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Failing Forward

acceptance email header

Wait, what? Yes, that’s right. I was accepted to the #TOR16 cohort of the Google for Education Innovation Academy. This is a huge deal, and even though it’s been nearly a week since I found out, I still feel kind of like this.

I wanted to share my story because much of the time, our students, especially the younger ones, believe that adults are successful in everything they do. They don’t realize the amount of effort that underlies success. That needs to change if we want them to learn to persevere and follow their dreams. It’s pretty tough to follow a dream without ever making a misstep, and we don’t want them to give up at the first complication that arises. When we fail, we need to learn from it and share what we learned. Fail forward and iterate, right? So here goes.

I first heard about the Innovator Academy (then Google Teacher Academy) a few years ago, and thought it sounded interesting. I applied to go to #GTAATL in 2014 and was rejected. They were probably right not to accept me, although I wasn’t happy about it at the time and didn’t really understand why. You didn’t have to submit a vision, but you did have to do a video that focused on how you were innovating. In hindsight, I can see that while my video was fun and creative, it didn’t really show anything specific about what I was doing or how I was doing it. It was too generalized.

I was hoping to reapply again soon, but I wasn’t able to go to Austin, TX, and the opportunity didn’t arise again for over a year. The next Academy was in Mountain View in early 2016. As soon as the program was announced, I went to work on my application. This time you had to have a vision. Mine was a podcast for teachers who needed help doing innovative things in their classrooms. I thought it was a good idea, my video and vision deck were good, the answers in my application weren’t bad, but I wasn’t chosen. Maybe they felt a podcast wasn’t innovative enough. Maybe they didn’t like my responses to the short answer questions. I don’t know.

I decided to implement my idea anyway, and began a podcast with my friend, Lisa Nowakowski, who is a Google Certified Innovator. We called it Tech. Learn. Coffee. (a play on our Twitter handles) or TLC.ninja (our supercool domain name) for short. We weren’t getting a lot of questions about how to do things, so we decided to start having guests on. We invited teachers who were doing innovative things in their classrooms but weren’t well known and whose work wasn’t being shared. It was great, and we saw a lot of room to expand.

In the meantime, the application period opened for the #COL16 cohort. I was nominated by a friend and decided to apply. I changed my vision, thinking that they hadn’t liked the first one, and made it be a website to connect teachers who were doing innovative work but weren’t sharing on social media. Again, I thought I did a decent job, but I wasn’t accepted. I was okay with it, and thought I probably wouldn’t apply again. After all, I had done a lot of work 3 different times and hadn’t gotten in.

Then I was nominated again, by a friend who is a Google Certified Innovator and a person I really, truly respect. I couldn’t let her down. I had to try again.

The Innovator Program conducted a Google Hangout for people interested in applying and I connected with someone from the #COL16 cohort through the back channel. She reviewed the short answers from the May (rejected) application and said that what I had was not bad but I needed to give much more specific answers and examples.

So I went back to the drawing board. I decided to return to my podcast vision, since it was really what I was most passionate about. Lisa and I had been doing it for a few months, and we both felt that there was a lot of room to grow. I wrote and rewrote and edited and refined my short answers (500 characters = 3.57 tweets; not a lot of space to work with) until I felt that they communicated exactly what I wanted and needed them to say. I redid the vision deck from my January application and made it much more focused. I created a new video: a trailer for the podcast including clips from some of the episodes. I submitted it, and crossed my fingers.

A week later, on September 6, I began refreshing my email every 5 minutes. I checked the #googleei hashtag on Twitter incessantly. Lots of great memes about waiting for a response, but nothing else. Until 5:05 p.m., when I got the email pictured above.

I am so excited to be heading to Toronto. Our cohort is already connecting and sharing, and I know we will do great things together. I’ll keep you posted.

P.S. If you are interested, here is the link to the playlist of all 4 of my application videos.

Where is doc?

Uploading attachments in new Google Sites

The new Google Sites are much easier to use than the old version, although they are still in a bare bones stage. Many of the teachers I support are using new Sites for their teacher websites.

One issue they have run into occurs when they want to add a file, usually a Word document (and they should be using Google Docs because we are a GAFE district, but I’m not going there now), to their website.

Here’s what typically happens. The teacher uploads the file from their computer to the site.

Word Doc Uploaded

They check in Preview mode and everything looks great.
Doc in preview

They publish their site and someone complains because they can’t see the document.

Where is doc?

This happens because, by default, uploaded documents are shared only with the editors of the site. They are not viewable by the general public. The file needs to be shared, just like something you add from Drive, but this isn’t immediately obvious.

Here’s the fix. Click on the document to select it. You will see the editing box appear; click the pop-out icon.

Pop out

Click the 3 dots (which always give you more options in the Googleverse) and choose Share.

