Sunday, February 19, 2017

Making Hyperdocs With Google Slides

Last Tuesday, I moderated the #worldgeochat on Google Apps. The question about hyperdocs seemed to have the most interest. Although I have been making hyperdocs for many years, I had to do some homework to prepare for this topic.

Prior to the last year or so, I had not thought much about using hyperdocs to do more than make documents with links embedded in the text. After perusing the Internet for examples of what other teachers were doing, I began thinking of ways to provide my students with opportunities to explore the hyperdocs without every student's experience being so similar. 

Since it can be tough to make history lessons less linear, my approach has become more thematic. For example, if my students explore a hyperdoc lesson about WWI, they could start from a menu with different themes, such as technology, major battles, causes of war, roles of different countries, and diplomacy. By design, they could choose themes in any order without compromising their ability to complete the lesson objectives.

Since this blog is read by more than just history teachers, I wanted to provide an example from another subject area. The water cycle came to mind, and here's how I made it.

Exemplar is at the bottom of the post. 

1. Determine the Layout

Slides are most often used one slide after another. Consider slides in a different way with some front matter to let the users know what it's about and a home slide that allows users to explore whichever content piece they choose (see step 3).  

2. Make the Front Matter

The front matter is simply introducing the lesson, directions, an essential question, and whatever you want learners to know or expectations you have as to how they may spend time with these slides.

At this point, you may have seen the yellow arrows in the upper right. These arrows are set to go to the next or previous slides. I copy and paste the arrows so they only have to be made once.   

3. Design a Home Slide

The home slide is the business end of lesson. Learners can click on the stages of the water cycle to be taken to an information slide (see next step). The clickable area is made with transparent rectangles that are linked to the corresponding slide. 

4. Insert the Information Slides

The information slides in this hyperdoc include text copied from the U.S. Geological Survey. The link to the rest of the text is embedded in the image. Likewise, the thumbnail of the water cycle in the upper left takes users back to the home slide.

The link to the image source is also included for all images used in this hyperdoc. These days it's easy to find images that can be used for education without any chance of infringing on the copyright. I like to use government resources as much as possible. I also try to embed link backs to the site from which the content originated because it helps the site, which is a digital way of saying thank you. It also provides users with direct access to the source.

5. Link Information Slides

As you can see in the image below, the slide options appear in a drop down when you link (ctrl k or link tool) the selected area. Steps 4 and 5 can be done at anytime. Speaking of time, I suggest making hyperdoc templates for future lessons. I may use this one for a WWI lesson coming up soon.

6. Write the Assessment Questions

Every lesson needs an assessment, but this one is not for the gradebook. It's just a practice quiz so learners can test their knowledge and reflect on the lesson. The home slide link is included in the upper left because I expect my students to go back and relearn parts that did not stick the first time.

The green boxes are clickable areas to select the question. Making large clickable areas are important because some learners may be using a tablet or smartphone. 

Download a PDF of the slides. It works great in PDF readers, but it does not work well in the Google Drive reader.

The answer choices (in the second image) are transparent clickable areas like the ones used on the water cycle model on the home slide. Although it is not shown here, I would add a Google Form link for learners to reflect on the lesson and submit some preliminary ideas about a related issue to which they want to formulate a response (project phase of the unit).

7. Make Feedback Slides

This is simple. If the answer choice is correct, learners see this slide. If the choice is incorrect, they see a slide that says, "Try again." The yellow box takes them back to the quiz. The feedback slides can be more involved and specific to the choice. Perhaps in year two or three of using this lesson, I would add more specific feedback for each response. 

What's More

These documents can have as much or as little to them as you need. I recommend starting off simple and adding to your hyperdocs a little each year.

The PDF format works well if you are using a tablet and have a PDF reader app installed. Otherwise, download the PDF and use the download outside of Google Drive. Doing it this way, the slide links will work. For some reason, the slide links do not work in the Drive PDF reader.

