Sunday, June 26, 2016

Using DocHub to Edit PDFs in Google Drive

It was three days before summer, and students were scrambling to finish the year. By the time a particular student approached me, I was at the end of my rope, tied a knot, and hung on – not the best place to be when a child needs you the most.

He asked me if the work he missed was on Google Classroom, to which I relied, "Yes, and don't ask me anything else. You'll need to figure this out on your own. I'm out of copies. Make it happen." The work has been on Classroom since day one. 

I wasn't proud of what came out of my mouth because of the obvious loss of patience for this student. The whole course had been a scramble for him, but that didn't let me off the hook. Little did I know that he was about to surprise me. 

I Love Surprises

When I opened my inbox the following morning, I noticed a document with DocHub in the file name. I was familiar with DocHub because I used it to add text to PDFs (see video below) this past year and couldn't help but ignore everything else. It was from the student who I had been short with the previous day.

He surprised me with his initiative. The assignment PDF was in Classroom, so he used DocHub to complete it and email it to me right away. Perhaps this was done out of fear that I would not accept the work after that day, or maybe it was the way he would have done all of the assignments had my directions not been so limiting.

dochub, edit pdf, google drive
Since my biggest wish is for kids to take ownership of their education, I was elated that a student was opening my eyes to something that was right in front of me all this time.
Applying the Lesson

Next year marks the beginning of our 1:1 Chromebook initiative. Using DocHub to add text to PDFs will be helpful because our textbook workbooks are PDFs. Plus, many of the practice work I've used in the past can still be used in a paperless setting.

I'm not against paper, and certainly break up the screen time for my students. But this way of working is useful, especially when we are trying to create a collaborative environment where kids own the learning. 

What is DocHub?

DocHub is an online PDF editor with Google integration. When you open a PDF in Drive (or from Classroom), the "Open With" options in the header will include DocHub if the app is installed. 

Interactive PDFs cannot be edited directly in Drive. DocHub restores this capability. For example, the AP U.S. History curriculum framework has text fields where teachers can add the illustrative example choices. These fields are still available in DocHub.

On the other hand, the DBQ worksheet that my late-finisher (student) completed was not an interactive PDF, so he added text boxes.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

5 Activities With Google Slides Q&A

It's the ongoing work of a 21st Century classroom teacher to find ways to engage students by turning them into contributors. Google Slides Q&A is one of those tools that adds efficiency to the learning process without adding more preparation time to an already overloaded schedule.


It only took the second try for my students to embrace this way of working. The best part is how easy it is to put the question on the screen. If you haven't tried it, don't wait. 

I recommend setting the big screen as a second monitor (extension of your screen). This allows you to have the questions and speakers notes on the monitor visible to the speaker.

Here are handful of activities I've tried.

1. Ask questions to clarify terminology.

Depth can be achieved when learners have the opportunity to ask questions. The slide below was completed after a period of practice on Quizlet. Another way this could used is if you have learners group some of the terms based on themes.

vocabulary instruction

2. Backchannel questions and comments.

During a video, ask your students to share their questions as the video plays. Instruct them to listen and synthesize as much of the main ideas as possible without initially worrying much about the details. If they participate properly, they will all have questions.

3. Engage learners through inquiry.  

Present an image, for example, and ask learners to write the questions about the image that they want answered. This could collect responses for the "want to know" column of a KWL chart.


inquiry, student engagement

4. KWL Chart

Participation in making a classroom KWL chart increases when individuals write their own before sharing with the class. The other day, for example, I asked my kids to write down the K and W in there notes. Maybe five students did it. I asked them to contribute to the Q&A stream, and three times as many contributed. All were reading and many of the ones who didn't contribute content used the voting buttons. 

The content was still written on a piece of chart paper and left on the classroom wall (a flat screen would be better), but it was created with more engagement and in less time than any other KWL we had done.  

My favorite part: The quiet students who often do not feel like being heard can have a say in what happens. This is especially true since the anonymous option was added. 

high-yield strategies

5. Receive Responses

The Q&A can go the other direction, as it often does in a classroom. The benefits of having the online response includes the conditions for quieter students to respond. Additionally, quiet time for all means fewer thought interruptions, and voting on peer responses exercises evaluation. 

If you need to access the Q&A history, no worries. The "Tools" dropdown has a Q&A history. This image shows the history from a recent warmup that collected responses to an essential question. 

essential questions, understanding by design

Monday, June 6, 2016

Don't Be Afraid of Wikipedia!

"I hate Gmail," a colleague exclaimed. "I hate the threads. You have to click certain things, and something always gets lost. Why can't it be like Hotmail. Everything is separated." 

Feeling for the frustrated colleague, who felt the need to take Google out on me (because I like Gmail), I emailed him the steps to turn off the conversation view, effectively eliminating his message threads. 


This issue got me thinking of a much larger problem that needs to be addressed. Why do so many people draw conclusions without much (or any) evidence? How can we feel so strongly and negatively toward something without much consideration for a solution?

I don't know how people come up with these ideas because I'm most often the kind of person who looks for the strength in something. I guess we are a highly faithful species.

Bottom line: It's not 1955 anymore. We have the Internet, which means we have no excuse for not consulting sources beyond the front porch. 

Let me explain.

Take Wikipedia. It can be edited, so it must be extra vulnerable to inaccuracies, right? Have you tried? Mess it up someday. See what happens and how long it takes to be corrected. You will be surprised at how quickly the most insignificant mistake is corrected. I've done it. Your turn.

It's typical of our society to make important decisions on mostly faith. We need to be careful, however, not to have so much faith in information we could easily find through a little critical thinking.

While I'm on the rant of resources, let's take on textbooks. Why do so many teachers find security in textbooks? My jaded response: Use textbooks as a resource, not as a scope and sequence.

Although the textbook industry is shrinking and changing, it's still huge. I think education spends too much money on information that could be found for free. What's more, the free information is often on a platform that attracts a lot of scholarly collaboration. Try editing the mistakes out of your textbook.

The books on the shelf cannot be edited or peer reviewed for an indefinite amount of time, but they will always load fast. Books are still important. I just cannot bring myself to make them my go-to with Internet access almost all of the time. In fact, I can't remember the last time I was offline.

Even textbooks have acknowledged that books have limitations that a connected society cannot overlook. To compete in the industry, most publishers have provided online textbooks and many multimedia resources and other interactive learning materials.

Gmail? Wikipedia? Textbooks?

The real issue is a lack of interest in change. I don't think people are afraid of change. I think that they wish the work they have done was still relevant. Maybe they're worn out by the rate of change and the wrong directions technology has taken them.

It could be any number of these possibilities and so much more. The fact of the matter is that we are living in a connected society. College requires it, and jobs require it. This means a lot of things.

Not only do we need to teach our kids how to use online computing apps, we also need to teach them how to think critically about the implications of a connected society.

How does this "Wikipedia" issue fit into my mission?

I'm working on a way of thinking about teaching, learning, and how technology facilitates the two. It's about the power of sharing stories. 

The underlying point is to view the world as a text. View it as the narrative unfolds when we wake up, begin making decisions, and finishes through our dreams. Everybody has a story, and everybody's story is worth telling. 

My role as an educator is to provide my students with an education that allows them to identify their story and articulate it in a way and through a medium that best accesses the conditions in which they thrive. 

If your story is that Wikipedia is not trustworthy, then okay. I hope you can live with a superficial telling of things that you don't quite understand. But if your story has depth and includes critical thoughts about the world and your place in it, your story will rise above the others. It will be important, like you.