Thursday, August 29, 2013

Sharing Folders in Google Drive using Class Groups (revisited)

This was shared with you last year, but it's so helpful that we wanted to share it again... 

Most teachers seem to be using Google Drive to share handouts with students. Google Drive is an online "cloud" storage system that also includes the "Google Docs" productivity suite (Docs, Spreadsheets, and Presentations). In order to share resources with students, two things must happen. First, you must put the files in your Google Drive folder. Then, you must find a way of sharing the files with students. The easiest way of doing this is to create a Google Drive folder for all of your handouts.(This folder can have subfolders for different units. All subfolders within your main folder are also shared with the students.) 

In the sharing settings, you have numerous options. I always make my folder "public on the web". This allows others to search for your folder (though it's nearly impossible to find). It's just my science handouts, and I am happy to share with others. You will be fine choosing any option except "Private".    

Next, you will need to share it with your classes. Last year, I spent around 30 minutes typing all 120 student names and sharing my folder individually with each student. Now though, there is a MUCH simpler way to do this. Since all students have school Google accounts, you can share with a "class group". The folder is then shared with all students in that class group! As you can see in the image below, I shared my "Science Docs" folder with the class group for all of my science students. .

The class groups are generated through PowerSchool. This means it constantly gets updated as your PowerSchool rosters get updated. If you gain a new student in January, your handouts are automatically shared with them!  Read Brian L'Heureux's blog post on the SLN (will need to log in) that explains where to find these class group codes in PowerSchool. 

Important note #1: The class group code in the blog post starts with "1213" because it is from last year. Your class group code should begin with "1314". 

Important note #2: Make sure your students only have "can view" privileges. You do NOT want to give your students "can edit" access. If you do, they can alter/delete all of your files!!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Socrative and Wordle on day one: getting to know your students

Many of us start the year with "getting to know one another" activities.  this year, I am updating my opening activity using a combination of  Socrative and Wordle.

Over the last few years, I have used a post it note activity for this purpose. I would give the students three prompts: 'what is a goal you have for this year'; 'what is one question you have about me or my class'; and 'what is one concern you have about this upcoming year'.  Students would choose two of these questions and write the response for each on a Post-it note. They would then place their Post-it notes on one of three poster boards I had put up on the walls in my room. Once my students had finished their responses, we would tour these boards and have an open discussion about common themes we saw that people had. The responses were anonymous, and this helped open doors to conversations as the year started.

While I liked this lesson, the poster boards covered in little stickies were difficult to organize and find patterns within them. It occurred to me that this should be a simple a way to do this with the technology we have on hand.  With a few minutes of searching the Internet, I found a solution on a great blog called "Socrative Garden".  Briefly, they take the questions that I use at the start of the year and turn them into an open response quiz on Socrative. Once the results are in, and you have them sent to you in spreadsheet form, you can copy the answers that were submitted for any one question and paste them into a Wordle.

To get started, you have a couple choices:

Option 1: if you want to focus on one question at a time, you can simply create a single question activity in Socrative: a short answer question.

Once your question is created, it is very easy to then create a Wordle in a matter of seconds. Once the activity goes live, the student responses will appear on your teacher screen.

Copy the results, and paste them into the text box at Wordle.  Then click "Go."

You now have a word cloud of the results, which you can use to provoke discussion in your class.  you and your students can see which words and terms came up most frequently – not only is this great for the start of the year, but also for any time you want a quick check in with the kids during class.

I can see using this at the end of a chapter in a novel, when reviewing what a student knows about any particular unit or questions they have about a particular topic, etc.

Your second option for how to set this up is useful if you have several questions that you want students to answer at the same time.

In this case, you would create a quiz based activity in Socrative.

This will allow you to create several questions together, which the students will take at one time.

Note that when you start a quiz activity in Socrative, the first question is automatically set to ask for the respondent's name. If you want your quiz to be anonymous, instruct students to simply enter a period for their name.

Add in whatever questions you wish.  I leave the answer and explanation sections blank, as there are no right or wrong answers with this sort of an activity.

