Monday, 16 January 2017

Google Breakout EDU-Escape Room in a Box!

I first heard of "Google Breakout EDU" at the Google Edtech Team's conference. I was lucky enough to participate in a session lead by James Sanders who devised a number of the activities on their website. Today was my first time facilitating a session for teachers and students.

The Breakout EDU Kit

What is Breakout EDU?
Breakout EDU is a like an "escape room in a box". If you've never done an escape room, consider finding one in your area for a fun night out with friends. Basically, you have to collectively problem solve your way "out" of the room using the clues and skills in the room.

Participants sift through ciphers, and information to open the box
How Does This Connect to Education?
The breakout EDU website (see link here) has been steadily growing with a number of games focused around a theme and also for grade level or subject area. I facilitated a session this morning for teachers as practice for our student counsel conference entitled "Dr. Bore and the Quest for Hope" which hinges on a middle school science environmental protection theme for an upcoming conference we are hosting.

Students and teachers look for clues on printable sheets. 

What Resources Do I Need?
After you've chosen an adventure, the activities have hyperlinks to reproducible, and a folder will be fine for keeping them together. The kit is just over $100 through their official website and has all the materials available (unique locks, UV light pen, etc) and the cost is commensurate with buying the components individually. A time clock is also handy to have playing in the background.

A time clock add to the gamification element. 

Tips on Facilitation
It helps to be a participant in an escape room before facilitating it. It's easy to become frustrated and a good facilitator reads the pulse of the group dynamic when knowing when to chime in, and back off. If clues are not being solved in a way that gives groups success, gentle give suggestions without solving the puzzle outright.

Debriefing the experience is vital. The thrill and exhilaration of opening the box is great, but reflecting on it is will better ensure retention of grit and tenacity. Some suggestions:

  • How did leadership emerge? 
  • What was the most difficult part of the game? How did you overcome it?
  • Was everyones suggestions listened to and considered?
  • Where there any important clues offered by some of the quiet students? 
  • What did you learn about this content area? 

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Google Brings Back Citation in Google Docs

Happy new year! One of the biggest changes to Google docs last year was the elimination of the "research" tool for the "explore" tab under the tools tab which got rid of the ability to cite web content with APA and MLA formatting.

After a huge community outpouring, Google has brought back the citation capabilities under the new "Explore" tab. Simply click on the triple dots (as shown above) to select the preferred citation format and cite as footnotes.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Data Mining in PE Class

This is just a fun little tutorial for the students of how we've used automation in the PE department this semester and into the future.


Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Google Timelapse

An amazing new platform that has come out recently is Google Timelapse which allows users to see what urban growth and sprawl has looked like between 1984 and the present. When you visit the site, you can search for various locations or see the suggested places at the bottom, and zoom in and out as needed.

Suggested places at the bottom, much like Google Earth
The key use for this tool is to monitor change over time. The most disturbing searches for me were not urban sprawl on the city fringe but deforestation in Brazil and Borneo. Great for any social studies, science, history, well, ANY teacher! Perhaps even our elected leaders?

A section of the Brazilian rainforest in 1984
The same picture above, 22 year later

Monday, 21 November 2016

Helping your Staff Grow Professionally

One of the best articles I read recently was out of Forbes on tactics for developing your employees. Likewise, I read one of the best questions ever asked of a potential employer was 'How do you help your staff grow professionally?'

This has been my goal this year as a Edtech integrationist. Rather than just providing professional development to staff during school hours and integration during lessons, I've been doing the following:

  • Providing after school training for certification. For instance, we offered Level 1 Google Certified Teacher Courses this fall, and will continue to do so in the spring and also add a level 2 Google Educator course as well. 
  • Encouraging staff to present at workshops internally at the school and regionally. 

Although there is albeit joy of teaching staff a new skill set, the most rewarding part of my job is helping teachers become mentors, and teachers of teachers themselves. When I'm old and gray, I think I'll look back most fondly not on the memories of dazzling others, but helping them grow as teachers and how technology can make their teaching practice, and student's learning experience, better.

Image Courtesy of Creative Commons

Monday, 10 October 2016

Analyze Class "Understanding" with Persuall

One of my favorite take aways of many from the Learning 2.0 conference in Vietnam was "Persuall" that is absolutely dynamite. It's a great Close Reading platform wherein a classroom teacher uploads a document and the students (who access the room with a code) comment on the text with their text based highlights visible to all.

Perusall in student view. 
What's cool though is that Persuall collects data on the comments and analyzes class understanding with an artificial intelligence algorithm that assesses class and individual understanding of the text.

Student can see comments from one another, Google Docs 2.0?

After a number of comments are collected, it generates a report to the classroom teacher which shows patterns of student learning and identifies paragraphs that are difficult to the class as a whole for remediation and reteaching.

The "Confusion Report" shows patterns of class understanding based on comment location.