Resource Introduction: Google for Education Training Center

Come in and learn a bit about Google’s Education Training Center, where teachers learn tricks and best practices.

Google is pretty committed to education. After all, they give educators and students free access to a wide range of tools and unlimited storage. But, their support for schools does not stop there. Google for Education has established their Training Center, where teachers can complete units and lessons to learn digital instruction tricks and best practices. The center is structured in two basic sections: “Fundamentals” and “Advanced,” with each section featuring menus of lessons for easy browsing. Lessons will give web resources and video tutorials to explore topics, with self-check quizzes closing each. Topics range from basic understanding of Google apps up to advanced practices with data analysis, digital conferencing, and more. So, whether you’re a true novice or a teacher leader, you’ll find something to explore and learn. Check it out!

Google EduTraining

Teacher Showcase: Island Web Showcases with Claudia Fischer

Check out how students are beginning their exploration of the new Google Sites in French!

Anyone who knows anything knows that a world language program does not simply acquaint its students with an unfamiliar language. The teachers of Spanish, German, French, and Chinese in Sylvania Schools take their students on virtual (and sometimes actual) explorations of world cultures, histories, and geographies. They help students feel what it’s like to roam the countryside of Castilla-Leon or visit the waterfall at Saut d’Eau. That dimension makes world language education truly rich. But, the ever-apparent fact that we live in Northwest Ohio, with limited opportunities to visit these faraway countrysides provides world language teachers with a recurring challenge. How can they bring their students to those distant regions of the world without actually going there?

Of course, technology has been providing answers to this question for generations, and recent developments in Internet technology have brought a variety of opportunities to world language teachers. From Google initiatives like StreetView Treks and Cardboard to simple video conferencing tools like Hangouts and Skype to interactive websites, new or improved tools exist to make the world a little smaller and acquaint Sylvania students with their cousins in distant lands.

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Claudia Fischer, Northview French teacher, is using some of those simple tools to help her students explore the geography of French-speaking nations. Claudia has taken the newly-revamped Google Sites and guided her students through the creation of their own showcase websites for the island communities of Haiti, St. Martin, St. Barthelemy, and Guadeloupe. On the websites, students posted images, videos, and descriptions of geographical and cultural characteristics of their chosen island nation, but the sites provided expanded opportunities as well. Students used pages in their sites to demonstrate their grasp of vocabulary and reflexive verbs. Students received a grading rubric and explored a model example site produced by Claudia. Through in and out of class work, they developed the sites and shared them for fellow students to peer review.

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Last year, Claudia’s students created paper brochures to explore their chosen island, but Claudia notes that “You can add so much more to show what you have learned than in a brochure.” The sites created by her students represent a small step in terms of web design, but they have jumped miles ahead of the paper brochure stage. Many of Claudia’s students had never built a website before, and even more had not yet experimented with the new Google Sites. Now, with this initial experience, students are ready to continue in multimedia web design, allowing them to explore their world in ways that paper never could offer.

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The development of Google Sites is simple. Check out this sample site to see the possibilities, and then read the SDL Resource Introduction for more help!

Student examples

Haiti

Guadeloupe

St. Barthelemy

Teacher Showcase: Edcite-formatted Exams with Katherine Jensen

Check this out to hear about Katherine Jensen, Northview math teacher, adminstering semester exams in Edcite for better AIR test prep.

PARCC and AIR tests have caused their due portion of stress and anxiety for all of us, but after years of adjustment, they’ve also led to some noticeable instructional changes in our classrooms. One such change, which Sylvania teachers are adjusting to more and more every day, is the implementation of digital tests and quizzes. Going digital allows students to become used to completing challenging work on a Chromebook. But, of course, that only really helps them prepare for AIR tests if the digital activities push past the traditional multiple-choice model of assessment. Assessments that include drag and drop items, graphing tools, sentence select interactions, and more are necessary to really prepare students for the tests. Google Forms doesn’t do the trick, and the rest of the free and premium digital landscape is pretty scant.

