Many teachers have their hard drive full of old Word documents that were made to be printed and given to students on paper. The usage of these documents is declining at a furious pace, but that does not mean that they have become useless! They just need to be heated up a bit, and then they can be used many more times!
I recently read about TeacherMade in a Facebook group, and since I have already tested a plethora of similar tools, my expectations were moderate, to say the least. But I was actually pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to use and as a bonus, it was free for real (no hidden costs!). The idea behind TeacherMade is simple. It simply converts your old Word documents (or pdf's) into interactive and self-correcting documents that can be shared in Google Classroom.
Once you have created your interactive document, you can click on "My worksheets". You then select "assign" in the drop-down list, and you will have the choice if you want to publish the assignment in Google Classroom or if you want to send a link to the students. When the student want to work on their assignment, they are taken directly to the worksheet and may get started on their assignment.
When I became a computer technician in 1997 everybody was talking about different certificates. The two major ones were MCP and MCSE that was provided by Microsoft. They served as a warranty that you knew your stuff in a specific area, and they can be compared with authorizations that are common in the car industry. It is now possible to become a certified teacher at Microsoft and Google, and I recently received my Google certificate.
Google Certified Educator
The first time I heard about Microsofts Certificate for educators, I honestly thought it mostly sounded somewhat cute, but not much more than that. I thought about the extensive training that is often combined with Microsoft's certifications. I thought (stupidly enough) that this was some cute mini-variation they had created mostly for advertisement. When I started looking at the education (I wanted the cute batch!) I began to realize that this wasn't some light version after all, this was for real.
Since my municipality uses Google Education Suite instead of Microsoft Teams, I checked if Google had a certificate and they did (of course). I started to work my way through the different modules, and even though there was a lot of advertising (that can not be denied!), it was also a lot of sensible and well-thought-out content. The material covered everything from net bullying to self-correcting forms along with different recommendations for security levels. It felt good that the whole education was in Swedish because even though I can communicate in every-day in English, technical expressions can be complicated in your second language. To my great joy (actually!) the certification test was not so easy at all, but I passed it! I felt like it will mean more to me when it didn't come so easy, so I'm glad about that!
Get to know others who are working on their Google certificate - no matter where in the world they are.
During my studies, I found a private group on Facebook, where everyone studied for the certification exams at different levels, and the atmosphere in the group was really lovely. You'll find the group here:
Google and Microsoft have certificates at several different levels. There are also "badges" and certifications you may be awarded in your profession, and these are awards for greatness rather than traditional certificates. Just get started, and in no tie at all, you may have the entire wall behind your desk covered with lots of neat certificates.
The study guide for Google Certified Educators can be found here:
The study guide for Microsoft Certified Educator can be found here:
PechaKucha is so much fun! When I started to present the idea of PechaKucha to my colleagues, it was a bit difficult because everyone thought I would be talking about some new digital tool again. PechaKucha isn't really digital at all, it is rather a format for giving presentations.
PechaKucha comes from Japan, but it has quickly spread worldwide because it is simple, fast and fun. In the original version, the speaker gets exactly 20 images to be displayed 20 seconds each. That means that the presentation will last for a total of 6 minutes and 40 seconds. Precisely!
When you get the chance to give a PechaKucha, it is vital to choose pictures with care and practice what you want to say to the audience. You can not exceed the time limit, and no one wants to listen to someone who is silent for even a little as 10 seconds on each picture. In other words, practice is the key to success. In Japan, this format has become so popular that PechaKucka evenings are held with lectures on a wide variety of topics during the same evening.
Now to my students! I teach a B-level group studying Swedish for immigrants, and they really need to get started speaking their new language. These weeks we were having "holiday and work" as a general theme, and it felt like a good time to end the project with a presentation that had a fun and international twist!
I planned the project to last for two weeks, and the first Monday the students got to choose 10 pictures they liked on Pixabay. At least three of the images they choose had to be about their jobs or future jobs. They saved their images on Google Drive in a folder they shared with me. In that way, I could print them out so that the students could take them home to practice their speeches.
The students got to choose Picturers on Pixabay that they thought represented themselves and their lives.
After this, they were given a blank paper where they placed their images in order from 1 to 10 and started writing sentences for each image. The students do not have many Swedish words on B-level, but they got to make different sentences with the words they knew. It could be "I like the forest", "It's nice in the forest", "I often walk with friends in the forest" and alike. They got the week to practice talking about their pictures and to keep the time frame of 30 seconds.
