Google Slides Flash Cards

There are plenty of flash cards sites, apps and ideas out there.  And many of them are great.  But… it’s nice to not have to add another tool to your classroom, another site to your list of resources, another password for your students to remember and possibly another account for your students to access.

So, if you don’t need a fully-featured flash cards solution, stick with what you’ve got (and know): Google Slides.

  • Students can work together to create the cards.
  • You can assign each kid a card to make . . . and 5 minutes later you have a whole deck.
  • Cards can involve pictures from a Google image search, pictures from students’ Drive or webcams, drawings and videos.
  • You can project it in class to have a class-wide review.
  • Students can use it to study from their cell phones and other devices.
  • If you have a class website, you can embed the Slides on the site.
  • Students can make a copy of the Slides to make them their own, add information that helps them, delete cards they already know and add cards for terms they struggle with.

Google Slides Flash Cards Animation

*Disclaimer: I’m really not a flash cards, vocabulary kind of guy.  Knowing the lingo has some value, but in general… memorization of stuff that fits on a flash card is just that: memorization.  Since I know that it’s an important part of a lot of classrooms, I want to share this strategy for doing it, but I hope that you do it along with other types of learning experiences, like Project-Based Learning and other inquiry-based strategies.

The Problem with Fidget Spinners . . .

The Problem with Fidget Spinners . . . is not the distractions.  It’s not the noise.  It’s not even the obsessive collecting.  It ain’t the disruptions to classmates.  It’s not the who’s-got-the-best-spinner drama either.  It’s definitely not that they annoy some teachers.  And it’s not that they may cost parents a lot of money.

It’s that kids need them.  It’s that our youth – and our society in general – see school as an experience that is so mind-numbingly, torturously boring that we assume that kids need something to fidget with during it.  It’s that learning, in many classrooms, is seen as a passive behavior and that students need something active to do with their hands while it happens.

Make learning experiences that make your students want to put their spinners away.

FormRanger Add-On

I love me some Add-Ons. One of my favorites is FormRanger from New Visions Cloud Lab. It can be used to pull in a column of information from a Google Sheet as multiple choice or dropdown options.

This is nice for quickly creating a lot of options for a multiple choice or dropdown question, but what takes it from nice to awesome is  . . . you can set it to automatically update based on changes made to the spreadsheet. Whaaaaat!?  I know, right?

There are two main cases for use: Continue reading FormRanger Add-On

Comparing & Contrasting College Admissions and the NFL Draft

Every April, executives and coaches from the 32 NFL Teams prepare to select the college football players that they will add to their roster. For months leading up to this event, their scouts pour over every morsel of information that they can find on the hundreds of players available for the picking.  And talking heads at ESPN and other sports media outlets talk about all of it.  Anyhow…. how does this relate to school? Continue reading Comparing & Contrasting College Admissions and the NFL Draft

“Kids These Days . . . “

Adults these days start sentences with “Kids these days . . . “ way too often.  And here’s the thing that I want to point out about that phrase:

Any sentence starting with “Kids these days” is not an excuse.  It is an observation (it’s also a loosey-goosey generalization, but we’ll save that for another post).  However, adults often use it as an excuse.

So?  Isn’t “excuse vs. observation” just syntax?  Well, you may think it is until you see an educator who’s struggling to lead his/her students to mastery shrug their shoulders and say something like “Kids these days want to play on their phones and video games instead of studying.”

Why is it important to draw the line in the sand between excuse and observation on this statement?

Excuse – “Sure, my students aren’t achieving mastery, but it’s not my fault – kids these days would rather play on their phones and video games than study.”

Observation – “Kids these days would rather play on their phones and video games than study . . . ”

What’s up with the “. . .” in that observation?

Any good educator uses observations (a.k.a., informal formative assessments) to make decisions about how to best lead their students to deeper learning.  It’s what you put after the dot dot dot that is what makes a good teacher a great teacher.

Kids these days would rather play on their phones and video games than study . . . so I’ll try using gamification in my course.

Kids these days would rather play on their phones and video games than study . . . so I’ll start integrating more technology into my teaching.

Kids these days would rather play on their phones and video games than study . . . so I’ll look for an app that they can interact with on their mobile devices to continue their learning.

Kids these days would rather play on their phones and video games than study . . . so I’ll learn about the apps, games and sites that they’re using to see what I can learn to support my instruction.”

