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.


DIY Chromebook Cart

We don’t have much money in our district, so creativity is required. This week, I rigged this ridiculousness up with a regular tripod, gallon freezer bag with hole cut in it, an aluminum tray and a bunch of rubber bands scavenged from the teacher’s lounge.


It’s now an iPad mini tripod, that will be used on Friday to record the spelling bee. I’m pretty proud of myself. This DIY item hasn’t been tested yet, but our Chromebook carts have.


We’ve had carts for teachers to sign out for a couple of years now, and since buying one outright costs over $1000, we improvised and saved money. I wasn’t involved in the original setup or purchase of the carts we have so I can’t say for sure how much, but looking at the cost of the materials used, it must be substantial. Through trial and error, and collaboration with colleagues, we’ve improved on the original concept, and have a solid design. The high school sent over 2 Chromebook carts for us to borrow, so I got them into shape–middle school style–the past couple of days. I have no before picture, but this is how I feel about it:

Before: before


It may not look like much, but it makes me happy, because it works!


If you need a lower cost cart too, first buy a rolling file cart. Overstock sells the model we’re using for $180.99. Safco-Scoot-Mobile-File-with-Locking-Top-466e045c-9a5b-44d6-994e-23bcc6820cde_600

We have a APC Back UPS 550 ($57 on Amazon) on the bottom shelf, along with 4 basic power strips. 81Ap6jVpkTL._SL1500_wp-1452111215833.jpg

Each Chromebook cord is plugged in to the strip, and then velcroed and/or zip tied to the sides and front. wp-1452111199851.jpg

If I were you, I’d just get 2 zip ties per charger and forget about the velcro backing. (It is sticky, time consuming, and unnecessary). Place a zip tie through the bottom row of holes to secure and provide a base. Then add another tie on the 2nd or 3rd row to hold the charger tightly against the cart. Roll up and velcro most of the slack on the cord.

Next get some Smead Tuff hanging folders. It’s worth paying more for the extra tough ones, because the metal bars are stronger, and will last longer than the regular folders.wp-1452111210938.jpg

Take out the quantity you need, and tape them together at the top. Before the redesign, we didn’t tape the folders, and kids would put Chromebooks between folders instead of inside. Then they’d slip underneath all the folders or be more difficult to charge. Eliminate the option. Place the taped folders inside the cart.

Finally, get medium sized binder clips, and clip each charger between the cylinder and charger head as shown below.wp-1452111186869.jpg

By clipping in this way, there will be no slack to get tangled (and subsequently untangled)! Ahh, I love that fact best.wp-1452111206462.jpg


Extreme understatement: Meetings can be improved

In a recent staff meeting, we were asked to sort ourselves into 4 basic orientations: action, emotion, details, or big picture. Our staff is a healthy mix of all 4, but my people are the let’s-get-going types. Make a plan, and immediately start taking steps to implement it. Sometimes my attitude makes me feel impatient, so, I volunteered to be the recorder for our District Leadership Team, or DLT. Another reason I wanted that position is because I already had some ideas on how to make our meetings efficient and collaborative. Char Shryock, Director of Curriculum and Instruction at Bay Village, had written an article on eAgendas in NEOTIE‘s first magazine that I read before our first meeting, and it has a lot of great advice.

If you feel that meetings can be run in a more efficient and collaborative way, here are some steps you can take to get on track. (If you do not feel that way, there is a 99.9% chance that you’re wrong. Fun fact: Another personality trait is not being 100% sure about anything).

  1. Set up (or have your IT people set up) an email group that includes all members. This enables easier communication. For example, for the DLT, there are around 20 people. I would never be able to remember all of them, and it would take too much time to type all of their email addresses in every time, even with the auto-finish feature on our Gmail. And continuing to reply all to the first email sent out to a group is messy. So, was born and has proven useful to many already.
  2. Set up a shared folder in Google Drive. You can share the folder through your new group email! Then, everyone can access and add documents as needed. Save the trees and stop making copies. Post it all in there.
  3. Put the Google Document agenda in that folder.
  4. Create a process for using the eAgenda. Ours is thiscollaborative agenda process Google Docs
  5. Share and follow the process

Some additional notes:

