Tuesday, December 20, 2016

This one time, at band camp...

Dress-up dinner at Camp Winters, only a few feet from and
2 years before my magical "ah ha!" moment. August 2006
No really, this one time, at band camp I had my “I need to be a teacher” epiphany. As a biology major in college, I was naturally following the pre-med path. I always knew I loved teaching, but it wasn’t until August 2008 and my annual adventure up to Camp Winthers Music Camp in Soda Springs, CA when I realized teaching was my life direction. I distinctly remember leading a flute section rehearsal near the campfire pit, making eye contact with the head counselor, and immediately knowing I had better become a teacher. It was a magical moment.

Four years of high school band, ten band classes, private flute and piano lessons, a zillion hours practicing, and two band teachers taught me many essential life lessons that directly apply to teaching. I spent a year in Concert Band, three years in Honors Concert Band, two years in Jazz Workshop (one of four jazz bands!), two years TA-ing zero period, and one year in Small Ensemble (think Genius Hour class for band nerds!).  The human being and teacher I am today is directly influenced by Mr. Faniani and Mr. Murray, our two incredible band directors.

“You never have a second chance to make a first impression”
Whether it’s a firm handshake and eye contact, hitting the downbeat, or welcoming students on the first day of school, it’s essential to be the best version of yourself at any given time. Backing up this first impression requires hard work, practice, and confidence (fake it ‘til you make it, if necessary). In my AVID classes, we discuss what makes a good handshake, and students practice correctly and incorrectly with their classmates until they feel comfortable shaking hands and introducing themselves. When they’re finished, I send them on a scavenger hunt to shake hands with their teachers and at least one administrator. Then, they put these handshakes into practice when they show up for their mock job interview! They constantly cite the confidence they've gained in AVID as an essential part of their middle school experience.
First year as a counselor, August 2005. These babies are now
graduated from college and doing amazing things!
“Perfect practice makes perfect”
Why do something only half-good? In music, this simply means grabbing a metronome, slowing way down, and gradually working up to tempo. When you make a mistake, keep your head up and recover quickly. In teaching, I try to focus on getting better at a few things at a time. Lessons never ever go perfectly, but the habits of mind of reflecting on our work are essential to growing ourselves as teachers and learners. There are so many great practices, lesson ideas, projects, and methods discussed on Twitter every day; if we get bogged down in trying to do them all, we will fail miserably. I am intentional about my opportunities for reflection: I blog occasionally, talk to a few trusted colleagues and friends daily (Voxer is great for this), and talk to myself using voice memos on my phone.

Annual Playathon fundraiser, honored for my 2 years as the
student chair. November 2006. 
Sometimes you have to stand up and dance!
Every year, Mr. Faniani told us a story about a time he was recording a percussion track, and kept hitting his part too early or too late. Once he stood up and started dancing, he nailed it. Obviously, this story is way more entertaining with Mr. Faniani acting it out for us, but you get the picture. This story has stuck with me because it’s so easy to sit in our comfy chair and play it safe, when really we must stand up, be bold, and take risks.

Both teaching and playing music take years of practice and hard work, moments of complete frustration, and an unparalleled joy when sharing our passion with others. And, both are entirely worth it!
Band tour in Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai China, June 2006.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Engineering Beyond the Engineering Challenge

[This post was originally featured on Kids Discover on August 31, 2016]

Walk into my classroom in early August, and you’ll see students with their heads together, excitedly discussing their marble boat designs. There is chaos, but students are moving about the room purposefully between their desks, seeking out my feedback, and to the counters to test their models. 

Engineering Design Process
Three years ago, our school district adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, and we shifted not only the what we taught, but also how we approached our lessons. Previously, we addressed engineering as a one-shot challenge, where students were given a creation prompt, a time limit, and some materials. Typically I used a mystery building challenge, such as: “build the tallest tower you can from the materials in this bag in 20 minutes.” I knew that there was more to engineering than these quick building competitions, but I had no idea how to actually implement that into my classroom. When I heard about engineering-related projects other teachers were doing, they used coding, 3D printers, and robotics; even though I’m a techy teacher, this intimidated me. 

Last spring, my students and I participated in an engineering design field trial through the Lawrence Hall of Science where students were presented with a design challenge, had design constraints, and created and tested prototype models. After this experience, I felt more comfortable facilitating engineering into my science class. Engineering can easily be implemented by providing students with a problem or challenge, giving them design constraints (certain materials, budget, and/or size or appearance guidelines), and designating time for students to design, build, test, and redesign. 

So far this school year, we have done two different engineering design labs. 

Marble Boat Engineering
Testing marble boat designs
The marble boat engineering lab fit in less than our 100 minute block period, and was highly engaging for my students. I have done a similar activity with my students in the past as a one-shot design competition using pennies--this time I didn’t have enough pennies, so we switched to marbles. 

To prepare our lab stations, I set up bins and buckets with water and containers of marbles. After I introduced students to the lab and expectations (Mix 7th graders and water, some guidelines are necessary!), I asked them work in pairs to draw their first design in the “design & build” section. Once they showed me their drawing, I gave them a piece square of aluminum foil--any size works, as long as you stay consistent within the class period. 

Revising and retesting designs
Students went to test their design, and recorded how many marbles their boat held. When pairs returned to their seats, they filled out the “test” and “reflect” sections for their first design, and moved on to their next “design & build.” This design and build, test, and reflect process was repeated three times. Afterward, students completed their analysis questions to justify their most successful design. 


Once we finished the lab, we had a lively class discussion on what skills they used while completing the engineering design process. Eventually and with guidance, students came up with the following skills: ask questions, research, imagine solutions, build and test a model, and revise model. We discussed how engineering is not linear, and requires students to constantly think and reflect on what is working and what can be improved. 

One great thing about this lab is that I brought it to our moderate/severe special education class on my prep period. I was able to complete the lab in small groups with this group of students plus a few instructional aides. With the more verbal students in the class, we were able to have conversations about making changes to designs and what worked and what didn’t. For others, the act of counting marbles together was a valuable skill.

Paper Airplane Engineering
Testing paper airplane designs outside
After the marble boat engineering lab, I introduced my students to a larger project, the paper airplane engineering lab. This project took a week, two 100-minute block periods plus a Friday minimum day. In previous years, I’ve used a variation of this lab to teach the scientific method, independent and dependent variables, and data collection. My science team and I modified this lab to focus on engineering. Just like the marble boats, students designed, built, tested, and reflected on three different paper airplane models. Their goal was to create a paper airplane that flew both straight and far. 

