Friday, 13 October 2017

Google Docs Scavenger Hunt

A fabulous start of year activity (actually a great anytime activity) is a Google Scavenger Hunt

Google Drive Scavenger Hunt

In grade 6 a couple of weeks ago, we did this scavenger hunt

Whenever I think of an idea for an activity, I always go to Google it to see if anyone has already created one that I could use. I found this Google Doc's Scavenger Hunt by Catlin Tucker. But it wasn't exactly what I wanted, I wanted the kids getting up, moving around and learning together rather than sitting at their laptops.

I found a few others but they were all a bit 'sit at your computer and do this', So I had to create my own. I used Google drawings and just stole a few ideas and developed some of my own for the tasks.

It was a collaborative activity / lesson / activity. The students had to find someone else in the room who could do the task on the square (even if they already knew how to do it). Then that person had to show them how to do it. e.g. if the task was "use voice typing to record your thoughts" someone in the class had to show you on their computer how to do it (not just tell you they could do it). The students then wrote the name of the student who showed them.

If no one in the class knew how to do it, the kids could research (google it) or just play until they worked it out. If the students knew how to do something but no one else did, they had to show someone, then the person they just showed had to demonstrate the skill.

It was lots of fun and it was great to see the kids teaching each other. Kids were walking around the room talking to each other. Some of the interactions I heard included

  • "Do you know how to do this?" 
  • "Arlo knows how to do, why don't you ask her to show you" 
  • "Who did you get to show you how to use the built in Google training?"

It was really powerful to hear lots of oohhhs and ahhhhs as students learnt a new skill or hint (they loved voice typing) and the energy in the room was super high. Much better than walking past a classroom with everyone with their heads down in computers and no human to human interaction.

One of the big takeaways was that there are lots of other people in our class that can help us with technology (and it is OK to ask them for help). The students were given explicit permission to ask each other for help and told that the teachers would also be asking them for help.

We are now thinking of other ways we can use this concept with other tools and apps.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Make your own Icons and buttons for Google Sites

Use Google Drawings to make your own Google Sites buttons / icons.

This is something that many teachers and staff at IGBIS have been doing in many of our sites and pages. It is pretty easy to do and once you get into a rhythm you can make a new icon (or change an existing one in no time at all)

Icon Template
(you can use this to start straight away)

To create the template I started with a Google Drawing and changed the page setup to a custom setup, to make the image smaller. (This is also useful when using drawings to make A4 or A3 posters, just Google the paper dimensions)

I started with an image and used the mask with a shape (click the little down arrow next to the mask icon) to turn it into a circle (you could use any shape that you like)
Then added text and our icon was made
Then I download the icon as a png file (this keeps the transparency in the background) or a jpeg (if you are happy with a white or coloured background)

You can then drag and drop the icon on to your Google Site to upload it. When you start resizing images Google sites will often crop them for you, which can be annoying. You can use the uncrop button to instantly remove the cropping.

Then link the icon to another page in your site or an external website.

It's as easy as that.

Make your next button / icon

Once you have created your first icon, things start to speed up

You have a template, you can easily change your icon by using the replace image button in Google Drawings

The good thing about using replace image is that it keeps all the dimensions and settings of your original icon. You can then change your text, download your new icon and add it to your Google Site. The workflow is pretty seamless and can be very quick.

start with the template
replace the image
change your text
download the icon
add it to the Google Site
resize and link

You could also add the drawing directly via 'insert from Drive', if you use this option you can't link from the inserted drawing, you would need to add your hyperlink into your Google Drawing and also copy the Google drawing to make more than one icon. 

I think the download as a png is a cleaner workflow.

Have fun playing and making your Google site look

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Make you own animations with Google Drawings and Photos

This is basically a tech updated version of the flipbooks I used to make when I was in school

The other day while working with some teachers we explored and started playing with using Google Drawings and photos so that students could create their own animations. Sure there are plenty of ways for students to create their own animated gifs but we thought it would be cool to try and do it Googley and it might be a bit easier than trying to use Scratch or something else.

We used Google Drawings to create our starting frame

Then we download the drawing as a jpeg

Then we went back to our Google Drawing and made a slight change to create our next frame.
Downloaded frame number 2

Made a change to the drawing
Downloaded frame number 3

this continued until we had created all our frames for our animation.

We tried to make changes uniform by using the checkbox guidelines that are in the background of a drawing

We added speech bubbles by using the shapes tool
We changed the colour of images by using the image option / recolour

To make the text boxes uniform, we first created one and set it up how we wanted, then we cut it, made a few changes / download jpeg / change etc and then pasted the text box back and changed the text. This was quicker than trying to remember the formatting and setting up up every time.

With a bit of creativity, you can make some really cool effects, even something as simple as moving objects to the back can make a huge difference.