  • Having one document that includes all agendas (in reverse chronological order, so that the newest is at the top, and the oldest is available by scrolling) makes continuity easier to achieve. You won’t have to open 5 documents to see what you talked about the past few times.
  • Making the last column Next Steps, or Actionable Items, or Homework is a good way to make certain that the group (or part of it) has something to actually accomplish before the next meeting. Being action-oriented, coming out of meetings where there is no clear goal to achieve feels like a waste of time. Hardly anything frustrates me more than an all talk-no action situation. We all have a lot to do, so whiling away the hours in poorly run meetings is not what’s best for kids. On the other hand, a meeting in which important progress is made is well-worth the time. I highlight the Next Steps in our agenda. (See below).
  • Using the Email Collaborators option in Google Docs is an easy way to re-send the agenda as needed. A couple of days before and immediately after the meeting keeps everyone in the loop. It gives all members a chance to think about and comment on the agenda. This is where I remind people of the Next Steps.
  • Using the chat feature is something we haven’t tried yet. But, I want to bring it up soon as an option for back-channel chatter. Instead of side conversation between a few, a temporary chat log appears on the agenda so that people don’t forget what they want to bring up next, or counterpoints.
  • Adding hyperlinks is something I do as a recorder to make the agenda more useful. Again, instead of needing to find many documents, just opening the agenda gives access to all the relevant information. Here’s what our linked agenda looked like today. Cardinal DLT Agendas Google Docs

Please take any or all of the ideas presented here to make meetings more effective and collaborative. If this post has sparked more ideas, share them in the comments! There’s always room for improvement.

Let’s Hangout


Last Thursday, I did something that was a little nerve-wracking. Using Google Hangouts on Air, I broadcast an hour-long, professional development session on Google Docs to a group of teachers I’d never met before. For those of you who haven’t done a Google Hangout, it’s like Skype or Facetime, but in addition to the live audio/video component, there’s also a screenshare feature.

If you’d rather not read about my experience, and just want to know how you can use it, scroll down to the How You Can Use It section.

Since I was worried about seeming like a disembodied voice talking over a feed of my screen, I made sure to switch between the screenshare and myself fairly often. If I wasn’t actively showing information or how to do something, I set the Hangout to show my face. Another great feature of a Hangout is that when another participant starts talking, the feed switches to show them. So, when the principal was relaying a question from the audience, Hangouts automatically put the video of him as the focus.

One thing that was limiting was that I couldn’t feel out the crowd. They had set up the venue so that there were 2 big screens of me being projected, but all I could see was the wall and the principal. That could have been worked around by facing the laptop out toward the teachers, or by having 10 teachers join the Hangout on air as participants. (10 is the max). I relied on the principal to let me know about questions and how long the teachers needed for completing the practice activities.

Overall, the feedback has been positive. 100% of the respondents to my feedback survey said the pace was “Just right” and then there’s this:  VCS Learn Google Docs Communication PD   Google Forms


As you can see, there were only 6 people who responded to the feedback survey. This was disappointing, but also, very much my fault. I didn’t think to have the survey ready for immediately after the PD was over. If I had, they could have used the rest of the session time to complete it. Instead, I had the principal email it out for me a few hours later. Since the teachers were about to start their new school year, I can 1000% understand why checking this survey off the list was not a priority. Next time, I am going to make sure that the opportunity to give me feedback is immediately available.

After the session was complete, I stopped the Hangout broadcast and waited for it to upload to my YouTube channel. Once there, I added timestamps so that those teachers, and anyone else who wants to learn about using the communication features in Google Docs, can jump to the different sections without having to sit and watch the entire thing. Go watch it on YouTube if you want that ability to skip around.

I really love helping other teachers get a better handle on using technology to make their students’ learning experience better. This experience was very positive for me, and I think for the other school as well.

If you are thinking of doing a Google Hangout on Air, and want to practice, contact me! I’ll be happy to chat with you and help you figure out the controls. Before I did this PD, I asked for help from my friend Andreas, who graciously got me started with that first practice session at Panera.  I also “hungout” with the principal I was doing this for, at least 3 times. By then, I was comfortable, and I think you’d be too.

How You Can Use It

You could use Google’s Hangouts on Air to:

  • Broadcast your lessons. Direct absent students to your YouTube page to catch up.
  • Create instructional videos
  • Have students record themselves
    • reading original stories
    • acting out a skit
    • explaining their thought process

If you don’t need the recording, and just want the live conversation or screensharing, just use a regular Hangout to:

  • Check in with another teacher during the day when you can’t leave your classroom
  • Talk with a colleague in another building
  • Have an absent student participate during class time, from home
  • Have a busy, or geographically distant parent attend a meeting
  • Connect with people all over

How will you use Hangouts this year to enhance what you’re doing as an educator?