PDF of Exemplar

Open this hyperdoc in Google Slides and make a copy if you want to use it (finish it) or make a template out of it. All of the things on this blog are here for the taking, no attribution required. Link backs are always much appreciated but also not required for use. What's most important to is that you share how you made it better (or different). You can do so in the comments below.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

5 Secrets to Learning With Videos

Learning with videos does not equal instant engagement. The novelty has mostly worn off because many of my high schoolers grew up with YouTube and video streaming as far back as they can remember. Now, it's the expectation to use video for learning.

Meeting learners where they are is not an easy task. As the mobile age of technology persists, I'm experiencing new issues related to how students process information. Their attention span used to be four to five minutes of boring talk. These days it's about four to five words, which presents a challenge if we are to provide opportunities for skill development.

The following "secrets" are not magic beans that will take learners to the fairy tale world of perfect learning. Even after integrating cool tools, kids still struggle to find the main ideas. They struggle to ask the right questions to process information in deep and lasting ways. Here's what I've learned.

1. Turn on Closed Captions

For the learner who struggles with auditory processing, turning on the closed captions may seem like an obvious solution. It's not. The learner with weak auditory processing may not even know about their learning difference.

No problem. Suggest to each student that they turn on the closed captioning. Listening and reading while making notes of the key points is a great way for everyone to learn. If learners turn to their neighbor and summarize the key points, this video activity includes all four language domains.

2. Slow Down the Video

I liked Crash Course history videos a lot when they were initially released. Then, I realized that they are too fast for learning new information. Even after using them for review, I was left with students who were uncomfortable with the pace of the narration.

Slowing down the video to half speed helps a lot. It sounds weird on some videos, but it's a fleeting distraction. The image below shows the speed settings for YouTube.

3. Make Interactive Notes

Most learners need to be taught how to return to their notes to study. I teach my students strategies to make notes that are more usable later when the depth of knowledge increases. is a great tool for taking notes while watching videos. It integrates with Google Drive and can be exported to Evernote. The most powerful feature is how the notes are embedded with the video time code from when users start typing. Click on the note while studying, and the video adjusts to the same place in the time code. It also allows users to slow down videos.

4. Create Discussion

Discussions based on videos can be powerful learning experiences, but it depends on the point in the lesson, the class, and the video. Some videos are short and focused on one idea, while others contain a lot of opinions and points of view. Depending on the video and the needs of the learners, the discussion design can strengthen understanding.

There are plenty of ways to facilitate discussions during and after the videos. For example, try using word clouds to summarize first impressions or open response collectors to achieve more depth and complexity.

I like Vialogues because it allows learners to engage in discussion that are linked to the moment in the video. Like, this tool links the comment to the video time code.

5. Add Questions

Recently, I had to start adding questions within videos to keep students with effort and motivation issues more on task. I've used EDpuzzle in the past, but didn't need it for most of my classes. This semester is different.

EDpuzzle allows the teacher to see how much students watch the video. For example, it will show how much they rewind and where, which is nice to compare to their responses. If a student gets a question wrong and doesn't ever rewind the video, that gives me some specific data to support a conversation about effort.

This tool allows you to add comments. multiple choice, or open response questions. It also allows you to add feedback to display after a student responds. The grading is automatic for multiple choice, and the video stops at each point that you add a comment or question. If you like to stop videos and ask your questions for class discussion, this tool works great.

Related Posts

Monday, February 6, 2017

Making Lessons With New Google Sites

Students don't enjoy visiting so many sites to complete a lesson. To help them out a bit, I'm using New Google Sites to organize content, skills, expectations, and assessment.

From the beginning, I want my students making connections and actively building their own knowledge of historical events and their significance. Then, as soon as possible, they need the chance to practice skills intended to be applied during the project phase of a unit or lesson cycle.

My design goal with Sites is to take advantage of the different font and background styles to make the parts of the lessons clear to my students at first glance. The routines I want them to develop throughout the course should be apparent when the page loads.

1. Questions

The question should stand out on the page. The example below uses the darkest background in the theme and the only one with white font. This style dedication to essential questions points to the focus of each unit.

