Sunday, August 18, 2019

Guardian Emails You Can Do

With the beginning of the year, a topic that is super close to my heart is communication. I can't stress to teachers enough how important it is to have clear and consistent communication. I adopted this philosophy early in my career and it definitely paid off. And being a mom to three girls in school, this is also an important topic on the home front as a parent. I love my girls, but let's be honest, they don't always come home and detail out their day like I would like. Anyway I can gain more insight to their day is very welcome!

Are you a Google Classroom user?

Perfect! You have to try out the Guardian email feature. Beyond the initial setup, there is nothing for teachers to do. And the guardians will receive an email daily or weekly, based on their preferences.


Yes, it's that easy.

Looking for a little more help? Looking to convince others to try it out? I've got you.

I've also started collecting Google Classroom ideas/tips/tricks in a Wakelet collection. I've included a link to the official Classroom help site about Guardian summaries in it, too. 
You can check it out here ↬

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

Monday, August 12, 2019

Back to School Activities You Can Do

 It's the time of year when most schools are heading back to class! As Summer 2019 draws to a close, I'm excited to see what the 2019/2020 school year has in store. I will return to Ross in the same position - which I absolutely love! - and I'm excited to see how we grow, the new challenges we will face, the new people we will meet, and how we will work together to accomplish all that is in store for us.

As I see it, each new year presents me with the opportunity to reinvent myself, in a way. We have a whole new group of students to work with, we have new colleagues to meet, we might have new "things" in our classrooms, or we might be starting over in a completely new place. A new school year for teachers is very much like a new school year as a student. 

As we prepare to return to school, I thought I'd share a couple activities you can do with your students. AND ... they do not have to be digital!

Back-to-School Bento: I came across this tweet by @ClassroomQuips awhile back where a teacher shared about a #BookBento. I was intrigued! For starters, I had no idea what a bento was. Once I had that figured out, I fell in love with the simplicity of the photo. I knew it would make a great digital activity. When I sat down to create one, I realized I didn't want to confine you or your students based on my design. Instead, I created a Slide deck with a VERY basic example, and then a couple of slides with some teacher tips as well as how to use this beyond the first week or so of school. I also encourage you to take a look at the #BookBento hashtag on Twitter for how others are creating.

Using this for a beginning of the year activity, I'd go one of three ways:
  • All About Me Bento ↬ have the students bring in items (or do an image search) that give you info about themselves
  • Summer Vacation Bento  students can tell the story of their summer, in pictures!
  • Goals Bento  ask students to share goals they have for this school year
  • ... don't worry, I tucked in a few ideas of how you can use bentos later in the year.

Or allow your students to choose which one(s) they want to do. 

Here is a link to the example with teacher tips: Back-to-School Bento

[Pssst! You do not have to do this digitally! Allow students to draw their bento's!]

Another option ...

How about a video? A video can be a wonderful way to be introduced to your students. (I also think it can give you a baseline of information for your student. You can brainstorm as a class what they might want to include in their video. You could also incorporate writing by having them write a script for their video. 

How can this happen?
  • Have ipads? turn on the camera and move to video mode. Pair students up and make it a collaborative effort. The videos then "live" on the iPad. Your students can upload to Google Drive, or submit via Google Classroom
  • Have chromebooks? use Screencastify extension to have students record themselves. Screencastify can automatically save to Drive, so have students either share it to you or submit via Google Classroom.
  • Interested in an online method? Try out Flipgrid! The whole point to Flipgrid is to be able to share videos! Don't worry, you can protect your grids so they are not publicly accessible, an it's FREE! If you allow students to see each others videos, they can comment on them and you can incorporate discussion on appropriate commenting. 

If you have gone back -- if you are heading back this week -- or if you don't go back for a little while, just remember, the relationship you build with your students starts every day. Smile and listen. One day at a time. I'll be right there, too, next week. We can and do make a difference in the lives of our students.

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

Monday, August 5, 2019

Google Drive Organization You Can Do

Last week I shared a Slide deck focused on the icons and pieces of Google Drive. I promised to be back this week with a Slide deck focused on organization. I hope I don't disappoint!

