Posted in Google, professional development, teaching, Tech-ventures

Always more to learn…

I wrote in a previous post that I’d retire when I had nothing more to learn. I guess it is a good thing, then, that I learned some new things today!


We had a consultant visit our school district today to get us started with Google Apps for Education (GAFE). Although I am already familiar with GAFE, Google is always updating, adding to, and improving their products–which means I’ll always have more to learn! Here are the top 3 tidbits I picked up on today:

  1. Google Doodles! I already knew that Google Doodles were themed, and that some of them lead to neat little tricks or games, but I did NOT know that you can click on any special google doodle and explore the history or cool facts behind it. Check it out for yourself!  This would make a great bellwork topic, a rainy day assignment, or the opening to a fun research project!
  2. Google Slides Q & A. If you don’t know what a backchannel is… it is the digital, behind-the-scenes conversation that goes on behind a presentation. More info, here. Google has now incorporated a backchannel in Presenter View on Slides. Instead of using Twitter, Today’s Meet, or Google Docs for a backchannel, it is now incorporated in the same tool! Here is a little write-up about it!
  3. Google Forms Quizzes! Many educators have been using various add-ons for this now for years… but Google finally just added the option right into Forms for us. In your settings, choose the quiz option. Check out a quick tutorial here.

I hope your first days back at school are full of awesome new things you can take back to your kiddos as well!



Posted in Google, Lesson plan component, teaching


It is widely known that to learn Spanish (from English) it takes about 600 hours of study time. I’m guessing this is for the “Advanced Mid” proficiency range (

For my students, this can seem like an insurmountable goal. For instance, just with class time, my students would only be getting about 130 hours per school year. As you know, testing and extracurricular absences eat into this precious time, and I estimate that most of my students end up with about 110 hours of instruction per school year. I do assign homework and projects, so they get some time outside of that. My point is, that in 4 years of 130 hour study, a student would still fall short of that 600 hour goal. This is one reason why I emphasize homework and study assignments outside of class. Students bound for year 4 of Spanish will need all 600 hours!

In my years of teaching, I haven’t found an effective way to convey the importance of this journey to my students and their families… or to other people in my various schools, for that matter. My class is often viewed as the “elective” class. I am bombarded with requests to visit the counselor, or finish a project for another class. (I say NO!) Parents find that my class is the ideal one to schedule that dentist appointment during. Other school professionals use my class for “pull outs”. Each precious 45 min session is a step my kids fall behind on their journey.

Let me stop here and say: I DO NOT THINK THAT MY CLASS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT CLASS IN THE WORLD.  No, I simply believe that it IS important. School IS important. Art IS important. Spanish IS important. All the classes are important.

Ok. Off my soap box.

Now, how can I convey this message more effectively? This coming school year, I have decided to use an online badge system to acknowledge and celebrate student achievements. These may be academic achievements, cultural achievements, milestones of development or even simple citizenship in our classroom community.

To begin, I have chosen to use Credly as my badge platform. I will then award badges to students and they can collect them in the Credly app in their own accounts.

Where does proficiency come in? This year, students will keep their own logs of hours. When they attend class, when they do homework, etc. They will tally their hours each week. When they reach specific milestones, they can earn a badge.

Here’s an example:

Date Task Time (15 min = 1 point)
8/25 Class 3 points
8/26 class 3 points
8/26 study vocab 1 point
8/27 class 3 points
8/27 homework & vocab 2 point
total 12 pts (3 hours)

I plan to offer badges in 10 hour increments, increasing to 25 hour increments after 50 hours.

My hope is that students will harken back to the days of AR points and put in additional time, not assigned by me, in an effort to see and track their own progress.

Realistically, I know that some students may not buy in. To increase buy in, I hope to relax my homework requirements in favor of options students can use to get more points. This way, a student facing extracurricular stress in a specific week can earn less points for that week in favor of catching up in the next week. I do still plan to assign mandatory assignments, but less frequently and more judiciously chosen.

Lastly, This log will play an important role in my student’s portfolios in the coming year. Last school year I wrote and received a grant from the CISD Education Foundation for Chromebooks for my “Going-Google” project. In it, I describe how we will use chromebooks in the classroom to develop a language learning portfolio in Google Drive and Google Classroom (in addition to using Google’s fantastic collaboration tools to increase production!). Students will fill in a Proficiency Log Template, updating it throughout the year, and add it to their portfolios. It will be part of their final portfolio evaluations.

So, what do you think? Am I crazy? On the right track? Do you want to try it too?




Posted in Google, professional development

#AllTheGoogles Part 5: Google Forms

form pic

Google forms are a quick and easy way to gather information. They can be used to collect data in a number of different ways:

  • multiple choice
  • check boxes (select multiple)
  • short answer
  • short field (for a name, or similar info) and more!