Once you finish designing the quiz, give it a name and save it.

Once you give the quiz, the live responses section on Socrative will not have any real results if you did not put in "right answers". Instead, you need to wait until all the students have finished and then end the activity.

When you end the activity, have Socrative email you the results.

This will give you a spreadsheet just like you get when you do a Google survey.

Copy one column at a time, and paste it into your Wordle text box. This will give you a word cloud for each question's results.

Many thanks to Socrative Garden for this idea!

As always, please let us know if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Create classroom posters from any saved image...

Here we are, at the end of August, when our thoughts turn to the start of the football season - er, I mean setting up our classrooms.  What better time to share a simple tool that can be put to immediate use as you unpack those boxes and start covering those bare walls?

Many times, I've stumbled across some cool image or a great quote that I'd like to turn into a poster.... for example, a friend of mine recently shared a Shakespearean rewrite of the Hokey Pokey with me... so, I typed it into an art program, gave it a background, and made this:

Nice, but it was 11 x 8 - only big enough for the nearest student to read, and totally unsuitable for my wall.

Trying to print it large size can be done by some printers and programs, but fiddling with the settings can be tricky.

This is where Block Posters comes in.

In three simple steps, it can take any file up to 1 MB in size and convert it into a poster that you can print, trim, and then use.

Here's how it works:

First, when you go to the site, it will ask for the file you wish to "posterize."

Next, it will ask you for the size of the poster you wish to create.  You choose how many 8.5 x 11  (or A4) pages wide your poster should be, and whether you want it oriented as portrait or landscape.  It then shows you how the image will print (as seen on the left, below) and the actual size the poster will be when assembled (at the bottom, on the right).

Once you click "continue," the site constructs the new image and saves it as a PDF.  It then gives you a clickable link to download your finished poster.

Print it, trim it, and assemble it -- finished!  I prefer to use glue sticks to assemble mine, and then run it through the laminator we have in the copy room.  Want to see what the finished products look like?  Come by room 309 - I have 2 posters up now, which I made through this service.

Per usual, if you have any questions, email us, post comments, or stop by.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Technology Resources on Learnist

First, for all of the new teachers at Oak and Sherwood...welcome to Shrewsbury! We are the Technology Teacher Leaders (TTLs) for Oak and try our best to send out "tech tips" that we think will be helpful in the classroom. Tech Tips from the last few years can all be found on our blog. If you have any tech-related questions, please feel free to send us an email!

Since Derek and I are no longer the Oak yearbook advisors (position is still up for grabs!), we hope to have more free time to blog this year. Please contact us if you have a tech tip request or, even better, if you would like to become a contributor to this blog. We still don't have the 1-to-1 iPad program in the 8th grade so it would be great to recruit some Sherwood teachers and 7th grade teachers. 

One new addition to our tech blog - Deremy 2.0 - are pages that link to collections of resources on Learnist. I wrote about Learnist previously in this blog post. It is a site very similar to Pinterest but more focused on education. It is an excellent tool for curating and sharing online resources with others. Anyway, our goal is to create "learn boards" for different types of technology. So far, we have two learn boards set up: 

When you click on these links, you will find a compilation of resources for both Google Drive and EE. These are the best, most helpful online resources we have found, including relevant posts from our own blog. If you know of other helpful resources that you think should be added, or if you have created something yourself, please share it with us so everyone can benefit!

We will continue to add resources to these two learn boards, and we plan to create new learn boards as well. Let us know if you have recommendations for other iPad apps that you would like for us to compile resources for. The next learn board we plan to create on Learnist will be a list of presentation tools students such as Prezi and Haiku Deck. 

Again, please contact with any questions, comments, or suggestions!

Jeremy Mularella

Derek Pizzuto

Deremy 2.0 blog:

Traveling Tech Tools

All of our blog posts focus on ways of integrating technology in the middle school classroom. However, there are a lot of uses outside of the classroom as well. This blog post describes how I used utilized technology to make my trip to Iceland such a success.

