Monday, August 31, 2015

Interactive Flyers & Newsletters

Tired of the same old handouts?  Want to make them engaging and interactive?  Don't have time for a fancy website?  Smore just might be for you!  I love graphic design, but as a teacher I don't always have the time to create from scratch.

Easy to Use

Smore has formatted templates or you may create from scratch using drag and drop!  Within just a few minutes, you can have a professional and stunning flyer or newsletter.  After you create your flyer, you can share it various ways from social media, email to a sharable link.  You can make your flyer public or private.  Private means that it is not indexed on Google and can only been seen if you have the address.  Even if you do not want to share digitally, you can still download and print up your Smore flyer!

Below is a Smore Flyer I made in about 10 minutes!

Free Accounts:

You can create and use a free account in Smore, you are limited to 200 emails a month and no custom backgrounds, but Smore has some really nice options for a free account.  Smore does offer a few paid accounts costing anywhere from $180 - $588 a year depending on the plan you select.  But wait!  Smore has special pricing for educators:  $59 a year!  They also include educational backgrounds to help us out with our designs in addition to the custom feature.  

You get the following with a paid educator account:

How can I use Smore?

There are endless possibilities.  I loved the quick informational flyer I sent out to fellow staff members as a follow-up to a question on technology integration.  I also created my course syllabus for all of my classes this year on Smore and placed the link on business cards from VistaPrint for each class.  I plan to insert the link of my syllabus onto my About page in Google Classroom and send it out via Remind!
With Smore, I plan to create more engaging flyers and newsletter quickly so I can Keep Calm, Click Undo!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Lesson Design in Google Classroom

I was an early adopter of Google Classroom.  I was one of those on the waiting list so I could use it right away!  As a former Moodle user, I LOVE Google Classroom for my type of classroom.  I do not need a full learning management system like Moodle.  The one aspect that I have had to really improve on is how I set-up my lessons or projects.


By June, I had figured out the best way to communicate to students the directions even if I was not in class that day.  This was so helpful for days I was away writing curriculum.  I discovered that giving a brief intro followed by numbered directions works best when there are multiple attachments in the assignment.  (Below is the Teacher View)

I also discovered that I had to really think about the order in which I place all of the attached files and documents.

Larger Projects:

Most of my classes are project-based.  I really love using Google Classroom for this purpose.  I am able to write a project description, give a copy to each student their design folder, rubric and examples of student work.  Making the rubric available at all times as well as the examples of student work is so valuable.  I observed students referring back to those files frequently. 

Towards the end of their lengthy project, I am able to add various announcements to aide in completing their design folder.  Even in announcements, I can attach example questions, a lovely Google Forms cheat sheet from Shake Up Learning and a few screencasts made by their lovely teacher to help them complete their newly acquired technology skills.
My students really appreciate when I make a screencast of how to execute and use a new technology skill.  Students were able to go back and watch my videos multiple times, pause and complete each step or even spit their viewing screens and complete it while watching my video.  The best part is that absent students can get their work they missed before I even see them in class if they choose.  

An added bonus:  If you invite your co-teachers or your various intervention teachers into your Google Classroom, they can refer back to your directions to assist their students too!

Web-Based Storytelling for Students

I remember when I was in 5th grade long ago, we focused on the writing process and created our own picture book.  My story was titled Kasey the Koala.  As a student, reading and writing was not my most favorite areas of learning.  I loved writing my own picture book and sharing it with parents as a special evening event.  It was a memorable engaging project for me!  With all of the new technology out there, we can amp up this project using Storybird.  

What is Storybird?

Storybird describes their website as "A platform for writers, readers and artists of all ages."  It is a web-based platform that works on ANY device with any curriculum!  Students can write their own picture books, longform stories and poetry.  Storybird also has artist-created illustrations students can use in their books.  

See Example Below:

Curriculum and Technology Integration

Storybird will align to any standards and district curriculum and gives educators the opportunity to integrate digital citizenship and appropriate social online interactions.  With an educator account, social online communication is kept safe within the teacher-created class and  work is easy for educators to view, monitor and facilitate.  

Storybird as a Fundraiser

As a parent, I would love to purchase my child's book that was created on Storybird.  Why not make it a fundraiser?  Parents can purchase their child's creation and in-turn Storybird will donate 30% of the sales back to the educators! As a parent and educator, it is a win all around!  I purchase a keepsake of my child's creative work and educators can use Storybird for free and earn funds for school needs.  Who wouldn't want a printed book of their child's work?

Big Bonus for Education!
The best part is Storybird recently made their accounts FREE, yes FREE to educators!  I encourage my colleagues to give Storybird a try from an adult who was one of those reluctant readers and writers!  

An extra bonus:  My daughter was looking over my shoulder as I wrote this post and asked, "Can I try this?"  This is a BIG bonus as a parent.  During her last weeks of Summer vacation and she wants to write her own stories!  Thank you Storybird!

New Share Settings in Google

With a recent update, Google added to the advanced share settings.
Instead of entering emails or getting the sharable link, select Advanced.

You can still enter names and choose for the collaborator to edit, comment or view.  Remember if you set it to view, collaborators can still make a copy of your file.
You can still choose the prevent people with editing rights from changing the access and adding new people to your documents.  New - you can prevent and disable the ability to download, print and coy from commenter and viewers giving your document extra protection!  

The only concern I have with students is taking screenshots of the documents with a personal device and using shortcuts on the computer.  I still love the added choices for how you choose to share and collaborate.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Copy a Google Drive Folder

I am working with a colleague on a project and discovered you cannot share an entire folder in Google Drive.  Thank goodness for add-ons and Google Sheets!  Watch this video to find out how:

This little gem reminded me to Keep Calm, Click Undo...