Sunday, September 18, 2016

Google Classroom: Guardian Email Summaries

January 2017 Update!

Google Classroom rolled out the ability for guardians to receive summaries of student work and activities via email.  Guardians may choose a weekly or daily summary of the following:
  • Missing Work
    • Work that is late at the time the email was sent.
  • Upcoming work
    • For daily summaries - work that is the day of the email or the next day.
    • For weekly summaries - work that is due in the upcoming week
  • Class activity
    • Announcements, assignments and questions posted
See an example below:

Let's Get Started:

Step 1 - You need to turn the feature on!  Under the student tab, on the left side you will find the image below or Include this Class.  If may ask if you would like to add to all of your classes.

Step 2 - Invite guardians!  I teach an A/B schedule, with 12 classes and 380 students.  For me this was a task that seemed daunting until...Google Forms!  Yes!  Create a Google Form.  

Google Forms Tips:

  • Don't forget to set a data validation for the email address:

  • Make sure you adjust your settings so guardians/parents can complete the form.  I did not want to limit to 1 response because I teach multiple grades and do have siblings. 

  • In the response menu, create a spreadsheet to collect and view responses.
  • You can also choose the Google Form Add-On "Form Notifications,"  and set up an automatic response reminding guardians to look out for an email invitation.  You can also set up this add-on to notify you via email when you have 1, 10, 20 or 100 responses.  This will minimize you having to check the response form constantly.
Step 3 - After you send out your Google Form, via email, Remind, paper note with the link to your form).  Sit back and wait for responses to roll in!  Once you collect responses, you will copy the email address the guardian/parent supplies and paste next to their name in Google Classroom: 
Select invite next to the student name and paste the email address.

Once you invite guardians/parents, you will notice (invited) next to the guardian email. Guardians will have 120 days to accept the invitation.  After 120 days, the invitation expires.  I suggest you make this known. This indicates an email was sent and waiting for the guardian/parent to accept the invitation.   If Guardians would like to adjust their email summary settings and choose one of the following:
  1. Daily Summaries (sends out at 5 pm every day)
  2. Weekly Summary (sends out at 5 pm on Fridays)
  3. No Summaries
Guardians will need to create a Google Account.  A Gmail is NOT required.  Guardians may use any email domain of their choice, but they create a Google Account.  Here is the LINK to the page they would need.
It will also send an email notifying students through their G Suite for Education email that a guardian email summary was set up.  I like this feature as a safety check to double-check that this is really their guardian/parent email.


  • Guardians cannot view or access the Google Classroom stream.
  • Guardians do not have to have a Gmail, but they do have to have a Google account.  Use this URL  December 2016, guardians may use any email domain.  Gmail or a Google Account is no longer required.
  • If guardians/parents do not receive a summary, you may not have posted anything new to Google Classroom
  • Your G Suite for Education Administrator can turn-on settings so that once one teacher enters an email for a guardian/parent, any other teacher that chooses to use the feature guardians/parents will automatically get summaries from other teachers.
  • Here is a help link for guardians/parents:
  • Here is a help link for students:  This might be useful to explain this to students.
  • Here is a help link for teachers:
Overall, guardian summaries is working well with guardians/parents who have chosen this option.  They are also getting summaries from my colleagues who are piloting this with me.  I hope to roll this feature out to more of my colleagues now that I have this detailed blog post about it!  Once I set up my Google Form and sent out via Remind, it has been very little work.  I spend a few minutes each day inviting guardians/parents as they sign-up.  The rest is left up to the guardian/parent.  I now offer communication about student work through our online grade book and guardian email summaries.  I also use Remind to communicate with students and parents.  Give Guardian Summaries a try!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Google Classroom: End-of-Year Management

With the school year over, you might want to work poolside in the sun and manage your Google Classroom sections and Drive folders.  Follow these steps to prep your Google Classroom for the next year!

Step 1:  If you plan to use the exact same class next year with a new set of students, remove students from each current class.

Step 2: Archive each class

Select the "hamburger" 

Select Archive


When a class is archived, you can still view the class, but cannot submit or remove anything.  The archived class no longer shows up in students' current classes and is in a separate area.  Archived classes can be accessed in Google Drive.

If you select the 'hamburger' icon again, look towards the bottom of the left pane, you will be able to view ALL archived classes. You can delete or restore a class once in the "Archived Classes."  Be careful, once you delete a class, there is no way to undo this action.  

