Friday, July 31, 2020

Don't Forget About Paper and Pencil in Distance Learning

When you think of distance learning, one of the first terms that comes to mind is digital. Since the schools shut down, teachers have been scrambling to transform their paper and pencil activities and lessons to a digital format. As an edtech coach, I have been helping teachers with this transition. In light of this transition, I recommend not forgetting about paper and pencil. It may sound odd from someone like me, but I am a big proponent paper and pencil activities during distance learning.

If you've been following me on various social media platforms, you aware of my fondness for sketchnotes. My sketchnoting mentor Sylvia Duckworth has many great tools and strategies for sketchnoting digitally. If interested, follow her on Twitter. I have always preferred the paper and pencil method of sketchnoting. For years, I have scanned student-generated paper/pencil sketchnotes and posted them on my Cardinal Innovation Center website. In a distance learning world, there is no opportunity to scan student-generated paper/pencil sketchnotes. But never fear, the Google Classroom mobile app is here.

The Google Classroom mobile apps for iOS (iPhone, iPad) and Android as well as using the camera on Chromebooks/laptops makes sketchnoting and other paper/pencil activities in distance learning possible. The videos below show how students can turn in an image of handwritten work to Google Classroom in iOS, Android and Chromebook. Feel free to share these videos with teachers and students.




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Thursday, July 30, 2020

Back to School Google Classroom Tips: Stream Settings and Classwork Resources Topic

It's almost time to head back to school, but for many of us, it's not the back to school we were used to. More teachers than ever before will be relying on Google Classroom to facilitate distance learning. Anything we can do to streamline Google Classroom will be beneficial for students. Here are two of my favorite tips to better organize the Google Classroom Stream and Classwork tabs.

Announcements Only in the Stream

In the years I've used Google Classroom, I noticed students struggle to find easily find assignments while "fishing" through the Stream. By default, the Stream displays class announcements and class assignments. My recommendation is to separate the two. One quick setting change will keep all class assignments out of the Stream and only in the Classwork tab. This will make it easier for kids to navigate.

To enable this, go to the settings button in Google Classroom. Scroll down to the setting that says "Classwork on the Stream". If it says either "Show Attachments and Details" or "Show Condensed Notifications", switch it to "Hide Notifications". At the top, click Save.  This will prevent assignments posted in Classwork from clogging up the Stream. Kids will know the Stream is for class announcements and Classwork is for assignments.

Resources Topic in Classwork Tab

In a physical classroom, we create bulletin boards for kids to easy, quick access to a variety of learning materials. In distance learning, using Google Classroom, it's a little bit different. My recommendation for this is to create a "Resources" topic in Classwork. What I have done in the past is create Materials under a Resources topic that are links to a variety of websites and resources that students refer to often. I keep this topic "pinned" to the top. Doing this gives students easy, quick access to these resources.

The video below explains each of these tips.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Grow Your PLN with Facebook Groups

This blog post comes at a bittersweet time. In the past week, my subscribers have surpassed the 150 mark. Thanks to all who have subscribed. I'm honored that so many people take the time to read my thoughts and ideas. On the other hand, this is only the second blog post of the summer. I am normally more frequent in my blog posts, but a few weeks ago, my dad, Lou Juarez, passed away suddenly at the age of 80. Edtech blogging has been on the back burner since then, but I am getting back in the "blogging saddle" as it is very therapeutic. Click here to read about my dad's amazing life.

A popular hashtag amongst educators is #bettertogether. This hashtag spreads the message of sharing resources and ideas amongst educators. It reinforces the spirit of collaboration. Since the COVID-19 crisis has juxtaposed the way we do school, the spirit of this hashtag has spread like wildfire. Traditionally, teachers have taught in silos. They were given the keys to their room, handed a textbook and taught the best they knew how. This isn't an environment conducive to collaboration. With the crisis, many teachers who were still stuck in this mindset have shed those shackles and reached out like never before. Teachers who dreaded me, the tech coach, entering their room or striking up a conversation, immediately felt the need to reach out and learn to adapt to the changing landscape. Many of these teachers are beginning to branch beyond their instructional coaches into social media to continue to learn. 

If you're reading this blog, you're a connected educator that knows the value of a PLN (Personal Learning Network). You're an educator who's active on Twitter and member of EDU Facebook and Voxer groups. If you're looking to continue to grow your network or would like to help get a colleague starting growing theirs, take a look below at some of my favorite Facebook Groups to join. Becoming a connected educator was a watershed moment in my career. Hopefully you can connect with more people to support you through the turbulent changes currently going through education.

Facebook, recently, has put a huge emphasis on Facebook Groups. Some of the Facebook Groups TV commercials have been pretty clever. Educator Groups have been flourishing. It used to be common for educators to be on Twitter for professional networking and Facebook for personal stuff. That is no longer the case. The beauty of Facebook Groups is that you can connect with other educators without having to "friend" them. Check out some of my recommended Facebook Groups.

#EduMatch: Founded by Sarah Thomas, #EDUMatch is like the for educators connecting educators with other educators that match subject, grade level etc. 

#ToTheEdgeEDU: This group is centered around the stories and philosophy of Nevada educator Kyle Anderson and his book of the same name. It's a great resource to connect with educators who share stories of risk taking and resilience.

Teachers Using Google Suite for Education: This group is a worldwide group for people to find support for anything dealing with Google Suite for Education.

#CVTechTalk: Founded by my wife Katherine Goyette and I, this group is an offshoot of our weekly Twitter edchat where we discuss edtech and pedagogy. The CV stands for the Central Valley of California, but all educators worldwide are invited to join the conversation. 

Site Leaders Connect: This group is the official Facebook Group for my wife, Katherine Goyette's Google Innovator project. Its purpose is to connect educational leaders with each other and spread a culture of innovation amongst administrators, coaches and leaders. If you know an educational leader looking to find inspiration, this group and website has a treasure trove of 15 minute insight interviews.

Facebook for Education Group: This is a worldwide group for educators to ask questions and get support for anything in education. Responses come quickly so if you're looking for a good "first group" to join, this is the one. 

The Suite Talk: Founded by fellow Google Certified Trainer Kim Mattina, this group is another great community for getting cutting edge ideas and support using GSuite tools.

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Monday, July 6, 2020

DIY Greenscreen

The 2020 COVID-19 shelter-in-place mandate has made quite the impact on how educators go about our jobs. The mandate fostered a shift to distance learning and brought tools such as Zoom and Google Meet to the forefront. One of the most popular Zoom features is the virtual backgrounds. Virtual backgrounds are fun as well as good tools for maintaining privacy when working from home. 

To maximize the virtual backgrounds feature, you are going to want to have a green screen. Without one, your virtual background image isn't as clear and when you move, your body can disappear on camera. Having a green screen doesn't require professional videography experience. For roughly $50-60, you can transform your home office space with a DIY green screen. Here is how I did it.

1. At local hardware store, purchase a small spool of twine, string or rope. For a few more dollars, grab a package of drywall anchors. The anchors come with screws in the bag. Also grab a pair of eye hooks or  carabiners.

2. Head to Amazon to grab a roughly $40 9x12 green screen. I chose those dimensions because it stretches nearly the entire width of my home office.

3. Drill in the anchor and then insert the screw. Repeat this on the opposite wall. 

4. Thread the string, twine or rope through the slit atop the green screen. Tie your eye hooks or carabiners to each end and hook them up to the screws on each wall. Be sure to make the string as taut as possible. 

5. You now have the ability to stretch the screen across the width of the room and move it to side as needed. If you need to take it down for storage, simply unhook the eye hooks or carabiners and roll it up nicely.

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