Sunday, January 13, 2019

Your Very Own App You Can Do

This is my "baby". More than a year ago, I included the idea of making an app from Google Slides in "5 Google Slides Activities You Can Do". It is a really cool idea shared by Micah Shippee, so I took my own advice and I created an app using Google Slides.

Why? I co-coordinate the 8th grade Washington, DC trip and one of the things we strive for is efficient and effective communication. I have been using our website for this for the last handful of years. It works fine, but we were receiving many emails with questions from parents about the information I already had on our site. At the same time, I see how connected we all are to our phones, so why wasn't our website serving this purpose? Would an app would be better? Would an app be a better reference point and home for our info? These questions all led me to investigating this Slides app idea. I wanted to find a way to better manage our info so it was friendlier to our parents and student travelers and therefor freeing up time for me to focus on the trip.

Why Slides? I already knew how versatile Slides can be. I can customize the size and orientation, font and colors, as well as being able to insert images and shapes. The ability to link - outside to websites, Docs, and PDFs, as well as within the deck to other slides - is impressive.... and exactly what I needed.

Interested? I hope so. As much as I'd love to show you the exact app I created for our trip (I am extremely proud of it!), I can't because I can't share all of our info. This is a bonus of using Slides! I can share it with those who need the info, rather than putting all the info on our website for the whole world to see (or an app store where anyone can download it and I'd have to figure out how make it account based). I do still maintain our website with the basics of the trip because it is a starting point.

I did duplicate our app, taking out info I can't share. [If you are on a phone or tablet, you can really experience it as an app ... but an added bonus of it being a Slide? It works on computers!] If you'd like to preview this in its app form, click here ↬ . [I provide a template below you may make a copy of if you want a starting point for your own app. Feel free to use the pieces you like and get rid of what doesn't work for you or you don't like.]

Another bonus to using Slides is I can update the Slide as much/often as I want, and each time it is opened, it's the most updated version. With an app, you might have to wait until the person updates the app itself to be able to share the new info. 

"Title Slide"
Where to Start? I started with the traditional blank Google Slide. I changed the page setup to a customized 8.5 x 11 inches to mimic a piece of paper. (It appears to fit phone/tablet screens nicely, but this might be an area of improvement for me in the future.)

Slide 1: Title Slide  In my mind's eye I had a very clear idea of what I wanted ... a "title" slide that you always see when you open it up - I wanted it themed with our school colors and mascot and clearly identified as the 8th grade Washington, DC trip.

Slide 2: Highlights/Focused  this was not part of my original app. It was added later and pushed the Homepage to slide 3. This slide forced the viewer to SEE what I chose to highlight. I forced the viewer to go to this slide right after the Title Slide. Typically what I had on here was the next "item/due date" for our trip. I kept it clean and straight-forward. There was NO mistaking the message I posted! GREAT addition to the app ... highly recommend it's addition to any app!

Homepage Slide
Slide 3: Homepage  you are navigated to the homepage after the Highlights Slide. Here live the app-sized links to various pieces of information regarding the trip. About 1/2 of the app-sized links then link to a "Hub Slide" which then allows me to group information and keep the Homepage a bit cleaner. I worried I would end up with too many apps and it would become cluttered and therefor, unusable. The other 1/2 of the app-sized links link directly to it's 'item' (example the Google Form to order a trip t-shirt or to fill out the medical information) or it might link to a slide that contains specific information.

Communication Hub Slide
Slide 4+: "Hub Slides"  once I grouped information together (example "Communication") the Hub Slide allowed me to keep like info together. One Hub Slide I could see a lot of teachers utilizing is the Communication Hub. Keeping all ways to communicate in one spot is a great way to keep parents informed - put an end to the "I didn't know" message from parents again! I put links to our tour company's website, links to emails for myself and co-coordinator, our Twitter account, the trip calendar, a slide with the PDF giving instructions on how to join our Remind group, and a link to a packet of information (that would show up as a Google Doc). 

