Search Skills Monthly Challenge

This Search Blitz Skills Challenge -will eventually be a series of 9 short YouTube videos. It has been a result of:

  • an effort to offer more “bite-sized” any-place, any-pace PD for teachers.
  • a need to provide assistance to teachers as they address digital responsibility and executive function skills for their students.
  • a request by teachers to continue producing these short “Skills Blitz” challenge series. (See the original Chromebook Challenge Blitz and Google Drive Organization Blitz.)

These Search Skills challenges are being released month-by-month in our monthly Instructional Coach Newsletters in 2022/23.the The videos feature:

  • a step-by-step how-to section
  • a “challenge” – essentially an artifact or two to submit that shows you have successfully completed the skills
  • time-stamped videos so that you can skip to the exact section of the video you need

Ways to use these videos

With your Staff: You might choose to use just the how-to section (see the bottom of each YouTube video for time-stamp topic links). You might also use the whole video, including the challenges that describe what teachers or students needed to submit to qualify for an incentive.

You can also use the videos for a “learning moment” at each monthly staff meeting. You could show the video for the whole staff to work along with at the same time, or provide the link for staff to use the video(s) at their own pace. Either way, a focused time to do this activity allows staff members to help each other and you will be surprised at the additional learning that happens adjacent to this activity. Staff can collect their “artifacts” in this slide deck; it also includes the videos for an “all-in-one” learning package. You would be amazed at how well it works to provide an incentive like an Amazon or Starbucks card for completion of “the full deck”!

With your Class: Teachers in our district have fun doing the challenges with their entire class submitting evidence to a Google Slide deck. In a separate slide deck for each month/skill, each student is assigned a slide to which they add their name and the requested screenshot(s). The age range is typically from grade 4 to 12. Several teachers use the whole Challenge library in the first weeks of school to set their students up for year-long Google Drive success.

Here is the link to the “whole”in-progress” Search Skills Blitz Playlist on YouTube. Videos will be released on the first day of the month during the 2022-23 school year. The skills build in complexity through the months. You don’t have to do them in order, but I would recommend going in order for students. Gathering the “artifacts” usually involves taking screenshots. Use this quick video tutorial that shows how to screenshot on a Chromebook.

Here are the first two individual challenges of the Search Skills Blitz:

Boolean Search Modifiers

While you are at it, you could also work on a mini-series of Chromebook Skills. Check out the original PRPS Skills Blitz: Chromebook Blitz Playlist on YouTube.

The 2023 school year will brings a new Skills Blitz Challenge, this time on universal Search Skills. Check out the growing Search Skills Blitz Playlist.

Google Drive Skills Challenge

Items in the Google Drive Organization Skills Blitz

This Google Drive Blitz Skills Challenge -a series of 9 short YouTube videos -has been a result of:

  • an effort to offer more “bite-sized” any-place, any-pace PD for teachers.
  • a need to provide assistance to teachers as they address digital organization and executive function skills for their students.
  • a request by teachers to continue producing these short “Skills Blitz” challenge series. (See the original Chromebook Challenge Blitz.)

These challenges were originally released month-by-month in our monthly Instructional Coach Newsletters in 2021/22. The videos feature:

  • a step-by-step how-to section
  • a “challenge” – essentially an artifact to submit that shows you have successfully completed the skills
  • time-stamped videos so that you can skip to the exact section of the video you need

Ways to use these videos

With your Staff: You might choose to use just the how-to section (see the bottom of each YouTube video for time-stamp topic links). You might also use the whole video, including the challenges that describe what teachers or students needed to submit to qualify for an incentive.

You can also use the videos for a “learning moment” at each monthly staff meeting. You could show the video for the whole staff to work along with at once, or provide the link for staff to use the video at their own pace. Either way, a focused time to do this activity allows staff members to help each other and you will be surprised at the additional learning that happens adjacent to this activity. Staff can collect their “artifacts” in this slide deck; it also includes the videos for an “all-in-one” learning package. You would be amazed at how well it works to provide an incentive like an Amazon or Starbucks card for completion of “the full deck”!

With your Class: Teachers in our district had fun doing the challenges with their entire class submitting evidence to a Google Slide deck. The age range was from grade 4 to 12. Several teachers use the whole Challenge library in the first weeks of school to set their students up for year-long Google Drive success.

