Tuesday, November 20, 2018

First Perfect Hit - Tweaks to the Boss Battles


A couple of months ago I shared with you how to create Boss Battles using Google Forms and Sheets and assign XP automatically using the Vlookup function. I spent most of my summer creating all the Boss Battles I intended to use this school year and tweaking my individual student sheets so that if a student scored a "perfect" hit on the boss they would capture it and add it to their collection.


The response of my students to this whole idea has been very encouraging. They actually look forward to Boss Battle days, literally rushing to class to participate in what you and I would actually call a testing day. However, there were a couple of little nagging issues that my more hardcore gamers immediately asked for: Extra XP for "first hit" and/or for "first perfect hit". Apparently, this is a "thing", and while they were satisfied with my answer at the time "Don't know how to do that other than scouring the sheet, which I do not want to do. If you figure it out, we can implement it", it stayed in the back of my head. 

A couple of days ago, I once again sat down to try to figure it out, and it finally crystallized.



On one of my existing Boss Battle Sheets I added:

- First hit: Easy, since you only need to bring up the first entry on the form
='Form Responses 1'!$B$2
- First perfect hit: This formula looks up the e-mail of the student Form Responses sheet (column B) and returns the value found in column C when it equals 10 (the perfect score for this Boss battle). Once it finds the first one, it stops.
=index('Form Responses 1'!B:B, match(true, 'Form Responses 1'!C:C=10, 0))  
These two formulas made the students happy since at least they now had the "bragging rights". The addition of extra XP for those two instances can be done manually, or by adding a "Perfect" sheet to your BossBattle (as in the example), where you again report those two values and input whatever XP you wish for them. You can then use the Vlookup function explained in my previous post to have Google sheets find the value for you. That formula in your leaderboard would look something like:
=IFERROR(VLOOKUP(A2,IMPORTRANGE("GoogleSheetID","Perfect!A:B"),2,0), 0)
I now have to add those formulas to all my Boss Battles, but I know that it will be a nice surprise when we come back from break. What about you, any other tweaks to share?

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Five ways to use Pop-ups



A couple of days ago, @JakeMillerTech posted a way to create a pop-up window on Google Docs.
I was intrigued by the idea, especially after a couple of messages back and forth with Jake and @dyerksjr1 revealed that even with the "must be editor of the document" limitation, it could work via Google Classroom using the create a copy for each student and insert "from Drive" options (link). So I set about finding out whether you could include links, change fonts, add images (not just emojis), etc. Two frustrating days later, it dawned on me that I've never seen these kinds of adjustments on Google's actual pop-ups, so while I still have hope that it perhaps can be done, I instead changed my focus to what I could use the pop-up idea for.

So let's start by referencing Jake's original post "Add a Popup Message to your Google Docs", where he provides step by step instructions on how to add the code to your document.

The code for a Google doc is:
function onOpen() {DocumentApp.getUi().alert(<head> "insert your message here" </head>)}
If you would like to add to Slides instead, you would use:
function onOpen() {SlidesApp.getUi().alert(<head> "insert your message here" </head>)}
and for Sheets, well:
function onOpen() {SpreadsheetApp.getUi().alert(<head> "insert your message here" </head>)}
With that out of the way, it is time to have some fun and think of ways of using it:

1. Reminders:


2. Provide links: Although the link itself will not work, students can always copy/paste it:

3. Give words of encouragement:
If you do not mind a little extra work, you can even provide individual pop-ups or even chose only a couple of random or carefully selected students for whom the pop-up appears.

4. Provide hints in a Break-out Edu activity:

5. In a gamified environment, perhaps even provide some hints about Easter Eggs. 

I'm sure you can think of some other awesome uses, and if so inclined tell us about them in the comments.

Thank you @JakeMillerTech and @dyerksjr1 for teaching me about this fun addition to my teaching arsenal.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Collaborative Annotations Using Scrible


Book annotation 2 by Katherine Stone

As many of you may have experienced in your own educational journey, at some point I was taught about annotating what I read. The mighty highlighter made its appearance in every school supply list my mother received, and much like you see above, I gleefully used it to mark pretty much everything I was allowed to. As the years progressed the highlighter slowly disappeared and the annotations instead made heavy use of the marvel of Post-Its which gave me the advantage of being able to write something along the text and not simply marking things that my young self considered "important".

