Representing the Writing Process with the Version History

Note: I’ve heard this mentioned elsewhere, so I’m not claiming to be the originator of the idea.  One place I heard it mentioned was in Episode 21 of the Google Teacher Tribe Podcast.  Another is in this great post by Eric Curts. I am, however, the creator of the GIF below.

I’ve gotta admit, I was apprehensive when Google renamed my beloved Revision History as the Version History.  I thought “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  But there is an added value in the format change – and that value rests mainly in the Writing classroom, but it applies in any classroom.

Now, you can name the versions in the Version History.  Pre-writing, First Draft, Peer Revision, Second Draft, Teacher Feedback, Final Draft, Published Version, you name it.  Students can now represent the stages of the Writing process with the names of their document versions.  With Writers’ Workshop being the trend in our writing classrooms, this seems like a no-brainer.

Name Versions of Version History Animation

“New” Google Sites

With as fast as technology moves nowadays, you can’t really call the “New” Google Sites new – I mean, it’s been more than a year since the upgrade was announced.  But still, you have to manually select to jump to the New Google Sites.  The GIF below shows how and, like Nike says, “Just Do It” – the kinda New Google Sites is much better than the “Classic” Google Sites.

Go to New Google Sites Animation

Captain Doofus & the Traffic Circle

We all have our irrational pet peeves.  Our things that are “small potatoes” but make us want to gouge someone’s eyeballs out.

One of mine is people who don’t know how to drive in a traffic circle.  You know the guy.  That doofus that stays on the outside of the circle even though they’re going 75% of the way around the darn thing.  Everyone sits waiting in suspense at the entrances to the circle, wondering “Will this be the lucky street that this fantastic driver turns on?”  No one can tell.  It literally could be any exit.  And we all have to stay out of Captain Doofus’ way because you just… don’t… know.

“Hey Kids, Big Ben! Parliament!” – GIF from giphy.com, originally from the 1985 movie National Lampoon’s European Vacation

Anyhow, I digress.  One day I was entering a traffic circle and there he was.  Captain Doofus.  I started to mutter driving instructions for him.  “Stay to the inside until you near your exit, dude!”  At one point, while starting to yell out, “How do you not know how a traffic circle works, doofus!?” I realized . . . a lot of people do it wrong.  And if that many people don’t follow the same process that I follow in a traffic circle, are they wrong . . . or is the traffic circle itself wrong?

If like 25% of users can’t use something correctly, the design itself needs to be reevaluated.  This reminded me of education (as things tend to do).  I can remember grading tests and groaning “ugh, they all got this question wrong!”  After further reflection, I’d often realize that either the question was unintentionally confusing or my instruction had led them astray.

That’s an oft-forgotten reason that we do formative assessment.  Not just to assess our learners, but to assess our instruction and content.  If a large portion of our learners are confused, we need to re-think our strategies, design and assessment.

Unsurprisingly, there are a few recently built traffic circles in my area that have signs, lanes and arrows painted in the lanes.  If the drivers were using the traffic circle wrong, you’ve got to change the traffic circle . . . because you can’t change all of the drivers!  And these newer circles changed to accommodate the users.

The moral of the story – Captain Doofus may not be a doofus.  You may have just designed a really confusing traffic circle.  Or he may have attended a crumby driving school.  But your best move is to design a more doofus-friendly traffic circle.

Easy Citations in Google Docs

Digital citizens are constantly sharing other people’s content.  We are all cultivators of stuff.  Images, quotes, GIFs, artwork, you name it – we share it.  It is very important that we teach kids to give credit where credit’s due.

Unfortunately, students are very resistant to citing their sources when they do schoolwork.  Why?  I believe it’s because it’s a pain to do so.  Who would want to cite their source if you have to do tons of sleuth work to figure out who the original source really was?  Who would want to cite their source if you have to enter a boatload of information into a separate site to prepare the citation to put in your document?

In my book, the goal for students, especially those in middle school, should simply be to get them to cite their sources.  I’m not going to stress out about if it really is the accurate original source.  I also wouldn’t stress about them correctly placing their periods and commas in their MLA citation.  I just want them to recognize that the content is not their own and that the originator deserves credit.  Google Docs makes that easy with two tools.  Let’s check them out . . .

