Saturday, March 18, 2017

From Old PowerPoints to eLearning With iSpring

Most people can find their way around Word, PowerPoint, and email. For many users, making websites, building courses in an LMS, or even sharing links on Google Classroom seems intimidating. But new kids are coming through the doors every year in the age of the connected classroom, so teachers find ways to integrate new tools.

One of the best places to start integration is by considering how you may want use your old materials in a new way. Take, for example, your PPT or other slide presentations. Consider using them as a foundation for integrating assessment, video, audio, interactive images, discussions, and much more. I recently found iSpring, and it does all of those and more.

The thing that impressed me most about iSpring was the ability to bring together so many learning tools that I have already created over the years. This is an invaluable opportunity for teachers who want to build on what they've been doing, not start over with new technology.

I was most interested in the variety of assessments iSpring provides as well as the ability to embed content from sites like Quizlet. The following videos show how simple it can be to make interactive quizzes and embed content into PPT presentations.

Inserting Quizzes Into PPT

Embedding Quizlet Into PPT

Tutorials From iSpring

The tutorials on YouTube are fantastic. Here's a playlist on the quiz maker.

What's Next?

Online courses are going to be offered at increasing rates over the next ten years or so. The nice thing about iSpring is that you can enhance your face-to-face materials and later use them to add content to an elearning course.

iSpring is addressing the frustration of remaking too many content pieces to adjust to changing trends in workflow. In other words, this software concept has a long shelf life.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Visualize Collaborative Text Analysis With Prism

"These kids don't even know how to read. I have to teach them that, too?" I hear this every year from high school history teachers. The answer is simple. Yes, we have to continue to exercise critical reading skills, and a great place to start is with main ideas.

Finding the main idea is often a good candidate for the highlighter, and I wondered if there was a way to do this collaboratively. Sure, students can do this with Google Docs, but my curiosity led me to a tool called Prism.

Prism is powerful tool with a simple design. It's geared for collaboration and serves fundamental needs for literacy development.

The task is to analyze a text by using different color highlighters that correlate to predetermined facets. As learners highlight the text, the font changes color. The final visualization of the text shows color differences and size differences – highlighted words with a higher frequency are larger.

I love simple tools, especially ones that are intuitive to use, like Prism. Here are some of the benefits.

1. Finding Main Ideas

Learners at all levels need to practice finding main ideas in texts that push their reading level. By seeing what peers are reporting as main ideas, it's can be easier to make the correction on one's own rather than by the pen of a teacher.

After a discussion about the largest frequency highlighted words, next steps could include focusing on the most frequent words to write a summary of the text. This is an easy assignment to differentiate, too.
  • Lower levels can illustrate the main ideas and use the words to label the illustration. 
  • Middle levels can write one-sentence summaries. 
  • The higher levels can write a three- to five-sentence paragraph and include relevant inferences beyond the text. 
2. Grouping and Labeling

The highlighter colors and labels are typically determined before the text analysis, but that doesn't mean students need to be left out.

Instruct students to skim the text to determine the themes that should be used for a closer analysis. This teaches students critical reading strategies need continual reinforcement throughout their secondary years.

Categorizing and naming the categories helps learners organize information to unpack in an essay, for example. Other applications of categorizing include writing efficient emails and agendas, skills that are invaluable in our fast-paced connected workforce.  

3. Working With ELLs

Students with limited English proficiency need extra practice finding main ideas. Sometimes the main ideas are all they can hope to extract from a text, depending on the level.

Another of Prism include searching for key vocabulary. With so many different levels of proficiency in a class, the visualization of the trouble words helps prioritize the us of class time.

Lastly, ELLs need to feel confident. They are dealing with so many different struggles that require confidence to proceed. Anytime learners can see the responses of their peers, they often feel less alone and more confident.

4. Making Thinking Visible

This is probably the most important approach to learning that any classroom could provide. Using digital technology to bring together and visualize the thinking of the room allows learners to benefit from all peers at once.

The sample text below was often an important text that left my students' memories as quickly as it arrived. By visualizing the analysis, my students could see their decisions and compare their work to that of their peers.

5. Collaboration 

This is a word that gets thrown around a lot in education. These days, everything is about collaboration because working with others to make something is engaging.

My favorite observation while using Prism was how easily students provided their reasoning for the different results. The debrief on a Prism activity is far more enjoyable than a typical paper-based (or PDF) text analysis (yawn).

6. Student Voice

When the lesson content is focused on contributions from students, they are engaged because they had a say in what the class is doing, even if it is analyzing one part of a text or another.

We're not there, yet, but I'd like to have my students make suggestions for text analysis. This would be the student-centered activity design. A good way to work toward such a goal would be to involve students in the process of determining what to label the highlighter colors (as described in number 2 of this list).