To set up this lab for testing outside, I recruited students to draw landing strips, 1 meter wide and 20 meters long, in chalk on the concrete. With meter sticks, we marked off each meter along the landing strip. 
Collecting paper airplane data

When we went outside to test paper airplanes, students noted if their paper airplane flew straight and landed in the landing zone, and estimated how far their paper airplane went, down to the half meter (quarter meter for students who felt comfortable with that). Even though this is less accurate, we prioritized focusing on engineering practices over measurement skills--we will spiral back to measurement multiple times this school year, and exact measurements were not detrimental to our lab. For students who are ready, finding exact measurements and calculating the average distance would have been a logical extension. 


This school year, as my students and I get more comfortable with the engineering design process, we will be able to expand the scope of our projects. We have a good foundation for what engineering looks like on a small scale. Our next steps are to bring in an engineer as a guest speaker to talk about their career, and continue with more engineering projects that fit in with our curriculum.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Interactive Notebooks in Science Class

[This blog post was originally posted to Kids Discover on August, 3, 2016]

Technology is an incredible tool the enhance and extend student learning. As we move more and more towards one-to-one technology classrooms, we need to keep what is best for students in the forefront of our minds. Sometimes, an analog model works best for student learning, and we must set aside the devices for a while. In my seventh grade science classroom, I do just that with our interactive science notebooks.

I follow a fairly strict interactive notebook format, where the right side page is the input and the left side page is the output. This is based on brain lateralization, where the left side of the brain focuses on being analytical, and the right side of the brain focuses on creativity (remember, each side of our brain controls the opposite side of the body). We always do the right side, then the left side; this takes a while for students to get the hang of, but eventually it becomes routine.

Brain Lateralization diagram

We set up our notebooks together in the first two weeks of school, once schedules are settled and students are comfortable in my class. I require students to have a single subject 8.5” x 11” or 9” x 11” notebook, which is enough for our entire school year. On notebook set-up day, we number each page front and back starting with the first right side page as page one. It is extremely important that students number their pages correctly--this saves a lot of trouble and stress for both the student and the teacher later on. Then, I provide students with handouts and a list of what will go in their notebook. This includes general information about our class, bathroom passes (I give them six per semester, and I do not offer extra credit for leftover bathroom passes), templates for writing claim-evidence-reasoning in science, and a summary of notebook expectations. I have created some interactive science notebook templates. Feel free to customize to meet your needs.


At the end of each unit, students complete their unit title page, self-check, individual reflection, and parent reflection. This allows them to identify their best work, areas of growth, and progress they’d like to make. We check notebooks in class with trade-and-grade, which saves me time. I’m always walking around to double check grading, and I randomly spot check notebooks in each class. 


Example left side page, illustrations for
different types of measurement
In our science class, we are on a 100 minute block schedule. I almost always follow the same class format: warm-up, right side input, left side output, activity, closure. The routine helps students know exactly what to expect each day, and there is plenty of room for creativity and excitement.

Our right side pages are input, and can be information from direct instruction, short flipped video lessons completed for homework, videos (Bill Nye and Magic School Bus are our favorites), or station work. These are done in Cornell Note format. I provide my students with cloze Cornell Notes to make the input part as quick as possible. Slowly throughout the year, as they learn to write faster and more efficiently, I have them take on more and more of the note-taking process.

Right side example, reading & annotating
an article




After we’ve completed the right side together, I provide instructions for students to complete the left side of their notebook. This is always a creative activity that includes plenty of color and open-ended prompts. Activities include: quickwrites and quickdraws, creating cartoons, T-charts and Venn diagrams, and labeled diagrams.

With the exception of video notes or graphic organizer, the right side page typically takes no more than ten to fifteen minutes. We usually allow for twenty to thirty minutes for the left side page, and occasionally longer for a more detailed assignment. The entire right-left cycle can be completed in under an hour, including a warm-up and organizing notebooks for the day. This leaves the last hour for the activity, which may be a lab, game, stations work, or project, that directly implements what was learned in the right-left cycle (or a few right-left cycles). With labs in science, it is easy to adjust lab handouts into a right (procedures and pre-work) and left (data and analysis) format.


Left & right side pages together. Cornell Notes on the right,
foldable on the left. 
My students absolutely love their science notebooks, and always smile at the end of the year when they flip back through to see how much they’ve grown throughout the year. This year, I am lucky that my whole department is on board with interactive notebooks in science!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Hamilton: An American Education

Context: I teach 7th grade science, and history is my least favorite subject. My background knowledge is lacking in both US and world history, unless it directly pertains to science. I had incredible history teachers in middle school, and sub-par history teachers in high school. In so many ways, the teacher makes the subject come alive!

Last week, I was chatting with one of our amazing US History teachers, Daniel Garcia. I asked him what they were teaching. Turns out, they were learning about Hamilton v Jefferson. Did you just say...Hamilton?! Ok, I’m interested. Why? Because Hamilton, duh. 


Mr. Garcia going over the day's objective.
They were analyzing primary and secondary source documents from both Jefferson and Hamilton, and discussing the merits and faults. I ended up in Mr. Garcia’s class for most of period 2 on Tuesday, and the end of period 4 and beginning of period 6 on Thursday. On Tuesday, they listened to the intro song, Alexander Hamilton, and analyzed Hamilton’s background (tangent conversation, what do you notice about the actors?). On Thursday, they listened to Cabinet Battle #1 and Cabinet Battle #2. If the kids weren’t interested in Hamilton after Tuesday, they were begging for more after these 2 songs!

At one point during 4th period, I usurped power from Mr. Garcia to ask the kids “How do you think the Jefferson v Hamilton battle would have been different if it were via social media? And what are their hashtags?” That got them exciting and talking!

Ok, so Hamilton is exciting and popular. Awesome. Wow. But so what?

I’ve seen many of our usually disengaged students perk up with Hamilton. They love the lyrics, the hip hop, the angst, and that this is something cool outside of school. I stood in line outside Mr. Garcia’s class (ok, so really, it started as a game of “how long can I blend in before he notices”) and had a great conversation about women’s rights and the 2016 election with some of my former students.

For other students, using music to learn instantly makes learning come alive. On Friday, I did a circle with my 0 period AVID 8th graders to discuss using music in class. I started the period with 3 warm-up questions, (1) Make a hashtag for Jefferson, (2) Make a hashtag for Hamilton, and (3) Were you in the room where it happened? #3 got them super confused and curious. Only one student in my class understood the reference, and was cracking up. Everyone else kept asking “Ms. V, what does #3 mean?” I asked them to get in their circle, and before I threw out the question, they were already in a heated debate about Hamilton v Jefferson. For 15 minutes, they continued an intense conversation about the two and their ideas, using evidence from what they learned in history. Mind you, this was 7:30am.



