Aw summer… It’s that time where teachers get a break for their students, but they now have to put up with their own children for 2 months straight non-stop (I love my children dearly, but school is nice especially when you work from home most of the time.) Many think that this is a time of vacation, and those on the outside world think that this is a time that makes teachers' jobs super easy. In reality, it’s that time of year where you actually get to work on yourself, and we really need to embrace that.
Working on yourself could mean a load of things, and it absolutely includes taking some time off and that much needed rest. The school year is VERY long, and most people don’t understand that it simply does not stop with the school day because during that day you don’t have nearly enough time to accomplish things like grading and planning lessons. Those are part of the job too, so you are usually taking those things into your evenings, on the weekends, or on holidays (I remember grading essays in the back of my father in law's car during Christmas). All of that being said, it means when you get to summer you can just use some of those days as comp time! Think of all those extra times and days as the times you get to take off in the summer, but in reality it still won’t add up.
Summer can also be a great time to learn. It’s a great time to read, and it’s also a great time to participate in professional development. I am not talking about the district oriented required kind though. What I am talking about is times that allow you to pull away with teachers of like minded perspective that can really set you up well for the next school year. Think of it like summer camp for teachers and you will have a blast. I know for me, I run a couple of these sessions around computer science concepts. They are virtual this year, but I can’t wait to take them back live.
Summer is also a time for you to get ahead for the next school year. You can really get a jump start on planning and plan some incredible creative activities if you just start a little early. Is this working on yourself? I sure think so because it gives you a sense of calm for the next school year and you can go in knowing you have a month or two head start on what you are going to do. It gives you more time to focus on your students in the fall which will always make you feel good about yourself.
Are all of these ideas fun? Not necessarily, but that really working on and building yourself up not only in the immediate but also for the future school year will help you prevent that burnout that everyone is experiencing now!
It’s on to the next one, and today we are going to talk about My Maps. My Maps in general is one of the least used tools in Google Drive, but it can be a great learning progression and student activity if you think about it in new ways.
The general idea behind My Maps is that students can open up a Google Map and they can plot points that include media and links on different parts of the world.
To start, this is a great student activity. You could open up a My Map and share it with the whole class where they could plot some instances collaboratively. You could also have individual students plot things like explorers, battles, and other historical events. Really, it’s up to your creativity!
Another interesting idea I have seen with My Maps is to use it like a HyperDoc. The basic principle would give students an activity or link they can use at locations that make sense, and from those ideas they could then use it as a process for creation. You could do something like have them go to different civil war locations to do things like idea generation, research, prototype, and reflect. Each of those locations would have some type of link to an activity that allows them to do that step, and all the while they can explore what that looks like today.
I am a former Social Studies teacher and My Maps make so much sense to that curriculum, but it can be used effectively by almost any other subject. Give it a try today!
Google sites alternative use cases revolve almost completely around student creativity. There aren’t many ways to use it in a way that is different from its natural order, but the fact that most aren’t using it in that creative way means you could see them as alternatives.
The key with sites is that it’s all in Drive. It allows sharing and collaboration to be done easily, and it makes it easy for any student to start a site. It also means you don’t necessarily have to even publish them. You could just shrew them through the Drive sharing function.
Sites are also incredibly easy to use. Students just need to drag and drop content into it, and it is easy to add some of the other Google tools like docs, sheets, slides, and forms.
Some ideas for Sites:
Continuing with our alternative uses for Google series, let’s spend today's blog post on Google Drawings. This again is one where you are better off in the hands of an expert, and that expert goes by the name of Eric Curts.
Eric’s Control Alt Achieve site is a great resource for every Google tool, and it’s completely free. I especially love it for Drawing because it has some amazing ideas and templates including magnetic poetry, clocks, and more. You can access Eric’s specific Drawing page by clicking HERE.
Google Forms seems like a pretty straightforward tool, right? Well, it actually has some deep features that would allow you to use it in some very different ways. You can do some amazing things like personalized journeys, never fail quizzes, and breakout edu games.
The design of forms makes it one of the easiest ways to create a student journey. It’s so easy to add content that you can create them quickly, and you can easily pass them on to students through Google’s ease of sharing.
We won’t cover surveys and quizzes, but lets cover some amazing opportunities for kids!
I was lucky enough to recently get a 2021 M1 MacBook Pro, and I thought the blog would be a great place to give you some first impressions of the device. I got the base model which has a 14 inch screen, 16 GB of Memory, and 512 GB of storage, and for context I am coming from a 2018 MacBook Pro with touch-bar that was upgraded to 16GB of memory, has a 13 inch screen, and 256 GB of Storage.
