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 padlet.com, 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. 

"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), FreeRice.com, 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.

Chunking Content With Google Slides Video Options

Long videos can be boring. Even though kids ask me for movies, they tune in and out. A long video strategically chunked, however, can open up new opportunities for student engagement. 

My colleagues are great. We collaborate routinely and share resources like videos and questions that follow. I often shy away from these activities because of the length of the videos, but this time I tried to think of a way to chunk the video.

In the past, I used YouTube links that start at a certain time code, but that didn't solve my problem of needing to stop the videos. 

Recently, I remembered hat the new Google Slides video options allow users to determine where a video will start and stop. Here's what I did.

Google Slides I used in the video

Make a copy and check it out.

1. Choose Slide

2. Insert Video

3. Video Options 

4. Present