Tag Archives: Google

GTAMTV – My Changes from GTANY

I was talking to a colleague about the application process for the Google Teacher Academy – Mountain View and was comparing it to the New York application. I told him that all the questions and video requirements were the same and the process was identical. He asked me what I had done differently on the GTAMTV application compared to my GTANY. This was an easy answer because I had done a lot differently.

  • Time – I spent far more time on this application. I was trying to cram the GTANY application in between a family trip to Hawaii and creating three different presentations for a CTE conference.
  • Help – I asked for it. My principal, CTE coordinator, and my wife all read, reread, and suggested edits and critiqued the video. The extra set of eyes helped me realize that I take most of what I do in the classroom and outside the classroom for granted. I had to do something that I am not comfortable with – being a little boastful.
  • Change the Narrative – With the exception of my favorite teaching moment, I changed the response on every answer and I changed one essay response and the entire video on the second to last day before the deadline. My responses were missing something from the first time and in my early drafts. They seemed a little cookie-cutter and nothing seemed to stand out until I bumped into one of my students in the hall. He asked what I was working on and I told him. He responds with “I love Google. It makes everything easier and more efficient when working in group plus I get to take it everywhere.” This was what inspired me to attend the Google Teacher Academy – the students. My passion for teaching was finally explained in words and in my video because of this quote. My writer’s block was gone and the video was remade because I finally realized that it was my passion for teaching and improving myself for my students, school, and district.
  • Change the video – In my first application, I tried to explain how I use Google and technology in my classroom in 60 seconds. It was 60 seconds of non-stop talking. If I had 5 minutes, I probably could not get all the different ways I use Google and technology into a video. In the GTAMTV video, I had a theme – Passion. I minimized my words and let the video do the talking. Finally, I had pictures of students and their work which allowed me to show some of the technology I use in the classroom.
  • Social Media – I started posting information more often to Twitter and Facebook. The biggest item here wasn’t the posting, but after I missed out on GTANY, I started to follow everyone who was accepted and those who didn’t. I watched their videos, followed their blogs, and spent more time on Twitter. I have learned a lot from these educators and while it may not have had a direct impact on my application, it probably helped me indirectly.

The biggest difference between my applications was mentioned earlier – passion. I wrote about my passion and included it in my video. My application was more about that passion and less about my resume. I have no idea what made the difference this time, but I am proud of the changes I made because it enabled to give the reviewers a better perspective of me.

GTAMTV – Getting In

I am sitting at my computer still amazed and excited that, one day ago, I received an email that I was accepted into the Google Teacher Academy in Mountain View in December. This was my second attempt to get in to a GTA with the first being the New York GTA that recently concluded.

Just like several other educators, I was watching the Twitter feed waiting to see if anyone had any news. The funny thing was that the first hashtag (#gtamv) I was using wasn’t very popular. I was starting to think that it wasn’t the right day for the announcement until a teacher pointed out that I had the wrong hashtag. Once I was following the right hashtag (#gtamtv), I was relieved to see that there were several educators anxiously waiting. I was nervous and wasn’t quite sure if I have done enough to get in this time. It also didn’t help that my principal was texting me every 15 minutes to see if I heard anything.

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20% Project Presentations

My students are getting prepared for their first presentation about their 20% Project (details can be found here). Generally, my students have a good idea of what my expectations are for a presentation. In this case, they don’t because there is no “true” rubric. The students only need to demonstrate learning during the project. For some students this will be easy, for others, the process of documenting their work has escaped them.

Many of the students peppered me with questions today and probably ended up with more questions than answers. I wouldn’t give them a time limit, what they needed for a deliverable, or even if they needed a deliverable. My answer to most questions was take as much time as you need and use whatever deliverable necessary to demonstrate your learning. To be totally honest, I am not even sure what I want because this is the first time I have run a project this way.

In the end, I told many of the students that this is no different than any other project – I want to be impressed. This time I don’t want to be impressed with the deliverable. I want to be impressed by what they have learned using 20% of their class time to pursue something that they are interested in. I will post a follow-up after the presentations next week.


During the past month, I have been working on several projects which has caused me to reflect on how I teach, what our school does well, and how have I managed to get here.

The first project was a presentation for the STEM Smart: Lessons Learned from Successful Schools workshop in Las Vegas. This presentation was hard because we had to capture what we do as a school to promote STEM and be successful at it. The problem was that we were confined to 45 minutes and had to address specific topics set by Successful STEM Education. Our topics included how we are setup as a CTE school, project-based learning (PBL), staff development, community involvement, incorporating technology, and a specific example of a STEM project that we incorporate. In the three plus years that our school has been open, we have done so many things that it is hard to capture all of it in 45 minutes. We tried to determine what our best practices are and highlight those. My component of the presentation was the community involvement and incorporating technology where I focused on our use of Google Apps for Education, the 1:1 iPad program, and the various other technologies seen our campus on a daily basis. The majority of my time was spent on Google Apps for Education and the iPad program especially since we started collecting data on our student’s usage of those tools, but it was important not to skip out on the other items like Edmodo and laptop carts because they contribute to our school’s success. Our presentation, as well as all the others from the workshop, are available on the conference website.