When I work with teachers, the moment we need to open their Drive, I'm met with guilty looks and the admission of "My Drive isn't very organized! I keep meaning to get to it, but ..." I do not sit in the judgment seat. As teachers, I believe we do our best and often, we are pressed for time. When I converted to using Drive as my "digital filing cabinet", I, too, struggled. I also have tried enough strategies to know that there is no one perfect method. What I've compiled below are some very simple and basic, no-frills steps to having a better organized Drive.

The top question I get when working with teachers, is "Sarah, how do you organize your Drive? I'll just do mine like yours." WRONG!!!!! My brain works differently than yours. I house different topics than you do. I do what I do, because it works for me. You have to do what works for you. Please know, what I'm sharing today works you through a process rather than give you a formula. You will need to dig a little deep, put some thought into it, but I promise ... it pays off over and over! 

It will be investment of time in the beginning, but once you hone what works for you, you will see it will save you quite a bit of time in the long run. You'll know where the files are you are looking for, you'll spend less time re-creating what you've already created, and you will feel more confident in sharing with others. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm still not 100% perfect, so don't stress. Searching your Drive is incredibly powerful and helpful, even for the most organized. Do I hear a topic for next week? Nah ... I've got you covered already! I shared "Better Searching in Google Drive" on my companion blog "TYCD: Resources". On this blog, I try to share out a resource or tip each Tuesday with a brief overview. I'd love it if you checked it out!

And because I am not the only one sharing about Google Drive, I've created a Wakelet collection for tips/tricks/resources I come across. You can check it out:

Here you go! This week, my Slide deck is here to help you organize your Google Drive better. Feel free to use it for yourself, peers, and most definitely with students. I've based it off what I do with teachers on a regular basis. Some of this is definitely geared to ANY audience, but some is specific to teachers.  If you want to use it with students, great! You might want to make your own copy & take out what doesn't work for your students (or your specific teachers). Enjoy!

Here is a LINK if you want to make a copy & modify it for you. ***

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

Monday, July 29, 2019

Getting to Know Google Drive You Can Do

I'm excited to be back after a 2 week hiatus! This is the time of the summer when my brain really starts to focus in on the coming school year. Today is all about Google Drive. If you are a Google user, you've heard of Drive, and hopefully either you've experienced its power or someone has told you about it.

The best way I can describe Google Drive is an endless filing cabinet. (Ok, to be fair, a personal Google account only comes with 15 GB of storage ... but even THAT is a LOT!) Any Google item you create is stored here ... AND you can store pretty much anything, even if it isn't a Google product here, too.

At the end of each school year, I pop into the 4th grade classrooms and do a Google Drive activity. We talk about the pieces of Drive, we do a little organizing so when they enter our middle school they start off in a pretty good spot, and we talk about some good long-term strategies for using & managing their Drives. I also work with numerous teachers on cleaning & organizing their Drives. IT CAN BE DONE ... and relatively painlessly.

I've broken this up into 2 parts ... "Getting to Know Drive" and "Organizing Drive". Today is the first part, "Getting to Know". I've found that while most people go to their Drives often, they don't always know Drive (especially students!). There are so many options to customize Drive and really make it work FOR you. The first step is understanding the various parts of Drive. 

I've made a Slidedeck to help you get to know Google Drive better. Feel free to use it for yourself, peers, and most definitely with students. I've based it off what I do with 4th graders and everything here is appropriate for them (so definitely for you, too!). If you want to use it with younger students, great! You might want to break it up into smaller chunks or just use a few pieces. By 4th grade in our district, our students have enough items that these pieces make a little more sense.

*** UPDATE (July 30, 2019): I added in a Slide to share my thoughts on whose Drive do you display? It all depends on your audience ... students or adults? Check out Slide 3!

Monday, July 8, 2019

Curation You (and I) Can Do

I took a small break last week from my curation theme and I'm operating more on "summer time" right now, hence the delay in posting. I've covered WHY we should curate & shared a few digital tools you can use in "Digital Curation Tools You Can Do". I followed that with 3 activities you can do WITH your students and why this can be time well spent in"Curation Activities You Can Do".

