Thursday, June 21, 2018

Updated - Show Off Any Project With Google Sites

This is an updated version of a post I made in 2017. It addresses some changes to the publishing process in Google Sites.

Regular readers and anyone in my training sessions has heard me repeat it. "Show off the learning!"

There are lots of ways to show our best work, but doing it online is certainly one of the easiest. Even if the end product is not digital, it's now very easy to show it off online using Google Sites.

I created a one page document and video tutorial for teachers in my district to give them this easy way to show any product digitally. It makes use of the new Google Sites, which I absolutely love. 

Google Sites doesn't have a ton of options, which means students won't lose time finding just the right font and background image. 

So imagine students made a physical "something" in class. You could give the students this document of directions and they'd end up with a web page that shows pictures or video along with text, showing off what they made and learned. 

Remember that you'll have to supplement those directions with specific things you need to see on their site. For example, you might ask for three or more pictures that show all sides of their project and a detailed description of what it is. I also suggest always requiring a summary of what they learned from the project.

Here is the full video tutorial. The document has links to the relevant sections, so students don't have to watch it all at once.

And here is the single page of steps that you'd give the students. Notice most of the steps link to the exact place in my video tutorial. That way they don't have watch everything if they're stuck on only one part.

Some things to note:
  • My directions and tutorial only show the how. It directs them to you for the what.
  • Students would need to take pictures or video of their project, then upload those to Google Drive first. I didn't show that in this tutorial, but it's very easy if they have the Google Drive app at their phones. I consider this to be a survival skill in today's world. I'm working on making a good video to show this process.
  • Some students forget to do the sharing step (labeled as #1 on my list). If that happens, you won't be able to see their pictures or video when you look at the site. 
  • If your students are restricted to sharing their documents within your G Suite domain, then your site will be restricted as well. In any event, the sharing of the pictures, videos and published site will need to be changed to Anyone with the link if you want it shared beyond your domain.
  • Step #8 is another common pitfall. Students often will send the link to their side of the website instead of the published version. It is clearly shown in the video, but they need to pay attention.
  • I didn't address adding multiple pages in my steps, but it is very intuitive to add a new page. This could be great for organizing information about a larger project.
  • Note that my final step tells them to turn it in through Classroom. If you use a different process, you'll need to modify those directions.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Updated for 2018 - Simple Video Presentations with Google Slides and Screencastify

This is an updated post about a process I've been promoting for years. It uses Google Slides and Screencastify. Since they recently updated the app, I remade the main tutorial, which you can find below.

The idea of these projects is that students make a slideshow presentation, then they record the screen and their voice as they present it.

Teachers can also use this process to make simple, quick videos for lessons to post in Classroom.

Here are two examples of how the final video might look.The first is best to show students, but keep in mind it actually was made with SnagIt instead of Screencastify. SnagIt is no longer available. The second one was designed for teachers and refers specifically to their activity.


Screencastify is a great Chrome extension for this process. It makes it very easy to record the presentation on a Chromebook or laptop. It also links directly to Google Drive, so students don't have extra steps of uploading video files to Drive.

You will need to install Screencastify from the Chrome Web Store or, if your school uses a managed Google domain, you can have your administrator force install the app for you and your students.

As referred to in the video below, the first time you run it, it will take you through a simple setup process. Just allow all the permissions it asks for and sign into your Google account when it prompts you.

The tutorial below shows how to actually record the presentation. As it says in the video, there are three things students should do before recording:
  • Install and setup the extension. This is not shown in the tutorial, but it's very easy.
  • Make the slideshow. I suggest doing this in Google Slides, but you can use any slideshow app.
  • Practice! It's very important to rehearse the presentation because these have to be done in one take.

As you can see from the tutorial, the resulting video ends up in Google Drive. From there it's easy to share or turn it in through Google Classroom.

Keep in mind that the free version of Screencastify puts a watermark on the screen. It also limits you to a 10 minute recording and 50 recordings per month. There is a paid version which removes those limitations and watermark. It also allows for some basic editing. I haven't paid to upgrade yet, but that option to edit is very promising. 