7. Self-Evaluation

 As we look at the Prism results, questions as to why certain words are larger than others begin to guide our discussion. Along with these questions, students are also asking themselves how the group results relate to their own. In other words, they are questioning how helpful their contributions were to the group.

Speech Analysis Example

The following activity includes an excerpt from Otto von Bismarck's "Blood and Iron" speech. The highlight labels are "nationalism" and "militarism."

The most commonly highlighted words were ...
  • Nationalism: "... healthy life of the state." (second image)
  • Militarism: "... gather its forces ..." and " ... blood and iron." (third image)

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

9 Posts About Mostly Google Slides

The following posts are about learning with Google Slides. I've enjoyed the various projects that can be made with Slides. Most importantly, my students get to exercise communication and tech skills.

Enough About PowerPoint: Rethinking Slides For Student-Centered Learning

10 Ways to Use Google Slides Like a Pro

Hyperdocs With Google Slides

5 Activities With Google Slides Q&A

10 Activities With Google Slides

Appsmashing Google Slides and Poll Everywhere

Make a Jeopardy Template With Google Slides

Quizzes With QR Codes

Maps and Timelines ...

YouTube Channel

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Enough About PowerPoint: Rethinking Slides For Student-Centered Learning

The world has enough PowerPoints, and it doesn't need any more. I've been contemplating these ideas since first hearing them from Alan November.

Instead of having students make new slide presentations, he suggests making the lesson about using the Internet to find a good one. This is all part of his position on how critical thinking must be taught in the context of searching the web.

Although searching for ready-made slide presentations is an activity with a lot of potential, we can go straight to an à la carte approach with Google Images. Since sites like Slide Share started using clipper tools, I've noticed a lot of individual slides showing up in image searches.

This approach to presentation making provides several opportunities for critical thinking and tech skills. Students learn how to handle image files – a crucial skill for business and lifestyle media sharing – and practice framing searches and evaluating the results.

We used Verso App to upload and discuss the slides before working in groups to decide which images to contribute to the final presentation. Verso provides a safe place for learners to participate in discussions. Anonymity among the students is maintained, while providing the user identities to the teacher.

Here's what we did.

1. Upload Images 

In this activity, students were looking for images that related to the causes and effects of the Spanish-American War. Some found summary slides, while others searched for specific causes and effects. These included political cartoons and headlines for yellow journalism and the USS Maine wreckage photo, to name a few.

Verso has an upload option for responses. I know that this step may seem like extra work, but the first two steps with Verso allow for the deeper thinking in this activity. Take it away, and we're back to making PowerPoints for the sake of it and missing out on critical thinking that our kids need to develop.

2. Discussion

Students commented by guessing which event the image represents. If students agreed with a comment already written, they liked the comment. While they commented and liked the correct ones, I reviewed their work and paused to reinforce expectations face-to-face as needed.

The way I designed this step lends to skills that support responsible use of social media. We could add an argument piece by instructing students to provide evidence as to why the image is a particular event. I would add something like that if the final product were a thesis statement or summary paragraph.

3. Contribute Slides

We organized into groups to determine which images should be added to the Google Drive folder, which had editing permissions for every student. This was a simple step in the process, but I thought it was important to get their heads out of the screens for a bit to talk it out face-to-face. 

4. Final Edits

As a class, we decided what stays and what goes. I labeled the images based on cause, effect, or trash. Then, we deleted all the trash images and were left with the final cut. Movement could be added to this step by instructing your students to do a total body response – one side of the room is cause, the other is effect, etc.

This step was a nice formative assessment and repeated review. At this point, my students know the causes and effects because they had dealt with them in so many ways that make thinking visible. 

5. Make a Presentation

If you haven't checked out extensions by Alice Keeler and Matt Miller, put it on your list. Drive Slides is the name of the one we used to make the slide presentation. It automatically makes a Google Slides document with each image in the Drive folder on a separate slide.

Before I learned about this extension, my students added images to Drive folders for a variety of reasons. The automatic slide presentation that the Drive image viewer makes was good enough. Drive Slides opens this learning routine up to so many more possibilities. Most importantly, it saves a lot of time.

6. Summarize

Students worked in groups to summarize the issue presented on the slide. They wrote in the presenter notes, and the slides were printed as a PDF with notes included (image below). In this way, Google Slides is an e-book creator, a flashcard maker, or anything that surfaces when you think beyond the slide presentation as a final product.

7. Reflect 

We use a routine set of questions for reflection. The goal with these questions is to practice metacognitive skills. Without this step, the lesson becomes less "sticky."
  1. What did you do?
  2. What challenges did you face, and did you overcome them?
  3. What did you learn?
  4. How can you use what you've learned beyond this class?

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.

Link to Slides. Make a copy. Make a template. Share with the world. Do what you want, as long as it's fair.

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.