Cabinet Battle #1 with US History

Finally, the conversation died down, and we moved on to discuss how Hamilton and other music fuels their interest in a topic. Overall, they agreed that authentic music experiences help them learn (such as Hamilton, Flocabulary, etc.).

For me, music and musicals are an instant hook. Cats was my broadway musical gateway drug in 4th grade. My dad and I read Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats together when I was on a poetry kick, then watched the musical. I moved on to Les Mis, Hairspray, and Rent. For all of these, I took time to research the issues and people behind the musicals.


I love that my students have found something relevant to ignite their passion for learning!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Student-Created Breakout EDU Games

I ran my first BreakoutEDU game with my 7th grade science students last February. It was an incredible experience for my students and me; even though they didn’t break out, we had a great debrief and were able to critically look at the skills needed for perseverance and problem solving.

In March, Justin Birckbichler and I started building digital versions of the breakouts, which ended up being quite the project. We found that many teachers struggle with the productive struggle just as much as our students, and we put great value on teachers modeling the critical thinking process alongside their students. In order to ensure more flexible and resilient adults in the future, we must explicitly teach and model these skills for our students. 
Double checking math clues.

Fast forward to now, my 8th grade AVID students just finished creating their own Breakout EDU games! They used what they learned in their career research project within their game. It was a very challenging process for both myself and my students--just like when I facilitate games, I did not step in to help them more than absolutely necessary. In other words, I allowed some of their clues to fail. Why? That’s where the learning takes place! 

Using emoji rebus to create a riddle
The setup
My students had already played a few physical and digital games, and were familiar with the skills needed to successfully play Breakout EDU games. They were excited about creating their own games, and we talked about what elements make a successful game (story hook, interesting topics, clues that are not too hard but not too easy), then they launched into their game building.



Brainstorming clues based on
available locks
Our creation process: 
1. I randomly divided students into groups of 4 or 5.
2. Students wrote their story in their group’s shared planning Doc (before they received their locks)
3. I gave each group a basket with 4-5 locks. Students decided who would create the clue for each lock.
4. Students created their clues on shared Slides.

5. I programmed all the locks and printed the clues.

Playing the games
I programmed the locks ahead of time based on students’ planning docs, and had each set of locks separated and ready to go.

Each team facilitated their own game. I had them fill out a reflection graphic organizer as their peers played their game. This served two purposes: it kept the facilitators busy so they didn’t become too vocal and it allowed students to reflect on the process of designing and facilitating their own game.

It was incredible to step back and watch my students play and facilitate their own groups. Some students tried to ask me about specific clues during the game, and I directed them to ask the game creators. It did not go perfectly, and some of the clues were confusing, but that’s all part of the learning process! 


Finding area of an shape to solve a clue
"I think I have it!"

One group particularly struggled with designing their game. They lacked teamwork and cohesion, and it showed in their final product. While playing, they realized that one of their clues made no sense to their participants: it was a math problem, but the resulting code was random numbers from that math problem. It was SO hard for me to not jump in and rework their clue to make sense. I had them go outside to discuss how they could change their clue on the fly, then come back in and give the participants a hint. They had to go back outside multiple times before they had a solution. The whole process took over 10 minutes, and many failed attempts of guiding questions from the facilitators to their peers. It stretched their brains, but it also taught my students how to think on their feet. 

The debrief
We had great discussions after playing the games. Students shared what they found was successful, challenging, and what they learned about themselves in the process. We focused on the positives and constructive feedback, and how we can learn from this.

Additionally, we used our school’s character qualities, the Vikings' Code, to write blog posts on our experiences:
Use at least 3 characteristics from the Vikings’ Code to answer the following questions. Remember to use specific examples in your writing!
- Describe your experience designing your own Breakout EDU game.
- Describe your experience facilitating the game you created.
- Describe your experience playing your peers’ games.

Filling out facilitator feedback graphic organizer
while peers play.




What we learned
If I had a dollar for every time a student said “Ms. V, this is hard!” during the game creation process, I’d be rich! I knew this process would be tough, but I didn’t anticipate how much we would all learn. The formal and informal debrief conversations brought out many great ideas and learning opportunities.
- My students wished they had a chance to test out their games before their peers played. In the future, we will build in a peer review process within the game design.
- Students quickly realized that creating critical thinking opportunities is significantly more difficult than critically thinking itself. 

- As hard as it is to step back as a game facilitator, it’s even harder to step back while students are designing and facilitating their own games. They have to experience the highs and lows themselves, without me stepping in to fix everything.

Next steps
My students are excited to share their games via another teacher at the AVID National Conference in December. They are revising their games, testing them out on teachers and students at school, then submitting a final draft game.

Students will have another chance to build a game in the spring, and this time we’ll open it up to physical or digital games...content or purpose to be determined.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

5 Ways to Amplify the Voices of our Introverts

Our incredible #SunchatBloggers group decided to embark on a few group topics, the first one being our “top 5” of anything education related (here's our top 5 Padlet). I love the opportunity to share blogging ideas and topics with this dedicated and lively group. We recently started a #SunchatBloggers Padlet to show off our favorite blog posts. It was tough to come up with a topic for top 5, and move beyond my current top 5 favorite apps/tools (which also would be fun!).

Lately, introverts are especially on my mind. I moderated #WeirdEd on October 5th and we had an incredible conversation about the myth of introverts and how we can celebrate their value in our world.
The Power of Introverts Ignite
San Diego Summit, October 2016


On October 9, I did my first ever Ignite session at the San Diego GAFE Summit. I had just 5 minutes to inspire attendees with a mini keynote. I decided to take a risk and share my story: I’m an introvert in a very extroverted edtech world, and it’s mentally tough to keep up my energy sometimes. I shared about how introverts process the world internally, while extroverts socialize instead. Our introverted students are less likely to advocate for their own needs, including when they need to work alone and/or in a quieter environment. I feel encouraged because many people I look up to have told me that this is a message that needs to be shared and spread.

I reflected on my own classroom and experience as a learner to think about what has worked for me. Here are five strategies and tools to help address the needs of the introverts in our classrooms:

1. Shift classroom discussions and questions onlineUse tools such as TodaysMeet or Google Classroom discussions to engage all learners. Allowing students to use an online discussions with threaded or @ replies gives plenty of room for introverts to enter the conversation when they are comfortable. Additionally, using an online discussion for students to ask content and class specific questions allows more students to speak up; it also empowers students to take ownership of their learning and help each other. If you’re ready to take a bigger leap with students, start blogging as a class or individual student blogs. I’m just starting this process with my 8th grade AVID students, and hoping to use blogging in science in the next year (2017-2017 goal?).

