Sunday, November 3, 2019

Thankful Thoughts You Can Do

I can not hide my love for working with students. I was a classroom teacher for 14 years, after all! As a technology integration specialist, I don't work with students as much as I used to, but I am lucky enough to work with students at two elementary buildings. I'm even luckier that I am able to work with all their teachers, too! You could say these are two somethings that I am thankful for!

With November's arrival - my FAVORITE month - I was talking with a 4th grade teacher I collaborate with often. She was throwing out numerous wonderful ideas and we finally settled on a "short" activity I could do with her students. 

It's November, and the whole month is all about fall and Thanksgiving (at least here in America). I was inspired by this TWEET I saw by Tara Martin & Tisha Richmond. Loved it! But our students are only 4th graders, so rather than using social media, I created a Google Slide students can make a copy of and learn some Slides skills while creating a similar image. 

I'll have them share it with me & we can display them in the hallway. I could also opt to make a published Slidedeck that can be shared with the parents, too! So many options!

Are you interested? Here's what I created ... feel free to make your own copy & use it with your students. Click ↬ LINK.

Also, check out my Wakelet collections for all kinds of things Google & more.

Have a question or comment? Feel free to comment below, reach out to me on Twitter @kiefersj, or email me at

Sunday, October 27, 2019

4 Google MyMaps Activities You Can Do

Last week I shared an intro to MyMaps - one of the unsung hero's of the Google Apps. You can read that here, "Google MyMaps You Can Do". This tool is fantastic for students of all ages. This week is all about activities you can do with MyMaps.

You might think MyMaps is only for the Social Studies classroom, but you'd be mistaken. MyMaps can be a great tool to use across the curriculum. I know I was blown away the first time I saw MyMaps being used for something other than a map.

I've created a Slidedeck with 4 possible activities you could do with your students. You can always "level them up or down" depending on the skill level. In my opinion, one of the best parts, is MyMaps can be individual work OR a collaborative activity. And, just like the other Google Apps, MyMaps are created and live in Drive. The only limitations are the ones we place on its use.

Feel free to share the Slidedeck as is, or make your own copy and modify as it fits you & your students. I've included a link on each activity with an example MyMap. These are only examples - students can do so much more with it than what I've done.

If you like what you see, feel free to make your own copy. TEMPLATE LINK

I also want to give a little shoutout to SlidesMania for the design template I used for the Slidedeck. 💖LOVE, love, love this website 💛. So many awesome Slides templates - check them out!

MyMaps Wakelet Collection

I've also started a Wakelet collection with MyMaps resources, links, and other activities.

Have a question or comment? Feel free to comment below, reach out to me on Twitter @kiefersj, or email me at

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Google MyMaps You Can Do

Google MyMaps is one of the apps that doesn't get the love and recognition it deserves. If you've never given it a go, I encourage you to. Today is all about an introduction ... an exploration ... a discovery. Next week, I'll share more specific ideas and lessons you can use MyMaps with.

From a young age, maps, globes, and anything to do with geography has fascinated me. On the rare occasions my family went on road trips, my parents would get a TripTik from AAA. The path would be highlighted and we'd follow it. I loved opening the map and looking at all the connections and cities and roads and landmarks. (Folding them up was an adventure in itself!) This goes right along with the nerdy history buff in me.

I've had the opportunity to share MyMaps with both 3rd & 4th graders over the past year. This is an amazing age to share this tool - they are super inquisitive and have had enough exposure to Google tools that it allows for guided exploration. It also allowed me to share the tool with their teachers so they'd feel more comfortable with it.

Each time I introduced MyMaps, I follow the same lesson plan. (Feel free to use this in your own class.)
  • Prepare a completely empty MyMaps, with the share setting edit-able by anyone with the link. 
    • You can create & house MyMaps directly in Google Drive
    • Use a URL shortener to make an easy link to type in (I prefer
  • BEFORE sharing the MyMap, have a short discussion with the class. I strive to build on prior knowledge, so I ask if anyone had ever used MyMaps before (usually no one) and then ask about using maps or GPS (usually everyone had some interaction). 
  • Next, tell them we are going to use a Google App called MyMaps and that it would be collaborative. 
    • Insert short discussion about what it means to work collaboratively ... never a bad conversation to have
  • Then, write the shortened URL on the board and have them type it in. This gives them a little exposure to typing in URL's, but in a meaningful way.
  • As students pop into the map, I give them time to explore as I ensure all students are able to get to the link.
At this point, the students are having their own conversations with those around them. I encourage a discovery period and love that they naturally share their discoveries. Since we are only in the intro stage, even if they "do" something, it'l just add to the learning experience. It can't hurt anything.

