Posted in #COL16, #GoogleEI, Uncategorized

Globally Connected Student Activities (#GlobalConnectEDU)

“Wait, a student from Japan commented on my ideas? That is awesome!”

CollaborationWith these words, my American History students were hooked on that week’s activity. We had been reading some primary documents from Christopher Columbus’s voyage to the “New World” and then analyzing it with comments on a shared Google Doc. My goal was for the students to communicate their critical thinking in a collaborative manner, using the concept of the 4 C’s found in 21st Century Learning (Article Link). Yet, as they started collaborating within the class together, I wondered if we could take it to the next level… Global Collaboration! So what I decided to do, without informing my students, was to connect this activity with another history class in Japan. Luckily, my Google Innovator Mentor, (Nathan Gildart – Google+ Link – Twitter @nathangildart), taught history in Japan so it was an easy connection. Through the Columbus activity, my students not only got a greater understanding of who Christopher Columbus was as a person (which dramatically impacted their view of the man), but also better understood how Japanese students interpreted history through their own cultural lens.

“How Do I Start Doing This In My Classroom?”

There are a various ways you could get your students collaborating with students around the world, including: Mystery Skype/Hangouts, MyMap Projects (Global ConnectEDU For Google MyMaps Ideas), Old-School Letter Writing (No tech is just as awesome sometimes), to name a few.

“How Does One Connect With Classrooms Globally”

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With my first globally connected student activity, I was blessed to have an already established connection with an international teacher. So what other ways could you connect with international teachers/classrooms? The easiest way is via social media, such as Twitter, Google+, or Facebook. Those connections can happen through Twitter hashtags, Google+ Communities, or Facebook Groups. Another way I recently learned was for U.S. schools to

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Google+ GEG’s and Communities

contact the “Office of Overseas Schools” through the U.S. Department of State (Website Link). They can get you into contact with other schools, which could provide you with other educators from around the world.

Another great set of resources for connecting with educators is through these websites: Projects By Jen, Classroom Bridges, Global Audience Project

“How Does One Design A Globally Connected Activity?”

When designing, or considering, doing a globally connected activity, it is imperative that you have an understanding of your own curriculum standards. Are there any standards that would easily translate into a global activity? With the Columbus activity mentioned above, I identified two standards that could be collaborative: Analyzing primary documents and Identifying the impact of the European Discovery in the Americas.

Then, start contacting educators from around the world to see who you can connect with on the activity (As detailed above).

Once you have started connecting with international educators, begin brainstorming ideas for the activity, most likely through a shared Google Doc and/or Google

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Nathan Gildart and I Collaborating Via Google Hangouts

Hangout/Skype. Through the brainstorming, the activity will most likely meet everyone’s curriculum needs, and also proactively help identify any possible struggles that could develop.

Tip – If this is your first time participating in a globally connected activity with your students, try focusing on questions or activities that demonstrate the cultural similarities/differences between the various classrooms.

When you are ready to take the globally connected activity to the next level for the students, then it is important for educators to create activities, as identified by Researchers Sears & Reagin (Link to 2013 article), that require relative levels of “complexity of the task” (p. 1170).  Therefore try to design questions that require “higher-order thinking, depth of knowledge (DOK)” and “substantive conversation” according to researcher Beeson et al., (Link to 2014 article, p. 125) when designing collaborative work (meaning DOK Levels 3 & 4).  According to researcher Yi-Jeng Chen, this helps students to “gradually become more collaborative” (Link to 2015 article, p. 166) which allows them to answer increasingly complex questioning.  Not only does this collaborative culture produce greater results of learning from students, it also depends their understanding of the content.

“What Technology Tools Should I Use?”

Screen Shot 2017-07-05 at 11.34.15 PMReally there are a slew of tools available, but I personally have had success using web based tools such as G Suite (formerly Google Apps). When considering ease of use, and their synchronous (real-time) nature, it is hard to beat Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, etc. Those are great, not only for the planning process, but also for students collaborative work and commenting together from around the world.