This week, I'd like to share some of the ways I, personally, have curated resources, ideas, tools, tricks, and much more. Honestly, I am a kind of person who likes variety - not too much - but some. This could be a bad thing for some people, but I enjoy it. Each time I find something new, I find things I like, and don't like, about it. It always makes me rethink WHAT I'm curating and forces me to really think through WHY I'm curating, not just for the items, but also the tool I am using to curate with.

I want to share these photos without an explanation. Don't worry, I'll get to it later. I just ask you to take a look at the 3 photos of shells.

For the past few years, I have been reading, absorbing, collecting, seeking, learning, and being amazed at everything that is out there. Not a day goes by that I haven't learned something and I love it! I had a teacher say to me, after showing some ways to manipulate images and text in Drawings, "HOW do you know all this?" He was amazed each little thing I showed him. I smiled and laughed, and being a tad embarrassed, said, "I spend an extreme amount of time learning and playing with this stuff. I love it that much!" 

There's no way I can keep all of this in my brain, and I've been on a journey to find the perfect system to curate all the good stuff I find.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

#PodPeeks: Teachonomy Talks

Today I'm highlighting another awesome podcast I've added to my playlist, Teachonomy Talks with Chuck Poole. Most of the podcasts I listen to I do a great deal of learning. Teachonomy Talks is a bit different ... and I love it! It's DEFINITELY a thinker, but it's more of an "inspirational thinker". Each episode is short and packed with inspiring and reflective thoughts. I love how Chuck shares short and thought-provoking ideas.

I have shared many Teachonomy Talks episodes with others. Often, I feel like Chuck knows what is going on in my brain and he is speaking directly to me and they provide reaffirmation, a different perspective, or just some inspiration to give me a boost.

You can find all the episodes (currently there are 131!) on your favorite podcast player or on the Teachonomy Talks website. Here are a few episodes I'd like to highlight:

πŸ’™ Episode 131: "Where Do You Shine Your Spotlight?"
πŸ’™ Episode 126: "Thoughts for Teachers: Do You Look Through Your Backup Camera"
πŸ’™ Episode 115: "Two Minute Timeout for Teachers... You Were Built to Sail"
πŸ’™ Episode 107: "Two Minute Timeout for Teachers... YOU are a Masterpiece"
πŸ’™ Episode 101: "Thoughts for Teachers: Do Your Flaws Forms a Foundation?"

I could go on ... but if you tune in for one or two of these, I'm sure you'll be hooked, and you'll find many more wonderful episodes.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Curation Activities You Can Do

Last week, I shared "Digital Curation Tools You Can Do" with 3 digital tools you can use to curate the various articles, ideas, activities, books, etc that you come across. If one of these works well for you, awesome! 

This week I want to share a different idea about curation. YOU don't have to do it all. 

"Why not have STUDENTS help with the curation of sources?"

Today, I'm sharing 3 different ways you could have students curate WITH you below, but let's talk about WHY you should have students curate sources.

We all want our students to be using good and credible sources, right? So quite often, we provide the sources FOR our students. But we are missing out on a big opportunity when we do this. At some point, students will be researching on their own. They will be sifting through vast amount of information that is at their fingertips. Have you ever seen students research? They go for the first few links - not the best ones - and call it a day.

That's why I think this is such a good activity. The skill of finding good, credible sources is a tough one. It's tough for many adults! I've heard many teachers comment on how their students don't find good sources and ask how we help them get better.

Think about this the next time you ask your students to do research. What if you collaborated with them on this task? What if this was step one in the research/project/activity? Hear me out ...

This can be beneficial on a couple of levels for you and your students. First, even if you ask each student in your class to find a single source, you could end up with 20+ sources of information on your topic. How great is that? Students finding the sources and then having a bank to refer to? Hot dog! Can you imagine what your bank of sources would look like if you have each student find 2 ... or more? And how about then having students use that bank of sources to DO the project or activity? How awesome!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Digital Curation Tools You Can Do

Do you ever feel like you have information overload? 

