Friday, February 12, 2016

Yes, Sites can be beautiful

Last week, I presented at #tcea16 about revisions and hacks I have done to Google Sites to make them, well, respectable.

So, until Google Sites gets the makeover it's long since needed, check out these steps to give your Site the facelift it needs. No more ducking from others when your Website is mentioned. Stand proud about that Site now!

Check out my Set Your Sights on Sites: Advanced and check out for all of my resources, including beginner tutorials, on Google Sites.

Enjoy! Let's make some beautiful Sites!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Digital Learning Day is next week! Resources for you! #dlday

Next week is the fifth annual digital learning day on February 17.

To get ready for it, here is my school's digital citizenship program - a perfect time to start up a similar one at your school!

This year, we started a focus group that meets once every month or two to plan for future events. On the first Wednesday of every month, all advisories choose a "d-day" (for digcit day) activity of their choice to discuss or complete. Many are current events with the goal to promote discussion and awareness in this first year. We held a chapel in the fall for all students and are organizing a student panel and chapel for the spring, featuring current students who have a positive online presence. We have also held monthly parent talks since November focusing on creative active digital creators rather than passive digital consumers.

We will hold a week long celebration of activities for digital learning day, starting with a hands-on parent activity on Monday. Parents will complete the Makey Makey challenge, among many other activities promoting active learning.

Check out the full line-up here of our plans.  Want some resources for digital storytelling? Try out the ones in this chart. Sadly, some do require purchasing...

What are you doing for digital learning day?

#YourEduStory: Empowering student voice

This week's topic: Empowering student voice: how to foster an environment in education to empower students voice, freedom and expression?

In my current role, I don't feel I have as great of an impact on student voice. However, I believe maker education is one solution. But, this also involves us restructuring education. 

The idea that we are creators - we are makers - is behind maker education. It's paired heavily with design thinking. Unfortunately, though, I have sat through design thinking workshops and, often, the focus is on the verb and not the process. This is not to say that design thinking is not beneficial, but, it should be about the process, not the words. 

Recently, I sat through a workshop on the "making of a makerspace." The presenters tried to go through the design thinking process, but in the event, they killed all creativity and freedom of expression. 

Personally, I am at my most expressive and most creative when I am allowed to experiment and then, refine my work - not the other way around. Often, we ask students to go through the refinement before they've ever had the chance to create. 

As a former high school English teacher, I know the importance of storyboarding and brainstorming. But, to a point. In education, we tend to stifle creativity during this step if we are not careful. Sometimes, it's best to get our hands dirty and then, clean up after. The focus should be on refining the process and documenting the process as we go through it - not on going through a written process and then, creating it. 

We can empower student voice when we give them the chance to create and to experiment before asking them for deeper meaning. Learning comes in playing. I watch my three-year old niece. She learns everyday through play. She learns through other measures, no doubt, but the basis of her learning is in play. 

For me, I learn and feel most free when I can create outside. For others, they like a more structured space. We need to focus on metacognition. We need to ask students to reflect on their own learning and thinking - when do they feel most creative? Then, we need to do our best to provide a similar space. We can empower students in giving them voice in their learning space.

Once we open up the creative bowl, we provide immediate access to student voice. 

The key to empowerment is through creativity and play. 

How do you empower student voice?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Hacking Google

Google Apps have a lot of great built-in features. However, to get the most out of it, it's useful to perform a few "hacks." For instance, when I make a Google Site, I completely bypass Google Site's built-in editor and insert Google's other products (like Docs) so the Site can run itself. It's things like this that Google does not tell us to do, but leaves it up for us to try.

I've included some of my favorite "hacks" to improve your Google experience in Google Apps Hacked.

What are your favorites?

Check out for more things Googleicious.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

TCEA 2016 in review

It's been a long time since I've actually attended a conference. There, I said it. I've been to many and presented at many recently. However, I read so much in my own time that I find it hard to be surprised at a conference. And, recently, I have been presenting so I've been too fatigued to actually attend. 