This particular question is asking about the conditions in which people challenge authority. The first content they see is a short video on the history and impact of the printing press. The follow up questions – to the right on the full view and below on the mobile view – prompt students to think about other technologies that have impacted humanity like the printing press.

2. Content

Following the structured inquiry, similar to the one Trevor MacKenzie describes, we used this next section to take notes on the background of Galileo's heresy accusations. I used to teach this part with a reading for homework and a slide presentation for lecture, but now I talk through what happened, using the paintings for my visual aid. Students who miss class or have trouble processing my explanation aurally can read the short text provided.

The question with the solar system background was another design choice that I made to distinguish the question because it is more of personal response than a question about the background. It's important to place questions that bring students back to themselves. It allows them to stay connected to the content, developing empathy for the people of the subject matter.

3. Skills Practice

This section includes three documents embedded in the page. I put the questions next to the documents because the mobile view places the content on the right below the content on the left (second image).

Although I made a Docent for this particular lesson, I still included the document analysis questions on the site to have options. For example, I may want my students to answer the questions in their notes and insert hyperlinked text to documents. Or, perhaps I could have them answer the questions on Google Classroom or submit them via Google Form.

4. Application and Creation

At this point, my students have connected with the essential question, built background on the historical subject, and analyzed documents from the period. It's time to apply what they've learned and make a product that brings it altogether.

The example below is from the third lesson in this unit on modern revolutions. By the third lesson in a unit, the students have enough background to do more learning by doing. The directions are an embedded Google Doc. The nice thing about using Docs is not having to update the website when I make a change. The change can be made to the doc, and the site and everyone with the doc in their Drive receives the update.

Some call this project-based learning. I would too, but this timeline doesn't address a real problem relevant to the community. That project would be more about comparing the conditions that led to the French Revolution to our current conditions and producing a public service announcement, for example.

5. Guided Inquiry

The last lesson in this unit introduces guided inquiry. This type of inquiry prompts students to write questions related to given topics and issues. By coming up with the questions and finding the answers, they have found the problems and responded to it.

The ability to place text side by side works really well for this activity. The funny thing is that I was inspired to make this an inquiry activity because of the design that was emerging as I created this page.

6. Assessment

Google Forms didn't work out so well when my students opened the form. It gave them access to edit the form, not the usual sent form view. When they entered the information by without opening it in a new window, the form work as intended.

The advantage to including the assessment is in the transition time saved. The site transitions for you. You could also include a link to a Quizlet quiz. If your students are in a class you created and the deck is added to the class, Quizlet will put their data in the right place, even if the deck is assigned to multiple classes.

7. Reflection

We can't do a project without reflecting. In fact, the reflection is the most important part. It's where I provide the most important feedback my students will use to become lifelong learners. It's the stuff that shifts them from point chasers to knowledge seekers.

The questions we use are the same for every reflection and are the minimum requirement. Again, I used an image background because it's a special moment for them to document what happened and be honest about their role in completing the work.
  1. What did you do? Describe the product and process. 
  2. What challenges did you face? How did you overcome them?
  3. What did you learn?
  4. How can you use what you learned in a setting beyond our classroom? Include a hypothetical example related to life after high school but not related to academic institutions.

Thanks for reading. 

Check this video on the New Google Sites.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

10 Tools For Student Voice

My story of using tools for student voice begins with listening to my students. I try to provide them with as much input as to how they will be educated as possible, and it's no different when it comes to using one technology choice over another.

This focus on what the students say, of course, is at the heart of student voice. They can't control everything that happens in school, but, given the right opportunity, their education can become something far more meaningful than a prescribed set of standards to master.

Here's what my students have taught me about technology.

1. Twitter

When instruction calls for social media, student identity is wide open to the world. Twitter is as authentic as it gets for microblogging student responses, and it's also the riskiest.

The first time I tried to use Twitter for an assignment, I didn't predict that a student may not want to do it. I thought it would work as well as Enrique Lagaspi's history class I saw on YouTube the day before.