I do. A lot. I see so much I want to read or try or create or soak in or share out. I feel like I am constantly reading and looking. My husband often asks, "How do you have so much going on in your brain?" 😊 But I don't feel like this is a bad thing ... not at all.

What I struggle with is keeping all the good things I see organized in a way that will make sense to me now AND later. Call me crazy, but I've not found "the perfect" system. I hear people swear by this tool or that tool, and I feel a little jealous! I wish I had "the perfect" system. I've tried out others' systems, but it doesn't work for me - not in the "perfect" sense. I like a lot of things about a lot of tools, so until I find "IT", I will continue to use a variety of tools to curate what I come across & want to keep.

Why curate? I couldn't possibly do everything right now ... I need to prioritize, and I support a variety of teachers with a variety of needs. I curate a wide variety of tools, activities, people, books, blogs, resources, conferences, and more. I do this all year long and summer is a great time to take a good look at what you've got and sift through. In fact, it's on my to do list ... to better organize - for both personal and professional items. 

If you are interested in digital curation tools, I've got a few to share, but there are dozens out there. These are ones I've spent some time working with and feel like I can comment on.

Pinterest ↭ hands down, my oldest curation tool. I got hooked on Pinterest when I was pregnant with my middle daughter. I could sit and snuggle her and scroll through Pinterest in small chunks or long periods when I could just rock with her. I love being able to create boards for groups of ideas. And the secret boards are perfect for projects you don't want everyone else to know about! Many dinner recipes were found this way. I don't use it a great deal anymore - I'm not a fan of the many links where you are linked out to a place you also have to have an account or you have to pay to use. I do curate my blog posts there under a board I call "Tech You Can Do" (LINK HERE). Pinterest has both an app for mobile devices as well as a Chrome extension that I use.

Pearltrees  another social bookmarking tool. While I've used it some, I've not dug in deep. I love the visual aspect of Pearltrees. I love that I can add more than websites to it. I've used Pearltrees only for a year or so and I think it provides a nice view of curated "things". Right now, I have 3 groups of "pearls" where I've curated Twitters I follow, various learning opportunities I want to share out, and professional learning with podcasts and people that I admire. I have embedded them on my website and from the stats, this page gets a fair amount of views. (LINK HERE) Pearltrees has a Chrome extension that I'd highly recommend if want to use it. It also has a mobile app that is easy to use.

Wakelet  is similar to both Pinterest and Pearltrees. It is also a digital bookmarking tool. This is a newer tool with a familiar feel. I have tried to get into using it, but being honest, I've not. I do know several people who really like Wakelet, and it's a top tool in the edtech world. You can make collections and these collections can be shared. Wakelet is intended for those 13 years and older. But collections can be shared with younger students.

If you are interested in learning more, check these links out:

Authors - Sean, Karly, Dr. Randall Sampson, Jen Saarinen, Scott Titmas, Claudio Zavala Jr., Paul West, John Bimmerle
*** UPDATE!!! *** Thanks to Andy, my Tech Director, for sharing this tip ... teachers can share Wakelet collections with students in their Google Classrooms. How awesome!!! Kim Mattina shared this "how to" VIDEO. (Thanks, Kim!)

Email ↭ I know this is probably on everyone's "Do Not Do" list, but I've found it to be a great tool for curation. I often email myself a link with a short note attached so I know who I was wanting to share with or a note to remind myself later what I was thinking. If it's school related, I email it to my school account; if it's for me personally, I will email it to my personal email account. This has worked REALLY well! Part of the reason it works, is the little badge reminds me I have something waiting for me. And I check my email several times a day. It is definitely going to be a tool I continue to use. (Hey, sometimes you just have to be a rebel, right?)

This is a very small collection, so if I don't list one here & you have an awesome one, please reach out! Maybe you will have the one I've been searching for.  Next week, I'll be back with a different take on curating and curation tools.