Tip: When the Doc (or whatever product you use) is ready to be used collaboratively, share it with the setting “public, anyone with the link can edit” to the other teachers.

Then consider creating videos, or organizing a Hangout/Skype with the students participating in the global activity. If time zones prevent that from effectively happening, consider using YouTube (as private videos that have links shared between classes),

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FlipGrid Example

videos in Google Drive shared with the cooperating teacher, or even better: FlipGrid (recently learned about this tool)! It allows students to do short (no more than 3 minute) videos.  The cool part is it allows students then to ask follow-up questions (via another video) to the other students!

If possible, you could also use social media (depending on grade level and school board policy), such as twitter, to expand the learning outside of the classroom.

“What Are Some Obstacles I Could Face?”

Probably the two biggest obstacles I faced in doing these globally connected activities was the time zone differences and language barriers. Most of the students involved in this collaboration from around the world lived in time zones where it was nearly impossible to work at the same time. Because of that, it was necessary for these activities to have a loose timeline for completion.  After that discovery, I planned Screen Shot 2017-07-05 at 11.44.38 PMa more expansive time window for collaboration to ensure quality work could be accomplished from all involved.

To deal with the language barrier, I mostly connected with schools where the students possessed the ability to speak English.  For example, the schools in China, Australia, Japan and Turkey were all American International Schools (or the equivalent), so there were no translation issues.

If you are afraid that the activity will be a bust, whether it be because your students will not be interested or other reasons… Don’t be. Give it a try, and see if it doesn’t provide another cool avenue to help your students to learn.

“What Are Some Benefits Of A Globally Connected Activity?”

How many times in your life have you spoken to individuals from other countries?  In my school district (Ash Grove, Missouri: Small-Rural-Lower-Middle Class-98% Caucasian-95% of the population will never leave the U.S.) it provided a unique involvement that most of my students may never get the chance to experience otherwise. Not only did they learn about the curriculum content I was going to have them learn anyway, they also learned various cultural differences between the different classrooms that participated.

Had I used FlipGrid (which I did not have available at the time), my students could have also seen these students face-face (via video) to interact in a more active-personal way.


Give it a try! If you are fearful, then consider doing a collaborative activity locally, as in within your own state/province/country. Provide students the opportunity to tackle

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21st Century Learning

bigger questions through the collaborative process in order to help them develop those 21st Century Skills.  Also, have your students be reflective in their learning (true whether during a globally connected activity, or any other learning opportunity). Research has consistently demonstrated the power of reflection in helping learners master content.

Finally, plan future collaborative opportunities! As mentioned earlier, the more collaborative activities students participate in, the more effective they become at mastering complex problems!

My questions for you:

How are you going to challenge your classroom (and yourself) to learn globally in the school year?

What steps should you take today to get a globally connected activity started/designed

What other ideas/steps have you taken to do things like this in the past?


Global ConnectEDU Website

Nathan Gildart – Google+ Link – Twitter @nathangildart

4C’s of 21st Century Learning – Article Link

Projects By Jen

Classroom Bridges

Global Audience Project

“Office of Overseas” Website Link

Sears & Reagin Research – Article Link 2013

Chen Research – Article Link 2015

Beeson Research – Article Link 2014

Google DocsSheets, Slides, DrawingsHangout, YouTube



Posted in #COL16, #GoogleEI, EdTechTeam, GAFE

Google Innovator Academy – #COL16 Reflection

Google Innovator Academy – #COL16 Reflection

As I sit at the airport in Denver to fly back home, I still struggle to put into words my experience with The Google For Education Certified Innovator Academy. It was an amazing time of learning from fellow educators from around the world and trying to steal the awesome things they do in their classes that could improve my school (Ash Grove School District, MO).