How to Make Slides Work Like an App  

For the apps on each Slide, I decided on a grid layout. I referenced my phone a lotThe apps all look like rounded off squares, so I made 'template' app that I could easily duplicate, then changed the background color of each to complement the topic for that app. I chose a font that looked clean and easy to read (Didact Gothic) and stuck with it throughout the app. I chose to use Word Art over text boxes for the names of the apps so I could spend less time adjusting font size since Word Art easily adjusts - I also duplicated one app title for each new app I added. For the image, I sized one to fit nicely in the center, then use the "Replace Image" in the toolbar after I duplicated the template app, which helped keep the apps more or less the same size and shape. I stuck closely to the transparent images so they looked like true apps. The final piece, and possibly the most important part, is a transparent, borderless, rounded square, sized a bit larger than the app & its title. THIS shape IS the link to the slide/website/email/PDF/Google Doc/etc. Boom! It really truly feels like real apps!

Next ... 

In the top right corner, I also designed a link going back to the Homepage, so from any point in the app, the viewer could navigate back to this slide quickly. If the viewer was on an item linked off a Hub Slide, I added a 2nd link under the Homepage link to navigate back to that particular Slide, too. Same as with the apps, the Homepage link and a Hub Slide link, I covered them with a transparent shape, a bit bigger than the app itself.

Things I Learned as the App Was Used ... 

Wanting to maximize all capabilities of Slides, I utilized the gray space around the Slide to hold my template app, links to things either I have yet to add or have taken off. (This is for future reference.) The gray space is beneficial on any Slidedeck, especially one whose intention is to house information. One of the best pieces is that you can house anything you want there, and it won't show on the app. (The speaker notes work well for this, too!)

What I also found helpful was to create a large transparent shape that covered the entire slide. This probably sounds like overkill, but I found it to be extremely helpful. This slide-sized shape covered everything except the transparent shapes that link to another slide, a Doc, a website, etc. I added a link to this slide-size shape that actually links right back to the slide it covers. If anything other than a link off the slide was clicked, the viewer stayed right where they were. I figured this would help lessen the accidental navigation within the Slide. After all, this Slidedeck is not for a presentation!

*** I didn't do this on my app, but another thought I had is to restrict the sharing privileges of any Google Doc/link you link to if you want to add additional security to information. Example a doc you only want a select person/people see ... only those people can see it because of the sharing privileges. ***

Final Step: Publishing 

The final step to turning your Slidedeck into an app is to go to "File --> Publish to the Web". Leave all the settings the way they are, (you don't want it to auto-advance) click publish, and copy the link in that window. This is the link you share. Since this link is long and what I consider "ugly", you might want to make a shortened URL to make it easier to share. I like using since I have the ability to change the link to make it something that "makes sense" rather than random letters/numbers. This makes it easy for ME, too, when I want to share it. (It doesn't hurt that also gives some basic stats.)

When I shared it out, I recommended viewers use the feature on their phone/tablet to "add to the home screen" and it really makes it look like an app plus it makes it easily accessible in the future!!! Using a bookmark on your computer is the same idea. This is super cool! Our teachers also linked to the app in our LMS for our student travelers to access on their Chromebooks as well.

Here is the link to a template you can take & make your own. Feel free to adjust as you like ↬

Other Possible Applications? ...

After creating the app for our trip, I absolutely can see a Slides app serving a purpose other than a class trip. A teacher can create an app to be shared with parents and students and build it out to house info about homework, important dates, links to curricular resources, digital programs the students use, school resources, and more.

One More Thought ...

Slides vs real App? Once I really had a good handle on my Slides app, I started toying with the questions ... why not make a real one? So, last summer, I also worked on just that ... and I did create one! Then ...

... I realized the cost (it wasn't exactly cheap)
... I realized the legal hoops that come with putting an app in the app store
... I realized each time I needed/wanted to update the Slide, those who use the app would need to as well
... Would I charge for it?
... and, I realized that if I put it out "there" I needed to be conscious of who would be able to 'get' my app

I met with my Superintendent and showed both to him. He supported them both. But the above hurdles were too heavy a weight on my shoulders for the upcoming trip, and ultimately I stuck to the Slides version with NO REGRETS!