The girl told me that I couldn't make her, and she was right. To my defense, I was still in the "Tigger stage" of being excited about the novelty of using digital technology in the classroom. I hadn't thought much about the consequences or issues we would face. I was as naive and excited as it gets.

I was just lucky that a student felt confident enough to speak up to the issue in class. She literally stopped me in my tracks. I didn't hide any of my surprise or confusion. It was like the wind was taken from my #edtech sail and every student knew it. So I turned it into a teachable moment, for me, especially.

The next day, I made "Twitta" on Google Forms.

2. Google Forms

Switching to Forms solved the social risk issue that I had not previously considered. This was the first time I used forms to collect responses from students. It was messy at first, but it was obvious that the power of student contributions is inherently engaging.

These days, Forms is much nicer to look at since you can view responses within the form as opposed to always going to the response sheet. It saves transition time during instructional activities, for sure.

5 Steps to Google Forms in Lieu of Twitter

3. Today's Meet

Since forms didn't give us the look that I was looking for, I searched for edtech tools like Twitter and found Today's Meet. The simplicity was huge, and it worked on mobile browsers, which was what most students were using in my 2014 classroom.

Here are some activities you can try with Today's Meet.

4. Padlet 

Padlet is different than Today's Meet because it allows users to make posts with more options. Without getting into all of the options, I particularly like the ability of students to glance back and forth at all of the posts like a virtual chalkboard or message board. Keep in mind that it's all about student contributions and therefore supporting development of student voice.

Perhaps you use the chalk talk strategy. Use Padlet to collect student responses, and keep the results for future contributions and revisiting for reflection. When the learning content is captured and accessible, we can maximize how deep the learning can go. If you aren't going to the revisit the work, skip the digital technology.

5. Remind

Virtual office hours is a turn off for some teachers, but not me. I wouldn't be a teacher if I didn't want my students to continue learning beyond the brick and mortar. It's the ultimate goal, isn't it?

Remind allows my students to text me via the Remind app at anytime, within reason. It's the fastest way for me to respond, and it's their preferred mode of communication. In this way, the choice of using the app and texting is a reflection of the power of student voice. It works for them, so that's what we use.

6. Poll Everywhere

Some users are are not happy with the response limit. I'm not bothered by it because my class sizes are reasonable for the tool. We use the word cloud to focus vocabulary instruction and the ranking tool to evaluate thesis statements, to name a couple of examples.

Like most people, I am not satisfied when we cannot get to all of the student responses. It makes individuals feel like it was all for nothing, which can be toxic to student voice. The ways my students use Poll Everywhere allows every response to count while focusing our time on the most critical issues among the student responses.

The video below shows how to import Poll Everywhere into Google Slides.

7. Google Drive

Share a link to a Drive folder with editing permissions. I add other folders inside depending what I want my students to share. For example, my students add images to a unit images summary folder. I give them the enduring understandings, and they add content from the Web that they think is relevant.

This exercise is quick and replaces a lot of my slide presentations. I don't abandon the slide presentation altogether because it's a great way to model to the students the kinds of images that I expect them to contribute. Plus, if I want to show certain images in a sequence, I rename the images to take advantage of the alpha-numeric ordering of files in the folder.

In this case, choice is voice.

8. Verso

If there's one tool that's the more powerful and age-appropriate for activating student voice, it's definitely Verso App. The special feature is anonymity. Students can argue their points with classmates while their identity is only know to the teacher.

When it comes to activating student voice, the ability for learners to speak without the judgement flying at them is crucial to developing one's efficacy and approach to conflicting views.

For more on Verso App, here's a list of 15 activities with video accompaniment.

9. Blogger

Reflection and sharing is key to developing one's own voice. Blogging serves several purposes. Here's a few off the top of my head.

(1) It's a space to be honest and vulnerable. People may comment harshly about your work, and that only means that individuals can practice responding appropriately. A lot growth can happen when emotions run high and cooler heads prevail in the final decision.

