The Electric Educator

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Do your students have these tech skills?

Before you can use technology to teach arts...etc, you need to make sure that your students have mastered some basic skills.

Students may develop some of these skills in computer class (if your school offers it), but subject-area teachers will still need to teach some basics early in the year.

So what are the most important, basic, essential technology skills that your students need to master?
To help you answer this question I created a technology skills checklist.
This check list identifies the most basic things that you should teach in your classroom at the beginning of the school year.

These skills are so basic that most middle and high school students will be embarrassed to admit that they don't know them. You will need to think of a fun, creative, non-threatening way to weave these skills into the first 1-2 weeks of the school year.

Just because students are "digital natives" doesn't mean that they know how to use technology effectively. We need to help them.
One idea for teaching a lot of these basic skills is my "selfie trading card" activity. It's fun, easy, and will cross off a lot of the skills listed on my check list. Check out this video for details (the trading card template is in the description of the video!)!

If tech is an important component of your classroom, it's worth devoting some time early in the school year to help your students be successful.

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Thursday, August 9, 2018

Ultimate Resource Guide for the NEW Google Classroom!

Google Classroom is an essential tool for any teacher using Chromebooks or Google Drive as a teaching tool. On the surface, classroom is a simple tool, but with a little creativity and ingenuity it can do some awesome things!

I have scoured the web to compile this ultimate list of Google Classroom resources!

Whether you are just getting started with Classroom or are looking to go even further with it, this ultimate resource list has something for you!

If you find something useful, make sure you thank the creator!

Note: this is a really long, detailed blog post. I've created a really nice PDF version of this post that you can download here.

Download the guide!

What is Google Classroom? Should I use it?

How does Google Classroom compare with Schoology? Moodle? Canvas? Google Sites? What exactly is Google Classroom?

Setting up your first Google Classroom

Brand new to Google Classroom? These resources will help you set up your very first class!

Understanding the NEW Google Classroom

There are some BIG updates to Google Classroom for the start of the 2018 school year. Here’s what you need to know!

Posting to your Classroom

You can post three things to Google Classroom: announcements, questions, and assignments.

 Setting up Guardian Access

The guardian feature helps keep parents informed about the progress of their student. Check out these resources to setup and use this feature of Classroom

 How to configure your Google Classroom notifications

Google Classroom can generate a TON of emails and notifications on your phone which can be quite overwhelming and annoying. These articles will show you how to manage them and tell you which ones to disable.

 Keeping Classroom Organized

You can post three things to Google Classroom: announcements, questions, and assignments. Here are some tips on using all three!

 Teaching with Classroom

These videos and articles will give you suggestions and ideas for teaching content area skills with Google Classroom.

Student Guides and Resources for Google Classroom

Don’t forget, your students will need some instruction on how to use Google Classroom! The guides below can be shared with students to help them get the most out of Classroom.

Templates for Google Classroom

Want to customize how your classroom looks? Check out these header templates!

Get even MORE out of Google Classroom with these Chrome extensions!

Share to Classroom

This Chrome extension lets you push content into Google Classroom from anywhere on the web. You can also use it to push websites directly to student screens.  
⤵️ Install here


Students love stickers. Use the BitMoji Chrome extension like digital stickers to praise and reward students for their hard word! ⤵️ Install here

Emoji Keyboard

We use emoji all the time on our phones, why not on your computer as well? This Chrome extension gives you access to traditional emoji characters that you can use to express emotion or call attention to important notes and reminders. Use them anywhere you insert text. ⤵️ Install here


Use the Screencastify Chrome extension to record short videos that provide instruction, feedback, or tips. Recording a short video is far faster and more effective than writing out your instructions.⤵️ Install here

Google Classroom Experts

Need help? Here are the people you can connect with to learn more and get help using Google Classroom

John R. Sowash - John is the author of the Chromebook Classroom and full time Google Education trainer. Twitter | Instagram | Blog | YouTube

Alice Keeler - Alice is the author of seven books including two on Google Classroom.
Twitter | Instagram | Blog

Kasey Bell - Kasey is a technology integration specialist in Texas, author of the Shakeup Learning
Twitter | Instagram | Blog

Paul Limpert - Paul is a high school Lacrosse coach who is using Classroom to communicate with his players. Twitter | YouTube

Monday, July 23, 2018

Managing Comments in Google Classroom (2018 Update!)

