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.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Learning Through Gaming - One of our first assignments

I'm helping with a dream class at our middle school this marking period. It's called Learning Through Gaming. I'm showing the students a mix of digital and non-digital games and we are learning these skills:

  • Communication
  • Math
  • Problem Solving/Thinking
  • Success
I'm really excited about that last one. The idea is we can win in life using principles that help us win in games. For example, we have to know the objective, play by the rules, play to win and play so others can do their best.

I told the students from the start that they'd have to play, then do some written reflections. Here's one of our first assignments. In it, students had to 
  • Play three games that I programmed. I made them a number of years ago using Stencyl and I've written about them previously on this blog. You can see all four of my Stencyl games on this page. It's probably best to play the games on Chromebooks or laptops.
  • Answer questions about each one, including opinion questions about which they liked best and why.
The students had a lot of fun with the games. I'm glad to see they held up well. They didn't do such a great job on answering the questions. I quickly gave them feedback, asking many of them to try again. It was a good exercise to convince them I want to see meaningful reflection.

Click here to get the assignment document as a Google Doc. Feel free to make a copy and edit or share it as you like. I appreciate it if your copy keeps a link back to my blog.

If you're interested, see these blog posts about other ways to use two of those games:

Monday, January 29, 2018

Reflecting on our student video tutorial project so far

Brenda June and I sat down last week to talk about our Room 10 Learning Chats project. It's the grant funded project I posted about previously, where students and teachers are creating learning videos. We will report about it at MACUL in early March.

I recorded our conversation and uploaded an edited version to SoundCloud. You can listen to it all or just pick the separate sections below. Each section is about five minutes long.


  • Part 1 - Overview of the project and some initial insights
  • Part 2 - What we've learned as we continued working through the process
  • Part 3 - Putting more motivation into the project using Prodigy and our value of watching their videos
  • Part 4 - Our Learning Journey video series, thoughts on branding, growth mindset, our next steps and the positive difference it has made.