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An Algebra test item with the equation editor function

But, Katherine Jensen, math teacher at Northview High School, is figuring out how to solve that problem and give her students digital assessment experience. This past semester, Katherine developed her exams for her Algebra I and College Prep Math students through Edcite, the free digital assessment platform that offers nearly seventy different digital question types, many of which are explicitly aligned to AIR, PARCC, and Smarter Balanced state tests. She used three to four different question types per exam to give her students a variety of interaction with math tasks. So, this year, instead of bubbling in Scantron sheets, students were clicking mice. Instead of drawing with pencil on graph paper, they were plotting points and dragging lines on digital coordinate planes. The impact ranged from null to huge.

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An Algebra test item with the graphing tool function

On the null end, Katherine did not notice any appreciable difference in grade results. Students were demonstrating the same sorts of mastery they demonstrated on paper exams. In the middling range, Katherine was grateful to avoid fussing with Scantrons, both in organization and grading. She and her students received instant feedback on structured response items, and Katherine also had instant access to detailed and user friendly grade reports. The tests were also much simpler to modify in the case of errors or improvements; changes are instantly available to students with no worries about returning to the photocopier or announcing changes. On the huge end, students were interacting with the same digital tools they will use when facing their AIR tests in March and April, but they weren’t doing it in some detached, artificial test preparation environment. They were doing it in the course of regular instruction, a seamless approach to state test prep.

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An Algebra item requiring a written response

Katherine is excited to continue with digital assessments through Edcite, and she’s already developing more. While she admits that the learning curve for Edcite content development may seem steep, once question types are learned, creation become simple. She’s interested in learning from some minor problems with the exam (like students using the x for multiplication instead of the x for variables in the equation editor) and adding more writing activities. Whatever course her work may take, one thing’s for sure. Her students will walk into a testing room better prepared to succeed than many of their peers around the state.

 

Test Preparation

Check out the AIR and ACT resources developed by the district for the 2017 testing cycle.

Click on the images below to access the independent websites developed to support teachers in preparing their students for the AIR and ACT tests in 2017. These resources were developed by and for secondary teachers and explored at the January 26th late start resource workshops.

act-preparation-resources

air-preparation-resources

Teacher Showcase: Student Video Production with Tracy Donnelly and Kristen Ireland

Our new digital playground makes student video easier than ever before. Check out how two Northview teachers are doing it!

This post is rich with links for extra help and examples. Check ‘em out!

If you want your students to explore a topic through research, fully examining the issue from a number of perspectives and addressing diverse questions, you assign a research report, right? Or maybe, a presentation? Sure, those approaches are straightforward and familiar. They’ve also become a bit outdated. The research report, as traditionally assigned, lacks multimedia components. The presentation, as traditionally executed, lacks audience engagement. Neither takes advantage of the tools available to students in our current technological landscape.

That’s why Health teacher Tracy Donnelly and Zoology teacher Kristen Ireland, both teaching at Northview High School, have opted out of the traditional approach and opted into student video production. Their students have presented research on topics within the curricula through short video documentaries that make use of interviews, narration, titles and images, clipped YouTube content, dramatic re-enactments, and more to mimic a television documentary style. That style has been developed and refined over generations, but the tools at the students’ disposal are pretty new. Students use WeVideo, a free, web-based video editor, to assemble and arrange content produced by themselves and/or captured from the Internet. They use their smartphones to stage and record interviews and dramatizations. They capture images in simple manners and rip YouTube content with more sophisticated approaches. They use WeVideo tools to create captions, titles, and more.

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A playful video exploring nutrition pits a student against “Darth Diabeetus” in single combat.

