Posted in GAFE

Lucidcharts To The Rescue!

Web Diagram

In my American Government class, we began the discussion of the legislative branch.  One of the important aspects of this branch is the process of how a bill becomes a law.  This semester I decided that we would do it with a tech tool, which could allow for collaboration, correction, etc.  
Initially, I had students use “Mindmaps by mindmapmaker.org” to diagram how a bill becomes a law.  After the first day of students working with this tool, it became apparent that it was a frustrating tool for the students.  (Mindmaps may be a wonderful tool, but for what I was asking my students to do, it was not helpful.)

Doesn’t Work… Fix it

As I saw the frustration on my students’ facez, I decided it was time to find a new tool.  So I went back to drive and looked for another web diagraming tool.  That’s when I found “Lucidcharts for Education,” and immediately I knew it was going to be a better tool for our project.  It allowed students to make any adjustments seamlessly, while also saving instantly (which mindmap failed to do).  

Lucidcharts

Initially when you sign up for Lucidcharts, it places you in the “free-version” which has various restrictions such as:  create only 5 documents and the use of 60 “complexities” (or as I told my students “symbols”).  For the project we were doing, the “complexities” limitation was frustrating, but as a program, the students absolutely loved it!  It allowed for quick adjustments, additions, and reformatting that was excruciatingly tough to do on Mindmaps.

How to use Lucidcharts

To create a web diagram using Lucidcharts, just go to your Drive and click the following: New–>More–>Lucidcharts.  Then create a document (either blank or from one of their templates) in order to get started.  From there, you can drag various symbols over from the left toolbar such as Text, Shapes, etc.  With the boxes or text on the document, you can draw lines to help create a flow from one step to the next.  (After Lucidchart approved our school for the free education upgrade, you will have unlimited complexities!  That definitely made all the difference).  To help make the web diagram stand out, students can change the fill color of the boxes, lines, text, etc.  

For our project, I suggested to students that they color code the steps to help them quickly identify things like vocabulary or the house/senate differences.  Finally, students can share their projects with each other as a point of reference.  It was interesting how different students found steps/information that other students had missed, so sharing it with each other helped them to add them to their own project.  Also, (unlike Mindmaps) Lucidcharts allows individuals to work simultaneously with one another (just like the other Google Apps Tools). 

Google Classroom – Turn It In

  

I provided the assignment through Google Classroom with the expectations.  As students found valuable resources, they would share them via the “class comment” so that other students could use them.  When students finished, they would add it to Google Classroom the same way they would turn in other Google Apps products (docs, sheets, slides, etc.).  

Student Examples



Suggestions

Any other suggestions for fellow teachers to use this (or similar) tools in their classroom?  Give us your thoughts!

Posted in Uncategorized

MyMaps: Student Created Maps!

Earlier in the school year I introduced the idea of using Google MyMaps in the classroom.  Over the last week couple of weeks, I began using it in a couple of my classes.  The result of the students using MyMaps was stunning.  While these maps are imperfect (missing details periodically due to student error), they demonstrate so many possibilities for student creation.

European History – European Explorers (Freshmen through Seniors)

European History – Absolutism Research (Seniors)

World Geography – Distribution of Natural Resources (Sophomores)


World Geography – North American Research (Sophomores)

Lesson Plan Design

First, determine what your goal/objective is for the lesson.

For both World Geography and European History, it was an easy and natural fit to use MyMaps.  In European History, I have always had students do some type of presentation (Powerpoint, Keynote, Slides) to detail the trips and explorations of various explorers.  But as I prepared for that annual lesson, I decided to give MyMaps a go around in order to have a completely student created product.
For World Geography, I have always wanted them to get a greater understand of the world’s natural resources and the disparity of their use/production throughout the world.

Tip: Create a generic map for students to look at, in order to understand how they can manipulate their own maps.

Second, provide the guiding questions and objectives for students to quickly access and research. 

New this year, I have been using Google Classroom for my classes.  To get students the questions and topics, I posted an “assignment” on Google Classroom with the following:

Topics/Questions
Types of resources to use
How to cite sources
Link to MyMap (Created by me, but will explain how later)
Initial Due Date (To help critique student work)

Tip:  When creating the MyMap link as a teacher, go to mymaps.google.com.  Then click share and change access to “Anyone at *School Domain* with the link” and “Can Edit.”  Next, copy the URL and post it on the Classroom Assignment.

Front Page of
mymaps.google.com 


Third, students begin researching and posting their information to the linked MyMap.

I had each student (or in my case pairs) create a “layer” on their MyMap for a couple different reasons.  First, I wanted to be able to easily assess the students without having to search throughout the map for each students work.  Second, it prevented students from accidentally deleting or changing other students work.

Tip:  There is a limit to the number of layers (10 Total) you can create, so be cognizant of the amount.

Fourth, review students work and provide immediate feedback on their design and information.

