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



Google Classroom Updates August 2015

There was another first day of school for me yesterday (best first day ever, so smooth!), and open house in the evening. August 25 was also the date of Google Classroom’s latest updates. In case you, like me, were too busy to check those out right away, here’s a video tour of the newest features. It’s only 3 minutes long, so maybe you can squeeze it in between bells. 🙂

Google Classroom: Getting Started

Thinking about using Google Classroom this year? Do it! It’s really easy and versatile. If you want to learn more, and you’re lucky enough to have already registered, you can come see me present this Friday at the SPARCC Education Conference. But, if you’re unable to make it, you can watch this video series instead.

Go ahead and contact me if you need any more help setting up your Google Classroom!

Google Classroom and Drive: Digital Cleanup

Last week, I cleaned up and packed away the physical space of my classroom. Now all that’s left to do is neaten the digital side. For me, that means taking care of Google Classroom and Google Drive.

The first, and easiest, job is to archive my Google Classrooms. Archiving takes your classrooms out of your Home and puts them away in an Archived folder. Once a class is Archived, “You and your students won’t be able to make changes. You can view this class in “Archived Classes” in the Classroom menu and can find all class files in Drive.” But, if you change your mind, you can Restore the class.

Here’s how to Archive:

I also suggest taking time to delete or organize Google Drive items. Using the Shift to select multiple in a list, or Ctrl to select nonconsecutive items can speed up the deleting process.

Creating folders, and using drag and drop is a quick way to put everything in its place.

For all you super organizers out there, here are a couple of bonus tips! Star items, and color code your folders.

Happy Summer!

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.

The importance of being earnest with feedback: Google Classroom

  1. Giving feedback is a crucial part of the learning and growing process
  2. Complaining about something in the right way can produce results!

All teachers know #1 to be true. Some could use a little feedback on how to improve with #2.

I’ve been using Google Classroom since it started in August 2014. As with any new program, after getting used to it, I started longing for more. Fortunately, there is a way to ask for it! The feature I sought was the ability to create an assignment or announcement ahead of time, and hide it until the day of the lesson. I (along with probably thousands of others) asked, and received. Drafting came out last week! Here’s how you can go about getting what you want out of Google Classroom.

Getting this email was so great! I hope you get one too.

On the next post, I’ll be writing about providing feedback to students.

New and Improved! Google Classroom Updates

I’ve almost completely eliminated paper in my classroom by using Google Classroom to electronically deliver content and collect student work. This morning I was excited to find some new updates that I’ve been waiting for!

Now, you can invite other teachers to be co-teachers of your Google Classroom. I’ve invited the intervention specialists so that they can more easily access our students’ work.

First, go into the About section of your Google Classroom, and then click Invite Teacher.

Search for the teacher, select, and click Next.

Invite them! Notice that they can now do everything except for delete the class.

The other change, which I’ve wanted since day 1, is to save a draft of an announcement or assignment. In the past, all posts had to go live immediately. Now we can create a draft, and then post it at just the right moment. One way Google could improve this even further would be to allow teachers to schedule a date and time for the draft to appear.