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.
They check in Preview mode and everything looks great.
They publish their site and someone complains because they can’t see the document.
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.
Click the 3 dots (which always give you more options in the Googleverse) and choose Share.
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.
The document is now viewable by anyone with access to view the site.
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.
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.
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.
Step 3: Use a chord to make the face. Adjust size and shape with corners and yellow handles. Fill with an appropriate skin tone.
Step 4: Eyes. We used 3 circles/ovals to make them: colored iris, black pupil, white dot.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have been playing with EdShelf, an online tool that helps teachers organize lists of apps and other resources they use into webmixes. It is free and so far has been easy to use. Basically, you create a collection (or more than one) and add the tools to it. Each tool is in the database with a brief video, reviews, and pricing info. One feature that is especially nice is that if you choose to print the list, it automatically adds QR codes to link to the website for each tool. You can embed your collections on websites to share with students, parents, and other educators.
Unfortunately, the embed code they provide doesn’t work well with Google sites. Google is pretty particular about what kind of embed codes they allow. There is a workaround, though. What you need to do is to insert the entire webpage into a frame on your Google site. Just follow these steps.
I have been using VideoNot.es, a web application that lets you watch YouTube videos and take notes side-by-side in a Google Doc. We all remember more of what we see, hear, and do than if we do any of those activities alone, so why not use VideoNot.es to have students interact with the material by watching the video and answering questions in a document as they go? Perhaps they still have questions after they have watched the video. They can share it with you so you know which concepts need to be addressed later. These are only two of the many possible applications of this tool.
Below is a video I made showing you how to use VideoNot.es. If you would like to try out the service for yourself, copy this url [http://youtu.be/8oC7kBDEGsQ], head over to VideoNot.es, and watch it there. (You will have to authorize the site to access your Google Drive before it will work.)
The Common Core standards emphasize the integration of digital media as early as kindergarten. Speaking and Listening Standard K.2 states that students will “Confirm understanding of a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media by asking and answering questions about key details and requesting clarification if something is not understood” (italics mine).
April is National Poetry Month, so what better way to address the listening standard than to hear poets read their own works aloud? At the Poets.org website, the Listening Booth allows you to do just that. Search over 400 audio clips of famous poems, most of which are read aloud by the poets themselves. Most of the poems are suited to students in the upper elementary grades and above, but the list is growing all the time, and I hope that more poems for younger children will be introduced soon.
To use this in the classroom, teachers could have students listen and then draw a representation of the poem. Students could read the poem first and then discuss how their impression of the poem changed after they heard it read aloud. Teachers could find other versions of the poem real aloud and students could discuss them. The possibilities are endless.
If you would like more ideas, take a look at this Teachbytes post on ten ways to celebrate National Poetry Month with technology.
Many people mistakenly believe that Twitter is a forum where people who have a lot of time to waste share what they had for breakfast and other equally shallow bits of information. In reality, it is so much more than that.
Twitter is perhaps the best and easiest way for teachers to expand their personal learning networks. You can search Twitter for any educational topic imaginable and find results you can use. Many tweets also include hashtags (the pound sign, or #, followed by a word or phrase) to categorize them. There are hundreds of hashtags related to education. Some examples are #edchat (anything about education), #elementary, #secondary, #edtech, #gtchat (gifted and talented education), #ellchat, and #spedchat. There are also many other, more specific hashtags that are sure to meet your needs.
Twitter helps you connect with educators around the country and around the world. You would never have the chance to meet many of these people in other ways, but on Twitter, you can find them, talk with them, follow their tweets, and benefit from their expertise. You can also join in and participate in weekly or monthly scheduled chats. I like #caedchat, which focuses on topics relevant to education in the state of California.
Twitter is an online resource, available when and where you need it. If you have been toying with the idea of trying something new in your classroom, you can go on Twitter, search for that topic, and come away with five new ideas in the space of five minutes. Have a question? Post a message, include an appropriate hashtag, and get input and answers right away. It is a place to get inspired, make new connections, and get new ideas.
Getting started is free and takes only a few minutes. Visit Twitter.com and find the area that says “New to Twitter? Sign Up.” Enter your name and email address, create a password, and you are off and running. Don’t worry about tweeting right away. Just commit to spending a few minutes a day looking for people to follow and reading their tweets.
The Common Core standards are coming, and with them will come new emphasis on writing, and especially on producing and publishing writing using digital tools from a very early age. In fact, English Language Arts Writing Standard 6 for kindergarten states, “With guidance and support from adults, explore a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.” The five paragraph essay is no longer the star of the student writing pantheon. Students will need to become accustomed to different types of writing produced for different, authentic audiences. Some student writing will be produced in ten minutes and some over the course of a week or more.
Here are two story starters that may help. Scholastic Story Starters generates creative writing prompts that allow students to practice using different voices and formats for different audiences. Students (or teachers) can select a genre and then spin to get a prompt. You can spin all four wheels at once or do one at a time until you get something you like. Need to practice vocabulary? Have your students write a to-do list so they can focus on using higher-level words. Are letter writing skills what you are looking for? One of the prompts has students writing a letter. You can also choose a grade level to produce simpler or more complicated prompts. Here are some that I generated:
Grade level K/1: Describe a pet for a silly elephant who swims in the ocean.
Grade 2: Write a one-paragraph newspaper article about a nervous parrot who wants to be invisible.
Grade 4-6: Write a birthday party invitation for a stubborn dentist who only looks at things through a microscope.
If you choose to write online, you may add a drawing and publish your work in one of four formats: notebook, letter, newspaper, or postcard. You can then print it or save it to iBooks, to Edmodo, or a number of other places. See Scholastic’s Teacher Guide to using this activity.
The Story Starter and The Story Starter, Jr. work similarly, however, they provide randomly generated complete sentences which would typically be used to begin a creative writing piece. The sentences are usually funny and will appeal to students. Here are the first few prompts I got:
The Story Starter:
The brilliant accountant polished the table near the submarine for the hunter.
The tired sock inspector rode the bicycle into the backyard to wake up the President.
The Story Starter, Jr. (more basic vocabulary and simpler, shorter sentences):
The pilot was digging in the sand in the desert.
The girl was carrying an envelope in the haunted house.