Managing Comments in Google Classroom (2018 Update!)

Google Classroom is an under-rated messaging platform for teachers and students. When used effectively, the messaging / commenting capabilities in classroom lead to rich conversations and learning moments between teachers and students.

The 2018 update to Google Classroom significantly changed the location and emphasis of three commenting options in Google Classroom. I anticipate a bit of confusion on the part of teachers and students at the beginning of the school year as everyone adjusts to the new layout.

There are three different ways that comments / messages can be sent in Google Classroom: class comments, private comments, and question responses.

It is important that both teachers AND students understand when to use each of these three options.

Here's a quick overview of all three options:

🎥 Note: click here if you prefer learning via video!

Class Comments 

Class comments are visible to the entire class. Google Classroom doesn't support student:student messaging, so the class comment feature is the only way that students can communicate directly to one another.

Everyone in the class can see class comments. Teachers have the ability to disable this feature entirely, delete an individual comment, and mute an individual student.

The class comment area is an ideal place for students to coordinate a study group, ask classmates for help on a challenging problem, or ask for a copy of a handout / resource. 

Class comments tend to be the most problematic element of Google Classroom. "Hey," "Hi" and "Wasssup" tend to be the most common comment that is left! This is distracting and causes lots of annoying notifications!

I recommend that teachers allow students to set the policy for comments. Ask them what type of comments that want to see and how they would like this feature to be used. Once they have established their own ground rules, allow them to self-police their policy. If they are unable to use this feature in a professional, useful manner, it can be turned off entirely.

Private Comments

Private comments allow a student to ask a question directly to their teacher. The 2018 update to Google Classroom places a lot more emphasis on private comments.

Private comments are a wonderful way for students to ask for help, get clarification on an assignment, and receive personal feedback from their teacher.

Teachers will heavily use the private comment feature to provide feedback to students. Check out this video on using private comments to improve essays and other writing assignments.

Question Responses

If you use the question tool in Google Classroom to ask a free response question, students have a third way to respond through Google Classroom.

The response in this area should be directly related to the discussion question. Submitting an answer will mark this assignment as "done."

You have the ability to decide if you want students to be able to view the responses from classmates when you set up the question. You can also prevent students from editing their response.

Students won't be able to view responses from classmates until AFTER they have responded. This prevents them from making up an answer based on the class responses.

How are you handling comments in your classroom? What policies have been successful? Leave me a comment and share any resources that you have created!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Create group assignments in Google Classroom

create group assignments in google classroom

Google Classroom makes it easy to assign individual work and whole-class assignments. But what about group work?

It takes a little bit more effort, but you CAN facilitate group work through Google Classroom.

Here's what I recommend.

🎥 Note: If you would prefer a video overview of this process click here!

1. Create a new topic in Classroom to organize your group project

2. Prepare your resources

For my project, two students will work together to research an injury to the human body and identify the proper treatment.

I created a Google Doc with the requirements and guidelines for the project.

This is my template file. It is organized in my class resources and templates. I use this file every year, so I don't want students editing my original.

That's why step #3 is important

3. Copy the resources for each group

I make a copy of my template for each group. I have a smaller class so I only need three groups. I make a copy and rename the file for group 1, 2, 3, etc. 

You will want to put these files somewhere you can easily find them. I usually stick them into the Drive folder that is linked to my class.