Using the Explore Tool in Google Docs

This will only work for resources on the web (not books), but it’s super easy to use.  It creates footnotes, which I’ve heard aren’t commonly used in K-12 writing.  However, as you’ll see in this animation, you can easily copy those footnotes and turn them into a Works Cited.  Check out this GIF to see how:

Using the EasyBib Add-On

This tool is great for citing books, but not as good at citing websites.  It keeps track of your entire bibliography until you’re ready to add it to your doc.  If you are using the Explore tool for your websites, you can just combine them when you’re done, just like I do in the animation below.

Disclaimer: I’ve heard from a few sources that these two tools do not always produce 100% accurate citations.  In my opinion, as stated above, this is a risk that I’m willing to take, at least until students are in college prep high school courses.

Boomerang for Gmail

“You’ve got mail.” – America Online

Those used to be such exciting words.  The news of having email was exhilarating.  Nowadays, it’s nonstop.  It’s a constant battle to keep-up and it takes tons of tact to send emails that get read and acted on, because your recipients are overwhelmed, too.

I’ve been using Boomerang for Gmail to help me survive the Battle of the Inbox. These are the 3 main features that I love about Boomerang:

1. Send Later

If you’re like me, you end up sending some 11:45 PM emails.  And if your coworkers are like mine, most of them are not typically reading their email at 11:45 PM.  So, schedule it to send first thing in the morning.  Do lots of work on the weekend?  Schedule emails to send on Monday.  Find some spare time to send an email that actually needs to go out in two days?  Type it now, schedule it to send later.  Check it out:

Boomerang Send Later Animation

2. boomerang

This is the feature that the name came from.  We often get emails that aren’t important yet, but will be important later.  They’re not worthy of our focus at this point, but we should look at them before next Wednesday.  So, throw them away and set them to boomerang back on Tuesday.  Ah, that feels nice.  Check it out:

Boomerang Animation

3. boomerang if no response

Ever send out an email where there’s a time sensitive need for a response, but not get the response in time?  Ugh!  If I had known she wouldn’t respond in time, I would have texted her.  With this setting, you can send an email or send away a received email and set them to pop back up in your Inbox if no one else responds.  That way you know that you need to follow up with them in a different way!  It’s also helpful when you’re hoping that someone else on the chain will answer a question, but this way you can insure that the question gets answered sooner or later.  Check it out:

Note: I’m not affiliated in any way with Boomerang, nor am I being reimbursed for this endorsement.  I just like their tool.

BTW – Right Inbox is pretty rad too.  Boomerang is just my personal preference.

Schoology – Requiring Assessment Mastery Before Moving on

In Sal Khan’s phenomenal TED Talk Let’s Teach for Mastery – Not Test Scores, he illustrates the lack of focus on mastery in most classrooms with this metaphor:

To appreciate how absurd [teaching based on a pacing guide, not mastery] is, imagine if we did other things in our life that way. Say, home-building.

So we bring in the contractor and say, “We were told we have two weeks to build a foundation. Do what you can.”

So they do what they can. Maybe it rains. Maybe some of the supplies don’t show up. And two weeks later, the inspector comes, looks around, says, “OK, the concrete is still wet right over there, that part’s not quite up to code … I’ll give it an 80 percent.”

You say, “Great! That’s a C. Let’s build the first floor.”

He continues with this great metaphor, but I’ll stop there because the point is clear: it’s silly to have students move to the next topic or skill before they’ve mastered the one they’re on.  With technology, we have tons of ways to ensure this mastery.

In Schoology, you can require students exceed a minimum assessment score prior to moving on to the upcoming content.  And, if they don’t do well enough?  Have them learn from their mistakes, get better, re-take the assessment and then move on.

Here’s how to do it, first in GIF form and then in step-by-step form.

Requiring Test Mastery in Schoology Animation

  1. Go to the Materials Page for your course.
  2. Click Add Materials > Assessment.
  3. Create your Assessment.
  4. Include in the instructions a note about the minimum score and their ability to retake the assessment.
  5. Go to “Settings” inside of the assessment.
  6. Change the Attempt Limit to Unlimited (or some other greater than 1 option)
  7. Decide how you’d like it to be graded.  I go with “highest score.”
  8. Turn on Submissions (if you’re ready)
  9. Go back to your materials page.
  10. Click on Options > Student Completion.
  11. Set up Student Completion for your pages and assignments.
  12. For the Assessment, Select “Member must score at least” and enter the minimum score you’d like students to obtain.

