Sunday, 22 April 2018

How Making Pancakes Can Help Us Improve Assessment

This weekend I went to Beaver Scout camp and I was charged with making pancakes for over 40 kids and adults. As I cooked over the griddle, I realized how much this activity reflected good assessment practices.

If you’ve ever made pancakes, you know that you don’t ever make just one pan. There is always enough batter for a number of batches. The great thing about this is after every batch you take away some learning to improve the next batch.

Here’s how my experience went.

Pre cooking:

The night before I had to cook, I prepared the batter. I had two pitchers full of batter so that when the time came I could just pour the batter onto the grill. I also unwrapped brand new flipper.

The morning of breakfast I was ready to go.

Batch 1:
Like usual, the first batch didn’t have the perfect round shape and was really pale in colour and they were too flat. I realized that I hadn’t waited long enough and the grill needed to warm up a bit more before I did the next batch. I also asked my co-cooks about their preferred hue for a pancake. Some people like them darker, some people like them pale.

Batch 2:
In my second batch, I decided to crank up the heat a little bit on the grill to get things moving more quickly and avoid the pale pancakes of batch 1. They cooked faster, but almost too quickly. They were overdone for my liking. And the size was still too big.

Batch 3:
By batch three, I thought I was ready and I was almost there but not quite. I turned down the heat - that worked for colour. I liked the shape but I thought they were a bit spotty. They were also still a bit too big. I was fearful we might not have enough for everyone. (And you know kids, it doesn’t matter if they have a huge pancake and someone else has three small ones, the kid who has the three small ones clearly got more.)

Batch 4:

I did it! I cooked what I felt was the perfect pancake. My biggest switch: I stopped using the pitcher. The batter was flowing out too quickly making the pancakes too big. I switched to a spoon and scooped the batter out of the pitcher onto the griddle. I also found the perfect length to cook them. It was awesome and I received many compliments on how delicious they were.

So What?

So it’s all well and good that I made the perfect pancake but how does it relate to assessment? Most importantly, I was given multiple chances to improve my end product. I was not judged only on my first batch. I had other opportunities, multiple opportunities. While I cooked each batch, I observed and reflected - just like an effective learner does. I prepared for the task ahead of time by making the batter. I consulted other people I considered experts (my co-cooks) to help me be successful. I adjusted when I noticed tweaks (like temperature levels) that needed to be made. I changed tools when I noticed the tool I was using wasn’t ideal. My end product was being presented to an authentic audience – a hungry group of beavers.

So the next time you are assigning a task to to be assessed, consider my pancake analogy. Have you given multiple opportunities? Is there time for reflection, change? Is it for an authentic audience? If the assessment is not, perhaps it’s time to flip the assessment like I flipped the pancakes. We all have the opportunity to make things “batter” - sorry, I could not resist that pun.

Big thanks to Danaca Barnes and Amanda Kelly for cooking with me, inspiring me and helping me with this blog.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Searching Multiple People in Google Photos

I listen to this great podcast called Check This Out hosted by Ryan O'Donnell and Brian Briggs.  Their most recent episode (#82) was full of great tech tips.  The one I loved the most was about searching for people in Google Photos.

You might remember, last September, I shared how to to back up iPhone photos to Google Photos.  I love that you can search photos based on many criteria, including:

Location taken (or detected): San Antonio

Object: Lego

Event: Hallowe'en
Or person: Jen Giffen

What I learned was that you can search multiple people!  Have a look at my GIF as I search my name, then add Kim Pollishuke, and finally Sandra Chow.  

We're  all there! It is such an easy way to find fun, group shots!  Think family Holiday card!

Sunday, 15 April 2018

The Hashtag Trick

Twitter chats, conferences and EdCamps are some of the best PD around, in my opinion.  The learning is great and often you don't even need to be at the conference because there is almost always a hashtag (#) to follow so you can get the learning virtually on Twitter.


This is all great until you are the one tweeting and it comes time to remember the hashtags and/or remember to add them to your post.  I also find it can take up time to add them in and in the moment you might miss other stuff - especially if you are tweeting quotes from a keynote.

Fear not!  I have a hack - Keyboard shortcuts

Shortcuts allow you to type something short that will be automatically changed into longer text.  For example...last weekend I was at the #EdTechTeam #OntarioSummit.  I set up a keyboard shortcut to "etton" and it would replace with the proper hashtags (you just need to tap the spacebar after the shortcut).  

My friend David Carruthers loved it and decided to use the simple "ht" and said he was going to replace the long text each time he was using a hashtag consistently.

Caveat: make sure the shortcut is not something you might actually type of you run the risk that the replacement is made.  Eg. If I use "EN"as a shortcut for EverNote, I run the risk of turning my name, Jen Giffen, into JEverNote GiffEverNote.

How to do text replacement on iOS

  1. Go to Settings > General > Keyboard > Text Replacement
  2. Tap the plus sign (+) in the top right corner.
  3. In the Phrase field, enter the full text 
  4. Below that, enter the shortcut you want to use.  

