Sunday, April 26, 2020

Infusion of Tech You Can Do

I planned to share this about 6 weeks ago - my heart was swelling with pride & accomplishment! Life changed suddenly and I put this on pause. Now, I want to share it because it deserves its day in the spotlight. It's sure to make you smile!

The second grade team at one of my buildings asked me to help them last year with their Wax Museum. They wanted to record their students "being" the historical person and then share the video with parents. We set up shop in a small conference room with a simple black background and the title "2nd Grade Wax Museum". I used a video recorder to make a video for each teacher and then handed it over to each teacher to share. When all was said & done, one of the teachers and I started chatting about potential "level ups" for the next year.

Fast-forward to THIS year. Our district is knee-deep in PBL's (project-based learning). This 2nd grade team chose to use the wax museum to be their PBL and they asked me to help. We talked through their requirements and structure and I came prepared with some ideas. We settled on how we wanted it to go ... and can I tell you right now how PROUD I am of the students?!?!?! (The teachers did a phenomenal job getting them ready, too, but the students were the stars!)

The whole theme to my blog is "Tech You Can Do" and each week my goal is to share something that you and your students can do. For this one, I don't have a template for you to duplicate. But what I am going to share below is their process and what the students did. It is just flat out awesome and I know you can duplicate something out of here for your own students.

May I start by pointing out to you that we are talking about 7 & 8 year olds? Yep. Second graders are 7 & 8 years old. To start, they chose a person that interested them. Then they did some guided research with their teachers - and used both online and print resources. Students took their research and turned it into a paragraph about their person, most of them using a first-person voice. This was typed on a single Google Slide. A second Google Slide was used to create a backdrop for their person using images or items that match their person. Throughout this, they also were working on costumes or props for their person.

Prior to our scheduled taping day, I turned a conference room into our "studio" with the help of our media manager, Diana. After various trouble-shooting and some quick thinking between Diana & myself, we welcomed the famous people into the studio. On recording day, each student stood in front of a large screen display - with their background on display; I was in the center, next to a table with my phone, which was our recording device, a pair of headphones with a microphone attached stretching toward the student; and a second large screen behind me, displaying their Slide with their paragraph (our "teleprompter"). We also had tape, a step stood, and various odds & ends that allowed for the "best" recording for each student. A chromebook was attached to each display to allow the teachers to bring up their Google Classroom where the 2 Google Slides were housed.

Now you, might think, whoa. What did you do with all those videos? Easy!!! Each teacher set-up a Flipgrid grid and I actually just recorded IN the app, so each students' video automatically was captured there. At the end of each recording, I adjusted the names to be that of the student & their historical person. IT. WAS. (and still is) AMAZING!!!! 

And it doesn't end there ... an unintended ability with Flipgrid is the teachers were able to share the videos with their class - allowing for commenting - but ALSO, a QR code & link directly to each student was created and easily shared. Oh how I love when a tool works out so nicely!!! It was amazing to see the kids and be part of this project. Working as a team, we recording right around 100 students! (I even re-recorded a few whose videos were taped side-ways.)

I'd like to wrap this up with a couple of main points:
  1. I've used Flipgrid maybe twice before this ... it was a huge risk on my part! Yikes! I was nervous!
  2. This was big change in the way this project worked for the teachers ... and it was AWESOME!
  3. It's never a bad idea to try something new!

We got some really positive feedback from this from the parents. My favorite is one of the teachers shared that the dad of a student is currently deployed, and his mom wrote to say thank you because she could share the video very quickly and easily. The dad could see his child and feel better connected. Tears. Then and now. 

I also want to give a shout out to Ann Kozma! I contacted her prior to the taping to ask some questions. THANK YOU! I appreciate your help!

Have a great week!

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Share Settings You Can Do

A common conversation I have is about share settings. Recently, this has been a focus for many teachers, within my district and world-wide. To be fully honest - share settings still trip me up at times.

Today, I'd like to share a Google Slides I created to help explain the various share settings that are possible. This was created with the additional possibilities we have within a domain. Chances are, if you work in a school that utilizes Google, you have a "domain". This means you have additional possibilities for sharing over a personal Google account.

Please use this - and share this with others. I hope it provides a clearer understanding of the share settings. Students can benefit from this, too, but please remember I created this truly with an adult in mind. And now that I write this, it totally makes sense that I could make a version for students. If, no when I do, I'll be sure to share it. Do you have one you'd be willing to share? Please do!

Link to the "template view". Please click on the "Use Template" button in the top right corner.

Link to a "view only" copy. Please use the File --> Make a copy option to make your own copy.

As always, feel free to make your own copy! 