I suggest you keep at least one section of your previous classes.  You can reuse the posts to any of your new classes...BIG time saver!

Step 3:  Manage your Google Drive Classroom Folder

Go to Google Drive and search (don't sort) for your classroom folder.

As you can see in the image to the right, I have a folder from the 2014-2015 school year along with my current Google Classroom sections.  

Create a new folder and title it the current school year.

Move all class folders into your newly created folder.

Admire how neat and organized your classroom folder looks in Google Drive:

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Show What You Know: End of the Year Project

Now that my 8th-grade students have acquired an amazing amount of skills using technology, I decided to switch up they way we end our year.  For their final project, I want to give them choice and freedom to create.  I saw a social media post last fall by Lisa Highfill about a hyperdoc she created called "Show What You Know."  Upon investigating, I discovered her awesome website!  

I decided to use this format and tweak it to fit my 8th-grade students.  Most of the choices review technology skills we have already used like Green Screen by Do Ink, Scratch, We Video and Wix.  I also included some news tools that I believe my students could explore and create with independently.
Select this LINK and make a copy for yourself!
One important item I added was the #Let Me Take a Selfie Video Project a colleague learned about at our state technology conference in 2015.  I re-designed and slightly adjusted the assignment into a hyperdoc and added to this bingo card.  This is a really fun assignment.  It also adds more guidance and structure for students who prefer a choice like this.

My students seem really excited to have variety, choice, and freedom to create!  I cannot wait to see what they create!  

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Virtual Reality: Getting Started

At the school where I teach, two teachers were awarded a grant for a class set of View-Master VR.  After exploring Google Cardboard, they decided that the View-Master VR was an ideal product for the following reasons:

  1. Durability - They anticipate this product will not break as easily and last longer.
  2. Health - Let's be honest, schools have germs.  The plastic can be disinfected easily.
  3. Safety - Personal smartphones are safely enclosed.
Students and teachers like the Google Carboard, but for long-term use, the View-Master VR was a better choice for the intended use.

How to Get Started:

  1. Clearly inform parents and students about what devices work.  Even with plenty of notification, we still had students bring in devices that did not optimize for the Cardboard apps. 
  2. Add required apps BEFORE students come to school. Students should prepare their devices for learning at home.  They should load the app at home charge their device at home.  Many parents do not allow students to load their own apps in middle school.
  3. Have students remove their outer cases on their smartphones. We found the View-Master VRs open and close better if students remove their protective cases. Make sure they practice this at home so they can do this in class. Some of their cases are heavy duty and can get their device stuck in the View-Master.  We had one student not follow directions and was stuck.
  4. Have a day to tinker. Prior to the lesson, plan for a day to explore the app or apps, your procedure for getting the View-Master VR or Google Cardboard out and loaded with their device and how to properly put it away. (This will pay off BIG TIME)

Lesson Ideas:

With all of the apps being created, there are endless possibilities.  We are discovering apps all the time and finding a variety of ways to implement the technology into meaningful learning.

Assessment Activity 

Five Themes of Geography.  This assignment is for a 6th-grade social studies class.  The teacher found it best to create an assignment that students could fill out while using virtual reality with the following apps: Google Street View(iOS or Android), Discovery VR and the View-Master VR Experience Packs (Wildlife & Destinations).  

Investigate & Research Activity

Restaurants Around the World. This assignment is for my 6th-grade computer class.  Students are in the middle of a project-based unit learning about various Google productivity apps while designing a restaurant.  Students create a floor plan of their restaurant while using Google Drawings.  Students will also create a menu for their restaurant using an app/website, Canva.  Students will use YouVisit to explore restaurant floor plans.  I plan to assign this through Google Classroom.  Each student has access to a computer in my class.

Introduction Activity

Machu Picchu.  No worksheets needed!  The teacher plans to use this YouVisit experience as a way to introduce a larger unit.  Google Street View has VR images as well, but the YouVisit is a guided tour with a narrator.  Our school was fortunate to have Google visit with their Expeditions program December 2015.  When it is fully released, we cannot wait to go on an expedition with our classes.  It includes many locations as well.  See my previous blog post about Expeditions.

I hope this sparks a few ideas to get started with integrating virtual reality into meaning lessons.  As more content is created, I plan to continue to share!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Google Classroom: 5 Benefits Outside of the Classroom

I am a middle school technology teacher.  I am also a former Moodle user.  I had many frustrations with Moodle and the way I wanted to use it with my 6-8 students in my technology classes.  I could not wait for Google Classroom to be released!  I just knew it would be the ideal tool to help me ease my quest for blended paperless instruction...and it did!  Now that I am in my second school year of using Google Classroom it has been a real game changer!   What I did not expect or anticipate was all of the changes outside of the classroom.

