Saturday, February 25, 2023

Docs Scavenger Hunt You Can Do

I have been spending some time in 3rd grade classes lately and recently, I had the pleasure of showing them a little more about Google Docs. Docs is where most adults start when using Google tools, but it's the 2nd tool that students use (behind Google Slides). And at 3rd grade, our students already have a bit of background, so I used a "scavenger hunt" rather than a blank Google Doc.

The couple of weeks leading up to this tech lesson, we had dug into Google Slides, so I started this lesson off with "hands off" and just looking at your screen, compare Slides to Docs. [I HIGHLY recommend doing a visual comparison before jumping in ... you can quickly gauge how much each group knows/doesn't know so you can more easily pace your activities.] It's always amazing to me what stands out and what doesn't stand out. Some students notice very small things (one commented on not having the paint bucket in Docs) and others find much bigger things (the color of the "Share" button).

Moving into the actual scavenger hunt, I let the students know that I did not originally create it, but I DID modify it to better fit them. [Thank you, Catlin Tucker!] I've used this before with students and it works really well! This year, I broke up the questions a bit more to fit the amount of time I get to spend with them - my goal is one page per visit. 

I'm going to share the link to "Google Docs Scavenger Hunt for 3rd grade" here, but the link is going to take you to my co-written blog, Templates for Teachers. Keeping all of the student activities together makes a lot of sense. Now, I call it "for 3rd grade" because that is the group of students I use it with, but you are more than welcome to change it or take it off completely. Please also feel free to modify to add/subtract the "hunt". 

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Sunday, January 15, 2023

Google icon names You Can Do

How many times have you heard someone stress the importance of your words? I think about this often whether I am working with a group of students, teachers, or with individuals. 

I think about this when I refer to tools or files or actions and most definitely icons. Working with our youngest learners often forces me to describe icons or logos or "things" in order to get students to the correct spot. (And teachers find such humor in the names!) If you spend any time in a classroom - of any age - you quickly find you simply HAVE to be able to direct students to where you want them with your words.

After one of my recent classroom visits, I really thought about how I use words to describe. Probably the best way I can share this is with a video. I use these references with adults and kindergarteners ... and I honestly couldn't tell you who I get more giggles from, the adults or the students!

Additionally, I do my best to NOT be the "driver" in the lesson. For example, if a teacher asks for help cleaning up their drive, or how to clear their cache & cookies, I will walk them through it - but I do NOT touch their device. When I'm in classrooms working with students, I do my absolute BEST to NOT touch any of their devices ... I want THEM to do the clicking and moving. I often catch students (& teachers!) "helping" others by doing it FOR them. When that happens, I remind them to "Cheer them on! Point to the screen ... use your words."

After all, the person/people doing the "driving" is the person doing the learning. 

Now, go find those shark tooth's and pancakes and snowmen ... and listen for the giggles!

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Sunday, December 18, 2022

Google Groups You Can Do

The end of November/beginning of December was rough for me. I thought I had a migraine I couldn't get rid of and ended up spending 3 days in the hospital, undergoing a bunch of tests (all came back normal), ultimately to be diagnosed with shingles. I was stopped in my tracks. It was beyond awful. The pain was horrendous & nothing helped. It appeared on my face. And in my right eye.

With shingles, I had reduced vision for a week or so, so my inboxes were a giant mess when I was able to finally take a look. Ugh. I was also under strict orders to TAKE IT EASY. REST. DO NOT WORK. [I have never been a believer in "zero inbox". Mostly because I just didn't think I could achieve it. So I honestly didn't try hard.]

BUT ... I used this time as an opportunity to take the time and DO something about it. All it took was adjusting the settings in the several Google Groups I belong to. I love the learning and sharing that happens in these groups and I don't want to "miss out" ... but I also can't read/respond to everything. 

I did a little reading on what the settings actually meant and voilá! I am a changed person! (well ... when it comes to email, anyway)

I put together a quick overview of what it looks like - and below, I will link to some Google Groups resources, if you want to dive in a little deeper like I did.

Google Groups Help page "Create a group & choose group settings".

P.S. I'm not missing out! If anything, I am smarter about the ones I actually read, and feel good about the learning I do. And I know I managing my time better. Rather than 20 or so emails, I get a max of ONE per group. WOW!!!

P.P.S. I also decided to turn off the text message notifications on my watch. That has also made a difference! It's little things like this that are going to help me move into 2023 with a better balance and helping me focus on the "now". 

My challenge to you ... what is one little change can you make? Here are a few I'm contemplating trying next ... thoughts?

