Monday, February 16, 2015

Google Search Tip - Use the Dialect of the Community

In a few weeks I will be flying to Australia to speak at the Future Schools Expo in Sydney. This will be the first time I have flown to Australia. Since Sydney is just about as far away from Portland, Maine as I could go and stay in the planet, I did a bit of research to find the most comfortable (by relative airline standards) plane and seat to choose to fly to Australia. (Yes, I realize that is the definition of first world problem).

To do my research I turned to the message board community on (it's kind of like Consumer Reports meets Trip Advisor for airlines). Once it was determined that I would be flying Qantas (I didn't have much choice on that matter) from Dallas to Sydney I set out to see what people were saying about seats on the A380 that flies on that route. I started out using the name Dallas in my search, but I didn't see nearly as many posts on the topic as I had hoped. Further, the posts that I did find were written by people who had made relatively few contributions to the community. After reading some not-so-helpful post I realized that most frequent contributors to the community don't actually spell out full city names. Instead, they use airport abbreviation codes like DFW when writing about Dallas. As soon as I switched out Dallas and for DFW in my search I found a lot more posts from frequent contributors to the FlyerTalk community.

How this applies to students:
A few years ago I heard my friend Tom Daccord at (an advertiser on this blog) give an example of social studies students researching films of the early 20th Century. In his example Tom mentioned that the students who insisted on using the term "movies" in their searches didn't get nearly as far as those who used terms like "talkies," "moving pictures," and "cinema." This was due to the fact that "movies" wasn't a part of the common dialect of film critics in the early 20th Century.

For students to understand the dialect of the topics that they are researching, they will have to do some prior reading and learning on the topic. One thing that I've asked students to do when reading primary sources that I've distributed to them is to highlight or write down the terms and phrases that are new to them. Often those highlighted terms and phrases often end up being a huge asset to them when they are trying to choose the best terms to use in Google searches.

By the way, if you copy and paste a primary document into Google Docs then share it with students, it is very easy for them to highlight new-to-them phrases and for you to see what they've highlighted. That is one of the activities that I model in my online course Getting Going With GAFE.

The Real Benefit of Using Google Sheets Add-ons Like Flubaroo and Goobric

On Friday evening I posted a list of my ten favorite Google Sheets, Docs, and Forms Add-ons. A point that I should have made at the start of that post is that the biggest benefit of many Add-ons is that they save teachers time.

For the most part Add-ons won't change the way you teach, but they can streamline some processes for you. Take that time savings and use it on the things that make teaching fun like having more conversations with students. Or take that time savings to reduce your personal stress level and go fishing, play with your kids, let your mind wander, or do whatever it is you like to do when you relax.

We often talk about the need for balance between professional and personal lives. Saving time on routine tasks by using Google Apps Add-ons is one way to help you achieve that balance. From personal experience, when I've had a good balance between my professional and personal lives both have improved.

Here's an example of this from my life. When I discovered the process for giving and grading quizzes through Google Forms and Spreadsheets it almost immediately cleared an hour or more from the time it took me to grade my weekly quizzes. I was doing that before Flubaroo was available, when Flubaroo came out the set-up process for automatic grading became much shorter.

Another example of an Add-on that can save teachers a ton of time is found in Doctopus and Goobric. Setting up the process of using these Add-ons can take a bit of time at first, but once the set-up is done using those Add-ons can streamline your grading process for assignments that don't have clear-cut right and wrong answers.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Good evening from snowy Woodstock, Maine. I made it home just in time for our latest blizzard. I had a great week speaking in Ohio and Tennessee. It is always a privilege and a pleasure to be able to share knowledge and learn new things at a conference. A big shout-out and thank you to the folks who came to my workshop at OETC and had to sit on the floor for a while until the conference organizers opened up more space for us.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 10 Good Google Docs, Sheets, and Forms Add-ons for Teachers
2. Insert Graphs and Equations Into Google Docs and Forms
3. Connect Fours - A Fun, New Review Game from @RusselTarr
4. Save Kahoot Quiz Results In Your Google Drive Account
5. Create, Integrate, Demonstrate - Slides from My Workshop at #OETC15
6. Read & Write for iPad and Android - Text to Speech and More
7. Skaffl - Distribute, Collect, and Grade Assignments on Your iPad

This week I opened registration for spring and summer sections of my popular online courses Getting Going With GAFE and Blogs & Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders. Graduate credits are available for both courses. People who are subscribed to the newsletter receive a discount on registration.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
BoomWriter provides a fantastic tool for creating writing lessons. 
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards and cartoon stories.
Versal is a great tool for building interactive online course components.
MidWest Teachers Institute offers online graduate courses for teachers.
PresentationTube provides a good way to use PowerPoint to create flipped lessons.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
MasteryConnect provides a network for teachers to share and discover Common Core assessments.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is hosting host workshops in six cities in the U.S. in the summer.

The Latest Mission U.S. Game Teaches Students About Immigration

Thanks to Glenn Wiebe, earlier this week I learned that one of my favorite U.S. History games has added a new component. Just about one year after Mission U.S. added A Cheyenne Odyssey they have added City of Immigrants. City of Immigrants is the fourth game in the Mission U.S. series.

City of Immigrants is set in New York City in 1907. Players take on the role of a fourteen year-old Jewish immigrant named Lena Brodsky. Lena is from Russia and she arrived in New York after her older brother who came to New York a few years earlier and sent money home to buy passage for family members. Lena is now trying to earn money to send home so that her parents can come to New York. Throughout the game you meet other people in Lena's life in New York who are faced with tough choices just like she is.

Applications for Education
City of Immigrants could be a great game for middle school students and some high school students to play to learn about the challenges that faced immigrants to New York in the early 1900's. What I really like about the game is that players meet the various people involved in Lena's life. Meeting those people could help students understand the community dynamics common to immigrant neighborhoods at the time.

The Mission U.S. games are available to use in your web browser. Some of the games will work on iPads and Android tablets. The Mission U.S. website offers an educators section that includes printable lists of vocabulary terms, writing prompts, and post-game discussion prompts.

Setting a Goal When You Feel Overwhelmed With Technology Options

When I visit schools to facilitate workshops there is usually a mix of folks who are off and running with technology use in their classrooms and folks who are just getting started. When mixed together with those who are off and running, the folks who are just getting started can sometimes feel like they have so much to do to get caught up to their colleagues. In those situations I remind folks that they don’t have to learn it all on their own today. I encourage setting a small goal of getting comfortable with one new thing per full month of the school year. If you can work toward that goal, by the end of the school year you will have eight to ten new things in your teaching playbook.

Learning to use Google Apps for Education is a good example of employing this “one thing per month” goal. Teachers who have Google Apps for Education thrust upon them might feel like they have to learn the ins and outs of Docs, Forms, Slides, Spreadsheets, Classroom, and Sites right away. I recommend starting with one of those aspects of GAFE, Docs is usually where I start people, and getting comfortable with how it works and how it can enhance some of the activities that you do with students. Once you’re comfortable with Docs then move on to another aspect of GAFE. I use this approach in my webinars and in my in-person workshops and it has generally worked out well.

And always remember this, even if you feel like the kids know more about the technology than you do, you are still the expert on teaching in your classroom.

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