Wednesday, 15 November 2017

L is for List (on Twitter)

#NaBloWriMo Day day early - cause tomorrow is a LONG day.  BTW - I realise this is a little bit of a cheat in my A-Z theme.

I had a conversation with a colleague the other day who said he was going to take a break from Twitter. When I asked him why, he said that he was tired of the “noise”.  While I absolutely see the value in taking a break from social media, I sensed that he didn't really want the break but he felt forced to because of his feed. When I asked if he would unfollow certain people he said for political reasons he could not always do that. I then asked if he created lists on Twitter and he gave me a confused look. It was at this moment that I realized I needed to share this powerful Twitter use.

In Twitter you can create public or private list. You can add people to these lists, they can be people you follow or people you don’t (i.e., you can add someone to a list without having to follow them). Lists that are public are viewable by everyone and can be followed by other people. When you add someone to a public list, they get a notification. Private list are for your eyes only.

I use list for a variety of reasons. When I go to a conference I start a list and add people I interact with. This allows me to remember them if I want to reach out and pick their brains about conversations we had at said conference. It is also helped me out in times when I have run into them at another conference and can't remember their names. I can go back to my list to hep jog my memory. I also have a list called “love to follow”. These are the people I love to follow on Twitter and give me a quick snapshot of the things I really need or want to hear. I have a list that is populated solely of people who teach in my district. When I want to tweet about District initiatives I go to this list when choosing who to tag.

To see your list simply click your profile picture in the top right-hand corner and scroll down to List. From there you will see list you are subscribed to - these include those you created or those you followed that were created by other people. You will also see lists that you have been added to. I often find ones to subscribe to on this tab.

To create a list, or add someone to a list that exist, simply click the three dots beside the follow button on the person’s page. You will be given an option to “add or remove from list...”. From here you will be taken to a page with all of the list you've created. You can add people to lists here (you can choose multiple) and you can also create a new list by pushing the “create lists” button at the bottom.

Lists are really that easy and when used well, they can be very powerful in terms of how you use Twitter and how you seek information.

K is for Keep

#NaBloWriMo Day is #YRDSBQuest this week so apologies if I seem brief!

When Google Keep became a core app in the GSuite I decided to explore it some more and discover some uses for the classroom.  

Essentially, Keep is a virtual notepad, or sticky notes.  It is a small little tool but quite powerful if you roll it into your GSuite workflow.

Here are 9 things I like:

  1. Take a picture and save to Keep.  This is easy access for board notes you have written and might want to come back to at another time.
  2. The Google Keep Chrome extension!  You know those times you see something on the interwebs and you want to explore it and don't have time or want to come back to it later?  That's where the extension comes in.  Click the icon, type a title and some text and the link is automatically inserted.
  3. Mobile voice notes.  This is only available on mobile devices but it is great.  You can record voice notes that can then be imported into other GSuite apps like Slides and Docs - really great for giving feedback!
  4. Notes can be drawings.  You don't only need to types notes.  You can draw something (think small sketchnotes!) and then write notes underneath.
  5. Archive notes for future use.  I recently co-organized an EdTech camp.  We made all of our to do lists on Keep and then archived them when things were done.  Now we can pull them up next year when we do the camp again.
  6. As a former English teacher I found I often gave the same feedback again and again.  You can make notes of your common feedback comments and then use the Keep notepad in Slides and Docs so import them into student work.
  7. Colour code!  Keep offers a variety of colours (some new ones were just added a little while ago) for your notes.  I find this really helpful for visual cues.  I encourage students to keep notes for different units or subjects in different colours.  There are also labels to help with this.
  8. Although it can be glitchy, there is also a "Grab image text” option.  In this case you can import a picture and when you grab the image text it will convert the text into editable text in your note. Very cool.
  9. Reminders - for those of use with memory challenges! Keep offers location based reminders (remind me when I arrive at school) and time based reminders (remind me at the 1pm -  the beginning of period 3) which is very handy.  That said, I would love if a list could have multiple time based reminders.  (Hear that Google?!)

A lot of this I learned playing, but a lot I learned from Matt Miller, Kasey Bell, Alice Keeler and Eric Curts's blogs - thanks EduHeroes!

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

J is for Jen!

NaBloWriMo Day 10

I was named after my grandmother, Jesse.  My mom thought about calling me Jessica but feared it would be too popular.  As a woman born in the late 70s - Jennifer was definitely not a unique name. 

