Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Embed Slideshows in 7 Easy Steps on New Google Sites

I love the way our high school's modern world history course is designed. The first three to four units are about concept and skill development, while the remaining few units are application of what students learned in the first half of the course.

The application is done through case studies, which are often teacher driven. I couldn't see the value in application being so much about what the teacher is doing, so it was time for something different.

This semester, my modern world class is making a website for their case studies. The students are making each case study a page on the site with sub pages as necessary.

It made the most sense to me to make the case studies a website because it can serve as a place that brings it all together in a published space.
I've been inspired by Alan November to stop saying "turn it in" and start saying "publish it"? 
My students have made digital maps and infographics and photo essays in the past, but this time I wanted something different for them. I wanted my students to make something in a way that visualizes data from a Google Sheet.

I chose Awesome-Table because it has several useful sheets templates, and it helps that my students have 1:1 Chromebooks. Awesome-Table is also intuitive and easy to use with a little bit of spreadsheet basics and web editor experience.

The first case study was on China's Communist Revolution, so we started with a slideshow of the major events. This included an event title, image, and description with a link to the resource used.

He's what we did.

1. Choose the Template

Once you go to and connect your Google account, the dashboard looks like the image below. It includes a few templates, access to the template gallery, and your recent projects listed at the bottom.

Choose the slideshow template. If it is not in the upper section of the dashboard, click the template gallery link in the upper right.

2. Set Up the Google Sheet

Since Awesome Table pulls data from a Google sheet, you can access the template sheet by clicking the link in the upper sidebar on the right.

The pencil icon allows you to change the Google Sheets doc to which you want to link to your Awesome Table project. This is particularly helpful if you already have a template in your drive that you want to link to the table project.

When you open the Google sheet (by clicking the link), you will see the sample data. Delete the sample data and add your own project data.  

3. Share a Folder

I've found that the best way to enter data into a spreadsheet is to let my students do it. Plus, they're the ones who need to learn this stuff, anyway. Why should I do it? Sure, it would be faster and neater, but that's not what our classroom looks like.
We make messes and learn from cleaning them up.
To provide access to the sheet and a place to gather images for the slideshow, share a folder link to a Drive folder. Make sure the permissions allow those with the link to have the ability to edit anything in the folder.

Then, share the link via a communication and content manager like Google Classroom to get your students working. We use Classroom, but we also use Team Drive for collaborative work.

4. Find an Image

The image selection step in this project exercises the learner's sense of contribution, which can translate into a stronger commitment to their learning experience.

This is also a good time to review some of the acceptable use issues related to images, such as licensing for publishing and permission to use for making money.

Once the image is saved to the student device and uploaded to the Drive folder, it's time to grab a link for the Google sheet. The link should have permissions set to "anyone with the link can view."

Paste the link into the appropriate column and row on the Google sheet. It may take some time for the image links to update the project. Always refresh your browser and the project for quicker results. Patience goes a long way, too. 

5. Write a Caption

The written portion of this project is completed in the description (slide text) column on the Google sheet. It's a great opportunity for students to practice one-sentence summaries as well as identifying the most significant takeaway for the audience.

6. Include a Link

The image description is clickable, so I had my students include the link from the source they used to write the description. The link goes in the far right column on the Google sheet.

7. Embed the Slideshow

The last step is to get the embed code to paste into the area of the website where the slideshow will live. Click the share icon and copy the last embed code format. Go to New Google Sites and double click the area where you want to place the slideshow. Choose the embed icon (<>) and select embed code to access the box in which the code needs to be pasted.

The finished product ...

When things don't work ...

We ran into one issue during this project. The links for the images only worked in a particular format. The format was available when we accessed the link from the horizontal tool bar. Select the image and choose the link icon to access the file link.

You may have to adjust the permissions to "anyone with the link can view" (share settings). Play around with it, and be open to troubleshooting with your students. Sometimes they know the answer.

Either way, it's good for students to see that problems are normal when it comes to content creation, and that these problems take time, patience, and testing solutions to resolve. 

Please share your thoughts below. I'd love to here from you. 

Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 27, 2018

5 Student-Centered Google Classroom Features

My goal is to use technology to allow students to take increasing ownership over their learning. It is my belief that they can do this under the right conditions.

