5 Google Resources You Never Knew Existed

Google Resources You Never Knew Existed

With new Edtech resources popping up daily, it seems that many educators can miss some of the good ones that would be most useful in the classroom. While preparing for a conference and updating my slides, I thought I would share 5 Google Resources you may have missed.

SmartyPinsSmarty Pins – Is a Google Maps game incorporating both geography and trivia. Players can choose a category and are given clues in which to guess the location before their miles or time runs out. A guess is made by dropping the pin on a location on the map. THis resource is great for Geography, critical thinking, and problem-solving. Play on your own or challenge a friend.

Google Arts and CUlture 1Google Cultural Institute – Now known as Google Arts and Culture, allows users to explore collections from around the world. It brings together  brings millions of artifacts from multiple partners, with the stories that bring them to life, in a virtual museum. This digital platform provides access to artifacts for a worldwide audience. Take a virtual tour or explore an artifact; a great place to spark student inquiry or access to primary sources!

Screenshot 2016-07-30 at 8.34.08 AMGoogle Night Walk – Google Night Walk is an immersive experience taking the viewer takes a journey through the vibrant streets of Marseille. During the walk, viewers are provided a 360 view of the streets and are beckoned into the culture and street art through narration and storytelling of the guides you meet along the way. This was built upon the use of multiple Google Products and is a great launch into creativity in the classroom begging students to consider creating their own “Night Walk” to demonstrate their understanding!


constituteConstitute Project – The Constitute Project is one part of Jigsaw (Formerly Google Ideas) and is a collection of the World’s Constitutions. Students can read, search, and compare constitutions from around the globe. Focusing in on specific categories, anything from race and religion to Head of State and the military, students can build a global perspective through a comparison to their own.


Google Experiments music Chrome Experiments – Get ready to get lost for hours, this extensive resource created by the Creative Coding Community showcases innovative and new ideas. Chrome experiments are interactive and range from themes such as 3D, Interactive Coding, to Games. Chrome Experiments also allows users to submit their own ideas to be featured. Check out the Sound and Music Category to play and record your own music!

Often times I find the most interesting, classroom supports from the non-education resources. Don’t be afraid to search out and dive into the resources that, at first glance, seem unrelated to the field. Many times these types of resources speak to students in an untraditional way and demonstrate real-work that is being down around the world! Enjoy!

Amplifying the Writing Process with Technology



Yesterday marked the 8th year of the Iowa 1 to 1 Institute. A conference that is close to my heart, and has provided support, inspiration, and opportunities to me throughout the years. It is also one that I help to organize and run with an amazing team led by Nick Sauers.

This year, over 1000 educators gathered in Des Moines for the 2 day conference.  Dr. Robert Dillon kicked off the first day leading the learning on Leadership Day. The second day provided attendees with over 100 sessions to attend. My session focused on the influence of technology on the writing process and the changes that have occurred because of this influx. These changes have helped to amplify student writing in multiple ways. I have included my slides which highlights these changes, provides brief theory, as well as technology resources and tools to amplify the writing process.

Amplifying the Writing Process

Link to Slides found Here! 

5 Google Resources to Support Student Writing

Pathways to the Common Core- Accelerating Achievement (2)Supporting students in the writing process involves explicit instruction, modeling and utilizing resources to support their development. Sharing high-quality, digital resources with students will increase accessibility and independence in all student writers. Writers, professionals, and adults use digital and non-digital resources to improve their writing, so why wouldn’t we provide the same experience and guidance to our own students?

This list of 5 Google resources are practical and easy to use with all writers! They support a wide-range of ability, mimicking what is commonplace in the classroom. From the struggling writer, English Language Learner writer, and the gifted writer; Google resources can support all kids!

  1. Google Doc Research Tool – Search on Google, Scholar, Images, Tables, and Dictionary to access the information you need without leaving Google Docs. The Research tool allows users to cite information using multiple formats.Pathways to the Common Core- Accelerating Achievement
  2. Google Keep – Google Keep captures your thoughts via text or voice. Create lists, add images and access across multiple devices. Notes are shareable to friends and teachers making brainstorming, tasks, and source collection easy with this resource. Students can set reminder notifications as well! Google Keep
  3. Grammarly – Grammarly is an App that can be added to your Chrome browser. This app detects plagiarism, and helps to improve your writing. It recognizes spelling mistakes, as well as errors in Grammar Usage and Mechanics. It offers suggestions to users. A great app for students to utilize as their first support in editing. Grammarly
  4. Read and Write for Google – Read and Write for Google provides accessibility for docs., the web, pdfs., and epubs. Options provide support to all students! Struggling readers and writers can use the Google Docs tool bar to read aloud and highlight text. Use the picture dictionary to support emerging readers and writers. The translator option supports ESL students as they write and struggle translating ideas in another language. Free for teachers and can be pushed out to your entire domain! Read and Write Google
  5. Voice Typing Tool – Google voice typing allows writer to easily put their words on a page by speaking them instead of manually typing. Voice Typing is located under the “Tools” tab in Google Docs and appears as a microphone symbol, on the side, once selected. When trying out for my own use, I was surprised on the accuracy and would recommend this to teachers and students without hesitation. Pathways to the Common Core- Accelerating Achievement (1)

