Thursday, October 19, 2017

Celebrate Digital Citizenship Week

Need ideas on how to celebrate Digital Citizenship Week? Check out these activities and resources that are sure to help you.
Digital Citizenship Week (October 16 – 22) is the perfect time for you and your students to reflect on the role technology plays in your lives. It’s an opportunity to stress the importance of positive online habits, to learn about digital safety and responsibility, and to encourage acts of kindness. Whether you’re looking  to celebrate just this week or throughout the year, we have activities and resources that are sure to help you.


Three Kind Things

The latest social media app that all the kids are crazy about is the New Nice App. The app comes with a twist—it’s nice. The tbh app, short for “to be honest,” works by letting users send anonymous compliments to their friends and contacts. That being said, I created an activity that focuses on being kind. With this Google Slide activity, students write three kind things they will do. Next, they design their friendly ghost. The ghost doesn’t even have to look like Casper! Try it here by choosing an empty slide and listing three nice things you will do today. Get a copy of this Three Kind Things Ghost Activity here.

Positive Digital Footprint

A digital footprint is a trail of data you create while using the Internet. It includes the websites you visit, emails you send, and information you submit to online services. Have students think about what their digital footprint will look like 10 to 15 years from now. Allow them to illustrate their footprint with words, images, or videos. Try it here by choosing an empty slide. Get a copy of this Positive Digital Footprint Activity here.

A Good Digital Citizen Grid

Being a good digital citizen is more than being a safe Internet user. It’s about being responsible and smart and having respect for yourself and others. Have your students engage in conversation about the importance of being a good digital citizen through Flipgrid. Check out this example from Berkeley County School District, where elementary students responded with their thoughts. Try it out by responding at If prompted for a code, use aa3f8a.

More Activities

Don’t forget to visit the blog Google-ize Your Digital Citizenship that I wrote last year. It contains more activities, such as a Digital Citizenship Pledge, a Responsible Use Policy Scavenger Hunt, and more.


Below are more awesome resources to take advantage of.
Be Internet Awesome – Google, in collaboration with online safety experts, developed the Be Internet Awesome program. The program teaches the fundamentals of digital citizenship and safety. In addition to a curriculum for teachers, the program includes Interland, an online game that puts these critical lessons into hands-on practice for students.
BrainPOP’s Free Digital Citizenship Resources – BrainPOP’s free digital citizenship resources offer schools ready-made learning pathways. These pathways explore topics such as Information Privacy, Media Literacy, and Digital Etiquette. Be sure to check out the Teaching Resources, too. They include a guide, video overviews,  rubrics, and lesson plans. More information can be found at Making the Online World a Better Place Starts With You. Get registered here.
Common Sense Media Digital Citizenship Week Activities –Common Sense Media lists activities you can do to celebrate kids using technology safely, responsibly, and respectfully. Below are a few resources from Common Sense Media.
Microsoft Educator Community Digital Citizenship Resources – The Microsoft Educator Community offers a digital citizenship course for educators. Educators can earn a “Microsoft Digital Citizenship Champion” badge that can proudly be displayed on their profile once they complete the course. Furthermore, educators get access to a OneNote Notebook full of resources and lesson plans.
PBS Webonauts Academy – Webonauts Internet Academy is a web game for 8-10 year olds. It gives them an opportunity to have some fun while exploring what it means to be a good digital citizen. It is quite engaging. In addition, it becomes all the more powerful when parents and teachers use the game to spark more conversations about digital citizenship.

Don’t Forget

Remember, the ISTE Student NETS #2 is itself called Digital Citizenship. As you build digital citizenship lessons, look at the indicators. These will help you in creating clear targets that students will understand and can achieve.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Back Up Your Google Drive With CloudHQ

Are you in a pinch, overwhelmed at making backups of hundreds of Google Documents in your Google Suites for Education or Non-Profit account? As wonderful as Google Suites for Education or Non-Profit are, making backups of your Google Docs can be a pain. What's more, if you are using a work-related account (e.g. school or non-profit organization), you may find it convenient to have a backup of all your work docs.

Making your own backups can be a pain. You have to take time out of  a busy schedule to create the backups. Sometimes, the backups don't work as well as you'd hope since Google gives you backups of files and folders as gigantic multi-gig files.Why not take the easy way out? can provide the support you need and ease your troubles! Using, I've been able to have pain-free, guaranteed successful backups of all my data in my work account to a personal Gmail account. I could have used CloudHQ to backup to any other cloud storage (e.g. Dropbox), but backing up this way makes life so much easier.