Here is the link to the whole Google Drive Blitz Playlist on YouTube. The skills build in complexity through the months. You don’t have to do them in order, but I would recommend going in order for students. Gathering the “artifacts” usually involves taking screenshots. Use this quick video tutorial that shows how to screenshot on a Chromebook.

Here are the first two individual challenges of the Google Drive Organization Skills Blitz:

01 Google Drive Blitz – How to Create and Rename Folders
02 Google Drive Blitz – How to Remove Items in Google Drive

While you are at it, you could also work on a mini-series of Chromebook Skills. Check out the original PRPS Skills Blitz: Chromebook Blitz Playlist on YouTube.

The 2023 school year will brings a new Skills Blitz Challenge, this time on universal Search Skills. Check out the growing Search Skills Blitz Playlist.

5 Hacks for S’more Newsletters

When the topic of school or Instructional newsletters comes up, S’more is always one of the top recommendations. Recently I was talking with a librarian who commented that she can’t get her S’more newsletter to look like our Instructional Coach Newsletter.

It turns out that we have some tips and tricks to save some time as you write your S’more newsletter and some hints to make the elements engaging and click-worthy.

  1. Create distinct newsletter sections using images. Create a “header-style” image in Google Drawing or Canva or any graphic creation tool. Save it as a .jpg file and upload the image to create impactful section and content headers. Here’s a simple example:

2. Create a template newsletter. In this template, include all your header and all images that you might include as splashy headings (see # 1). Duplicate this template to start each new newsletter and delete the parts that you don’t need this time. Your readers will appreciate the consistency and you will save time!

3. Long newsletter? Create a table of contents at the top of your newsletter and hyper link to a spot further down on the page. Our table of contents looks like this (see below) and always sits directly below the header. Our analytics show that these table of contents links get lots of clicks. Watch the GIF below to see how to Copy Link to Highlight in Google Chrome.

Do note that if you are using the “Create a Template” tip, that you must reformat these links each time you duplicate the newletter. The original links will always point back to the original template!

Sample Table of Content From the Top of a Long Newsletter
How to “Copy Link to Highlight” for creating a Table of Contents in Smore

4. Write descriptive links for better analytics. One of the reasons so many folks pay to use S’more is the analytics that it provides. Your analytics won’t be very helpful if they only show that seven different “Click here” links have been clicked! Be sure your link description let’s you know what is being clicked! For example:

  • Add your entry to this Padlet.
  • Register for the after PD event here.
  • Check out the SEL Calendar
  • Shop the School Swag website here.

And not only are these links links better for analytics, they are also more helpful for folks using screen readers.

5. Create images as “Click bait”. When you insert a document or pdf or slide deck into smore you don’t have much control over the way it looks or even the description. In fact, you might even end up with a “sign in” message for Google or Microsoft. To increase the probablity that your items get opened, add at least a screenshot image of the content. If you have time to get fancy, create a nice image in Canva, etc. that includes a screenshot or some other description of the content.

In the example below, instead of just including a link to a Youtube Playlist, I’ve added an image of the playlist. This works wonders for getting folks to explore more! Try it with calendars, playlists, documents, website instructions, etc.

Add at least a screen shot so that viewers are more likely to open links or attached documents.

iorad For Quick Tutorials

In my jobs as an Instructional Coach, Curriculum designer, Teacher and Edtech prof for pre-service teachers I’ve made hundreds and hundreds of image and video tutorials. These would represent thousands of screenshots in the making.

Every person who has to make tutorials to simplify the lives of others should meet a tool like iorad. iorad is a chrome extension that works by capturing and labelling your steps as you click through a workflow.

Click here to check out an example of an iorad – magic commands in canva

There are several things that I’ve come to appreciate about iorad:

1. Your original “step captures” are easy to edit for a more polished product.

2. If you edit or update a tutorial later on, the link is still good and everything just updates

3. You can organize your content into a Help Center. Your Help Center can be customized to different groupings within your organization such as teachers, office administrators, etc.

4. You can translate the written instructions to any tutorial.

5. When you install the extension you get a “square” icon in your Google tools – Docs, Slides, Sheets, Drive. Etc – click on this icon to access a list of tutorials

Click here to download the free iorad extension

Change Font in Google Forms

I’m so glad to announce that the original post (see way below) is now outdated and irrelevant! In this case, it’s a cause for celebration. Over the summer of 2022, Google finally gave us the ability to choose and alter fonts in Google Forms – something that many of us have been waiting for, for a long time.

