Final Reflection

So, I finally finished 5 Things! When I signed up for the PD, I had no idea how busy my school year would be! It was my first year as a middle school librarian and there were so many things to tackle in curriculum development and in a physical space that hadn’t changed since the 1940’s. For me, a person who delves deeply into topics, each Thing took me at minimum 6-8 hours of work. I’m kind of embarrassed to say that, in actuality, some took about 10 hours, maybe more. So it was slow progress for me to get through the course and a fairly big stressor, especially writing the blog. Quite often it was finding the correct terms for writing about what I learned (technology content-vocabulary) that bogged me down the most. I learned as an online student for my MLS that having to write about something you learned took a lot longer than participating in a live classroom discussion or raising your hand to contribute a timely comment. But I also realized that, by having to write what I learned, I was forced to think more deeply about the topic, often revisiting the instructional texts to refine my thinking into something I could express succinctly and also to discover appropriate terminology (tech speak) to describe what I learned. So, I found my CoolTools blog to be just as arduous as learning a new technology. Probably more so.

I definitely believe the CoolTools course was valuable and I marvel at all the wonderfully vetted resources you offered Polly. The only downside, for me, was the timeliness. Having not had time to fully realize my library classroom curriculum or the middle school curriculum itself (along with collaborative opportunities for which I’d develop instructional resources) over the span of this course, I was faced with trying out new technologies where I had to invent a way to use them rather than adapt content I already teach. So in that sense, time spent practicing a particular technology was not time saved for a task I would have done anyway at my job.

However, and it’s a BIG however, almost all of the tools I tried have manifested into some actual goals I plan to tackle next year. I will be collaborating with next year’s Freshman Seminar teacher to begin the practice of keeping a Blogfolio with our 9th graders that I hope will expand to include work from other courses and have students use some of the curation tools to build their own “collections of knowledge” while learning to evaluate websites or compile an annotated bibliography about a research topic. There were some productivity tools I’ve already started using for myself and a couple that I will embed in my lesions, and I have more tools “in my toolbox” for building an engaging Google Classroom.

Thank you and have a great summer!!

Thing 7 : DIY – You Pick!

I have decided to finally learn about Google Classroom. I have been using google drive in a self-taught way for the past year. I’ve been swimming around in familiar terminology like Google Apps for Education, google docs, google slides, google, sheets, google Drive, Google Classroom, never fully understanding how they all relate to each other and what comprises a “Google Classroom”. First I did some searching around for a tutorial. I found one from August 2015 but, after creating some classrooms, I realized that the features shown in the video (for creating assignments, etc) were not the same in the current Classroom I was creating. After much searching around for an “everything in one place” set of current video tutorials (took much longer than I thought necessary, so I was frustrated), I landed on Vicki Davis’s 100+ GREAT GOOGLE CLASSROOM RESOURCES FOR EDUCATORS website, but it was more of a hodgepodge of sites rather than one that would take me from beginner and then move on to the next most useful ‘practices” and so on. I looked at a few of her suggestions and settled on this recommendation because Vicki referred to Alice Keeler as one of the experts.:

I’ve selected this blog post to start with: 10 Things to Start with in Google Classroom  What I like about it already, only having read the first few steps, is that she provides instructional tips/suggestions for using the Classroom apps with students, such as “I highly recommend you number all of your Google Classroom assignments. Start EACH assignment with a number such as #001, #002, etc… This makes is really easy to refer students to the correct spot in Google Classroom. This is also helpful since you are unable to reorder assignments and announcements in the stream“. Steps 1-9 took me from creating a class to posting an assignment and an assignment with a link and how I might manage the assignment with students. Alice’s suggestion to start with an announcement that lets the students “get all their silliness out” (since it’s probably the first time they’ve used Google Classroom also) prompted me to begin with “Welcome to our 6th grade library class Google Classroom! Let’s start out by posting a message from yourself to the rest of the class. What would you like to say?”.   At first it seems like an invitation for disaster, leaving the field wide open for inappropriate or attention-grabbing statements. But, I was encouraged by Alice’s followup suggestion to have the next announcement be “a friendly reminder of what types of comments are helpful to everyone in the class and when comments should be made or not made.” I’m still not sure if I’ll begin with this, because I’m not sure how I can avoid embarrassing certain students. However, her suggestion for having students introduce themselves for the first assignment, helped me recall a kind of “About me” activity I did round-robin style in the classroom. So for the 1st assignment in Google Sites, I adapted it to also give (me and) the students experience with an embedded, editable slide that would become a collaborative slideshow. Here are my first-draft instructions:
#001 “Once Upon a Time” slideshow: Is there a memorable book in your life, one that brings back a good memory?