The second project was working on an application for our school to earn an award. I am not sure if I can disclose the award that we are applying for so I will not mention it by name. This was an application that our three administrators, myself, and an English teacher have been working on for awhile. Like the STEM presentation, this application was difficult because we needed to capture everything within a specific word limit. For the most part, we were able to stay within the word limit in the first or second draft in most sections. Unfortunately, the sections that we were over in, we were over by hundreds of words. Through some creative writing and some major cuts to sections, we were able to get all of the sections within the proper word count.

The final project that I am working on (not completed yet) is the Google Teacher Academy application. For an application that I have previously completed, this has been a learning experience for me. Obviously, since I did not get into the last Google Teacher Academy, I have been rethinking every answer that I gave on the last application. This may mean that I am answering questions with different examples all together or just rewriting sections to make them better. I am not done with the application yet because I need to cut some words from most of the sections and edit a video.

I mention these three projects because while it is sometimes difficult to be limited by time or word counts, I think it is an important exercise in reflection. I have had to think about what is really important in each section of a presentation or application and be able to convey that message in a limited space. I always want my students and my children to get to the point without rambling and now the shoe is on the other foot and it is my turn to get to the point. These presentations and applications have been great at getting me to think about what is important, what do we do really well, and how can I present it in short period of time. While it may be difficult, I have enjoyed the journey and I look forward to future chances to reflect back on the opportunities that have been given to me at Southwest CTA.

ISTE Day 3 – The End of a Great Conference

I know this is a day late, but the travel after the ISTE conference and work today caused the delay.

I only attended two “formal” sessions on day three and spent some time watching presentations from Adobe and Google on the exhibit floor. I also went for a walk to Seaport Village before heading to the airport.

Session 1: It’s All About You: Next Steps for Personalized Learning – This was not my first choice, but the session held by Buck’s Institute was full. This was a very informative session and it was nice to see that our school (and myself) is working towards some of the goals that the Department of Education is looking towards in personalized learning. I was also able to see what our school needs to work on.

Session 2: LOL@ ISTE: Cloud Today and the Potential for Rain – After attending serious and informative sessions for two days and change, it was nice to attend a very funny session.

This may be the best conference that I have attended as a teacher. I am looking forward to digesting information for the next few days, continuing to discussions on Twitter, and posting more thoughts here.

Numbers and iPad for Student Assessment

In a previous post and during a few conference presentations, I discussed how I use Google forms and an iPad to assess my students on a daily basis. Shortly after the start of the school year, I realized that I had to change my plans on assessing my students. My school has added several new teachers this year and more students have devices that use WiFi which was slowing down my use of Google forms in the classroom. It was taking too long for the form to submit and I found myself wasting time waiting on the Internet.

I still wanted to assess students in the same method, but without using a Google form. I have started using Numbers for the iPad. While I did not set it up as a form, I did create a spreadsheet on my laptop that included all of the students names in one column and my grading tenets in each of the other columns. Using my iDisk account, I was able to transfer the documents for each class to my iPad. I enter the grades as I am walking around to each students work into the copy on my iPad. At the end of class, I copy the document back to my iDisk account and open the document on my laptop so I can copy and paste the grades into the gradebook.

The total process does involve a few more steps, but the biggest benefit right now for me is that I am not dependent on WiFi to grade the students work.

Adventures in Google Apps for Education

A friend of mine recently asked me via Twitter if I would write a blog post about becoming a Google Apps school. I was not involved in the initial setup of the Google Apps for our school. Another teacher had signed the school up and started the initial process of the Google Apps at our school. What I am going to describe is our school’s evolution with Google Apps over the couse of the 2010-11 school year.

The initial purpose behind using Google Apps was to allow each teacher to create Google calendars for each class and insert his/her lesson plans in the calendar. In the first year that our school was open (2009-10), every teacher had posted lessons online either through personal Google accounts, Moodle, or uploaded PDF files via Dreamweaver. The lack of consistency in posting lessons and methods of posting lessons was troublesome to our administration and they had decided to have the staff use Google calendars. On the very first day back to work last year, I did a presentation on and helped every teacher sign-in to their accounts, create the calendars, enter events, and embed the calendars onto their class website.

