The school year that will never end...
Okay, we know that's not really true, but it has seemed like an eternity since we started school last fall! This post isn't to remind us of WHY it seems that way... I just want to share some new tips, tools, and strategies I've learned (or revisited) over the last couple of months to help you get through the rest of the school year with a little more enthusiasm. 😉
Some of the tools I share below aren't necessarily new, but they are ones that have moved to the top my to-do list! If you already use these, check out these podcasts to find something else you might be needing.
Shake Up Learning Show, Episode 95 [EPIC Digital Tools I Can't Live Without]
House of Edtech, Episode 170 [2020 Smackdown]
Cult of Pedagogy, Episode 161 [6 Ed Tech Tools to Try in 2021]
Top 5 Tools to Checkout!
1. Mote [justmote.me]
Mote "enables voice note feedback within Google Classroom, Docs, Sheets, and Slides. It's a Chrome Extension that makes it easy for anyone to add voice notes and feedback to documents and assignments." It is a "free-mium" program, so you can still get unlimited recordings that are 30 seconds or shorter.
2. Glide [glideapps.com]
My friend Jen Hall showed me this at least a year ago, and I haven't made the time to give it a try yet. She created an app for herself using this site and it's awesome (check it out here)! You can build an app right from Google Sheets. You have to see it to believe it!
This one is also "free-mium", so see what works for you.
3. Jamboard [jamboard.google.com]
A lot of people are hopping on the Jamboard waggon, with good reasons! It is a really valuable tool, especially right now where so many of us are working with student in person and virtually at the same time. This is one way you can still work together simutaneously. I didn't feel the need to explore it that much until they added the feature of inserting your own background. This adds an entire level of usefulness! Creating your own background in Google Slides is the perfect way to personalize your Jamboards. Let your imagination run with all the possibilities! Check out Jake Miller's post on how to create your own along with the posts below the video.
If you still haven't given this a try, you must! It's not new to me, but I have to have it on my list of things for other people to try ALWAYS! They keep adding new features to make it even better (not that it needs improvements). Did I mention that it's free?! I have tons of collections to check out if you need ideas. Create an account and follow other educators to see how they use it in their schools/classrooms.
5. Wizer.me [https://wizer.me/]
"Create unforgettable worksheets that grade themselves. Win your time back - and end overwhelming and late night prep - with fun, easy-to-make, interactive worksheets students love." Even though they are called "worksheets" I like to think of this as more of a #hyperdoc, so it's way more engaging and purposeful than a regular worksheet. Even if you upgrade, the pricing is pretty reasonable at $35 a year!
Key Features you get for free:
✓ Unlimited question types
✓ Up to 5 differentiation custom rules
✓ Audio teaching instructions
✓ Audio student answers
Girl, Wash Your Face!
Over the summer, I listened to a book by Rachel Hollis called: Girl, Wash Your Face. It's such a great book! If you are a guy and you are reading this, just pass the recommendation on to your wife, mom, sister, or girl friend. :) As I was listening, it got me thinking of how this relates to us as educators. We wear a lot of hats! Which means, the lies that run through our heads causing doubt and burn out, are very real. Rachel mentions the lies we tell ourselves through negative self-talk, then touches on how to get out of that mind trap.
Some of the lies she mentions in the book really go hand-in-hand with our lives as educators.
My Life Long Lie...
One more I'd like to add is very personal, and I hesitate to even mention it, but I can't be the only one that feels this way sometimes. It stems from growing up with a lot of negative comments from my dad because of how I was as a student . Really, I didn't put ANY effort into my educational experiences between 3rd grade and my senior year of high school. One day, I'll write a book to get into that full story.
Rewriting Those Lies!
I wouldn't do Rachel's witty humor justice by summarizing them, so check out the book if you want to hear her thoughts on rewriting those lies. I have been gathering some quotes and resources to keep that negative self-talk at bay and focus on what really matters. I hope you find them helpful too! Check out our conversation on Twitter as well.
14 Confidence Quotes to Help You Beat Self-Doubt and Achieve Your Goals
Cultivate What Matters #Powersheets Goal Planner - walks you through a VERY in depth reflection process to get to the bottom of your goals based on what matters most to you right now. Powersheets start at the beginning of the year, but there are other great planners available year round.