(2) Blogs are good for floating parts of projects that you're working on. It's better to get feedback during the project than at the end. Maybe you are working on posters for a public service announcement, and feedback on the images would be helpful. Share it with people and ask for their honest opinion.

(3) Writing and conversing makes us more fluent writers, readers, thinkers, and learners. More than anything, I want my students to learn how to learn. Authentic writing opportunities are a great way to learn. It's why I do it.

10. Flipgrid

Flipgrid is a tool that organizes student video responses in a discussion format. It has a lot of potential for developing routines that transfer to responsible digital citizenship habits and allows students to exercise spoken language.

Even though video is so easy to produce, I'm not convinced that everyone realizes how powerful it can be for learning. When I make a video for a YouTube upload, for example, I watch and rerecord before posting my best. This process is where the learning happens. I set goals that get me to producing one take that's smooth and casual without too many tries.

The repeated evaluation while creating the video is an opportunity to grow as a public speaker, not just for video production. Since the video does not hide the imperfections, I've experienced a lot of public speaking growth. I'm more aware of what I say and how I fill (or don't fill) the space when I'm searching for the right words. "Like" and "um" can get out of hand.

Although I have only used Flipgrid a few times, I plan to use it more this semester. It's tough, however, because I'm asking for my students to be vulnerable, whether they like it or not. My plan is to talk about this with them openly and set some expectations about how we interact. Since I now feel more ready to support them when they are vulnerable, I think it will be more successful than my previous attempt a couple of years ago. Teacher efficacy is everything when it comes to using any strategy.

Thanks for reading. I hope that you are considering the power of student voice to engage your students. If you have any ideas that work or things you wish to share, please write a comment. Your contribution will help other readers, as well. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

15 Google Classroom Features You Will Love

Google Classroom can help you do hundreds of things. I want to show you a short list of what has made my job a little easier after using it for two and and a half years. 

Lots of updates have been made since the launch in 2014. Some features are more helpful than others, and I get excited about the little things that save time and reduce stress for teachers and students. From the start, Google Classroom has been a instructional facilitator. Here's what I'm talking about.

Getting Started

1. Easy Set Up

Some teachers told me they didn't like Classroom because it was hard to set up. Maybe the concept of Classroom was not well understood by those teachers. Perhaps they weren't primed to explore and learn through discovery, which is so important when it comes to understanding the potential of ... well ... everything. 

The on-screen directions walk you through set up and provide a tour of key features. For an open mind, this is a piece of cake. Hover over almost any button on pretty much every Google application, and a text box will appear in a couple of seconds to tell you what it does.

2. Upload Header Image
This may seem like a minor detail, but your students benefit from a special image when they have four or five other classes using Classroom. The routine of checking Classroom becomes associated with the header image.

I like to make sure that the image is closely linked to the content on a conceptual level. As a history teacher, this means maps, documents, architecture, and other symbols that spark connections to the course themes.

3. About Page

Add resources to the About page that students may need to access throughout the course. I include the syllabus, writing resources, exam prep, and technology expectations.

Making Posts 

4. Drive Integration

This is the basis of making Classroom in the first place, or at least I think so. As a teacher who used Google Drive long before Classroom was available, I can say that the struggle was real.

I tried Moodle and Edmodo before switching to Classroom upon its release. The number one reason for this decision was Drive integration. Moodle was time consuming and Edmodo couldn't handle the volume of materials that an advanced high school class needed. Classroom solved a lot of problems in terms of file sharing, permissions, and other workflow issues.

5. Schedule Posts

I have routines, but I have to work really hard to maintain them. The work comes easy to me at different times and places, so the ability to write out a weekly plan days in advance is great. 

Most importantly, a post to the stream doesn't have to be posted right away. When posts made too long before students need the information, they freak out because they fail to read the dates on the agenda and start doing the following week's homework. True story.

Scheduling posts makes things run like clockwork, literally. I can do my part when the creativity is flowing and productivity is high, and students are not confused over posts that don't pertain to where we are in the lesson cycle. 