Technology and Student-Centered Assessment

Formative and summative assessment are familiar terms to most students and educators. When used intentionally, both assessment types can be used to identify student needs and help educators design differentiated learning opportunities. Student-Centered Assessment, on the other hand, is a less familar term with many educators. Student-Centered Assessment can be used during the process of learning, at the end of units, or even extend across a student’s year. The three key components that all Student-Centered Assessments have in common are: identified standards and learning targets, they are best utilized during the learning process, but can be adapted to also serve a more summative need, and finally, they are designed to be used by the student! Below are three specific examples, along with technology tools that I find fit the desired intent.

  1. Self-Assessment – When used while the learning is taking place, self-assessment is an effective tool which places ownership in assessing and learning back into the hands of the student. Self-assessment promotes learning by having students reflect upon their strengths and weakness in their own work. When used during the process of learning instead of at the end of the learning, self-assessments generate areas that are personal to the students, a time to revise and rework their product, and the ability to measure their work to the learning targets, standards, and personal skills. Self-assessment can be in the form of rubrics, checklists, or evidenced in written or oral responses.                 Google Keep would be an excellent digital tool to support the use of checklists in self-assessment. Google Keep is simple to use, easy to share, and is customizable for use. Google Keep Options
  2. Peer-Assessment – Similar to Self-Assessment, Peer-Assessment is best done during the learning process. In fact, it makes no sense to have students use this tool after the product is completed. Peer-Assessment employs students giving feedback to each other that is specific and evidenced by specific examples that are aligned to the learning target. Many educators find this tool great in theory, but students struggle when applying. Scaffolding, modeling, and clear expectations are needed to not only help students find areas of focus in another peer’s work; but also, explicit instruction and practice of soft skills that address collaboration and communication? How does one effectively work with a peer in a collaborative setting. What type of feedback is most valuable? With these objectives in mind, along with the professional understanding that the student doing the fixing is the one doing the learning; utilizing something like the “Suggesting” setting in Google Docs provides a digital tool to support Self-Assessment. “Suggest Edits” instead of directly writing on the work, editing, or even commenting, shifts revision and reflection back to the author of the piece.                          Adding Suggestions to Google Doc
  3. Portfolios – Two types of Portfolios are commonly used in the educational setting. First, a portfolio can be used as a “Process Portfolio”. A process portfolio would be documentation of a students growth, from novice to master, typically based within a unit and have an identified group of standards or learning target. When used throughout the learning, process portfolios can act as a documentation of a student’s journey in learning. It can help them set goals, and serve as a visual to remind students where they began and how their understanding transformed during the unit. A second type of portfolio found in educational settings is that of a summative collection of their best work. While examples of student’s learning could be placed throughout the learning process, a summative portfolio demands the student to reflect on their work throughout the year, evaluate it against the determined standards or learning targets, and then justify the pieces they place within the portfolio as the ones demonstrating their best work. Summative portfoliosare best used organically, and travel and change with the student as they progress through grades.                                                                      Google Sites would be a versatile, digital tool for either type of portfolio. From embedding images, documents, and videos; to uploading mp3s of vocal solos or embedding multimodal creations, Google Sites have always been a perferred choice with my former students.                                       Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 12.18.47 AM

Resource Used: Students at the Center



Cross-Discipline Literacy: Gradual Release of Responsibility

Gradual release

At the middle and secondary levels, teachers are traditionally isolated by content area and grade. And although, we, as professionals, understand the hypocrisy in a traditional educational environment (life is not so neatly departmentalized, the blurring of concepts, skills, and content exists); it is difficult for some educators to see the relationship between what is being taught in their classroom and what is being taught down the hall. Calling upon our elementary educator friends, we are reminded that literacy is the thread that ties all of the areas together. And through the practicing and mastering of these literacy skills, our students gain opportunities, understanding, and communication skills that they will use long after they leave through the doors of our schools. Today’s students must be able to locate, understand, evaluate, and use written information and multiple literacies in both their personal and academic lives.

In theory, this connection of literacy throughout the content areas helps to reinforce reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills in all students; in reality, fear and frustration runs rampant in the minds of teachers when they hear the words “All teachers are reading and writing teachers”.

