Saturday, September 16, 2017

Back to School Reflection with Computer Science



This year I am teaching Computer Science to all 6th grade students.  My schedule entails having a group of students for about 20 days then rotating to a new group. This rotation allows me to teach the same concepts to all of the students, and it allows me to use different manipulatives, such as Bloxels, Ozobots, and LittleBits, and internet tools, such as Code.org, CS First, and Scratch, for each group.   My goal is at the end of the school year, having all of the 6th grade students being introduced to Computer Science and exposed to coding.

When I found out I was teaching Computer Science, I was excited and anxious to teach the students everything I know about the subject.  Then, I had a reality check.  Having a group of students for about a 20 day cycle would not allow me to teach them everything I wanted, so then I focused on just the basics.

Since this is the first time Computer Science is being offered at my school, during the summer, I had to write curriculum.  Knowing that I would have a group of students for about a 20 day cycle, figuring out the topics and the tools to implement into my class was a bit challenging.   I decided to have four units, and teach one unit per week.  Of course some units will overlap with others, but at least it is a start.  Throughout the year, the curriculum will be a work in progress and I will be revising it accordingly.  The units are listed below.

Unit 1:  Introduction to Computer Science
Unit 2:  Introduction to an Interface
Unit 3:  Computational Thinking
Unit 4:  Logical Thinking

In Unit 1, I go over the basics of Computer Science, the affects it has in our daily lives, binary code, digital etiquette, teamwork and relationships.  The picture below shows students completing an unplugged activity by using buttons to write their names in binary code.  Another unplugged activity I used was using a Computer Science BreakoutEDU game to build teamwork and relationships.


In Unit 2,  I will go over a block based interface, and the students will start to code.  While they are coding, they will be using computational and logical thinking, which are units 3 and 4.  Additionally, they will learn important skills such as creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and problem solving skills.

Furthermore, I will be using social media and a class blog to document our class journey and to give students a voice.  Students can use #CS4WDMS on Twitter and Instagram to show their work to a global and authentic audience. They can also reflect on their experiences using a class blog.   Because I decided to implement social media into the classroom, I included online safety and digital etiquette into Unit 1 of the curriculum.

Next week, I plan to implement Unit 2, which will introduce students to a visual programming language, or a block based coding.  This can either be Blockly, Scratch or the Ozobot Blockly editor. Whatever I decide, it will expose the students to similar concepts commands, the tool box, the workspace, the output area, and much more.

Please follow our class journey on Twitter and Instagram using #CS4WDMS and read the class blog at http://cs4wdms.blogspot.com/.  Stay tuned for the next blog post.





Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Back to School: What's in your Tech Toolbox?



As educators, our minds are always turned on. We are always learning, and we are constantly thinking of new ways to help our students be successful. Let’s not forget, however, that as educators we also need guidance to be effective, efficient, organized and successful.

Being a technology integration coach and a Google Certified Trainer, I wanted to share some tech tips and recommendations with you to help you get started this school year. Many of my recommendations revolve around G Suite for Education (GSFE).

Tips for Google Classroom
  1. Instead of listing all of your classroom resources, websites, and so forth on the About page, list them in a Google document and attach that link to the About page. This will allow you to sort them in any order you choose, format them and manage them more easily. Be sure the setting permissions to the Google document are set appropriately. Additionally, you can insert this link onto your school webpage.
  2. Title the assignment with a number and a description, and provide the same naming convention to any attachments for that assignment. This will allow you to easily associate files to the assignments in Google Drive. For example: “001 All About Me.”
  3. Always include general directions and technology directions in all of your assignments. This will provide guidance to the students when the assignment is completed.
  4. Install the Chrome extension “Open Side by Side” by Alice Keeler. This Chrome extension will split the screen and have the Google Classroom work page open on one side, and the student document open on the other side. This will allow you to easily navigate between the student document and Google Classroom grading page without having to tab back and forth between windows. It is available in the Chrome web store. If you cannot install it, contact your Google administrator or your IT department for assistance.
  5. Use Topics on your posts to organize and filter your stream so that the information can be found easily. For example, create a topic called “Week of ...”, and insert it on any assignment for that week. This will allow students to display all the posts for that specific week.

Tips for YouTube
  1. Use your channel to upload screencasts and animations. This will help you flip your classroom and allow students to learn at their own pace.
  2. Create playlists on your channel to organize your content.
  3. Have your students subscribe to your channel so they get notifications when a new video has been uploaded.
  4. Use Snagit, Screencastify or Screencast-O-Matic to create short tutorials of your content.