At some point in my career as an educator, I was introduced to the idea of close reading, and with it came a whole new way of marking text that I was expected to teach my students. Colors and specific markings were the norm and while I am not against close reading or increasing student understanding of text (What is annotating and why is it an essential skill to close reading?), the idea of having my students have to follow a specific format and key made it seem more like busy work, akin to my highlighter overuse.

The questions I asked myself throughout the close reading professional development were:

  • After all of this, will the student ever go back and use all those notes for something other than answering a couple of questions? 
  • Will they ever remember that that particular document had some important notes that could be used later for something else? 
  • What about all the reading we now do online? Am I really going to print out all their research so they can use this?
  • What about using collaborative close reading, especially in my PBL classroom where students are often reading a relatively dense scientific text? Shouldn't there be a way for students to close read together?
All of these questions can be answered with just one "magical" digital annotation tool -  Scrible. Let me explain...

A couple of years ago, I developed a project for my 6th graders on Climate Change. The idea was that the students would choose a topic from a list, interact with several digital resources from places like the EPA and the NCA and collaboratively develop a product to educate others about the impact of climate change. Par for the course, except that many of them were overwhelmed by the amount of reading and synthesizing they had to do. Add to that that they had to share their thoughts on the reading with each other and organize all of the information and ideas into one cohesive product, all the hallmarks of chaos leading to disengagement.  That is when Scrible, a free tool, makes its entrance.

Scrible makes the possibility of collaborative digital annotations a reality! The only thing students have to do is create an account (using their district e-mail). Once that is done, a student can use the tool on any webpage sharing their thoughts right next to the text they highlight. If they create and share a permalink, they can also annotate collaboratively, which means other students can join a conversation about that digital text; this can take the form of questions, responses, comments and even links to other corroborating sources.


At first, students used the tool simply to remind themselves of the information, stating simply that "this information is important". However, as they progressed, and with some prodding on my part (adding cryptic replies such as "why?"), they started adding a more thorough commentary, and even inserting links that corroborated what they were reading. These annotations then allowed them not only to record their thinking but also to organize their thoughts in preparation for their project work. They served as reminders of key concepts and lateral readings they had done as they interacted with the resources. Since they were sharing the reading and annotating load, all the students were happy to add to what was being said instead of that solo "this is too much" mentality that we had before the use of the tool.

What is even more perfect, is that as long as you are logged on, the tool will keep track of the web pages you have visited and their annotations. This came into play for us when the students used pages they had annotated for the climate change project several months after the fact to support some of their building choices in their disaster-proof housing project during our human impacts unit. 

However, the best indication that the tool worked for my students was when I discovered it being used, without prompting, by former students. When I asked them why, they shared that it made their work easier since they could talk to each other about what they were reading, saving them time and allowing for everyone to join even if they were not in the same room. That, in itself, is a win for me.



There are a couple of Scrible tutorials on Youtube in case you need help signing up and using it:


It is worth noting that you can use Scrible on pdf's and "published to the web" Google documents, saving you the time and cost of printing resources you may already have to share with students.

I invite you to start playing with Scrible and share a comment telling us how it went. Until next time.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Eight reasons to love GoFormative



In a recent tweet, my good friend and colleague @JudyZaccheo posted the following "challenge"
Since this cannot be answered in a mere 240 characters or less, I had to respond "long text", and what better way than a post that can then be shared with all of you.

Much like Judy, my first foray into GoFormative was perhaps a bit bumpy. At the time, I loved the idea of some of the question types I saw ("show your work", for example) so much that chose to present about it at a district PD, but I did not really use it much myself. This had nothing to do with the platform itself, but rather with my unfamiliarity with it. Back then, you created an account and landed on the home page but there was not much to see in terms of its capabilities, and my account remained dormant for a while.

About a year ago while participating in a Twitter chat, GoFormative came up quite a few times, and I went back in if only to see what people were talking about. That led me to the first reason why I love GoFormative:

1. The Formative Community Center: A vibrant community of educators that share content, best practices, implementation ideas and all sorts of ideas on everything from pedagogy to the latest in #edtech. What makes this community unique from others is that it also provides you with a direct line to GoFormative's amazing team of developers, who listen and respond with a "can do" attitude. To most of my "it would be wonderful if..." posts I have gotten a "we'll make that happen!" or at least a "we cannot do that right now, but what if we ...; would this be useful?"

Within that community and before some of the more recent changes that have made GoFormative super user-friendly, I found a great introduction to GoFormative made by Michael Lutz:
 Formative within a Formative, which helped me explore all the different things that could be done with formative, which leads me to the 7 other reasons why I love GoFormative:

2. Ability to create multimedia-rich lessons with just a few clicks. Not only does GoFormative allow you to include a wide variety of question types, you can also embed all sorts of media. It is almost an "if it is on the web, you can add it to a Formative".