The following Monday, we opened our Chromebooks again, and I Presented Google Slides to the students. They got to create a presentation with their 10 pictures and put it in the folder they shared with me. When everyone had finished their presentation, they got until Friday to practice.
When it was time to hold the presentations, the students worked in groups of 6-7 students. They got one Chromebook per group, and I opened a document containing everybody's presentation-links. When a student clicked his name, the pictures began to appear for 30 seconds each, and it was necessary to remember what to say! Of course, I was kind and helped them with questions if they forgot what to say, I think it's essential that presentations are fun and not mixed with horror! The first student who held a PechaKucha seemed a little nervous, but pretty soon, all of them started to relax and enjoy the concept.
The project went super well, and I will do this again in different subjects!
The idea of Plickers is similar to Kahoot, but in Plickers, each student has their own number (their tray) which allows the results to be saved over time in stylish charts. The teacher can follow a student to see how they are doing at different stages. It sounds great, but after testing I can't give Plickrs five stars and I'll explain why.
In order to create complete quizzes, the teacher needs to be a plus member and it is not free. If you are not a plus member, you can only create series with a maximum of five questions in a row, then you could instruct the program to play the series one after another without interruption, and so the students noticed no big difference. The big difference was however that as a teacher I do not get the good-looking charts. Instead, it gets quite messy.
Everything went well when we started with the exercise! The students got their badges with their own number on and then the first question showed up on the canvas. All the questions have four options; a, b, c or d. The students should take their badge and keep it so that the right option comes on top. Then I scan the whole class at once with the phone and it will record who responded in what way. The students' names are in a list next to the question and they will be marked as green when their answers are recorded, so I can see that I don't miss anyone.
It was a bit of fun, but not like "rush-in-the-stomach" exciting. In a Kahoot there is captivating music, time counts down and some cool effects. This was kind of quiet and almost tedious. When the very first wow feeling folded (and it did so after the second question) it became pretty boring.
It was fun to test Plickers once, but it's not something we're going to use again. It was a little too quiet!
Although I now work as a teacher, I used to be a librarian, and I am happy to post book reviews as I find interesting books.
Danah Boyd has written the book "It's complicated - the social lives of networked teens" in which she describes young people's usage of social media. It's an exciting and complex world that opens up as you read the book. A lot has happened since I was a teenager, but at the same time, everything is pretty much as it has always been in the world of young people.
Boyd's ambition is to describe the teenager's use of social media from their own perspective, and she does it brilliantly! We get to come into a world where teens try to create their own identity, where the friends are essential and where various dramas occur every day.
First of all, Boyd wants to punch holes in the term "digital native". It is an expression sometimes used about the young generation that has grown up with digital tools and social media. She believes that the term indicates that these youngsters are born with some kind of "superpowers" when using digital devices - and they are definitely not!
On the contrary, she believes that we need to pay attention to all the young people who cannot keep up with the digital world and which problems many teens actually face. She describes it as a "digital divide" that has arisen between those who have access to digital resources and those who do not. When schools increasingly assume that students have the technical knowledge, it might increase social inequalities, which was supposed to be what digitalization should counteract! In this matter, schools have a great responsibility to work against inequality and offer everyone the same opportunities.
One more thing that Boyd contradicts is that social media would increase bullying at school and that they should, therefore, be avoided. She believes that bullying is not increasing through social media at all. She believes that the posts and "attacks" that occur should instead be described as "drama" because they rarely live up to the definition of bullying. Teens write posts that are sometimes cryptic or hidden, and their entire social interaction is a complex social game of "likes" and comments, but this only reflects the relationships young people have in real life. They don't change the structures that already exist.
Boyd's recommendation to teachers who want to enter social media is to get a teacher's account on social media and then let students add you as a friend. In this way, you don't get directly involved, but you give the students the opportunity to quickly socialize on their own terms. It's a great way to reach your students and let them reach you as a teacher. Whether you choose Facebook, Instagram, or something else is up to each one.
In conclusion, I think the book was a wake-up call, and it opened my eyes to how complex the lives of the teens actually are. The book also made me remember my teenage years in a fun and almost embarrassing way. The secrets, the desire to be seen, the intriguing. . . . . .
It feels good to know that not that much has changed after all. Teens will always be teens, I guess. . . .
Today I was working on an interactive lesson on adjectives with the students. The students see a "Powerpoint" on their Chromebooks with an assignment, and there is a collaborative part included. After the session, I may see how each student solved the assignment, their answers the and how far they've got during the day. Great! . . . or is it really?!