After a few minutes, I call out to have them put their hands on their heads. This allows us to move to a whole class discussion. I ask them to share what they've found out about MyMaps in the last few minutes. I also encourage them to look at their screen and identify similar tools they have seen in other Google applications, too. Depending on how much they point out, I might need to focus their attention on the share settings, the zoom in/out, or the toolbar. It's pretty impressive to see how much they can learn in a few minutes. 

Here comes the fun part ...

We get really active inside the map. As I circulate the room, I encourage students to help their neighbors, but not to do it for them. I ask them to locate a place on the map they might like to visit on a vacation. We locate the "pin" and we drop it onto our vacation spot. I walk them through changing the name of the pin to their name and then saving it. I remind them we are working collaboratively and ask them to refresh the page. The sounds of surprise as their classmates pins show up is awesome! [You see, MyMaps isn't "live" as the other Google Apps are, you need to refresh to see others work.] They are now locating their classmates vacation spots!

To wrap up this first lesson, we find our own pin again, and when we click on it, we talk about all the tools available. We can change the pin color, change the icon (who wants to stay a boring blue pin when you can be a tornado in lime green???); we also add a description - a 1 sentence reason why you selected this location as vacation spot; and we can even add pictures. Once again, refresh your page, and now you can explore everyone's vacation spot with reasons, updated pins, and possibly a photo or two.

You might be reading this and thinking, ok, but this isn't really doing anything more than playing with a new tool. And I'd agree. Let's discover and play with the tools while teaching students the basics. Next week, I'll be back and I'll share some - what I think are - cool ways to incorporate the use of MyMaps in your classroom. You might be surprised ... they aren't all for the social studies class!

Have a question or comment? Feel free to comment below, reach out to me on Twitter @kiefersj, or email me at

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Google Calendar (part 2) You Can Do

This time of year is incredibly busy for me. This year is proving to be even busier! The school year is well underway, my own girls are back in school, all 3 play soccer, the 8th grade DC trip I co-coordinate is really starting to amp up, AND on top of it all, I'll be heading to NYC in a couple days to continue on my Google Innovator path! 

I planned to get this out last week, but it didn't happen. I hope the wait was worth it.

Two weeks ago, I shared many things that I love and use in Google Calendar. I really cannot go a day without using my calendar. Today I want to focus on my main calendar. I have 2 - for the same purpose - but one is for home and one for school. I simply cannot go without them. They are my lifeline. They help keep me organized. They help keep me sane.

The major reason I rely heavily on these to calendars is because I can share them. (But in 2 very different ways.)

At home, our Family Calendar is not only on my phone, it's on my husband's phone, my oldest daughters' phone, and my younger girls iPod & iPad. (I created Google accounts with Family Link for them since they are both under 13.) Now, the 5 of us can stay "in sync". Soccer practices & games, doctor appointments, after-school activities, field trips, parties, events, etc. If it doesn't get on our shared calendar, I'll probably forget about it. Even my youngest daughter can easily open her calendar app and see what is coming up or happening.

How To ... Share Google Calendar

Once you are on Google Calendar (on your computer), look to the far left, under "My Calendars". Find the calendar you want to share. Hover over the name and look for the "world's skinniest snowman" to the right of the name. [For those of you unfamiliar with that term, it's the vertically stacked 3 dots ... I like "world's skinniest snowman" better.] Click on the snowman.

*** Bonus: this is also where you can change the color for the events on your calendar! *** 

Back to sharing ... select "Settings and Sharing". 

On the next screen, scroll down to "Share with specific people". And then "+ Add people".

Type their email addresses & then you will have 4 options for sharing. THIS IS IMPORTANT!!!  You do not need to give everyone the ability to edit - this could be disastrous.

Select the option that fits the person the best. If you just need them to know when you are free or busy, "See only free/busy" is best. 
If they need to be able to see the event & the details about the event, "See all event details", is perfect. 
If you want them to be able to add events, but not add people, "Make changes to events", is perfect. 
And finally, if you want them to be able to add events AND manage who can add people, "Make changes and manage sharing", is the option you want.

Now, how about for school? Same concepts apply, only this time, I am part of a domain. We have shared calendars for our building (one restricted to JUST staff; one that is publicly available for parents & community members to see); shared calendars for teachers to sign up for our labs; and one for signing up for conferences room in order to have meetings. But all of us have our own calendar that comes with our Google account. This calendar - I call is "Sarah @ school" - is where I add any event that is connected with me at school. I put meetings, classroom appointments, conferences, etc., on here. I do this so I know where I'm already booked. Since 99% of the time I have my phone on me, I can easily reference my calendar as well as create events.

Recently, I've discovered an even more powerful reason to do this. I was working with a principal who wanted teachers to be able schedule appointments with him. Immediately I thought of the appointment slots available in GSuites. 