6. Reuse Existing Posts

This may sound simple, but time and energy are everything to a classroom teacher. The ability to reuse posts is helpful whether it's from one year to the next or to prepare for multiple classes with similar needs. 

7. Stream Post Link

You can't count on teenagers checking email regularly. They text, so we use Remind to communicate about timely matters. Sharing a link to a stream post in a Remind message is the best guarantee that one of my students will not worry and wonder about to which post I am referring.

Let's be really honest. People communicate differently than they did ten years ago. Most of these kids have been texting longer than they've had email addresses. If I can relieve some stress by adding a link to a text message, I'm am happy to take the extra 15 seconds. They're worth it!

8. Move to Top

The story usually starts with a student saying, "I couldn't find it." Shortly after, several other students chime in to confirm the concern. By moving a post to the top, it allows teachers to position an agenda post, for example, to keep the class on track.

Sure, kids need to learn to search and find, but teachers also need to reduce stress that comes with technology, especially when students are accessing the information outside of school.

Staying Organized

9. Organize By Topic

The stream can become a mess of posts over the course of a few months. Topic allows users to sort the posts by relevance. For example, I write a weekly agenda, so one of my topics is "00 Weekly Agenda."

The "00" ensures that the topic is at the top of the list of topics, which is because the order of topics is alpha numeric. Notice that my unit topics include 01, 02, etc. These topics are for student work like assignments and questions. Lastly, I make exam review posts so students can filter the reviews for end of course exams.

10. Last Edit Date 

The post date is automatically added to the top of each stream post. The last edit date is added separately to show students if there were any changes. This is nice because teachers can tell students to look for the agenda posted on a certain date. For students who are absent, the last edit date helps because it gives them more information when they ask questions about the accuracy of the stream posts.

11. Calendar Integration

We all have so many appointments and deadlines, regardless of the careers we have chosen. Users benefit from the automatic integration of Classroom and Calendar, which is accessible through Classroom. Calendar events are based on the items with a due date.

Instructional Support

12. Post Questions

Learning starts with questions, so it's no surprise that Google would include a tool that posts to the stream and updates the gradebook. Last year, my classes routinely responded using the question tool. The question posts take seconds to make and are just as easy to grade.

One of the concerns I often hear is that some individuals dislike grading on the computer. Specific concerns range from not wanting to learn the technology to the health risks of screen time. Many concerns stem from the discomfort of change. Many people still like paper because it's what they know, and there's nothing wrong with that. 

13. Classroom Extension

I lost count of how many times I found a website while searching for an answer to a student's question and was able to share it right away because we had the extension. The Classroom extension is as simple as that. It's great for quick transitions.  

Push to Students

Ask a Question

14. Invite Co-Teachers

When Classroom was first released, I was working closely with another AP World History teacher. We wanted to share a Classroom and use different sections for our specific classes. This would have been great for sharing resources without bugging each other about what we're doing. We would still bug each other, but the conversations would have been more productive.

Last year, I taught a class of 14 students with learning differences. I worked with a co-teacher, and we were able to communicate efficiently because of the option to add Co-Teachers.

15. Import Classroom Roster to Other Tools

It's hard for me to try new tools because of the time it takes to get rosters organized and teach students how to access the sites or apps. For many tools, those days are over. The video below shows how quick it is to add a roster from Classroom to a new class in EDpuzzle, a video-based assessment tool.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Lessons From 1:1 | Toward a One-to-World Learning Environment

Four years ago, I started getting the itch for a 1:1 classroom. I wrote grants, begged for computer lab access, and did everything short of kicking and screaming to get what I wanted.

Halfway through the school year, I received a Chromebook for every student as part of a campus experiment. Then, I received ten more to try as part of a district experiment. This was all after receiving two iPads from a grant. We had more computers than students, and, in some cases, twice as many.

What Did I Learn?

Be careful what you ask for ... I got it! Not the computers. I learned what it was like to manage a classroom that could shift gears without a trip to the copy room. I learned how we could collect ideas, concerns, and questions from the entire class and use it all as part of the lesson content, merging student voice and formative assessment. 