How It Worked Out ...

The day came to share it to our student travelers, their parents, and our teacher chaperones. I was terrified. A nervous wreck. As I told Alyssa, my co-coordinator for the trip, I was sending my "baby" out to play in traffic! What if no one used it? What if it wasn't helpful? What if I linked things wrong? What if ... a thousand other things. Such relief when positive reviews rolled in!

As a side note - while we were on the trip, I also found I could edit the Slide if needed, by using the Slides app on my phone. WHOA!

And finally ... the ultimate test to any tool is how do you answer this question: "Will you use it again?" Yes! 100 times over and over, Yes! I just may have started making next years app a day or two after we returned . . . . . 😊

Are you interested? I'd love to help you make your own app. Contact me in the comments below, on Twitter @kiefersj, or email .

Sunday, January 6, 2019

#PodPeeks: GTT Episode 68

💥 Happy New Year! 💥

I hope your year is off to a great start! It's hard for me to believe I've been posting for a little more than a year! I had a goal last year to post once a week. I wasn't exactly 100%, but in total, I posted 64 times ... so I'll count it as successful. 

This year, my goal is to continue once a week here, as well as a couple of short resource shares on my companion blog  "TYCD: Resources" (you can also find a link as a tab along the top). I started this companion blog because I love the way I can attach labels to each resource making them easy to filter for the reader. These aren't full blown explanations, rather short summaries that can help guide you to resources that are helpful.

Here is today's post ... I'm adding to the #PodPeeks series I shared last summer. For all posts under this label, click on the matching label on the far right side.

Podcasts are a simple way to learn "on-the-go". The Google Teacher Tribe is one of my favorites to listen to. Matt Miller & Kasey Bell's podcast is published on Monday's, so it's my typical Monday companion to and from school. They share such wonderful tips & tricks! If you don't already subscribe, you need to. You won't regret it!!!

Their Dec. 19 podcast was a little out of the norm for them but it was GOOD! I assumed Episode 68Ctrl+Shift+T and Other Class Management Tips would be full of keyboard short cuts. I was sure I'd know some, but I was equally sure there would be many that I've yet to discover. To my surprise ... it wasn't! This episode was devoted to classroom management tips for the digital classroom, thanks to a question from John Baglio. WHOA!

Classroom management in today's world is different from when I grew up ... but not so different that it's impossible. I know many teachers feel this way because of the computers, but it really is more about teachers employing strategies that work in a digital classroom. These strategies might look different than a traditional classroom. But I'd argue it goes back to good, solid pedagogy. Cheating was happening long before computers ... being off task was happening long before computers ... students working hard to avoid doing work was happening long before computers ... and so on.

I love that Matt & Kasey took the time to use their voice to share about this topic. I could sit here and give you all the details, but I really feel you need to listen to it. Hint ... it's not all about using a software monitoring program -- YES! You CAN manage a class full of devices without a monitoring program.

Link to Google Teacher Tribe website: 

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Multiplication Your Students Can Do

3rd grade seems to be the designated "master your Multiplication facts" grade. A 3rd grade teacher recently came to me with the request ... could I find some way her students could practice their facts in a different way? I immediately had wheels turning in my head. 

First ... a little background.

When my oldest was in 3rd grade, she, too, had to master her facts. It was challenging! She really did not like practicing paper flashcards. She felt so defeated because the stack for the "I don't know" always seemed to be bigger than the stack for the "I know". Yes, practice helps, but the feeling of defeat showed on her face and she fought practicing with us. At the time, we had a Kindle, so I found an app that she could try. She liked it and more importantly, would practice ... independently! Practicing digitally prevented her from actually seeing the "I don't know" pile and once we found this method, she was the second one in her class to master all the facts. (She also gained confidence and would use her paper flashcards, too.)

