Google Classroom Updates: September 2015

Google Classroom Updates (1)I’m so excited that Google is making so many awesome updates to Classroom!

Today, Google unleashed a new extension to simplify Classroom even more…Share to Classroom!

This free extension allows teachers and students to share information from the web to their classes through Google Classroom.

Teachers can create an announcement or assignment directly from a website by using the extension. They can also “push” a resource to their students. Pushing a resource to students will send the students a notification. I can see this being very useful during a teacher absence, among other uses of course!

Students can also share resources with their teacher with this extension, however both teachers and students need to have the extension activated in order to use these great features.

To read more about Google’s updates to Classroom, check out this article.

I can’t wait to see what else Google has in store for Classroom!

Thanks for reading :)

Creating Rubrics with Google Forms

Today, my Government students began what has become one of my favorite projects: Creating Your Own Government.

Students are given an imaginary scenario in which they have to establish a functional government, including how to address issues such as building shelters, creating jobs, establishing an educational system, etc.

Students are also required to draft a constitution complete with established rights of citizens, as well as limits placed on the government.

The conversations I heard today while I was monitoring were absolutely fantastic, and I can’t wait to see what they students come up with!

I decided to try something different this year, when it comes to the grading of these projects. I typically grade the projects during presentations, but it always seems as though I’m scribbling notes on a rubric while attempting to keep up with the content and the nuts and bolts of the presentation.

UsingThis year, to make life easier, I decided to create a Google Form and use it as a rubric.

No, my students will not complete this Google Form. This is not a document for them to complete, rather an easier way for me to grade their presentations.

I took all of the criteria that would normally be on a rubric and transferred that to a Google Form.  As you most likely know, one of the beautiful features of Google Forms (other than the relatively new ability to change the theme…which is awesome!!) is that it automatically ties to a Google Sheet where all of the student responses are collected.

Now, I can be more involved in being an active audience member, as opposed to scribbling down information on a paper rubric, that I will most likely misplace!

Why didn’t I think of this sooner???

form 1

form 2

For the next rubric I make, I will most likely add an “Additional Comments” section under each criteria.

I’m quickly going gaga for Google Forms and all of the awesome organization that accompanies this tool.

Hope your school year is off to a wonderful start!

Thanks for reading :)


Google Classroom Updates

Google Classroom has made more exciting updates! Yay!

Google has added these new features to Classroom this month:
1. Ask a question
2. Reusing posts
3. Pinning posts

I’ve seen reports on Twitter that other exciting features, like Calendar integration, are coming soon. Can’t wait for those!

I recently tried the question option with one of my dual credit classes. I am a HUGE advocate for online discussion boards/forums, and the lack of this feature was one of my main complaints about Classroom when it first debuted.classroom new

Teachers can easily ask a question (and post announcements, assignments, etc) with the new post feature.

Asking a question really couldn’t get much easier. After choosing “ask a question,” teachers simply type their question and choose “ask.”

classroom new 3Next, teachers will be prompted to adjust the settings of the question, allowing students to view and reply to their classmates’ responses, and edit their individual responses.

As I said, I tried this with one of my dual credit classes, and it worked very well. I could easily attach documents/videos/URL’s to the “question” just as I could do in a discussion board activity I would assign on my LMS. Students were able to post, and then view and comment on their classmates’ responses. My only complaint was that students were only able to comment down one level. Example…

Student A: The US Constitution should be amended to allow citizens born outside the US to become president. Etc, etc, etc…
Student B: I agree with you because …
Student C: I disagree with you because…

If Student B wanted to continue the dialogue with Student C, they would not be able to do so within their response post. Again…just a minor complaint, but nonetheless something that can occur within a traditional Learning Management System.

Google Classroom updates

As more exciting updates are added to Classroom, I will test them with my students and let you know the results!

Thanks for reading :)


Gamification in American Government

Towards the end of last school year, my students and I were all suffering from end-of-the-year-itis. We had 10 snow days (nothing like 20 from the year before!) and we knew we would be making up those days AFTER Memorial Day.