Here's how it worked for me:

1) Setup a free trial CloudHQ account using your work account (e.g. Google Suites)

2) Connect both your Google Suites for Education Drive and your personal Google Drive account using the handy wizards. CloudHQ supports a lot more so you aren't stuck just backing up one set of data. It can backup several at a time!

3) Setup One-Way sync to copy docs from Google Suites for Education Drive to your Personal Google Drive account. The source is the content (e.g. work) you want to backup or copy, and the target is your personal Google where you are backing up to.

4) Once the Sync pair is setup, you are ready to set it and forget it! It will work in the background to make an initial copy of your files. Once that first-time backup is done, then it will make incremental backups as needed to only those documents you add or change. Cool, right?

Thank you, CloudHQ, for making backing up Google Suites documents easy and painless. Are you ready to get started?

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Why’s and How’s of Student Badges

All individuals want to be recognized when they learn something, and badges can accomplish that. Whether it is mastering a new skill, meeting a goal, or doing a good deed, students (and adults!) seek validation for their achievements.
At first glance, the word “badge” may conjure up images of a Girl Scout’s sash featuring material badges that demonstrate mastery. While the concept is similar, the badges of today have implications far beyond that simple picture. Today’s badges are credentials that represent skills, interests, and achievements earned by an individual through specific projects, programs, courses, or other activities.

Reasons to Use Student Badges in the Classroom

Badges celebrate learning and can motivate students to do well in school and beyond. Take a look at a few reasons why you should reward student learning with badges.
  1. Acknowledge Accomplishments
    student badges
    Click HERE to download a PDF.
Badges show accomplishments. They can be awarded to students for completing a difficult assignment, doing an act of kindness, or improving behavior.
  1. Promote Collaboration
Badges provide greater opportunities for student collaboration, cooperation, and interaction. Students will motivate and encourage one another, as well as compete with one another, to earn various badges in the classroom.
  1. Validate Progress
Badges can certify that students are meeting specific goals and showing progress in their learning. This will lead to visible improvements in the classroom.
  1. Expose Skills
Badges uncover students’ skills that a number or letter grade might not show. This might be empathy, entrepreneurship, leadership, cooperation, or  deep thought. They give students a way to share what they have learned in a public way.
  1. Surpass Traditional Assessments
Badges can be used as an additional assessment tool to assist in the identification of a student’s specific strength and weaknesses. Go beyond written tests, quizzes, and grades in order to identify areas needing improvement.
  1. Give Joy in Learning
Badges can add a fun element to the classroom as students are encouraged to compete against one another.  Show students that there can be fun in learning.

Types of Badges to Use in the Classroom

The type of badge you use in the classroom depends on what works for you and your students.
With digital badges, you can create and download a digital version of the badge and post it to a student portfolio or class blog page.  Some resources for making digital badges can be found at the Badges for Professional Learning blog post.
With traditional badges, you can download or create a badge that you make many copies of and distribute. You could even display them for a while on the classroom bulletin board before giving them to your students.
With button badges, you turn student badges into buttons using a button machine. Students could then pin their earned button on their jacket or backpack.
Have you ever used badges in your classroom before?  If so, what has worked for you?  Leave a comment and let us know!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Fabulous Presentations with Google Slides

Creating moving and engaging Google Slides presentations that look fabulous are more important than ever in getting your message across.
Presentations are opportunities to show people different ways of thinking about a topic and to tell a story. How you structure your presentation impacts how people receive your perspective. Let’s explore a few tips to create fabulous presentations with Google Slides.

Tip #1: Enthrall listeners with powerful narratives.

“It is more difficult to process information if it is coming at us both verbally and in written form at the same time,” says Garr Reynolds, author of the Presentation Zen book and blog. A stirring story well-illustrated can make it easier for your audience to process information. Avoid bulleted lists, lots of text, fancy and transitions and animations. These just get in the way of the story you are telling. Charts are fine to include when they align to the story you are trying to show and tell.

Tip #2: Engage with pictures.