3 Dots

Share the document either with Anyone with the link OR make it Public on the web. (You may have to click Advanced to see these options). Be sure to save your choice.

Anyone with the link

The document is now viewable by anyone with access to view the site.

Doc is viewable

TLC-logo.7

Custom logos: yet another reason to love Google Drawing

Anyone who knows me knows that I love Google Drawing. Partly, it’s because it makes me look like I know what I’m doing when it comes to creating art. In real life, drawing anything more elaborate than a stick figure is challenging to me. I know what I want my result to look like, but I seem to lack the essential brain – eye – hand connection to make it actually happen. Mostly, though, it’s because of how versatile Google Drawing is and how many things you can use it for.

My friend Lisa Nowakowski (aka @NowaTechie) recently reached out to me about doing a podcast for teachers about classroom innovation and I eagerly jumped on board. Supercool domain name of TLC.ninja in hand, we needed to have a logo to go with it. My first thought? Let’s create it in Google Drawing! We used shapes to make the whole thing, with the exception of my glasses and a text box. Here’s how we did it.

TLC.ninja logo with callouts

We started with a transparent canvas 1000 pixels square (File > Page setup > Custom). In the step-by-step tutorial below, I have outlined the shapes in green so you can see them better. In our logo, the outlines are transparent.

Step 1: Insert Shape > Rounded rectangle. Use the yellow handle to adjust the curvature. Did you know you could do that? Neither did I, until very recently.

Logo step 1
The yellow handle is available on many of the shapes in Google Drawing. Check it out!

Step 2: Duplicate and resize your original rounded rectangle to make arms and legs. Move them into position. Add 2 teardrops and stretch them a bit to create the knot at the top of the head.

Logo step 2
Just because it says “teardrop” doesn’t mean it has to be a teardrop.

Step 3: Use a chord to make the face. Adjust size and shape with corners and yellow handles. Fill with an appropriate skin tone.

Logo step 3
This shape has 2 yellow handles!

Step 4: Eyes. We used 3 circles/ovals to make them: colored iris, black pupil, white dot.

Logo step 4
These eyes aren’t creepy at all.

Step 5: Belt. 1 rounded rectangle and 2 Flowchart: Punched tapes.

Logo step 5
Because all ninjas need belts.

Step 6: Select all and duplicate to make the 2nd ninja. I moved it over and changed it slightly; the belt was reversed (Arrange > Rotate > Flip horizontally), the knot was moved, and the eye color was changed to match my baby blues.

Logo step 6
If one is good, two must be better.

Step 7: Add other details. I can’t draw anything freehand (see above), so instead of using shapes for my glasses, I downloaded a pair from Pixabay.com, a terrific place to find free, high quality, public domain images, and added them to the drawing.

Logo step 7
I couldn’t draw glasses.

Step 8: Give the logo a little character and depth. Place the shadow beneath the ninjas, and add in the tablet and the coffee cup. The shadow is a gray oval drawn over the top to get the right size, then moved behind the other items (Arrange > Order > Send to back). The coffee cup is a collection of trapezoids, while the tablet contains multiple shapes.

Logo step 8
The gray rectangle gets placed on top of the rounded rectangle and under the triangle to create the tablet.

Step 9: Add the text box. If you want to use the logo somewhere the transparent background could be a problem, either download your image as a .jpg or right-click on the background and change it to white or another solid color.

TLC.ninja logo
The final version with transparent outlines. If you would like to play with it, feel free to click here and make your own copy to see how it works.

Tech. Learn. Coffee. TLC.ninja

TLC.ninja logoI’m excited to announce the launch of TLC.ninja, a new podcast created by Lisa Nowakowski (aka NowaTechie) and yours truly. We will be discussing all forms of innovative teaching. Podcasts will be released on iTunes the first and third Wednesdays of every month. If you want to listen live, join us on Blab Mondays at 7 p.m. Pacific time. Episodes will be short, typically less than 15 minutes.

The focus of our podcast will be determined by the listeners. Contact us via the TLC.ninja website to let us know what your innovation questions and thoughts are. Do you know someone who should be a guest on our show? Let us know that, too.

Besides Blab, you can also find us on iTunes or Podomatic.

Instagram Template for … anyone, really

At the request of a teacher who wanted her 4th graders to create Instagram-style posts without actually going on Instagram, I created a Google Slides template for her to share with them so they could edit it. I was inspired by Ryan O’Donnell‘s post on Fictional Twitter Profiles to share it here.

Instagram Template coffeenancy.com

This template could have many classroom applications. The teacher who asked me for it wanted to have her students post as Levi Strauss after reading each chapter of Mr. Blue Jeans, the novel by M. Weidt about his life. She was originally going to use photos found online for each post, but instead decided to have the students draw their own images, photograph them, and upload them into Google Drive for use in the template. At the end of the novel, each student would have an Instagram type summary of the events of the book, hence the decision to make the template in Slides instead of Drawing, so the slides created by each student could be shown as slideshow.

