My Maps: Set Default View

Recently I was leading a session on Google My Maps (#cuerockstar #rOxnard) when a question came up: Can you set the view in My Maps? I said, “No, I don’t think so.” Well, I was WRONG. You can set a default view!

It’s so easy, I can’t believe I never noticed. When you first open My Maps, after placing several pins on it, the view is something like the first image. That is unless you have a select few pins in the same area. It’s a zoomed out view of the earth.

set view 0Before we get to HOW to change the view, set the view to how you would like it to look when the Map is first loaded. Once the desired view is on the screen, click on the 3 dots to the right of the Map Title (#rOxnard1 in this case), a pop out window will then appear with options. One of them is to set the default view.

Set view 1Simply select ‘Set default view’ and you’re done! Now everytime this map is opened, it will look like this: set view 2

My Maps: Underutilized Tool in the Classroom

It’s no secret to anyone that knows me that I LOVE Google My Maps. Yes, there is a difference between Google Maps (the tool that tells you how to get from place to place) and Google My Maps (customizable maps).

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 4.34.45 PMGoogle My Maps is found in your Drive. It looks a lot like Google Maps, but as I’ve said, you can customize it. You can put points of interest, photos, directions, lines, shapes, customize the icons, etc. (a list of how to use the tools can be found on my YouTube Playlist).

When people hear about Google Maps (or My Maps), they automatically think it’s solely a geography thing. Teachers are no different. Yes, My Maps lends itself to geography and history quite easily, however, I have used it with Social Studies, ELA, and even Math!

In Social Studies, my students studies Pre-Columbian Peoples. I decided to split them into groups, create a Hyperdoc to find information and then use My Maps to record information. Their final Maps were placed on a Google Site. They created layers, drew shapes, recorded information, inserted pictures and videos, collaborated, learned, and shared.

In Math, students practiced fractions using My Maps. Yes, adding and subtracting fractions with both like and unlike denominators. In Math, there is practice using the measuring tool, comparing distances, it will even tell you perimeter and area of a shape.

In ELA, mimicking Jerome Burg’s Lit Trips, students can retell the story, learn about places, ideas, and the like that appear in the book. Next year, I would like to do this with Bud, Not Buddy, a book I have my 5th-graders read every year.

In another example, I created the HyperMap, same principle as Hyperdocs using My Maps. My students are required to learn about the 13 original colonies. In it, I created layers and gave the directions on the map. The students were then tasked with learning and recording the information (in groups).

If you are a fan of Hyperdocs, then this is a beautiful addition to your lessons. Think about how you can use Google My Maps in your classroom next year. Be sure to share your ideas in here and if you create something fun and exciting, share it on the Hyperdocs website!


#rOxnard Reflection

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 1.58.00 PMLast week I had the privilege of being a part of the #cuerockstar #rOxnard faculty. And what an amazing group they were! As tradition, we all had one minute to ‘sing for our supper’ also known as ‘Shred Session’. Yeah, that one-minute time limit? It meant nothing to me! In true RockStar fashion, I went a tad over. In all fairness, Mike Vollmert warned me that my time would soon be up. My response? “I don’t care,” and kept going. That was the first time I ever did that.

Day 1, I shared one of my passions: HyperMaps. Imagine creating a map (using Google My Maps – found in Google Drive) where students learn and the teacher is truly a facilitator. Or having students record their learning on maps. Combine My Maps with photos, websites, documents, etc and the possibilities are endless! I was inspired by the participants. Randi, had the brilliant idea to link a street view image in her map. She teaches her students about pyramids and was setting up a Hypermap that allows her students to experience the sites they learn about. I LOVE sharing the joy that is Hypermaps!

Day 2, for me, was all about green screens and the fun you can have with them! Check out my shred:


Lots of creating happened! Lots of problem-solving and collaborating. Participants were App Smashing in ways I had never thought of before! I learned so much from everyone this day. Check out this crazy creation by George Carganilla.

If you haven’t been to a CUE RockStar yet, there’s still time!

Google PhotoScan App

PhotoScanA while back Google came out with an App for us to ‘scan’ our photos – PhotoScan (Android and iOS). The reason I love this app is the ease of use. That and the fact that the quality is good and it the glare removal.

How many of us have old photos lying around? Personally, I have boxes upon boxes not to mention the dozen or so albums. I want to share them with my family, especially my dad, but scanning each photo takes to long. Then, if the photo is in an album, the gum from the album sticks to the photo. So when I try to remove the photo, it becomes damages. I could take photos of them all, but who has ever taken a great photo of a photo? So Google came up with this app. And bonus, I can save it to Google Photos!

This is a picture of my Grandpa Zig and me – it was clearly the 80’s. In case you’re wondering, we owned a butcher shop and it was taken there.

Koszorek's Butcher ShopTo scan this photo, it took me less than a minute. I have some abilities to turn the glare on and off, rotate the image, and adjust corners.

Once you download the app; open it.

Find a photo, or two, you’d like to scan and take a photo.

PhotoScan 1

Align the empty circle with each of the filled circles. The app will automatically take a photo.



Once a photo from each of the filled circles has been taken, the photo is ready. You can now rotate it if necessary and save it to your camera roll, Google Photos, or share with others.