4. Create your assignment in Google Classroom

There are a few unique things that we are going to do with this assignment:

  • Add "group 1" to the assignment title
  • In the instructions, list the member of the group
  • Attach the document for group 1 that we copied in step 3
  • Make sure you chose the "students can edit" option for your resource


5. Select your Group Members

We only want the members of Group 1 to get this assignment.

Click the drop down for "students" at the top of your assignment and select the members of the group.

Now you can click the assign button!

6. Copy the assignment for groups 2, 3, 4, etc

Now we need to send the assignment to the rest of the groups.

This is the easy part!

Use the "reuse" option in classroom to copy the assignment you just posted!

Don't forget: 

  • Change the title of the assignment to include "group 2..."
  • List the members of group #2
  • Remove the Group 1 document and replace it with the group 2 document
Repeat for the remainder of your group!

The end result is a nice list of the assignment for each of your groups!

7. Monitor your groups

Each student will only be able to see the documents assigned to their group. 

You (the teacher) will have access to all of the group documents. 

Click on a group assignment to: 
  • Open their document and observe their progress
  • Send private comments to everyone in the group or individuals in the group
  • Enter grades for each member of the group

This is one of many different ways to organize group projects in Google Classroom. If you have suggestions or modifications for my process please leave a comment!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Get ready for the NEW Google Classroom

This past week during the 2018 ISTE conference in Chicago, Google made quite a few announcements that will impact you this fall when you return to school.

The most notable announcements involve Google Classroom. Here's a round up of what we know and when you can expect access to these features:

Introducing Classwork...

Google is re-thinking how content is organized in Classroom.

Up to this point, everything has been posted in to the classroom "Stream" which gets quite cluttered and crowded after a full year of assignments, announcements, and questions.

The updated classroom adds a new "classwork" tab and provides allows teachers to logically group and organize assignments into modules and units.

This change results in better classroom management for teachers, and makes it easier for students to locate assignments.

Highlights of the new Classwork Page: 

Better visual grouping of units
Currently, the topic feature does not provide any visual grouping of assignments. In the new classwork page, a bold banner identifies the topic and groups assignments together.
Google Classroom topics

You can now re-order your assignments
Currently, we can only move assignments to the TOP of the stream. We can't manually order them. Assignments and topics can now be moved up and down inside of the classwork page.

Re-order assignments in Google Classroom

What about the "stream?"

The stream will still be available, but now provides a overview of upcoming assignments and current class discussions.

Google Classroom stream page

"People" get their own page!

Teachers, students, and parents interact with classroom on different levels. The new "people" page make managing this groups easier.

On the people page teachers can add and manage their co-teachers, make changes to their class roster, and configure the guardian access.

Google Classroom people page

All of your Classroom settings in one place!

I'm super excited about this update. All of the settings for your class are now in one central location (look for the "gear" icon). In the past, your class code was on one page, the comment settings on another, co-teachers on another, etc. It took a lot of clicks to set up your class.

Classroom + Forms (even better!)

Google Classroom quiz assignment
Google Forms has always worked well with Classroom, but now it's even better! You can now create a new form quiz directly in classroom. No need to jump into Google Drive first. This new feature is called a "quiz assignment."

But wait, there's more!

If you are using Chromebooks in your classroom, you can also turn on "locked mode" to prevent students from looking up answers during a quiz!

This feature will only work on district-managed Chromebooks.

Google Classroom enable locked mode

When can I test these awesome features???

The official word from Google is that these features will be available to everyone in "August". No specific date has been provided. 

You can request early access by filling out this form. No word on how quickly these features will become available to the early adopter group. 

Let me help you kickstart your school year! 

I am offering an online course called Classroom Kickstart to kick off the 2018-19 school year! This is a 5 week course which will help you launch the 2018-19 school year using Google Classroom. You’ll implement incredibly simple strategies which will improve daily instruction and classroom organization.

The course costs $99 and begins on July 29, 2018.