In teaching, these forms can be created, and the link can be sent to students via Google Classroom, remind, email, edmodo or simple posted in the classroom for students to access. Once they do, the data can be used for many purposes and save the teacher time. Some examples:

  1. Instead of the beginning of the year “questionnaire”, create a google form to collect this information. For me, the paper forms just sit in my filing cabinet and never get sorted through. This way, you can access the results in a Google Sheet (more on this in a bit…) and manipulate or view the date there.
  2. Give a quick poll or check for understanding as bell work or as the ticket out the door. The data will be quickly collected and provide you a snapshot of what students think or know about a topic.
  3. Give a survey to project department data. As a Spanish teacher and department chair, our department is constantly trying to find ways to encourage participation beyond the second year of Spanish. We used Google docs to create a survey of Spanish 1 and 2 students from every section to find out their plans and interests related to continuing in the program. We are using that data to plan for next year!
  4. Quizzes/ Tests. There is a grand debate on whether Google Forms can be used for graded work. I’m not sure where I fall on the spectrum, but know that the option is there. There are many sources online with step-by-step details for creating quizzes that can be graded by you or even be self-graded if you wish.

Now, why is Google forms so awesome??!?!? Well! The results from Forms automatically populate in a Google sheet. They are organized by the person responding and the question they respond to. You will have a quick view of: who participated, when, which questions they answered and what their answers were. You can then use this to create a quick chart, organize the responses or use them for grades. 

Are you planning to explore forms? Try this practice form… now! 

And view the automatically created Google Sheet with results!

What do you think? Please leave a comment below! 


Posted in Google, professional development, teaching

Google Series Part 4: Google Drive

What is Google Drive?

Google Drive is essentially a cloud service by Google. Using Drive means that your files are accessible to you from any device that has internet connection. 

Why is Drive better than other cloud services, or better than my flash drive… or better than my hard drive?

Haha, I’m glad you asked! I have iCloud on my iPhone… but it only comes with 5GB of storage–which seems like a lot… until they ask you to pay for more. If a person has a gmail… they get 30gb free! If you have an educational Google account (as I do, since my district has “Gone Google”) then you have UNLIMITED drive storage. 

I signed up for Google Drive over the summer, in one of the very first google trainings that our new district Director of Digital Learning was hosting. Since then, I have been trying to convince the world of its awesomeness. Finally, the Digital Learning Committee (which I chair) recommended to the campus that on our next staff development day, all teachers be required to attend a training and sign up.

…Shortly after that, I ran into one of my fellow Spanish teachers, sitting at her desk. She was looking at her Drive in awe. She shared with me the many ways Drive was going to make her life easier. Here is a picture of her Desktop and her Desktop (ha, see what I did there?)photo 2

photo 1




Drive has been my Go-to and saving grace this year. I am a frazzled lady, and I often start working on a task at home and get to school, only to realize the file I need is on my home computer. Drive has changed my productivity, for the better. A teacher’s productivity is directly related to student outcomes. In a teacher’s world, every second counts. If I can save some time, that is time I can be interacting with kids, providing feedback and growing relationships. 

Tips, Tricks and Ideas for Google Drive: 

  • Google Drive works best when you check the box that allows any file to be converted into a Google file. This means that if you upload a “Word” document… you’ll be able to open it, even on a computer that doesn’t have Word. Most of your formatting will be the same. Every now and then, something changes… but you can always convert the file back!
  • Google Drive has a Google search bar… this is amazing! You can search for the title of the file or any word that might be in the file. This is much easier than the process to do the same thing on a normal computer… and even better, you can do this from ANY computer with internet access (or device!)
  • Google Drive allows you to seamlessly share files with contacts. We’ll get into this more in the next post but: you can share items with links through email, invite others to edit your files, push files to the web as individual webpages with links and more!
  • Drive has an intuitive “incoming” folder that keeps a list of any files shared with you, almost like an “inbox”.
  • As mentioned in my previous post about Google Classroom, Classroom actually creates and manages assignment folders and files in your Drive. When a student “submits” the assignment, it magically appears in your folder!
  • Any file can be added to drive. I have uploaded tons of videos and sound files that I use for listening assignments in my Spanish classes, and Google opens them with the web-based Google Play. This is amazing, since teachers often have to fight with quicktime and windows based systems that may not agree in file type.

The best part about this tool, for me, is that it’s free. Most of the things I can think of that would save me some time or chaos… cost too much money. Everyone knows teachers only spend money on Bills, Students, Their kids or their “other kids”… rarely on something that is just for the purposes of making their lives better.

Are you using Drive? How has it changed your world? Leave a comment 🙂


Missed part of this series? Get caught up!

Part 1: Google Voice
Part 2: Google Voice (cont.)
Part 3: Google Classroom
Posted in Google, professional development, teaching, Uncategorized

Google Series Part 3: Google Classroom

I can only compare what I know. I know that about 2 years ago, I was introduced to the world of Flipped learning, and as a teacher who had interned with Florida Virtual School, the idea of putting part of my teaching life online appealed to me.

Think about it… Students are online anyway. Most of the time, they really don’t mind adding a school website to the list. They end up doing what they do on all the websites… in fact, they probably are doing what you did to get here. They scroll; they get lost; they read mindlessly; they click on links and learn stuff unintentionally. Its almost osmosis. 

