Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The Gamification Chronicles Part 1: Kahoot

"Gamification" is transforming education. The thought of bringing games into the classroom may seem like a "step backward" for some teachers as they think of gaming and games as a distraction, but they are increasingly permeating into apps, open source software and other tutorials which can create opportunities to put a slightly different spin on traditional learning products and assessment tools. My first experience with gamification was an extension activity that I did as a math teacher years ago called "Lure of the Labyrinth" wherein students had to apply their mathematical understanding to solve puzzles and challenges by using mathematical understanding. They absolutely loved it.

Since then, "gamification" has transformed my classroom as well, and on a variety of levels and products. (Although a lot of this is due to my COETAIL instructor Robert Appino) I'm going to share some tools and also showcase some products which I think are really cool over the coming months that have elements of gaming which can make this a reality in your practice.

Enter "Kahoot" 
Kahoot has been sweeping our middle school. Up till then, I used quizlet as a review tool for vocabulary and concepts, but since I've used Kahoot, my kids prefer it hands down. There are some other select response tools out there as well such as Socrative which I still use for exit interviews, but Kahoot is a bit different.

The Kahoot question screen. Students respond on their devices and points are given to correct answers and quick response.

Kahoot is a platform wherein a teacher creates an account and can have a number of different of different assessment types-quiz, survey or discussion. Whence you do, you "play" your Kahoot and a game number is produced which sends students to the room via this log-on porthole.

How Does Kahoot Work? 
When you are in the room, the teacher/game master dictates the pace of the game. They can click on users to boot them from the room or stop the game re-mediate instruction or provide feedback. For instance, with questions that the majority of the class got correct, we quickly moved on. However, with questions that a high percentage of students got wrong, I'll pause for a minute and clear up any misconceptions. There is an eerie game show type of music in the background which adds to the excitement. Give it a try!

Kids get excited when they get questions right!

Monday, 20 April 2015

Using Multiple Correct Answers with "Flubaroo"

Here's a quick tutorial if you want to use multiple correct answers with the text response type question with google forms and the grading add-on "Flubaroo". Having text type answers may seem difficult to standardize grading as opposed to multiple choice or check-box type responses, but does also make the student to dig deeper in order to show what they know and not use easy process of elimination which may may bias the rigor of Google forms as assessments.

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Sunday, 12 April 2015

Use Named Ranges and Countif for Amazing Data Collation

This is a handy function that you might want to use if you want to tabulate how many people indicate something on a survey that you want to "push" to another spreadsheet in order to look for trends in the data by dynamic graphs in real-time. Enjoy!

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Friday, 10 April 2015

Using the Query Function to Filter and Sort Data

Earth week is around the corner. To make the students more aware of their trash output, we're using the first day of earth week to have students "carry their trash" instead of disposing of it to make them more aware of what they consume and throw away. I made a simple google form for them to submit how many and what type of trash students collected at the end of the day.

One of my projects is to help students visualize this information from the data that comes in as it's submitted. The "Query" formula has become my saving grace and is a super cool way to filter data based on a specific column and push it into another tab so we can look for trends from the data. Here is a tutorial which shows you how to do it. Enjoy!

Sunday, 5 April 2015

The Power of Study Guides

Study guides might seem a bit "old school" and with all the rhetoric on 21st learning skills, many educators seem to disregarding these resources for other media. I feel that I'm a teacher from both worlds, and know that in-depth understanding of topics require sound foundational content knowledge which is best built over multiple class periods and is assessed in a cycle where instruction and assessment drive one another. I've seen countless differentiated monstrosities of student work where student's couldn't explain the most basic learning outcomes afterwards. In short, if students are encouraged to be content creators, we must make sure that web tools redefine what is possible, not cover up gaps in the learning with flashy presentation tools. 

I favor project-based learning, but use lessons and assessment frequently in the background to make sure that students (and I) understand what was really understood during the lesson to help guide instruction and re mediate if necessary. 

What Study Guides Do
Study guides should be formatted to have the intended learning outcomes of the unit. As my units are nearly 2 months long, I have them broken down into "chunks" of two weeks of lessons that usually have 3 lessons and a formative lab. If you've ever done "Understanding by Design", it's basically taking the intended learning outcomes and making them understandable to the students. I like Google docs because groups can work on them collaboratively and share their knowledge before whole-class shares. 

What Study Guides Have
This is completely up to the teacher, and you may want to explore samples online through a quick Google Search and see how formatting best supports your content area. Here are some parts that I like: 
  • Target Vocabulary
  • Summaries of major understandings
  • "I can statements" 
  • Practice areas before quizzes or other assessments

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Tips for Customizing and Improving your Google Forms Functionality and Efficiency

Continuing to Next Page
If you're using Forms for formative assessment, you can select perimeters that if students select specific responses, they're directed to another page for review materials or remediation. 

Clicking "Go to page based on answer" next to the multiple choice box.

