15+ Tools for Student Voice

In episode 28 of the Educational Duct Tape PodcastMike Mohammad joined me for a chit-chat.  One of the topics that we discussed was student voice.  I posed the question, “How can educators provide opportunities for student voice?

Mike promptly made the distinction between student voice and student choice.  While both are powerful things to leverage in the classroom, they are very different (though we often lump them together, as Mike pointed out).

I think that educators’ definitions for the term student voice are inconsistent – some seem to believe that it simply means
– hearing each student’s answer or thinking
– while others believe that it means empowering the students to have a voice in some (or all!) aspects of their education.

Mike made it clear in his response that he subscribes to the 2nd “definition” of student voice.  His response fits with the description that Edutopia usesstudent voice involves letting “students’ input and expertise … help shape their classroom, their school, and ultimately their own learning and growth.”

I definitely believe that that is the type of student voice that we want to strive for.  In a recent #EduDuctTape chat, educators shared their favorite tool for empowering student voice.  It’s important to note that simply using the tool doesn’t provide opportunity for or empowerment of student voice.  It’s all about how you use it.

Here are some of their responses:

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Making Silhouettes in Google Slides

Adjacent Possible.  Have you heard of it?  If you listen to the Educational Duct Tape Podcast, you probably have.  It’s this theory that a new set of possibilities is enabled by taking one step beyond the current state of things.  Every step opens up new possibilities, just like every conversation with a person can lead to new possibilities that you had not considered.

Well, I had an Adjacent Possible experience a few days ago while interviewing Tony Vincent for Episode 26 of the Educational Duct Tape podcast.  Tony was responding to a question about how to help students get to know each other.  He shared with me about this activity that he had done where his students took side profile pictures of themselves and then turned them into silhouettes of in Google Slides.  They then added in images and words that showed their interests.  The students presented their slides to their classmates and, later, those same slides were played on a loop on a screen in the room.  What I love about this activity is that, on the surface, it’s a great “getting to know each other” activity.  But, underneath that, it’s also a fantastic way to teacher kids some new skills with a tool that the teacher planned on using in class.

This is actually an activity that Tony teaches participants in his fantastic Classy Graphics course. If you’re interested in learning Graphic Design with Google Tools, you should check it out!

There are certainly ways to make these silhouettes that would be easier.  But that’s not the point. The point is, opening students’ eyes to the possibilities within the tools that they have access to.  As Tony shared in the episode, his students became highly capable at using Slides to create all sorts of things.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not surprised.  By doing this activity, his students saw slides as more than just a tool for presentations.  They saw it as a creation space.

Well, as you have probably already guessed, I was compelled to turn this into an #EduGIF, so here it is.  After the GIF, I’ll share step-by-step instructions for making these.  By the way, I’d be honored if you used this GIF and these instructions with your own students in class.  You can repay me by showing me some of their creations!

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Keyboard Shortcuts for Bullets & Numbering

Sometimes, I think a trick, hack or shortcut that I do with technology is unimpressive and something that everyone either knows or doesn’t care about.  But then, when I mention it to someone, and they’re like “Whoa!” I think “Welp, this should be an EduGIF.”

Recently, I had the good fortune to be recording a guest appearance on the Shukes & Giff Podcast (er, maybe it’s the Shukes & Jake Podcast, now!? Kidding!).  When I was chatting about Emoji Bullets with Kim Pollishuke (a.k.a. “Shukes”), I mentioned, “So, I’ll just click Shift+Command+8 and then…” and she said “Wait, What!?”  And then I knew it, EduGIF time.  So here it is . . .

in most Google Tools:

  • Click CTRL (Command on Mac) + Shift + 7 for Numbering
  • Click it again to undo numbering
  • Click CTRL (Command on Mac) + Shift + 8 for Bullets
  • Click it again to undo bullets

Here’s the EduGIF!

Shortcuts for Bullets and Numbering GIF

Google Drawings in Google Classroom

A few weeks ago, I shared a post about putting Drawings in Google Docs that are assigned in Google Classroom. After seeing some of the reactions, I realized that some educators either weren’t aware of the powers of Google Drawings or had never thought of using them in assignments with Google Classroom.  I was all “whaaaaat!?”  So, now I’m here to dial it back a notch…  Let’s talk about assigning Google Drawings (not Drawings in Docs, just Drawings) in Google Classroom.  First up: an animated GIF for your viewing pleasure; and then: a quick step-by-step of how to use Drawings in Classroom.

Google Drawings in Classroom Animation

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Insert Drawings into Docs Being Assigned in Classroom

When given the chance, I’m always going to pick an assignment where students are creating their own representations of their mastery of learning standards.  However, I know that it’s not realistic to expect this all the time.  So, I can see the value in annotating images rather than just typing.  Google Drawings and Google Slides are great platforms for this . . . but what if it’s part of a bigger activity that does involve typing?  Well, insert a drawing into a document, put the picture in, and tell the students to annotate it!  Check it out in the animated GIF below (typed instructions follow the GIF).

Drawings in Docs with Google Classroom Animation

  1. In the Google Docs menu, click Insert > Drawing.
  2. In the Drawing that pops up, copy and paste in an image (or drag it in from a separate tab as I did in the GIF).
  3. Add instructions within the Drawing as needed.
  4. Click Save and Close to finish preparing the drawing.
  5. Assign the document in Google Classroom as Make a Copy for Each Student.
  6. When students open the document, instruct them to double-click on the image that they see to open up the drawing and annotate it.

