Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Quick, Draw! with Google

At the recent TCEA Convention and Exposition, I learned about an experiment from Google called Quick, Draw!. Quick, Draw!, which launched last November, is a game built with machine learning. Players are prompted to sketch an object on a 20-second clock using the mouse or touchscreen. While the player doodles, the neural network throws out its best guesses of the subject, stopping mid-sketch if it guesses correctly.

How Quick, Draw Works

I gave it a try on my laptop and my iPhone. However, I have to admit, I’m not very good at it. My first time playing on the laptop, I only got two out of six. My iPhone try went a bit better, but that’s probably because the objects were fairly simple.
An interesting feature of Quick, Draw! is the insight players can gain about how the network works. After you complete a game, just select one of the drawings and you’ll see two sets of results. Let’s use my pathetic attempt at a bee as an example (try not to laugh). First, you see what kind of object the computer thought you were going to draw.
Scroll down and you’ll see the images that  the neural network thinks a bee looks like.
what does a bee look like
Give it a try and see how many of your doodles can be recognized.

Classroom Uses of Quick, Draw!

So, I asked myself, how can this be used in the classroom? I was quickly reminded of the Quick Draw strategy, where students are asked to respond to a piece of text (literary or expository) through illustrations. Students are encouraged to quickly draw as many simple sketches as possible. The notion is for students to capture as many details as they can during the time period.
I can easily see Quick, Draw! being used with English Language Learners, especially those who are at the low-beginning to mid-beginning levels in writing English as their second language.
Some ideas for classroom application include:
  • Have students summarize one of their illustrations, describing what they just drew through a voluntary share aloud or a Timed RoundRobin.
  • Ask students to screen capture one of their images and write a story about it.
  • Have students listen to the words the computer is guessing to see how many they recognize.
  • For images that weren’t recognized, have students identify and define the images the machine thought they were drawing.
  •  During whole-class sharing, allow students to speak about one of their illustrations that couldn’t be guessed and have the entire class share details of how they would have drawn the image.
  • Allow the students to explain some of their illustrations that might have special connections in their lives.
  • Let students make predictions or inferences about their illustrations.

In Conclusion

Quick, Draw! by Google is a fun and quick way for students to learn. Share in the comments how you are incorporating drawing in your classroom.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Researching and Sharing with Google Tools

“How do you activate engagement, motivation, and interest with research tools?” Researching and sharing meaningful findings can be daunting for students. That’s why two tools, Google Scholar and Tour Builder, can be used to create a virtual tour of student learning.
During a recent TCEA Google Educator Level 2 Bootcamp, participants learned ways they can use some lesser-known aspects of Google’s suite of tools available to students to enhance engagement. “If students are not paying attention, they are not engaged; and, hence, they are not learning” (Pat Wolfe, as cited in Digital Media in Today’s Classrooms). If students are not engaged, they simply report facts and information without real meaning (Source). Google tools like Scholar and Tour Builder make learning more engaging for students of varying ages.
Teachers say a top priority in today’s classrooms should be teaching students how to “judge the quality of online information.” A significant portion of the teachers surveyed report spending class time discussing with students how search engines work, how to assess the reliability of the information they find online, and how to improve their search skills. (Excerpt from Pew Research study How Teens Do Research in the Digital World)

Tool #1 – Google Scholar

Not familiar with Google Scholar? Scholar can be a boon to high school students keen on researching a topic. It provides one virtual space where they can find scholarly literature and locate documents through the library or via the web. Furthermore, publications, authors, references, and citations can be searched and accessed. Google Scholar boasts a detailed set of support documents for learners.

Sample Search: Immigration Reform

One potential big question an educator might pose is: “How have immigration policies changed from the 1950s to present?” With Google Scholar, students can do a simple search on immigration reform and then work through the results to develop a portrait. They can also focus results through a range of years:
Scholar offers students access to high quality research, a level above a traditional Google search. Combine this approach with an information problem-solving approach (e.g. Big6, Super 3) or Guided Inquiry Design (shown below).

Tool #2 – Google Tour Builder

Students can interact with research data in a different way. They can learn to situate research within a geo-spatial context. Tour Builder enables students to create a virtual tour of their research data, adding photos, text, and video as needed. This map-based approach enables students to organize their research according to location and impact, which is appropriate for a topic like African immigration in colonial America. They can combine research, life stories, images, and video to make a compelling case for their research thesis.


As you can see, Google Scholar and Google Tour Builder together can provide access to sources and offer a way to create interactional research conclusions. The next time you consider creating a research assignment, move beyond more traditional approaches.