2. Provide introvert-friendly workspaces
In and around your classroom, create distinct workspaces with different working guidelines. Designate a large group work zone, a small or partner group zone, and/or an individual work zone. I’m in California, so I’m lucky we generally have good weather so we can expand our work area outside to the hallway (unlike all you East Coast friends, our schools are generally not one building with interior hallways). Often inside my room is the louder group work area, and outside in the “Venturino Zone” is for quiet work. The “Venturino Zone” is my pre-set boundaries between my classroom door and the poles at the end of my classroom.

3. Build digital collaboration skills

Collaboration and group work does not have to happen face-to-face, or even in real time. Digital collaboration isn’t a less valuable form of collaboration; it is just another way for students to work together. My students are able to quietly work together on projects, and those with quieter voices are still able to share their ideas. Additionally, introverts will feel less social exhaustion when they are not required to interact as frequently. As an introverted teacher in the edtech community, most of the work I do and projects I’m working on happen asynchronously and through collaborative platforms such as Docs. Furthermore, last February, some of my 7th grade AVID students and Rosy Burke’s 5th graders collaborated on the NASA Cassini essay contest. They used Docs to introduce themselves, brainstorm, write their essay, and edit their work. On the last work period, our students were able to quickly conference using appear.in to meet and share final ideas. It was such a cool experiences for all of us!

4. Use sufficient wait time
According to a 1972 study by Mary Budd Rowe, teachers rarely wait longer than 1.5 seconds after asking a question before calling on students for responses. She found that when teachers wait 3 or more seconds, there is an increase in students volunteering, decrease in “I don’t know” answers, and an increase in quality of responses. For introverts especially, wait time is critical for them to process their ideas and formulate a response. In grad school, we learne to wait 5 seconds. I was in a good habit in my first couple years of actually counting to 5 in my head. Recently, I’ve tried to bring back the habit. I’m not perfect, but I’m working on it.

5. Allow for students to choose how they show learning
Give students an objective or essential question as a starting point, and empower them to pick a tool or method to prove they learned. Providing students choice does not mean a free-for-all where students can do whatever they want, whenever they want. Use a menu of options or a HyperDoc to scaffold the choice-making process by suggesting apps or tools for students to use in their task. I’ve found that my students are more engaged and complete better quality work when they are given a few options for a product.

I’m thankful to spread the message and be an advocate for introverts in the world. And, I’m especially grateful that I can use my blog to share my own voice, which I wouldn't otherwise speak up to share.

So I leave you with this: How will you empower all voices in your classroom?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Power of Introverts

[This post originally featured on He's the Weird Teacher blog, as part of the #WeirdEd chat on 10/5/16. Here's the chat storify.]




Trends in education focus on buzzword categories of students: English Learners, special education, homeless/foster youth, gifted, etc. If we’re not analyzing data, then we’re busy talking about getting students to collaborate and work together more. What happens when a student doesn’t prefer to work with a group? What happens when a student is an introvert?

Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, discusses how western culture has made a shift from the “culture of character” to the “culture of personality” where extroversion is dominant, and introversion is considered inferior. She names this the Extrovert Ideal, defined as "the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha and comfortable in the spotlight." These are the values we intentionally and unintentionally translate to our classrooms, schools, and workplaces.

The biggest misconception about introverts is they have less to say. In reality, the major difference between introverts and extroverts is that extroverts prefer to process the world externally via social interactions, while introverts process the world internally via quiet thinking. Introverts have just as much to say as extroverts, but won’t readily speak it out loud.

In social situations, there may be extroverts who will not wait for others to speak, and overpower the quieter voices. We call these steamrollers. In any sort of collaborative grouping, an overpowering person can be dangerous for the group’s process and rapport. Helping these extroverts identify when they tend to steamroll is just as important as empowering the introverts to advocate for their own needs.

Many introverts, such as myself, can be “functional extroverts” for short periods of time. If you’ve met me in real life, you might not automatically know I’m an introvert--especially if I’m at an edtech conference. However, after I get home, I need plenty of time to decompress. This is a learned skill that took time to develop.

In our classrooms, we value students who are collaborative and vocal. It seems that we’re condemned as “bad teachers” (gasp) if we don’t have our students constantly working together. After auditing my own classroom, I see how many of my lessons that the voices of my extroverts, and leave my introverts quiet and alone. I’ve been more intentional to build in opportunities for both introverts and extroverts to shine.

So with this being said, how do we provide our introverts with an authentic voice in our classroom and world?

PS. Not sure where you lie on the introvert-extrovert continuum? Take this free Myers-Briggs Type Indicator quiz to find out.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Engaging Parents with a Parent Tech Breakfast


Parent involvement is a huge mystery to me. Within the context of my school, I’ve learned that many of our students’ parents were once students at our school, and have not so positive memories of their time in middle school. That coupled with busy work schedules makes it difficult to get parents to come to school for events.

I’d like to take a moment to recognize that we do have some incredible parents who show up, volunteer, and are involved in our school. I’m so thankful for them. Every time I call parents, mostly positive phone calls with occasional behavior concerns, I reach friendly and caring parents. I know we have the support of our parents at home.

Parent Tech Breakfast


Last school year, I started hosting monthly Parent Tech Breakfasts. We’re 1:1 iPads, and we have lots of repeated questions from parents on how students use iPads at school, and how parents can more easily access technology for themselves.
The set-up is simple: we provide coffee and breakfast pastries, and we talk about technology for 30-45 minutes. Since we have many Spanish-speaking parents, I usually have a fluent Spanish-speaking techy teacher present to translate and/or run a parallel group. Each month, I invite content teachers to join us as well.

My Viking Tech Crew students have joined us a few times to show off tutorial videos and share projects they’ve created in their academic classes.

Discussion topics include:
- Classroom uses of iPads, including student work samples
- Accessing Jupiter Grades, our online gradebook
- Managing iPads at home
- Digital Citizenship, device contracts (shout out to Common Sense Media for amazing resources in English and Spanish!)
- Google Apps for Education -- we had parents on my Chromebooks experiencing collaborative Docs for the first time!

Even though it’s a fairly simple event to plan, there is a lot that happens behind the scenes. I couldn’t do it without our Coordinator of Intervention Services, or as I call her, Facilitator of Awesome. Her job includes bridging the divide between home and school, and supporting students academically. She sends out reminder emails and phone calls to parents, shops for the goodies, and gets the room read for parents. We host the Parent Tech Breakfast in her room, which is a parent-center, office, and conference space.