 
Example of Student work

As students begin posting their information to the map, give them insight on how best to improve their layer.  For example, having students use different colors/symbols in order to differentiate their work from other students (Ex. Christopher Columbus being the yellow line and markers).  Some other ways to improve their map would be to include the following:  Pictures/videos on markers, journal writings or data information for each marker, proper structure/organization on the side information bar.

Tip:  Unlike the other Google Apps tools, Google MyMaps does not automatically update as students work on it.  However, if you reload the map, all the other work will be updated to your map.

Fifth, share the student work with the rest of the world!

After students have completed the assignment, change the share settings to “On – Public Web” and “Can View.”  Then copy the URL and share it out to the rest of the world!

Tip: Post it to Google+ in order to demonstrate your students work, as well as inspire other teachers to have students create their own resources!

What other ideas do you have for student created maps?  Ways to make the process even better?

A video below to explain how I use this in the classroom!

 
Posted in GAFE

Google My Maps – Student Created Maps

Maps

As a high school social studies teacher, I constantly use different types of maps for all of my classes.  More times than not, these are maps created by other individuals with various amounts of information that may/or may not be pertinent to my classroom.  


After attending the GAFE (Google Apps For Education) KC Summit this summer, the idea of map creation (as opposed to map consumption) became a real reality.  The presentation was done by Stafford Marquardt (Product Manager for Google My Maps) on how to use mymaps.google.com to create interactive maps.  Simply put, this presentation rocked my world in all the right ways!
Title the Map

So how does it work?

Outline an area
First go to mymaps.google.com and start creating maps!  One of the cool features of My Maps is that the file is automatically saved in your Drive so that you can access it like your other Google Docs.  Which means you can also share them just like Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc.  I realize that right now I need to provide more details on what to do, but really just messing with My Maps will amaze you. 

Tips/Tricks

Title the shape
Create various different “layers” in order to keep it nice, neat and organized.  If you want students to work on the same project, then have a different layer for each student.  

Use the drawing mechanism to outline states, cities, etc. and then apply a color over the top.  Once the color is applied, you can change the transparency to the desired level.

Provide a color to the shape

When you use the “marker” option, you can include pictures, videos, descriptions of that marker or location.

Insert a marker with various Details
If you do not want to create maps, or have students create maps, Google has provided some pre-built maps.  These maps can be found at both of the following:

MyMaps Gallery

Google Maps Gallery

I have created a short Youtube video (60 seconds) that demonstrates how to download one of the template maps as a KMZ file and then import it into My Maps:
Also provided is the Presentation done by Marquardt that explains and provides examples of other ideas using My Maps:

MyMaps Presentation

Classroom Example:  

Have students draw the path of Lewis and Clark from St. Louis to the Pacific and back.  Break up the students with the job of a specific city on the route to another city (St. Louis to Omaha).  Then have students trace the path, provide images of those location (Past and Present), and include words/images from the Lewis and Clark Journal (Link to Journal) to the spot where it was likely written.

Conclusion

I want to end with the following statement I have used constantly in the last two months. Start by messing with it and do not be afraid to break it.  It normally is easy to fix and you will be shocked how capable you are at creating cool/interactive things!
Posted in Patrick Dempsey

Winds of Change

It Begins…

So as July begins to wind down, the excitement for a new school year starts to build.  At Ash Grove, the new year presents itself with some exciting new developments for our students and staff.  We as a school district are beginning two new adventures:  Google Apps For Education (GAFE) district-wide and the beginning of a 1:1 technology movement.  Before we prepare for this new future, let’s reflect on where we have been before.

Abridged History

These new adventures were born out of the work of teachers across the school district over the last couple of years.  About 4 years ago, multiple teachers at both the High School and Elementary level began to desire more access to technology for their classes.  I am a social studies teacher at the High School (teaching Junior level American Government, and various other electives) and I was one of those teachers.  So when I found out that it was my turn for the purchase of new textbooks, I asked my principal if it was possible for me to get a classroom set of technology in-lieu of textbooks.  Luckily for me, the principal was trusting enough to pursue this adventure.

So why did I want technology as opposed to textbooks?  

Simply, I wanted to provide my students with all my resources and the internet seemed the easiest means to do so (especially considering how quickly things can change in the political world I was teaching about).  Also, I wanted to better prepare my students for college, where technology was playing an even greater role.

What kind of technology did we buy and why?

My principal and I constantly discussed the advantages and disadvantages of various different technology options 5 years ago.  By the end of that school year (2011), we had decided that Apple’s iPads were the best fit for us due to a couple different reasons:

1.  Their batteries would last an entire day. (We only have two outlets in the room so extension cords for students to plug-in were not an option)
2.  They were a stable platform to work with on a daily basis.

At that time, iPads were the only tool to meet those two criteria.

What resources was I using with the iPads?