1. Students Home Sick:

In my school, students are not required to complete work while they are sick unless a parent/guardian requests the homework after 3 days of absence.  Well, even just one day of missed school can result in a lot of homework for our students.  Because I deliver my lessons through Google Classroom, I have had quite a few students make the choice to work on my class work while they are home sick!  They will just email me if they have questions.  Best email question I received asked, "I am home sick today, may I complete my class work from home?"  Yes, yes you can!  This was a win-win for both teacher and student.

2. Teacher Home Sick:

As much as I love my 375+ middle school students, they sometimes like to share too much and the teacher can get sick.  With Google Classroom, I can set up my lessons from home so that student learning does not stop.  Technology is a tricky area for a substitute teacher to come in and teach for just a day or two.  See my previous post about various ideas to set up sub plans with Google Classroom.

3. Students On Vacation:

When students miss school for a vacation or family event out of town, often there is a request for work while students are gone.  I no longer spend time on the work to hand to students.  I simply say, "It will be in Google Classroom."  This has saved me so much time! 

4. Improved Communication:

The private comment area in Google Classroom is a wonderful option!  I love that Google Classroom does not notify me every time a student turns something in.  That would be a crazy amount of email!  Instead, students will send me a private comment for various reasons, like if they were absent, they had difficulty with the assignment, it is late, why they needed more time on the assignment or even if something happened outside of school and couldn't get the work done in time.  Students and families do have lives and things do happen to us!  When a student leaves a private comment, it generates an email to me!  I have my Gmail divided into tabs, all my Google Classroom communication is stored in my "Update" tab.  This is a wonderful way to communicate with students and really have a private conversation without other students hearing!

5. Due Dates Beyond The School Day:

I am most productive and creative in the evening.  I have always been like this.  Some of my students are too!  When asking students to design a commercial, a website, an animation or a video game sometimes our great ideas do not occur between 9:10 - 10:00 am.  The idea hits later that evening or early the next morning.  Google Classroom allows students to work beyond the walls of the physical class!  This also helps my students learn to manage their own time.  There are times, students will work on something else in my class during the day and my work at night because I allow the flexibility and am mostly project-based.  As long as my students can manage their own time, I have no problem with this.  I do have students that are not ready for this much flexibility, but I take on that responsibility to help guide them in managing their time and prioritizing. 

As a result, my students are happier and love my class environment.  I have heard many positive comments from my students and their grades and quality projects show it!  In the end, I hope this will make a real connection as they move into adulthood and have productive lives in our world!  

Monday, January 25, 2016

Sub Plan Tips for the 21st Century Teacher

It is the last week of our quarter and semester.  Busy time of transition in my classes finishing up projects and starting new projects/units.  Late Sunday night, my wonderful daughter gets a fever.  Oh No!  I have to write sub plans...what to do in a blended class?  I hate to assign busy work or the old "press play" movies.  I prefer my students to continue to learn in the style and environment they are used to.  Now emergencies do happen and we have to rely on movies, busy work, and our awesome colleagues to help out, but if I can avoid it, I do!

1.  Use Google Classroom

It can be your best friend to set-up your work using this wonderful tool along with Google Drive and its productivity apps like Docs, Slides, and Sheet, etc.  Check out this resource from Google.

2.  Screencast Directions

You can easily screencast your directions using the FREE extension, Screencastify!  Need a tutorial?  Check this out.  For example, students are starting a unit using Scratch and need to make an account.  If you want to splurge, Camtasia by TechSmith is a wonderful screencasting and editing tool.  I purchased mine on sale! I made this video for my students:

3.  When in Doubt, Try a Hyperdoc

I have been trying different methods and ways to deliver content and lessons to students.  Hyperdoc or multi-media text sets were the answer!  If you have a few links for students to use, make a hyperdoc!  Yes, it is more set-up, but my students love working at their own pace and absent students can easily complete the work too!  Don't forget to post in Google Classroom!  You can look at an early example by selecting this LINK or to view a more recent hyperdoc., select this LINK  Yes, I number my assignments for Google Classroom.  For more information, read this blog by Alice Keeler.