Once all our frames were downloaded, they were conveniently saved and renumbered in our downloads folder.

To create our Gif, we dragged them into Google Photos on a Chrome browser to upload.

Once images are uploaded you get the option to create a new album, which we did.

We then selected all the images in order and used the + button to create a new animation

A new animation / Gif is created.

Once you have done it a few times, it is pretty easy and you can get really fast at it.

The animation in this video took less than 10 minutes from start to finish.

Have a go, or even better let your students have a go and get them creating.

It was lots of fun and the kids got the idea that all movies / animations are just a series of still images running together.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Google Innovator (one month in)

Visiting a Google office is every computer nerd’s dream, I was lucky enough to do just this.

During the summer holiday I applied for and was selected to be a Google Innovator. This is a hand picked program for teachers from all over the world, there are only about 100 teachers per year (32 in Sydney) selected and I was lucky enough to be one of them. The Idea is that you pick an innovation project, an educational problem that you would like to solve. You then work on this problem / innovation for a year and come up with a solution to the problem. The work / learning / creating began before the academy and continues until August next year.

The Innovator Academy and Google Office was everything I expected and more.

Some of the highlights included

An Amazing race around the Sydney CBD
A team plating challenge judged by a former Masterchef contestant
Breakout Challenges
Magic tricks (Real life and Google Photos and AR magic)
Design Sprints and Inspiration sessions
Playing with Google toys
Peer sessions (I presented on my passion of 5mins4fun and managed to take home a Google Home for the most fun presentation)

Great Google food and kitchens
A quick intro to the design process, where teams had to design and then pitch a new chair. We managed to win the 'Pitch Off' with some volume, crowd support, confidence and great ideas. Go the Volcano Chair.

Then there were the rest of the Google offices

Alas, I wasn't just there to play with the Google toys and bask in the dream of perhaps working in this tech mecca, I was there to learn, collaborate, play and work.

What happened?

The three days was divided into design sprints where we sprinted (and I do mean sprinted) through a design process facilitated by Leslie McBeth from Future Design Schools. I have used the Stamford Design Process many times to designing curriculum, learning spaces, web interfaces and participated in design sprints at conferences. I have also facilitated staff and students in using the Stamford Design Process. Even with some experience it was valuable to work through the process with my own problem and in the company of like minded educators and forward thinking facilitators. It was also good to actually be working on a project rather than being an active listener or semi participant which is usually what happens at a lot of tech conferences. They are not working / problem solving focussed.

While lots of our time was spent working, the inspiration segments from the coaches were great, lots of variety in content and presentation style and all of them managed to challenge me in some way. We were also spoilt to have the Google photos (Sydney) team and the Google AR team - project Tango present to us. We got a sneak peek of some up and coming developments and updates from Google (don't ask because I can't and wont tell)

This is a year long project which meant doing some pre academy work and continuing to see our projects through until next July. It is more than a couple of days exploring the Google Sydney Office. This Google get together was just to light the fire after the spark of excitement of being accepted and the tinder of the pre academy work.

My only criticism of the process was that it was too short and too bunched, I can understand why it was. But we didn't have any down time, time to think, process, reflect and share with the incredible educators that were there. The days were long and it was hard work, I had a splitting headache after the second day and if it wasn't for the Google massage station at dinner, I don't know how I would have got rid of it. Maybe an extra day or two, with some down time and  some activities outside of the office. It is a long way to travel for some of the participants.

Like any of these conferences, workshops, learning experiences often the connections are the most valuable element and the innovator academy was no different. The conversations were incredible, it was so good to connect with Australian teachers (I haven't taught in Australia for 8 years) American teachers and colleagues from International schools in Asia. It was also good to connect with the coaches, Googley people and the Edtech team. One of the ongoing benefits of the academy is that these conversations are continuing, on twitter, google hangouts, via email and hopefully in person where possible. 

What is my Problem
The problem / issue I chose is “student created displays” (think science fairs / PYP exhibition etc) and how they are still stuck in the 20th Century. They waste resources, don’t last, can be dull and boring and can’t be shared.

Like any problem your natural reaction is to come up with a solution, so of course I started thinking about how students could create their own interactive museum displays and how students could create their own VR experiences (Students creating their own Google Expeditions).

One of my big takeaways from the Innovator Academy was to

and the whole idea of
that is; being flexible and open to scrapping ideas and starting all over again or even just being open to new ideas and solutions and maybe even new problems.

Over the course of the week with Google and in my thinking since, my problem is changing from changing student displays to how can students share their learning in new and innovative ways. My problem / solution / project could well change again.