The result? Let’s look at Tracy Donnelly’s health class first. Here, students gather into groups to explore a chosen topic in the curriculum, such as nutrition or bullying. They conduct research to develop a written script. The script then leads them in the creation and cultivation of video content (as well as a formal research paper that Tracy requires). Some students come to the task with more experience and lead the group in the video execution; others learn fast from their guidance. All work on their smartphones and Chromebooks, discussing the content and the video development as they go. The result? Some videos are whimsical and inject their topic with a dose of humor. Many, such as this one, feature students exploring the issue in the context of their own school community. Others go for serious inspection of emotional issues. Often, students mix fact-bearing title images with dramatizations of those facts. The execution is varied, but each video showcases the play of students in a medium that they enjoy playing with.

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The beauty of the jewel anemone shines forth through the title screen.

The same goes for Kristen Ireland’s students in Zoology. This year, Kristen assigned a video project in lieu of a final exam. Make no mistake, the assignment was rigorous, but like Tracy’s Health project, students explore video development as their means of expression. Through documentaries on octopi, red scorpions, sea anemones, and more, students record voice-over narration, create titles, edit video, and insert images to answer the research questions asked in the assignment. Each video is an effort to address each requirement of the grading rubric and demonstrate the ability to engage in scientific discourse on animals.

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Interviews with peers exhibit the student producers’ exploration of their immediate community.

Students have been recording videos to satisfy class project requirements since video cameras became inexpensive enough for schools to buy. So, in a sense, nothing is new here. And, when examining these videos, you may see that students are a bit rough in their video production skills. But step back a check this out in perspective. Now, each student has access to video camera technology at virtually every moment, and all of the footage from that equipment is incredibly portable and flexible. Now, a library of unimaginable hours of video content lie at students fingertips, ready for cutting and integration. Now, cloud technology enables portable collaboration and presentation. None of those current qualities was true even five years ago in our schools. As teachers begin to understand these facts and encourage their students to play with the possibilities, new media of expression will emerge to complement traditional approaches to assessment. As students increasingly face these challenges, their ability to communicate with the semantics and syntax of video will blossom. It’s a colorful, dynamic world of sound and vision. And it’s just ahead.

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Captions merge with audio to express researched information.

Teacher Showcase: Interactive Video Instruction with Anna Drake-Kotz

Leave 20th century TV behind with Anna Drake-Kotz and Edpuzzle interactive video instruction!

We may have grown up on television, but our students are growing up on YouTube. And while that may seem a difference with little significance, it’s not. The video content on YouTube is more diverse, portable, and functional than television broadcast. It often comes in short chunks, and those chunks serve a specific user purpose. Search and recommendations serve content based on viewer characteristics much more responsively than television. YouTube is truly television for a different age, and as we grew up expecting audio-visual stimulation in our world, our student expect that and so much more.

Enter Arbor Hills teacher Anna Drake-Kotz. Anna teaches sixth grade science, and she has been a strong user and advocate of interactive video instruction through the platform of Edpuzzle. You may have attended her professional development session in October of 2016, and if you did, you’ll be familiar with the lesson she’s running on this late start Wednesday in December. On this day, Anna’s students are continuing their study of matter, with particular attention to pure substances, mixtures, and their qualities. But, rather than lecturing or reading from a textbook, the students are learning the concepts through interactive videos Anna has created in Edpuzzle.

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Anna’s sixth grade learning targets

Here’s how it goes: Anna finds instructional video content that she likes. Today, she is using short videos from Crash Course Kids. She uploads those videos to Edpuzzle, which enables her to create questions embedded in the video themselves. Then, she shares those videos with her students through Google Classroom. The students log in and watch the video. At planned points of the video, the playback stops and Anna’s question appears. The student must answer before moving on. Results from these quiz questions flow directly to Anna’s teacher dashboard in Edpuzzle, where she can see results, reset videos for students, and plan for further instruction.

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The Edpuzzle dashboard here shows assigned videos and their progress in completion by students.