Even if there is no obvious embed code on whatever you want to add, a simple iframe generated using the tricks learned in the Formative within a Formative mentioned above makes everything embeddable. In this "Relationship between Organisms" example, I have not only a presentation and videos, but also LearningApps and a Flipgrid.

3. Along the same lines, the "enhance a PDF/Doc feature", which allows you to digitally gather answers to anything you are already using, or add reflection questions to any formative, much like Rebecca Mann did in this example:



4. Ability to assess and provide feedback in real time, with no lag! Gone are the days when you have to wait for a student to submit a paper or finish the digital work. With GoFormative you can immediately send feedback to a student or group of students - even whole class, while they are working on a formative.



5. Identify the struggling student, find patterns in answers and be ready to pull a small group or even get everyone's attention to clarify a misconception or difficult concept.


6. Track student progress towards mastery of standards. All you need to do is tag your standards, and Formative will summarize all the data for you!


7. Short on time? GoFormative now has a searchable library of ready-made formatives submitted by educators, searchable by grade level and content. No need to reinvent the wheel when you can clone to use as is and/or adapt to your particular situation


8. Google classroom integration. Whether you want to import your classes from GC or you want your formatives posted directly to GC, it is all available to your students with the click of a button. No need to remember passwords or try to find "what they are supposed to do".

Now, this is not to say that you have to do all of this. GoFormative is so versatile that you can even produce a quick GoFormative on the fly to act as an exit ticket or as a "Do Now" in a matter of seconds. That versatility is the reason why my students now equate GoFormative with being successful in my classroom.


Saturday, September 1, 2018

The "Once a Zero - Always a Zero" policy as a first step

First Step by Porapak Apichodilok 

Every year at this time, I get pushback from many of my educator friends and the parents of my students for AdVENTURE's "Once a Zero-Always a Zero" policy. I hear cries of "how is a student able to recover from this demotivating policy", "this sets up kids for failure" and "this policy promotes a fixed mindset". It seems that I am alone in this world of "First Attempt At Learning" mentality. The adults hear "zero" and appear to stop listening to how the policy is actually implemented.

What is very interesting is that I do not hear the same cries from the students sitting in my classroom. The students that are actually living and working with this policy in place, understand what it means, how to avoid that zero and most especially how it actually sets the stage for ongoing feedback and "re-dos".

Let me explain...

The only way a student in my classes will ever get a zero for an assignment is for doing absolutely nothing by the time the work is due, and I mean exactly that. Zeros are avoided by simply putting in a name on a paper and/or clicking turn in/submit if it is digital work. This is our way of having students acknowledge that there was a due date for the assignment and that if they "forgot" they are aware that there is work to be done. After what could be a pretty much blank turn in, everything is re-gradeable for full credit.

The Once a Zero policy at AdVENTURE, actually allows my students to, dare I say it, "Fail Forward". The idea is that instead of having students turn nothing in or extend due dates waiting for the student to turn in "perfect work", I'd much rather have a student turn in a piece of incomplete or badly done work, go over it and give feedback and set up a conference where we can talk about the pieces that are hard for him/her, and regrade (often several times). In order to achieve this, I have to know where the struggles, errors or misconceptions lie, and I cannot do that if the student simply avoids the whole thing and does not turn anything in.

The student who turns in something that he/she knows is not perfect and knows that by turning it in he/she is acknowledging that help is needed, also knows that help is on the way. He/she knows that there will be multiple opportunities to regrade until the work is where they want it to be, so in reality, this policy ends up fostering the growth mindset of the lifelong learner. "I could not do it when I first turned in, but I can do it now."

Of course, this only works because we allow multiple submissions and regrades, and this is where I think the adults get the wrong idea. "Once a zero, always a zero" does imply that there are no second chances, and yes, there are no second chances for those that decide to go the complete avoidance route, but there are two caveats to this:

1. We really do not allow students to not turn something in. On turn in day, you will often hear the call of "everyone stand up, you may sit when I say your name", while I go over the list of papers/digital submissions that I have. Anyone left standing after this gets a visit from me and cannot leave the room until whatever they have has been submitted, again even if basically blank with just a name.
2. The relationship we have with students is one of trust, where they know that resubmitting is not only allowed, but encouraged, and re-grading is as immediate as possible, always for full credit. The onus is on the student to take that first step by submitting what they have.