Open a new slide in the attached slideshow and do the following: 1. Name the book (if you can’t remember the exact title, just try your best), 2. Give a brief description of what the story was about (just a few sentences) and, MOST IMPORTANT, 3. What is your good memory about this book? If possible, insert an image of the cover of the book and/or an image having to do with the book.
  • I began the assignment with a number as suggested in the tutorial since, according to Alice, since we’re unable to reorder the assignments and announcements in the stream.
  • I’m thinking I will follow up the lesson, which most likely involved students copy & pasting a google image of their book’s cover, with a lesson on image usage-rights and how to credit an image source.

Step 10 of Alice Keeler’s article, below, brings me exactly to the point where I question how  I will use Google Classroom when I want my informational focus (by my students) to be my library website and the resources I’ve made available there.

10. Develop this Mantra – All Things Start in Google Classroom
Do not use Google Classroom sometimes, use it for EVERYTHING. Getting students into the habit that they go to Google Classroom first for everything creates a very smooth workflow with your students.

I am thinking that I might rather, have my students access my Classroom from the Pathfinder section of my (OPALS software) library website. I just finished my first year in the middle school and have begun building grade-level pathfinders where I can post resources for content-area classes who are using library resources. In the Grade 6 section, I already have a link to Grade 6 Library Class. Yet, I wonder if, as I’m beginning to understand Google Classroom and how it is accessed by students, I’m thinking that it might be better to have a Google Classroom icon/link on my home page alongside my other shortcuts, such as our single-login database page. In this way, my library homepage is an alternative portal to all the middle school Google Classrooms our students have access to. What I could do, and what I’ve been wanting to do, is move away from the OPALS software Pathfinders page, which is a bit “old fashioned” and, in creating resource guides for content area classrooms, use one of the curation tools I learned about in Thing 5 and make that link available within their own classroom. To tie the resource content to the library, I could name the link Library Resources. Just thinking…

Next I chose a related blog post Google Classroom: What do Kids do First? and knew right away I found a practical tutorial when Alice began with this sentence: “I was asked on Twitter what the very first activity 6th graders might do when introducing Google Classroom. There is no “right” answer to this question. Here is my suggestion: We do not teach tech, we teach content with tech. While I would structure the first activities to acclimate the students to the Google Classroom environment, I would not do it solely for the purpose of learning the tech. Think of the educational learning objectives and create a simple activity around that.”  Again, her suggestion to use the first activity to “get the silliness out” (even for adult students) appeared, based on her experience. This time she suggests having students use the + sign at the bottom of the Stream to post “something appropriate for school”. Following up with a brief digital citizenship discussion focuses on this being a collaborative learning space and the kinds of comments (or questions) that can be helpful or help us as a class grow.

I have to stop here to state how thankful I am that I found a Google Classroom tutorial/blog that offers tips and practical techniques  for using the features in Google Classroom instructionally in addition to the steps needed for using a particular feature.
When I consider all the other tutorials I viewed and almost settled on (and my sense of frustration with the amount of time I was taking with nothing to show for it), I am so glad that I persevered.

