Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Forms and Docs just got even better

And, if you're not using some of the great new updates, you really should.

Check out some of my personal favorites below and respond with your favorite uses of them. How will you use them to innovate? How will you use them to close achievement gaps or increase engagement?

 The new & improved Google Docs:


The new & improved Google Forms:


What are your favorites and how will you use them?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Hour of Code follow-up

I'm an avid supporter of coding and getting girls into STEM-related careers. However, I support it with a twist. 

While I support the activities that are specifically created for Hour of Code and I love the enthusiasm surrounding this week, it should not just be a week. In some cases, it's similar to jumping on the bandwagon. Many have joined in support of coding, but do not know why and do not have the infrastructure in place to continue it. 

Therefore, I think the focus should shift to sustaining interest. Hour of Code is awesome at generating interest, but how do we sustain interest? In working with elementary students the past few years, I gained insight into the STEM shift that occurs between elementary and middle school. In elementary, I had over half of my robotics members represented by girls. There was a focus on problem-based learning and the approach to STEM was different. It was not just "taking notes" as a 12-year old girl mentioned to me. Instead, it was collaborative and it appealed more to ALL students. 

However, in middle school, a shift in school happens and STEM becomes an area that is not as conducive to ALL learners. This is not a slam on STEM programs, but merely an observation. 

So, I ask, how can we lessen that shift? How can we still keep kids interested (not just girls) during that gap between elementary and middle school? 

And, secondly, what are the reasons to keeping kids in STEM? I have my own reasons, but what are yours? Why is it important for students to be able to code?

Before starting the Hour of Code, I think it is an important question to ask yourself - why do you students need to code? There is no perfect answer, but every person should have their opinion. 

With that in mind - our programs (Warrior Tech and Girls Who Code) focused on mentorship. Mentorship is our reason to get others into coding. 

Yesterday, several of our high school students went to a high-need elementary school and helped classrooms with several of the featured hour of code activities. When young students able to see where coding could take them (through the various high school students), there was purpose. 

Today, the clubs hosted an informal event in the library for students in all levels of computer science - from beginner to advanced. The goal was to gain exposure and give students that entry point (that is scary to many students). 

We hope to continue to reflect on the whys - why should we encourage coding, computer science, and STEM?


One of our high school students helping fifth graders get started with HOC activities. 


 Another group of high school students helping a very excited group of second graders. 



 Second grade students at their best - collaboration and teaching others. 

Our main feature high school event - an informal space for students to come and learn code from our students. 






 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Google +: a match made in heaven

Our district is and has been a fully implemented GAFE domain for sometime. We've used Google + Communities since they first started and, as a result, they have become an integral part of our learning, sharing, and growth.

Still, though, I still get a lot of push back from educators who are afraid of "Google taking over your life" with Google +. Though, I won't argue the logistics and ethics of this, I will say that you can still use social media - despite its invasion - to learn and grow. And, with school-issued Google + accounts, educators do not even need to set up a separate account or profile. It's already there!

And, don't worry about lurking - you can still lurk until or if you decide you want to share out to the Google + world.

In the meantime - in case you aren't already sold - I've listed my favorite features of Google + as well as a few favorites of my teachers.

Please respond with your favorites! I'd love to create a collection of practical uses of Google +!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Fen Favs in Google Slides & more Google Tools!

I've seen and made a ton of how-tos for Google. However, I often find myself asking - what are others' favs? What are the selling points for Google? So, with that in mind, I'm starting a series of short Google Slides with my favs and the favs of my teachers. Feel free to comment with your favs. I would love a collection of ideas that are easy to find and easily searchable. Because, unfortunately, it's also easy to get lost and overwhelmed in ideas.

So, let's start with Slides - here are my favs and my staff's favs. What are yours?


Here are some of my other favs - What are yours?


Docs



Forms



Google +



Sheets




Let's see if we can make an easy-to-access resource for others to find new ideas that are easy to implement and easy to revolutionize!

Check out Fennovation.org for more Google-icious information. Respond to this post with your favorite ideas for Google Slides & Sheets!



Friday, November 21, 2014

Hour of Code - why do it?

There is a lot of buzz surrounding coding in schools right now. If you mention coding, I'm sure you will generate a lot of attention.

However, before moving down the path, I think it's crucial to ask yourself "why?" Why is coding important? Why does everyone want to code? Is coding just the new buzzword? Well, yes - it is. But, it can be more than a buzzword.

It's important to know why you're jumping on the coding train. Because of it's new popularity and support from several high profile names, it can become something people just do. For instance, I have encountered several educators this year who are now pushing the Hour of Code and code in the classroom because of its fame but not because they know or understand the need.

And, as a result, we have classrooms where coding is separate, where coding is this fun extra activity, where coding is an addition. Rather, coding should be pushed for it's value; for what we know it does: encourage logic.

Logic is a way of thought that is difficult to teach. However, coding can be implemented in any curriculum to help with this understanding. Logic is a skill everyone needs.