Other possible classroom uses:

  • Post to show the same event from the point of view of different characters in a novel
  • “Historical” posts: Francis Scott Key posting a picture of a tattered flag with the first lines of The Star Spangled Banner
  • Animals posting pictures of places along their migratory paths
  • Mathematical formulas or theories posting pictures of ways to apply them

Having students use this template will help them think critically about their topic so they can demonstrate their understanding by sharing an image with just a few words. Allowing them to create usernames for themselves and those who liked the photo makes it engaging. They will also learn about the photo manipulation tools, which are the same in Slides as they are in Drawing, and how to use the view menu or magnifying glass to zoom in on the image, since some of the items they need to edit are a bit on the small side.

If you would like to use this template, click here to view it, then choose File > Make a copy.

find advanced search options

Updated Search in Google Drive

Google is so good at helping us search that its name has become a verb meaning “to search the internet for information.” Yet, until recently, it was often difficult to find things inside Google Drive unless you knew the exact title of the item or you were much better at putting your items into folders than I am.

Enter the updated search options in Google Drive to the rescue. They make it a snap to find any file or folder you need, whether you created it yesterday or a student shared it with you last year.

To search in Drive, begin by clicking in the Search box. You are immediately presented with a dropdown menu showing different types of files. You can click on one of these to restrict your search to that type of file before you begin typing the name of the file you are searching for.

Search options
Click on any of the options to restrict your search to that file type.

However, if you can’t find what you need, you can use more advanced options. Click on More search tools at the bottom of the dropdown or the little triangle at the top.

find advanced search options

This brings up a box where you can input as much information as you have to help you find what you are looking for. You can search by file type (with more choices than you have in the initial dropdown), date modified, owner (including a specific person), who the item has been shared with, and more. You can also combine information, so if you are looking for a Google Presentation on the French Revolution that was shared with you by a student last year, you can enter all those terms. Keep in mind that the item will have to match everything you include, so if you are not sure of something, for example, who the owner of the item is, leave it out. Happy searching!

 

advanced search options
Click any of the dropdowns to select an item
Example of search terms
Example of search terms you can use
screenshot

Alternative to the Subscribe to Post Button

Google Sites are a great tool for teachers and students. They can be student e-portfolios, collaborative writing sites, and much more. On the teacher side, they are a wonderful way to communicate information about your class to students and their families. If you create a page using the Announcements template, you communicate current news and information or homework assignments and keep the newest posts at the top. Families can subscribe to the page and get an email message whenever you update it.

The problem, though, is that the default “Subscribe to posts” button that appears on the page doesn’t work for all browsers and can’t be removed. The good news is that there is another Google tool, Feedburner, that gives people a way to subscribe to your updates. There are several steps, but it’s actually very easy to do.

  1. Log into your Google account. Create or go to the page on your website that visitors will subscribe to. Make sure you the page uses the Announcements page format. If you need to change the page format, click the gear menu in the upper right and go to Page Settings.
    screenshot
  2. Scroll down the page until you locate the orange “Subscribe to posts” button. This may not be visible until your site is public.
    screenshot
  3. Right click on the subscribe button (control + click on a Mac) and copy the subscription link. Depending on your browser, you might see different wording (Copy link location in Firefox, Copy link address in Google Chrome, Copy link in Safari).
    screenshot
  4. Open a new tab (File > New Tab or Command + t). Go to Feedburner. Because it is a Google service, you should already be signed in and see your email address in the upper right corner. Locate the box marked “Burn a feed right this instant.”
    screenshot
  5. Paste the URL you copied in step 3 into the box. DO NOT CLICK NEXT!
    screenshot
  6. Edit the URL. Change https to http. Now you can click Next.
    screenshot
  7. Give your feed a name. This is the title people will see in their email when they subscribe. Make it short but descriptive. Do not worry about changing the feed address. Click Next.
    screenshot
  8. At the bottom, click the tiny “Skip directly to feed management” link.
    screenshot
  9. On the screen that appears, click Publicize, then Email Subscriptions, then Activate.
    screenshot
  10. Scroll down the page and copy the email subscription code. Be sure to highlight all the code before copying.
    screenshot
  11. Return to the tab with your website. Click on the pencil icon to edit the page, then click on the HTML link at the upper right.
    screenshot
  12. Paste the code you copied in step 10 into the box, then click Update.
    screenshot
  13. Add any extra text you want to the page, then save your changes. For example, you may want to add something along the lines of: “Please be aware the Subscribe to posts link below does not work correctly for all browsers. To receive an email message when this page is updated, click the Subscribe to Class Announcements by Email link here:”
    screenshot
  14. Pat yourself on the back. You did it!