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 #GAFEHelp 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, @GAFEhelp.

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 #GAFEhelp 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 @GAFEhelp and/or use the hashtag #GAFEhelp. So, How may we GAFEhelp 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