student feeling empowered and important. Give students a choice on how much the focus will be on them, by allowing them to stay in their seat and talk or get up in front of the room to speak. Either way, they will make a contribution to the class as a whole.

This type of activity definitely benefits the class-as-audience. They get a review of the content, and a different point of view, explanation or visual representation that helps them cement the idea. It is so rewarding for everyone involved to ask for students to give each other positive, specific feedback after each slide, too.

Please don’t use the excuse of “Well, I don’t know how to use that technology, and neither do my students.” Last week, my students had never heard of a Google Drawing either. I made this video to show them some basics, and they were off to the races.

The next video shows how to publish the drawing to the web, and then insert it into a slideshow. The majority of my students (ages 11-13) completed this assignment with little trouble. The ones who asked for help, just weren’t sure where to find the slideshow. Your students can do this! You can do this!

If you are using Google Classroom, follow these steps.

  1. Make a slideshow with 2 slides. A title slide, and a slide which includes your example graphic.
  2. Optional step: Start the Google Drawing for each kid by creating a blank Google Drawing (Same way you’d create a Google Doc, Sheet or Slide show)
  3. In Google Classroom, create an assignment that includes the Slides, set to “Students can edit file” and the optional Google Drawing, set to “Make a copy for each student”. You could also include the instructional YouTube videos.

    Here’s an AMAZING example of a Google Drawing, created by an 11 year old. Check out the eyes he used for o’s in look! There are at least 6 elements he selected to create this image. So cool. Please give your students the chance to create something awesome, share it with their peers, and maybe even a wider audience. I’d love to see what your kids create!

example slide made by student



Kaizena Voice Comments

There have been many times I have been evaluating my students’ work during my planning period and thought, “Ugh, I wish they were just sitting next to me right now so I could talk to them rather than typing out this comment.” An add-on for Google Docs called Kaizena allows for recording and receiving audio comments! I definitely plan on trying it this year.

In my newest video series, you can learn how to get Kaizena, how to leave a voice comment, and how to listen to a voice comment. The whole series is 299 seconds, or just shy of 5 minutes. Watch this instead of cat videos today!


The beautiful bullet

Organizing things (like similar puzzle pieces, office supplies, jewelry, etc.) is one of my favorite activities. Organizing thoughts definitely takes more effort, but is so worth the resulting clarity and conciseness. I find a thoroughly considered list to be a beautiful thing. Google Docs provides bullet and numbered lists for this purpose.

As a teacher, I’m responsible for helping my students learn to communicate their thoughts. Giving them the technical skills to create (and edit) such a structure through technology is appropriate for almost all ages. In the videos below, you’ll see how to create a lovely list, and be given a beginning-of-year assignment idea for teaching your students the tech skill. BONUS: Your model and their assignment helps you get to know each other and create rapport!

Once students are proficient with creating these hierarchical lists, you could use them for note-taking, pre-writing or assessment in any content area.

Colors and Comments: Providing Feedback for Students

Just as providing feedback to companies such as Google helps them improve their products, letting students know what they are doing well and what they need to work on is imperative for helping them learn. Two simple and effective methods for delivering feedback in the Google Drive environment are:

  1. Changing colors

Green and red are well known as basic signals for Yes and No. They are easy to spot for most people. (Although I did have a student last year who was colorblind, so I had to adjust for him!) If you have simple instructions on your assignments in Google Drive, you can just color each appropriately as you review a student’s work. Then when they check on it, they can see at a glance what they did right, and what they need to fix. Here’s an example:

To change the color of text, use this icon:


For pointing out and providing more detailed or complicated information, I use the comment feature in Google Documents. I find that the easiest way to do this is to select the text I want to comment on, and use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Alt+M.

Or try the Comments button or Comment icon .

The comment itself appears as a little side note. 

When the comment, or the highlighted selection of text that the comment belongs to is clicked, the yellow of the highlight gets brighter, and the comment pulls closer to the document and also grows a speech-bubble tail, so a student can see exactly which comments are paired to which selections.

If you use Google Classroom, you can check in on your students’ work any time, and let them know if they’re on the right track before the assignment is due. This level of access is only possible online! And it’s one of the many reasons I love EdTech.