Do you have a question or comment? Feel free to comment below ... or reach out on Twitter (@kiefersj) ... or email me directly (

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Google Photos e-portfolio You Can Do

One of my favorite books of the past several years is "The Innovator's Mindset" by George Couros. It sat on my bookshelf for a good six months before reading it, but when I did ....... WOW! Very early on in his book, George shares 2 definitions of innovation on page 19 that I carry with me on a daily basis:

The Innovator's Mindset, George Couros, p.19 (2015)

I've included this as a preface to my share today. Like many of the other items I have shared, today's is a product of a conversation with a teacher I work with and is aimed at filling a need she has. Like many schools around the world, we are deep in remote learning right now. And like many schools, we are doing the best we can as we learn this new way of educating our students. Our awesome curriculum director provided clear direction as we move forward into this method of educating our students. She referred to it as the "One-third rule." 
1/3 new learning
1/3 practice
1/3 feedback

From this mindset, a first grade teacher called me and wanted to talk about how to do the feedback part. It's easy when you are AT school ... it's easy when the student is right in FRONT of you ... it's easy when you spend 6-7 hours each weekday with them ... but what about now? We talked about what she was hoping to do, what she needed to do, what she wanted to do, the tools we have, and so on. Long story ... several ideas tossed around ... and finally ... around 10 pm, I asked her to remind me what she absolutely had to have. She said an easy place for parents to share photos, two way communication, and for it to be simple. [It's important to note - our 1st grade students do not access email, nor have they heavily used Google Classroom, parents had been sharing photos of work already, AND we need to keep this SIMPLE.] 

That is when it hit me. I called on the "iteration" definition from George - why not use Google Photos to create a shared album for students (&/or their parents) to share their work with the teacher?!?! I have used Google Photos in my personal life for quite some time, and I love the sharing ability AND the commenting ability.

Next hurdle ... what about parents who don't have a Google account? Have no fear - our students all have Google accounts! Why not have the parents use the child's Google account to do this? No new accounts AND it will "live" with the child's school account for as long as necessary - even when we return to school.

It's definitely a different line of thinking ... and will take some work to set up, but I believe it's a doable option. Many adults are used to taking & sharing photos, so this borrows on that already learned skill. This also streamlines the sharing for the teacher - it's all in one spot. The commenting also provides evidence for feedback as well as notifications for both sides - home & school.

Now, I'm not one to throw ideas around without backing it up with some instruction/guide. I created a slidedeck to help the teachers and parents. Feel free to make your own copy or share it out as is. You will also want to check - like I did - that Google Photos is turned on for your students. 

I hope this provides an easy method of communication for teachers, parents, and students. The feedback the original teacher has already received has been positive. I know there will be hiccups along the way, but I'm excited to see how this goes!

Looking for a link to a View Only version? Please use "File --> Make a Copy" to make your own copy.

Want to look at the Template version? Please click on "Use Template" in the upper right corner to make it your own.

I'd love to hear how this goes for you if you choose to use it. And if I can be of help, please don't hesitate to comment below; contact me on Twitter (@kiefersj); or email me (

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Video Conferencing You Can Do

About a month ago, I would NEVER had guessed that I would be returning from Spring Break ready to continue with distance learning in my district, let alone across Ohio & much of the world! This is new territory for everyone!

Video conferencing has been around for awhile ... but before March 13, I hadn't done much of it. Since then, I've stopped counting the number video conferences I've been a part of. And not only is it "normal" for me, it's also "normal" for my own daughters.

When my district moved into distance learning, several of us began working through what would become guides for our teachers. I won't profess perfection, and we learned a lot by reading and talking with others. We did formulate a plan and have moved forward with it.

My district decided to utilize Zoom. Is it right for you? I can't say. We decided this was the best plan for ourselves after weighing pros/cons of a few different platforms. EVERY platform will have pros/cons so please don't think that I am saying Zoom is better than others. It is what we decided on. But, I do feel like the guidelines we shared can work for ANY video platform.

I am sharing this out today in case you are interested in something to help guide what you do & don't do while video conferencing. As with anything I share, please feel free to make a copy & modify to fit you & your district better. I've kept it very simple, as I believe simplicity is best, especially right now. I also do not believe the focus should be on the "tool" ... it should always be focused on the usage and goal of the tool. 

I recreated the doc for our district on Slides, to make it more visual. Below the one for teachers, I created a VERY generic video conferencing tips for students. This one is not specific to any platform.

Here is the one for teachers:

Want to make your own copy? ↬ Link to "View Only" (please use File --> Make a copy)

Here is the one for students:

Want to make your own copy? ↬ Link to "View Only" (please use File --> Make a copy)

I hope these guides help. 

As always, if you have a comment or question, please feel free to comment below, reach out on Twitter (@kiefersj), or email me (