But why do this instead of a traditional lecture and discussion? After all, those traditional approaches, with the right teacher, can be dynamic, engaging performances that capture students’ attention. But, the approach Anna is developing here will not only meet her students in a learning mode with which they feel comfortable, but will also fuel further instructional change. Anna could assign the videos for homework to create a flipped classroom approach. Instead of assigning students traditional text reading at home, an Edpuzzle video could be assigned. Students could then report to class ready to explore the concepts actively, and Anna could use the results of the Edpuzzle quizzes to modify her instruction. Moving direct instruction to this mode offers other benefits as well. Absent or homebound students would not miss out on direct instruction. Also, all students are required to engage themselves with active thinking during the instruction. Interactive quizzes and the Internet technology that serves them provide such clear and flexible benefits that they should be considered vital tools in any modern teacher’s tool box.

Especially when the resource is so simple to use for both the teacher and the students. Edpuzzle integrates with Google Classroom, so classes can be created through importing from Classroom and videos can be posted directly back to the Classroom. Teachers can search for publicly shared videos on Edpuzzle, curating material rather than creating it. Videos can be created through sourcing YouTube content, which is vast and valuable. Teachers can customize content as well, even including their own voice over (as Anna once did to clarify one of the video’s discussions of states of matter, a topic net broached until next chapter).

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Anna guides her students through the simple Edpuzzle login process.

Today, the students are seeing the benefits. As they complete three interactive videos of approximately three minutes each, they work at their own pace, sometimes disappearing silently into the work, at other times collaborating with peers. All the while, Anna floats around the room, helping students as needed and monitoring completion. The dashboard fills the Smartboard in the front of the classroom, so Anna can monitor progress at a glance. This instruction finishes quickly, which is perfect for the shortened period today, but it leaves students ready for the applied lab practice with chemical reactions scheduled for next week.

The work Anna is doing here today may seem simple, but its impact is huge. Developing interactive video content like this gives students more control over resources for learning while maintaining Anna’s guidance. In the YouTube age, it just makes sense.

Linked Resources

Anna’s PD Session Page from the Sylvania October Inservice

Edpuzzle

Edpuzzle YouTube Channel

Also, search for Anna’s videos on Edpuzzle

Teacher Showcase: Mastering Fluency with Tim Nottke

To support his students’ reading fluency, McCord teacher Tim Nottke has embraced Fluency Tutor, an amazing digital solution. Check out his story!

In a quiet McCord room where the harsh florescent lights have been filtered to a calmer blue, seventh grade student Tyler sits and introduces himself to Anne Frank. He does so by reading an informational text passage about the historic girl and her struggle, but meeting her is only incidental to the real task on Tyler’s agenda: reading fluency. Tyler is enrolled in an essentials English class where we works on developing his reading fluency. As he reads, he reads the Anne Frank passage aloud to his Chromebook through a program called Fluency Tutor. All of that might sound a bit straightforward, but Tyler’s teacher, Tim Nottke, describes the digital process as a “night and day” difference between his current reading instruction and previous approaches.

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Mr. Nottke opens class with instructions for both whole-class and individual work. One of those individual tasks is Fluency Tutor recording, for which students need little to no direction.

“Before, I would have to take a kid back and listen to him read. I would be able to get about one done per class period, and it took away instructional time.” Now, the game is totally different. The student accesses Google Classroom, where they click on the reading passage link. This opens Fluency Tutor and the passage the student is assigned to read. The student clicks “record,” reads, and clicks “stop.” That recording immediately appears on Tim’s teacher dashboard (in fact, a notification window even appears to him if he’s logged into Chrome-he can see the instant a student is finished, even if that student is working in another room).

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The dashboard is where some powerful tools lie at Tim’s command. At a glance, he sees data about classes overall, such as their total reading time and average Lexile proficiency. A single click brings him to his student list, where he can see individual student data. The most important data there is the WCPM, “words correct per minute,” and he can see graphs for progress on that score.