So, to keep up with my A-Z theme, I thought I would pay homage some of the Jens in my professional life!

  1. Jennifer Casa-Todd, or JCT as I affectionately call her, is the author of Social LEADia: Moving Students from Digital Citizenship to Digital Leadership.  It is a wonderful book about the importance of digical citizenship and encouraging students to not only be responsible digitally, but also to encourage them to be leaders online.  She is an amazing educator and friend.  (She is also the other half of #CDNJens.)
  2. Jennie Magiera and I first met, albeit briefly at ISTE2016, and then connected again in Washington DC when she was a #WDC17 coach.  She shared her story about not letting the dragons get you down - and our cohort still talks about it.
  3. Jennifer Gonzalez - is the author of the Cult of Pedagogy blog and podcast.  I have yet to meet this Jen but I do feel like I know her as I listen to her podcast religiously.  Covering a variety of topics and with her soothing voice, The Cult of Pedagogy is a great resource for teachers of all subject areas and levels of experience.
  4. Jen Apgar and I met at ISTE in June but knew each other from Twitter before that.  She is passionate, inquisitive, and a genuinely friendly person.  We have brief but great convos when we see each other and it is always a treat to run into her at conferences.

Monday, 13 November 2017

I is for Ignite Talks

#NaBloWriMo Day 9

In April 2017 I was invited by Fair Chance Learning (Thanks Martha, Dustin, and Brian) to participate in the Connect 2017 Ignite Talk event. I nearly declined because my team was invited to  dinner that night, but I decided this would be a great opportunity and challenge so instead, I accepted.  Boy was I right!

For those who are unfamiliar, an Ignite talk is a talk where you are allowed to have 20 slides and they auto advance every 15 seconds.  You need to perfectly know your content and your timing.  Their tag line is enlighten us, but make it quick.  It is tricky in so many ways...but one of the best writing and presentation experiences of my life.  

I think it is a fantastic oral presentation activity for students.  It is only 40-80 sentences, there is little to no reading off the screen, and it allows for choice and flexibility to personalize.

When you do it with students, or do one yourself, here are my tips for success:

I made a chart with the image on one side and what I wanted to say on the other.  I found that I could get 2-4 sentences per slide for the proper pacing and timing.

Slide Images
I am a firm believer that a slide should have no more than 5 words.  Let the image support your talk or you will be tempted to read off the screen.

First,  I took my notes (mentioned above) and highlighted a few words for each slide.  My friend Kim called these sticky note lines.  I associated these words with the slide image and would jog my memory for the slide.  Then, I recorded myself using voice notes on the iPhone.  Then, everyday I got in the car I listened to the speech and talked along as best I could.  Finally, after the week of listening was done, I would recite the talk every time I got in the car.  If I got stuck, I would review my notes when I arrived at my destination.  In two weeks I had it down pat.

I have been fortunate enough to give my Ignite talk at four events now: Connect 2017, ISTE 2017, MindShare Learning Technology's EdTech Summit 2017 and BIT 17 with the Ministry of Education (thanks Bernadette and Brenda).  Here is my Ignite.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

H is for HyperDocs

#NaBloWriMo Day 8...late...but catching up!

In the summer of 2016 my Twitter feed started to flood with #HyperDocs.  Intrigued, I started to explore post and immediately bought the book by Lisa Highfill, Sarah Landis, and Kelly Hilton.  I was about to start a new position as an instructional coach and as much I wanted to try them out in the classroom, I could not wait to share HyperDoc with other teachers.

If you ever meet Lisa ask her about her first trip to's a good story wherein I almost had her deported! 

HyperDocs are Google Docs, with interactive elements, designed to replace the worksheet method of delivering instruction. By sharing a link to a HyperDoc, teachers can get students thinking, exploring, collaborating, and creating all on their own, shifting teachers from the lecturer to listener.   With HyperDocs, teachers can personalize the learning experience and better connect with students.

People often call Multimedia Text Sets (MTS) HyperDocs, but this is a misnomer - HyperDocs are so much more than that(Note: MTSs are also called Choice boards  - a term coined by Derek Tangredi - which I love.)   A lot of people also see HyperDocs and call them clickable Docs, or a webquest...but again, it is more than that.

