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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Recording Podcasts with TwistedWave in Middle School

Here's a relatively short project we used in our middle school Computers class this week. It takes students through the planning, recording and editing of a short podcast. We used TwistedWave on Chromebooks.

Here is an example created by a pair of our students. While there's plenty of room for improvement, this was a good first attempt at an audio recording. What I loved most about the project was how students got excited about their podcast topics. You can hear that clearly in that recording.

Here is the assignment document. It includes all the directions and it links to the video below. I created that video several months ago and posted it elsewhere on this blog. It serves as a good tutorial for anyone learning to use Twisted Wave.


A couple notes about the project:
  • In order to use TwistedWave, we required the students under the age of 13 to return signed parent permission forms. Even though they sign in using their school Google accounts, I felt this was important after contacting TwistedWave about their Privacy Policy.
  • After assigning this project, I added a part at the bottom of the directions about the important differences between this simple recording and professional podcasts.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Show Off Any Project Using 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 best. In my district, many teachers assign a lot of real world products rather than digital ones. That's great, but when I talk about sharing work online, they feel they have no options (or they happily think they're off the hook!).

This week I created a short document and video tutorial to give them one 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 these directions and they'd create a web page that shows pictures or video along with text, showing off what they made and learned. 

Here is the full video tutorial:


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:
  • You must tell them what you expect to see on the site. My steps 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.
  • You'll see in the video that images don't always work like they should. I show a workaround if your students experience that problem.
  • 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. 
  • Step #7 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 that.


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Creativity Game with Google Slides - Abe & Einstein

This post contains a link to the template you need to play this game, but you'll also want to see this post  which explains how to run these creativity games with your class using Google Apps.

My most popular posts on this blog are the creativity games and exercises. Over the past year I have been translating some of those ideas into a Google Slides format.

When played as a classroom game, this one allows 3 - 5 creative students to compete to make up what two random well known people would say if they met. For example, what would you overhear in a chance meeting between Spider-man and Santa Claus? How about Harry Potter and Justin Bieber?

The whole class participates by voting on their favorite response. The creative thinking required for this game can be a challenge, but I've seen middle school and high school students have a lot of fun with these games.

I also have suggestions at the end of this post for other ways to use the activity, possibly with less time or allowing more students to create the fun answers.


First, here's the flow of the game when used with the whole class. There is a video that shows this process below.

  1. Choose 3 to 5 students to be the contestants in the game. They should sit at the front of the room. They'll need either paper or a computer, depending on how you want them to share their riddle answers with you.
  2. The slideshow for the game (at a link below) is displayed so the class can see it. It will usually be on the game slide, slide 2.
  3. The teacher draws two random names from the group and displays them for the contestants to see.
  4. The contestants get two minutes to write a few lines of what those people might say if they met. Each student sends his or her lines to the teacher.
  5. The teacher reads them to the class and they are entered in the game slide so the students can see them.
  6. The students in the class now have the chance vote on the their favorite haiku (using a classroom response system or possibly Google Forms).
  7. Points are awarded to the contestants based on the number of votes they received.
  8. Steps 2 - 6 are repeated three or four times, then scores are totaled to determine a winner.

Here is the Google Slides presentation that you'll need to play this game or to do any of the activities listed below.


Click to have a copy of the Google Slides presentation added to your Google Drive. 

Video Overview


This 4 minute video shows how to play these creativity games with a class. It contains a different game about answering a riddle instead of writing dialogue, but the process is the same. (If you're interested, here's the post about that game.)



