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.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Bring your Art to life

Think Harry Potter and the talking Portraits from Hogwarts

Then think what if we had this in our classroom?

The How do I do this is easy?

It is how could I use this in my students learning that requires some thinking.

My first response is for FUN. Why not just do it for some laughs and while doing it the kids will also learn some tech skills and tools.

If you really need a curriculum based answer to "How can I use this in my class?", try this

The way our grade three team use it is to create talking images of body parts.

The students
1. researched a body system as part of their inquiry unit on healthy bodies
2. wrote a short report in the first person (as if they were that body part)
3. they then drew or found an image of the body part

4. they used Chatterpix or YaKit kids to create a talking picture. These Apps allow students to draw a mouth on an image and then record an audio track, when it is played back the mouth moves and the pictures comes to life. It is lots of fun and can be used to make any image or photo talk.

Here you can see the students created talking wanted posters for different types of Bacteria. It has so many uses for any subject area.

This video is saved to the camera roll and is then used as the overlay for our Aura (talking image - see the next section)

5. We then used the Aurasma app to bring the talking pictures to life.
Aurasma is an augmented reality app that can use any image (as long as it can read the image clearly) as a trigger to start a video or show a video. It is quite cool because it is an augmented reality app, that means the video floats over the top of a live view from the camera. (It adds something to reality)
In our case we have added a floating talking video to the live view. Basically we are bringing the still images to life just like the talking pictures in Harry Potter.

Sometimes Aurasma didn't like the original image, it couldn't recognise it clearly enough and the slider wouldn't move to the green zone.
To solve this we added some extra contrast to the trigger image, a name or extra diagram in thick black pen to make sure we got the slider in the green zone.

I know that many people complain about Aurasma being a bit complicated especially when it comes to channels and viewing other auras. One thing we do at school to make using Aurasma easier is to have all the iPads signed into a single Aurasma account, we can still have lots of channels, it just makes it a bit easier to get started and to get the kids using Aurasma.

There are heaps of how to use Aurasma tutorials on Youtube, Here is a quick (and a bit rough) tutorial on how to add a video from the camera roll (Chatterpix video) to a trigger image (still image or picture)

This was a huge hit with parents and students on student led conference day and during their body expo. The reality is that this same technique can be used in any subject.

Some other ways students and teachers could use this

  • use maths problems (as trigger images) on the wall and show videos of how to solve the problems (Explain everything + Aurasma)
  • use library book covers (as trigger images) and show student book review videos (Camera + Aurasma)
  • have a series of scenes from a well know story or student created story (as trigger images) and show students retell a story using puppet pals as the video (Puppet Pals + Aurasma)
  • use images of cells or bacteria (as trigger images) and show videos or stop motion movies explaining a scientific concept (Stop Motion + Aurasma)
  • use movie posters (as trigger images) and show videos of their drama performances (Camera + Aurasma)
  • use pictures of a PE activity (as the trigger image) and show a video of how to do the exercise (Camera + Aurasma)
  • use a picture of a landform or feature (as a trigger image) and show a video using tellagami and green screen of someone reporting from the scene (volcano exploding etc) or explaining the feature (Tellagami, green screen + Aurasma)
  • use an image of a country (as a trigger image) and show a 360 video (Quicktime, an iPad, Google streetview + Aurasma)
  • use images of musical instruments (as trigger images) and show videos of kids playing the instruments or explanation videos of what they are (camera, explain everything + Aurasma)
  • use text from another language (as a trigger image) and show videos of students translating it (Camera + Aurasma)
  • use recipes or images of food (as trigger images) and show videos of students making the recipes (Camera + Aurasma)
  • use student created poetry (as trigger images) and show videos of the students reading their poetry (iMovie + Aurasma)

There are so many different ways you can use this in any class.  Anything you can create on an iPad can be turned into an Aura.

I would love to hear any other ideas in the comment s below.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Redesigning our learning spaces - the shark tank

Part 1 can be found here
Part 2 can be found here

What else can I say, the teams were

The be honest everything seemed a bit rushed, we asked the teams to meet in their own time and do some extra work, there was a weeks holidays and before we knew it the Shark Tank session was here. Would the groups be ready? Would their ideas be any good? What would the shark tank think? I know I was a bit nervous about the entire process.

To be honest I had nothing to worry about the teams were incredible, each of them had a different slant on their learning space, each of them did lots of work and they all presented their ideas creatively and professionally. One of the big pluses was that the teachers stepped back and let the students present.

The rules were as follows
The goal of the presentation is to sell your idea for your new learning space, remember we are trying to generate ideas for and there is every chance your ideas will be used.

There will be no winner, although if you want to claim bragging rights (and maybe be first in line for an innovative learning space) you will have to do a super job.

Each team will have a maximum of three minutes to pitch their idea to the shark tank, you will have access to a data projector, anything else you want to include (dance music, lifesize 3D models, treats) you will have to provide yourselves.

The shark tank will then have 1-2 minutes to deliberate then another 1-2 minutes to give feedback.

Each presentation and feedback will take 5-10 minutes, that way we should be finished by 4pm.

We will use a random draw for the order of presentations.

Team 1
The Drama room
light and sound system
flexible seating
curved bench
portable stage
chill out / cave areas

Team 2
Level 7 Design Room
a stressless environment
sofa, bean bags - comfortable areas
air freshener
laptop tables / trays
standing long desk
basketball bin

Team 3
DP Lounge
hands on interactive paper presentation
flexible multipurpose space
glass concertina doors
portable data projector 
effective use of space

Team 4
Level 6 Common Spaces
flexible furniture
no clear path through the area
use of corners as social areas
TV / data projector to practise presentations etc
sound system
laptop charging cupboard
plants to look good and improve air quality
add extra ceiling fans for more natural cooling
have the same set up in two areas of the school

Team 5
Science Corridor

turn the science hallway into a learning space
for many students it is the first part of the school they see every day
how can the hallway be brought to life
add nature to the hallway - fish / plants / incorporating art
find plants that need low light
a series of fishtanks where fish can travel from tank to tank in tubes like a series of cells
seating so people could hang out here and get some nature

What now?
The response from the Shark Tank and the other groups was overwhelming positive. The big questions everyone is asking is where to now? What is happening with these super ideas?

The Leadership team is very keen to move ahead with some of these ideas, their only question was how much consultation was done? Who was included? and Who else needs to be included?

So that is our next task, exploring some of these ideas and then consulting with more users and budget holders and then hopefully improving some of our learning spaces. It all looks very positive and lets hope is remains this way.

Of course once we have these super new learning spaces I will share them here.