The Electric Educator

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).

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Google Certification LIVE (Claim your spot soon!)

In 2009 I attend the Google Teacher Academy (Now called the Google Innovator Academy) in Boulder, Colorado.

That one day changed my life.

Becoming a Google Certified educator has had a greater impact on my life, career, and teaching philosophy than any other professional development experience.

One of the ways that I try to give back to my profession is by helping other teachers (like you!) earn your Google Certification.

Once a year I offer a free webinar to review the certification process and give away my best tips and resources to help you get Google Certified.

The next free webinar is coming up! 

Becoming a Google Certified Educator will make you a classroom technology expert. You CAN become Google certified this summer, but you need to get started NOW! Join me on April 26 and I will explain everything you need to know.

Google Certification LIVE with John Sowash

  • Date: April 26, 2018 (Thursday)
  • Time: 8-9:30 pm EST
  • Location: YouTube Live
  • Reserve your spot:

I strategically schedule this webinar in the spring because the best time to work on your certification is over the summer. This is the only Google certification webinar I am offering this year.

Let me be honest, getting Google Certified isn't easy.

Google has done a tremendous job in designing their certifications to actually force you to understand how to use their products in a classroom setting.

You won't be able to fake your way through the process.

This is an open invitation for you or any teacher you know. My goal is that by the end of the webinar you will understand the certification process and have a slew of resources to help you get started!

Busy on April 26? Anyone who reserves a spot will get access to the recorded webinar which you can watch on-demand.

Head over to to claim your spot!

Here's the agenda for the evening: 

1. The Three benefits of becoming a certified Google educator. Earning your Google certification is challenging. Make sure you do it for the right reasons and have realistic expectations about the benefits.

2. Which certification is right for you? Google offers 5 different certification for educators. Which one is right for you? 

3. The specific steps required to achieve each certification. We'll review the requirements and steps for each certification. BONUS: attendees of the LIVE event will receive a checklist guide to help you get started. 

4. How becoming a certified educator has changed the lives of REAL teachers! You'll hear from two teachers who recently completed their certifications. They'll share their best tips and recommendations to help you get started. 

I hope you can make it. 

Oh, and if you are already Google Certified, please share the webinar details with a teacher who SHOULD get certified! 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Sharing Classroom Data with Sheets

There are some really interesting ways that classroom teachers can use Google Forms, Sheets, Slides, and Sites to share information. 

The best way to explain what I mean is to show you an example.

I created a classroom reading log to track the number of books that my class read.

Students fill out a Google Form each time they finish a book and that information is automatically published on our class website

Because forms, sheets, and sites are all connected, the class chart is immediately updated each time the form is submitted. Like magic! 

There are a few things going on behind the scenes that makes this system possible. 

Step 1: Collect data with a form

Using a form ensures the consistency of the data and makes it very easy for students to fill out. 

You can easily share your form in Google Classroom for easy access. 

Here's an example of my reading log form

Step 2: Collect & Calculate in Google Sheets

Each time the form is submitted, the data is logged automatically into a Google Sheet. 

That's great, but we need to perform a few simple calculations in order to track our class goal of reading 100 books and 10,000 pages. 

If you view the spreadsheet you will notice that for every form entry I add "1" to the "Book #" column. This allows me to add up all of the submissions to determine the total number of books that we have read. 

In order to make sure that my calculation is added for each new form submission I am using the Google sheet add-on "copy down" to copy my formula to all new submissions. 

If you look at the "class data" sheet you will see where I have entered target goal of 100 books and 10,000 pages as well as the current progress (added from the form responses) and our % of completion. 

All of these calculations were created using simple spreadsheet functions. 

🎥 Need some help?  Watch this video on adding simple calculations into Forms

Step 3: Create your Charts

Now that I have collected the data and calculated my total, I can create graph. 

The graph was created from the "class data" sheet that summarizes all of the submissions. I only have two data points (books read and pages read), so this is a pretty easy chart to create. 

The chart editor in Google Sheets will walk you through the process. Just highlight your data, click on insert > Chart and edit as needed. 

For my book log I chose the "gauge" chart type. You could also chose a line graph, pie chart, etc.  

🎥 Need some help? Watch this video on creating custom charts with Sheets!

Step 4: Embed / Share your Chart

Once you have created your chart you can share it in a variety of ways: 
Because each of these charts is connected back to the spreadsheet, as new form submissions come in, the chart will automatically update! 

🎥 Need some help? Watch this video on publishing charts. 

Other Ideas:

Class reading logs aren't the only way that you could use this idea in your classroom or at your school. Here are a few other ways that displaying live data might be helpful: 
  • Track student absences
  • Track plant growth (or any lab data)
  • Track overall student performance
  • Track physical fitness (health class)
  • Track fundraising goals
  • Track team stats (turnovers, rebounds, assists, etc)

Make a copy!

Interested in setting this up for your school? I did all of the hard work for you! Click here to make a copy of everything you need!

Note: due to limitations with the new Google Sites, you won't be able to make a copy of my site. Setting up your own will only take a few minutes.

Want to become a Forms Master? 

I offer a 5-week online course called "Google Forms for Educators." This is one of the activities that I help you create during the course. If you are interested in more tips on using Forms and Sheets in the classroom head over to the course page and add your name to the wait list!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

How to Create a Matching Question in Google Forms

You have probably used Google Forms to ask free response or multiple choice questions, but did you know that you can also create a matching question? 

Forms doesn't offer an obvious "matching" question type, but with a little creativity, you can make it work! 

The secret is to use the "grid" question type to set up a matching style question. 

Unfortunately the quiz feature available in Google Forms will not work with "grid" questions however you can use the Flubaroo add-on for Google Sheets to auto-grade quizzes with this type of question.


  • Place your definitions in the row and use the columns for your terms. 
  • Enable "require a response for each row."
  • Make sure that you select the "limit to one response per column option" 
  • Enable "shuffle row order"
Watch this short video for some additional tips on creating a matching question with Google Forms.

This video is part of my online course "Google Forms for Educators." In this 5 week course I help educators use Google Forms to organize their classroom and create automated systems so that they can spend less time shuffling paper and more time connecting with students. Interested? Visit for details!

Here's a live example of a matching question using Google Forms. 

The width of the embedded form is a bit too narrow to properly show all of the text. I recommend that you view the form here to get the full experience.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Google Forms: Set your Default Preferences

Google Forms: Set default preferences

I uncovered a helpful feature in Google Forms that I thought was worth sharing. You can change your default preferences! This is very handy for teachers who create a lot of quizzes using Forms.

The preference options include:
  • Make questions required by default
  • Set default point value for quiz questions
  • Turn on email collection by default

This video is part of my online course "Google Forms for Educators." In this 5 week course I help educators use Google Forms to organize their classroom and create automated systems so that they can spend less time shuffling paper and more time connecting with students. Interested? Visit for details!