Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Google Add-on "Super Quiz" for grading Google Forms

Flubaroo works well but the knock on it is that students do not get their results instantly. They have to wait for the teacher to share the grades. This could be at the end of the period, end of the day, or maybe even the next day! With Super Quiz, another Google Sheets add-on, students hit "submit" on their google forms quiz and instantly get their results shared with them via Google Drive "Shared with Me" Folder. The spreadsheet works for the teacher, so you can sit back and just let it do its job. No manual sharing of grades for you. Once Super Quiz is set up, it just runs on its own. The only thing for you to do is look at and examine student results, reflect on how they did and make informed decisions moving forward. You are also able to give feedback to students based on how they did through Super Quiz. A nice, but somewhat complicated, feature. Check out the tutorial and maybe Super Quiz is for you.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Improve Writing Skills with "No Red Ink"

No Red Ink is a great tool to help students improve their writing skills. As the teacher, you create a class and monitor how your students are doing as they work through lessons and curriculum based on their interests. It is a great tool for differentiation and engagement. You assign lessons and have students work towards mastery of grammar, sentence structure, etc. The real magic is in the lessons themselves. Students choose what they are interested in and the lessons are created with those interests. For example, if a student selects "Harry Potter" as an interest, they will get sentences about Harry Potter to work on for their mastery lessons. Check it out and perhaps it is a tool that would fit nicely into your world! 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Teach Like a Circus

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the Circus in Sioux Falls, SD. As I sat in my seat, surrounded by cotton candy, squirming children, and light sabres, I thought about the nature of circuses and what exactly I was seeing as the tigers pounced, the camels trotted, and the ring master bellowed.  The circus is not just glitz and glamor. Here is what else you see while watching the circus. Amazing efficiency in transitioning from one act to the next. As one act ended, it was taken down as the next act began. Completed acts were put away by workers who knew exactly what to do and where to go.  Everything from taking down a cage to rolling up a tarp. It was all done with precision. They didn't have a lot of time so they needed to be quick, efficient, precise. You saw the result of an incredible amount of practice. How much practice goes into trying to jump a rope on a high wire? Or for a guy to catch another guy after 3 somersaults while swinging upside down, 40 feet in the air? The practice that goes into the acts is remarkable. But it's also necessary, as one slip up could cause serious injury or death. Looking for innovation? Look no further than the circus. It is oozing with innovation. How so? In the circus, there are no questions like, "Can we do this?" Instead, they are constantly asking themselves, "How?" They look at an act or an idea and ask themselves how they can make it happen.  "How can three motorcycle riders zoom around in an enclosed iron ball, side ways and upside down?" "How can I get this tiger to jump through a ring of fire?"

I think school should be a lot like the Circus. It should be a place with meaningful practice to master a skill, not busy work just to keep kids quiet. It should be a place of efficient ways of learning and moving. It should be a place of innovation in which kids are constantly asking themselves how they can do something new or better, rather than if they can do something. Like the circus, school should also be a place of fun and excitement. It should be a magical place for boys and girls of all ages. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The World's Hardest Game

If you are looking to get really frustrated, perhaps you should give this game a try. Self-proclaimed "World's Hardest Game" will be sure to frustrate you and annoy you long into the night. I tried it and after about 20 minutes, I was about ready to give my computer a Chuck Norris roundhouse kick to the face (screen). Anyway, it's just so annoying trying to get the box through the levels!!! For your information, I made it to Level 2. Then quit. Think you can beat me? Go for it. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

TIE Conference '16: A reflection

I attended the TIE conference this past week in Sioux Falls, SD. Educator's from all over the state and region descended upon Sioux Falls to gain knowledge in the world of Technology in Education. People's opinions of conferences are all over the place. Some love them, some don't. For me, I enjoy going to education conferences, especially ones geared toward technology. I like to see what's out there and what (if any) is new in the world of tech in education. The TIE conference is well done, especially the free nacho bar! Yum.  I had a chance to present on Gamification: how to turn your classroom into a Video game! With so many of the presenters taking the approach of "here's a tech tool and here's how you use it," I decided to share an idea/concept, rather than just functionality of tech tools. I had a lot of fun sharing this with the people in attendance. The traditional tech tool sessions did have value though, as I mined a few new tech tools here and there to check out and explore. I'm really excited about one in particular, but I will share that later, along with other nuggets I picked up along the way. Build suspense! 
The best thing about the TIE conference is not all the tech tools being shared or the new cutting technology being introduced or the nachos. It is without a doubt the ability to join together with so many educators to build connections, share ideas and get inspired about teaching. Here's the deal: it's easy to connect with people at conference but how often do you go to conferences? Not often. Maybe once a year. Maybe zero times a year.  Twitter is like one giant non-stop educational conference. The connecting that can be done through Twitter is amazing. It's a treasure chest for any educator. So yeah, conferences are great to make connections with people, but keep that going through Twitter! 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Education Cage Match: Finland vs. United States

Perhaps you have heard that school districts in Finland are awesome. Perhaps you have heard that the way they do things at school in Finland are so much better than the way we do things in the United States. Perhaps you have heard about how broken our educational system is and how much it needs to change and how terrible everything is. Perhaps there's truth to some of that. I recently read an article about school in Finland. Here's a few highlights: In Finland, students do not start formal schooling until the age of 7. Prior, they spend their time playing, exploring, and having fun---what kids should be doing. The school day itself has short hours. Homework is light, which is in direct contrast to many schools in the US that pack their students with homework every night. One of the most striking things I read was that in Finland, students get 15 minutes of recess EVERY HOUR of the school day. Not just once a day, not once a week. EVERY HOUR. Here in the US, many, many students get zero physical activity and spend zero minutes each day exercising.  Finland does not focus on standardized testing. They believe that students "learn through play." Teachers are respected at the same level as doctors. In order to teach in Finland, teachers need a Master's Degree. Finally, what I liked most of all, is that Finland operates under the philosophy that "educators are the ultimate authority on education," meaning decisions about school are not made by politicians, business people, know-it-all parents, bureaucrats, etc. It is the educators that make the decisions on education. Novel idea, huh?  While reading, I just got the sense that the atmosphere in Finland is one of freedom and creativity. It is an atmosphere that encourages expression and risks. It seems that students would run towards their school, not away from it. Maybe this type of schooling wouldn't work in the US. Maybe it's exactly what we need. 
Before everyone starts marching on our public school system and chanting a call for change, think about what OUR school system (or maybe in spite of it) has created: Google. Facebook. Twitter. YouTube, to name a few. Think about how creative and innovative those things are. Think about how much they have changed our world. Think about what Finland students use: Google, YouTube, the Internet in general! Think about how creative our musicians are, our entertainers. One of the most creative venues in all the world is movies and film. Think about how creative the US is in making movies. They are blockbusters world wide! When was the last time a Finnish movie was a world wide blockbuster? Never. The US is stacked with creativity and innovation. So yeah, our school systems could use some help. But we also have some tremendously awesome things happening as well. 

Click HERE for the full article from the LA Times

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Force users to make a copy of your Google Doc

If you have a Google Doc that you would like to share with people so they can make a copy of it for their own Drive, Google has a nice little trick to make this happen. When the users click the link to your Doc, it will force them to "make a copy" of the doc before they can access it. Once they click the button, a copy of the Doc will be automatically created in their Google Drive, which they can move to a folder to stay organized.  To do this, grab the URL from your document when it is open for editing. The last word on the doc URL is "edit." Change that word to "copy." Share that URL with people. 
See screenshots below. (Click image to enlarge)

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