Thursday, October 31, 2019

How My Students Are Using Google Sheets With Their Arduino Projects

The students in one of my classes are starting to make some Arduino-powered gadgets. I let them choose what they wanted to build so I have some that are making cars, one making a Bluetooth-connected locks, and couple making a variation of this Hacking STEM project. In other words, there are a lot of things going on at once with 13 students working on different projects at the same time.

I am fortunate in that I have a fairly generous budget for buying supplies for my class. I have a lot of Arduino-compatible parts available to my students. My students can pick and choose the parts that they need to use. But I need a way to keep track of parts they're using. I set up a Google Form that they use to record the parts they take from the collection. That makes it easy to see who has which parts. 

When we started our exploration of Arduino I had students just writing in their notebooks or Google Docs to document what they were trying to accomplish. That was fine at first. Before too long that got a little messy when it came time for me to review what they were doing. That was partly my fault because I didn't give them a structure for recording their trials and observations. 

Keeping Track of Parts and Progress With Google Sheets
To satisfy the need to keep track of parts and the need for a clear way to review what students are working on, I set up a Google Sheets template that all of my students are now following. In the Google Sheet template there is a sheet for parts used and parts needed. There is a second sheet included on which students document problems they've encountered, solutions they've tried, and solutions that worked. You can view a copy of the template right here

Arduino Parts Suppliers
There are two suppliers that I've used for Arduino parts. Those are Elegoo and SparkFun. The Elegoo Mega 2560 (affiliate link) is a good place to start if you're looking to get started with some simple Arduino projects with your students. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Slides Randomizer - A Neat Google Slides Add-on


Slides Randomizer is a Google Slides add-on that will randomly shuffle a set of Google Slides. It's easy to use the Slides Randomizer add-on. Once you've installed the add-on simply select Slides Randomizer from the add-ons drop-down menu while viewing your slides then click on "randomize presentation." Right before the slides shuffle you'll be asked if you want to include the title slide in the shuffle or leave it at the beginning of the presentation. You can always undo the shuffling of your presentation by reverting to the previous version in the "version history" menu found in the "File" drop-down menu.

Applications for Education
I learned about Slides Randomizer from one of my students who was using it to shuffle his slides in a flashcard-like manner. That's one way of using it.

What I'm thinking about doing with it is to put together a set of slides that outlines a sequence (data transmission from one computer to another through a WLAN). Then I'll use the Slides Randomizer to shuffle the slides before I share them with my students through Google Classroom where they'll be given the assignment of putting the slides into the correct order.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

One Last Round-up of Educational Halloween Resources

Halloween is less than 48 hours away as I write this. My daughters are excited about their Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck costumes. Some of my high school students seemed pretty excited about Halloween too.

If you find yourself looking for some last-minute Halloween-themed activities here some items that I featured earlier this month.

Those of you who are looking for Halloween-themed stories to use in ELA lessons could do well to turn to this collection on ReadWorks. The bulk of the Halloween collection on ReadWorks features articles for a  K-8 audience with a few 9-12 articles mixed in.

ReadWorks is hosting a writing contest for students in fifth through eighth grade. The contest deadline is this Friday. Details are available here.

Speaking of Halloween-themed writing, TED-Ed has a lesson titled How to Make Your Writing Suspenseful.


TED-Ed has another Halloween-themed lesson. That lesson is Vampires: Folklore, Fantasy, and Fact.



Number Chase - Math vs. Zombies is a free iPad game with a Halloween theme. The game is has three virtual worlds each containing ten levels of basic math problems.

If you'd like to play some Halloween trivia games or Halloween safety tips review games with your students, Kahoot has hundreds of games on those topics. Here's my video tutorial on how to find and modify Halloween games on Kahoot.

The Practical Ed Tech Creativity Conference - Call for Proposals

In December I'm hosting a free online conference called the Practical Ed Tech Creativity Conference. The purpose of the conference is to give teachers an opportunity to share their creative classroom projects with other teachers. If you have an idea that you would like to present, please complete this short presentation proposal form. If you've never presented in a webinar format before, I'll give you some training in advance.


Register to Attend
  • It's Free! Register here and you’ll be registered for all live sessions (it will be recorded for those who cannot attend the live broadcasts).
    • December 10th at 2pm, 3pm, and 4pm ET.
    • December 11th at 8pm, 9pm, and 10pm ET.
    • December 12th at 2pm, 3pm, and 4pm ET.

Two Ways I'm Using Pictures in Formative Assessments This Fall

This fall I'm teaching a few computer science classes. The curriculum for one of those courses is heavy on hardware and hardware repair. This month my students and I have been using a lot of pictures and diagrams. There are two ways that I've been incorporating those pictures and diagrams into formative assessment.

Formative Assessment With Images on GoFormative
I've been using GoFormative about every week or two to have students answer questions based on a diagram that I upload to GoFormative.com. I like using GoFormative.com for this purpose because I can add multiple questions to the same diagram. Students know exactly which part of the diagram each question is referring to because the questions appears when they click the digram. In addition to wiring diagrams I've done this with a picture of a multimeter.

Students Documenting Processes With Pictures
One of the first hands-on activities that my students did this year was to disassemble and then reassemble some old desktop computers. Originally, I was going to have students draw diagrams throughout the disassembly process. That proved to be time-consuming and inaccurate (sloppy drawings, poor penmanship). So I switched it up and had them start taking pictures on their phones then labeling those images before sharing them with me via Google Classroom.

The act of photographing and labeling wasn't graded (other than done/ not done). I wanted to see which students could recall and document well and which still needed help with the process.

I'll be sharing more ideas about using images in the formative assessment process in my upcoming webinar, Five Fun Formative Assessment Methods