"Once a Zero, Always a Zero" has actually helped us become better at feedback and motivated our students to continue their learning journey as more empowered individuals. They have come to expect that a first attempt can always get better and that if they take that first step of submitting their work, their teachers are there to help throughout the process.


Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Beat the Teacher - Back to School Edition



On many occasions during the game-based learning and gamification Tweeter chats I participate in, we've talked about game skins (#games4ed, #XPLAP). For those of you that may be unfamiliar with the term, a game skin is a cosmetic change to a game that does not change the basic gameplay. Much like what I shared when I talked about my FLUXX Mod project, or what @MrPowley shared in his Skin in the Game post the idea is not to create a new game from scratch, but simply to change the topic of the game adapting it to specific situations.

As I was going through my collection of board games thinking about what I could do to start the 2018/2019 school year I happened upon the Spin Master game called "Beat the Parents". As I remembered, the gameplay was pretty easy, but being a full-on trivia game it did not make my family's game-night rotation too often. However, after dusting it off, I figured that it would be perfect to mod as a Back to School game, giving my class the opportunity to review expectations, policies, procedures, and locations of classroom items, while allowing me to get to know my student's trivia and preferences.


Thus, I started by creating the board (click to open the file), which I plan to project to the class, using post-its as tokens (mover pieces) so that the whole class can play at once.
Normally, I would have created and laminated the necessary cards, but I decided against it for this skin since I want the students to come up with their individual "getting to know you" trivia questions. The plan is to provide each student in my 5 periods with a couple of index cards where they can write questions like "What is my (the student's) preferred nickname?", "How many siblings do I have?" or "What is my preferred sport/book/content area?", really anything that would be traditionally asked in a student interest survey. On the other hand, I prepared a file with the teacher questions that are specific to my class (sharing to give you ideas in case you also want to try this out).

Since I was not going to create physical cards, I then had to figure out a way to create digital wild-cards. These became the numbers 1-20 at the top and bottom of the board you see above, and the plan is that when we land on a wild card, I will roll a 20 sided dice and click on the corresponding card. The wild cards linked on the board are simply links to individual slides in this slide deck.


I tried to make the wildcards somewhat generic, but if you find that they are too specific or you are interested in creating your own set, just remember that you can obtain the links to individual slides in any slide deck as explained here.

The gameplay itself is exactly as the original (Beat the Parents instructions), except that there will always be only one question per turn (in the original there are up to three). The game is so easy to play that once you have the board, you can have students create questions for a topic at any point during the school year for an impromptu review and quick game of Beat the Teacher.

While I am certain that the students will beat me when I present this as part of my getting to know you activities, before knowing the new students very well or at all, I think they will get a kick out of beating the teacher, and who knows, maybe I'll surprise them.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Internet search like a pro - a lesson

Google Search Engine by Simon Steinberger

Back when I first got a notebook cart (yes, that tells you how long ago it was), I used to explicitly teach my students how to perform Google searches. It was one of the very first lessons I taught at the start of each year, and it always came complete with a cheat sheet that my students religiously pasted to the back of their notebooks. I do not remember when I stopped teaching it, but I do know it was not a conscious decision. It could have been that it simply was forgotten as I was putting things on my beginning of year calendar, or maybe it was the year when the school went 1:1 and IT was in charge of introducing the use of chromebooks to all classes. The reason really does not matter, what does matter is that I moved on, perhaps under the assumption that since my students are digital natives and they live in a world where they are used to finding YouTube videos to DIY everything, the lesson had become irrelevant.

However, I was recently watching a group of students stumble and get frustrated as they performed a simple Google search for a Genius Hour project. When I approached them and said, "Just exclude the terms you don't need", they looked at me as if I was speaking in tongues and it dawned on me that not only had I not taught them to be effective searchers, nobody had! My students had all been intuitively finding shortcuts and relying on each other to learn them, which although very cool in demonstrating some problem solving and collaboration skills, was probably not as effective as it could be.

With that in mind, I did a deep dive of my drive to find those old resources and updated some to include them in the activity shared below. The plan is for students to make a copy of the presentation (assign it through Google classroom), and have them work through it practicing the skills so that in the end they will have a handy reference that they can then use to remind themselves if all the different "how-tos" when needed.




I know that there are many effective search tips that are not included, but I think it's a good place to start. 

What do you think, are there some other lessons that you may have forgotten to teach and that are just waiting to be re-discovered? I invite you to share them in the comment section.