I’m thankful that we’ve been able to reach parents and families through the Parent Tech Breakfast!

I’m always looking for new ways to connect with parents and families. How have you/your school successfully reached out to parents?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Inbox Zero!

Sometimes, I’m horribly disorganized. Ok, a lot of time I’m disorganized. Over the summer, I got fed up with the black hole that is my work email, and reached out to a few people on Twitter for help. Big shoutout to Amy Illingworth and Joe Young for providing resources and guidance!

My goal: Inbox Zero!

Inbox Zero is based on a principles: “process email, rather than check email” and be intentional about responding and relocating emails. For more serious info, check out this summary of Merlin Mann’s Google Tech Talk about Inbox Zero.

My first thoughts were, “this is impossible!” -- and with that attitude, it is. After considering Inbox Zero for a couple weeks, I realized that I need to shift my email habits.

Process, not check:
Old habit: My bad habit in the past was to have email open on my computer all day long, and look at everything as it came in. Yes, those notifications on the top right of my computer were very distracti...squirrel! The problem was, I never actually replied to the emails, so they would get buried. 

New habit: Email stays closed, unless I’m actively looking at my email, responding, deleting, and filing.

Strategic email moves:
Old habit: Everything stays in my inbox, until I throw up my arms and have a email deleting party with myself for an hour on a Saturday morning. Oh hey, there’s that email from 6 months ago!

New habit: Every email gets deleted immediately, replied to, and/or read and moved to a folder.

End the day at zero:
Old habit: See above. Black hole. And feeling of adult incompetence for losing important emails.

New habit: Nothing in my inbox! It’s like a huge weight lifted off of me.

I’ve been in school for 9 weeks, and I’ve maintained this Inbox Zero habit!

Remember, whenever you read about someone else’s habits, you have to keep your own personality and strengths in mind. Just because the above method and tips work for me doesn’t mean they’ll be perfect for you. Take it and make it your own. If you have an email tip, please share it with me.

Now, in all efforts of transparency, my personal email is still a disaster….that’s the next habit-changing email project!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Teachers Don't Always Have All the Answers

The mantra of Breakout EDU is “It’s time for something different.” Breakout EDU is an immersive game-based platform that adapts the escape room concepts of problem solving, critical thinking, and collaboration into an educational format. Players have to solve riddles to unlock a locked box. As we have shared in this post from Ditch That Textbook blog, we are thrilled to have the chance to live this motto as the Breakout EDU Digital team (in which we adapt the mechanics of Breakout EDU into a digital format). As we have evolved, iterated, and learned from that initial article, two situations have been brought to our attention time and time again. In this post and a follow up, we will examine these points and provide our response to them. 

With a Breakout EDU game using the box, setup instructions are provided. It gives the lock combinations, printable materials, and the paths the students follow to solve the riddles. You need these in order to facilitate the game. With the Breakout EDU Digital games, none of this is provided - everything is ready to go as soon as you enter the game.

Multiple times a week, we receive emails, tweets, Facebook messages, and other assorted communication from teachers asking for an answer key to the Digital games. When we receive these messages, we provide additional prompts and hints, but refuse to provide answer keys.

Why do we do this? Is it because we are evil and want you to suffer? Absolutely not - this is our contribution to the Breakout EDU mantra. For the bulk of the history of education, teachers have been viewed as the keepers of knowledge or the sage on the stage. In our opinion, this has gone on far too long. With the advent of the digital age, students have access to limitless amounts of information. Our roles as teachers need to change.

The “hidden curriculum” of soft skills is just as critical as the content we are mandated to teach. Words like rigor, growth mindset, resilience, and productive struggle thrown around as skills that students need to be successful in life, yet how often do we model this for our students? By not having access to an answer key, you are provided with a perfect opportunity to experience what a student feels when they first encounter a tough trigonometry problem. You're faced with a choice - put in effort to stretch your abilities to their fullest extent and grow your brain or email us for an answer (which is akin to flipping to the back of the textbook for the key.) Which would you prefer your students to do? Why do we not hold ourselves to that same standard? 


You don't have to struggle alone - share your plight with your students. Challenge them to help you complete the puzzles. Students see things differently than adults; something that has stumped us for hours takes a matter of seconds for them. Imagine their moment of glorious success. They solved something their teacher couldn't.

But it's deeper than that. You were vulnerable with them. You shared your struggle. You modeled resiliency and a refuse to give up. You showed them that it's ok to ask for help; that it's ok to admit you don't always have all the answers. This is a bond that can't be forged by playing a video about famous figure who overcame adversity to reach success. They'll be more likely to let down their guard and ask you for help - and you'll understand their feelings even better. 

Nicole Link couldn't solve a clue when I introduced
Breakout EDU to teachers at lunch, so she came back to
play with my students on her prep period! 


By now you're thinking that this is easy for us to say - we have all the answers to the games. However, we've played other's games and been through this productive struggle.

And it's not just us who feel this way. For every few requests for answers, there’s one praising this dedication to doing something differently. We'll close with our favorite, which comes from Dr. Donovan DeBoer, superintendent of Parker School District in South Dakota:

“One of my “mantras” has always been: “The one that does the doing, does the learning.” So when I was ever so close to our first teacher in-service days, and [Breakout EDU Digital] was one of the items I wanted to show my staff, I was very torn when I sent that dreaded, “I need help email.” However, in true educator fashion, [Justin and Mari] did not oblige my begging of “cheats” to complete the task. Instead, I was sent a very subtle hint and encouragement to complete the task.

It was a great lesson for me as a leader of young people, and adults. It helped solidify my belief that if you want to learn, you have to do.

It also proved to me how important collaboration is for our students. I needed help, I didn’t necessarily want the answers, but I needed another brain (or 32). As I introduced the activity to my staff, I was short one lock code. In the essence of time, we worked in groups on the digital breakout “Stranded on the Island.” As time passed I witnessed adults, veteran teachers, cheer with excitement when they found a new clue, or figured out a code, and hide their answers to allow for others to feel the same thing when they found things on their own.

Few more hours went by, in-service over, but I was still plugging away. I had to complete this thing. That’s when the magic happened - one of my football coaches sent me a text. He had solicited a friend from hours away, that started working on it as well, and we finally cracked the mystery lock.

The power of collaboration is real. Shared suffering in the task, and then the jubilation we share in the accomplishment. Two heads are better than one, and three better than two. Students need that time together, to share, to bounce ideas off one another, to enjoy the struggle together.

More importantly, we have to have the patience to let learners learn. They need to make mistakes, they need to learn from them, they need to talk it out with other people to learn the other side of communication not talked about “listening” to one another. Then the “magic,” can happen.”