To create a culture of literacy within a building, an “All Hands on Deck” approach is needed for systematic change. No longer can pockets of excellence in reading comprehension instruction exist; focused goals and high-quality, sustained learning must occur to equip all teachers properly. Along with a toolbox filled with comprehension strategies and understanding of text structures and styles, I tend to agree with the thinking of Fisher and Frey as to the clarification of my position on this:

“We do not believe that ‘all content teachers are teachers of reading.’ We are not discussing reading comprehension with the expectation that this take front and center in every math, science, history, arts, or elective course. However, reading and understanding texts is a central feature of every course” (11).  So, while literacy may not be the focus in each classroom, everyday, it is an essential component to every class.

The key is, You, as the teacher, are the best reader and writer in the classroom. Modeling your thought process when discerning information in content-specific text is essential. Take, for instance, an industrial arts educator. Teaching literacy would not include a study on Huck Finn, but rather, modeling and practice in reading and comprehending texts normally found in that area. How does an architect read a blueprint? When looking at a bookshelf, how does a woodworker interpret design, structure, angles, etc. We read fiction with the intent of identifying plot, conflict, characters; these same strategies would not be applied to informational text.

Strategy: Gradual Release of Responsibility

Structural framework used to increase reading comprehension containing four components. The framework is organic in nature, meaning, there is no specific order or rate in which to use each component. Formative assessment identifies student needs and allows teacher differentiation. Technology integration is one solution to differentiate within the classroom to meet the needs of all students. (After each component, a technology integration tip is listed)

1. “I do” Minilesson in which the teacher establishes the focus, goal, or concept and models the thinking aloud to the class. (Technology Tip: A teacher or class YouTube channel. Students are able to rewatch minilesson containing the teacher modeling the comprehension strategy, or choose from a collection of videos with the same focus but different content)

2. “We do” Teacher prompts, questions, and cues students’ thinking through guided instruction and facilitation. (Technology Tip: Try a tool, such as EdPuzzle, to embed questions, cues, and prompts into videos)

3. “Do it together” Collaboratively, students apply previous learning with academic discourse to complete a task. (Technology Tip: Voicethread captures the thinking of students through text, voice, and annotations. Provide one task for the class, and allow collaborative group work to be demonstrated and shared on VT)

4. “Do it alone” Students, individually, apply understanding to an authentic task. (Technology Tip: Students use Explain Everything to demonstrate individual application of learning on an original task)

Gradual Release of Responsibility is a framework that can be applied across content and grade-level. Modeling your thinking aloud on how one approaches texts/visuals/graphs in our content area, supports comprehension strategies used to understand information. And although literacy is typically thought of as an ELA standard, it plays an essential role in the lives of our students; equipping them for future endeavors when life isn’t so neatly divided by subject area!


Undervaluing Teacher Perception in Assessment

Peter Reynolds, author of The Dot, ish, and many others; recently released his animated short entitled The Testing Camera. Described as a “whimsical poke at high-stakes, standardized testing,” The Testing Camera, paints an all-true reality of education today.

Teaching to the test, students measured by the test, teachers evaluated by the scores their students receive on the test; with this constant focus in today’s education systems, is it any surprise that: teachers have began to question their own professional perceptions? Undervalue their day to day interactions with students? Rely solely on the test score to dictate curriculum, label and track students, and justify their own strengths as an educator?

Most recently, during a writing workshop training, a teacher expressed the joy and affirmation the framework, specifically small group instruction, has provided her in terms of formative assessment. Identifying a student need; providing examples, practice, and opportunities for improvement; targeting a specific writing skill the student is on the cusp of mastering; and continuous checks to follow-up on goals are not done through standardized testing. Instead; this type of formative assessment/observation allows the teacher to differentiate in the moment, make professional decisions based on individual students, and demonstrate the power of good teaching. Hearing this reflection simultaneously made me happy and sad. I was thrilled that this teacher regained her professional voice, but was saddened that it was lost in the first place.

This post is not intended to debate the necessity of standardized testing; instead, it is to draw attention to this culture and provide an alternative view highlighting the value in and the ease of formative assessment can in our contemporary classrooms.

Jim Knight refers to formative assessment as a GPS to “gauge how well students understand what is being taught.” As part of the Big 4 to Improve Instruction, developing and using formative assessment effectively provides insight into gaps in content planning and/or pedagogy thus allowing teachers to target learning. The formative assessment GPS allows teachers to see what direction students are heading (are they way off course, or close to the goal), which pedagogical practices were effective with which students, and a map for navigational purposes to determine teaching style (inquiry, modeling, example, etc.).

While it is clear the benefits to the learner that formative assessment provides, the ease of crafting and administering such “checks” in today’s technology-rich classrooms further add to these for both the learner and teacher. In a recent blog post by Jeff Zoul, entitled “Reimagining Learning,” Zoul reflects upon the paradigm shift in teaching and learning in a ubiquitous technology education environment. Citing Richard Culatta in his identification of challenges in education and the role in which technology can help to solve these, Zoul touches upon assessment, writing, “We can provide real-time feedback to students, an ‘LPS’ version of a GPS system in which we—and our students—know where every individual learner is currently at and where each needs to go next. We can tailor the pacing of instruction to the needs of each learner.” These two specific points align with the benefits I outline below.