Check out this video I made:

Sorry Android Android phone in the house to get the steps...I will add when I can - or let me know how in the comments.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Post your GDrawings on the web easily - and use the link to upload elsewhere!

In my last blog post I talked about the Publish to Web feature in Google.  I recently discovered another great use for this...the ability to insert your own GDrawings images into GSuite apps (and Blogger!) easily - without having to download them...this is a great option for Chromebooks.  (Note: I have a feeling I am late to the party on this one but I think it is really cool and wanted to share with other who might not know.)

I love to create my own images when I create tutorials, blog posts, etc.  I usually create in Google Drawings, download the .png, then use the upload image from computer.  The problem is my Mac (for goodness knows what reason) constantly gets the dreaded: 

So here is what I do. 
  1. Create a drawing in Google Drawing
  2. Go to File --> Publish to Web
  3. Click the Publish button
  4. Indicate you are sure
  5. Copy the link provided.
Now that I have the link, I can insert the Drawing (image) anywhere I want!

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Sharing outside your domain

Many EDU domains only allow sharing of Google Files within their domains.  This is great for privacy but can be a problem if you are trying to share with parent communities and other such stakeholders.

Loophole Alert!

Turns out there is a loophole - The "Publish to Web" feature in GSuite Apps. At first I thought it still would not share if the sharing permissions were not set to public, but after giving it a try...seems I can access with my gmail as could some  colleagues from their gmail account.

In all GSuite apps you have the ability to Publish to the Web in the File Menu.  Here is how to do it:

Go to File --> Publish to Web

Click Publish

Click OK

Share the link created in the Link box. 

To Stop Publishing, click the Published Content & Setting drop down, then click the Stop Publishing button

Please use this feature responsibly.  Think before you post student information and images online and be sure you seek proper permissions - even if it is with a select group of safe people...remember they can share the link you give.

Note:  So I have the ability to share outside the domain.  I tried this and gave the permission for only those inside my domain to view.  I looked on my gmail account and it was fine.  Another colleague of mine, who does not have the ability to share beyond the domain, tried and it didn't work for it may not work for all....sorry!

Friday, 9 March 2018

Google Hangouts - your FREE (portable) document camera!

A very blurry picture of Matt & me
@ ISTE 2017
This morning, on my commute to work, I was listening to the Google Teacher Tribe (#GTTribe) is a weekly tradition.  I love the podcast because it has great ideas for new and veteran Google users alike.  This morning, one tip that Matt Miller (aka Jimmy Matt) shared really wowed me -
How to use Google Hangouts as a (free!!!) document camera.

Here is what he shared.
Hook your computer up to a projector and start a Google Hangout.  On your mobile device join the hangout.  Select the box for the mobile device so it is the one projecting.  Put a document in front of the camera and it is shared!  You can also do this as you walk around the class with the device, or pass the device to have students share their work where they are seated.

Such an easy and extremely useful hack.  Thanks Jimmy Matt! 

Note: This also works if you want to show how to do something on a mobile device.  Generally, I use airplay on my Mac but it doesn't always work and this is a great way to have devices on different platforms talk to one another (e.g., PC desktop and iOS device).

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

The Wipebook

A few weeks ago I entered a Twitter contest run by Wipebook and I won a Wipebook Mini Notebook and the Wipebook Flipchart.  I was really excited to see how these dry erase products would work.

I currently spend about $1 a month on a notepad I love from Dollarama.  That said, I am mostly digital in my role so I would likely be spending be more if I were in the classroom taking more on the fly notes.  The costs of the mini notebook is $25USD so a bit on the high side for me....but I LOVE that I am being much more eco-friendly. 

I really like crossing things off my to do list - but I also like a clean list and the notebook is PERFECT for this.  As soon as a task is done, it disappears!

The feel of the glossy paper took some getting used to - and I find the pen can dry out at time so having a second one is handy. (I picked one up on Amazon.)

The pages erase very easily with the eraser on the pen or a damp cloth if you want to get it super clean. 

The pen fits nicely into the coil binding but it has fallen out a few times forcing me to dig through my bag to find it.

I tested it with my left-handed son and there was no smudging of the ink - although he is in Kindergarten and writes slowly so a faster stenographer might smudge a little.

There is an app to go with it and you can upload notes to a variety of place (Google Drive, etc.).  I used it a little and it worked well...the quality of the image is a little grainy though so not great for my sketchnotes - I will stick to traditional paper for that.

All of the above holds true for the flip chart as well.

Overall, I like the product and since I only have to buy one, the cost is not an issue.  I think it is worth the investment for chronic list makers like me!

Friday, 9 February 2018

Flipgrid for the camera shy

Click the image to access the slide full of links.