We fell into the “4th Quarter Funk.”

Motivation on both “sides of the desk” was at an all time low.

I had to try something to encourage at least a little drive and effort to close out the year.

I had heard about gamification at the wonderful EdTech conference I get to attend every year, METC, and originally brushed it off as something that was too much to add to my already hectic classroom. Shortly after METC, I realized that this attitude was exactly the mentality I was trying to push my students to avoid.

Teacher face-palm moment.

Even though I had NO experience in the world of gaming…other than the Super Mario Brothers of the 90’s (lets face it…that’s real gaming!),  I decided to give it a go. After all, I want to use educational technology tools and new instructional strategies to enhance the learning environment and increase student engagement. Gamification seemed like a step in the right direction.

I started by gamifying one unit of instruction in my American Government class. I was still unsure about the process (I’m by no means an expert now!), so I decided to take baby steps.

This year, I’m diving in head first.

My year long game, Mission- American Government“Mission: American Government,” is filled with XP, levels, tools, and badges. And, after introducing the concept to my students today, I think I may have nailed it!

Creating this game has pushed me out of my comfort zone…I’m trying to think like a game designer AND I’m actually USING a Spreadsheet. Formulas and conditional formatting, oh my!

Here’s a rough outline of “Mission: American Government.”

  • Students earn XP for completing unit activities and assignments
    • For my sanity…the XP is equal to the points the students earn in the grade book
  • Four different tools are available for each level
    • “Candy Crush”
    • “High Five”
    • “50/50”
    • “Post-It Pal”
  • XP earned by students allows them to “level up” (7 levels so far…after presenting this to my students today, I may need to add more!!)
  • Each level provides students with a specific tool
  • Students earn badges (to come in a later post!) for scoring at least an 80% on their unit exam on the first try

If you’re interested in viewing my Google Spreadsheet with the above information, please click here.

In the Total XP column, I used formulas and conditional formatting…I’m slightly proud of myself!

Students Total XP is calculated, of course by adding the XP earned from the unit. Conditional formatting is used in the Total XP column to color code XP by levels. For example, students who earn between 100 and 500 XP are at the Bronze level, and their Total XP is highlighted Bronze. When they earn between 501 and 900 XP are at the Ruby level, their Total XP is highlighted Red, etc.

Seriously…I cannot tell you how proud I am that I figured out that specific feature of Spreadsheets!

In addition to earning XP for completing assignments (instructional videos, vocab activities, discussion boards, etc) students can also earn XP for other activities I throw out throughout the year. For example, if I see students voluntarily helping a classmate with a problem, I may award XP. Students were encouraged to complete their first instructional video at home tonight. If they do, they will earn XP. If students complete current events bonus activities, they earn XP.

So far, I really like the flexibility that gamification offers…by making XP available for assignments/activities as well as random “targets,” I hope to keep my students motivated and avoid the 4th Quarter (or 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Quarter) Funk!

To jazz up the game even more, I think I’ll allow students to choose screen names…or gamer tags?

Stay tuned for updates!

Thanks for reading :)


Using Bookmarks in the Classroom

If you’re like me, you probably have students access multiple websites for your class.

I haven’t quite found one single website that has every feature I use in my classroom…and that’s ok!

Sometimes, students have difficulty organizing and navigating a variety of websites during a class period. Students often become frustrated with me because I typically keep about 10 tabs open at once.

That’s normal, right? :)

To prevent frustration and panic among my students, I’m trying a new route.

Thursday, our first day of school, students entered my classroom and were told to access eight different websites.

Responses ranged from, “when can I close out of all of these tabs?” to ” having so many tabs open freaks me out!”

Bookmark BarAfter I showed my students how to sign up and navigate each site,  I told them to bookmark each page. The main response was, “but I have so many bookmarks already!!”

To calm fears of a crowded bookmark bar, I showed may students how to create a folder for their bookmarks, and then how to add those super important pages to that folder.