The HyperDoc cycle is robust.  It includes Engaging, Exploring, Explaining, Applying, Sharing, Reflecting, and Extending.  The idea is that in order to have students fully engage in the learning, all seven parts of the cycle should be followed.  Choice boards can be used to support some (or all) parts, but it is the pedagogy behind the curation of the board and the involvement in each part that really matters.

In the Engagement phase we draw in the learner - peak their curiosity, and hook them into the learning.  In Explore students engage in self-directed learning.  This phase is often facilitated through an MTS/Choice Board so the needs of the individual learner can be met.  Some might want to watch a video, others might want an online manipulative, and still others might like to read an article.  In Explain, the teacher, after seeing the learning in the Explore phase, goes back and fills gaps they noticed in the students learning.  Next, students Apply.  To me, this is one of the most important phases as it takes students from consumer to creator.  I actually call this the Create phase in stead of Apply.  I also always give choice in this phase.  What one students might present in a video another could do in a podcast, or poster.  I feel learners should be able to show me how they have made understanding.  Sharing is the next phase and I always emphasize the importance of letting learners share to an authentic audience.  I really feel if the only audience is the teacher than the learners produces for that teacher, and not for the learners him/herself --> which is when the magic happens.  Reflection allows learners to think about the learning that has taken and really spend some time becoming aware and understanding one's own thought processes.  This helps with growth.  Finally, Extending takes the learning beyond what might be covered traditionally.  It allows the learners who is really keen on the subject to explore in more depth or in a different way.

Above all, there are only two rules with HyperDocs - share freely and give credit!

If you want to explore a little more, here are some of my resources:

Here are some Choice Boards I have created.

I created this resource for EdTech Tools to use with each phase of the cycle.  Note: I update this regularly so feel free to share and add to your drive but if you make a copy it will not be updated.

Here is my What's the Hype with HyperDocs slide deck.  I particularly like the slide about how a lesson looks transferred from traditional to HyperDoc (Thanks Lisa for sharing). Also, I like the slide with the choice boards for 4Cs.

Are you on Twitter?  Some of my fav HyperDoc people include not only the HyperDoc ladies linked above, but also:

Saturday, 11 November 2017

G is for Google Home

#NaBloWriMo Day 7 (a few days late..sorry...I was at #BIT17)

About 6 months ago, I had been thinking about buying a Google Home for a while, but had let it go into the universe thinking if I was meant to have one, I would get it.  (Full disclosure, the whole "listening all the time" thing did creep me out a little.)

Cut to August. I had the privilege of attending the Google of Education Innovator Academy in Washington D.C. (#WDC17). One of my most fun moments (among hundreds) was winning a Google Home thanks some stealthy moves with my Secret Handshake Buddy Santi.

I was so excited!

I brought it home and it has been really awesome.  Here are my top 5 loves.

  1. "OK Google, play some music."  I love playing music in my home.  I love even more that I can now walk in with my hand full and just call out to have something play. I can control volume, skips songs, and find out the name/artist.  Awesome.
  2. "OK Google, how's my day?" I start each of my days with this song.  She tells me the weather (brrr...wear a toque), how long it will take me to get to work, and what I have on the calendar for that day.  Even better, it then plays me the news headlines (which I customized to CBC).
  3. "OK Google, tell me a joke."  (When I remember) I start workshops with a couple of Dad jokes.  Most are fuelled thanks to Google.  My fav - "What do you call an empty can of Cheese Whiz?  Cheese was!"  LMAO!!!
  4. "OK Google, let's play a games." Dinner times have also gotten a little more exciting.  We do not allow toys or devices at dinner, but we make a bit of an exception here. Google turns into a game show host and we play trivia.  It is so funny to see my 7- and 5-year-olds take guesses at pop culture from a decade ago.
  5. "OK Google, Where do babies come from?" that was a fun day.  My five year old got curious.  Her answer was very diplomatic: "Last I heard, babies come from storks, but you may want to confirm with your parents".  I loved it.  Not only that it let me keep control of information for little minds, but it showed me what their curious little minds were thinking.  It also made me think what school would look like if every class had a Google Home in it.  How would our content change?  How would our projects/activities change?  If there are changes - which I imagine there would be for the vast majority of us - why are we waiting for Google Homes to come into our classrooms?
Bonus: When I ask Google who her favourite superhero is she tells me it is a teacher.  <3.  I know she likely knows I am a teacher and she is playing to the audience, but I still think it is pretty darn awesome.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

F Iis for Flipgrid

#NaBloWriMo Day 6

If you follow me on Twitter, this one should come as no surprise.  I have a serious case of #FlipgridFever.  It all got started last spring when everyone started talking about it on my twitter feed.  I have been fully immersed since.  It is a great way to capture not inly students voice but anyone's voice.  It helps build community, give all participants a voice, and it is fun!