Sunday, August 28, 2016

#SunchatBloggers: Taking Risks & Supporting Each Other

On August 14th, I got up early for #HackLearning and #sunchat. Here on the west coast, that means setting my alarm for 5:15 on a Sunday morning to be ready for the 5:30am & 6:00am chats, respectively.

Earlier that week, I was talking with a few friends about how blogging has been a big challenge for me. I’m finally reaching a point where I almost feel comfortable with blogging, but not yet confident. As I thought about this after the conversation, I realized what I most wanted is a group of people to support my blogging journey.



After talking with a few people during #sunchat, I realized I wasn't alone in my blogging struggles. I tossed out the idea to start a DM group to support our blogging journeys. Other people jumped on board that week and in the 2 weeks since.




Our DM group is on fire, and we have quite a few people who have just started their blogging journey by posting their first post! Some members are more experienced bloggers, have had the opportunity to share their wisdom. No matter the experience level, everyone’s contributions are valued and celebrated.

One of the best parts of this group is that we make it a point to not only read each other’s blogs (we all have some sort of feed set up to see new posts, I use feedly), but also to leave comments. So often, I publish a blog post, and I’m not sure if anyone is actually reading. When we make it a point to comment, we are reading the blog post with a purpose, and providing valuable feedback and encouragement.

I’ve loved watching our group grow over the last two weeks, and I can’t wait to see how this journey unfolds for us all.

Interested in joining our #SunchatBloggers DM group? DM me on Twitter, and I’ll add you in!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Google Forms in My Classroom

We’ve established that I have an obsession with Google Forms. It’s easy to connect & manage data from students, parents, etc. Last week, I posted on how to use Google Forms for teacher walkthrough observations--targeted at either administrator walkthroughs or peer walkthroughs. This week, I’m going to share how I use Google Forms in my classroom and school.

Daily Check-ins & Warm-up
This is by far the most impact I’ve had with a single Google Form. Every day, students come to my class and complete the check-in & warm-up on their iPad (make a copy). First, students answer the check-in questions on how they slept, how their breakfast/lunch was, and how their day is in general. Then, students proceed to answer the three content-based questions I have projected. The content questions are either review of what we learned the previous day(s) or prediction questions to think about prior knowledge on a topic. Sometimes I throw in fun hypothetical questions, such as “if you had one million dollars, what would you spend it on?” As a class, we discuss the content questions, but never the check-in questions.

We use the same form every day for the entire school year. I ask students to add the Form to their iPad homescreen for easy access. On my results spreadsheet, I hide the rows from the previous week to make scrolling easier.

As students come in, I am taking attendance and monitoring their check-in responses. If I use a conditional formatting gradient to turn 1’s red to 5’s green.
Screenshot of check-in questions with conditional formatting gradient applied. 

I am admittedly jealous of my elementary teacher friends who have 20-25 students in their class and can spend more targeted time with their students. We’re on a block schedule, which means I see my science students for 100 minutes on Monday & Wednesday, and 32 minutes on Friday. It’s always tough to get around to everyone to have personal conversations.

This daily Form has changed my teaching and my relationship with my students. Many have revealed personal stresses, family tragedies, or moments of joy that they may not have otherwise shared with me. With a few students with major life stressors outside of school, I strongly believe I have been able to prevent classroom behavior challenges simply by having a conversation with the student, and letting them know I’m on their side.

Formative Assessments
With our shift toward mastery/standards-based grading, formative assessment has become even more important for both myself and my students. I often use Forms as exit tickets (forms.google.com > templates > exit ticket) and formative assessments. Now that Forms has an embedded quiz feature, I can quickly make formative assessments that show students their score and include feedback.

As I get deeper into the school year, I plan to include quick tasks or review activities for students to complete for questions they answer incorrectly. Unfortunately, the quiz feature does not yet allow for grading of short and long answer questions. A potential workaround in the meantime is to have a short/long answer question, then add in an extra column in the response sheet for teacher feedback. As I review each response, I can give students targeted feedback. When I’m done, I can use Autocrat to share students’ feedback.

If you teach multiple classes and you’re worried about students sharing out a quiz before they reach your class, create a password protected Form. It’s simple! Add a new section at the beginning of the quiz with a single short answer text question. Use data validation (3 dots, bottom right of question editing box) to set “text” and “contains” and type in your password--make sure you also fill in “custom error text” so the question doesn’t give the correct answer as feedback! This password can be quickly changed between classes for added security. (Here’s a screencast!)

Peer Evaluation
I’ve done Genius Hour with my AVID students for the past two years. Last spring, I had students present their projects to the class. During the transition time between presenters, all other students filled out the peer evaluation (make a copy); not only was this a good way for students to receive feedback, but also it cut down on the distractions during the transition. Using the RowCall add-on, I created a Sheet tab for each student presenter with their feedback, then printed a copy for each student. (Note: I would have done this digitally, but it was the last week of school when iPads were being collected, and not every student would have chosen to access their email on their own.)

Course Evaluation
At least every semester, and sometimes in the middle too, I give students a chance to give me anonymous feedback on our class. After students have completed the course evaluation (make a copy), I take some undistracted time to review the results and plan for changes. At the end of each semester, I also send a similar Form to parents to ask for their feedback. My students know I take their feedback seriously, and are candid in their responses.

Sign-in Sheet
Last week we had our Open House (also called Back to School Night). Usually, we have parents sign in on paper, which is always difficult to make sure they get passed around. Instead, this year, I set out my six Chromebooks with a digital sign-in sheet (make a copy). It saved a lot of time and energy, and I didn’t need to worry about decoding handwriting.

Other Fun Things with Google Forms
Choose your Own Adventure: Use “go to section based on answer” to create choose your own adventure stories. (Make a copy)

Self-Correcting Study Guide: Use “go to section based on answer” within study guide questions. If students answer correctly, they are taken to the next question. If student answer incorrectly, they are taken to a section with review information, such as an image, text, or a video. Once they review, they are taken to the next question. (Make a copy

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Using Google Forms for Walkthrough Observations

As many of you know, I have a major obsession with Google Forms. Last school year in a Faculty Advisory Committee meeting, we were discussing our district’s walkthrough evaluation form, and how it did not adequately address our school’s focuses and goals. Once I realized I could customize a Google Form and use Autocrat to generate personalized walkthrough evaluations for teachers, I literally started bouncing in my chair. (One of my colleagues lovingly calls this “Tiggering” because I get bouncy when I’m excited!) I began a semester-long project creating the walkthrough Form, iterating on it, and troubleshooting technical problems.