This year, though, I attended. 

I wonder how many others who present actually attend. Most, like me, gain their information from their own personal learning. However, it's beneficial to not always be the one leading - to be the one following. I'm so used to leading that I find it difficult to follow and I find it difficult to sympathize - at times - with followers. But, following is necessary at times. To be a leader, you have to be a follower.

So before I sum up my highlights and learning challenges, I challenge all those stuck in the presenter circuit to attend. To take a break from leading to be a follower. I plan to do it more this year. It was refreshing even though the content was not unique. It's the act of following that is important. 

To kick off TCEA 2016, I went to the opening session of the STEM Academy. Keynotes and opening sessions are usually a lot of talk and no action. In fact, many sessions are. And, attendance in my own sessions is up when it is a lot of talk and little action. We, like our students, are trained to be receptacles of information. This needs to change.

Cindy Morris led the keynote with a fast-paced, high energy talk. She gave us about 20 seconds to turn to a partner to talk. Though, in a large room, this is a reluctant task. Again, we are trained receptacles. I argue that more sessions need to be structured in a maker format - more around creation. 

That said, I left with a confirmation. It was not necessarily anything new, but it was confirmation of my beliefs. 

My favorite take-aways included: 

STEM Academy Opening Session: Using technology to engage students in problem solving
  • Cindy Moss - @stemboss,
  • STEM is a culture, not a class
  • It’s for ALL kids
  • 70% of hs graduates wouldn’t qualify with lowest level of military b/c lack problem solving skills - says it’s a matter of national security
  • Every 18 seconds, some student drops out of hs
  • Banks hire 90% math majors & would hire 3 times as many if they could find them
  • - sign up for Stem Daily
  • 768,000 new stem jobs in Texas by 2018 - must get kids ready for this
  • Change the equation - sign up for this email in organization
  • 75% of all jobs will be 75% stem in a few years
  • Many stem jobs you can get with little to no college jobs
    • Graduating with a ton of debt does no one any good
  • We need to be honest with kids about the job market
  • Kids aren’t afraid of STEM - teachers are, but we need to help them not be
    • Don’t pass on fears of math & science to kids
  • Be a STEMINIST! - Girls should have opportunity to go into STEM
    • Project STEM - by Duke university
    • STEM is one of few industries where women make as much as men
    • DOUBLE # of girls in STEM!!!!
  • Students make decision to go in math & science by 6th grade
  • You can’t be what you can’t see - why Google Cardboard is so great - show kids jobs they aren’t seeing
  • STEM jobs are changing - 71% of jobs that need to be filled are in STEM, million jobs open in US because we can’t fill those jobs
  • Behind music services is a whole bunch of statisticians - making at least 80,000/year
    • Algorithms - developing these for companies - makes a lot of $$
  • We need 80 hours of high quality, ongoing PD over two years - most fields have this
    • We need 160 hours of high quality, ongoing PD over three years to change culture
  • 4Cs - we need to teach these!!
    • STEMformation Continuation - standards!
  • We need these under a transdiscplinary theme - we don’t say we’re doing 2 hours of literacy, 2 hours of math, etc.
  • FAIL - first attempt in learning
    • Angry Birds creator - took 10,000 tries to get it!
  • Reading like a scientist
  • Give kids problems to solve & make them figure it out
  • STEMtastic Staturday - play being a Stem person
  • - a whole lot of free resources - STEM Camp
  • The more diverse the people solving the problem, the more robust the solution