We were also encouraged to think big and act small, the more I thought about it I couldn't help thinking that my problem and my crazy 8 solutions were small and I needed a way to enlarge my solution and take it beyond just our school. That is where I am now, redefining my problem, back to crazy 8's (thinking some AR would be great to add to this project) and basically starting all over again, but with renewed energy, connections, learning and the experience of working through (even if it was at a lightning pace) the design process. I am excited, worried, daunted and can't wait to see where this journey might take me and those who will be learning along with me.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Add an animated header to your Google site

The stuff you find when looking at other teachers google sites.

While helping one of our teachers I found she used this cool hack.

I love how Google make this stuff so easy.

Add an animated header to your google site (in three easy steps)

1. Go to Google Photos and select the photos you want in your animated header
Hit the plus button and create an animation

2. Once you have created the animation use the share button
get a link 

copy the link

Now the magic happens

3. In your Google Site, click on the header / select image

Navigate to your albums and select your Animation (gif) as your site header
press select

And there you have it, an animated Google Site Header

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

using G Suite to track student behaviour

Behaviour Tracking

We use Managebac, it is a great tool for IB schools. It does a lot of things that a good SMS (student management system) should do (attendance, planning, assignments, marking, messaging, reports etc). It was created by the IB, so it works with PYP, MYP and DP including tracking CAS.

Last year Managebac introduced their behaviour tracking module, which replaced their now defunct Intersis system. As a Managebac school we thought it would make sense to use their behaviour tracking, it is built into Managebac, managed by Managebac and we were told it would develop over time.

It did have a few weaknesses, one of them being that only teachers of particular students and administrators could enter behaviour reports and we couldn't control who could sees what information.

The Secondary school set up a system where teachers filled out a Google Form and then use the Data director for forms add on to email the report to the secretary who then input the data into Managebac. Emails also went to the head of grade and the head of student services. This system allowed anyone to enter a report about a student (even if they didn't teach them) and then have it stored on Managebac. There were still limits to who could view notes and no option to record their follow up actions. Because the behaviour tracking in Managbac was new, we were confident it would evolve to a more useful tool over time.

Elementary decided to wait and see what was going to happen with Managebac. They were not happy about having this information input by a person as it might be sensitive and errors could occur with cutting and pasting.

It has now been twelve months and the behaviour module in Managebac has not matured enough for our liking. We feel we need a common format for recording and accessing student behaviour incidents. I was tasked with exploring using G Suite to create our own behaviour tracking system.

The design Specifications included
  • It must be simple enough that someone else with a rudimentary knowledge of Google could fix it / build it / repair it if I wasn't around. That means no writing scripts or code (not that I could do that anyway)
  • any teacher/staff member in the school should be able to enter a behaviour report
  • email notifications to a variety of people, this will change depending on the grade level of the student.
  • the data should be safe (access should be limited to those who need it)
  • different teachers / admin will need different levels of access (i.e. grade 4 teachers see grade 4 students, Principal can see all reports)
  • we need to record a variety of notes and find a way to visualise this information
You can have a look at these view only versions of the sheets and docs if you want to see specifics of how they work and feel free to make your own copies and have a play.
Student Data sheet
Form Responses sheet 
link to the behaviour reporting site

We started with the form that secondary use to record behaviour.

1. Creating drop down lists for all the students in the School
I knew we would want to filter reports, therefore I didn't want teachers to type in the names of the student they are making the report about. This could cause problems with filtering records if different teachers spell names differently or use different names for the same student. I decided a dropdown list was needed. To create the dropdown list I used the form ranger add on which allows you to create drop down questions from a list in a Google Sheet. (feel free to make your own copy to use with a google form)

I downloaded all the student data from ManageBac as a CSV file and then added it to a Google Sheet. Then used a query to sort the data into three different tabs, in the form we have three drop down questions rather than a single massive dropdown question. (this can be modified for as many questions as you like)

The advantage of this method is that we can change the data in the sheet and it automatically changes the form. That data can be easily downloaded and uploaded from Managebac or even manually added. We can also add homeroom teacher emails to the sheet (which is used later for the email notifications)

2. Adding Questions to the Google form
Then I added the rest of the questions we required to the google form, these can be anything at all. We chosen the following as we will want to track if certain areas, subjects or times cause more issues than others.
  • Location / subject
  • Date
  • Time
  • Behaviour type
  • Action taken by the teacher
  • Notes
I also added another question where administrators can add their responses (more about that later)

3. Email notifications
Once a staff member submits a behaviour report we want emails to go to particular individuals. Specifically all emails go to head of student services and the Principal, homeroom teachers get an email if there is a report about a student in their class.

To achieve this we use a combination of a few functions, Import rangeVlookup formula and query and the google sheets add ons  copy down and Form Mule

Step number one was to set up the form responses sheet to link students with their homeroom teachers.