“Pictures should contain the story within a frame,” suggests Tatjana Soli in The Lotus Eaters. This isn’t a bad approach when selecting pictures that capture the flow of your narrative. Once you have crafted an enthralling story, you need pictures that illustrate each well-defined idea or concept. The simpler the image, the more impact it can have on the viewer.
Here are some ways to add pictures to a Google Slides individual slide:
You can upload (put) your own picture; grab a snapshot if on a device equipped with a camera; paste in the URL (web address) to a picture you have found online, in your albums, or on Google Drive; or take advantage of Google’s Image Search. Notice that the results shown are labeled for commercial reuse with modification.
You can also rely on free image repositories, such as those shown below, to find relevant, breathtaking images that adhere to a particular theme for your overall presentation. Here are my top eight image search sites:
  1. Compfight
  2. Creative Commons Search
  3. Free Images
  4. Free Images Collection
  5. Pexels
  6. Pixabay
  7. UnSplash
  8. Wikimedia Commons
You can also reshape images in Google Slides using the Crop tool. Simply select the desired shape.

Tip #3: Enhance experiences with multimedia.

You can enrich user experiences by adding multimedia. Google Slides allows you to embed videos from YouTube, as well as any videos you may have stored in Google Drive. The latter option makes it easy to insert audio files that have been saved as MP4 files. These MP4 files have audio, but no video, and can provide an emotional touch or enhance an image.
  1. Navigate to the non-YouTube MP4 you want to insert in your Google Slide.
  2. Use an image or text item to serve as the hyperlink to the MP4 file.
  3. To play the MP4 file, click the hyperlinked image or text.
Read this information from Google for an illustrated how-to.

Tip #4: Enchant the eyes with fonts.

“If you need to put eight-point or ten-point fonts up there, it’s because you do not know your material,” says Garr Reynolds. Instead, take advantage of large font size and easy-to-read fonts. In Google Slides, you can add fonts, as detailed in a previous blog entry. Here’s an excerpt:
Step 1 – Go to the Font Drop Down Menu and Choose MORE FONTS at the bottom of the list.
Step 2 – Select the Fonts That Appeal to You. Once you have selected the font(s) you want to use, those will appear in your font list, represented by “My fonts.”
Be brief and use large font sizes with only a few words on the screen. Vary colors of your font text to match the theme of your slide show.

Tip #5: Enlist the help of available slide templates.

Are you stuck for a creative look to your slide theme? Then check out this blog for some amazing templates that can serve as your starting point or an inspiration for what you want to create yourself.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Differentiation with Google Digital Task Cards

Digital task cards can be an effective differentiation tool in your classroom. Explore different ways of creating them in G Suite.
All of the latest research points toward the effectiveness of differentiation for learning. But figuring out how to differentiated can sometimes be tricky. If you are trying to differentiate the learning environment in your classroom, why not try task cards? We all know that not every student learns the same way; therefore, we need to design lessons and tasks that are based on our student’s learning styles.

Task Cards

Task cards are just what they sound like. They are cards that have tasks on them for the students to complete. Task cards can be made to target any learning objective you want studied. They can be used for grammar, math practice, word problems, parts of speech, historic events, science principles, and more.
Task cards are a wonderful alternative to worksheets, and the students love them because each card focuses on only one task. Imagine that you are a struggling student being given an entire worksheet to complete. You would probably feel very overwhelmed. However, if the tasks on that worksheet were given to you one at a time, you might feel a sense of accomplishment when one task is completed before moving to the next one.

Digital Task Cards with Google

Digital task cards are basically the same thing as a paper task card except they are, of course digital. Students can access and complete the task cards from any computer or device.
A task card will usually include a title and a number and perhaps instructions, definitions, or examples. A border and clip art can be included to jazz up the task card. Let’s take a look at two sample digital task cards I created in G Suite. You will see how easy it is to differentiate and scaffold instruction with these task cards.

Part of Speech Google Task Cards

This set of task cards was created in Google Slides. Students select the part of speech by highlighting the correct choice option. They can complete any or all of the task cards. Give them some choice.
Along with your task cards, you can include Challenge Cards that might include open-ended questions or require longer responses. The last card in this example is a challenge card that requires the student to actually type out the part of speech that appears in the sentence.
If students need to answer questions verbally, these cards can easily be replicated in Google Docs. That way, students can use the voice typing tool to speak their answer choices.
Get your own copy of the Google Slides Task Cards template here – Google Slide link.

Drawing Conclusions Google Drawing Task Cards

Give your visual learners a few task cards to complete that enable them to draw their answers. Drawing helps students visualize their learning. For some students, a picture really is worth a thousand words. This set of task cards was created in Google Drawings. Students read the scenario, come to a conclusion, and then draw their answer utilizing the drawing tools. There are two different task cards in this example; however, you can create them with fewer or more cards.
Get your own copy of the Google Drawings Task Cards template here – Google Drawings link.