I don't tell you this story to show off my daughter - math has always been quite a struggle. I tell you this because what happened was we did was we found what worked FOR HER. It wasn't the method that her teacher gave her ... it wasn't the what had worked for me as a kid ... or what worked for other kids in her class ... it worked for her.

Back to today - to the 3rd grade teacher and her request. 

There are plenty of apps out there. Good ones. But we have Chromebooks that are a few years old and I wanted to ensure there wouldn't be a cost associated. I turned to one of my favorite resources ... This is not only a website but also an add-on for Google Sheets. I built flashcard sets for each number and then combined sets to make a 0-5 set a 6-12 set and finally a set for all 0-12.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

15 Days of Resources You Can Do

This share has been brewing in my brain for quite some time and it feels like the perfect time of year! The rush of the new school year has worn down, the weather is changing, and you have a good grasp on this year's students. Now is the time to stretch ... check out something new ... try something new ... To help, I've compiled 15 resources for you to review and see if any fit you and your students.  

Starting with today and for the following 14 week days, I will share a resource I've come across and some potential applications for it on my companion blog. Nothing long winded - just enough to peek your interest, or for you to pass on. I will add links to each description below the graphic for your perusal. Please share these! It might not be the best fit for you, but it might be just what your friend needs. 

Week 3:
  • Dec 17: Character Scrapbook by Scholastic [LINK]
  • Dec 18: Chrome Music Lab [LINK]

Friday, November 23, 2018

Reminders for Me

This one is for me, but I'm sharing because maybe you need it, too. 

I was listening to a podcast from John Spencer "Why Balance Is Critical for Creative Work" as I packed my lunch and ate breakfast earlier this week. He said several things that spoke to me. But the one that really stuck out is this:

"There’s a difference between being busy and being productive."

I feel like I was so busy in October and the beginning of November. I know I let numerous things drop. But I can't say confidently that I was productive. Sure, on a few things I was, but not overall.

I need to stop for a moment & remind myself: 

  • it's ok to take a break & just hang out
  • it's ok to skip a week (or 2!) in writing
  • it's ok to shift the focus to another area
And the big one -
  • it's ok to say no

You see, I got hit with a nasty head cold/sinus infection that required two trips to the doctor. Several nights of sleeping upright and coughing until I was beyond exhausted. The amount of cough drops I consumed can't really be healthy ... and just as I finished my antibiotic, I stepped on a tour bus headed to Philadelphia & Washington, DC with 230 teachers, parents, and 8th graders.

This trip was one for the record books - it was our largest trip ever (yea!), but also our most challenging trip. 99% of the issues were beyond our control ... after all, what bus company tells you less than 24 hours into your trip they are taking your FIVE buses away??? Only to replace them and have 2 of those buses break down on separate days requiring MORE replacement buses?!? I mean seriously ... ?!?

But we made it. We tackled every obstacle thrown at us. Maybe not always perfectly, but we did it. And a BIG shout out to my fellow coordinator, Alyssa. She handled the many obstacles so well! She's the reason we even have the trip. Our tour guides & tour company were amazing, as always, and we couldn't have asked for a better group of teacher chaperones who help anchor our trip year after year. The parents we take are stellar! They leave no doubt in my mind that we do the right thing by taking them with us. Oh ... and our kids are pretty awesome, too! 😊

Now that this year's trip is done (a huge job!), I need to adjust my focus on priorities, not just shiny objects in my path. I will need to stop and realign my productivity. I don't want people to see me and say, "Wow. She's so busy ..." Instead, I want people to see quality in my work. I want people to know that when I am working with them, I am giving them my best. 

In the same podcast mentioned above, John also says,

"being productive is fueled by purpose."

This week is Thanksgiving ... what a perfect time of year to RE-focus on my purpose. I think I'll take time this holiday to do this. How about you?

Please feel free to reach out. You can comment below, or find me on Twitter @kiefersj -- or Google+ +SarahKiefer .