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

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Summer Learning: Midwest Leadership Summit reflection

Last week, I shared several suggestions for educators to do some summer learning. I am excited to share the first summer learning activity I've done this summer. I was fortunate enough to attend the Midwest Leadership Summit this past week. And it was amazing!!! 

100% a dream come true!

Today I'm going to focus on Day 1 with George Couros. But let me back up a bit ... I bought the book "The Innovator's Mindset" about 2 years ago after reading good reviews. The summary of the book really appealed to me. . . . And then it sat on my shelf, unread. Our curriculum director, Becky Tompkins, pulled it out in a meeting and asked if we'd be interested in a book study. I agreed, thinking now I'd have some accountability in reading it.

Reading doesn't describe what I did with this book! Post-it notes, highlighting, scribbling notes in the margins, texting excited aha's! and "I love this!" messages back and forth is a more accurate description. Nothing in this book is earth shattering. It all simply reaffirms everything I know to be good teaching and learning. The book gave me the opportunity to pump my fist in the air and say, "Yes! THIS is what we need to get back to. THIS is good."

Our team loved it so much, we hosted a district wide professional book study. We gamified it - giving me the opportunity to put into action some much desired attempts at gamification. We incorporated several tech tools to demonstrate classroom application with our teachers. We hoped at least 10 would sign up and we had over 70! Using our LMS, the digital conversations across buildings brought me to tears on more than one occasion. Teachers bravely shared ideas inspired by the book. What an impact it had ... the conversations it sparked ... the relationships it helped me build and strengthen ... the excitement it inspired. Incredible! It was an amazing success!

I then facilitated round #2, as a joint venture between my district and BCESC. Another successful adventure where more teachers from my district and teachers in surrounding districts were able to share in the same wonderful discussion and idea sharing. I followed that with round #3 with even more teachers.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Summer 2019 Learning You Can Do

Hello, summer vacation!!! Take a deep breath ... slow down ... enjoy coffee on the porch ... take a nap ... sleep in/stay up late NOT grading or planning! ... use the bathroom whenever you want ... shall I continue? 

Most teachers enjoy a slower pace on their summer breaks. I also know many teachers use - at least part of - their summer break to do some professional learning. I'm one of them. 

I often hear how kids are sponges ... I feel like I am, too! I honestly love learning. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't learn something. It's usually not earth-shattering. (I think that would get old real quick!) 

Last year I posted a few ideas ["Summer 2018 Learning You Can Do"] and I feel like this is such a good topic, I want to expand a bit more this year. I've found many non-traditional methods of learning that I've come to not only love, but depend on.

πŸ”Š Podcasts

If you've followed me for awhile, you know I πŸ’– podcasts! I am a faithful follower of several. I listen on my drive to & from work several times a week. I listen while my daughters have soccer practice. I listen when I go for walks. I listen when I fold laundry or make breakfast. I focus mostly on edtech podcasts, but your options really are limitless. 

Podcasts are perfect for on-the-go learners. When I'm driving, I can't read ... but I can listen. When I'm at soccer practice, wifi isn't good. And while I love music (I listen to that when I run), when I'm walking, I get lost in my thoughts, and most of the time, my thoughts lead right to edtech. Podcasts can range from a few minutes to an hour or more.

I don't just listen. More often than not, I get ideas that I share with a specific teacher based on conversations I've had with them. I use it to create something. I tweet out a connection I've made to the podcast. Basically - I share it with someone. I encourage you to do the same.

Looking for suggestions? I've highlighted several podcasts over the past year. The label is #PodPeeks, or click HERE. ALL very good! If you want quick suggestions check out the shelf below.

πŸ“š Reading

I also πŸ’— to read. Ever since I was a child, I have loved to read. I subscribe to several blogs - love how they arrive TO me. I click on links others tweet out. I have joined several Facebook groups and read things shared within these communities. I do very much the same thing when I find good stuff by reading ... I'll email it, or tweet it, or text it to the person/people I think would benefit from it.