When you type your questions in a form header or a section header, you will notice that you immediately get options to bold, italicize, or underline your text, but the real magic is less evident.

The next screenshot shows that when you click the design palette at the top of your form, now, in addition to changing the colour palette of the form, you can choose a different font style for each part of your form: the header, questions, and the text of the answer options.

Add “More Fonts” to the new Google Forms list of Fonts

You can choose fonts and sizes from the list that is available. Currently, there are limited font sizes to choose from: header (18-24), question (12-18), and text (9-12)

And then, under each of those font drop-downs, you have the “More fonts” option that you might be familiar with from Google Docs. Check out the video below for how to use the “More fonts” option. I would recommend adding the “More fonts” to the heading font category where it would be fun to choose from the array of display fonts.

Check out the video below for a demo of how to use the “More Fonts” option, available in Google Docs, Slides, and now in Google Forms. (Also available at fonts.google.com)

This video shows More Fonts in Google Docs – but it will work exactly the same way in Google Forms.

Original Blog Post: Long Hack to use Different Fonts is a Google Form

Whenever I do an in-service on Google Forms, someone invariably asks about the ability to change the font.  While we would all love this feature to be part of Google Forms, it doesn’t exist within the program. As such, I have always had to tell my teachers that, no, this isn’t possible, but you can… create sections, use capital letters for emphasis, etc….

But wait! I just learned about the most exciting hack! It makes so much sense I am a little embarrassed that I didn’t think of this workaround myself.  Here it is:

You simply go to Google and search for a ‘fancy font generator’.  You type your desired text into the generator and copy and paste it into the Google Form. It works in the title spaces, questions, or body of the questions.  Ok, so it does involve quite a few clicks, but it is a great way to bring new life and interest to your forms and surveys! Thanks go out to my ₲ØØ₲ⱠɆ ₵ɆⱤ₮ł₣łɆĐ ₮Ɽ₳ł₦ɆⱤ ₱Ⱡ₦ for this revelation.

The site that I have most enjoyed is www.coolsymbol.com This site not only creates fancy fonts, but also has an emoji section.  And 🅨🅔🅢!!!! You can even copy and paste the emojis into your form.  This opens up so many new possibilities for using forms with pre-readers or ELL students! There are lots of font generating sites to chose from.Screen Shot 2019-07-29 at 9.12.15 PM

Although the Font in Forms hack brings me considerable joy, here are some other places this trick would be really helpful:

  • labelling Google Drive Folders – think of the Emojis for pre-readers
  • adding interest to your Social Media account name – you’ve likely seen this in some Twitter handles
  • adding interest to your blog title
  • creating Rebus puzzles
  • signing your email with a unique digital signature

Go on and try it, if you haven’t already!  See, it really does work slick in forms, doesn’t it?

Try out these ideas for accessing more fonts in Google Docs:

Learning Something New: Just Jump In

The Twitter exchange above is evidence of what happens when you have a strong PLN (Professional Learning Network) and are willing to jump in and try something new.

I am not much of a swimmer. It’s not that I don’t like the water, it’s that I intensely dislike that initial moment when you have to get all cold and wet. My children are avid swimmers and their mindset is “just jump in and get it over with”. In fact, one of them describes that jump in moment as exhilarating, whereas I would consider that an antonym of how I view the experience.

Fortunately though, when it comes to trying new things with technology I am much less averse to the “jump in” methodology. Perhaps it’s my acceptance of the fact that things could fail miserably that allows me to jump in and try something new in the edtech department.

Even starting a blog could fall into the jump in category. When I started this blog over 10 years ago, blogs were not as prolific as they are today however, they were fairly common. Nonetheless, it was still a big step to find the right thing to write about, especially knowing that very few people might ever read it. I had to be OK with that, and then just jump in and do it.

I was reminded of the importance of jumping in this week as I participated in a string of “jump in” events. It started with ISTE Community Leader colleagues looking for someone to lead a Twitter Spaces conversation. A Twitter Spaces event was something that I had participated in before but had never hosted. As my participation as an ISTE Community Leader group “social media” member had been a bit spotty, I figured that it was time to step up, and so when our group leader Greta Sandler (@gret), put out the S.O.S for a Twitter Spaces host, I volunteered for the role a single day before showtime.