As I continued reading other Alice Keeler posts on the blog I realized that I could use the About section of my Practice Class to build a resource list of my favorite articles/posts to keep on hand as I begin to use Classroom in the fall. I especially liked Google Classroom: LMS or NOT? which, while comparing and contrasting LMS and CMS with GC, I learned more specifically the value of each and developed a much better understanding for how GC relates to google Drive. The next most valuable post was how to use side by side windows (and about the Classroom Split Chrome extension) which enables students to view assignment instructions while at the same time working on the assignment. A burning question of mine regarding the arduous task of recreating a Class for each section (class period) I would be teaching  was answered in 5 Potential Mistakes in Google Classroom where Alice Keeler examines the original article by J. Sowash (link is within Keeler’s article) and offers workarounds/alternatives to some of the limitations (things to avoid) J. Sowash warns against, such as creating more than one class for each class: one Classroom that combines all sections (for assignments, submissions, and grading) and then each section’s individual classroom where discussions take place relevant to the lesson and the assignments. Since I haven’t used GC yet, I’m not sure whether or not this idea is workable for me. I also explored the Collaborative Notes article and strategies and Using a Writing Journal (thinking of my ELA teachers and wondering if they know about this idea). One thing I didn’t find or learn how to do is seeing my Classrooms from the student side. Alice Keeler’s article  Use This Image for Students Turning in Work explained that the thumbnail teachers see when they attachment a document to an assignment isn’t seen on the students end. Therefore, she has created 2 thumbnail images to attach when we attach an assignment document (image: “Remember to Click Open and Tutn In”) or, when there is not an attachment with the assignment (image: “Remember to Click Open and Mark as Done”). Keeler has made both of these available as PNG images to download, however I had trouble testing them out in my Practice classroom because I kept getting the message that I didn’t have the rights to post the images. I tried various ways of saving the images but haven’t solved the problem yet. But when I get the ability to use the thumbnail images, I won’t have the ability to see the benefits of using the thumbnails or not until I find out how to view the assignment from the student side.

Overall, I am so glad I chose Google Classroom for the DIY Thing. Now, as my mind often wanders to instructional ideas for the coming year, I have a schemata in which to visualize instructional possibilities and ways to engage students more directly as they work individually or collaboratively.

Thing 22: Productivity Tools

First, I must apologize to you, Polly, for making you work right up until the last day of my June 30th deadline! This is my fourth “Thing” and tomorrow and Thursday I will work on my last.

There were so many wonderful choices in the Productivity Tools lesson, but I focused first on google-related items because teachers in our school are beginning to use google apps for education and I would like to deepen my awareness of ways to use the apps to improve learning and be able to share this with teachers and students. I began with Joyce Valenza’s SLJ article on google Voice Typing. I believe this will be a valuable tool for some of our special education students (including one blind student and several who have difficulty writing) it is also valuable for our technologically-deprived students who haven’t had the typing experience of their tech-savvy peers. Being able to dictate what they say rather than peck away at the keyboard will better hold their thoughts. I don’t see dictation spelling errors (by google voice) as a big problem for this group who, most often, are our students with poor literacy skills, such as spelling. Students can get their “voice” (words) on paper first without worrying about spelling and then be guided back to correct any errors google might have made. Chances are, google will do no worse than they might have done. I believe I will even use Voice myself. Though I’m a fast typer, I often lose my train of thought while typing. Unfortunately, the tool didn’t perform well for me when I tried to use it to write about it for this blog entry. I am hoping it’s only because my laptop is old and very slow right now. Currently, there is a lag-time between my keystroke and the letter’s appearance in my google doc, so my situation isn’t ideal. I look forward to trying it out on my school PC.

The 2nd article I explored actually had to do with Chrome extensions: 15 Can’t Miss Chrome Extensions for Productivity; I also explored the links withing the article. The following is what I found most valuable for usability now.