Flipgrid is a asynchronous video discussion platform used in classes from PreK to PhD, families, and organizations in more than 150 countries! All you need to do is create a Grid (that's your classroom or group), add Topics to spark the discussion, and your community builds a dialogue as they share short video responses.  These videos can be shared and grids can be password protected for privacy.

Learn more in this ebook by Sean Fahey & Karly Moura or in my Flipgrid slide deck.

As a company, Flipgrid really wows me.  They are so responsive to the feedback they receive from their users, constantly iterating to make the tools better and better for educators and students.  They have built up a strong community of ambassadors who collaborate and share. 

Some things to check out:

  • Topic Discovery Library - a bank of topics already created by teachers that you can use as a template for your own use.  It was just released last week but there is already GREAT stuff.
  • Webinars. Some great web based tutorials by Flipgrid Ambassadors from topics like uses to Appsmashing.
  • Explorer Series. In their explorer series, Flipgrid invite leading professionals to share their knowledge with grid participants.  Experts share information and students can pose questions to deepen understanding and engage in the topic.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

E is for Extension

#NaBloWriMo Day 5

Google Chrome extensions are powerful little programs that add new features to your browser and personalize your browsing experience.  I have a few that I cannot live without.  This is only part of my Google Tool bar!

Look at all those extensions!!

Here are 5 of my current favourites:
  1. Screencastify.  Screencastify is a free screen recorder extension for Chrome wherein you can capture, edit and share screencasts. There is no software download required and it works on Mac, Windows and Chromebooks.  I love it for screen recording instructions.  I learn best when I am in the moment and have purpose, and I find most of my students are the same.  When I need to show students how to do something on the computer, I screen capture it and upload it to my Google Classroom.  This way, students can watch the video when they need it, and we save valuable class time.
  2. Session Buddy.  Session buddy is my newest Chrome favourite.  It allows you to group and
    save website for quick reference.  I equate it to being able to organize my Starred folder in Google Drive. 
  3. Craft Cursor.  CraftyCursor, created by Chris Craft,  highlights the cursor (in a variety of choice of colours) so that it can be easily seen when you screencast or while presenting. It also shows you what keys are pressed, such as escape, control, or alt.  This makes my life SOOOOO much easier when I am walking people through computer how-tos.
  4. ColorZilla. ColorZilla allows you to can get a colour reading from any point in your browser.  It then copies the Hex # of the colour to your clipboard.  Why is this cool?  Because when you choose custom colours in documents of fonts, etc. you can get exact matches.  It is great for formatting Docs and websites.
  5. Bitmoji. Do I really need to say anymore?  Who doesn't love a great Bitmoji.  I love the extension so I can insert my Bitmoji into Docs and presentations to personalize and add to the tone.

Monday, 6 November 2017

D is for docAppender

#NaDloWriMo Day 4

Today is another gem by New Visions Cloud Lab...docAppender.

Google Forms are a wonderful means to collect data...but reading results off a spreadsheet can be tedious.  docAppender appends Google Form question responses to the bottom of selected Google Docs.  (To avoid having to make a ton of copies manually...check out Alice Keeler's CopyDocs Script or you can do it with Autocrat - see my blog post A is for Autocrat.)

For my purposes I use docAppender to track observations about students in my class.  I can then share the single document with the student, his/her parents/guardian, and any other stakeholder in the student's academic life (SERT, ELL teachers, etc.).

Here is a full run though of using docAppender created by my colleague Trevor Krikst that I updated earlier this year.