For more info on the course, head over to   

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Six ways to use Google Photos in the Classroom

Here are six ideas to help you use Google Photos to document learning in your classroom and help students create wonderful multimedia projects.

New to Google Photos? Check out 📽️ this video to get started!

1️⃣ Share to your school account

I recommend that you upload all of your photos to your personal Google account. Once there, you can create an album for classroom photos which you can share to your school G Suite account. Any time you add new photos to the album they will be accessible from your school account. Now you have a place to find classroom photos for your next newsletter or parent email.

2️⃣ Save time by collecting photos and videos for students

If your students are working on a multimedia project, finding and collecting images and videos can be a very time consuming task. You can eliminate this issue by creating an album filled with images. Just share the link to the album in Google Classroom!

Pro Tip: This strategy works great if you are using Adobe Spark or WeVideo to create a project. Both of these services will allow you to load media from Google Photos. 

3️⃣ Collect photos as a class

If you have the time, ask students to find images to add to a project photo album for everyone to use. Be sure to remind them about copyright rules and the need to cite the original source.

Pro Tip: you can add a comment to a photo which includes a citation and link to the original source.

To create a share classroom album you will create an album and change the settings so that others can add photos and video (see image to the right). You can copy / paste the link into Google Classroom for easy access.

4️⃣ Document a physical creation

If your students are creating artwork, posters, ceramics, robots, cardboard creations, or any other physical project, take a photo and save it to Google Photos. Capturing a digital version of the project makes it easier to share, use as an example. These photos are also helpful if you ask students to do a reflection activity or if you would like to create a digital slide show to showcase their work.

5️⃣ Capture a process using animations

​Document learning and the development of a project by taking photos at the beginning, middle, and end of the assignment. Use the animation feature of Google Photos to create a time lapse of the project, showing how it evolved and changed over time.

Here's an example of some books that I have read this year.

6️⃣​ Share with parents

Once you have a collection of classroom photos you can use facial recognition to find all of the photos of an individual student, place them in an album, and send them to their parent to show what they have been doing in class. Sharing pictures is a great positive connection you can make with parents.

Note: make sure that you follow your school's policies on taking photos of students. Most schools have a media release that parents sign at the beginning of the school year, giving permission for their student to appear in classroom photos. 

Friday, April 27, 2018

G Suite Admins: How to enable the NEW Gmail experience

G Suite Admins: How to enable the new Gmail experience

Gmail has been resistant to Google's typical product tinkering and fiddling tendencies. Gmail has remained pretty much the same for the past 6+ years. 

That doesn't mean Google hasn't been thinking about the future of Gmail.  Inbox by Google was a smart way of trying out some new, experimental features without putting long-time Gmail users into a panic. Inbox is a fun experiment, but not for everyone.

Based on user feedback on Inbox, Google has begun moving some of the most useful and popular features from Inbox into regular Gmail.

Features of the NEW Gmail experience: 

  • A new clean, modern user interface
  • The ability to "snooze" an email
  • Smart replies based on email content
  • Better integration with Google Calendar and Google Keep
  • An updated Task manager
  • New security options for sensitive messages. 
  • Better offline support
You can view the full run down on all of the new features here

G Suite for Education and Business customers can not access the new Gmail experience until a domain administrator enables it. 

Enabling the new experience will NOT make it the default experience, it simply allows individual users to try it out as they wish. 

How to enable the new Gmail Early Adopter Program for G Suite users:

  1. Log into the Google Admin Console 
  2. Visit Apps > G Suite > Settings for Gmail > Advanced settings
  3. Look for "New Gmail Early Adopter Program" and select "allow." 
  4. Save your changes

Enable the new gmail experience for g Suite users
Click to enlarge

Once this setting has been applied users can sign into their mail accounts, click on the "gear" icon and select "try the new gmail."

Users will be able to move back and forth between the new and classic versions of Gmail until Google retires the classic version (most likely 6-8 months from now).