  • Save to Pocket – For reading things later, which  I will only use for articles that I want to read, not for any other kind of bookmarking. I frequently receive articles from a couple of ASCD publications in my work email. Rather than save promising articles in an email folder, I will use Save to Pocket which automatically syncs to all my devises.
  • Ghostery– I loved the video embedded in the 15 Can’t Miss… article. It was a humorous and efficient way to explain tracking to students. I will use this in my Privacy Unit that I hope to use with next year’s 9th graders. I was going to offer this to them as a tool as well, but noticed the following in the Comments section of the article:
    • “Ghostery is owned by the ad company Evidon which helps companies to improve their use of tracking code by selling them data collected from the Ghostery users who have enabled the data-sharing feature in the extension.”

A quick search of Ghostery reviews has warned me off of promoting this tool. However, safer alternatives were recommended. I didn’t take the time to follow up on them but will do so before I teach the unit. The experience reminded me of an important point I want to drive home to students: Nothing is ever really “free” on the Internet. So added to this lesson on Privacy will be an activity where they’ll have to research some free tools looking for the “catch”. Most likely I’ll “share” a google doc in the form of a chart, with links to tools they have to test and columns for their analysis. Actually, if I divide the class into groups, each group can have a set of tools according to a theme (productivity tools, privacy tools, etc) and, after the analysis phase, prepare a presentation to the class of one ‘most recommended’ and one ‘hazard’, something like that.

  • LastPass – Because the Ghostery recommendation left me skeptical, I explored LastPass and a related article on password-saving apps warily. That’s why I will teach the following idea (copied below), or similar, to students instead because it does not depend on any online tool. (The idea is taken from one of the reader Comments in a related article on the makeusof website.)
    • First character of the website, in caps: M

      A % sign: %

      6 fixed letters: iefotu

      2 fixed numbers: 69

      Which means my password for this site would be: M%iefotu69

      And my Facebook F%iefotu69


  • Dayboard: I added this extension to my toolbar for my own use. I have been using Google Keep to form To Do lists, but I haven’t developed the habit of checking it daily. In fact, I often let other tasks hijack my day before I’ve even thought to look at my Keep lists. Dayboard limits you to 5 daily tasks and, each time you open a new tab on your computer, the list appears. Such as my item #1: “Finish CoolToolsforSchools by Thursday eve!!!

The 3rd article I explored was 10 Creative Ways to Use Google Tools to Maximize Learning. One recommendation was for teachers to use Voice Comment (rather than a text comment) for reviewing student writing. One benefit is that it reveals a teacher’s tone and inflections, something that written comments can’t do. So rather than seeming critical, a comment meant to be encouraging will sound that way. In the article I also learned about Google Drive Templates. I found the “Students & Teachers” templates most valuable, such as a template for writing a syllabus, for lesson planning, for creating grading rubrics, and 2-column notetaking to use with students. Another tip in the article was to have the class collaborate (using a shared doc – maybe the notetaking template?)  on a notes page based on a lesson or assigned reading.

Lastly, I decided to learn more about Dropbox, which I ended up installing on my laptop. At first, because I store most docs in Drive, I didn’t think it would be useful. But not everyone uses Drive, such as my library assistant, and this will be a great way for us to share record-keeping and library management docs. Also, I still have many work-related Microsoft office docs stored in files on my laptop that I’m not yet ready to upload into my school Drive but may need to access at some time in the future. So I began uploading some of these into Dropbox earlier today.

I wish I could explore more of the recommended tools and articles for Thing 22, but will complete the lesson now and begin my last Thing tomorrow.




Thing 5: Curation Tools

I am excited about using curation as a meaningful method for students to apply what they’ve learned about website evaluation and to experiment with it in a constructive way by building their own “collections of knowledge”. For my reading I chose Joyce Valenza’s article, Curation, to begin with. With her description of the art curator strategically juxtaposing various forms and periods of art to inspire critical thinking I was reminded of what we, as school librarians hope to achieve by creating text sets around a central topic, where the time spend reading, listening or viewing items in the set leads to learning that is more than the sum of its parts. And by organizing these resources in a visually appealing interface, such as pinterest, symbaloo, or scoop. it, rather than pathfinder-style links or annotated bibliographies, we keep things “hip” (which, ironically, isn’t a very hip term to use these days!) for our students while at the same time introducing them to modern curation tools they might try on their own.