Passion Planner - a journal that has a unique reflection process, including space after each month to reflect on how things are going and what you might want to change for the next month.
DBCInc. Journal #JournalLAP - a journal filled with inspirational quotes from your favorite DBCInc. books to help you reflect through out the year.
I find a lot of books to be inspirational, but here are my top 2 that I refer to often as an educator!
1. Tara Martin's Be Real "In Be REAL, BookSnaps creator, Tara Martin, encourages you to share your unique talents and passions as an educator. Through her personal and engaging stories, you’ll learn the power of being true to yourself and find the courage to “cannonball” into the adventures life offers." - It's a wonderful book that I plan on reading again over the summer to get my head in the right place before starting a new school year in a new position.
Get your copy here!
2. Dan Tricarico's The Zen Teacher "In The Zen Teacher, educator, blogger, and speaker Dan Tricarico provides practical, easy-to-use techniques to help teachers slow down and create a sense of focus, simplicity, and tranquility in the classroom - and in life. As a teacher, you have incredible power to influence, even improve, the future..."
Get your copy here!
I could add more, but I think that's a good place to stop and share more later. This subject is more than one blog post for sure!
Twitter conversations on the topic...
You can also check out this Wakelet collection from our #pd4uandme chat on 1/30/2021 to hear from some of our educator friends on the lies that they have to over come just like you. Then come back soon for more on this topic. I've found myself having this conversation with educators a lot recently because of our current pandemic situation and it really makes me want to help!
In the meantime, please take care of yourselves! ~Pam
🖊️ Fonts are here!
Google Workspace Updates: Google Sites December '20
Looking for more updates, check out this Workspace post. Making font changes to your entire site is coming, but it's not here yet. I'll take this in the meantime!
📢 Announcement Banner
⬇️ Collapsible Text
The last feature I was super excited to find is a collapsible text box! Again... not sure how I missed this update! Some of my pages have a tendency to get a little long, but I don't necessarily want the content to be on another page in the drop down menu. This is the perfect solution! Here's an example using content standards. Detailed directions for using this feature can be found here.
Choice Boards aren't new, but they have become a life saver since education changed drastically last March due to Covid-19!
The current trend for a lot of the teachers I work with or follow through social media is to create digital Choice Boards so students can have some options in the activities they do from home based on a certain topic or subject area. Kasey Bell from Shake Up Learning calls them Interactive Learning Menus, which gives you a better idea of the purpose. Check out some of her free templates here!
Video Tutorial - Quick version!
There are many beautiful templates our there for teachers to download for free to create their own Choice Boards. My favorites are from Paula at Slidesmania! You have to check out her resources if you are in search of some educational Google Slides or Powerpoint templates.
I created the video below to share with my teachers as a quick-start guide, so Ithought I'd write a quick blog post to share it with you too! I didn't want to get too geeky, because that's when we start losing track of the time (which we don't have a lot of these days)!
So here's a 10 minute video on how you can use Google Slides to create a clickable Choice Board to help students choose what activities they work through each week.
Free Slides Templates
In the video above, I created a weekly choice Board on the go, so it isn't overly complicated or pretty. It's an easy place to start if you've never created one before though! The second template is to help teachers incorporate writing remotely. Both of these templates are just a starting point, so have fun!
Resources to make you own!
Besides my favorites mentioned above, here are some more helpful links.
It really just depends on your purpose and how much time you want to spend creating Choice Boards/ Learning Menus. Have fun and remember to not stress yourself out by trying to make it Teachers Pay Teachers or Pinterest perfect! Remember, the purpose is to give your students choice and be able to differentiate whenever possible.
Happy creating and please tag me on your favorite social media platform with your creations!
Planning for the 20-21 School Year
One thing we all have in common right now is that we have NO IDEA how to plan for this year. While chatting with some educator friends last week, we decided it's a no-checklist kind of year. Don't get me wrong, we'll have tons on our to-do list, but there isn't a checklist to follow to make back to school easy because no one has done it before!
So here's my attempt at making this year less painful...