Technology Assisted Formative Assessment Provides:

  1. Real-time glimpse into students’ understanding
  2. A space for all voices to be heard and recognized
  3. Opportunity for immediate feedback and differentiation of instruction
  4. Data narrating the students’ learning journey
  5. A transfer of ownership of learning back into the hands of the student

Savvy educators understand that technology tools are only as powerful as the content they are paired with, the student choice given in the unit, and the cognitive demand placed on the learner. With this in mind, I offer the following tools for exploration:

Technology Tools for Formative Assessment

forms-iconGoogle Forms

Google forms are adaptable and provide a plethora of question types to meet needs. An Exit Ticket is a common use of Google Forms. Student answers are automatically collected in Google Sheets and allow the viewer to see responses in a variety of ways. In essence, results can be cleared, and the same Form could be used each day. Paired with a script, such as Flubaroo or Form Mule, Google Forms can provide immediate results and feedback to students.


Socrative is an interactive platform, where students answer questions in real-time and receive immediate feedback. Socrative is device friendly, accessible from tablets, laptops, and smartphones. It also reports individual students, as well as whole class reports which appeal to many educawtors.


Kahoot is a game-based response system where students are motivated to be on the top of the leader-board. To play along with the facilitator, a student may use any device with a web browser (no account is needed).Kahoot encourages the teacher to blend the learning experience by constructing a social, game-based assessment while folding the learning in between interactive questions.


Nearpod brings the interaction to the student’s screen. Interactive, engaging, and customizable in both creation and response, Nearpod provides monitoring of student’s progress. Control of when and who sees the questions provides a different alternative to Socrative. There is also a “draw” response option, perfect for those sketchnoters.


Although not a new tool, TodaysMeet, is the prime backchannel for the classroom. Ease in setting up a room (virtual space), real-time capabilities, readability, and the option to save the transcript; TodaysMeet provides a voice to even the quietest student. Recently added features now allow moderation of content, private rooms, and longer lengths in room reservations.

imgres-1Poll Everywhere

A favorite with students, Poll Everywhere is an audience response platform that promotes interaction, ease, accessibility, and a visual of the responses. Poll Everywhere is another tool that has been around for years, but has recently added improvements to the site. Additions include: differentiation in visualizing the responses (wordcloud is one), embed a voting widget on your site, as a student, access a single webpage where the questioned are “pushed” to you. Answer questions via phone, twitter, or webpage. Poll Everywhere is a perfect tool for a bell ringer, diving into the material immediately or connecting to the previous day’s learning.



Thank you to Jeff Zoul, Mike Jaber, and Leslie Pralle Keehn for contributions to this post.  Appreciate you!


Reimagining the Writer’s Notebook


In a Writing Workshop classroom, the Writer’s Notebook  serves as the heart of the community. The notebook is a gathering spot for inspiration/brainstorming, recording learning gained from minilessons, along with many other purposes.

Traditionally, this notebook has been concrete, filled with blank paper eagerly waiting to be filled. The writer’s inkblood poured onto to it’s pages, scotch-taped quotes and pictures hung out from the edges, practice examples, quickwrites, rough drafts; all filled the emptiness. Depending on the teacher’s philosophy and preference, these sacred notebooks, NEVER, EVER… EVER left the classroom; in fear they would be lost, damaged, or forgotten at home.

Working in a district where all students were provided laptops demanded me to reimagine the traditional Writer’s Notebook to one in a digital form. My goal was not to be a paperless classroom, in fact, many of the images contained within our Digital Writer’s Notebook were first done on paper.  Instead, I wanted to:

  1. Increase student enjoyment in writing.
  2. Move all writers forward.
  3. Consume and create traditional and digital literacies.
  4. Share their writing with the world.

A Digital Writer’s Notebook allows the freedom to incorporate a multitude of mediums. The accessibility allows the writer to add inspiration to this collective spot via multiple modes (phone, computer, tablet) at any time and from anywhere. Freedom in text, embedding videos, or inserting images provides the writer choice in communication.

All of these advantages proved to encourage students to write more and think more about writing. They began filling their Digital Writer’s Notebook, not because it was the designated class time, but because they were inspired! And those students who chose to sketch, draw, or keep a paper Writer’s Notebook (I am a firm believer in student choice) uploaded pics of their notebook (if they chose).

Using a Google Folder students were able to organize their Writer’s Notebook into different “Sections” or documents. Using Google Drive allowed students access from any device and the ability to set the document to work offline for times when there was no internet access.

Example of a Writer’s Notebook “Inspiration/Brainstorm” found here.