The first thing you notice is the differences in look and feel, and I did not think it would start with the screen but it does. The screen size is really only a little over an inch difference from my 2018 MacBook Pro, but it feels like a ton. This laptop actually feels closer to the 16 inch in my hands then my previous 13 inch which is wild. I think part of that is the extra inch, but it’s also the reduced bezels. It really stands out in Chrome where you don’t have to scroll as far.
That look and feel also applies to the other pieces of the device. I was one who never really had issues with the previous generation of MacBook Pro's keyboard, but after typing on the 2021 for a bit, I can generally say I see the difference. The keys travel further like a general keyboard should, and the clacking that comes with the previous version is reduced. The black matte finish also hides dirt and grime just a bit better, and it feels cleaner.
While I have not gone out to present yet to take advantage of the ports, I am just thrilled that they are back. You only lost 1 USB-C port from the previous generation, but you gained an HDMI port, SD card slot, and MagSafe power adapter. I can’t even express how happy I am to have MagSafe back, and plugging directly into a projector at a conference using the HDMI port rather than a dongle will cut back a host of issues for me.
The best part about this device though in comparison to my old computer is the M1-Pro chip. It makes the computer incredibly fast, and the efficiency it provides makes the battery life unbelievable. My previous Macbook at best had 2 and ½ hours of time when I quit using it (this was after 3 and ½ years.) I have used the new one off and on all weekend and it only lowered to a 48% charge. I can’t even express how surprised I am at this.
Not only does the chip improve performance, it also lets me add iPad and iPhone apps to my device. This is such a life saver because now I don’t have to depend on a corded iOS device to demo iOs apps. It actually makes my iPad somewhat absolute with the main reason to keep it so that I have a second screen when presenting remotely. The only challenge is figuring out how to scroll in some apps.
I truly can’t say enough about this MacBook Pro upgrade. This is my 6th MacBook, and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this is my favorite. It’s the right combination of the things I loved in the originals (like the MagSafe), and the new and innovative ones like the M1 Pro chip. They are expensive, but if you can make that work, I highly recommend them.
We are moving on in our series talking about alternative ways to use Google products, and today it’s all about Google Slides. Slides are a great way for teachers to present content, but it’s also a great creative tool. Its accessibility and ease of use make it a great way for students to show what they know.
Slides' amazing alternative uses come predominantly from three features that just make it different: the ability to easily share, the ability for slides to go straight into presentation mode, and the ability to link between slides. It means you can create things that are not just presentations, and we outline those below.
I am so excited to come back to Iowa! I was disappointed when ITEC was pushed to October (that date worked so well for me), but I am so glad that ITEC will be in person here in just a couple of weeks! Come join me for one of the following sessions.
I am terrible at Google Sheets. I know the basics, but getting creative and finding alternative ways to sheets is not my expertise. So....Let’s give you two great resources that have all kinds of great ways to use sheets.
It’s time to start a new series, and this one is a fun one. All the Google Tools that teachers can use have a base level of features. In Docs, you can write. In Sheets, you can analyze data, and in Slides, you can create presentations. All of those are valid in a classroom, but if you can add other functions you can grow your toolbox. Let’s start with Docs.
This is a fun series. All the Google Tools that teachers can use have a base level of features. In Docs, you can write. In Sheets, you can analyze data, and in Slides, you can create presentations. All those are valid in a classroom, but you can grow your toolbox by adding other functions. Let’s start with Docs.
The beauty of Google docs is that it has three things built directly into it that make building learning experiences easier. You can now do most of those in Microsoft too, but because they are more upgrades than original features, they can feel like items that are a bit less intuitive. Those three features are easy sharing, easy, feedback, and search built directly into Google Docs.
Those three features become the basis for the alternative use of docs: Hyperdocs. What is a HyperDoc? It’s an interactive document that can become the basis and process for almost any creative project.
When you start a doc, you just need to look at it from an organizational state. If you use tables, you can organize them into the standard process categories such as Brainstorming, Research, Creation, Feedback. That process can contain as many steps as you want, or it can be based on an existing process like the STEM design process.
Once you have that organization, you can color-code those tables to have content that students need, content where they need to respond under another, and any other needs. You can add images, text, and whatever you want to those tables. That’s where the beauty of search comes in: it allows you to add those pictures straight from the search tool in the doc.
Sharing and Feedback also makes Hyperdocs more viable. If students are using them to plan creative projects, you want to share with other group members quickly, and you want to be able to share with the teacher. That quick sharing makes collaboration viable, but it also makes feedback quick. Teachers can provide that feedback as students are working through the doc, and you can even easily share for peer feedback. It becomes an additional benefit of the learning.
That easy share also means that teachers can easily share these with other teachers. You can just go to https://hyperdocs.co/ to get a great look.