But still, it wasn't enough. I constantly had this feeling like something was missing. We went beyond replacing paper worksheets with digital ones, and the lesson plan would never be the same because it could change drastically based on student needs. Homework was shrinking to almost nothing because we were getting so much done with our class time, yet I had a feeling like there was something more we could do.

Digital Learning Farm

I was fortunate to have attended a keynote by Alan November the previous summer, so I bought his book and read it almost in one sitting. It's not a long book, but the stories jumped off the page because they showed me what we were missing in our "one-to-too-many" setting.

The book presents the idea that classrooms, like farms, are places where things grow. Alan calls it the Digital Learning Farm. Being a history teacher, I couldn't help but relate it back to Thomas Jefferson's concern about how industrialization would take away our freedom because of how we would become slaves to the clock.

From Industry to Information

Classrooms and schools have long been criticized for being too stuck in the industrial model, so I embraced the digital learning farm. Perhaps the Web is like a farm, yet students can grow by cultivating knowledge and making publishable things that can be harvested to feed the world. Maybe connected technology would bring together the best of both industrial and agrarian economies to make an Age of Information that even Jefferson could appreciate.

I'm not there, yet. I have more to learn, which is why I've decided to write about it here and share the project that I am working on. It's called the Digital History Farm. I wanted to specialize my approach a bit because there are a lot of resources being developed as digital history. It's huge, actually.

These are resources that my students can both learn to better access and make contributions to if I implement some of Alan November's approach to technology integration. For example, instead of reading clips of primary sources and secondary interpretations, which are important, my students made a spreadsheet of all of the items and amounts taxed by the Stamp Act.      


Alan November's ideas about 1:1 are not aimed at discouraging the initiatives. He knows, however, that too many schools have placed the selling point and vision on the device instead of the connectivity, the opportunity, and what it means to foster Web skills that can leverage powerful databases to find and solve problems.

My lesson designs have plenty of room to grow, especially when it comes to providing opportunity for new lines of inquiry and broadening the conversation to engage authentic audiences from around the world (, accessed 12-30-16 at 10:55 EST).

Recent Posts to Digital History Farm (click or touch images)

What's Next?

At the publishing of this post, the pages in the horizontal navigation of the Digital History Farm blog were incomplete. The goal is make the blog a place for resources as well as sharing of the featured content made by students. The project will grow and likely change, so stay tuned for updates.

Please leave a comment on the Digital History Farm if you have suggestions.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Making Websites With Google Docs

When the preview for the new Google Sites came out last summer, I got excited and frustrated all at once. The new Sites looked great and was easy to use, which means my students were likely to pick it up quickly. But I was also frustrated because I couldn't do a lot of the things that the old platform allows.

This situation prompted me to consider whether or not my students even need to make a website with Sites, new or old. After all, I want them to learn skills and experience the audience that comes with publishing their work online.

I chose to teach with Google Docs as much as possible. There's so much you can do with it, including publishing to the Web. Plus, teaching with Google docs allows students to choose their platform in the future.

Here are a couple ways to make it happen with Docs.

Publish to Web

Docs has a feature in the File menu that allows you to publish a document to the Web. It comes with a default header and footer, but it's really quick. This way of publishing is good for working across devices (smartphones, tablets, full browsers, etc) and publishing simple documents like agendas or a syllabus.

WWW Drive

If you are looking for a more appealing product, I recently found WWW Drive. The nice thing about this tool is that you can host your site from Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive.

Here are the steps I took to make it happen.

1. Download your Doc as an html file.

2. Unzip your files and organize them in the proper folder.

Open file in zip extractor.

Set the destination folder.

Move files out of the unzip folder.

Share unzipped files so they are searchable on the Web.

3. Go to and click the cloud storage you want to use. Make sure you are signed in to your account.

4. The site will take you to an admin panel where you will find links to your published html files.

Tip: Use a link shortener like or to make sharing easy.