If you have any questions about this process, please let me know. I'd like to improve these resources so they benefit many students!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Effective Integration of G Suite and Related Tools for Learning

Last month I presented at the MACUL conference about using G Suite apps and Chromebooks effectively according to the Triple E Framework. It was a culmination of many ideas I've used in trainings over the past two years. I was very pleased with the reception.

The main resource I shared in the session is this Google Docs table. In it, I list the nine key questions from the Triple E Framework and point out several ways in which apps like Docs, Slides and other tools can excel in each. I also list a few possible weak areas to watch for.

I hope to present on the same topic a few more times this year, so I'll be glad to hear suggestions for additions or ways I can improve it.

I also have the complete list of resources from that session here, though you will find many of those other resources on other pages in this blog.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Excellence in Education Award

I've been wondering if I need to trim back on the extra work I do in education, then I was notified recently that I won the Excellence of Education Award from the Michigan Lottery.

The honor brought with it some interviews (one on camera, which is part of the video below) and some soul searching. It has been a great honor and a chance to sort out what I've done right over the past two decades. It's given me much to consider as I plan the rest of 2018.

Candidates for the award are nominated by students or staff members from their district. In my case Melinda Newcombe nominated me. Melinda is a high school English teacher I've worked with for a long time now. She will tell you I immediately questioned her judgment when I found out I won. I eventually decided it would be better to go with it than offend her!

I decided two things if I was going to accept the award. First, I have to give God credit if I have ever done anything right in education. Teaching has been an uphill struggle for me, especially those fourteen years trying to teach high school math. While some of it fit my personality, a lot of it certainly did not. I decided teaching is a calling and I stuck with it. I learned to pray about it and trust I was where I was supposed to be. 

My book for success would have two chapters--Trust God and Marry Well. I don't know much after that.

Second, I hoped this would bring some positive attention to our district. I work with many excellent educators, many better than I could hope to be and many who helped me be better. 

The only reason I would get recognized over them is because I work with so many more teachers and students. It increases my chance to be noticed. If I had to pick one of them to nominate, I honestly don't know how I could ever choose between them.

As anyone in education will tell you, good teachers make tremendous sacrifices for their students. I see many at LakeVille doing that every day and this has been a reminder to do better at highlighting their successes.

If you're interested in seeing the announcement for the award, it's here.

And here is the video as it aired from one station. (Note that they put the wrong name on the screen for the person who nominated me. I made sure it was corrected at other stations, but their videos weren't so easy to embed.)

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Making a Choose Your Own Adventure Story with Google Slides

Knight with choice of paths
As I mentioned last week, I'm teaching a class called Learning Through Gaming. In the survey I gave the class the first day, many students indicated they wanted to make games. To give them a taste of creating a game, I had them create a Choose Your Own Adventure story using Google Slides.

Here's a document based very closely on the directions we gave our students.

The document contains all directions and a link to this very basic sample story I made. I also included a link to Eric Curts' excellent example. (If you're not familiar with Eric's amazing site, Ctrl Alt Achieve, be sure to check it out. Like so many of his posts, he has the definitive guide on Choose Your Own Adventure stories for class.)

A few other things to note about this assignment:

  • I put a video tutorial in the later stages of the document that shows how to create the links. 
  • Students will probably want to get started on the links right away. As you'll see, I emphasize planning first.
  • As Eric says on his blog, his story was written and illustrated by middle school students. Like the Choose Your Own Adventure books many of us loved as children, the endings sometimes involve your death. Keep this in mind if assigning this to younger students.
  • The example stories I link to are published to the web. That means they open in full screen. I didn't include directions for that for the students. In their case, they start the story by clicking the Present button in Google Slides. 
  • Like many of our activities at the middle school level, I will be posting the students' stories on our school website. The school will vote on their favorites and the winning authors will get a prize.