Some tips:

  1. If your questions are not appearing when you run docAppender, hit the refresh button.  They should appear once you do this.  
  2. Make sure you format the Doc properly before you docAppend.  This is especially important for font size.  If you have a header that is 18pt font and don't change the body font size, the font size will remain that big throughout the entire Doc.  This applies for fonts size, type, and colour.
  3. Need to know which view to pick?  Here is what they each look like.  WARNING: there is a glitch and the timestamp will no show up if you pick Rows in a Separate Horizontal Table.
  4. If you plan on having a “File Upload” if will not docAppend at this time.  The “file”  will just be an alphanumeric string.  
  5. How you name the files you create to Append to is how they will appear as a question in your form.  Also this will be the order they will be in your Drive.  If you want them arranged alphabetically by last name you must name the file: Last Name, First Name
  6. Stuck?  Visit the docAppender G+ community.  It is very helpful and VERY responsive.

Need a visual?  Here is a video explaining how you can use Autocrat and docAppender.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

C is for Canva

#NaBloWriMo 3

People are drawn to things that are aesthetically was what initially drew me into HyperDocs (stay tuned for day 8!!).  The problem is we are not all graphic designers.  Enter Canva.  A mostly free, amazingly simple graphic design software.  Its drag and drop interface is easy to use for people of all ages.  I love the versatility of the tool - especially for education. 

How can you use Canva with your students?

  • Create infographics.  A few years back I tweaked a bunch of essay assignments and had students create infographics instead.  
  • Social Media posts.  This can be for a post itself or for branding of a social media account as the program offers design templates for many SoMe platforms.   I have used it as a tool to advertise session I am presenting at conferences.
  • Ignite talks. Canva can be use to create beautiful slides.  
  • Magazines and Book cover creation is a cinch.  
  • Gamification.  Are you thinking of gamifying your class?  Use Canva to create badges.
  • Personalize Google Keep.  Kasey Bell has a great blog post about using Canva to personalize Google Keep.    
Canva also offers a mini design school of sorts with tutorials within the program, allowing users to learn more about design in terms of fonts, images, layouts, and branding among other areas.  Moreover, there is a bank of lessons for teachers to engage students in rich learning while tapping in to their creative spirit.  There is even a collaboration feature so students can create in groups.

It is definitely my go to creation tool when I need a visual.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

B is for Bitly

#NaBloWriMo 2

Picture for B is for Bitly

If you know me you know I love and live in the GSuite.  I create everything from packing list to seminar resources to sketchnotes with Google apps.  But when it comes to sharing...those ridiculously long URLS are Out of Control!  Enter Bitly.  

Why Bitmoji of Jen GiffenBitly is a customizable URL shortening tool.  You can create shortened link without signing up BUT if you do sign up (using Facebook, Twitter or an email address - Hey Bitly peeps - why no Google?!) you can customize the URL.  I love the customization and I call on everyone to stop with the alphanumeric goobely gunk! - WHY?!?!  Is that a one or an I?  If it a zero of a capital O?  Moreover, and more importantly, they give those of use with a learning disability anxiety.  When I see a shortened URL like that I am constantly messing it up and then I am 3 slides behind the presenter and disengaged.  No good.  And if that is no good for me - a voracious adult learning, imagine how it is for a disinterested student!

Another advantage to creating the account is that your list is then saved so to know what the link was to that slide deck you created last month about "Marvelous Meerkats", just go to and all your links are listed there for you.

Bitly also keeps analytics for you - which is great for data lovers.  Amongst other things it will show you how many times the bitly has been used to access the file and on what date.  

It is a great tool...go check it out.

Do you have a suggestion for C-Z?  Leave me a comment or tweet me @VirtualGiff.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

A is for Autocrat

#NaBloWriMo we go!  (Thanks Eric for the A-Z suggestion)

A is for Autocrat image

AUTOCRAT by New Vision CloudLab is a great merge tool that creates Google Doc or PDFs from Google Sheets data.  It is one of (if my my top) automation tool to create and share personalized documents. 

Reading off spreadsheets is annoying and sometimes impossible.  This tool allows you to make spreadsheets readable by essentially turning them into individual (or a single) Google Docs or (new this past August) Google Slides.  You can even share the docs that are create with others by email. 