For the teenagers that I work with, the right conditions are often anything that doesn't make them work too hard to access the content. Think about it. They engage in online media based on ease of use and access. If teachers make content too many clicks deep into a website or LMS, they won't want to find the information.

Meeting kids where they are is ultimately more important than testing their grit when it comes to developing classroom routines. Google Classroom is a great platform to help students become efficient self-starters because it allows teachers to manage a stream of information, not unlike the design of most social media apps.

The following shares some of the ways I use Classroom to set up the right conditions for students to take full advantage of their learning opportunities.

1. Links in the Stream Text

This may seem like not a big deal, yet I've found that my teenagers are more likely to find the link if it is within the stream post text. The bottom is for attachments and links, but there's less confusion when the link is within the post.

2. Student-Specific Stream Posts

Not every student needs the same support. Sometimes students need different learning support, while other times they may have missed school and need to make up work.

Any type of post to the Google Classroom stream can be posted for a specific student(s). This keeps the stream relevant for every student and protects the privacy of the students who need different learning supports. 

3. Topics

A parent once told me that it took her child 20 minutes to figure what to do for homework. Kids will be kids, of course, but the fact that the student didn't know exactly where to find the information was a bit troubling. This wasn't a story about one of my students, yet I'm sure some of my students could relate. 

I create topics for each unit, technology information, weekly agendas, and exam reviews. If a student missed an assignment, they can click the unit topic and find it quickly. The same goes for exam reviews. Better yet, the final exam review is as easy as click exam reviews, leaving the student with every unit review to prepare for the final. 

4. Comments (Stream Posts)

Google Classroom provides the option for teachers to set the extent to which students can post and comment on the stream. Every class is different. Some classes use the stream to make comments, post useful content, or ask questions. 

I keep the options wide open because it allows my students to take ownership of their learning in a interpersonal way. It's one of my number one jobs as a classroom teacher -- to help students develop interpersonal skills.

5. Move to Top

We are competing for our students attention. They have conversations they'd rather be continuing with their friends and Instagram content they've invested so much exploring. Who am I to say that they should sift through my unorganized Classroom stream.

Move to Top allows teachers to move a post to the top so students will see it first. This is critical when posts pile on top of a post that will continue to drive learning activities in the future. 

I make a weekly agenda post, so those are the posts that get moved to the top after the quizzes and Google Classroom question posts pile on top of them. 

Thanks for reading, and please share your questions or tips in the comments below.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Google Drive Preview Comments Transform Learning Activities

My students can now comment on images and PDFs in full view of their peers because of a recent Google Drive update. I know this sounds like a small thing, but it means not having to make a lot of materials on my end and places more of the decision-making on my students.

Let me explain how I used to design a cartoon analysis activity.

I chose a cartoon and added it to a Google Form. This form had questions and text boxes for student responses. We either discussed the results by looking at the response sheet projected on the screen or made comments on the sheet via Team Drive.

Although the activity design I described above is good and works, it's a lot of steps for me. It's better than paper, but not as good for students as how I do it now. Most importantly, I can spend my time providing feedback and answering questions instead of managing learning materials.

Check out my process for cartoon analysis with the new preview comments update.

1. Make a folder in Team Drive.

Team Drive is my favorite addition to G Suite since Google Classroom because it's an easy workspace to manage. We make folders for each unit and often students make docs or folders to facilitate a learning activity.

For more on Team Drive, check out this post that shares 10 ideas for your classroom.

2. Students find and upload the content.

The best part of this step in the activity is that the content is chosen by the students. At first, some of the images are not exactly what I'm looking for, so I spend extra time reinforcing image search expectations and file management – skills kids need to be fluent in digital spaces.

I took this opportunity to rename the cartoon image files with a number so I could assign those numbers to groups of three students.


3. Students use an analysis routine to make comments about specific parts of the content.

Thinking routines have replaced stock worksheets in our classroom. In this case, students focus on objects, people, and symbols before looking for text on the cartoon and trying to predict what message the artist wants to convey. (The second image below shows the explanation students see on our course website.)

The best part about the comment tool is the ability to select a specific area of an image. This takes away any question about what part of the cartoon a student is discussing.