The teacher who initially set up the Google Apps also set up accounts for the students in his program areas and my program areas which is about 180 students on a campus of just over 1000 students. I can only explain my (and a third teacher across the hall) progression through Google Apps. I started off small. I had every student login to their calendar and subscribe to the calendars of his/her other teachers. This allowed every student to see what was happening in all of their classes in one location. Since our school was also piloting a 1 to 1 program with the iPod Touch, my juniors also made sure they had access to their calendars on the iPod.

Once I got the calendars squared away, I moved into Google Docs. I started small here as well. My students initially typed assignments in Google Docs and when they finished they shared the document with me. I would provide feedback to the students in the document and allow them to make any changes if necessary. The students moved on to sharing documents with other students in the class. This was mostly creating group contracts and small presentations, but the students quickly learned that they could be more productive if four of them were working on a document simultaneously instead of watching one person type the entire document. In addition, I started making my deadlines due earlier to force simultaneous work and avoid having one person do all the work. Small group contract assignments eventually grew into large scale documents when my students created complex documents like a user guide for Maya and a game design document for their senior capstone project.

At first, I was content with just using the calendar and documents, but curiosity got the better of me and I wanted to see what else I could do. I moved to creating groups by graduation year. I mainly did this because I didn’t want to recreate groups this year and the graduation year of my students isn’t going to change. I started creating discussion questions that students would reply to at the beginning of class. Some of these posts were simple recall questions about the previous lectures, some were to provoke a debate, and some of the posts were designed to have my students write multiple choice questions about the material covered in class (some of which I used on tests).

The last big step in our school’s use of Google Apps came in a meeting about student portfolios. Our school is going to require that each student will complete a digital portfolio by the end of his/her senior year. We discussed several options and decided that using Google Sites was going to be our best option. This decision was made because using the school’s Google Apps account, we can control outside access to the portfolios and believed that every student, regardless of technical skills, would be able to complete a professional-looking portfolio.

At this time, only 10% of our student population had a Google Apps account. I was able to import the remainder of the student body using an Excel spreadsheet. The teacher across the hall and I taught the web design juniors how to create and modify a Google site and had them create some basic templates for other students to use. Once the web design juniors were proficient, we invited the other 10 program area juniors into our classrooms for a 30 minute lesson on setting up a portfolio. The other program area students logged into their accounts for the first time, selected a portfolio template, and had one-on-one time with another student to learn how to modify a Google site. While the juniors were getting lessons on the portfolios from their peers, the freshman were learning how to use Google Sites in their computer-based projects class. The only grade level that did not receive training last year was the sophomore class. This was mainly due to time constraints and that grade level will be trained at the beginning of this school year.

I realize that I have covered a lot in this post and I’m not positive that I got everything. One feature that we do not use is Gmail because the district has it’s own email system for students. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to add them to this post, email me, or send me a message via Twitter.

iPad and Google Apps to Manage a Classroom (Pt. 3)

This is part three of three about my presentation at NACTE 2011 on managing a classroom using the iPad and Google Apps. In part one, I focused on the reasons why a teacher would want to use these tools, the Google calendar, and Google Docs. In part two, I focused on using Google forms and the iPad to grade students and give the students quick feedback. In this final part, I will discuss the other apps that I use on my iPad.

The first application that I use in my classroom is Dropbox.com. While I like to use Google Docs for assignments like spreadsheets, word processing, and presentations, I love using Dropbox.com for larger projects and atypical files like Photoshop, Flash, and Maya. I have created an account where I share the password with all of my students. My students will submit their work to the appropriate folder from their computers. At the end of class, I move the Dropbox folder on my computer to the desktop and grade their work from there. I am also able to send students files via Dropbox when I decide not to use Remote Desktop. In addition, I have the Dropbox.com app on my iPad and can let the students know from anywhere in the classroom whether or not I received their submissions.

The second app I frequently use on my iPad is CalenGoo. I like CalenGoo because I can create my lesson plans for each class without having to be online. I will have to sync it wirelessly later, but I am able to get some work done when I am at locations without free WiFi.

Another app that I like to use is Office2 HD. Like CalenGoo, I am able to create documents without being online at Google and sync them later on. I also like the way Google Docs, especially spreadsheets, work in Office2 HD rather than online on an iPad.

While this app does not have any sync capabilities with the software we use at our school, I still like Attendance. I do use it for an unofficial attendance record, but I am also able to create custom attendance fields. This is important for me because I can track when a student does not dress appropriately for my Industry Attire Days. Since these days are worth points in my class, it is easy to remember who receives full credit. This app would be excellent for any PE teachers that use iTouch devices to keep track of their attendance. The Attendance app also comes in helpful during fire drills because I can quickly take roll outside and not have to try and remember who was absent at the beginning of class.