  • Turn off notifications for social media? 
  • Turn off the little red circle badge letting you know the number of notifications?
  • Only checking emails at designated times of the day?
I hope 2022 ends on a positive and healthy note for you and 2023 starts out the same.

*** Every Monday, I share a newsletter with a collection of Tech You Can Do resources. It is delivered right to your inbox. Interested? Sign up here!  ***

Monday, October 17, 2022

Communication You Can Do

I started this post awhile back and I'll admit ... I feel like a post about communication should be an example of the focus - good communication. I hesitate to hold myself up as an example of "good communication" since I don't know that I do it well. I try, but always feel like I fall short. The following quote is a guiding force for me. 

In my PLN recently, newsletters and forms of communication have been talked about and ideas shared and questioned. The "who" - "why" -"how" - "how often" - "what tool" are big questions. I don't think there is one correct answer - rather, if you are the one creating the communication, you need to account for your audience and their preferences. Another key to good communication is the relationship you have with those you are communicating with. 

Let's break it down:

WHO ➙ are you communicating with? Staff? Students? Admin? Parents? Community?

WHY ➙ are you doing this? Is it to train/teach? Share info? Remind? Update? 

HOW ➙ are you sending out communication? Is it on social media? Is it via email? A newsletter? A piece of paper, possibly hung up in the teacher area? Or a combo of two or more of these?

HOW OFTEN ➙ is this on a regular basis? What is the regularity - daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc?

WHAT TOOL ➙ this goes right along with "How" ... are you able to leverage to paid tool or do you need to stick to free tools? Do you need a tool that provides data/analytics? Do you know how the tool works?

If you can identify answers to all of these above, I think you are in good shape. If you can't answer them all, I suggest taking some time to think through them and maybe even have a conversation with others about them.

Here's how it helped me this year. I added the middle school & high school to the buildings I am supporting this year, so now I'm supporting all of our buildings preK-12. I've been in the elementary buildings for about 5 years, and I added the new intermediate school last year. I used to teach at the middle school, but I've done very little interacting with teachers at the high school. I felt it was important to communicate with the teachers ... all of them ... so they knew I was someone who was happy to help. I had a relationship with most of the teachers in our district, but some I didn't. I wanted to build their ability to trouble-shoot and identify resources that could help them, since our tech team was smaller and I didn't want to increase their "downtime" when an issue arose. We have limited funds, if any, for this. I had to do it regular enough they would remember me & come to expect it, yet not so often they'd overlook it and I couldn't sustain it. I needed a super easy way to reach ALL of them.

I weighed my options of a newsletter, blog, website, doc, or email and I realized I was over complicating matters. We have a staff group email already set up and email was going to be the way ANYthing "got" to them whether it was a newsletter or Doc, etc, so I went with a newsletter as an email. I pushed myself to come up with a creative title and landed on "🗣 Hey, RLSD - Did you know ...". Being mindful of my time - and my teachers - I decided every other week and I picked Tuesdays to send it out. (And yes, I put serious thought into which day of the week to send it.)

Now here's the fun part - Google Docs has added the building block called "Email draft". 🧡 it! I can draft the email in a Google Doc, giving me the ability to work on it over time ... and several ahead if I'd like ... and not worry about the "accidental" sending. I keep the info short and sweet. I link to more detailed info, so it's not packed with text. And of course, I sprinkle in emoji's to appeal to the visual interest. At the bottom, I inserted hyperlinks to important resources for continual reminders of their existence. When I'm ready to start the next one, I just make a copy and replace the info. Voilá!

In time, I plan to include a link to the folder where I have these drafts housed so staff can look back. I have gotten positive feedback from the first few I've shared out. I am trying to include timely info about our programming or updates along with keyboard shortcuts or other quick tips.

Question for you ➙ do you send out regular communication? What works for you? Have you found what doesn't? Want to toss some ideas around? I'd be happy to ... just connect - all my socials are found in the top right of my blog. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Getting Help You Can Do ... I did!

Recently, I reached out to fellow Google Innovator - Chris Smith - for help with Data Studio. I had a project I honestly didn't think was possible. Chris showed me it absolutely was possible! He made it happen and recently shared our story on his blog - Smith Visualizations. 

He has graciously allowed me to share it here as well. I know I have a lot of learning to do with Data Studio, but I have friends who are also patient teachers, so I know I'll continue learning.

Chris Smith - Smith Visualizations

If you have an idea or project in mind - especially one that you aren't sure if it's possible - reach out ... to me, to a colleague, to a virtual friend, to someone ... and allow them to help.