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!


Taming a Monster Doc with Bookmarks and Footnote Hyperlinks

In a previous post on instantly creating a Table of Contents, I promised to tell you about an additional feature on Google Docs that would increase the ease of navigating a VLD (Very Long Document). By using a bookmark, along with a hyperlink in the footer of your document, you create the option for readers to jump back to the top with one click (instead of excessive scrolling!). Once you learn the 2 basic skills, you’ll be able to use those to make any document more connected. Those connections can stay within the doc itself, or you could hyperlink to any URL (website address) of your choosing.

Skill 1: Bookmark

Making a bookmark in your document is like placing a bookmark in a book. It allows you to get back to that spot more quickly and easily. So, if you have a Table of Contents, you probably want to be able to hop to it, right?

  1. Click and drag over the text Table of Contents to select it.
  2. Then, click the Insert menu, and Bookmark.Insert>Bookmark
  3. You’ll know you’ve done it right when this cute blue bookmark shows up. blue bookmark

Skill 2: Hyperlink in the Footer

Anything you type in the Footer of a document will show up on the bottom of every page. This is a perfect place for inserting a hyperlink to the bookmark you’ve just created.

  1. Click the Insert menu, then Footer.                             Insert>Footer
  2. In the Footer, type something like Return to Top.

    Footer that says Return to Top
    You also have the option to have a different first page, in case you don’t want the Footer included on page 1.
  3. Click and drag to select the words Return to Top, and then make it a hyperlink. There are 3 ways to do this.
    1. Use the keyboard shortcut: CTRL + K
    2. Use the Link Icon Link Icon
    3. Use the Insert Menu>Link
  4. Then you’ll get this box. Click on Bookmarks>Table of Contents, and Apply.Hyperlink options
  5. Your words hyperlink   turn blue and underlined to show that the hyperlink is there. Now you can click there to jump up to the bookmarked Table of Contents. And, since you put that link in the Footer, it will automatically be added at the bottom of ALL of your pages.

Using a Table of Contents, along with bookmarks, and a hyperlink in the footer, makes your VLD more user friendly and interactive.

Teacher Ideas:

Teach your students these skills, and have them create a clickable textbook together. They can make hyperlinks within the document, and hyperlinks out to additional resources, as well as practice writing headings that will make their Table of Contents helpful to outsiders. Then, they can publish their work and share it with a worldwide audience.


Collaborative Commentary

Last post, I wrote a bit about how commenting is a good way to provide feedback in Google Drive. What I’m about to tell you, is going to make commenting even more appealing. Skeptical? I respect that, and urge you to read on.

In a comment, using the + or @ symbol in front of a collaborator’s email address automatically sends the comment to that person’s inbox! Instant notification. They get the comment, as well as a link to the doc. They can reply to the email to comment back, or open the document and complete the process that way.

Here’s how you can use this tip:

  1. When commenting on a student’s work, after their final submission. Normally, students turn things in, and don’t look at them again unless you specifically ask them to. Using the + or @ symbol in front of their email calls attention to the completed assignment and your feedback.
  2. When working with a group of people on the same document, and only some people need to attend to your comment. It lets others know they can skip that part.
  3. Commenting to yourself, as a reminder to look at something again later.  I simply can’t remember all the things I need to do, so I create protocols* to alleviate that issue. I can comment to myself with when working on something I’ll need to get back to.

Here’s how to do it:

In a comment, type a + or @ and (no spaces) start typing a person’s email.

Google Classroom Standard Useage   Google Docs


Your contact list will populate. Choose the person and finish writing your comment to them. After you click Comment, it sends the email to them!

Google Classroom Standard Useage   Google Docs comment


Here’s an example of what the comment notification email looks like.

Google Classroom ...   What kinds of information would be go...   giovanna.orlando   Cardinal Local School District Mail

One important note, using the + or @ commenting only works with people who are already Sharing that document. To make sure that a person you are mentioning in a comment is a collaborator, click the Share button in the upper right corner and then the Advanced option. Then you can see the entire list.

  1.  share button
  2. advanced

I hope this makes your life a little easier.



*For example: I tell my students that they need to email me to remind me to re-grade their re-do work (I allow kids to re-do any assignment that they get a D or an F on, to encourage them to keep working at things they aren’t good at yet) because I know that if they just tell me verbally (oftentimes when I’m in the middle of taking attendance or some other task taking half of my attention), it will be long gone from my mind by the time my planning period rolls around.