On the frontlines – teaching students; teaching teachers. A source for EdTech tips, tricks, and solutions.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Google Classroom Home Screen Organization

If you are like me and have several classes set up in Google Classroom, it's really convenient to have your Home/Dashboard set up in a way that makes sense to you. For me, I like to have my class cards go in chronological order of my school day (Periods 1-7).

The problem with this is that once you have classes created, you can't reorder the cards in your home screen of Google Classroom.

Solution #1 - Create classes in a specific order:

As you create your classes, think about how want your Home/Dashboard arranged.  If you want your class cards to show up in a certain order, create your classes so that the class you want to appear last is created first. 
In the picture above, you'll notice that I ordered my classes by their section, not by the class name. In this arrangement, I created my period 7 class first so that it would end up at the end of my cards. 

What if I have shared classes?

If you are sharing your classes with another teacher (or yourself in a whitelisted approved domain), you will need to add the co-teacher as you create each class in order to keep the arrangement that you desire. If you have created all of your classes and go to add a co-teacher, the cards will not be organized on the other teacher's end. 

The bottom line: think about how you want things to appear before you begin creating classes. 

Solution #2 - Using Bookmarks:

If you have already set up your classes in Classroom, there isn't much that you can do to organize your cards. However, there is a workaround. Before I realized how to create classes in the order I wanted, I used bookmarks to keep my Google Classroom workflow easy. 

If you click on a card and open one of your classes, it has a unique URL that you can bookmark. When you bookmark this class, you can edit the name that shows up on your bookmark. Make it as specific or as short as you want. See image below:

If you want, you can put all of your bookmarks in a folder to free up space on your bookmarks bar. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Becoming a Master of Data Overlords

With all of the assessment data that we as teachers collect over the course of the school year, keeping track of everything can seem very daunting. If you are collecting data in your GAFE account, here is an easy way to make a report that will isolate one student at a time. You can set this up for a grade book, monitoring progress during a unit, or any other reason you would collect data from your students.

Almost every time you would export data about your student, it shows up in a spreadsheet the same way: student names going down the left side in rows and different data sets going across the columns. 

Even if you lock down the first row with the student's name, you still have a lot of data on the spreadsheet. It can seem overwhelming. Follow along to create a isolated, vertical report that is easy to view. 

 Watch the video below or follow the step by step guide below to create this report

Video Walkthrough:


  • Step 1: Open up a sheet with all of your student data. 
  • Step 2: Create a new sheet by hitting the plus button on the bottom left of the spreadsheet window. 
  • Step 3: Always rename your new sheets to keep track of things: I've renamed mine Student Reports

  • Step 4: If you want, delete all of the extra rows and columns that you won't need (I only needed 3 columns for my reports.

Adding a Drop-down menu in Google Sheets:

    • Right click on the cell in which you'd like the dropdown menu (I chose C1)
    • Select Data Validation
    • Where it says Criteria, select the range from your original sheet that contains student names
    • Click save

Transpose Function:

  • The transpose function in Sheets allows you to take the horizontal data, and flip it to vertical. 
  • The transpose function should look like this: =TRANSPOSE(array_or_range) 
    • If you are using a separate sheet, remember to add the sheet name (exactly as it typed) and an ! to denote the sheet. Sample: =TRANSPOSE(Sheet1!A1:AJ2)
  • Put in your Transpose function in cell A2 - Now you see my assessment titles listed vertically below.

Filter Function:

  • Now that we have the assessment names and headers inputted as a vertical report, now we need to populate the data from individual students. We will have to use the filter function in conjunction with the transpose function. 
  • The filter function allows us to select all of the data we want to filter from, then we create a condition that will show us anything that relates to the criteria we selected. 
  • We need to not only create a filter, but we also need to transpose it so that it follows the format of the previously created vertical layout. 
  • We are going to put this in cell C2 (Sheet names match the sample in the images above)

Now when you select a name in the dropdown menu, the data sets change based on whatever name shows up in C1. 