Once I got the new iPads into my classroom, I set out to make my class as paperless (and accessible) as possible for my students.  During the summer, before I got my iPads, I was blessed to have an Ash Grove alum (Chris Beeson) who graciously installed Moodle onto our server domain.  Moodle is basically an online tool similar to Blackboard or Angel used by many colleges.  It allows you to do Blogs, provide links, give/grade tests, etc.  With that resource available, I wanted to also provide parent/guardians the opportunity to see the notes/assignments that would be assigned to their children.  Therefore, I setup a Google Site which housed all my notes (which were still Powerpoints) and assignments (which were turned into PDF’s). https://sites.google.com/site/coachhoup/
In a nutshell, those are the two resources primarily used in my class that first year with iPads.

A couple other things that were used for note taking purposes were a SmartBoard and an Apple TV.  The SmartBoard is a very valuable tool, but I didn’t really use it’s full capability.  It’s main use was moving my powerpoints forward.  The Apple TV provided me the chance to have students send their iPad screens up to the projector when they had completed activities.

Google Apps for Education Changed the Game

Then two years ago Google Apps for Education began to make headways into the Educational sphere.  I had begun to use tools on my own (Gmail, Google Docs, etc.) for my Masters Classes that I was taking at the time.  Then a good buddy of mine (Patrick Dempsey-Middle School Science Teacher) began to show me the cool uses of Google Apps in his classroom.

With his prodding, I began to see how I could use those tools in my classroom as well.  So we began to take notes and collaborate on research via Google Docs.  It obviously was not a smooth transition because I had to use my personal Gmail Account and encourage students to create their own Gmail Accounts as well.  It was awesome to be able to provide instant feedback to students (as well to no longer have the, “I left it at home” excuse).  This also encouraged the English teachers (one of them being my wife) to use Google Docs as well in their classroom.  Thus began the desire of getting Google Apps at our High School.

At the beginning of this last school year (2014-2015), I was finally able to establish the high school as a Google Apps school.  Even though I had no experience working with the Google Apps Admin, we at the high school pressed on to implement the tool.  Four to Five teachers decided that they were going to use Google Apps extensively.  The tools we all decided to use included:  Blogger, Sheets, Docs, Slides, Sites, and Calendar.  All of us used them to varying degrees, but all of us used them at the basic level (meaning no add-ons, etc.).

(In terms of security as a school district, it was nice to move to a school owned Google Apps domain.  By using it, instead of our own personal Google Accounts, we could provide and maintain archive student/teacher communication/work.)

Winds of Change?

As January of 2015 began to roll around, the school district began discussing a broader use of technology in the district as a whole (not just High School).  The administration developed a technology committee to discuss our goals and action steps to achieve those goals.  Basically we decided to implement Google Apps district-wide and begin moving to a 1:1 initiative.  The Google Apps (at least to those of us who used it in the classroom on a regular basis) seemed like a no-brainer and a great step forward for our school district.

The difficulty we had with the 1:1 was the decision of what technology would be best for the initiative (if any).  So we sent feelers out to multiple schools who had already implemented that initiative in their districts.  We wanted to see the good, the bad, and the ugly of their experiences.  Overwhelmingly, the other districts found great success with their programs, specifically with their Chromebooks.

By now, Chromebooks had become powerful tools for the classroom.  The committee developed their basic goals (similar to my own goals four years prior) for technology:

1.  Their batteries would last an entire day. (We only have two outlets in the room so extension cords for students to plug-in were not an option)
2.  They were a stable platform to work with on a daily basis.

3.  Able to effectively use Google Apps. (The new goal the committee added)

So we ordered a couple of Chromebooks (A Dell 11 and an Acer C740) to test out their capabilities.  Since I had already began using many of the Google Apps programs in my classroom, I would give these Chromebooks to my students to see how they would do during the school day.   Not only did they last through the entire day (with heavy use), but the students overwhelming preferred it over the iPads.  I also gave the Chromebooks to various teachers for them to explore, both personally and in the classroom.

Therefore as a committee, we decided upon getting Acer C740’s for the upcoming school year.  While we do not have the funds for complete 1:1, we decided to get a couple classroom sets each year until we achieve the 1:1 numbers.

Preparing the Staff

Since we were going district-wide, we decided that our staff needed some PD on the possibilities of Google Apps in their classrooms.  So the 4 High School teachers who had used Google Apps during the school year organized a district-wide “Google Apps Conference.”  It was a little scary but fun experience to demonstrate the capabilities to our fellow staff members.  Realize that none of us were Google Certified at this point, but were willing people.  Certification is not necessary to be a catalyst for your school district.  (I have since passed the Google Educator Level 1 Certification Test)

New School Year (2015-2016)

So this new school year provides us as a district with multiple new/exciting opportunities.  We are providing two classroom sets of Chromebooks to the two elementary schools (four total) and 3 classroom sets for the High School/Junior High.

While the implementation of technology is an exciting new venture, it is bound to have some challenges.  I am looking forward to exploring these challenges, finding solutions, and sharing them with you.