On Friday, when my students entered the classroom, I told them to access Google Classroom for the day’s activity. I overheard a conversation that went something like…”didn’t you make a bookmark folder like we were supposed to do yesterday? It’s so much easier…”

Mission accomplished :)

If you’d like to share use this super simple strategy with your students, please click here to access the PDF instruction sheet!

Seriously, why did I not think of using bookmarks in the classroom before? Wow…

Hope your year is off to a great start!

Thanks for reading :)



Create Classroom Decorations with Canva

Well folks, the summer sun is setting quickly and the school year is rapidly approaching.

If you’re like me, you most likely did not accomplish everything you set out to do during the summer…I never seem to finish my list!

If updating your classroom decorations with posters/printables customized for your students is on your list, then head over to Canva!

I’ve talked about this amazing resource before, and I’ve really gotten carried away with poster creation lately :)

If you follow my quotes board on Pinterest, you will likely be inundated with snazzy sayings from the wonderful world of Harry Potter. Seriously, how fantastic is Professor Dumbledore?!

My creative juices have been flowing on Canva, and have produced an Albus Dumbledore poster, a classroom procedures poster, and an important information printable to hang outside my classroom door.

-It is our choices...that show who we (3)

Canva is mostly free, with some backgrounds and images costing only $1. Make anything from classroom posters and printables to birthday invitations and Christmas cards. It’s great!

Thanks for reading :)


How to Use Formative to Assess Student Learning

It’s no secret that formative assessment is vitally important to any classroom. How can we know what to teach or review with our students if we don’t know what our students know? Do you know what I mean? :)

As a flipped teacher, I am always looking for tools that can quickly, easily, and effectively help me formatively assess student learning. Did they understand the content from the instructional video? Did they really grasp the concept addressed in the activity?


I recently stumbled upon Formative while perusing Pinterest after watching Once Upon a Time :) and I was extremely impressed! Like other formative assessment tools I’ve reviewed, Formative is FREE for teachers and students, and offers a Google single sign-on…which prevents our students (and us!) from having to remember yet ANOTHER username and password!

Formative offers so many question options for teachers, including multiple choice, short answer, true/false, and a “show your work” option that would be great for Math classes!

In addition to questions, teachers can also add a variety of content to their Formative to share with students. Do you need to illustrate a process? Simply upload an image to the Formative and draw directly on the image! Assign Formatives to multiple classes and view student responses in REAL TIME!

Teachers can send assignments to students by sharing a link or code (works best if students are already logged in their Formative account).

I see Formative as Geddit on steroids, and I’m so glad I found it! Especially since Geddit shut down as of the end of July :(

Check out the screenshots below for more information:

Untitled drawing

Formative instructions 2


Thanks for reading!


Educational Trends in Online Courses – Guest Post

Check out this newest guest post!

Educational Trends in Online Courses

Educational Trends in Online Courses

The IT revolution and the computerization of the world have caused major changes in the educational trends, as well. Although going to elementary school is still compulsory, students can find information in dozens of ways. Also, many of them experience serious problems as a result of cumbersome and slow system of public education. But there are some positive trends going on that can give the pupils and students of today a nice boost when it comes to their education.

School as worker manufacturer

The discrepancy between the things we are taught in school and the needs of the real labor market has been huge for decades. Due to its massive size and inability to quickly adapt to new technological innovations that have completely changed the nature of work, the school system has been falling behind for a long period of time.

Today, however, different departments that deal with education (both public and private) are trying to bring together the labor market, entrepreneurs, schools and teachers, so as to transform schools into institutions that will actually create workers able to find jobs in these new conditions. Online courses will are of great importance in this process, since they accelerate the whole learning process.

Relaxed gaming for impressive results

According to this infographic, people spend more than 3 billion hours playing video games on a weekly basis. The majority of those hours represent time spent by children and students. So, one of the main educational trends in the years to come will definitely be merging those gaming habits and education to get better results in the education system. Experts have already proven interesting cognitive benefits of video games, which is already a great contribution to the mental development of children. On the other hand, the opposition claims that games have a bad effect on students’ physical health, especially due to the reduced amount of physical exercise they get. The solution is creating a balanced daily schedule for your kids, with physical activities, as well.