There are also many phenomenal books focused on education, whether philosophy, pedagogy, or specific content. Often, the authors or various groups will run book studies. Better yet, gather a few of your teacher friends, agree on a book, then set a date to meet and talk about the book. (Tip: often you can find discussion questions online, or just have each reader bring a question or two to discuss.) Share. Talk about it.

Looking for suggestions? I have a list at the VERY bottom of my site of good ones (scroll until you can't scroll anymore). Looking for a few quick suggestions right now? Check out the "shelf" below. All GREAT reads!

πŸŽ’ Continuing Education

There are loads of classes - online & in person - you can take. It might help to contact your Curriculum Director. Many times they are able to guide you to good ones. Are you looking to advance your degree? You'll want to ensure you also get PD credit, too, so be sure to check with your LPDC before investing any money. There are many online options to check into, so choose wisely.

Interested in working to become a Google Certified Educator Level 1? I am facilitating an online course this summer through BCESC - Butler County Educational Services Center - on becoming a Google Certified Educator Level 1. I'd love for you to join us. It's set up to be done in your own time ... as your summer allows. I've included due dates, but only to guide you to complete before August 1. Interested? Click the LINK to register. If you use GSuite in your classroom, this is a perfect way to earn continuing education credit.

πŸ‘₯ Workshops/Conferences

Summertime can also be a great time to attend a conference or workshop! During the school year, getting a sub and writing sub plans can often be very difficult. Summertime can allow you to attend without these. Are you looking for workshops/conferences in your area? Most conferences will be posting information on social media & have hashtags you can follow, even if you don't attend.

Here are a few to get you started:

* Edsurge US K-12 Education Technology Conferences 2019  [website for additional info]
"The EdSurge K-12 Education Technology Conferences calendar PDF lists the dates and locations of more than 60 K-12 edtech conferences and events in the United States for 2019, big and small, that should be on your radar." Several of the ones below are included.

* Teach with Tech Conference online conference (July 22-24) [website for more info]
Completely free (option to purchase a "ticket" in order to have access to replays for 1 year) online conference with some big edtech names! 60+ VIDEO SESSIONS from 60 SPEAKERS. I've got my ticket ... and I'm looking forward to tuning in!

* [website for more info] is an online portal for access to loads of online webinars to watch. There is plenty of variety - you'll be sure to find something of value to you.

* Eric Curts webinars [website for webinars] 
Eric has posted over 15 Google-focused webinars available for you to watch. Take a short quiz afterwards and earn a certificate for it. Free!

* ISTE Conference in Philadelphia,PA (June 23-26) [website for more info]
The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference is probably the biggest edtech conference there is. I've never attended but I have heard some pretty amazing things about this. I'd be willing to put money down that you will find something that will work for you.

* High AIMS in Fairfield, OH (Aug 1 & 2) [website for more info]
High AIMS is an organization committed to supporting school districts in SW Ohio. Each summer, a conference is held to allow educators “creating a network of leaders who inspire students and one another to be engaged, high performing learners.” If you are in the area, there is still time! Register HERE

***Bonus - I'll co-presenting a few sessions! I'd love to see you there!

* SPARCC at Stark State College in North Canton, OH (Aug 9) [website for more info]
For the 15th year, SPARCC is hosting an educational technology conference. Registration is FREE, but you must register. 

***Bonus - I'll be heading up to co-present with my colleague, Beth Kingsley. 

Shall I continue? 😊 There is no end to the learning you can do this summer! Books, podcats, in-person, virtual, and more. You have so many options.

Don't make excuses, make it happen!

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

Monday, May 27, 2019

Celebration You Can Do

I'll keep it short ... it's a holiday after all! 

Maybe this week you are wrapping up your school year -- finish strong! 
Maybe you are enjoying your first week out of school like me -- yea! 
Or maybe you still have some time to go -- you got this! 

I'll be back next week with some summer learning opportunities & ideas.

. . . . In the mean time, enjoy your holiday!

P.S. If you are curious, Memorial Day is an American holiday where we honor all the men and women who have died while serving our country in the military. It's always on the final Monday in May. Interested in a short video (less than 4 minutes)? Check out this one's ↬ .