Pre-Format Student Answers

Grading stinks.  Anything that we can do to make it better–without sacrificing the quality of the pedagogy or feedback–is worth doing!  Here’s a little trick to make it easier to locate student answers in Google Docs (or other files) that you assign in Google Classroom . . .

Pre-Format Classroom Answers Animation

Saving Images from Google Docs

When edtech rockstar Matt Miller says “Hey Jake, you should make this into an #EduGIF!” you listen.  He was right, too.  It was an awesome tip.

It was a pickle that I had been in before, but I had never known the solution.  You’re preparing something–a lesson, a blog post, whatever–and you need a picture.  Not just any picture, but a picture that you’ve used before.  It’s in that one Google Doc, but you can’t get to the picture from anywhere else.  So, you right-click on it in that Google Doc . . . but there’s no Save Image option.

There are a handful of ways that you can get that image saved as a file on your computer, but the one that Matt sent to me is pretty awesome.  It’s just a few steps and super easy.  And it’s even more convenient if you have multiple images that you need from the same Google Doc.  So, let’s get to it – first an animated #EduGIF and then the steps for those of you who like to read words.

Save Images from Docs Animation

  1. Open the Google Doc
  2. Select File > Download As > Web Page (.html, zipped)
  3. Locate the saved file on your computer
  4. Unzip the file (on my Mac, all that I have to do is double-click)
  5. A new folder should have been created. Inside of that folder will be all of the images that are in that Google Doc.  Feel free to move your image out of there and delete the other files as well as the zipped file.

Add a Popup Message to your Google Docs

Ever wish that you could tell people something when they open up your Google Docs? Maybe “Make a copy of this document, answer the questions and share it with your teacher!” or “This is a draft!

Well, it’s possible.  Some simple coding in the script editor and you can make it happen.  I know that some of you are thinking “Simple . . . . coding. . . !?” while making this face, but it’s true.  Just follow the steps below and you’ll make it happen.

Before we jump into the how, or what it looks like, a few notes:

  • Only Editors will be able to see the popup.  In my testing, someone who is “can view” or “can comment” does not see the popup.  Also, they have to be explicitly shared as editors, not just “anyone with the link can edit.”
  • If you copy the document within your own account, the popup will appear on the copy as well.
  • If someone shared on the document makes a copy, the popup will NOT appear on their copy.
  • If you send the document out on Google Classroom as “Make a Copy for Each Student” it will NOT include the popup in those copies.  I was bummed when I discovered this, because it would have been huge for teachers.

Now that you know those notes and limitations, let’s dive into it.  First, an animated GIF of how to do it and then, below the GIF, the step by step with code that you can just copy and paste.

Add Popup Message to Google Docs Animation

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. From within your Google Doc, click on Tools > Script Editor.
  2. Click on Untitled Project and rename the project.
  3. Replace the words myFunction with onOpen. (This is what tells it to run automatically)
  4. After the { type DocumentApp. (include the period)
  5. From the menu that pops up select getUi : Ui
  6. After {DocumentApp.getUi() type a period.
  7. From the menu that pops up select alert(String prompt) : Button
  8. In place of the word prompt type your popup message.
  9. Add quotation marks around your message (and inside of the parentheses).
  10. Click the save icon.
  11. Go back to your Doc, refresh and check it out!

Another note: You can actually edit the appearance of the popup with some HTML and CSS coding, but that would take me longer to explain that 1 GIF can handle!

Credits: I learned this from one of Google’s Applied Digital Skills Courses in the “Code Welcome Screen” Activity.  You can learn about adding some formatting to your popup in that course.

Lunapic – Create Images with Transparent Backgrounds

When presenting about #StopMotionSlides, someone inevitably asks about cutting the background out of a picture so that it has a transparent background.  Up to this point, my answer has been Microsoft Word, but I wasn’t satisfied with that since it wouldn’t work on Chromebooks or on computers without Microsoft Word.  And then I listened to Episode 13 of the Shukes and Giff Podcast.  In it, Kim Pollishuke shared about Lunapic.

Lunapic is a free, web-based photo editing platform.  Along with a lot of other features (seriously, go to it and explore!), is the ability to make the background transparent.  If it’s a solid colored background (i.e., green screen), there are tools that automate it.  For images that don’t have a solid colored background (or have backgrounds that include colors that are in the main part of the image), you can also do it manually.  Check it out in the animated GIF below!  Side note: there’s even a Chrome extension so that you can edit images you find online more conveniently.

Lunapic Transparent Background Animation

GIF Creation with Screencastify

Screencastify isn’t the best screencasting tool, but it might be the easiest one for in the classroom.  And the numbers prove that: 22 million videos were recorded in Screencastify during the 2017-18 school year.  There are good reasons for those numbers, too: it’s free, it’s easy to use and it syncs up with Google Drive.

If you happen to have access to Screencastify Premium, you have the ability to create GIFs, too!  Just click save to disk and export as animated GIF after recording a screencast.  That’s it!  Since you’re using Premium, you can even do some editing prior to exporting the video.  Check out the process in the animated GIF below (note: I made the GIF in Camtasia, not Screencastify):

Screencastify GIF Creation Animation