In order to prepare to host the Twitter Space, I had some practicing to do so I “jumped in”, set up a practice space and invited some of my Twitter PLN. I was delighted that so many others from my PLN joined the space even though I hadn’t sent them a specific invite – it turns out that lots of folks are curious about Twitter Spaces.

One of those PLN members was Bryon Carpenter (@bryoncar) who hosts the podcast Fresh Air at Five: he gets exercise at 5 am, listens to educational podcasts and then posts quick summary videos to Twitter which he later turns into a weekly podcast. Apparently, he had been wanting to try out Twitter Spaces when my opportunity presented itself. The next day, Bryon himself “jumped in” and sent out invites for some of his PLN to join in an experiment where he would use Twitter Spaces to have people join his walk and podcast review from afar. I was happy to get to join his experiment. Listen to the finished podcast here.

Both Twitter space experiments were fun but not without some learning moments. And that’s what happens when you just “jump in” – you have some fun and learn from your mistakes along the way!

I’d love thoughts in the comments about Twitter Spaces or “jumping in” to try something new!

Fun with Google A-Z: Where on Google Earth is Carmen Sandiego?

What: If you were a student in the 1980s or 90s you might recognize Carmen Sandiego as one of the earliest educational video games – the kind that came on discs! The original game version and the following TV show were all about geography. Today’s Carmen Sandiego is still geography-based, although there are fewer clues than the original versions.

Audience:  Adults will enjoy the nostalgia of playing Carmen Sandiego, but the geographic clues are quite simple. The clues are suitable for primary and elementary students although students will need to be able to read to play on their own. (It would be great to see some audio accessibility tools built into this game!)

Time to Play:  There are three games in total. An adult could whiz through each game in less than 5 minutes.

When using this with a full class of students, I would be sure to go more slowly and talk about geographic concepts to build geographic thinking. For example, you can take Peg Man and drop him onto the street level and explore.

Equipment: Google Earth works well in a web browser like Google Chrome and the Google Earth app also makes for a great mobile experience. The app version of Carmen Sandiego is nearly identical to the browser version.

Click here for the Google A-Z Table of Contents Launch Pad.

Fun with Google A-Z YouTube Playlist.

Fun with Google A-Z: V for Voyager Stories

What: Curated voyages and experiences in Google Earth including Nature, Culture, Travel, Education and Streetview. There is also a Games section with games Animal Calls, Lakes of the World, Food Origins, Holiday Traditions, World War II, and “Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?”

Voyages include a collection of beautiful images and basic information with links to explore more. At any point, you can grab “peg man” and hop into StreetView to take a closer look. This is also where you can access Google Earth’s “Timelapse” images such as urbanization, deforestation and melting glaciers.

Audience:  The curation around topics makes Google Earth more manageable for younger learners. Many of the items in the Quizzes section are geared for students, such as “Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?” The “Education” tab includes geographic collections around cross-curricular topics such as geometry, poetry, “Fairy Tales from Around the World”, “Reading the ABCs from Space”, Math and Architecture in Circular Structures… so much to choose from!

Time to Play:  Consider this site a “rabbit hole”! You will need a minimum of 10 or 15 minutes to get a feel for what this area of Google Earth is capable of. The format is intuitive and consistent so that will help you determine how to best enjoy this site.

Equipment: Google Earth works best on a computer, but the Chromebook experience is quite similar. On a mobile device, users will be prompted to use the Google Earth App. The app works well and is especially good for navigating in Street View.

Click here for the Google A-Z Table of Contents Launch Pad.

Fun with Google A-Z YouTube Playlist.

Tips for New Coaches

These tips are for district employees, such as Instructional Coaches, who travel to many different schools. In addition, these tips are also for people who work primarily “in the field” and from “place to place” and are not often at the same desk.