Monday, May 20, 2019

Reflection ... and a Look Ahead ... You Can Do

I had an unexpected conversation last week that led to some great thinking and sharing. In order to explain, I'll need my "soapbox" ... in honor of Jake Miller of the Educational Duct Tape podcast.

I was returning a repaired Chromebook to a 4th grade classroom at the end of the day and I ended up chatting with the teacher for a bit. I had just spent time with two of her classes. We had been cleaning up their Google Drives in preparation for them to move to our middle school this fall. (This is a great opportunity to teach them some digital organization: the 2 views of Drive, how to keep/remove "Quick Access", make folders, delete/move items, etc ... but that's a topic for another blog.)

I asked the teacher if there was anything else she would like to cover or anything she wished we could do. She mentioned her wish that students couldn't change their backgrounds. I paused for a minute before responding. [This isn't the first time I've encountered this wish.] And I simply asked, "Why?"

She proceeded to tell me how students spend a lot of time changing the backgrounds and some aren't super appropriate. She also feels it's just a time sucker. I agreed - because it can be a time sucker - and having knowledge of the Google Admin Console, I know full well we can restrict this. I met her eye and told her this was in fact possible. She looked slightly surprised, so I quickly continued. 

Ahem .... enter ..... my soapbox ......

We live in a digital world and in our district, we are 1:1 with Chromebooks from 1st through 12th grade. (We even have a mix of iPads and Chromebooks in our kindergarten classrooms.) We provide them with digital accounts and access to various programs to enhance their learning. We want, no - we expect our students to use them. We want them to create using them. We also expect the students take care of the devices. And we know full well, that long after they stop coming in our doors, they will be employed in a job that can almost be guaranteed to use a device of some kind. 

So this leads me to the following ...

Should we restrict everything? 

If not, how much do we restrict?

Is this in their best interest? Or ours?

Is this a good philosophy to utilize? 

Do we do this to maximize learning time and minimize distractions?

OR . . . do we use this as another teaching and learning opportunity? 

We would never expect a 1st grader to read and understand a book written by Shakespeare or solve complex physics problems. In that same thinking, we can't expect them to understand how to do (or not do) things on a device until we scaffold and teach them and provide time and opportunity to practice.

I proposed to her the following idea ... We want them to want to take care of their Chromebook. So, what if, next year, they allowed students to change their backgrounds? [Imagine her surprise! ... but let me continue ...] I reminded her students spend a LOT of time on their Chromebooks and we want them to feel some type of ownership over them. I suggested she decide a time frame she (ideally, along with her team) is good with, and set aside time to allow students to change their background during that time. It doesn't have to be long, 5 min per month is plenty! I offered to be available to help with this. 

And when the time comes, remind them THIS is the time to change backgrounds. Therefore, if they change backgrounds at other times, it's not ok and they can handle that the same as when students don't follow other rules.

I also told her she has every right to deem backgrounds appropriate and inappropriate. In fact, this is a conversation I hope they have with their students. Often! I went on to challenge her to stop and think about it. I said I was willing to bet the vast majority of  the backgrounds ARE school appropriate. (She agreed.) And just like anything else, if a student has an inappropriate background, she can instruct them to change it and if they change it to an inappropriate one again, treat it like any other discipline infraction. (I even suggested that if a student violates this too much, change their background to a very generic one and then if they are caught with anything else, additional discipline will be incurred.)

The final thought I shared was this. If she has these conversations now this hopefully can translate into a long-lasting positive impact on them as they grow up. I said the likelihood of her 4th graders choosing something SUPER inappropriate was small, and she can use this as a teachable moment. We can't talk to our students enough about what is and is not appropriate in this digital age.

Now, as I step down off my soap box, I hope I have shared a little nugget for you to ponder. Will YOU be the teacher who dares to talk with your students about appropriate and inappropriate digital actions? Will YOU be the teacher who allows students to make small mistakes and learn from them before they are huge mistakes with REAL and strong consequences? Will YOU be the teacher who decides one conversation isn't enough?

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