Changed perspective (flipped teaching)

One of the most amusing and efficient new trends in contemporary education is reversing the process of learning. In flipped teaching students watch educational videos at home, participate in online discussions and conduct research. After they do all of this, they come to school and do homework or additional special tasks in class, with the help of their teachers and friends from class.

By applying this trend, all the factors included in the process are used as much as possible. Students are taught to rely on their own skills and develop new ones, while teachers keep the roles of advisers and organizers.

New payment trends

As technology is seeping into the education niche, too, people can get the information they need for free. This possibility definitely enables them to nourish a more individual approach to learning.

Thanks to online educational tools, many sites offer knowledge for free. However, if you need a certificate and reference for your future career, enrolling courses that charge for their services is a must. Many online training organizations let you attend classes or study online and the tuition can be divided into installments. You simply study now and pay later, which is a great opportunity to cut your expenses.

Knowledge is available at one click of the mouse. New courses, innovative approaches and interactive learning help people retrain or study at a pretty rapid pace. All these options also give us a wonderful chance to improve or develop our soft skills for better job positions.

Nate Vickery is an entrepreneur and web designer from Sydney, Australia. His working on starting his own creative company that will incorporate everything he knows and loves. Aside from work, he loves watching the ocean in his home town and spending time with family. You can follow Nate on his Facebook profile.

How to Expand Your Summer Learning with Twitter

Teachers, have you joined Twitter?

If you, like my own momma, haven’t joined Twitter yet, please jump on the bandwagon! It’s free! It’s easy to use! It’s an AMAZING resource for teachers!

If you’ve read my blog before :) then you know I was originally anti-Twitter. If you would have asked me two years ago why I wasn’t on Twitter, I would have told you that I simply didn’t have time to read ridiculous posts about what people were having for breakfast or spend that time trying to decipher hashtags…what they are and how to use them.

Why I joined

If that sounds like you, heed my advice! Twitter is so much more than this! The solution to the aforementioned problems? Don’t follow people who post pictures of their breakfast or include #hashtagforthesakeofhashtagging!

Simple, right?

Still need convincing?

Allow me to tell you about a recent conversation I had in the Twitterverse.

As you know, I tried my hand at gamification in the classroom at the end of last school year. My students’ motivation to be at school, must less be productive, was at an all time low. I simply had to do something to increase their desire to learn. Since many of my students were “gamers” in some sense, gamification seemed like the perfect option.

My gamification experiment was wonderfully received by my students, with many of them begging to do the activity again. So, I immediately added it to my never ending list of things to accomplish over the summer.

Currently, however, I am juggling off-season coaching responsibilities and teaching summer school with my most important roles of being a mommy and a wife. This means that my time for researching and planning for my classroom is largely confined to when I’m cooking supper or right before bed.

Needless to say, my time (like yours) is precious.

Last week while I was cooking supper, I decided to do some research for my year long “game” while cooking supper. After all, my students might have been gamers, but I most certainly am NOT. I got into Trivia Crack for about a week and jumped on the Ruzzle bandwagon for a few days, but that was the extent of it.

–Unless we’re talking about Super Mario Brothers on Nintendo, then I’m a hardcore gamer. Or, at least I was in the 90’s :)

Instead of turning to Google, I turned to Twitter.

Why, you ask?

Simple. I was able to start a conversation about a trending topic in education, ask questions and learn from a gamification guru, and expand that conversation, sharing our ideas with so many people.

I can’t do that well with a search engine, folks..

Through my Twitter conversation, I was able to view gamification in a totally different way…I had an “aha!” moment, so to speak.

What I learned on Twitter definitely allowed me to have a better understanding of how gamification works, especially in the year long setting, and how to manage this motivating tool in my classroom.

I learned all of this in about 15 minutes. Sifting through page after page of Google search results to find valuable information would have taken MUCH longer!

I hope my example has at least made you think about joining Twitter. Seriously, we should all earn professional development/continuing education credits for Twittering!! (And Pinteresting, of course!!)

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Bethany_Petty!

Thanks for reading :)