TodaysMeet

Never judge a book by its cover.  Because, if you did, TodaysMeet would seem like a boring, unimpressive tool from at least a decade ago.

But, “open the book” and you’ll realize that TodaysMeet is a super useful tool in the classroom.  It is very simple to use and, in less than 5 minutes you can have a chat-room like discussion setup for your class.  It may be a “bare bones” site with 0 flashiness, but it makes up for that in function.

Ideas for use:
  1. Backchannel chat during a movie, speaker or other situation where you want actively engaged quiet students.  This Edutopia article by Beth Hollanddefines a backchannel chat is a “a digital conversation that runs concurrently with a face-to-face activity
  2. Digital Office Hours – a teacher that I work with uses TodaysMeet in the evening before big projects are due to give students a chance to ask for help.
  3. Quick Questions – there are tons of great tools for asking students for their opinions to questions in class, but TodaysMeet is nice because it’s so quick, easy and simple.  When you have more than 1 question, you can either setup separate rooms or just ask the questions in succession.
  4. Got some others?  I’d love to hear about them.
How to use todaysMeet:

First a GIF, followed by the step-by-step instructions:

TodaysMeet Animation

  1. Go to todaysmeet.com
  2. Create an account.
  3. Under Open a new room pick a name for your room. This does become part of the URL, so it’s nice to pick something easy for your students to type (though there’s a shortened URL too).
  4. Decide how long to keep the room open for. (If there’s not the right time option for you, note that you can close the room manually)
  5. Decide if you want “anyone” access or “logged in” access.  I stick with anyone, but if you use TodaysMeet regularly, there may be benefits of the logged in option.
  6. Decide if you’d like to require a password for entry to your room.  If you’re worried about safety or about having kids only enter the room after completing a previous activity, this may be beneficial.
  7. Open your room.
  8. Give students either the URL from your address bar (todaysmeet.com/yourroomname) or the shortened URL that you can see by clicking on Room Tools.
  9. Click on Projector View if you’d like to have a better view of the chat to project on your screen.
  10. Save your transcript at the end, if needed.

Note that you can also embed the TodaysMeet chat onto a different site!  Pick “Live Stream” if you want the page’s visitors to participate in the chat and/or see it live.

Show All Comments in Google Sheets

The ability to comment on cells in Google Sheets is super useful.  The ability to find those comments, however . . . pretty stinkin’ difficult.  That little yellow triangle in the corner just ain’t cutting it.  In a big spreadsheet, it can be easy to miss some comments.

You can show all of the comments in the currently open spreadsheet tab by either hovering over or clicking on the comments icon on the sheet tab at the bottom.  Clicking keeps them open while you move your mouse around or scroll.  If you hover, the comments are hidden again as soon as you move your mouse.

Show All Comments in Google Sheets Animation

Deleting Larger Files from your Mac

Is your Mac running out of space?  Do you need a quick solution?

When you don’t have time to go through all of your folders and files to cleanup, a good, quick solution is deleting your larger files.  The process for doing this in the GIF below, or in the steps below the GIF.

Mac Delete Larger files Animation

  1. Open Finder.
  2. Go to Finder>Preferences.
  3. Make sure “All My Files” is checked.
  4. Go to “All My Files” in your Finder menu.
  5. The files are now sorted with the largest at the top.  Go through these files and identify things you can delete.  Drag them to your Trash.
  6. Don’t forget to empty your trash!

Google Drive Folder Basics

Organization can help relieve stress.  One great way to organize in Google Drive is to create and utilize folders.  Here are the basics . . .

Creating folders:
  • Folders can be created by selecting New > New Folder
  • Folders can also be created in some locations by right-clicking & selecting New Folder
  • Folders can be nested (folders inside of folders)
  • Folders can be color-coded (pretty!)

Create Drive Folders Animation

Putting Content into Folders:
  • Drag & Drop
  • Use the Move To button in the top toolbar
  • Use the Move To button in the right-click options
  • Hold down shift to highlight more than 1 file and then move them together

Move Files into Folders Animation

Put Files in More than One Location

Check out this post to see how you can have your Google Drive files in more than one folder.