(Unofficial) #CUE17 Foodie Map

Last week a few thousand educators descended upon Palm Springs for the National CUE Conference. About a week before everyone was set to arrive, Brian Briggs made a comment about getting a crowdsource doc going listing food around the event. So between Brian, Tracy Walker, and myself, we thought it was a GREAT idea. Me, being a My Maps lover, decided to take it to the next level and create a crowdsourced foodie mapScreen Shot 2017-03-22 at 6.49.23 PM

As it had nearly 3,000 views, I’d say it as a hit. And it was something that was needed. When I created it, I pinned 1 restaurant. Looking at how many pins are on it, I’d say the crowdsource part was also a success.

In order to crowdsource it, I had to make sure that it was open for anyone to place a pin. Generally, I wouldn’t open a map up for anyone to place a pin, but this was necessary. And there were no problems. Everyone was respectful. There was even an early morning hike one day! I would have never known about that had it not been placed on the map. I will definitely try to do this again. I love it when things like this are embraced by the masses. What a great resource. Thanks Brian and Tracy for the idea.

Google Classroom For All

Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 6.35.50 PMOh. My. Goodness! I am so giddy, I can hardly contain myself. Google Classroom is open to everyone. Since Google rolled out Classroom (beta) in the summer of 2014, it has only been available to G Suite users (organizations): this included schools and non-profit organizations. Now, it is available on personal accounts.

One of the limitations of having it available to G Suite users was that you could only join a classroom if you had an account within the organization. Now that everyone has it, we can join each others’ classrooms. So why would a person want to create a classroom? Well, last summer a friend wanted to have book discussions and tried using another product. It just didn’t work very well. However, since Google Classroom has many features that educators and non-educators alike are familiar with, Classroom lends itself easily to book clubs. In addition, I was thinking of starting ‘how to’ tutorials that were more personalized. This will accomplish the task.

Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 6.36.16 PMSeriously, I’m so excited! Check it out. Go to Classroom.Google.com While you cannot currently set up or join a classroom, you can request early access. For more information on what Google Classroom can do check out my video series.

Plastic Times: In the Beginning

This year we have been focusing on Book Studies. We have read several great works of literature including Love That Dog and Bridge to Terabithia. Recently, we picked up another Newberry Award winner. After 16 pages most of us were having trouble ‘getting into’ the book. We weren’t even through the first chapter yet – it was 24 pages – when I stopped and asked the students what they thought. At first, they were reluctant to be completely honest. They said things like, ‘it’s okay’ and ‘eh’. So yeah, when I gave them my honest opinion, they opened up a bit more. I have difficulties with reading comprehension, which they all know about, and I simply told them that I was having trouble ‘getting into’ the book. Collectively, they all breathed a sigh of relief and opened up. In the end, we decided to put the book down – at least for now – and move on to something different.

This is where Plastic Times comes in. Last year my class wrote, directed, produced, and acted in their own movie. It was an empowering experience. Within the last year, A Tale Unfolds has expanded their resources and restructured their payment system. Essentially, they have a ‘suggested’ price but will accept what you are willing to pay. Yep, even if you want to pay nothing! Which is brilliant, since their generosity makes me want to pay the suggested price and not try to get a cheaper price. A Tale Unfolds has partnered with several quality organizations, including CNN, to create top quality lessons. Teachers, everything is included!

Anyway, after the book fail, I wanted my students to participate in something meaningful, fun, and most importantly, rigorous. So, I went onto A Tale Unfolds and was immediately drawn to Plastic Times.  This lesson incorporates research, forming opinions on facts, (high quality) writing, and PBL.

screen-shot-2017-02-25-at-5-26-25-pmFriday we started our new path. The first lesson has students reviewing five different pieces of ‘Evidence’ (all factual) and taking notes. They are investigative reporters learning about the impact of plastic on our environment, animals, and us. Then, they are to form an action plan. When each group received their ‘Evidence’ I don’t think they thought I would stick to the 4-minute timer. I printed one copy of each piece of evidence and so they had a certain amount of time to review and take notes before passing it along. After the first round, they got the message. They then watched a 14-minute video produced by CNN to further their knowledge on the subject. Honestly, I have never seen the students so engaged. They really wanted to get all the information provided and answer all the questions on the guiding worksheet. And that was only day 1! I can’t imagine what the rest of the three weeks will bring, but I’m excited to see where this takes us!

