Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Google Drive Basics

Google Drive offers a host of potential for integrating great instructional practices with digital tools.  In future posts, I'll share some instructional ideas for integrating Google Drive in your classroom. Meanwhile, here are a few basic tips for getting started with Google Drive.

Logging in Google Drive
  • Visit and sign in.
  • Select Drive at the top of your screen. 

  • Visit the Chrome Web Store and add Google Drive as an app for your Chrome browser.  

Adding Multiple Accounts

Creating and Sharing Documents

  • Select CREATE and the type of document.  Name your document.

  • To share, select the SHARE icon.

  • Make the document public by changing the privacy settings or invite specific people to collaborate on your document.

  • Be sure to select the access level.

Creating and Sharing Folders

  • In your Drive, Select CREATE and Folder.  Name your folder.

  • Right-click on the folder, and select SHARE.

  • Make the folder public by changing the privacy settings or invite specific people to collaborate within your folder.

  • Be sure to select the access level.

  • Note that shared folders will have the people icon.  

Accessing Shared Documents and Folders

  • Click on SHARED WITH ME to find all items that have been shared with you by others.

  • Drag shared files or folders into MY DRIVE to organize.

  • Use the Google Drive search bar to find documents or folders.

Organizing and Personalizing Google Drive

  • Use the star feature for frequently used documents and find them in your Starred folder.


  • Create folders in your Google Drive.  Decide on List View or Grid View.

  • Right-click and select Change Color to organize folders by color.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Creating Digital Word Walls

This summer I had the opportunity to hear educator Kelly Gallagher present.  He really got me thinking when he talked about our responsibility to "elevate word poverty."  We know that words have tremendous power, and are often a gateway to student success in many of our classes.  There are many strategies we can use, but I want to talk here about the strategy of word walls.    

Many teachers use word walls to build student vocabulary.  Robert Marzano in Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement describes a word wall as an "ongoing, organized display of key words that provides visual reference for students throughout a unit of study or a term."  Word walls are a powerful way to reinforce the repetition necessary to build student vocabulary, and they provide a visual for vocabulary development.

A strategy worth considering is challenging your students to create digital word walls.  Using a tool like Padlet provides an opportunity for the "wall" to go anywhere with the student.  That visual is now mobile!  

I've included a short example of how you might use Padlet to create a word wall.  I used some geometry terms in this particular case, but you could do this with vocabulary from any content area.  As students build word walls, challenge them to play with the words.  Here are some different ways students can construct meaning: 

  • Associate images
  • Create analogies
  • Write definitions in their own words and then compare with the formal definition
  • Generate examples and non-examples
  • Create word shapes
  • Break down the meaning of roots, prefixes, and suffixes
I've illustrated some of these methods in the example below.  Scroll the padlet to see several word examples. 

The power of the digital word wall is in the ability to personalize, collaborate, and reinforce or add to the wall anywhere and anytime!  Padlet walls can be shared spaces.  Would you want your entire class to collaborate on one word wall or would you want small groups to create word walls?  Perhaps a few students from your 3rd hour and 4th hour collaborate and construct meaning together in a virtual space.  Through the technology, their learning isn't restricted to your classroom.  Or would you want each student to create an individual word wall?  There are a variety of options!

Watch this video tutorial for a quick demo on creating a Padlet wall.

Marzano, Robert J. Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement: Research on What Works in Schools. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2004. Print.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Go Paperless

No matter how you are used to collecting assignments from students, there's probably no doubt you found an organizational system that works for you.  You'll also need to find an organizational system that works for you in the digital world. As students move to turning in hyperlinks instead of worksheets, below are a few methods to consider.   

1. Use Google Forms
Hint: This works well if students are submitting an assignment with a url (e.g. Prezi, YouTube video, Evernotes, Google docs/presentations, etc.).

HERE is an example of what you would create for your students.

HERE is an example of how the submissions would look.

2. Use Google Drive Folders
Hint: This works well if students will be using a lot of work using the Google products (Docs, Presentations, Spreadsheets, Forms).  Students could also paste a url in a doc if they are creating that type of assignment.

HERE is a tutorial on how to create and share your folders.

3. Share Google Docs, Presentations, Spreadsheets
Hint: If you aren’t planning on using Google Drive frequently with students, there is always the option for them to share a single document with you.  They will just need to hit the share button in the top right corner and invite you to the document.