I personally love it when my principal and assistant principals come through for walkthrough observations. These walkthroughs are informal, unannounced, are not put into our permanent records, and admin stays for about ten minutes to observe what is happening in my class. I can understand where there could be pushback from individuals about being observed. Building a culture around learning and framing observations as admin’s opportunity to learn from teachers can help introduce this to a reluctant teacher.

Often, our administrators sit down at an open student desk, interact with students, and ask students about what they are learning. In one very memorable walkthrough, my principal was sitting at a student desk, and I called on him to answer after a turn-and-talk (I call randomly using 2 sets of popsicle sticks--each seat has a group number and color, and I pull 1 color and 1 number stick.). He eagerly participated based on what he and his partner discussed!

Once admin leaves my classroom, I receive an email with their observations and suggestions. I always enjoy following up with them to discuss the lesson further or ask for specific support.

Here is the Google Form and the Autocrat template for the walkthrough. You’re welcome to make a copy of the Google Form (force copy) and Autocrat template (force copy), and customize for your own use! 


Here’s the basic workflow of the Form walkthrough setup and implementation process: 
1. Create a Google Form with the criteria you are observing. Create the Response Sheet. 
2. Create a Google Doc template for Autocrat, using << >> tags for each section header from the Sheet. 
3. Go into the Sheet and run the Autocrat Add-on. Set it to email and/or share a copy of the doc or PDF to <<teacher email>> and <<administrator email>>
4. Take your walkthrough form into teachers’ classrooms and complete it as you are observing their lessons. 
5. Once you hit submit, you and the teacher will receive an email with the observation notes! 

Here’s a video on how to use Autocrat--repurposed from our Breakout EDU Digital how-to videos. Autocrat has since updated their interface, but there is little difference on the actually set-up process. Remember, if you make any changes to the Form, change the << >> tags in your Autocrat doc template to make it easier to match up. 




If you end up using this or something similar with your teachers, I’d love to hear about it!




Friday, August 12, 2016

Spreading Positivity with #FlyHighFri, 2016-2017 update

This #FlyHighFri blog post is cross-posted on Justin Birckbichler’s and Mari Venturino’s blogs.

FlyHighFri Year 2
Welcome to #FlyHighFri, year 2. In July 2015, we began FlyHighFri as a way to emphasize the positives in our schools and classrooms in an effort to combat negatives we were observing. Read more about our initial set-up on Justin’s blog and Mari’s blog.

We have crafted a mission statement to guide our journey with FlyHighFri: FlyHighFri is a place for educators to gather to share their successes and positive moments from the week with a supportive community. It is our hope that this community grows organically together, and spreads throughout schools, both through social media and with face-to-face meetings.


In order to continue the positive momentum with FlyHighFri, we have established some community guidelines:

1. Positivity Rules
Celebrate the great things going on in our classrooms, schools, and districts.

First and foremost, FlyHighFri is about being intentionally positive. Building the habit of finding the positives within your day and week helps all of us persevere through the tough days. We want to celebrate all the wonderful things going on in schools across the world!

2. Share Real Successes
Share great stories from this week, big or small, that made a positive impact.

We make a sincere effort to read the the tweets each week. We love seeing the actual stories from the classrooms and schools. Have a student meet a goal? Great! Share it out. Staff member go above and beyond? Recognize them and share why they are important. Took a risk and it paid off? Tell us about it. Be intentional and specific about your tweets - there is a time and place for encouraging phrases but let's make this community about sharing successes and positive moments.

3. Keep it School-Centered
Focus on students and teachers, and let them be the stars.

No matter your role in education, the learners always come first. There are other avenues on social media to promote products, books, blogs, and the like. Our goal is for FlyHighFri to specifically be about great things happening in our classrooms and schools, not about self-promotion or promotion of a product. Of course, if you’ve written a post or a certain app or product has directly made a positive impact in your school during your week, we want you to share that!

Mar Vista Academy #FlyHighFri lunch group
in the school garden
We have high hopes for our FlyHighFri community for the 2016-2017 school year. We’d love to see the positivity message spread throughout schools and districts, but we also don’t want it to be forced. Be the invitation to your colleagues to share their positive moments. Mari often finds her principal at some point on Fridays and asks him, “What’s your FlyHighFri from this week?” It’s an easy 30 second conversation, that often turns into a longer discussion. We both also hold weekly get togethers for our teachers to join and share.

This year, we'll be managing FlyHighFri through the official Twitter page. We'll be quoting tweets that really stand out to us and want to highlight. We're not concerned about it trending on Twitter. If it does, great. If not, that's great, too. We value the individual contributions of each person, and prefer quality over quantity. Share successes with each other and use their ideas in your own schools. Challenge each other to continue growing as educators and positive people.

How can I spread #FlyHighFri?
- Connect with others in the FlyHighFri social media community using #FlyHighFri.
- Create an on-campus teacher group. Buy or make coffee to share with teachers and invite them to join you before school. Meet together for lunch.
- Go asynchronous to share online with a group of teachers through an online tool such as TodaysMeet or Google Hangouts Chat.

We look forward to a school year filled with positivity!

Monday, August 1, 2016

How May We #GSuiteEdu Help You?


How May We #GAFEHelp You? 
Do you use Google Apps for Education (GAFE)? Are you a connected educator on Twitter? (And if you are not, then why not? But that is another conversation to have later.) Have you ever had a question about GAFE and so you Tweet it out only for it to get lost in the abyss of Twitter and never get a response? Or if you do get a response, it is completely random and really doesn’t help?

Well, we hope this will be a solution to that dilemma. We would like to introduce to you a new Twitter account, @GSuiteEDUhelp.

Eight GAFE using educators connected on Twitter and have teamed up to manage this new handle. Our goal is to be a resource to other GAFE using teachers and help provide a quick answer to any type of GAFE related question you may need help with.

In addition to this new Twitter account, we will be using the hashtag #GSuiteEdu to also facilitate communication of any questions that may be out there.

We don’t see ourselves as experts, but just a group knowledgeable teachers wanting to help provide answers to your questions. If we don’t know an answer, we will try to help you research a solution and provide resources to help you get going in the right direction.

So if you need help with Google Apps, just tweet us @GSuiteEdu and/or use the hashtag #GSuiteEdu. So, how may we GSuite Help you?

Meet the GAFEhelp Team:
Justin Birckbichler (@Mr_B_Teacher) - 4th grade teacher in Virginia. Teaches with 1:1 Chromebooks. Google for Education Certified Innovator and Trainer.