4. Reply to comments to encourage participants to clarify or dig deeper. 

As students are working, so am I. After a walk around the room to ensure everyone understands the expectation, I watch and wait for the comments to which I can reply with questions for clarity or to dig deeper.

5. Debrief about the activity and some of the discussion highlights.

The comments and replies make the debrief on the activity much more efficient because the students can read a long in context as I discuss the analysis students have done.

Further, when you select a comment, the area the student selected to generate the comment stands out as the rest of the image darkens a bit. This simple feature adds so much focus for participation without having to take extra time to clarify which areas we are discussing.

Thanks for reading, and please share your thoughts on how to use this tool in the comments below.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Google Slides For Classroom Collaboration [5 Tips]

More and more of my old paper-based lesson materials are being turned into Google Slides templates. It's a no brainer. I can still print the materials if need be, and the opportunity for collaboration in our classroom is always ready to go.

Here are some of the tips that have helped me develop materials using Google Slides.

1. One Class, One Document

Cloud-based publishing tools like Google Docs allow connected classrooms to work in one digital space. The nice thing about everyone working on one slides document is that the audience shifts from just the teacher to everyone in the room and perhaps beyond, depending on how far you want to share.

TIP: Make one document, and include slides for each student (or group) before giving access. This initial step gives students a landing spot to start the learning activity. It also eliminates pushing and shoving in the digital space.

2. Team Drive Workflow

Sharing the document has never been so easy. I used to share it through Google Classroom, classroom folders, or even directly to the students in a contacts group. Now, it's all Team Drive.

TIP: Make a Team Drive for you class, and provide editing permissions to all of your students. This is your sandbox. It's a space where all participants have to be careful and respectful with the classwork. Plus, it means sharing is automatic. I know it sounds like a small thing, but it's one more thing I don't have to do or explain.

3. Save Time With Drive Slides

Extensions are one of my favorite Chrome features, especially when they take away cumbersome steps from our classroom workflow. Drive Slides allows users to automatically insert photos from a Drive folder into a Slides document, placing one image per slide.

TIP: Think beyond Slides as a slideshow presentation tool by exploring different print (or PDF) settings to make books interactive objects for websites. 

4. Speaker Notes and Print Options

Speaker notes are your friend. I just started requiring my students to use the speaker notes as a place to include the sourcing information for all of the slide content.

TIP: Take all of the text out of your old PowerPoints and drop them into the speaker notes. Then, allow students to find new images and write short captions based on the speaker notes.

When you present this information to the class, not only will they be familiar with it, they will have some ownership of the product.

5. Grid View For Monitoring

This is the newest Slides feature that has me excited. In fact, a recent Tweet from Alice Keeler gave me the idea to use grid view to monitor student progress, which is one of the difficulties in a paperless Google Classroom like mine.

TIP: Convert your old learning activities into a slides document, providing one slide per student. In the example below, I made the Frayer model the slide background and set the text box color to light blue. Using color on text boxes helps students find the text field.

BONUS: Make something that's publishable.

How are your students taking action? What can they do with the slides document to address an issue in the school, community, or beyond? Print posters? Make an eBook (interactive PDF)?

Please share the creative ways your students are using Slides (Keynote or PPT) in the comments below.

Related Links:

Tips for using Team Drive

How to Use Drive Slides (Chrome extension)

Using Slides for Student-Centered Learning

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Embed Digital Word Walls Into New Google Sites

When I learned that I will be floating to different classrooms next year, my first concern was how I could adapt some of the wall hanger activities to a more mobile situation. I have magnetic tape on a lot of things, but the ability to display content long term is not happening next year.

I soon realized that my course websites are the only places my students can count on for things like word walls, current events, and skills expectations. Luckily for me, New Google Sites released an update that allows users to embed HTML code.   

My first task was to work on the word wall. I chose Padlet because it's been useful in the past. Plus, Padlet will allow us to do more than just post words for learning activities.

Here's what I did to embed the word wall ... and a few tips.

1. Make a Padlet

If you don't have an account at, I suggest making one connected to your Google account to avoid adding another username and password to your list. Once you have your account created, log in and make Padlet. The settings and customization options are in the upper right.

Play around. It's fairly intuitive.

2. Add Words to the Padlet

To add words, click the plus button in the bottom right or double click anywhere on the Padlet. Click, hold, and drag to arrange the words if the Padlet is in the canvas arrangement.