Additionally I am liking the method as an alternative to having students build annotated bibliographies using a word processor. Beginning with topics they love (a hobby or area of interest) curating using popular digital tools becomes a gateway to understanding the purpose and qualifications of annotated bibliographies (including source selection) for traditional research assignments.

I will also be returning to Bill Ferriter’s article TEACHING KIDS TO CURATE CONTENT COLLECTIONS [ACTIVITY] for inspiration and ideas.

The first tool I decided to try was LearningPlaylist. Of course, then I had to think of a topic to teach that might be easy to assemble some resources. I chose How to teach website evaluation to students. This took me a crazy long time to do – not the fault of LearningPlaylist, just my stubbornness for finding “just right” resources for each step of the process. Long story short, I ended up with something I’m ashamed to post, but the exercise got me thinking. What impressed me about this tool is its ability to cite the source of each piece of media I used. I will definitely use this tool in the future once I have a collection of resources that I want to organize. Here is my futile effort:

Create your own Playlist on LessonPaths!

This post is not a testament to the amount of thinking, reflection, experimentation, and curating I accomplished as I moved through the Curation lesson and resources. Tomorrow I intend to try some of the other tools, such as socrative and before I move on to my next lesson choice. I will add these to the Cool Tools for Literacy pathfinder I’ve begun on my library website as a way to collect and share the tools I find most useful for my school population. Wow, I just realized the irony here: I am using the “same old” software of my OPALS-hosted library website while I just learned about these great curation tools! I wonder though -in consideration of my potential audience (teachers possibly using my pathfinder with their students) – if the traditional format of (list of pathfinder links) would appear more user-friendly to them. With that in mind, I think I will continue to add to my OPALS pathfinder and, at another time, convert it to one of the curation tools introduced in this lesson.

My first choice  for a curation tool was but, after re-reading Polly’s description of it,  I’ve learned it is no longer free. So I don’t want to invest any time in it. I’d like to find something other than pinterest. So I am going to pause here and make another selection. Unfortunately, I’ve put more than 4 hours into this lesson (probably much more than 4 hours) and haven’t created much in the way of evidence. But soon I will need to move on to another lesson so that I can move on to another “thing”.

Polly, do you have an alternative to suggest, other than pinterest? Possibly since the time you created Thing 5, you have another to recommend??? While I wait for your reply, I will look into symbaloo, since it seems to be a popular tool. Maybe it’s similar to

Added note: Have not tried symbaloo yet because I thought I’d do some google searches for “best curation tools”. I ended up searching the edutopia website and came up with the following article I’d like to explore some time in the future because it is more than content curation, it’s about finding a digital platform/tool (I’m still not clear on terminology)  for note-taking that can be accessed by a variety of devices.

Take Note: How to Curate Learning Digitally

The following excerpt is what has peaked my interest the most:  “I need to handwrite my notes rather than type them in order to support my learning.” Having read a few articles connecting handwriting (as opposed to typing) to better learning, this would be a concern of mine regarding digital notetaking. The author has chosen OneNote as her note-taking platform (as well as for curating her learning resources) so I am assuming it somehow offers the advantages that handwriting does for “learning while notetaking.” This will go on the back burner for now, though, because I need to devote time to other tech tools that have more immediate application to my workplace.
























Lesson 2: Digital Storytelling

I selected this category because I have an upcoming endeavor at work. April 17 is the bicentennial of the town where my district is located. The superintendent wants students to create some kind of presentation (or collection of presentations) that tell the history of our school. We’ve assembled a variety of old yearbooks, photographs, and newspapers that students will use to piece together how our school and school community has changed over time. I am looking for an easy application that will accept the images they find (we will photograph the images they select) and their written or recorded narration. Each presentation would be chronological in nature. Another reason for choosing this lesson was to begin to build a pathfinder on my library website that I originally called Tech Tools for Literacy. I changed the name today because, having the title begin with a letter near the end of the alphabet pushed this pathfinder to the bottom of my Pathfinder page. Feeling a little sheepish that I chose Cool Tools for Literacy, but I needed that letter “C”! Here is a link to the pathfinder I’m creating on my middle school library website (using the OPALS library automation system as my platform): (scroll down to COOL TOOLS FOR LITERACY).