Here are my 4 biggest takeaways:

1.  Networking, Networking, Networking.

Working With Nick Brierley  (Teacher in Australia)

One of the most powerful tools that individuals (regardless of occupation) can harness is the ability to network with other people. Growing up, this was a tool that I never really was taught. Yet, over the last few years (especially this last year), I have begun to understand the power in accessing the intelligence and experiences of those around the world. While I had slowly started building my own “Personal-Professional Learning Network (PLN)” (Check out “What Connected Educators Does Differently” by Whitaker, Zoul, and Casas for great ideas on how to form a powerful PLN), it wasn’t till the EdTechTeam GAFE Summit in July of 2015 that it completely rocked my pedagogy.


Working On Making A Lightbulb

So why list networking at the Google Innovator Academy as the top on my list? Simply, I met “personally” some amazing educators who are actively challenging themselves to provide the best teaching experiences for their students/staff/community, and sharing it with the world. There is something powerful about seeing someone in person that provides a deeper connection for sharing ideas and questions. The exciting part about meeting these people personally is that I not only have their personal experiences, ideas, questions but also of their own “PLN” they have developed over time. When I ask them a question, they don’t have to know the answer personally, but probability has it that they “know” someone (either virtually through social media or personally) who could be of help. The academy provided 36 fellow educators (who became classified as innovators through the academy) and various coaches/mentors/developers who can help me to impact my school and beyond.

2.  “Your fears are smaller than you think but your dreams are so much bigger than you realize.” Sergio Villegas (Twitter: @coach_sv)

Sergio Villegas

This powerful statement from one of the academy coaches, Sergio Villegas, articulated everything that teachers believe about their students. How many times as teachers do we tell a student, “Persevere, you are so close! I know that seems like a big obstacle, I promise you the reward is worth it! It looks like a mountain, I know, but if only you can fight through it!” What hit me though about this statement was the power this could give to the staff members that we work with directly (as in our school district) or through our PLN (Social Media, Conferences, etc.). For much of my career I have allowed self-doubt and fear to keep me from making pedagogical changes that would make a better experience for my students and their learning. Ultimately, fear is a powerful tool, but dreams can drive you to places your fear could never fathom.

3.  “84% of your staff are not ready to embrace your ideas. How are you going to excite them?” Jennie Magiera (Twitter: @MsMagiera)

Jennie Magiera

Have you ever been to summer/church camp where you were with like-minded people who share your passions? Then once you returned “home” to the “real world,” you found yourself depressed because not everyone shares the same passions? Academy Coach Jennie Magiera discussed the idea of how statistically 84% of your staff, students, district, do not operate the same as you. So how do you “get them on board”? Her solution was as basic as you can get, yet the hardest things to do. Meet the 84% where they are and encourage every “little step” or “new iteration” they do to improve their students’ learning. If you are in the 16%, it’s likely that you are ready to “jump on the boat” with new and exciting tech pedagogy. Everyone else would prefer to use what’s “safe” because they have developed “safety nets” for those older pedagogical practices. So consider few steps, according to Jennie, to help move the 84% forward: Print out paper material for them to use as resources, guides, how-to, etc.; meet with them personally to help them get over the struggles they (and all of us) encounter (as this will help them to develop new “safety nets”); administrators need to model in PD or other staff situations what they expect their teachers to do in their classroom. If you are in the 16% and fail to meet the other 84% where they are, you will fail to truly impact the school district.

4.  “Compare yourself to yourself from yesterday… nothing else.” Molly Schroeder (Twitter: @followmolly)

Molly Schroeder (Our Coach)

As I prepared to attend the Google Innovator Academy in Boulder, I looked through the other 35 accepted innovators projects and digital footprint. Honestly… I felt as if I did not belong because of how awesome their ideas were, along with all the awesome things many of them were already doing (via their digital footprint). Then as we collaborated at the academy, they would ask insightful questions and articulate their amazing projects! Then Molly Schroeder (My coach from team “Awkward Smoothie”) reminded us that the comparative game only has one powerful tool: Are you better than you were the day before? Is your project one step (even if an inch) closer to improving student learning? If you can answer yes to those two questions, then you are rocking it! Ignore the progress of others, unless that progress can help you move forward. Some ideas inherently get completed faster, but that doesn’t make them better. Do not look at the educators around you as though they are miles ahead and that you could never attain their “awesomeness” because it’s true. What you have to realize is that you personally have an “awesomeness” that no could ever attain. Be you, and make yourself a better “you” everyday. How does one do that? Read. Connect with others. Challenge yourself. Experiment and fail… frequently… then re-iterate.