The final app that I use frequently in class is Evernote. I will probably write a future post discussing all of the different ways that I use Evernote, but for now, I will say that I don’t use an app on my iPad, iPhone, or computer as much as I use Evernote. Evernote is a reference guide for all lesson plans, lesson ideas, interesting articles, and planning projects. I also take pictures of my lecture notes on the board and post them to a shared notebook that all of my students can access. I do pay for the premium version, even though, I don’t think I come close to using my full data allotment because of the high quality of Evernote.

This concludes the explanation of my presentation on how to use the iPad and Google Apps to Manage a Classroom.

iPad and Google Apps to Manage a Classroom (Pt. 2)

This is part two of three about my presentation at NACTE 2011 on managing a classroom using the iPad and Google Apps. In part one, I focused on the reasons why a teacher would want to use these tools, the Google calendar, and Google Docs. In this part, I am going to focus grading using the iPad and Google forms. In terms of managing my classroom, this has had the biggest impact because it saves me time and I can give students instant feedback.

The first step in the process is to create a form in Google Docs using my desktop computer. I create a form for each class period that I teach and I enter the student’s names so they will appear as a drop-down list on my iPad. I only have to create this form once for each class period because I reuse the form for each assignment I grade.

Once the form is created, I email the form to myself. I open the link to the form on my iPad in Safari. In Safari, I can create a bookmark to be placed on my home screen. I complete this process for each class period’s form. In addition, I created a “Work Ethic” and “Presentation” grading forms. I use the Work Ethic form to log off-task behavior. At my school, our students complete several presentations a year and I use the Presentation form and my Brookstone keyboard for the iPad to provide feedback on those presentations.

In a typical day in my classroom, I will give notes during the first 20 minutes of class and give the students the remaining 60 minutes to complete the day’s assignment or work on the current project. While the students are working on the current day’s assignment, I am walking around to each student grading the previous assignment. I am entering the grade into the iPad for the student, submitting the form, and returning back to the form so I can grade the next student.

The great thing about grading this way is that the student receives instant feedback about the assignment and knows his or her grade before I move on to the next student. If a student completed the assignment incorrectly, I can explain what the student did wrong and have the student redo the assignment for a better grade. In addition, the student can also ask me questions about the current day assignment to make sure he or she is doing it correctly.

I am usually able to get through the entire class in the 60 minutes that they are working on assignments or projects. Once I have graded the entire class, I can open the form in Google Docs on my desktop computer. In the form (which is now a spreadsheet), I can sort by student name, highlight all of the scores, and copy and paste the scores into my gradebook. If the scores/feedback that are in the spreadsheet are scores that I want to keep, I make a copy of the form and name it after the assignment. If I don’t want to keep the scores, I just delete the rows of data in the spreadsheet and my form is ready to go for our next class meeting.

Here’s a quick tip on copying and pasting scores into the gradebook. If you have students that are absent on the day you are grading, you must enter a grade for them into the form. If you don’t do this step, the copy and paste from the spreadsheet will not match up.

In part three, I will be discussing the last portion of my presentation, which is on other apps that I use in managing my classroom.

iPad and Google Apps to Manage a Classroom (Pt. 1)

At the NACTE 2011 conference, I was selected to present on using the iPad and Google Apps in the classroom. The presentation can be viewed here. Since the presentation is mostly graphics and minimal text, I thought that I would use this space to explain my presentation. I use Google Apps and the iPad to solve/improve three issues that I see frequently in classrooms. These three are communication, feedback, and excessive paperwork.

I can improve communication with students, staff members, administration, and parents. This is primarily done through the use of Google Calendars. For each of my classes, I create a calendar that includes objectives, activities, and homework for each class period. Included in the activities are links to any articles, notes, and assignments that the student are completing that day. The calendars are embedded into my class website that students, parents, and administrators can access. Students no longer ask me what they missed after an absence because they can just check the calendar. Since I started using Google Calendars about 4 years ago, my parent-teacher conferences have declined  by about 75% because the parents can see what is going on in my class everyday and know what their child has for homework.

A great thing about using Google calendars is that I can add or modify events anywhere where I have Internet connection. In addition, I use CalenGoo to add or modify events when I have my iPad offline and sync it once the Internet is available. This has enabled me to be more productive during downtimes in meetings or appointments.

Another aspect of Google that I use in my classroom is Google Docs. I create all of my assignments in Google Docs and the majority of my notes. I then make these documents public and post the links into my calendar. My students also use Google Docs to submit assignments to me by sharing them. I am able to type in feedback into the document and save it. Students will see the graded document in their documents list and be able to see why they earned the grade that was given. My students also use Google Docs for collaboration on assignments and projects. I can have multiple students working on a group assignment simultaneously from several different computers in the classroom. The great thing about using Google Docs is that I am not taking home stacks of paper or dealing with no name papers.

In part two, I will discuss how I use Google Forms and the iPad to grade work.

In part three, I will discuss how I use Dropbox.com and other iPad apps to manage my classroom.