Tips for Google Forms
Here is a list of new features of Google Forms that may help improve your workflow:
  1. All consumer users now have the ability to upload a file into Google Forms. Previously this option was only available to GSFE users. This can be helpful for parents and guardians to provide you with notes concerning their child.
  2. Another update is having intelligent response validation. This feature will allow you to quickly add a validation to a Forms question, making your workflow quicker.
  3. Another new feature to Forms is the ability to set up default values when creating new Forms. This is a huge time saver. This can be found in the Preference menu and can be applied to all new Forms that are created.
  4. You have the option to rearrange header sections. Now you can quickly and easily rearrange sections in your Forms.
  5. Finally, you now have the ability to use a checkbox grid question. This new question type will allow you to select multiple options in a category. One example use for this tool is scheduling.

Introducing Flipgrid

I recently learned about a tool called Flipgrid. When I realized how powerful and easy it is to use, I immediately fell in love with it. Flipgrid will allow you to create a video dialog or discussion with your students. Students use their device’s webcam to respond and participate in the discussion. This tool gives everyone a voice, and I recommend that you try it. I will be using this tool with my students as a reflection or exit ticket. The best part is it’s free! Simply visit www.flipgrid.com for more information and to create an account.

I work with and train many educators, and most of them want easy and practical ways to implement and use technology in their classroom. With this article, I hope I was able to provide you with some information and guidance that can be helpful to your during the school year.

Check out the digital version of the article from the NJEA website.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Back to School: Google Classroom Updates




The Google team has release new updates to Google Classroom prior to the start of the school year, (at least in NJ).  They have been listening to all of your suggestions and improved or added new features to Google Classroom.

First, many users wanted to be able to organize their classes on the home page.  Now teachers and students have the ability to drag and drop the class cards in any specific order on the homepage.  You can organize your class cards by schedule, or by highest priority, etc.





Another great simple feature is having the class code projected in Google Classroom.  Now, you don't have to write the class code on the board for students to join, simply display it and it will be enlarged and displayed to the entire class.  Simply go to the 'Student' page, click on the down arrow next to the class code, and select 'Display'.




Next, another great feature added to this version of Google Classroom is having a single view of a student's work displayed on one screen, for a particular class.  This page will list all of the student's work and the status of it for both the teachers and students.  For students, this can be accessed from the class card screen on their home page.




Furthermore, the team has provided the option to transfer course ownership to another teacher in the course.  The teacher must first be a co-teacher of the course in order to have ownership.



Finally, the team has provided the ability to distribute decimal grades to students.  In the past, you were limited to whole numbers only.  Now, you will have the ability to add decimals to the grade with 2 decimal points.



As you can see the Google Classroom team has been listening to all of your feedback and has release many new features prior to the school year.  You can read more about these updates on Google's blog. 

As a Google Classroom expert team member, it is important for you, the users, to continue to provide feedback to the team as often as you can so that the engineers can continue to improve Google Classroom.  If you would like to leave feedback, please click on the ? at the bottom of the screen in Google Classroom.  I hope you enjoy these updates and find them helpful.









Tuesday, July 11, 2017

5 New Updates to Google Forms




Today, the Google Forms team released updates to its app.  All of the updates will help improve productivity, but the one I like the most is the ability of having all consumer users the option to upload a file to a Google Form.  Previously, this option was available to G Suite for Education users.

Another update is having intelligent response validation.  This feature will allow you to quickly add a validation to a forms question.  For example, if you know the answer to the question should be an email address, there is an option to allow email addresses.  It uses machine language to predict your validation.

Another new feature to Forms is having the ability to set up default values when creating new Forms. This is a huge time saver.  This can be found in the Preference menu and can be applied to all new Forms that are created.

Furthermore, you have the option to rearrange header sections.  Now you can quickly and easily rearrange sections in your Forms.

The last update is having the ability to use a checkbox grid question.  This new question type will allow you to select multiple options in a category.  An example of this can be used for scheduling.

I am excited about all of these new features and can't wait to start using them.

To read more about this update, please visit the G Suite for Education blog page.

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Suite Talk - Episode 3




Episode 3 of The Suite Talk is completed!  In this episode, I spoke about end of the year practices for Google Classroom and Brian spoke about transferring ownership of files using Team Drive.

Additionally, the app of the show was Google Classroom.  I discussed the new features of Google Classroom which are: 
  • Users with personal Google accounts can create and join classes. 
  • A return count was added to assignments
  • Customized email notifications

Website, YouTube, and Feedback

You can visit The Suite Talk, and subscribe to our YouTube channel for notifications. If you have any questions or feedback, please fill out the Google form.

Show Notes

Click here for the show notes and the video is displayed below.


Episode Link and Video

Click here to view the episode.





Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Google Classroom Notifications Feature



The Google Classroom Team always listens to feedback from their users.  Being on the team, I know first hand the Googlers value your feedback, and they prioritize it accordingly.   That is why I always stress to users in the forum, to always leave feedback by clicking on the ? at the bottom of the screen.  The animation below shows how to send feedback to the team.  You can also click on this link




An important update in Google Classroom was the enhancement of the email notifications.  In the past, you only had the option to enable or disable them, and this was a global setting. This would flood your inbox with emails.

Now, you can specify what type of email notifications you would like to receive from Google classroom. It is still a global setting, but now you have the option to enable/disable notifications so that your inbox does not get overloaded with Google Classroom notifications.  The image below displays all of the options you can enable/disable for your email notifications.  


Additionally, you can change your profile picture in this area too.

Continue to leave your feedback and you may see your suggestion implemented in Google Classroom.  












Publication and Duplicate Features of Google Sites



Google release a new feature for Google Sites that will clarify how the site is published on the web. 

Now you can request that your site is not displayed on public search engines as shown below.  By default this option is disabled.  If you decide you do not want your site displayed on public search engines, simply check the box.




You can read more about this latest feature on the G Suite for Updates Blog.




Another great feature available is the option to a duplicate a page.  If you want to use a layout of an existing page for a new page, you don't have to recreate the new page from scratch.  Simply use the duplicate feature to make a copy of the page, rename it, and it will show up in the navigation menu. 





Wednesday, May 3, 2017

New Feature of Google Sites: Vertical Grouping





Google released a new feature in Google Sites.  Finally it will be easier to create text boxes and move them under images, similar to a caption.  Personally, I am so happy they implemented this new feature.  I had such a hard time formatting my page because of the limitation, but now I am happy to see this new feature is available.  Way to go Google Sites Team!

See the animation for more details.





Tuesday, May 2, 2017

What is EquatIO?



equatio.png



What is it?
  • EquatIO is a Chrome extension that will allow you to create mathematical expressions or equations using dictation or typing from your keyboard or touchscreen.
  • You need to download it from the Chrome Web store.


Implementation
  • icon.pngThis extension will live in the Chrome browser.  An incon will be displayed at the top right corner when the extension is enabled.  
  • You can use this extension to create mathematical expressions or equations in Google Docs and Google Forms.

Docs-icon.pngforms icon.png
   
  • In a Google document or Form, click on the extension to activate the interface.  It will be shown at the bottom of the screen.


Interface

equatio Interface.jpg


Offers an:
  • Equation, LaTeX Editor, Handwriting Recognition, and Voice Input of mathematical expressions, or equations.
  • Insert Mathematical operations, symbols, functions and Greek letters
  • Inserts the equation as an image into the form or document


Mathematical Operations:

Mathematical Symbols:


Mathematical Functions:


Greek Letters:




File:Youtube icon.svg - Wikimedia Commons



Screen casts on YouTube


View the short screen cast about Handwriting Recognition.
View the short screen cast about the Speech Input tool.


Need more help?  Visit the website for more information on this great extension.

Subscribe to my YouTube channel for notifications of video uploads.



Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Suite Talk - Episode 2




Episode 2 of The Suite Talk is completed!  In this episode, Brian started off sharing information about the new version of Google Earth and all of its new features.  I shared information about Google's FREE technology curriculum for grades 7-12, which is available at the CS-First website, https://www.cs-first.com/en/apps.

Additionally, the app of the show was Google Slides. I showcased the new feature of uploading videos from Google Drive and having the autoplay, mute, and start and end times available.  Brian showcased templates with backgrounds.

Website, YouTube, and Feedback

You can visit The Suite Talk, and subscribe to our YouTube channel for notifications.  If you have any questions or feedback, please fill out the Google form.

Episode Link and Video

Here is the link to the episode and the video is shown below.  


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A FREE Technology Curriculum offered by Google




Google is now offering a FREE technology curriculum for grades 7-12.  These courses offer students a project based learning environment with meaningful lessons, instructional videos, and hands-on activities that teach students how to use G Suite applications.  It will also teach them digital literacy skills too.  

The curriculum is offered through the CS First website.  All teachers and students must visit the www.cs-first.com/en/apps website to interact with the curriculum.  

Additionally, it will empower students to take control of their own learning, encourage them to solve problems in new ways, teach them to behave ethnically online, connect students to the world, and prepare them for future careers.   

For Students

The curriculum is self paced and it offers instructional videos, and activities for students to complete. Students will use G Suite applications, and programming to complete the tasks. Students will need to join a class similar to Google Classroom.

Once students join a class, they will be asked to complete a survey on their knowledge of Google Docs, Slides, Sheets, and app scripts. All of the activities revolve around these apps.