Planning the Trip

My two friends and I (one of whom lives in London, England) used messaging on Facebook and a shared Google Doc to plan our trip. My brother's friend went to Iceland last year and emailed him the itinerary she did. I copied this into the Google Doc and opened it up for feedback. We each did research independently, and I kept track of these sites by bookmarking them using Diigo, which is a social bookmarking tool. I knew I would be bringing my iPhone and iPad on the trip, so these resources could be accessed later on through the Diigo app. With these tools, we were able to come up with a rough idea of what to do each day, as well as book our rooms in a hostel in Reykjavik for the week. 

I purchased my flight through one of the many online dealers. I have not found one to always be better, but this time around, Priceline gave me the best price. The flight itself was through Delta. 

Here are two apps I downloaded ahead of time for my iPhone/iPad along with a description of each:

TripTracker (free)

Get real-time status for flights, real-time itinerary push alerts, live weather reports, route maps, hotel information and car rental information to make your travel a breeze.

Fly Delta (free)

I always download the official airline app. You can check in and get real-time status for your flights. I received a message from them telling me my flight had been delayed and the number of my new gate. 

During the Trip

When traveling overseas, you must be careful not to have "data roaming" enabled. I have read some scary stories of people being charged hundreds of dollars in roaming charges. Always turn "cellular data" off. To be safe, I turn on Airplane Mode. This still allows me to connect to WiFi, but nothing else. Last year on a trip to Italy, I contacted my service provider (AT&T) and purchased a one month international package that let me use cellular networks for roughly $30. The connection was spotty at best so I decided not to do it in Iceland.

Since I rarely was connected to the Internet while traveling, I ditched Google Drive for Evernote. While I could read my Google Docs, I could not edit them. I happen to be an Evernote Premium member, so I can download notebooks and edit them offline. As it turned out, Evernote was very helpful for two main reasons: 

1. I created a note for our budget. Since there were three of us taking turns paying for food, gas, excursions, lodging, etc., we had to make sure we all paid equal amounts. I used Evernote to take photos of receipts, plus noted the amount of every expense throughout our stay.

2. Since we could not access Google Maps as we drove (no WiFi), I looked up all of the places we planned to visit on Google Maps the day before while at the hostel. I then took screen shots of those maps and added them to our Evernote Notebook. If we got lost, we looked at the map and figured out where to go. 

eCurrency ($.99) was another very helpful app. As I mentioned before, the Icelandic currency is confusing. For example, a typical beer costs 1,000 Kronas, which is roughly equivalent to $8. This app lets you quickly and easily convert between any two currencies. The exchange rate is updated daily so you know it's accurate.

After the Trip

Once my friends and I returned home, our first priority was to share photos with each other. Collectively, we took over 1,000 photos, but hey, Iceland is a beautiful country! We each used a slightly different approach to do this: 

Friend #1: Created a Dropbox folder containing his ~600 pictures and shared it with us. This worked very well until it maxed out the space allowance in my Dropbox account. I could not receive any more photos so my friend had to remove them and add the rest for us to download. 

Friend #2: Created a Google Drive folder containing his ~100 photos. This worked just like the Dropbox route but since I have more storage in Google Drive, I was able to get them all no problem. 

Myself: I put my ~300 photos into a folder on my computer. I then compressed that folder into a zip file. I placed this zip file into a Google Drive folder and shared it with my friends. 

Once I received all of the photos, I sorted through them and placed them into different folders. I used Photoshop to touch up some of the photos. If you do not have Photoshop, there are a lot of free options online such as Pixlr and Aviary

The last step is to back up my photos online and share them with friends. Many people choose to share all of their photos on Facebook. While I did post some photos on my Facebook Timeline, that is not where I would choose to host all of my pictures. For this purpose I choose to use Flickr. This is Yahoo's photo sharing service and is used by many professional photographers. Not only is it just better than other photo sharing sites, but you can sign up for a FREE account and receive 1 terabyte (TB) of free space.

To put this in perspective...if you have a 5 MP camera, you can upload 700,000 pictures!! No other site comes close to giving you that much space for free.