Reflection’s End

As my flight arrives here shortly, I must wrap up a 3 day event that was a once-in-a-lifetime event. How do I wrap an experience where I was able to collaborate in person with just over 40 incredible educators of all skills, meet with Google for Education product managers to discuss how to better improve their tools for the classroom, and develop a project that will hopefully make this a better world for us all? I can not with words. I can however use these experiences to positively impact my own students, share it with the world, and then thank the Lord above for another day to live and do it all again.

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Posted in #GoogleEI

Google For Education Certified Innovator – My Application

What Is The Google Innovator Program?

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It is a program designed and implemented by Google For Education in order to support those teachers who are determined to make a positive impact on educational practices throughout the world.

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Interested In The Program?

Pass the Level 2 Google Educator Exam (If you need help with passing the exam, check out Google Educator Blog), Go to Certified Innovator and apply!

Below is my application that I just turned.  Feel free to provide any feedback or ideas of how we can make this project a success for students!

About You

If a friend designed for you a t-shirt that described you perfectly, what would it say?

Answer:  Where there is coffee, there is a way.

Tell us how you have transformed your practice, your classroom, your school, or your community (500 Character Limit).

Answer:  I returned to my HS to impact the school that had impacted me. I started the tech movement in our district: joined the tech committee, played an integral part in the implementation of Google Apps, Chromebooks, & encouraged improvement of technology infrastructure in the district. Also, I organized & setup the Google Apps Domain in the HS, then the district as a whole. I redesigned my classroom from a lecture (1950’s structure) to using various tech tools so the students became the researchers.

Link to a piece of content you’ve made.

This is a Google Slide that I use in presentations for educators at various conferences on how to use Google MyMaps in their classes: MyMaps: Student Created Maps!

Grow: Where do you find new ideas and inspiration? (500 Character Limit)

Answer:  1st, my students. Many of my subtle, but meaningful changes in my approach have come from suggestions of students. 2nd, my fellow teachers that I teach with both in the past and presently. Their willingness to challenge me, or their new ideas make think, “How can I do that?!” The 3rd & final place is my PLN via Twitter, Google+, EdCamps, etc. Constantly I see what they’re doing in their classroom, or challenging questions they ask that cause me to re-evaluate my own practices.

Your Vision

Your Vision: Title

Answer:  MyMaps Global Initiative

Your Vision: Brief Description: (250 Character Limit)

Answer:  Database for students & teachers to display/collaborate on MyMaps projects with 3 part: Details on all the various methods of using MyMaps, display completed projects, space for MyMaps that can be collaboratively completed by other teachers/students.

Vision Deck: Link to your public vision deck.

Answer:  I used SlideCarnival to help me create this snazzy vision deck:  MyMaps Global Initiative

Vision Video: You have one minute to creatively explain your problem and your vision for tackling it!  Google Innovator Application “Vision” Video – Austin Houp

Imagine you are able to have coffee with one person (currently living) who would mentor you in support of your vision. Who would you pick and why? (500 Character Limit)

Answer:  I’d pick Stafford Marquardt as a mentor, who was the product manager for Google MyMaps. He introduced me to MyMaps at the EdTechTeam Google Summit held in July at Kansas City. Obviously I’d be willing to work with anyone in that product line, but I greatly appreciate his knowledge, conversational ability, & willingness to share ideas. Not only would he help me to understand the intricacies of how best to manipulate MyMaps, but he’d also be a means to improve the resource for teachers.


Today I submitted my application but will not hear about wether or not I was accepted till May 10th.  Best of luck to everyone, and continue to change the world through your students!