The most important thing about this . . . 

If you’ve made it this far in this post, and I hope you have, then you get to hear what I consider to be the most important thing about “kids these days”:

We are teachers these days.
It is our responsibility to teach kids these days.
We can’t change them, nor should we want to.
Kids from “back in my day” are gone.
Learn to understand kids these days.
Strive to inspire kids these days.

TwitListManager

If you’ve been on Twitter for a long time, you probably follow more people than you can possibly keep up with.  And, if you’re like me, it probably bums you out when you’re missing some good posts from some of the people that you really want to see everything from.

The solution is lists.  Create lists in Twitter that contain the “important” people or that relate to a certain thing (i.e., the school you work for).  Don’t worry: your lists can be private.

Well, if you’ve ever created lists in Twitter, you know that it’s clunky. TwitListManager is the best solution for that that I’ve found.  Go to the site, log into Twitter and assign all of the accounts you follow to certain lists.  Easy-peasy.

 

TwitListManager Animation

My strategy:

  • First, I have lists for my school district and my friends (I read every tweet in those lists).
  • Second, I separate everyone into Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3.  Level 1 are the people who I really want to see posts from.  I try to read all of them.  Level 2 are people who I’d like to read the posts from, but they’re not a priority.  Maybe if I have to wait an hour in the doctor’s office waiting room…  Level 3?  Well, I’m just following them to be polite.😬 Sorry, if you’re in Level 3! 😬
  • Finally, I have some other lists that I use at certain times.  That includes things like the NFL Draft–I use that list for a few days every April–and Fantasy Football–I look at that lists on Sunday’s in the fall and when I’m setting my lineup.

 

The Draftback Extension

One of the earliest edtech tools that I recommended to the teachers involved in the Writing Ourselves project, which I am the Technology Director for, was the DraftBack Extension.  Once enabled, the extension allows you to playback your writing process for any doc that you are an editor on.  Obviously, the best use case for this would be to have students do this.

What a powerful way for students to reflect on their writing process and for educators to assess (and offer feedback on) the way that they go about the writing craft.  Awesome sauce.

Draftback animation

I was a Coward

I knew it as it was happening, too.  A little voice in my head was yelling, “Don’t be a wimp!  You’re missing an opportunity!”  But I didn’t listen.

I had been frustrated with a quality educator whose mindset was blocking her from buying into a new initiative that was good for our learners.  I knew that the right conversations and experiences could ease her out of this mindset and help her move forward.

I had been thinking about it as I walked to the staff lounge to get my lunch. I was looking forward to grabbing my lunch and heading back to my desk to watch a few videos from my YouTube “Watch Later” list.  And then . . . there she was.  In the lounge.  Eating alone.  It was like fate.  A perfect opportunity to have a friendly trust-building conversation and ease into working on that mindset.

But that didn’t sound enjoyable.  So, I walked away.  I knew it was the wrong thing to do, but sitting there sounded uncomfortable.  Awkward.  I was a coward.

If your goal is to be a leader or a coach, a catalyst or a bus mover, you’ve got to have the uncomfortable, unenjoyable conversations.  You’ve got to take the first awkward steps at building rapport and trust.  Those awkward steps are uncomfortable.

The steps you take when walking away?  Comfortable.  Not awkward at all.  But they’re missed opportunities.

I missed an opportunity that day.  It won’t happen again.

I am not a technician.

I am not a technician. Technicians spent long hours and put in lots of work to become qualified to fix software, network, server, hardware and other technology issues. I can’t perform the tasks they can.

I, on the other hand, spent long hours and put in lots of work to become qualified to lead in the integration of technology into the learning experience. For that reason, call me a Technology Integration Specialist. I’ll accept Tech Coach as well, but not technician. And please, don’t call either of us “tech guy” (or girl).

PS. If I help you fix something with your computer or other technology, it’s probably because fixing it benefits student learning and not fixing it detracts from student learning.  It’s all about the kids.  Not the tech.

PPS. If I help you fix something with your computer or other technology that does not relate to student learning, it still does not make me a technician. It makes me nice. And you should buy me a cup of coffee for that. Or a burrito. Or a taco. I will also accept nachos. Heck, I’d be happy with a “Thanks, bro!” and a fist bump.