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