4.  Change Your Share Settings

Lastly, change your share settings on all the items in your Google Drive to "Anyone with the Link" can view.  Copy the links and add them to your sub/guest teacher plans.  This allows your guest teacher to look over the work easily!  I personally use PlanbookEDU for my online lesson plan book.  There are many different tools you can use for this, but this is the tool.  You can add your standards to your lessons and easily organize and move lessons around.  I have used for a few years now and really like it.  PlanbookEDU lets you create a PDF of your lesson plan for the day.  Just perfect for guest teachers!

5.  Create a Google Form for Guest Teacher Feedback

Why not create a form for guest teachers to complete?  Change the settings so that anyone can complete and leave a link for the guest teacher to access!

Try one or all of these tips and hopefully, it will help you stay cool and calm when you have to call in next time!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Are We There Yet? Arrive faster with Google Expeditions.

At the end of September 2015, Google announced its Expeditions Pioneer Program.  Google Associates arrive at your school with everything you need to take a trip around the world using virtual reality!  We were honored and excited at my middle school to learn that only 45-60 schools would be able to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity and we were one of around 800 schools in the world to experience this program!

Our associate arrived in December 2015 with 2 kits.  Each kit contains 30 Asus Smartphones, an Android tablet, a router and 30 Google Cardboards or View-Masters.  We were fortunate to use both Cardboards and View-Masters.

What is a Google Cardboard?

Assembled Google Cardboard VR
Google Cardboard

A Google cardboard is a virtual reality viewer made almost entirely of actual cardboard.  Cardboard allows anyone with a modern smartphone to experience virtual reality.  As a teacher, I enjoy how accessible it is for students to obtain a model similar to the one on the left.  My only concern is forehead grease.  Have you ever had a greasy pizza in a pizza box?  Well, humans produce oils and I have noticed it is left behind on the Google Cardboard if not protected.  You could use a small Post-It note or cover the area with clear packaging tape.  I would like to see a Google Cardboard come with it already covered with clear packaging tape.


You may prefer a View-Master instead.  Yes, they cost more than the Google Carboard style and are heavier for students to carry, but they are made out of plastic and can easily wipe down!  After our Pioneer Program day,  opinions seemed to be split down the middle as to which style students prefer.  A few students went out the same afternoon and purchased their own View-Master!

 What is Expeditions?

Expeditions is a new product that allows teachers to take their classes on virtual field trips, immersing students in experiences that bring abstract concepts to life and giving students a deeper understanding of the world beyond the classroom.  The classroom teacher takes on the role of a field trip guide using a tablet.  Teachers control where they visit from over 140 choices made up of a collection of virtual reality panoramas, 360ยบ photo spheres, 3D images, video and ambient sounds annotated with details, points of interest, and questions for teachers to easily integrate into exsisting curriculum used in schools.  Teachers can see where students are looking by viewing little white smiley faces on the tablet.  Teachers can also call attention to a specific spot on the image they are viewing by placing a finger on the area.  This will create arrows for students to follow.  I was very impressed with the app for students who tend to get motion sickness.  If you tap the screen of the smartphone with 2 fingers, it will change the view so that all students can enjoy the experience.  I do suggest keeping this type of lesson/activity to about 20 minutes as the VR tends to give some students headaches if used longer.

How can I integrate this into my curriculum?

Expeditions was easy to integrate into quite a few content areas.  Social Studies was the real winner with this app!  From Geography to American History this app was a hit!  If you teach Life Science, there are many trips you can take as well!  Our students loved diving into the ocean to study the Great Barrier Reef.  We also had Spanish teachers explore with their students various cultural aspects of the Expeditions.  I could see Physical Education and Math being able to use this app to apply to history of certain sports or even a math challenge involving calories burned climbing a specific area of Machu Picchu.  I did try out the Career Expeditions with my Career & Technology classes.  I was not as impressed with these Expeditions.  I would like to see Google link a career expedition to a place, like an archeologist to the Mayian Ruins.  

My favoite part of this experience was how excited and engaged students were.  Expeditions allows content to jump off of the pages and immerse students.  In the video above, 6th grade students were learning about El Capitan and the young lady in the video clip was literally "Wowed" by the sheer greatness and size of El Capitan.  I do hope Google makes this app available to GAFE users soon.  I would love to see Google create a sign-up code much like Kahoot or Pear Deck uses.  This would be a wonderful feature for BYOD districts like mine!

While nothing replaces hopping on a bus for a field trip.  Expeditions provides an unparalleled opportunity for supplemental learning.  This is one wonderful way for teachers to integrate VR into their classes.