In our original student list sheet we added homeroom teacher emails for each student, this wasn't as hard as it sounds, I filtered by class and then copied the teacher email address to each student. This can easily be done at the start of the school year for all students or when a new students arrives at school.

In our form responses  sheet I then created a new tab "students" and used the import range function to import student names and each students teacher into this tab.
Import range allows you import data from one sheet to another, that means if you update the original sheet "student data" the second sheet "form responses" also gets updated.

In a new column (column O) in the form responses sheet I then used the following Vlookup formula
which uses the data in a cell "N2" as a search term in the students tab (N2 is where the student names are located), it returns the data in the cell next to it (homeroom teacher email). This means that once a form is submitted a student name is searched for in the "students" tab and the data in the cell next to it (teacher email) is pasted in the cell. This email address is then used to send out the notifications. Here you can see where the effort of using drop down menus and form ranger comes to the fore. It keeps our data consistent and allows these types of systems to work.

This is a great way to search a list and add extra information to a google sheet that is linked to a form. The only issue is that when a new response is submitted Google Sheets inserts a new row, rather than pasting the data to a row. This means you can't copy and paste the formula all the way down the sheet. because of this I use the copy down add on, which copies the formula down to the next row each time a form is submitted.

Now that the data is ready I use form mule to automatically send an email when a new behaviour report (form) is submitted. Form mule can be set up to send emails to multiple addresses. We use a combination of the homeroom teacher email and the Principal / head of student services. This allows multiple people to receive the details of the behaviour incident. The email addresses can be put directly into the form mule template or they can be added to the sheet using the copy down formula and concatenate (to merge multiple cells together).

4. Access and searching behaviour reports
All of the behaviour reports are stored on a google sheet, this makes it easy to search for particular students, dates, locations etc. We can also generate reports and graphics about behaviour hot spots or times when we have more reports than others.

We also wanted this information to be easily available and searchable for admin members and teachers. It is also important to keep this data as private. For example grade 4 teachers should only see grade 4 students but Principals see all records. We also wanted this information to be easily on the eye.

To achieve this I set up a google site and then used Awesome Table to create cool embedded table into the site
Awesome table really is awesome, it allows you to choose columns from a Google Sheet and display them in a variety of formats. It also allows you to add a variety of search boxes, drop downs and sliders. This makes it really easy to search via date, class, or student name.

I created a new tab on the form responses sheet and used a query that only selected certain rows to create the information that needed to be shared. You can also change the order when using a query.
(here you can also see the types of filters I used for the awesome table)

In my example site the sheet is available for anyone on the internet to view, which we don't want when it comes to sensitive student data. We need a way to make the data private.

Because Awesome table uses a Google sheet all we have to do is change the permissions of the sheet so only certain people can view the sheet, that way if someone who we don't want to view the data tries, they will get an error message or the site wont display anything.

To set up grade level teachers with individual permissions I used the import range function to import all the data into a new sheet, then used a query (or even a filter) so that the only data on the sheet is limited to a certain grade, i.e. only grade four students are listed on the sheet. We then set up permissions so that only the grade four teachers can view that sheet, created a new Awesome table on a new page on the site. That way homeroom teachers can search for students in their homeroom but can not see any behaviour notes of other students.

5. Adding the ability to record the admin response.
This system also allows a response from the head of student services to be recorded. It could be recorded directly on the sheet but this is a bit messy and could be confusing for someone who is not tech savvy. I wanted to avoid data being changed or deleted. When creating these types of systems I think it as always best to limit the number of people who have access to the data.

To add their response it is much neater and easier for admin members to return to the original form and add their response there.

Whenever a google form is submitted, a url is generated that allows the user to go back and modify their response. You have probably seen the edit your response link / email you can get from a google form.
I used this script (available on line) which saves the edit URL to a cell in the response sheet. It took a little bit of fiddling, but is now working nicely. I have just realised that Form Mule will do this for you by simply clicking a box, so in future will be using this and saving myself a lot of hassle
I added an extra section to the form which is only for a member of admin to complete

To allow admin members to get back to the form and add their response I included a link to the edit URL in the Form Mule email. All the admin member has to do is find the original email and click on the link to go back to the form and easily add their response
This response is then recorder on the Google Sheet and can be viewed via the awesome table on the Google Site. There is also a link to the Site in the email body.

That is about it, everything is available via add ons, or simple formulas and hopefully this documentation should be clear enough that anyone else could duplicate it.

We will be testing the system next year and will be closely monitoring how it works, how easily it is maintained and is it is used. There are also plans to tweek it so it can be used in secondary. I will probably add grade level co-ordinators to the emails of students in their grade by adding them to teh student data sheet.

This is quite a long post but I wanted to try and make the entire system replicable (is that even a word) feel free to drop me an email or tweet if you have any questions or queries.