Thursday, January 29, 2015

5 Google Drawing Ideas to Unleash Student Creativity

    If you're looking for ways to allow students to be more creative with technology (think our Bright Bytes goals and Iowa Core Curriculum Universal Constructs), here are some easy, foundational skill building ways using Google Drawing.  First, to create a Google Drawing, go to your Drive, click the red "New" or "Create" button, and find Google Drawing.

Here are some quick ideas:

1. Create an Avatar- students can import a picture (even their own) and modify it for cyber safety's sake.  Feel free to tie in art topics, and have students create a blog avatar using themes and ideas from cubism, impressionism, or another artistic concept.  The picture could then be used as an avatar for student blogs.  My humble attempt took about 5 minutes.

2. Create a logo- To increase the relevance, have students create logos.  I see teachers having students create logos for historical themes like American Revolutionaries did with concepts of liberty, freedom, and later with manifest destiny.  Students could also use design concepts to create logos for local businesses or school websites.  I created the Curriculum and Innovation header using Google Drawings, and this Favicon for the website:

3. Demonstrate your learning graphically- Google drawings can create mind maps, graphic organizers, and with some extension and scaffolding, infographics.  Alice Keeler, author of the blog Teacher Tech, has some excellent ideas here.

4. Build badges to Gamify your content- why not have students design the badges for your gamified curriculum?  Badges could also be shared among content areas.  Badges can be imported into spreadsheets and displayed on web pages.  Check our Google Apps Ninja website to see an example of this HERE.

5. App smash your original art with other apps to create powerful learning opportunities-  Students can create an original image, then import it into YouTube or Thinglink and annotate the image.  A secondary result from doing images this way is you eliminate (mostly) the worry about students using copyrighted images.  I created this Thinglink image from Google Drawings and used the embed code to add it to my blog:

Of course, there are a number of drawing apps and programs that have different features which may be better suited for your needs.  However, with so many schools using Google Apps for Education, the features of sharing, collaborating, commenting and importing, Google Drawings adds another level of ease for teachers, parents, and students.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Building a Student Tech Team

     One of the goals (from Bright Bytes survey data) for our districts this year was to build a student-driven technology team within our buildings.  Student tech teams lend themselves to some incredible learning and leadership opportunities for students of all ages.  As I've been working specifically with middle and high school students on this task, here are five pillars we wanted to put into place:

  1.  A purposeful Mission statement which attends to relevant needs and is built by the group.
  2. A chance for students to develop leadership skills through mini-lessons and conversations.
  3. Opportunities for students to belong to an "intervention" like group where they could extend their learning, but also get social support from a diverse group (insert "Cheers" theme song here).
  4. A Genius Hour/ Passion Project like environment where success is variable but "failing forward" and learning are constants.
  5. A chance to reflect, grow, and evolve ourselves and the tech team.

As I built this group, I also wanted to avoid these things:
  1. Making the group "just another thing" that students have to worry about.
  2. Grading things.
  3. An excuse to miss in-class learning; either because students are out of class or because students are neglecting their class duties while working on tech team things.
  4. A short term group dependent on one person for success.

    I built a Google Apps Ninja training site based on Jeff Utecht's Google Apps Ninja student training resources (he has graciously made those resources free for anyone under a Creative Commons license).  The Google Ninja Training site is a self-directed, quizzed website that allows students to learn about Google apps and begin applying their knowledge in class.  There are formative assessments built from a Google form that self-grades and lets me know when a quiz has been passed. Students also had to apply to be a part of the group, and a basic criteria was used to filter the applicants.  Teachers also had input into the makeup of the group.

    From there, I am also challenging students to address issues that are happening in our communities through technology and activism (like iPad school policies, student morning news webcasts, student depression, combating hunger, assistance with Chromebooks, etc.).  My groups so far are really excited to learn coding (from, and build apps.

    For a group of high school students, we created the STEAM team looking at STEAM initiatives and teaching lessons to elementary students.  I'm still trying to figure out the direction for this group, but they seem really motivated to work with our younger students on cool things like Lego League, Makey-Makey, Squishy Circuits, robots, raspberry pi, and

    Our Google Apps Ninja team has met a handful of times, and already they are excited and motivated to create with technology and help their school in many different ways.  I'll continue to post here the progress and projects we are working on.

    In the meantime, feel free to swing over to the Google Apps Ninja Training Dojo and try your hand at a few of the quizzes and training materials.  I'd be more than happy to send you a ninja badge when you complete a test!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

What about Blogging?

Blogging is an incredibly powerful tool for student learning, and I find it is easily overlooked by teachers as an effective means to teach reading, writing, and critical thinking skills to students.  Plus, blogging opens the doors for conversations about digital citizenship and cyber safety. Recently, I gave a presentation about the power of using blogs (Kidblog, in particular) with students of all ages.  Below are the presentation slides.

If you're interested in engaging your students in writing and reading, improving their abilities as reflective, evaluative, and critical thinkers, and wanting to connect your classroom to other classrooms around the world, then give blogging a look.  I'd be glad to come in and work with you on a framework for student blogging that is both powerful and effective.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Mic Note Chrome App: Endless Learning Possiblities!

6th graders at North Tama elementary had a problem.  They wanted to get word out about their class store, but couldn't get the right information to the announcements at the right time, and to the right people.  Enter Mic Note: the Chrome app with endless possibilities.

Mic Note is a free Chrome app that combines a text editor with a audio recorder and editor.  Simply type up your script, including adding pictures, highlights, powerpoints, or PDF's, then hit record.  The app will record anything it hears.

After recording, you can add timestamps into your script to log the progress of the recording.  With Mic Note Pro, you have an added ability to edit your recording by flagging, deleting, and trimming selected sections.

When you have a final product, export it to Google Drive, Dropbox, or your local disk, then share as needed.  Shared versions show up as both an MP3 file and a PDF of the script.  The free version limits users to 10 minutes of total recording time.  The Pro version ($4.99) gives unlimited recording time and the ability to edit recordings.
Mic Note allows you to write out your script before, or after,
you record.  You can also "flag" parts of the recording.

 The 6th graders used Mic Note to write, record and share announcements, which were then played for the student body. Really, the possibilities here are endless-  I can see coupling this tool with QR codes to make some incredible learning or reflection logs, teachers can give directions both in written and audible form, or students can post recordings and scripts to a blog.  Students that need differentiation can record their voice first, then type up what they said later- very handy for those students who tend to think faster than they can type.

You can find the Mic Note app in the Google Chrome Store.