Our current Academic Dean and a team of others in our district introduced me to Edmodo. I’m an all or nothing person (for better or worse!) and a dove right in. Within a few weeks, all of my classes were signed up, students were completing assignments, and we were rolling. I flipped some, but for me, the value of the online medium was the potential for the increase in the language production. 

In a matter of weeks, my students were:

  • Commenting on things in Spanish.
  • Presenting stuff to me (writings AND videos) in Spanish
  • Communicating with me openly about their grades, questions, concerns
  • Sharing relevant content.
  • Making up absent work
  • Completing other assignments, notes and more on Edmodo!

Believe it or not, I didn’t have the commonly feared “inappropriate” posts, even with nearly 200 teenagers 14-19 years old enrolled! In fact, I even conducted part of my maternity leave last year on Edmodo.

But… I did have these problems:

  • Constant log in issues. (Thankfully, on edmodo, teachers can reset student passwords, that is a huge plus!)
  • Problems with the “feed”. Edmodo is modeled after a social network style, and the feed brings up the most popular “posts” in their “network” or classes… meaning that since some students didn’t actually click on my class, they missed out on important posts.
  • A confusing interface… for teachers AND for students.

Of course, neither of these lists is exhaustive. Edmodo has served me well, and my students are still currently enrolled… but over the past few months, we’ve transitioned away to the sleeker, simpler: Google Classroom. 

Google Classroom Vs. Edmodo

Google classroom is accessed by students through their own Gmail accounts, or through school created ones, if you school has “gone Google” (as ours has). This means, students will have to set and reset their own passwords… BUT since they probably already have gmail accounts, they likely already actually know their passwords…. unlike the password for the random educational thing they were forced to sign up for….

It is also a simplified version of blackboard, essentially. Instead of a lame (sorry, Edmodo) version of Facebook, the interface actually mirrors a system they will hopefully be using in a few short years, if we do our jobs and prepare them for college.

The feed in each “classroom” is sequential, meaning the most recent posts appear at the top, instead of the most popular.

Students can turn in assignments, teachers can edit those assignments, and return them with comments. Its amazing. Providing feedback is at the core of constant improvement; Google Classroom make it easy.

The most amazing  part of Google Classroom, for me, is its integration into the rest of the Google world. For instance:

  • Students can attach content from Google docs/ Google Drive directly to their assignments.
  • Assignments are automatically  organized into folders in my google drive by class period.
  • Students log in with Gmail
  • and more!

Although some would complain that the tools Edmodo offers (such as Snapshot, quiz making, and the Apps) aren’t available in Google, I’m glad. In fact, this is part of what contributes to the simplicity of the tool… which directly contributes to my student’s success. AND I am simplifying as a result. For instance, I have been using tools like Kahoot or Google Forms instead  of quizzes by edmodo. Additionally, as a language teacher, production really is my ultimate goal, and encouraging interaction instead of participation in automatically graded quizzes, really is more inline with my goals.

Are you using Classroom? What are your thoughts? 


In case you missed Parts 1 & 2:

Part 1

Part 2

Also, check me out on Tpt! 



Posted in Google, professional development, teaching

Google Voice Part 2: In Any classroom

Google Voice: In Any Classroom


Ah, the dreaded exit ticket. 

Really, it sounds like such a great idea at first. Hold the kids accountable. Use those last few minutes of class productively. Get a quick snapshot of student understanding. Have something quick to grade for a daily grade. Have kids actually apply the standard you just covered.

Win-win, right???

Ha. Wrong.  You see, first you have to cut out all those exit tickets. Pass them out. They have to do them. <–All of that is the easy part. People suggest these exit tickets as a regular part of the routine. Several times a week or even every day. The only problem is: there are some things that paper clips can’t fix. i.e.: my desk. See sample below.


You see, for teachers like me, who are moms and wives and department chairs and, you know, 12 other responsibilities to mention, we don’t have time for that. I don’t need another tiny slip of paper (or stack of them) to try to remember not to lose.

How can Google Voice help?

With Google Voice, you get a phone number. Not only can students leave you a voice message (as mentioned in Part 1 of this series), but they can also text the phone number as well! The messages collect in your Google Voice account, and are also sent to your email account.

This is life changing. 

At the end of class, kids put their things away, and I ask them a short question. For me, usually, this is a short production task (in Spanish), perhaps, a question to answer or a topic to write about. Students text the phone number and the assignment comes to my email.

Why is this so awesome?

  • Sometimes kids need more time to finish than time allows. They can take the cell phone with them.
  • You can provide feedback! Text back!
    • Are you worried about the privacy implications of that? Well, worry a little less. Texting through Google Voice creates a paper trail. All messages to and from the account are saved. Its the ultimate teacher “CYA”.
  • Students without phones can still complete the assignment on a sticky note, or from the phone of a friend.
  • It eliminates (or nearly does) the tiny stacks of paper ravaging your desk.

Other ideas: I haven’t tried but really want to!

  • Give this phone number to parents instead of your regular cell phone number. Keep the conversation going via text.
  • Encourage kids to text questions about homework, projects and more.
  • Create lists in Google voice to text extra credit opportunities, links to important info and more.

Have any ideas yet??? Comment below!