To make it even better, add some conditional formatting to the cells to give you a quick glance look at how students are progressing. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Mute Individual Chrome Tabs

Chrome has the ability to be customized to almost any extent you can imagine. One feature that I have always wanted was the ability to mute individual tabs. Well it seems like this is something that you can finally do (even if it's just in beta mode).

Let's set the scene:
You have students doing some free writing with a great classical piano playlist from Pandora on in the background , but you need to load a Youtube video to show after the free write.

As you load the Youtube video, you begin to do your free write with the students, but it will automatically start playing once the page is loaded. Now you may have an issue: if you forgot about the tab, the video and sound (or even worse, advertisements) start playing over that beautiful Chopin Sonata.

Enter Chrome Experiments

Go To:

After you have enabled "Tab Audio Muting", you can now right click on any tab and mute it. 

Also, if you have a tab that is playing sound (distinguishable from the speaker icon on the tab), you can just click the speaker icon to mute the tab. 

You can preemptively mute a tab and it will remain muted until you need it to be un-muted. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Keyboard Shortcuts in iOS

Typing things out on a full size QWERTY keyboard is so much easier than on a smaller touch screen. You can set up easy keyboard shortcuts to type the more difficult things like email addresses which require different punctuation.

If you are frequently putting your email address into forms, emails, or log in screens, this tip can save you a lot of time.

Keyboard shortcuts are the new shorthand!

Shortcut your email address

  • Go to your settings app
  • Select General
  • Scroll down to Keyboard
  • Scroll down to Add New Shortcut...
  • Enter the phrase you want to shortcut
    •  I demo my email address
  • Enter the shortcut you want to use (I like using @@ for my primary email; @@@ for my secondary email)
  • Click save in the upper right corner

You're all good to go - keep your thumbs happy by not having to type so much! 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Make Goobric Count for You

I have been using Doctopus and Goobric (click link to see the walkthrough) extensively this semester already. One of the things that I was struggling with was that Goobric doesn't automatically add up the scores from a rubric so that I can easily enter the grade into a gradebook.

I was trying forever to figure this out, but then I realized how silly I was being. You can simply set up a SUM formula for the columns of the rubric so that it will automatically add up all of the elements of the graded rubric.

Create the formula:

  • Go to the column that says grade (create when you run Doctopus)
  • Goobric adds columns based on the categories of a rubric you assign to the document
  • In the grade column, enter the formula (or change based on the needs of your rubric):     
    •  =SUM (l2:r2) - I typed in each cell, just so you can see the range that this formula will do
  • Since my rubric is scored on columns l, m, n, o, p, q, r, I need to add those columns together **or however many columns you have for your rubric**
    • My rubric has 6 categories, so there are 6 cells that I am adding together
    • If your Goobric has 4 categories, your formula will look like: =SUM (l2:o2)

Even more magic:

Now, instead of entering this formula for every row (changing l2 to l3 etc.), there is a great trick to replicate that formula for every row. 

In the lower right hand corner of the cell with the grade, you have a blue box. Click the blue box and drag it down the column till the last student on your roster, and it will replicate that formula for every row. You'll see in the illustration that each row that has grades from the rubric will be added up in the grade column (J).  

This will save you time trying to add up each element of the rubric. And if you set up the formula before you grade it, your grade (sum) will show up even if you aren't in the spreadsheet. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

App Smash: Icebreaker Game with Socrative and Google Forms

I was looking for a way to do some ice-breaker activities with my classes. I've always loved the game "2 truths; 1 lie".  If you are unfamiliar with the game, the premise is you tell a small group of people 2 things about you that are true and one thing that false, in hopes that your group gets stumped and can't guess which one is the lie.  This would be manageable in a small group, but with 35 students it is a little different. I wanted all 35 students to participate at the same time to learn about each other. So I made it into a game show where students were responding to the student prompts using Socrative. I even chose students to be "Vanna White" to move from question to question and reveal the answers. Here's how it went down:

I collected data from Google Forms, and then imported that data as a quiz into Socrative. I ran a teacher-paced quiz to facilitate the game. Students got to choose what they thought was the lie through their phones or Chromebooks, and we would watch the live results as live  polling was happening.