The canvas arrangement allows users more control over placement of the items. Other arrangements are more organized, but I like the canvas because it gives us more opportunities to organize words according to whatever parameters we want to explore (see the ideas at the end of this post).

3. Copy the Embed Code

The embed code can be copied from the settings menu that opens from the right side.

4. Make a Page in New Google Sites 

Making new pages is quick and easy. Go to the pages menu on the right and click the add a page button at the button.

5. Paste the Embed Code 

In the white space, double click and choose the embed icon at the 9 o'clock position. This opens the embed options. Choose embed code, and paste the code from Padlet. 

6. Adjust the Padlet on the Page

I like to drag the Padlet as far right and left as possible and as far down as the Padlet extends.

7. View the Finished Page

This is my favorite part. I always check the site page when significant changes are made because mistakes can be major distractions during a lesson. Plus, I get to walk in my students shoes a bit with hopes of learning how to better facilitate their learning.

Padlet Activities With Word Walls

1. Copy Posts to Other Padlets

If you hover over a Padlet post, options pop up. Click on the three horizontal dots for more options and choose "copy post." This opens a list of your Padlets on the right from which you can choose the destination.

If you want students to build detail around a word from the word wall, copy the word to another Padlet where they can share ideas and deepen their knowledge. 

2. Make Connections 

I made this Padlet below to explore the "isms" that set up the conditions leading to WWI.

3. Add Images

Images are so powerful. My students leave my class having searched for images that relate to our content at least three times per week.

To add images to a Padlet post, click the icons on the bottom the post and grab an image URL to paste in the menu that opens from the right.

4. Color Code Posts

Whether it's nouns or verbs, carnivores or herbivores, similarities or differences, rational or irrational numbers, or fact or opinion, color coding is visual, fun, and great processing for young brains. 

These skills support formulating arguments and writing thesis statements. It also helps kids develop organizational skills for memory or managing material possessions. 

Hover over the post and click the three horizontal dots (more actions). Choose the color at the top, and discuss it with the class. 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

"My Dog Ate My Chromebook" and Other Excuses

Classrooms and kids haven't changed much. Sure, I use a lot less paper and about half of the lesson content comes from my students, but the usual suspects still make an appearance.

Kids still make excuses and get off task. Only now, daydreaming or passing notes looks more like online gaming with a friend across the room and Snapchat. It's especially noticeable when the gamers cheer at the same time and look at each other with failing discretion.

"My dog ate my homework" is not something I'll ever hear because of the nature of my paperless classroom. Even if a dog ate a Chromebook, all of the work is on the cloud. 

No worries. No more excuses. ... or so I thought.

1. My Chromebook doesn't work.

The three most common reasons for a site or app not loading on a Chromebook include (1) updates waiting for the machine to reboot, (2) WiFi connection, and (3) the site server is not responding.

The last reason almost never happens, yet the first happens weekly for many of my teenage learners. Its such an easy way to trouble shoot that students need to make it a habit to look for the update icon in the bottom right before telling me they can't do their work because of technical issues.

It's simple. Kids close their Chromebooks when the bell rings and open them at the next class, which is not a problem until you get to the next morning and the machine has not rebooted (or updated) in four days.
TIP: Chromebooks need to rest just like we do. Shutting it down routinely ensures that updates are ready when you need them.   
2. I Forgot my charger.

Kids used to show up without a pencil, now it's the charger. It's entertaining when I hear them comparing their battery life to negotiate who needs the spare charger the most. 
TIP: Our school provides room chargers for this very reason. #21stCenturyProblems

3. The link didn't work.

This is the excuse that really takes the wind out of my sail. The worse case is when it's only one or two students. 
TIP: The most common reason for only a few students having trouble with a link to a Google Doc, for example, include updates and account login issues.

4. Can we just play Kahoot!

I love having fun and playing games, so I try to play either Kahoot! or Quizlet Live once or twice a week. I've found, however, that playing too much makes kids think it's going to be an everyday thing. 

The only time I give in to a Kahoot! request is when it's the end of the day on a Friday or the day before a major holiday break.  
TIP: Kahoot! and Quizlet Live are great, but you could also try math games, Smarty Pins (map game),, and many others. Click the link for more ideas, and share games your students enjoy in the comments below.