Image of Paperless Assessment MultiMedia Text Set

I spend the day today with some great educators and colleagues talking about how to use autoCrat to make assessment paperless.  You can learn all about it in this text set (seen above)...but here is the the basic gist:

  1. Create a form that serves a a quiz.  
  2. Link the form to a Google Sheet.
  3. Create a template for the quiz in a Google Doc and include tags to associate the Sheet data.  (I.e., type the quiz as you normally would - formatting and all - but instead of blank spaces or lines for student answers, put a tag like <<question 1 answer>>.)  You can even include rubrics as part of the template is you wish.
    • Remember:  once you create the template you need to be happy with it.  If you want to make changes to the format after you run autoCrat it is too late - think making a change to a test once it has been would need to make the change on each test individually.
  4. Run autocrat.
  5. All your test are populate into the template and saved as separate files.
What I love most about it is that the assessment won't be lost because you have it digitally.  Moreover, you can leave comments within the comments feature in Docs or use programs like Google Read and Write or Kaizena to leave voice feedback!

For other ideas about how to use autoCrat - check out my Slide Deck

I would like to give a HUGE shout out and thanks to my friend and colleague Kim Pollishuke (#ShukesandGiff) for allowing me to use her "How to Use autoCrat" slide deck within my own.  Kim really creates THE BEST resources and there is no sense in me re-creating something when we have this that is so great...and she is always willing to share her stuff.  You rock Shukes!

Do you have a suggestion for B-Z?  Leave me a comment or tweet me @VirtualGiff.

Monday, 23 October 2017

NaBloWriMo 2017

Last November I embarked on an ambitious journey - one blog post every work day for the month of November.  You can read all about it in my post from last November, and I have decided to do it again this year!

This is where I need your help.  I am looking for ideas.  Last year I wrote about some general education topics, but focused on small tech tips.  Do you have a burning question?  Is there something you would like to learn or know more about?  I might be able to help!

Give me some suggestions on this form.

Thanks for your help!!

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

#ProjectFlip - The Prototype Launch to an Audience

Our Google Hangout with Adam a& Joey
Today the learners in Ms Signer's class were at it again - and this time they launched their prototype to an audience. 

Based on my feedback in the practice launch the students finished their prototype and had rehearsed their 3-minute pitches.  They were ready to go and the energy in the room was clear.

Their audience included not only me, their classmates and their teacher, but also their principal and Joey and Adam from Flipgrid!

The Prototypes

Each group was invited up to the camera and pitched their idea to the crowd.  Ideas included twinkle lights, (still) lots of cardboard, and even an orca shaped idea!  They had done research about colours that motivate and the size of the box that would best fit the area of the room.  They even did some on the spot math to figure out fractions!  The showed their models and then they received feedback from the Flipgrid team as well as the principal and me.  I will say that their ideas are still VERY ambitious - as the ideas of 10 year olds often are - but their passion matches in strength.

After their pitches we took it to a vote. Each student voted for the model their felt they would want o build and work in in the class.  In the end their was a tie, and after conferring with the principal, they decided to combine the two ideas, plus some ideas of the second place prototype to make the best Flipgrid area they could. 

The final idea
The students realised that the ideas needed to iterate - and I love that since it is the essence of design thinking.  The students have the task of building - and I can't wait to see how the challenges they face in building further the iterations of their ideas.  So on to building phase and we start the cycle over again!


Thursday, 12 October 2017

#ProjectFlip - Pitch the prototype rehearsal

Yesterday I went back (via GHO) and visited Ms Signer's gr. 5 class to see how their #ProjectFlip prototypes were coming along.  Many has started but were not done...and that gave me the opportunity to give some great feedback.  It also meant that there was no time to try out prototypes...but that is OK since they decided to build small models of the prototype and vote on one after the pitches to build as a whole class.

The students each gave me a mini, unstructured pitch and boy they had BIG plans.  Their plans involved a lot of cardboard!  One group hopes to build a box that 5 people can sit in at one time!!  Many spoke of fairy lights (I reminded them to ensure there was enough light to see the speaker), and I loved how many said they were going to post words of encouragement in their area to give people confidence when they record.  I had a lot of questions about how they would get all the tech they were hoping for - one group spoke about a surveillance camera in their box so teachers could see what was going on inside.

I reminded them that their first ideas might seem viable, but when it comes time to build to remember what we read in The Most Magnificent Thing...sometimes you need to pivot from the original plan.  The big cardboard boxes might be difficult to build, unstable, unsafe, or too big.  I reminded them to have a fully built (but small scaled) prototype for next week and suggested they use dolls/stuffed animals to represent people.  We talked about the power or rehearsal and ensuring that everyone in the group talk at some point.