While working with a school this week, one teacher (shyly) admitted that he liked Flipgrid, but he did not feel comfortable filming himself.  This was not the first time I have heard this.  I like to challenge people to venture outside their comfort zone but I am not always successful.  I fear that there are educators and students who are avoiding this great tool because they think they need to be on camera.  I'm here to tell you that is not the case!  Flipgrid has an option to upload a video rather than film live.

The best part is you don't need fancy video production tools to film...there are plenty of free, simple tools you can use. 

In the spirit of curating, and not dumping (see The Cult of Pedagogy blog post if you don't get my reference - it is a superb read), I have curated a list of 5 (well 6) tools you can use to create videos to upload to Flipgrid. 

Note: For the first three tools you need to Appsmash (using multiple apps in conjunction with one another to complete a final task) with my favourite free screen casting tool - Screencat-o-matic.  I love screencast-o-matic because in the free version you can record up to 15 minutes, crop the recording area, and trim the recording.  All videos can be saved to your local drive as mp4s. now works on Chromebooks!!!

So...let's look at the tools:
  1. Voki
    In the free version of Voki you can use pictures from a selected, customizable list of Avatars and backgrounds.  Then you can record your voice, type a message that can be read in a voice of choice, or upload a pre-recored message.  Published Vokis can be shared on Twitter, Facebook, G+, email or via link, but for Flipgrid, appsmash with Screencast-o-matic to record the video.
  2. My Simple Show
    My Simple Show is a video explainer.  You write a script, it suggest photos to insert into the presentation, and (in the free version) it narrates for you.  You need to upgrade to record your own voice BUT of you appsmash with screencast-o-matic and you can mute the narration and record a voice over!
  3. Stop Motion with Google Slides
    This is one of my favourite slides activities.  Essentially, you put a character on a background, make tiny tweaks on each slide and them publish to the web to make a mini movie. This tutorial by Kim Pollishuke and Sandra Chow is a great resource to teach how to make stop motion videos using Google Slides.  Again, appsmash with screencast-o-matic to add narration.
  4. Chatterpix (iOS app)
    Chatterpix is likely the easiest tool to use.  You to upload a photo of your choice, then you draw a line across the mouth in the photo.  You can record your voice and add filters and stickers to your recording.  When you are done you can emails yourself the .mp4 file that can be uploaded  to Flipgrid.  Best of all - it is free!
  5. Sock Puppets (iOS app)
    Sock Puppets lets you create your own lip-synched videos.  The videos feature sock puppet characters, customizable backgrounds, props and scenery.  Finished videos are saved to your camera roll and can be uploaded via the Flipgrid app.
Check out my Grid for quick examples of each tool and get even the most camera shy participant Flipgridding (yes, I made it a verb - that's called anthimeria btw) in no time.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

My Week on a Chromebook

Inspired by conversations between Jonathan Wiley and Mindy Cairney on their podcast The EdTech Takeout, this week I decided to try to use only my Chromebook.  I often have teachers ask me if a class set of Chromebooks would work for a 1:1 environment, and while I have used my Chromebook, I have always had my Mac as my primary computer.  I figure to best advise, I should dive into the Chromebook to see what limitations it might present.

Here is what I found:

Keyboard Shortcuts
I am a really big keyboard shortcut user.  I missed those A LOT.  A quick Google search led me to a cheat sheet of Chromebook keyboard shortcuts.  This was really handy.  Some of the ones I used the most:
  • Alt+Backspace works as the Delete Key
  • CTRL + Right Arrow jump from word to word (although it didn't quite work like my beloved CMD +right arrow to get to the end of a line.)

Quickly Flipping Between Accounts 
I have both a Gmail and EDU that I toggle between constantly. I didn't think I could have two accounts logged in to the Chromebook at the same time but apparently, you can!  #HappySurprise.  I could never figure out getting my second gmail though.

No Firefox
I have one system at work that I need to access via that was something for which I had to jump to my Mac.

No iMessage
I love the integration of iMessage on my Mac.  My whole family is on it...but so long as I kept my phone close I made it work.

Split screen
Love the ease of this.  All I had to do was drag windows to the corners to see multiple windows open at the same time.

Small Screen
Don't love the small screen...I could get a bigger one, but the one I have is only 11".

There are little blue dots when a tab (email, twitter) has notifications. That was cool and not as distracting as the notifications on the Mac.

Spoke to a Chem teacher - for the purpose of his course he has tools that plug into the computer to do experiments programs that need to be downloaded - students would not be able to do that.

Speed - or lack there of.
OK, this was the BIGGEST drawback.  It was SLOW!  There were a number of times during the week I had to jump to the Mac because the Chromebook came to a stand still. (I imagine this had something to do with the millions of tabs I had open.)

All in all, I think a class set of Chromebooks would be fine for students.  The week was not as difficult as I thought it would be.  But for my uses, I think I am sticking to my Mac.  (Although, I am not adverse to checking out a more powerful Chromebook with touch screen and app capabilities.)

For more advanced Chromebook users what I have shared might seem straightforward, but if are on a Mac and wondering...these were my insights.