Socrative User Guide

In Socrative, you have the ability to import a "quiz" from an Excel spreadsheet.

Download the Excel Template:

If you are working in Chrome, this could open up in a new tab as an editable Excel spreadsheet using Office Editing for Docs, Sheets & Slides - If this happens, you'll need to hit save now and save to your computer:
With the template that Socrative provides, you need to be working in Excel (at least for the time being. I couldn't figure out how to select the question type in box two in the online version. I will update if I figure it out). 

Here's what you should do for the Excel spreadsheet:
  1. Box 1: Rename the Quiz to whatever you want to find it as in Socrative
  2. Box 2: Question type: choose multiple choice so students get to choose from a list
  3. Box 3: this will be my first question from the form: their name
  4. Box 4: this will be the answer choices that they have to choose from, the 2 truths and 1 lie. 
  5. Box 5: You can select the right answer, but I didn't want to have that selected for my activity

Now send a Form to your students with the information you want: this is the one I used.

After you have received the data from your students submitting their work, you can copy and paste it into your Excel spreadsheet template. Put your cursor in the B7 Box and paste the data.

It will automatically go into the correct boxes across the board. The template allows for 5 answer choices. You do not need to have all 5 answer choices for this to work. I only had the three (2 truths, 1 lie) and it worked perfectly.

Now return to Socrative, and import your Excel spreadsheet. If it worked perfectly, you will see a message appear that says quiz imported successfully.

You can now return to the Socrative Dashboard and launch the quiz. The quiz will be titled whatever you put into the template as the "quiz name" in Box 1.

I ran it as a teacher-paced quiz and had students watch the results on the screen. After each student, I asked them to clarify their answers and explain which one was the lie. If they managed to trick the whole class (by majority percentage from the "quiz"), they won a prize.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Hack Google Slides

I am a big fan of being able to manipulate a page to look however I want with the use of text boxes and images. In Google Docs, the formatting of pictures is temperamental at best. I love how Google Drawings and Slides allow you to change things up, but I don't so much like how they are limited to the slide or canvas.

Here's an idea - Especially if you are looking for a Microsoft Publisher type of functionality, use Google Slides to create beautiful magazines, newsletters, or anything else your mind can think of.

Wait, your telling me that that isn't what Google Slides is for? You're right! Hack away.  Here's a demonstration:

Go to file>Page setup - then choose custom size - for today's illustration of this hack, I am going to make a standard 8.5 x 11 inch slide, so if I print it out, it fits perfectly on a piece of printer paper (but who prints things up anymore?) - If you do print, you can choose to do one slide per page and have a handout, or you can do 2 slides per page and make it a little smaller.

Now that you have your slides set up so that they are the size of pieces of paper, you can delete any of the text boxes that are showing, and design the slide any way you want.

You will see one of the slideshows that I put together for students to create a newsmagazine about themselves for the first week of school. This will allow them to go in and edit, design, and add their information to the slideshow.

How I plan on using this with my students:

  • Their homework  in the first week will be to fill in their information on the slideshow, and then they can redesign if they are interested in doing so as long as the pertinent information is present.
  • Then, we will do small group presentations at their tables to introduce themselves to their table partners.
  • Then we can do a whole class activity where the table partners share something they learned about each person

Pro-Tip Solution:

Problem: If you are using Chromebooks when it comes to presenting your magazines, if you just press present, it will show up in the middle of the screen.  The problem is that it is smaller (especially on a Chromebook) than a normal slideshow.

Solution: After you hit present in Slides, press the keyboard shortcut Ctrl-Shift-F3 and it will rotate the screen 90 degrees and your page will take up most of the screen (it will look sideways until you hold the Chromebook like an actual book). It will be much easier to read and you can even hold them up for a gallery walk or presenters display.