For Teachers

Teachers must create a class, similar to Google Classroom, and identify a school location.  Once this is created, a code will be generated and this code must be shared with students.  Then, students will join the class and start to watch the videos and complete the activities.

Teachers will have lesson plans, a a student tracker, and a teacher guide available once a class is created.  Here is a list of sample units that can be used with students.  


units.png

For example, in Unit 1: If-Then Adventure Stories, students learn how to use Google Slides.  By hyperlinking slides within the presentation, students learn about if-then scenarios.  If this scenario occurs, then that result happens. Additionally, they will learn how to add animation to text and insert slide transitions and much more!

Another example, students will be able to use Androidify to create a customized Android avatar.  This activity was part of an extension in a unit that allowed them to experiment with the website.  Once completed, students can download their avatar, share it to social, use it as their profile picture, or email it to their teacher.  Below is an example of my Android avatar.  

  


In Conclusion

I highly recommend that any educator who is using G Suite for Education at their organization, try this free technology curriculum from Google.  The lessons and activities are meaningful and will allow students to showcase their work using G Suite for Education through project based learning.  Give it a try and let me know your feedback.

Enjoy!



Friday, April 21, 2017

NEW Feature: Custom Colors in Google Sites




Google has just released a new feature for Google Sites.  Now, you have the ability to use custom colors in the theme of your site.  You can select a color from the color pallet or you can enter the hex code of the color.  The website theme will change to the specified color you selected.

Just a side note, if you would like to pick a color using the hex code, I would recommend to download the FREE Chrome extension, ColorZilla from the Chrome Web store.  This Chrome extension will allow you to pick a color from any webpage, then it will copy the hex code to the clipboard, which will allow you to paste it into the hex code area on the Google Site.

Here is a screen cast to demonstrate this new feature in Google Sites.



Here is the official blog post from Google.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Review of FotoJet



I was recently asked to review FotoJet which is an online application that will allow you to create collages, graphic designs, and enhance photos with a photo editor.  It provides many amazing projects such as photo cards, social media graphics, posters, etc. and it allows you to edit your images easily.  It is a FREE tool that you can use in your classrooms with students, for branding, ads, posts for business, and for personal usages.    

When you login, you will have three options,  'Create a Design',  'Make a Collage', or 'Edit a Photo'. Each option serves a different purpose.


                           

The Create a Design section will allow you to select from many templates. These templates will allow you to create ads, headers, banners, flyers, posters, cards and much more.  Many of them can be used for social media and branding.  You can even create a custom design using your own page dimensions.  There are many templates to choose from and you can even upload your own photos to the designer.  Additionally, you have the option to add word art, background, and clip art.  Here is a sample design that I created using a template and adding my finishing touches.  




The Collage option will allow you to create a photo collage with pictures from your device, or from their library.  There are many templates to choose from. One feature I like was the Text option because there was a lot of selection and they reminded me of word art.  Additionally, the collage feature will allow you to add clip art, backgrounds, and select from different layouts.   The example below displays a blue background, a 5 picture layout for pictures, and text.  I found this feature to be very simple to use.




The Photo Editor option will allow you to upload images from your device or find them on Facebook.  There are many options available that you can choose from to enhance your image.  A screen shot of your options is shown below.  


A nice option in the photo editor was that I was able to compare the original picture to the enhanced picture.  It was very easy to add effects, frames, and adjustments to the image.  Below is an example of what I created.  



The image displays a border with enhancements, a vignette enhancement, and text boxes.  I was also able to specify certain colors of the text using the hex # of the color from the color wheel.  The only thing I could not do was upload an additional picture and layer it on my original.  

Classroom Implementation

You can use FotoJet with your students easily by having them access the website and creating a free account.  Be sure you check with your organization policies and COPPA for the age restrictions of FotoJet

Some ideas for education:
  • allow students to create an advertisement to market a product 
  • allow students to create a collage of similar objects
  • allow students to create a campaign for antibullying or another concept
  • allow students to create banners and headers for an assignment
  • classroom collage of students working collaborately on an assignment


Conclusion

In conclusion, I would highly recommend FotoJet.  I felt the interface was user friendly, quick and easy to navigate, and there were many features available in each project type option. I was able to create my projects without having any prior knowledge of FotoJet very quickly.

Additionally, I like the option of having the social media headers, banners, ads, and posts sizes available for Facebook, Instagram, and Google Plus. I did not have to research the sizes of these objects because they were available in the template gallery.  

Furthermore, I was able to save my projects to my local device, share them to social, or print them. 

Finally, I felt the application interface was not overwhelming as compared to others, and I felt I was able to create my project quickly, especially without having any prior knowledge of it.  I know I will be using this application to create projects and enhance my objects.   Give it a try! You will be happy that you did!