  1. Introduce yourself to the secretary (administrative assistant). When you enter the building, call her by name and make small talk.
  2. You probably will struggle to remember all the names at first so put an icon link on your phone home screen to the district website so that you easily review the names of people before you get to a building.
  3. As much as possible, arrive before school and stay after school. This is when teachers have time to talk. It will sound like this: …..”I’ve been meaning to email you about yyyy, but since you’re here….”.
  4. Be prepared. As a travelling salesperson, you won’t be at your home base very often, so make sure you are prepared when you go to schools. Charging your laptop at the start of the day should be the exception, not the norm.
  5. Label your things – your computer, your cords, your headphones. As a traveller, you are bound to forget something somewhere. Make it easy for your things to find their way back to you.
  6. Earn a reputation for responding to messages (email, text, etc) in a timely fashion. Many days you will be in front of classes or people all day and won’t have time for correspondence as it comes in, but catch up as soon as you can, even if it is to say… “I don’t know yet, but I’m investigating for you.”
  7. And conversely, when coaching one on one with a teacher, be present. Most correspondence can wait until later. Your undivided attention is golden.
  8. Take notes – in a form that works for you. A notebook dedicated to the job is a great idea. Or perhaps you are more of a digital notetaker. I use a combination of a notebook + Google Keep. The advantage to a digital tool is that you can take collaborative notes with your coaching team and/or it is easy to move those digital notes into other formats.
  9. About that “later” correspondence…. your message in-box will really fill up at the end of the school day when classes are over and teachers and administrators have time to catch up with their correspondence. If possible, save some time at this day’s end to respond to time-sensitive messages, especially if you know that you will be “in the field” the following day
  10. Leave your ringer off when you are in classrooms and meetings. Unless you are waiting for an emergency call or a super time-sensitive message from your boss, turn off your notifications until you are working by yourself.
  11. Put your engagements in your calendar right away. Add as much detail as you can in the “notes”; chances are good that you will forget some of the ideas you chat about with your teachers if you don’t record them right away.
  12. If a teacher says, “I’d like to meet sometime about…”, pull out your calendar and set a date on the spot.
  13. If you drive a lot from location to location, consider a box or plastic bin in your back seat that serves as a mini-file cabinet. If you are like me, you often don’t get back to your “main office” where most of your supplies/belongings are. Use this mini-file space to keep paper copies of documents that you often need to share with staff but don’t want to lug around in your bag. Sometimes printing can be reliable (or unavailable) in different buildings so having paper copies is important. In a pinch, I do send items to the administrative assistant to print, but I like to reserve that for the unexpected, not for documents that I know I will likely need (ie. PD Flyers; How to access your MAP test result; Chromebook Quick Tip guide; etc.)

So… these are some of the little things that can make a “travelling work-style easier” and help you to appear knowledgeable and professional when you work with several different sites.

What did I miss? Please share your best tips in the comments!!!

Fun with Google: G for Geoguessr

What: This site is not a Google site directly, but uses Google Streetview to bring the fun. You choose from a category of maps such as World, USA, Famous Places, Europe, Canada, etc. You then will get a series of 5 map locations that you examine via Google Street view; you take a guess by placing your pin on the map inset and pressing submit. The closer you get, the more points.

Audience: Adults, especially those who have travelled, will find this quite addicting! I would play this game WITH students to start to help model and build their geographical thinking and reasoning skills (I do a bit of that in the YouTube video). This would be a good link to have on hand for those 5-10 minutes of class when you are “waiting” or need a quick class activity that will still build students’ knowledge and thinking skills.

Middle school and high school students will have enough geographic knowledge to enjoy this game. Younger students might have enough knowledge to play “Famous Places”; the first levels are very identifiable such as the Eiffel Tower and Taj Mahal.

Time to Play:  The free version of the game gives you 5 minutes at a time to play and then imposes a 10-minute wait time. If you don’t complete a 5-location challenge within 5 minutes, it saves your progress and you pick up where you left off the next time you play.

Equipment: Geoguessr is played in a web browser – it is not an app. It can be played on a Chromebook, but is also nice on a touch screen device, like an iPad. You can play on your phone browser – the touch screen makes it easy to navigate, but the small screen is a bit crowded.

There is a single-player mode and “party”/play-with-friends mode. Unfortunately, to “play with friends” at least one friend needs a pro account. There are lots of other perks behind the paywall, but you can certainly have fun with this app on the free version – and because it is somewhat addicting, the 5-minute-at-a-time limit isn’t such a bad thing!

Click here for the Google A-Z Table of Contents Launch Pad.

Fun with Google A-Z YouTube Playlist.