How To ... "Find a time" in Google Calendar
But instead, we stumbled on "Find a time". 💥 Mind. Blown!!! ðŸ’¥

As you are creating your event, add your guests, and their calendars will show up, too!!! Check out the screenshot below. I am in my school account, and I added 3 colleagues to this event I'm trying to create. Do you see all of them??? I can then literally find a time for the 4 of us to meet with as little conflict as possible! I mean seriously ... can it get better???

This is seriously such an awesome find! You can see that my red covers the whole day. (I'll be in NYC for the Google Innovator Academy!!!) I have shown this to several people and they all react the same ... a little weirded out, at first, and then they realize the convenience this can allow.  I helped a counselor in one building target a good time for her, the principal, school psychologist, and myself to get together. Likewise, if teachers want me to come into their classroom ... "Find a time" & send me an invite. Love it!

It does work outside of a domain, but you have to have been shared on someones calendar. For example, I began to create an event in my personal account, and I added my school account and Google Trainer account, and I could see all 3 calendars. I previously shared both of these calendars to my personal account. 

Finally, the final idea I'd like to share about Google Calendar is my new found dedication to using icons at the beginning of many of events I create. These help me quickly see what type of activities I have going on. Right now, I'm regularly using:

👩‍💻  classroom appointments
🤖  for a committee I am on in one building
👥  meetings
⚽  my daughter's soccer practices & games
💡 ↬ my #NYC19 Google Innovator dates

I hope I've shared a tip or two that can help you stay better organized or utilize Calendar a bit better. 

Google Calendar Wakelet collection
I've started using Wakelet to collect resources and I created one for Google Calendar. Check it out for help tips and other hacks for calendar. The link is below the image on the left. I'll keep adding to this as I find more ... so feel free to come back and check for more.

Have a question or comment? Feel free to comment below, reach out to me on Twitter @kiefersj, or email me at

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Google Calendar (part 1) You Can Do

Google Calendar was probably the first Google App I was introduced to. At the time, I was firmly holding on to my paper agenda and was NOT looking to let it go. I clearly remember one meeting, where my principal, Chris, said he would be putting events onto the school Google Calendar. I remember feeling unsettled ... but not for long! 

Today I'm focusing on the Calendar App ↬ there's too much to share in one article, so I'll be back next week with more.

We know dates and times change. And when I realized how incredible it was that one person could enter ... and adjust ... dates/times for school functions and I didn't have to lift a finger??? ðŸ’¥WOW💥

Google Calendar has become a complete necessity for me. I do not go a day without consulting my calendar, creating events, looking up/adjusting an event, being reminded of an event via a notification, and so much more.

Why Use ... Google Calendar

Before we get into "how to" and specifics, how about a little "why"? We live in a world where we juggle so many different "hats" and having a tool that can help us stay organized is a blessing. Google Calendar is accessible on computers and mobile and it syncs so if you make changes in one place, it is reflected in other places. Calendars can be shared with others. They can either just view the calendar or you can allow them to manage it, too. The power of this comes into play when you are comfortable with Calendars.

How To ... Find Google Calendar

Let's start with the basics ↬ go to ... each Google account comes with a calendar. You will notice 2 sections: "My Calendars" and "Other Calendars". 

"My Calendars" is where you find the calendars YOU create & can manage. 

"Other Calendars" is where you find calendars you have been given viewing access or that you've subscribed to.

How To ... Create a Google Calendar

Now that you are on the Google Calendar website (sorry - I've not seen a way to create a calendar via my phone), creating a new Calendar is SUPER easy! Next to "Other Calendars", click the plus sign, then choose "Create New Calendar". Give it a name, description, timezone, and ... bam! Done!

How To ... Subscribe to a Google Calendar

How Do I Use ... Google Calendar

It might also help if I provide some of the ways I use Google Calendar. I HEAVILY use Google Calendar. But I didn't start off that way. I started off simply using the shared calendar from my principal. I think I even just used it to write down the dates into my own planner ... until I got tired of crossing out & rewriting them!

Fast-forward, I use Calendar for work, school, my family, and pretty much anything else that has dates 😄. You might think I go over board ... it's ok. It works for me. That's all that matters. That it works for YOU. (I even have my calendar set up on my watch so I can see my calendar & receive reminders.)

Even more ...

I have it on both my personal and school calendars, I have them attached to my phone and I also have it syncing to my watch.

Google Calendar Wakelet collection
Now you might think, how can there possibly be more??? Well, there is and I can't hope to get it all in one blog. I've started using Wakelet to collect resources and I created one for Google Calendar. Check it out for help tips and other hacks for calendar. The link is below the image on the left. I'll keep adding to this as I find more ... so feel free to come back and check for more.

Next week, I'll be back with some other things you can do with Calendar.

Calendar CAN work for you! But don't worry, while I love Calendar and don't go a day without using it, I still have a small paper one, because there are times where I need to jot things down, track things, or keep paper notes handy. You have to find what works for you.

Have a question or comment? Feel free to comment below, reach out to me on Twitter @kiefersj, or email me at