After more than several hours, I haven’t yet found a tool to suit the school history project. I tried Exposure and Adobe Slate but, for viewers without much experience with technology, it seems they’d be too confusing to view. The downward scrolling navigation and the way one image leads to the next was an unusual experience even for me. It took me some time to get used to it and we need a presentation that any community member can navigate without guidance. Here is my AdobeSlate presentation using photos of my son. (I immediately shared it on facebook!)
I started another one using Exposure, but got frustrated because I couldn’t control the size of the images:

The next tool I tried was Animoto. I was hopeful because I’m looking for something similar to PhotoStory that transforms a series of photos into what appears to be a video with text and audio. Unfortunately, the ability to add text to Animoto is limited to a 40 character title and 50 character subtitle, so that won’t work. I’ve always wanted to try VoiceThread and was excited that this might be my opportunity. So disappointed that it’s no longer free. However, in the long term, if it turns out that we have students who are passionate about our school history project, VoiceThread would be a powerful, far reaching tool for engaging the school community and it’s alumni. I liked Photopeach for the quiz possibility and will share that with teachers.

Next I skipped to the Explainer tools and watched the demos. I didn’t have time to try them, but added the link that explains all 3 of them to my pathfinder. I will revisit these when an instructional opportunity presents itself.

Lastly, I tried TimelineJS and was totally confused. It would have taken much more time than I have to learn it. But I’m going to consult with our technology integration trainer and find out if she’s familiar with a timeline creator that would be easy to use.

Lesson 1: Blogging

Starting very simple here for my first ever post! I am very excited about the possibilities for developing a blogfolio program in my district. I am thinking that I would like to collaborate with the Freshman Seminar teacher at my high school. She has four sections of 9th graders, which is most of that grade level of students. I am picturing that we will teach students how to use it, along with the prerequisite lessons on digital citizenship, etiquette, and privacy. Though I will wait to solicit the teacher’s ideas, I imagine we will have the students begin blogging about her first unit of instruction. I am fairly sure she uses the text, 7 Habits of Successful Teenagers, so we can incorporate reflective writing based on the readings. There is also a career unit and I think that have students blog about their considerations may help them clarify and fine tune their thinking. During that first marking period, they can also begin photographing work samples they are proud of. Once we have some content that shows the potential of the student blogs, possibly we’ll present at one of our faculty meetings and welcome participation from classroom teachers, showing examples of how blogging has been used in various content areas. I am looking forward to visiting the various blogs at Andrea Hernandaz’s school and the resources she’s adding to her own blog.

In the middle school our ELA department has embarked on a new writing program. The 7th grade teacher is very tech savvy and I am hoping she will consider the blog when designing assignments. At the middle school, there is a surge of teachers using google classroom. I am wondering if they will prefer to use blogging within the google platform. I will have to look into a comparison of google blogging with the recommended blogging tools we’ve come across in this CTFS lesson. I am leaning toward the Weebly blogging tool based on the recommendation of Paul Wagner in his article, “How to Start Blogging with Students”. I chose WordPress for the CTFS blog so I could learn 2 blogging tools.

Regarding the functionality of WordPress, I’m confused as to why, whenever I make a change to my home page and click the Update button, it generates a new tab and another copy of my home page. It seems like clicking the Update button should make that page close out so that I’m only seeing my original home page. I have to look into this. Should I close out of the Edit Post page once I’ve clicked the Update button and receive the message that my blog has been updated??? If I do that and go back to my original home page, I have to refresh it to view my changes. Is this the correct procedure?