4. Use AirDrop
Hint: This is a good feature if you occasionally have a student that quickly needs to share a file (e.g. Word doc, PowerPoint, etc.).  It is probably not the best option for having all students turn in assignments.  Be aware that students will be able to AirDrop with other students as well.

HERE is a tutorial on how to AirDrop.

5.  Use online assessment tools
Hint: Remember that tools like Quia, InfuseLearning, Socrative, Blackboard, Edmodo have assessment tools that also store student scores.  These can be linked from your classroom website.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Syllabus 2.0

I was recently asked for an example of a syllabus, and it got me thinking about different ways we can update the syllabus to make it more personal, informative, and accessible.  I always passed out to students a printed syllabus created in Microsoft Word.  Of course, that definitely does the trick, but I wanted to explore some new possibilities.

After brainstorming with my colleague Tracey Kracht, here are a few enhancements we brainstormed:
  • Use a web-based tool that will allow you to share the syllabus with just a link.
  • Include an introduction video that allows parents and students to put a face with the name.
  • Include a tutorial video that provides students and parents with a tour of your classroom website.
  • Include information about any hashtags or backchannels that will be ongoing throughout the year.
  • Include a link to recruit digital (or face-to-face) volunteers for your classroom.
Here's what it looks like:
Go to this Tackk on

If you are interested in upgrading your syllabus, here are a few tools to consider:
  • This syllabus was created with the very simple tool Tackk.  You could also use Smore.
  • The videos were created using Screencast-o-matic and YouTube.  Click HERE for a tutorial to get you started.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

To Blog or Not To Blog?

As you become more involved with reading the blogs of others, you might be thinking about starting your own.  Blogging is definitely an amazing example of the power of the web.  In just moments, you can share your thoughts with the world in ways that were almost impossible before computer technology.  There are some great benefits to blogging, but there are also some definite points to consider before you begin.  Here's some food for thought:

Decide on the AUTHOR!  Many teachers and administrators host their own blogs, sharing their reflections and tips for professional success.  Likewise, many teachers engage their students in the blogging process.  Engaging students in the blogging process is definitely a way to integrate some of the Common Core writing and digital standards for any content area.

Determine your PURPOSE AND AUDIENCE!  Like any other good writing, it's also important to determine the purpose and audience of your blog.  Do you want to share your class news with parents?  Do you want to reflect on your professional experiences as a teacher or administrator with educators worldwide?  Do you want your students to blog about their learning experiences to share with experts in the field?  The options are unlimited!  Visit your favorite blogs to determine what you like about their purpose and style.

Strive for FREQUENT posts!  Blogging requires more time than one might think.  Be sure to set some goals for how often you would like to post, and set a schedule to stay on track! The bottom line is that if the blog isn't updated, people will stop reading.  If you are using blogging with your students, be sure to build in plenty of time for students to brainstorm, write, and comment on one another's posts.

Be AWARE of what you can share!  While there are fair use guidelines that make it a little easier on educators, it's important to be mindful of Copyright law and Creative Commons guidelines if the work you are sharing is not your own.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Get Your Blog On

If you've decided blogging is something you'd like to explore, I'd like to share three blogging tools worth considering: KidBlog, Blackboard, and Blogger.

Options for Students
KidBlog is a blogging tool designed to be a safe option for students.  It's much more private than many blogging tools and can't be accessed through an RSS reader.  KidBlog's site is very user-friendly and their blog templates make creating an attractive blog easy.  Login with your google account and create a class so students can enroll.  Check out this quick video overview if you are interested in learning more about KidBlog.

If you are a BlackBoard user, there's also a blogging feature available in the Interactive Tools.  Like KidBlog, these can't be accessed through an RSS reader.  In fact, they are only available to your assigned BlackBoard users.  This makes it a great place to start if your students are beginning bloggers or if you just want a more private environment.  BlackBoard does not include templates or design, so it's also a good place to start if you want the students to focus on the writing without focusing on appearance.  Click HERE for a video tutorial.

Options for Teachers and Students
Blogger is available through your school google account and is a great way to reach a wider audience.  This LPS Connects site is an example of Blogger!  A variety of templates are available and the final products are professional and attractive.  Blogger can be accessed through RSS readers, which helps you build a following.

Click HERE for a video to get you started.

If you decide to blog, be sure to share your posts with us at #lpsconnects.  Now get your blog on!

Cross-posted on LPS Connected Educator.