5. I didn't know where to find the homework.

Even though my students have all of the lesson materials available on a course website and the weekly agenda posted to Classroom, they still ask, "What's for homework?" I humor them and answer politely because I know that their executive functioning isn't firing all cylinders. 

It usually takes about three weeks to get more than half of my students on the right page. Unfortunately, there is usually a student or two who is afraid to ask and hides behind class participation and talent on assessments. These kids eventually break down and admit that they are lost. This can happen as late as two months into the school year, and it always makes me feel like I don't pay attention well enough. 
TIP: Quiz your students on the classroom routines. Make it into a scavenger hunt that also requires them to ask one another for answers. Let's be honest. Kids remember more from teaching each other than being taught by adults. 

6. The Google Doc was view only.

I used to tell students to make a copy to edit the doc, repeating myself for months. Now, I just say something like, "If only there was another way." 

The blame is not fully on the child. They come from classrooms that use all paper to rooms that have no paper (although I was accommodate individual requests with a smile). 

Although this sounds like a problem, it's really not a big deal for me anymore. Most kids on my rosters have been 1:1 Chromebooks since sixth grade. These days, I'm somewhat entertained by this excuse. 
TIP: Share a copy link or write a prompt to copy the document to enable editing. The latter will establish a routine, especially if it's done consistently throughout the year. 

7. My phone is out of storage.

This is another excuse that isn't as common in my classroom because many new phones offer a lot of storage. It used to be a point of contention – kids would delete apps because they had too many pics or videos. Unfortunately, the education apps were the first to go. 

Once in a while, I get a student who insists on not using a Chromebook. These kids struggle to keep up on their phones and often miss out on key steps in the process because their phone is less consistent than the Chromebook.
TIP: Suggest to students that they store photos and videos on cloud storage or set up a reminder to dump their photos onto their computer once a month.

8. I don't like Chromebooks.

These same kids are usually the ones whose parents bought them a Macbook Pro and expect them to use it. Nothing against Macbooks, but the users are often less flexible in a Google-based classroom like mine. They like the brand. 

I don't fight these battles. They usually work themselves out, and I applaud the kids who figure out how to make their Macs work with Google. I did it for years and still insist on using an iPhone, even though it's mostly Google apps. 
TIP: These students will eventually see that the students who use Chromebooks have fewer device-based issues and come over to the other side. Access issues are usually an update or the user account is wrong, especially if the user has both school and personal Google accounts. 

9. How will I talk to my parents?

Most of us are tethered to our phones, which is something I talk about on a weekly basis with my students. They need to build confidence that they can survive with or without their smartphones.

When I even suggest that phones shouldn't be allowed in schools, they scowl and insist that they need to be able to communicate with their parents. I suggest to them that they ask their mom or dad how they communicated with their parents when they were in high school. 

TIP: Kids never ask their parents because they already know the answer. They just need someone to remind them that the phone is perhaps too personal and should not be a necessity for survival.    

10. Another password?

I currently only use apps and resources that accept Google sign up and log in. Most of the best educational tools provide this option, so it's not an issue anymore. But I still remember students saying, "Not another password!"

TIP: The issue these days has more to do with students not paying attention to which Google account is signed in to their laptop or phone. ... another reason why Chromebooks are better for classrooms. It's almost fool proof. 

11. The WiFi is bad (or not working).

When all else fails, blame it on the WiFi. The funny thing to me is the fact that most of them don't even know what WiFi stands for. We do a terrible job teaching them about the tools they use everyday.

TIP: Being knowledgeable about the Internet, their gateway to the world, has to be as important as learning to drive and own a car responsibly.

12. This file won't upload. 

Some apps default to a certain filter, like "Recent," when accessing Google Drive. On occasion, the file that the student knows is in the downloads or another folder is not showing up in the app to which the upload is directed. This is can be discouraging for some students and cause unwanted stress. 
TIP: I show them that these apps can be "buggy" and that we need to try different approaches. If the WiFi is working well, we refresh the browser. Then, we look for another way to access the file from the app or place the file in a different place in Drive. This works almost every time, unless it's a destination server issue. We can't fix that. 
Thanks for reading, and please share your favorite connected classroom excuses in the comments below.