Using Digital Task Cards in the Classroom

There are many different ways you can use digital task cards in the classroom. Below are just a few:
  • Introduce a new topic by sharing digital task cards with groups of students. Have them work on the task cards as a whole group activity and then have one person in the group “share” the completed task cards with you.
  • Assess student learning by using digital task cards as exit tickets that you can share with individual students. Again, once completed, the students can then “share” them with you.
  • Set up one or two technology stations in your classroom as a center where your students could complete the task cards. This could even be an activity for those students who finish work early.

So Many Possibilities

Digital task cards open up so many possibilities for differentiating and scaffolding in your classroom all year long. They provide students with alternative ways of exploring and expressing key ideas and using key skills. With task cards, students can work independently at their own pace. Different students with different needs and abilities can be given different task cards.  Task cards give opportunity for choice and provide a challenge that is just beyond what your students can already do. In addition, they enable students to progress toward stronger understanding and, ultimately, greater independence in the learning process.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Even More Classroom Icebreakers for Back to School

Try these fun back-to-school icebreakers with your new students and be amazed at how quickly you learn who they are and what they like.
Last year, I wrote a blog about classroom icebreakers that could help students and teachers break the ice the first day or the first week of school. Find even more icebreaker activities below to try with your students in order to start the year off right.

Two Truths and a Lie Flipgrid

If you haven’t caught the Flipgrid Fever (#FlipgridFever), you should! Flipgrid is a video discussion board service that will allow your students to respond to a question you ask. Teachers can create a grid for free just by signing up for an account. It’s a great way to capture your student’s voices and ideas.
A fantastic icebreaker would be to create a Two Truths and a Lie Flipgrid. Give students the URL to your Flipgrid or they can scan the QR code to access it. Your students would then click on the green plus sign and record themselves telling two truths and one lie about themselves. You could even pair students up and have them record each other. After all the students have finished, you can pull the Flipgrid up on the screen and the class can take turns guessing which statement is a lie. It’s a great way for the class to get to know one another. Want to try it? Test it out on this sample Flipgrid I created.

Create Your Own Emoji

Emojis are so popular these days that students are using them all the time. So why not have your students create their own Emoji and then write a paragraph about themselves as an icebreaker activity? Try it out for yourself by following the steps below:
Step 1:
Step 2:icebreakers
  • Read the directions on Slide #1 and pick a slide that doesn’t already have an emoji created on it.
  • Create your emoji by dragging and dropping the images on the side of the slide or by inserting new images.
Step 3:
  • Write a paragraph about yourself and/or why you created your emoji the way you did.
Once again, after all your students have created their emoji, you could display them on the projector and let the students talk about their emoji. Get your own copy of the About Me Emoji template here: “About Me Emoji Google Slide” Template – Google Slide link.

Green Screen LEGO Puppets

Another idea for an icebreaker is to have students use green screen technology while recording a video introduction of themselves.
First, have your students design a LEGO mini figure of themselves. You can give your students this template to use as a starting point.
Next, purchase a green tablecloth at the Dollar store, which you will then tape up on the wall. Then download a green screen app, such as the Doink app. It only costs $2.99 and is very easy to use. For a free option, you can try Touchcast (iPad) or Free Photo Green Screen Tool (iOS). Use your iPad to take a picture that you will use as a background for the green screen. You could take pictures of the front of the school, the playground, or a spot in your classroom. Upload the picture to the app.
Then attach the LEGO puppet to either a green ruler or a green straw (usually available at Starbucks) and place it in front of the green tablecloth. Use the app to record a short video introduction with groups of students. See the example video below:

Animated Fidget Spinner

Fidget spinners are especially popular with our students today. Therefore, why not try using them as an instructional tool in the classroom?
For the icebreaker below, I used animations in Microsoft PowerPoint to allow the spinner to spin and land on different parts of the color wheel. For this particular icebreaker, you can pull the spinner up on the screen and group students into teams in order for them to discuss the topic the spinner lands on. This is great way to connect with students while allowing them to get to know one another.
Get your own copy of the Fidget Spinner Icebreaker template here: “Fidget Spinner Icebreaker” Template – Microsoft PowerPoint Template.
Try one of these icebreakers during the first week of school and give your students and you a chance to get to know one another. Leave a comment below with some of the icebreakers that have worked well for your students.