Shuffling Option Order
On the subtle "advanced settings" feature under question, select "shuffle option order" to prevent students from looking over each other's shoulders during assessments. This varies the choices among the respondents. Just don't do it for questions that have choices like "b and c" or "all of the above".

Shuffle question order to vary up answers among students

Shuffle Question Order
I like to use section headers which correspond to specific lessons, but if this isn't your bag, consider "shuffling question order" which gives the same questions but in different order for each respondent.

Select the "Shuffle Question Order" to vary up which question the students see first, second. 

Use Data Validation with Checkboxes
I like to use checkboxes with more than one correct answer to build more critical thinking and interpretation into assessments. With checkboxes, you can select "advanced settings" and select data validation to ensure that students select a certain number of boxes. For example, if two answers are required to get the question correct, you can set a condition that doesn't allow the question to be answered until two choices are selected. 

Advanced settings under a "checkboxes" question allows you set submission perimeters.

Customize the Submission Message
The default message is "Your form has been submitted" although you can write a message which is to be displayed after submission as a joke, (see below) or instructions on what to do next.

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Saturday, 7 March 2015

Thinking of Becoming a Google Educator or Certified Teacher?

"Most people don't know the difference between a Google Educator and Google Certified Teacher" Dan Taylor told me in his presentation in Hanoi last Fall. How right he is.

I just finished my Google Educator exams last week, and after being accepted into Google Teacher Academy for the Certified Teacher program two years ago, I thought I'd share what I've learned from each in case you'd like to develop your skills as a teacher with an emphasis on educational technology. First though, let me compare and contrast the two:

What Is a Google Educator?

A Google Educator has a documented proficiency of using Google Apps tools with 80% mastery or more. They have a solid understanding of Gmail, Calendar, Sites, Drive and an elective which can be Chrome, Chrome books or Android. Google has put together a series of free resources on their center for education to help people learn this content. After you have done that:
  • You must take and pass each test with a score of 80% or higher for passing. Go to the Google Testing center and create an account where you can purchase each test for $15.00
  • All five tests must be taken within a span of 90 days. 
  • If you fail a test, you have 7 days before you can take it again. 
We formed a series of study groups for this on Wednesday after school and went home and took the test shortly after. For some modules (Sites) that were a bit more difficult, some deferred to the weekend to allow for more time to read and study. Here are some FAQ's about the experience, but what I found about the Google Educator course was:
  • I really improved my efficiency of Google Apps. There were a lot of functions right under my nose that I immediately put into practice. This may vary from person to person however and a friend of mine who teaches early childhood didn't anticipate using Google sites with her 4 year olds, but may build one for parents some day. Ditto on google spreadsheets if working with data is something you seldom do. 
  • It gave me ideas about what is possible. A number of our platforms that we use at our school could easily be replaced. For example, we use "moodle" to organize due dates for student work, but why not Google calendar? 

What is a Google Certified Teacher?
Google Certified Teachers are teachers that show exceptional creativity and innovative skills in using Google apps in teaching practice and student learning. It's recommended that one gets their educator status first, but I did it the other way around. There is an online application and certification camps throughout the year and around the world. Best of all: it's free to attend.

My GTA Cohort in Stockholm, Sweden 2013

It can be a bit difficult to get in as though. I was accepted after my second application and many people I met at the summit also hadn't gotten in their "first time" either. I have met teachers that have applied a half dozen times and still haven't gotten in. Some pointers to consider:
  • Make a great video. A one-minute video is part of the application and should highlight your innovation and creativity. I'm a little embarrassed at the quality of my video as my skills have grown so much since then, but here it is
  • Share your learning. Google certified teachers actively share their learning with the larger community. Present and share such innovations at conferences, or within your school. Google looks for that in candidates. Having a blog, active twitter profile and history of presenting is a plus.
The two-day summit was a breakneck pace of awesome cutting edge applications and within 6 months, I was able to weave them into my content area of practice. I also met some fantastic people with whom I chat online. There were some zeitgeists there such as Jay Atwood, Warren Apel and Wendy Gordon who have been dynamite resources. My big take aways from Google Teacher Academy were:
  • The connections you make. I've consulted Warren Apel once or twice on some spreadsheet problems I was having when integrating them into sites and he was more than helpful. Most of trainers are regular contributors to Google + communities. 
  • What you learned. If you play enough with the features of Gmail, Drive, etc, you'll learn most of the features. However, with GTA, I learned numerous other tools such as add-ons, maps features and statistical formulas that I wouldn't have learned if someone hadn't deliberately taught me. 
  • Google Education Summits. Being a Google Certified teacher gives you a fast-track to present at Google education summits which happen all around the world. 
The Bottom Line
The educator course was extremely practical, although I use such tools on a regular basis. If you're hoping to develop your efficiency of Google Apps in your practice, the educator course is for you. However, if you're looking for inspiration and cutting edge beta projects, the Google Teacher Academy is for you. Hope to see you Googlers at the next summit, and post any questions in the comment box below!