When I look at the results something just doesn't feel right. Have we taken it too far? I wouldn't want my boss to see how I was working on my tasks, how many mistakes I have made, and how much time I've spent on every task. I'm not so sure that my students want it either. One advantage of having an old-fashioned piece of paper is that it is always private!
We need to talk about balance. On one side is the teacher who wants plenty of material for assessment and grading. On the other side is the students right to privacy. This is an important issue and I'm not so sure that more is more when it comes to supervising the students work. Not sure at all!
The students must be given a choice of what they share and what they keep to themselves, and we need to create an awareness of what is shared and what is private on the internet. I remember my notebook when I was in high school. It was mine, and I would have been furious if anyone had read it. The notebook wasn't really that personal, but I thought of it as private, it was mine! The creators of digital classroom material just want to provide the teachers with every kind of information one could ever ask for, and I believe that it must be the teachers' job to hit the breaks and start to say no sometimes. For the privacy of our students!
Today, many of us have started using, or have been told to start using, Google Drive. I get many questions about this, and I thought I'd write a brief and simple blog post to explain what Google Drive is all about.
Isn't "drive" a verb?!
Let's start with the word "Drive". You're first thought might be that "drive" is a verb, but among nerds, it has been used as a noun for many years. It all started a long time ago when computers' screens were still black and just had a small flashing line (a prompt) where you had to type commands to get the computer to do what you wanted. The person who administered the computer needed to know quite a few different commands to make anything happened inside the computer. One of these commands was just "drive" used as a verb. This command woke up different attached devices so that the computer could display their content. The devices could be a hard drive, a specific part of the hard drive or a diskette you had brought from home.
Pretty soon this word "drive" started to be used as a noun, and the units themselves began to be called "drives" among technicians. You could hear questions like "which drive is the file on?". All those letters you see on the computer like C:, D: etc. are different "drives". Therefore, a drive can be several various things, but they have in common that they can store data, just like a warehouse or a barn.
What about the cloud-thing?
These days, the drives are no longer limited to stay on the computers, instead, they have flown up to become clouds. There are several advantages since you can always reach your cloud from different devices like your phone or tablet. Another "pro" is that the cloud providers are excellent at backing up everything and your data is safe as a bird in its nest.
What about Google? Google is one of many cloud providers that you can use for free or use the expanded payment service. Microsoft has a cloud as well (of course) they call OneDrive. You can also find clouds from smaller companies and which one you prefer is a matter of taste. You can think of all these different clouds as real clouds in the sky that float by — the Google-cloud with all its various colours and the Microsoft-cloud in blue shades.
Google Drive is your warehouse!
A common mistake is to think that Google Drive is primarily a place where you share documents and where others can see your files. This is wrong! Google Drive is primarily your warehouse, and this is very important. You decide how folders and files should be organized and what settings you want for notifications and the like. I sometimes get the question from colleagues if I can not stop sending an email every time I share a document with them, but of course, I can not. Everyone who uses Google Drive can decide if they want notifications when they receive a file or not.
The three main parts of Google Drive are “My device”, “Shared devices” and “Shared with me”, but it is only in the folder “shared devices” that the environment is shared by everyone. In this part of your Google Drive, folders are shared, and everything you do in this section will affect how others see it. If you move a folder, it will be moved for everyone when they visit this device (this barn!). This does not apply in the “shared with me” section where individual files are located. In this part, you may have the files organized one way while your colleague prefers another. You may have a folder called “from Jenny”, and the college has one called “from Maria”. You can definitely move the files from “Shared with me” to “My Device” to have everything in one place. But now I’m getting into the usage of Google Drive, and I’ll write more about that in a future post.
I hope you feel that you’ve got a better idea of what Google Drive is all about and that you might even think it seems pretty fun!
I am the technician who became a librarian, but who got tired of the quiet and peaceful life at the library and started working as a teacher. I brought with me everything I knew about databases, information retrieval and networks and soon I was an ICT-educator. Today, I work as a teacher at Komvux in Norrköping.
I have always had a nerdy great interest in technology. I can find interest in everything from robots to model railroads or the steel industry of the industrial revolution. Technology should take us forward and prevent us from everything boring. You need to dare to be somewhat lazy and ask yourself if there is no easier way to get something done. The human desire to get away is what has driven the technical development and find time for other things. Like model railroads, for instance!
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