Ben Cogswell (@cogswell_ben) - TK-6th Educational Technology TOSA in Salinas, CA. Google Educator Level 1 and 2. 1:1 iPads & Dell Venues implementing GAFE in 12 schools with 380+ teachers.

Sean Fahey (@SEANJFAHEY) - 4th grade teacher in Indiana at a Google Apps for Education School. Teaches with 1:1 ChromeBooks.

Ari Flewelling (@EdTechAri) - Staff Development Specialist (Technology Integration and 1:1 Support), Google Certified Trainer & Innovator, CUE Affiliate President

Kelly Martin (@kmartintahoe) - K-8 Educational Technology and Curriculum Coordinator in South Lake Tahoe, California. Google Educator Level 1 and 2. Supports 60+ teachers in a 1:1 chromebook environment in grades 3-12.

Karly Moura (@KarlyMoura) - Instructional Coach & Educational Technology Support Teacher in California. Teaches in a Google Apps for Education school with chromebooks and ipads.
Mari Venturino (@MsVenturino) - Middle school science and AVID teacher in California. Teaches with 1:1 iPads. Google for Education Certified Trainer & Innovator.

Joe Young (@jyoung1219) - Math & STEAM Instructional Coach in Palo Alto, California. Taught 1st, 2nd, and 5th grades in a GAFE district, 1:1 iPads, 1:1 Chromebooks, and served as a tech lead teacher

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Geo Teachers Institute 2016

#CAGTI16 Group Photo
On Monday & Tuesday (July 25-26), I had the opportunity to join 100 teachers at Google in Mountain View, CA for the Geo Teachers Institute (#CAGTI16). The purpose of this institute is to explore the different Geo Tools and how they can be used in classrooms at any level. I’m not sure when the next GTI will be, but once applications open, I highly recommend that you all apply. Huge shoutouts to John Bailey and Emily Henderson for making this happen! 

It’s incredible how much I learned in 2 days! I’m thrilled to share some of the things I learned. My brain is still processing a lot of the information. We’re lucky that we’re already back in school so I can share with my colleagues and implement some of this within my classroom. I’m sure there will be a part 2 post in a few months with things I’ve tried with students. 


CAGTI16 Badge
MyMaps, my favorite tool
One of my favorite geo tools is MyMaps, which is also the only one covered under Google Apps for Education. I’ve explored it myself and used it with our Breakout EDU Digital games, but haven’t yet had students create their own maps.


At GTI, many of the presenters shared photography and maps related to human impacts on our Earth. This ties in perfectly to what we learn in 7th grade science, and my brain was spinning with ways to have students create maps to show different regions in the world affected by deforestation, pollution, natural resources, etc. In fact, the Google Research Blog (The first detailed maps of global forest change) highlights how satellite data has been used to show deforestation; the blog also talks about the technology behind this, including the Landsat 7 satellite. Sidenote, I’m planning to use the blog post mentioned above as a text for my students to analyze in class later this year.
Photo scavenger hunt for country pins.
I didn't find them all, but it was fun!
And, I'd love to do this with my students.

Additionally, MyMaps can be used as a portfolio for students to track their learning. 
Someone (sorry, I forgot who I was talking to! Remind me, and I’ll edit) was telling me how they’re using MyMaps in middle school history to have students track the civilizations they learn about from 6th grade through 8th grade. I’ve also suggested this to my history colleagues, and I’m hoping once I show them how, they’ll use it with students. We are also going to use MyMaps this year in our AVID classes to share students’ university projects: each layer will be a different teacher/class period, with an additional layer to show where all our teachers went to college! 

I also played a fair amount of PokemonGO
at CAGTI, and I mastered the #HeilShake
Tour Builder
I didn’t attend the Tour Builder session at CAGTI16 because I went to Leslie Fagin’s session at the GAFE Summit in Mountain View the day before. I had played with Tour Builder before, but really needed to find a set place and time to force myself to actually learn it. I love all the possibilities with Tour Builder, including having students tell their own personal story, plot the settings in literature, or explore natural resources around the world.

Here’s the tour of the UC Campuses I created in Leslie’s session.

Timelapse with Google Earth Engine

Ok, I’m obsessed. Google Earth Engine is an incredibly powerful set of data, easily accessible for everyone. Here’s the description from the website: “Google Earth Engine combines a multi-petabyte catalog of satellite imagery and geospatial datasets with planetary-scale analysis capabilities and makes it available for scientists, researchers, and developers to detect changes, map trends, and quantify differences on the Earth's surface.” Click on the timelapse tab, and explore the different timelapses from 1986 - 2012. 
Made it to Google!

These are great hook activities to engage students on predicting and making observations. My favorites are “Amazon Deforestation, Brazil” and “Dubai Coastal Expansion.”

We also learned how to use the Google Earth Engine to make our own time machine tour, but at that point my brain was already too full, and I was content exploring the pre-identified time lapses that I can use in my classroom. 






Made friends with a giant Android! 
Photography, 360 images, & Expeditions
Last May, we were lucky to have Google Expeditions come to our school for the pilot program. Our students loved the experience, and are hoping for more opportunities in the future. I’m looking for funding options to get a class set of mobile devices and cardboards for our students (we’re 1:1 iPad, so as soon as the iOS version comes out, we’ll be good to go) so we can continue our explorations.

Using Maps and 360 images, I can have students explore different ecosystems around the world, make observations, and create their own collections. Within Google Maps, there’s an option to view collections of already curated images through Street View. These can be viewed on a computer, tablet, or within the Street View app. I’m looking for ways to add this into stations work, especially now that I have 3 iMacs in my classroom.


COL16 cohort friends at CAGTI16
Arts & Culture
I haven’t played with Google Cultural Institute nearly enough. I didn’t go to the session on it because there was just so much to learn, and I figured I can sit down and explore this on my own. This is next up on my learning adventures...however, 
I did just submit an app request to get the Google Arts & Culture app on our iPads. One big thing I learned in one of the general sessions is that there are 360 performances for music, dance, opera, and theater! You can look around within a performance, and even experience it from multiple views.

Sharing
After all this learning and processing, I am super excited to share what I learned with my colleagues and PLN. We are in the process of scheduling a joint science & history PLC meeting so I can share MyMaps & Tour Builder with teachers at my school; I’ll also invite 
More scavenger hunt finds
our district-level curriculum specialists to join in the learning, and to share across the district. Informally, I’ve already sat down with one of our math teachers to show how students can create polygons in MyMaps to explore area and perimeter, and to measure distances on a map. I am also planning to teach my Viking Tech Crew students about MyMaps so they can teach some of our teachers the basics as well.

Here’s my notes Doc from CAGTI16 with links to resources and a few pictures and screenshots. Happy learning!