BreakoutEDU

Finally, today I held my first real BreakoutEDU of the year. I say ‘real’ because I had run Mini Math Breakouts earlier this year. They were a success, but I just didn’t have enough kits to pull off a full class Breakout (I now know it can be done with one kit and tickets).

screen-shot-2017-02-23-at-6-13-19-pmHoly Cow! It was a GREAT success. I mean, I knew it would be but it still blew my mind. A few weeks ago I sucked it up and purchased 4 more DIY kits. I had purchased one from the website a little over a year ago and was hesitant to buy more – I’m cheap! Anyhow, today I ran 5 simultaneous breakouts – Grammar Gurus.

The entire class was engaged. Each group had no more than 6 students. They all seemed to work well together. There were a few groups that I had to remind to communicate with one another, but honestly, they did great. In the end, no groups completed the task. A few came really close to opening the last lock.

The really fun part, for me, was watching the students work together, quietly, for 45 minutes. This is something they rarely do – especially lately. In the end, they begged to have more time. Even when I didn’t give them more time to finish the puzzles they asked if we could do it again, WHEN we could do it again, and suggested we do one every Thursday.

When was the last time your students failed a task and BEGGED to do it again, soon? Later screen-shot-2017-02-23-at-6-14-14-pmin the afternoon, I had another group of students in my classroom. They saw the locked boxes and asked what they were. I briefly explained what we did earlier and they asked when they were going to do one.

I’m so excited with the outcome that I will try to plan them more often. I already have one planned for Read Across America Day – Dr. Seuss’ Birthday. If you haven’t tried a Breakout, I highly suggest you do. You and your kids will love it.

Websites In Class

Websites are great places to collect and display student work. I have used them in Math so that student can document their learning through videos, photos, and examples. In addition to documenting their progress, when students are unsure of a concept they can refer to another student’s page for clarification.

More recently, I have used them to document learning in Social Science. Earlier in the year, we were learning about Pre-Columbian Settlements. Students documented their learning on Google Maps then placed them on a website.

webpage-1The beauty of doing this is that it allows for easier sharing with the outside world. It has been said, and is most certainly true, that when students know the public will see it they up their game. When my students think it’s just for me, they give me ‘okay’ work. It’s like pulling teeth to get top notch work from them. However, when I say that it will go on a website that will be shared on Twitter and Facebook, they are much more careful and meticulous in their work. Adding to that, I present. I tell them what I am presenting and when. Okay, sometimes I ‘say’ I’m presenting on a topic even when I’m not. I want the best work from them, I have no shame.

Here’s another example from my students. We recently started learning the reasons for the Revolutionary War. There are various tasks that they need to accomplish. Those final products are placed on a shared website.

webpage-2I have used this method of documentation and sharing in the classroom for over four years. I have never had a student abuse their editing rights. On the old Google Sites, I could give page level permissions for editing but never did. All students have always had full rights on the site. However, this year I have a student who has been known to maliciously edit shared documents (and when caught asks what ‘Revision History’ proves). So said student does not have editing rights. While this makes me sad and I wish I could have gotten through to the student that such behavior is inappropriate, I have decided to exclude him/her from editing until he/she proves themselves to be trustworthy. I figure once in four-plus years is a pretty good record.

Two of my favorite websites were student driven. One was for a ‘business’ where the students created keychains and bracelets to raise money for St. Jude Hospital. They had photos and order forms! The other was a tech tutorial website. A group of girls calling themselves The Techie Chicks created one tech tutorial each week during Genius Hour.

New Google Sites Part 11: Preview, Share, Publish

Finally, you have your site ready to launch, but first, you want to make sure it looks great to your viewer. Not a problem. Google allows you to preview your site. Check out what viewers with large screens, tablets, and even phones will see. Unlike the old Google Sites where there could be more than one owner, the New Google Sites allows for only one owner, but transfering ownership is still a snap!