We also created a template for the pitch - which is to be 3 minutes long (maximum).  It should include:

  • An introduction to all groups members
  • A short description of what the space will look like (include items used, desks, lights, technology, etc.)
  • Proof that the prototype aligns with all the success criteria they created:
    • Provides good lighting
    • Provides Video Quality, including has a flat, stable surface so the video is not shaky.
    • Is a Private/Quiet Space
  • A statement about why your idea is the best idea. How do you stand out?

I also told them that next week for their actual pitch, we would have a special guest join us from Flipgrid - User Engagement lead - Adam.  Given them an authentic audience really excited them.

So next week it the big day!  Pitch time!  Stay tuned.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Tracking changes in a Google Docs

I was working with a teacher yesterday who has set up digital feedback for her students (using Google Forms, docAppender and Google Docs) but she wanted to know how her students would be notified when changes were made on their feedback Doc.  Unlike Google Sheets, there is no way to get email notifications when changes are made. (Why Google, WHY?!?) 

While it is not perfect, there is a way for people to track changes in Google Docs. The imperfect part: one needs to go into the doc to see if changes have been made.  BUT...once one is in the Doc, they can access the changes quite easily.

Here is how:

1) Give students Can Comment access. (An easy way to do this in batch on an EDU is by going to the parent folder that contains all of the feedback Docs and click the link button on the top right…change it to Everyone in the [EDU domain] Can Comment instead of Can View.  Save your changes. 

I want to note that giving students Can Comment access is great practice.  In Ontario, we really focus on assessment in terms of not only product but also conversations and observations.  Giving 
 commenting access to students on documents about their performance because students are given an opportunity to have a voice in the assessment cycle.  (I.e., a student could ask questions they might not be comfortable asking face to face and you have documentation of the conversation.)

2) Tell students that now, each time they log into the Doc, they will be a grey box along the File Menu that says See New Changes if changes have been made since their last visit.

See New Changes
3) When they click See New Changes, all changes will show up highlighted AND if there are multiple changes you can see how many changes were made and scroll through them all….great for longer Docs.

Nee content is highlighted and trackable.

I hope this helps foster rich digital discussion with your students - and helps you track changes in Docs you might be working on with teams!

Thursday, 28 September 2017

#Project Flip: : Fostering an Innovator Mindset by Using Design Thinking with students

Over the last year, I have had the privilege of going through some design thinking exercises.  Last summer I read A.J. Juliani and John Spencer's LaunchUsing Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student.  Last fall my team at work and I explored the dSchool at Stanford's design virtual crash course in design thinking.  This past summer, I attended the Google for Education Certified Innovator Academy (#WDC17!!) and the amazing Les McBeth took us through Future Design School's design thinking process.  After each of these experiences, I knew Design Thinking had a place in education.

For those not familiar with Design Thinking, it is a way to make the design process more accessible.  It is HUMAN CENTERED INNOVATION.  Design Thinking is a methodology used by designers to solve complex problems, and find desirable solutions for clients. ... Design Thinking draws upon logic, imagination, intuition, and systemic reasoning, to explore possibilities of what could be—and to create desired outcomes that benefit the end user (the customer).


It is a a phenomenal opportunity to cultivate an innovator's mindset in students, allowing for them to take control of idea creation and activity execution.

At the end of the summer, I was talk to my colleague Stephanie Signer about plans she had for her 5th grade class this school year.  We talked about using Flipgrid in activities to capture student voice.  In that conversation, she brought up concerns that she would be teaching in a portable and wondered about how noise levels would affect video quality since she would not be able to send people outside the class in the rain or during the cold Canadian winters.
I immediately realised that Design Thinking could be used if (and when) the problem arose.  We discussed how we would turn the task of finding a solution over to the student.  Then, sure enough, after their experience with Flipgrid, Steph called me.  The students had love the activity and the tool, but they we annoyed quickly with the noise level in the classroom.  And so she told them it would be up to them to conquer this challenge.

On a crisp September morning, I went to visit Ms Signer's gr. 5s in their portable.  We had landed on a hybrid of models to run the sprint, but stuck with the language that Spencer and Juliani used in Launch as it seemed the most student friendly to us.

Spencer & Juliani's Launch Cycle

Importance: Allows designers to identify the problem.