So, I urge you - do join in on the coding momentum because coding is logic and logic is a way of thinking we all need to be skilled at. However, don't join in the coding movement simply because "everyone else is." This only separates coding from being an integral part of the classroom. We need to know and understand why it's necessary.

In honor of Hour of Code, the two clubs I sponsor at my high school, Girls Who Code and Warrior Tech, will be sponsoring a week of activities including an introductory session and a mentoring session. Rather than simply engaging in the games - because everyone is doing it - these activities (all still part of the Hour of Code) have purpose behind them - teaching logic and mentorship. Our students will assist other students in completing the activities to shed light on their clubs as well as our Computer Science classes. Our students will also assist students at an area elementary school in completing the hour of code. By doing this, students see a purpose and a connection.

Your challenge: when completing the Hour of Code, give it purpose and continuance. Don't let it just be an "hour," but, rather, use the Hour of Code to bring it into the classroom full-time.

Curious what we're doing? See our activities below and read about them here.




Thursday, November 13, 2014

GEG Lesson Plan - afterthoughts



Earlier this week, several chapters of GEG Texas led a pilot of Google's Lesson Plan Jam with 30 educators in Google's Austin offices. In the planning process, we weren't entirely for sure of the outcome, but that's the beauty in it. It's great to not have a known outcome and to let learning guide the day. At the end of it, I was surrounded by 30 educators determined to make a difference for their students for 8 hours. And, what more could a girl ask for?



Other than, perhaps, Chrome cookies! 


The day was full of pods of innovation, connected in the context of one room. 


And a team of MCs with a passion for creativity and learning. 


Wait! And, more Chrome cookies. 


The day started off with discussing current frustrations in the classroom via sticky notes. Problems ranged from frustrations on document naming conventions to a lack of admin involvement in PD. 



And, after a brief tour of the Google Austin offices, educators were sent back to develop unit plans - either as a group - or individually met to innovate or target those problems.


3-4 educators were paired with a subject-area lead learner who helped pair the technological leader with the content expert. 


The pairing led to a room of inspired educators.




 With great collaboration not just on technology, but in person and on drawing boards. Sometimes, there is no substitute. 

 

Like teachers presenting to teachers their ideas through Demo Slams and project share-outs.


Or teachers just having fun, having the time to plan and collaborate. 


Guest appearances by Google for Education. 


And a late afternoon share-out of the day's learning.

Educators have a week to complete the lessons/unit plans started at the Jam. Once completed, lessons and unit plans will go up on our GEG Lesson Plan Jam site for others to search and adapt. The goal is to share learning and ideas. And, though many educators chose to integrate GAFE into their plans, the end goal was meant to be on the students - sharing, collaborating, and innovating the existing educational wheel. 

Check out our event's Google Site for more details on the lessons submitted. 

In the meantime - how can you get involved? Join your area GEG and what not join GEG CENTX while you're at it?! Stay tuned for more events - both virtual and face-to-face - in the coming weeks. 


Who are the digital natives?

Recently, I was having a discussion about online textbooks.

Who are digital natives? Well, it's not the students.

The term "digital natives" has become part of common speech - so much so that the meaning has been lost.

According to Google's definition, it's "a person born or brought up during the age of digital technology and therefore familiar with computers and the Internet from an early age."

In talking with teachers about online textbooks, the point was raised that many districts go online because "students are digital natives" and "students are doing everything online." And, though, I'm a proponent of most things online, I have to disagree with this assumption.

Even with my Warrior Tech students - students who run Linux on their HP Chromebooks - I would disagree that they are digital natives.

Rather - I would say that they are digital users. They are not native to this environment. Native implies they are from a place. However, students are not from the digital age. WE ARE. We are the ones who witnessed the evolution of digital tools. We are the ones who created those tools. And, we are the ones who have the foundation in it. Students have been transplanted into this digital age. Additionally, digital native implies that students must also be familiar with computers and the Internet.

However, as students born in a digital climate, they are immediately exposed to the current digital world, with little foundation in the previous digital worlds. This is where the disconnect occurs.

We make the assumption that our students know the digital history that we know, but they were not around to witness that. And, as a result, we have students coding and running systems, with little background as to why its necessary or what power it has.

We cannot make the assumption that students are digital natives until we also have proven that they are familiar with computers and the Internet. As a whole, we assume that since the first half of the digital native definition is true, the other half must be true of students. However, that is a great fallacy.

Students are brought up in a world where there are textbooks on almost any concept. However, we cannot assume that, therefore, they are familiar with the concepts in those texts. Computers and the Internet familiarity are the same. We cannot assume students know and understand it.

What are students familiar with:

  • Social Media
  • Collaboration

What are we familiar with:
  • Content
  • How the pieces fit together
We can use what students do know to help them become fluent, but we must not assume they are digital natives. 

What do you think? Where do you expect students to be now? Are they matching up to those standards?