Tips and suggestions for other ways to use the activity

  • Obviously this chance conversation should be brief. Students should try for 2 - 4 short lines.
  • To indicate who is talking, students can use initials. So using the Spider-Man and Santa Claus example, a student could write:
    • SC:  Hey Spider-man, can you teach me to crawl walls like that?
    • SM:  Sorry Santa, lay off the milk and cookies then check back when you look this good in tights.
  • You might not be able to fit the whole dialogue in the boxes on the game slide. Read the full submissions from students, but for voting, t's usually sufficient to just sum up it up a few short words to help students remember each one.
  • Usually the students make funny conversations in this game, but you could require different criteria for the "best" one.
  • Have some things to show the rest of the class or to talk about while the contestants write their dialogue. See my post about creativity exercises to get some ideas that will involve everyone.
  • It's easy to change any of the names that I made for the game. Just draw one out and double click on the text. Use names of people related to what you're studying in class. Or pick names of people at your school, like your principal or the custodian. This gives the students a chance to practice being funny while still being respectful. Note that I did put "Your Teacher" in the mix!
  • You can have the rest of the class write their own ideas for dialogue too. After the vote, have some of them share what they wrote if they want.
  • If you don't want to devote much class time to the game, just draw two words at the end of class and have all students make a haiku for homework. You can select your top 5 and have them vote on the best one as a warm-up in a later class.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Simple Video Presentations with Google Slides and Screencastify

This is an updated process I first highlighted on this post from 2015. I used to use SnagIt to record the video, they stopped supporting it a few months ago. I've started using Screencastify. Below I have two updated tutorials that show how to record presentations using it.

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

Here is an example of how the final video might look. (Note that this is the same example I used in my post from last year, so it was actually recorded with SnagIt.)


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.

This tutorial shows the setup process, which has to be done the first time you use the extension. It's very intuitive to click through, but you might want to watch this before you try it with a class, just so you'll know what to expect.

Then this tutorial shows how to actually record the presentation (which is limited to 10 minutes if you're using the free version of Screencastify). As it says in the video, there are three things students should do before recording:
  • Do the process shown in the video above to set up the extension.
  • 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.

There is a paid upgrade of Screencastify which removes the time limit and watermark. It also allows for some basic editing. I haven't paid to upgrade yet, but the 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!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Few Free Templates for Notes and Reflection Using Google Apps

I love reflection activities that get students thinking about the learning in a deeper way. These usually amount to just asking good questions and they do not have to involve technology at all. As our district is using a lot more Chromebooks, though, I have been creating more templates that use Google Apps to make it easy for teachers and students to manage the work digitally.

When you click the links for the templates below, you'll get a copy in your Google Drive. From there, you can edit them any way you need to for your lessons. I also hope they give you ideas for other templates specific to your teaching style.

Learning Target and Reflection Journal

As our district is focusing on learning targets this year. Andrea Thelen, one of our English teachers, came up with some reflection questions to direct students to the targets. Her students complete the form below at the end of class a few times each week and they do a summary activity at the end of the week.

I put the original in this Google Document and we shared it with other teachers who have adapted it to fit their needs.


Note-Taking Template

This one is based on the Cornell Note-Taking System and what I read in Marzano's book, Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works.

I created the Note-Taking Template as a Google Slides presentation because that allowed me to add a background image that wouldn't be edited accidentally when students typed in the text boxes. 

A Slides presentation also makes it easy to keep multiple pages of notes in one place. To make more pages, students can just right click on a slide on the left of the screen and choose to duplicate it. Of course if they plan on using multiple pages, it's best to always duplicate the first slide before typing on it, so they always have a blank one to duplicate later.

Students will need to use the zoom tool to zoom in once or twice to easily read the template and their notes. The "presentation" that it refers to could be anything--your lesson, student presentations or a movie, for example. 


If you want to edit the background image, on the Slides template, I created it as a Google Drawing. Just edit this Drawing so it looks how you want, then download it as a PNG file. Use that PNG as the background on your Slides template.

Lab Poster Template

I created this Lab Poster Template for a science teacher who wanted a simple way for students to report about their experiment. It's a Google Drawing and it serves as an example of how easy this tool is for making digital posters for any learning experience. (See this post on my other blog for another fun example.)

Students can add tables, clip art or even photos they take. To get those photos into the Drawing, I suggest uploading them to their Google Drive using the Google Drive app on their phone or tablet. Once in Drive, it's easy to import them into the Drawing.

See my video below if you or the students are unfamiliar with Google Drawings. It's a very informal tutorial I created so the teacher could help his students get started. It explains basic editing and how to insert images.