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.