We began our morning really thinking about the problem they faced.  Stephanie has made a video montage from their videos showing instances of poor noise quality, bad lighting, and even other students photo bombing videos. The class had a discussion about how these issues affected their learning.  They talked a lot about being distracted. 

Importance: Helps designers empathize with users, understand the context of the situation, and allows designers to see the problems from the user's lens.

Success Criteria
After this discussion they had more clarity and realised that many of them faced the same problems.  We explained that they were going to have to come up with a solution to these problems.  To be sure their solutions were addressing all aspects of the problem, Stephanie co-created some success criteria with the class.

Based on the criteria they created, we moved on to think about how we could solve the problems they were facing.  We put whiteboards at each table and asked them to list as many ideas they could think of - no matter how big or small.
Part way through the activity we had all the students move to another table and asked them to build on ideas that were there and add new ones that may have been inspired by what they read.  When they finished we asked students to share solutions they found interesting, impossible, or silly.

One of the suggestions we saw, based on the video from the beginning of class was to have Tiffany yell at people to be quiet.  Of course this was not a plausible solution since Tiffany would miss out on other learning.  We did explain that sometimes good ideas come from bad ideas.  We watched the Bad Idea Factory videos shared by Kevin Brookhouser and his students with particular focus on Denny - whose idea of spending a month in a wheelchair led to more accessibility on the school's campus.  We also read Ashley Spires's The Most Magnificent Thing to show how sometimes we need to walk away for a minute to gain fresh insight. After creating a list of bad ideas to meet our success criteria (and sharing via a paper snowball fight) we moved on to the next part of the cycle...

Importance: Gives the opportunity to come up with many solutions (there is not "right" solution) based on conversations with the user.

In order to come up with some fast ideas, we walked the kids through a process called rapid ideation (sometimes this is called an 8 fold activity).  In this activity students fold a piece of paper into 8 sections and have to come up with one idea, or build on a previous idea, in each of the boxes. A timer is started and students have 45 seconds to put an idea into the box before they move on to the next.  A number of students said it was a tough activity but they were all very surprised at how many ideas they generated in 5 minutes.

The 8 fold
Kill Your Darlings
After the rapid ideation we asked that they take a sheet of paper and sketch and label their favorite idea. These were posted (nameless) around the class for a walkabout activity we called “Kill Your Darlings”. In this exercise, students were given Post-it notes and they walked around the room pointing out obstacles the idea would have to conquer or pitfalls that would be faced should the idea launch. We made sure students did not write their names on the sketches so that there was no bias in feedback.

At this point the students went for recess and Stephanie quickly made groups. These groups would become teams that would work on a prototype for the flipgrid area. Once the students returned to class, they got into their groups and shared their ideas. Together, they had to pick one idea or amalgamate a few ideas into a singular idea that would become their focus.

I had to leave to go support another school, so we created a Flipgrid in which groups did an initial pitch to me that I could watch later that night.  In their pitch they explained their idea and how they thought it would meet the success criteria they had co-created earlier.  (These videos are super cute but for privacy reasons I cannot share them here.)

Stephanie and the students continued some work on #ProjectFlip including a discussion about the learning pit and watching a short video about famous failures. We really wanted the students to realize that this experience is as much about the process as it is the final product. they also discussed how failure is often not a bad thing but simply a step in the iteration process.  Stephanie also explained what a prototype is and together they created a word bank for effective Google searches to help them search for ideas in their prototype creation.

So now, a week later, I look forward to hearing about how the students are progressing. We have a second Flipgrid topic where in students can pose questions to me as they work on building their prototype.  I will be touching base with them sometime this week 2 let them know that it will not only be me and their principal who will see their prototype pitch but also a couple of Flipgrid employees - it is all about authenticity!

There are two more parts to the cycle that I will highlight in a future blog post:

Importance: Allows designers gain rapid feedback from users to allow for improvement.

On October 11th I will be joining the class via Google Hangouts and they are going to do a little dress rehearsal for me with their pitch. They will also have some time to try out prototypes that other groups have created to get and give some feedback.

(See my follow up blog)

Importance: Allows opportunity to continuously improve a product or experience.  There is no "end game".

October 18th will be pitch day. The school principal, Adam from Flipgrid, and I will see the fruits of the students' labour. I can't wait!

Stay tuned!  #MoreSoon as we say in the #WDC17 family.