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Some of that data is generated automatically by Fluency Tutor, but the rest is generated by Tim’s review. Take Tyler’s recording, for instance. Tim will listen to it while looking at the text and mark each word that Tyler misses, indicating the type of problem Tyler demonstrated with the word through a simple pop-up menu that appears when Tim clicks on the word. Once Tim has assessed the entire recording, Fluency Tutor compares the WCPM to the simple WPM, or “words per minute.” Tim can even add simple evaluative statements to the recording, such as descriptions of the pacing or enunciation. All of the statements are pre-generated and require no extra typing, just simple clicks to select. Within minutes, Tyler’s profile is richer with evaluative data, which will help Tim build IEP, keep parents informed, re-evaluate, and make other instructional decisions regarding learning. That control of data and ease of assessment has convinced Tim that this approach is light years better than the traditional. He’ll never go back.

 

And Tyler likes it. He notes that this method is easier and faster than previous approaches to verbal assessment. I note that his ability to separate himself into a calm environment, without the pressure of a live observer seems to put Tyler at ease and allow him to perform his best. It’s a quality of performance that Tim will have easy access to for the end goal: helping Tyler become the reader we all know he can be.

Note: Fluency Tutor is available for a small fee per teacher per year.

Resource Introduction: The New Google Sites

The new Google Sites makes web building in class easier than ever before. Check out how!

 

What is it?

The new Google Sites is still a straightforward website builder, but it is a revised approach to building websites that makes that task easier in a bunch of ways:

  • Simpler Development The developer interface is streamlined, making it easier to create and modify pages, add content, tweak visual design, and more. Many of the development tools are simple drag-and-drop.
  • Google Integration Building sites with Google content, like Slides presentations, Google Docs, YouTube videos, Blogger groups, Google Forms, and all the rest, is much easier.
  • Real-Time Collaboration Multiple users can work on the same website at the same time without the problems of locking each other out.
  • Responsive Design The appearance of the site responds better to the device, so the beautifully designed desktop version will not look like a mess on a tablet or smartphone.
  • Simpler Tools The complex tools from the old Google Sites, like gadgets, are gone. This might lead to less power for creating diverse interaction on the site, but it also makes development simpler.

How can I use it?

The simple and quick ability to develop websites is an incredibly useful addition to any classrooms. While many teachers use the super-powerful Google Classroom to manage their classes online, building a separate site with more traditional interactions may sometimes be useful. Better than that, the new Google Sites is available to students, which means they can use it to build sites for projects, portfolios, and more.

Here are some ideas:

  • Build a site that showcases a literary, musical, or artistic period, an historical period, an important scientist or mathematician. Load that site with videos, static images, and maybe even an interactive Google Street View Trek of a world location. (Make this even better by co-building it with a fellow teacher.)
  • Build a site around a long-term project that students are completing with all of the Google Drive files, external resources, and more that they might need to complete it. Then, post their completed projects on the site. This would move the project out of the chronologically-organized stream of Google Classroom. (Make this even better by developing a project with a fellow teacher in another content area for cross-curricular learning.)
  • Support students in building sites that showcase their work as portfolios. They can load the site with photographs, documents, spreadsheets, videos, external links, and anything else they need to show off their personal work.
  • Support students in collaborating on sites that present the work of projects, showcasing research, writing, discussion, and more.

Do you have other cool ideas? Email them to us to share with others!

Who’s using it?

Check out these teachers that know and use Google Sites in your school. Ask them for help!

At Northview, Lauren Stewart and Ryan Creech

Are you or someone you know using this? Notify us, and we’ll post your or their name here as a building expert! Email to aclarkson@sylvaniaschools.org.


Check out TeacherTech’s excellent introduction to the new Google Sites. Then, use the resources below that for extra help.


Resource Links

Sample New Google Site

Google Sites Login Page

Google Help Center

Sites on Learning Center

SDL Teacher Showcase: “Student Websites with Paul Moffitt”