As a coach, I'm trying my hardest to gather things that will help my teachers through an interesting mix of face-to-face and virual learning. They were just getting the hang of the virtual part, then we had to throw in the face-to-face part. That's out of our control, so we are going to try to make the best of it! My first thought was to help them create a workflow to their day so they aren't "live" all day, but they can include their virtual students during the most important times. Below are some guiding questions I found from NIET that might help with the planning process. In our school, we'll also be setting up a clickable schedule where teachers and students can click on the link they need at the right time to join a live meeting with their class. To start with, we'll be setting up a morning, mid-day, and afternoon time that's required. The rest of the live times (since you can't always plan the best teachable moments) will be linked in Google Classroom for easy acces. I'll be posting more after we officially start school to try it out.
✅ Helpful Resources:
Google has been sharing a ton of resources to help educators make the best of our current situation and new trends that have surfaced to meet the needs of our students. Here are a few that can be shared with families since they will be in this with us. I'm thinking these would be great to share in your first newsletter or virtual introduction for the year.
If you are a GSuite district, there are tons of tools you can use to help make your instruction easy to navigate whether or not you are face-to-face, virtual, or a mix of both. Here are the tools & Extentions I have found really useful since last March when all this started.
📅 Google Calendar
Google Calendar can be a life saver for you when you are working in a digital enviroment. Using calendar events with a Google Meet link can make it much easier to keep track of time. I have notifications settings for anywhere from 15 to 5 minutes before an event to make sure I stay on schedule. Here are a few posts and resources that might help you if this sounds like something that will help your workflow (including a link to my post on surviving remote learning).
🎥 Google Meet
There's a few different ways to use Google Meet. Right now, the safest way to use it with students is to either go to meet.google.com and create a nicknamed meet from there, or use the Google Meet link in Google Classroom (which also serves as a nicknamed meet where students can't join without the teacher). Below I've linked Eric Curts Google Meet series so you can choose what you need to know.
🖼️ Google Slides
Google Slides is one of my favorite Google tools! It's not just about making presentations pretty, but making them effective and engaging.
Some of the ways you can use Google Slides to help you teach right now can include:
👩💻 Google Classroom
I won't even try to create my own resources for Google Classroom tutorials when I have access to Kasey Bell's resources! Check out all that she has to offer here. Also, she has an amazing Google Classroom Master class (that I've taken myself) that includes EVERYTHING you would need to know, and then some. If you are new to Google Classroom, do yourself a favor and take this course (which is on sale right now, because she's awesome like that)!
Here's the link to the course if the free resources linked above isn't enough for you.
Another thing I'd recommend is to listen to her latest Podcast on "How to Create Google Classroom Blended Learning Lessons" (part 3 of a great back-to-school series).
Some of my favorite extensions to use with the apps mentions above are linked below.
🔗 Wakelet, Edpuzzle, SeeSaw, and Flipgrid
These aren't Google tools, but they are sites we will be using a lot this year! As I've mentioned before, I use Wakelet for my #PottyPD and our school newsletter. We also started using it as a "hub" for lesson plans. Here's a post on some of the many ways you can use Wakelet.
Flipgrid is an amazing tool to keep your kids engaged and seeing each other even if they aren't in the school building with you. One of my favorite app smashing ideas is to start your Wakelet off with a Flipgrid short (embeded in Wakelet alread) to add your personality into your Wakelet collections. Want to know more about Flipgrid? You can check out the tons of resources already created for educators here.
SeeSaw! I haven't used SeeSaw myself much, but I know our K-2 teachers LOVE it! We bought a subscription for our teachers to use this year and they are super excited! I'll be able to share more on how we use it soon. In the meantime, check out their resources for educators here.
💡It's about the instruction & pedagogy, not just the tool!
As with any technology integration, you have to think about the purpose before you pick the tool. Here's a Toolkit from Shake Up Learning that will help you plan engaging lessons regardless of the tools you choose to support "Dynamic Learning" in your classroom. Just make sure to not overwhelm yourself and keep self-care on your calendar. I'd also love to hear what you are doing to try to keep yourself same this year. Tag me on Twitter or comment below with you thoughts! ~Pam
I'm an Instructional Coach at Daniel Island School in Berkeley County South Carolina and a Google Certified Trainer.