The Making of a Makerspace
  • Jason Harron - @jrharmon -
  • Maker movement started around 20016 - with idea that we are all makers
    • White House supports
    • Bill passed by colleges & school educators calling for need in K-12 education
    • 1200+ hacker/makerspaces around US
  • The 4Cs are what we want- these are the qualities we want in all professions
  • Tortillas/Cookies under laser printer to engrave thigns
  • Montessori schools - hands on -
    • Constructionism - different than constructivism - final product you can see, hear, touch - and learning is physical in world
  • New UT building has 10,000 sq. ft. of maker spaces available
    • ATX hackerspace - has full car lift
    • TechShop
  • - design thinking principal - broke it down into four steps - maybe use this for maker class
  • FabLearn conference - held Oct. 14-16 - need to attend! -
  • SX Create - Mar. 11-13 - Maker aspect of SXSWedu - don’t need SXSW wrist band & it’s free!!! At Palmer Events Center
  • Go beyond banana piano
  • Use Arduino to code teddy bears
  • Drimmel tools - more child-safe, Skill also has tools for lighter materials with guards

Leading Innovative Change

  • George Couros - @gcouros
  • Innovation - invention or iteration - something totally new or a reiteration of something existing
  • We expect innovation in everything outside of what we work in
  • What innovation is and isn’t
    • What is it actually changing vs. changing for changes sake
      • Taking out candy of vending machines & replacing it with good stuff is not innovation
      • Saying that kids will figure it out is not always right - not all are proficient so - do need an adult guidance and the longer you wait the more afraid you’ll get - “the suspense at the top is what freaks you out”
      • Don’t fit people into job titles - find great people & give them titles
  • Competitive collaboration
    • We’re missing notion of competition - no one wants to be the weakest, but someone always is
      • We push each other to get better, though
      • We don’t want “mind your own business learning.” We want to ask - what is tech allowing us to do that we couldn’t do before - we must collaborate
  • 5 elements of leadership
    • Strength-based leadership
      • Best people to teach this are these passionate educators - and have them go to places they love
    • Powerful learning first, technology second
      • Business vs. Education - don’t base what we use vs. what makes sense for business. For instance, don’t use Office 365 just because the IT dept. feels comfortable with it
        • Ask - what is best for kids, how does this improve learning, if we were to do ----, what is the balance of risk vs. reward, is this serving the few or the majority.
        • Power is about what you can control, freedom is about what you can unleash - our jobs as teachers is to get others to unleash
    • Creating meaningful learning
      • Teachers should be responsible for their own learning now
      • To innovate, disrupt your routine
      • How do yo move people from their point a to their point b
      • How do you disrupt the routine of other
        • Stop giving meanings with handouts - if they say they have to use paper, show them how to print
        • Less is more - paradox of choice - TED talk to walk - a lot of people can’t make choices
          • Literate - adaptive - trans-formative
          • Focus on just a few and know them inside out
        • Move to meaningful creation
    • Embrace an open culture
      • When kids leave school, they should be well-Googled - you need to develop your Google footprint
      • We live in a world where everyone can have a voice - but how are we using it
  • We are data-driven - but need to think about - what are we really good at and why
  • I think, I question, I design, I create, I struggle, I collaborate, I try, I solve, I invent, I reflect, I LEARN
  • You can’t ignore change-makers - they push human race forward. The crazy ones...

Using Add-ons in GAFE? You should!

Google Apps can do a lot on their own, but to really get the benefits, you need to use the Google Add-ons available in Forms, Docs, Sheets.

Check out Add-ons make the world go round for a listing of some of my favorite add-ons. Some add-ons are also legacy scripts that you can get from the old Google Sheets.

More Google-iciousness is available on


Friday, January 29, 2016

Google Classroom: The short of it

While I'm a fan of the long lists of uses of Classroom (I frequently consult them and have a few of my own), it's nice to a short version, too - for easy access.

In case you missed December's post on Google Classroom updates, you should check it out. Now, you can export grades directly to Google Sheets. And, with the new explore feature in Google Sheets, that means you can get graphical representations of that data quickly. And, my favorite - you can use your keyboard to move from one grade entry to the next. I despise using my mouse so, anytime I can use the keyboard, the better!

Check out Google Classroom: Year Two for my favorite uses of Google Classroom and then, some.

And, go to for all things Google!