The result (this would be my dad, looks a bit like Beaver from Leave It to Beaver):

519531482.510663 4




Mathematical Mindsets

Mathematical Mindsets book by Jo BoalerThis year, as a parting gift, my principal handed out this book to all returning and new staff members. We were invited to participate in a Summer Book Club. One in which we read, post thoughts, videos, questions, and ideas. This made me so happy! I had thought about buying the book earlier this year when my principal told me to hold off and that he was buying one for all of us. So for the last 2 weeks of school, I hounded him to let me take my copy. He wouldn’t give it to me until I signed out of my room. Tricky man! (NOTE: I NEVER ask to read a book. I have some reading disabilities that make ‘heavier’ readings difficult for me)

So a few of us have started the book and are making our notes/comments in the provided document; my principal created a shared doc in Google. I appreciate this way as I can read what others have written and get a general sense of what’s to come. The most recent chapter, Chapter 3, really caught my attention. In it, the author talks about how students view math vs. mathematicians view math. Students tend to view it as procedures, rules, and/or calculations. However, mathematicians tend to see it as creative, beautiful, and full of patterns. It was the sentiment that math is a study of patterns that made me take notice.

I have, for years, told my students that math was about patterns. That it was like a puzzle one needed to solve. I have always viewed math as a series of patterns and puzzles. I remember when I was in Kindergarten, a friend and I were talking. She was bragging how she could count to 100 while I could only count to 20. This irritated me. I wanted to count to 100 too. I remember going home and working this problem out in my room. Why I didn’t ask my mother is beyond me. But I was a stubborn kid (and for those of you who know me now, I’m still pretty stubborn). I remember looking at the numbers and ‘analyzing’ them. I thought, “If I can count to 20, then I can figure out how to count to 100.” And as I looked at the numbers, I saw a pattern. The numbers repeated. I began to realize that once the numbers in the one’s place (although I didn’t know place value at the time) were done, they started over again. And the numbers in the ten’s place began at 1, then went to 2 when all the numbers in the one’s place had been used. I had figured out the problem and went to school the next day bragging that I too, could count to 100.

Part of my success with math has come from A) a reading disability, so I gravitated towards math, and B) the fact that I was able to play and manipulate numbers on my own, okay and C) just being a plain old stubborn kid! We need to help students view math as patterns. We need to get over our own fear of math. We need to explore and allow conversations to happen in math. This is where the learning happens and a love of math will develop.

This is such a great book! Full of inspiration. I’m so glad we are reading it as a staff.

One final note: From grades 2 – 6 I was convinced I was going to grow up to be a mathematician. While that’s not my occupation, I’d say that I am one! We all are!

Create Your Own Workbooks?

Print Workbooks

Don’t make copies, print workbooks.

While scrolling through my Facebook feed, this image caught my attention. Yes, you read that right, “Don’t make copies, make workbooks. Get your curriculum professionally printed for less” This made me sad, depressed, and horrified.

Disclaimer: This is a local business and they do great, quality work. This is NOT against the printing company. They are doing what businesses do. They are not ‘in the business’ of education; that’s you and me.

So what’s wrong with this? Well for starters, a worksheet is a worksheet whether in a booklet form or not. Secondly, worksheets are boring and nicknames ‘shut up sheets’ for a reason. And since this whole thing called education is up to you and me, let’s make it better! Do you enjoy filling out paperwork? Yeah, me neither! So imagine how students feel. I know, your thinking, “But they need practice!” And I agree. But how about making it more engaging and interesting. For example, in 5th Grade, students need to find equivalent fractions. Now, I can either have them do DOK level 1 work via a worksheet – 3/6 = ?/2 OR have them manipulate fraction tiles to discover, and record, all the fractions that equal 1/2. Which would you rather do? Okay, so you might not have fraction tiles, right? But what if instead of printing worksheets, your district took that money and bought manipulatives? It’s all about where the district chooses to spend its money.

So while if I want something printed, I prefer going locally and will use this company. However, I implore schools to think differently. Let’s get away from worksheets and workbooks!

My Dad: Life-Long Learner

My dad will soon be celebrating his 66th birthday. He is a life-long learner. Within the past year, he ditched his flip phone for a ‘smartphone’. It was bad! He hated it at first then got to know it and like it. I hated that phone! He couldn’t send or receive photos with his plan, but he had voice typing. It was awful. So his texts became a decoding game I had to play. He enjoyed that aspect.

Then, came the most recent ‘smartphone’. Sooooo much better! His plan allowed him to voice text more accurately, send and receive photos, and best of all, it was Google based! Since purchasing the phone and 5 Gigs of data (monthly), he has downloaded countless apps, initiated a Google Hangout (although he has no idea how he did it), viewed a shared photo album (Google Photos) of Ireland I sent him, signed up for Uber (even though he won’t use it “I don’t get drunk at bars, what do I need it for?”), and countless other things I have no idea about, yet.

18268201_403501643363221_1980745947158834116_nMost recently I received a text telling me that he ‘enrolled’ in Instagram. Yes, he did this without knowing what it was, how it worked, or why he would even need/want it. Then, 24 hours later he decided that he didn’t have the ‘brain of a teenager’ and Instagram wasn’t for him. Ironically 72 hours after signing up, he was back to looking at my photos and liking a few.

All this got me thinking. How is it that a retired man just jumps into technology and yet so many teachers are still afraid or claim it’s not for them? Really, it’s not for my dad either, but that doesn’t stop him from trying. Clearly, my father has a growth mindset. And if I said as much to him, he’d look at me like I was crazy. But, he’s not afraid to try and fail. He’s not afraid to ask questions. He’s okay with playing around to see what happens – thus the Google Hangout that one day.

So my point to all this is; if a retired, soon to be 66-year-old, is unafraid of new technology, we can all try something new. And don’t worry, I’m headed back home this summer to teach him a bit more about his phone and set him straight on his email, which is Gmail.

Finally, because my dad inspires and amuses me, I started a Facebook Page, Texts From My Father. If you’d like to ‘follow’ him on Instagram he can be found @garynowakowski. We’re still working on his selfie taking skills. We can no longer see both arms holding the phone! So that’s progress!

Go forth and experiment, be unafraid, and play!