A few weeks ago I wrote about how much I loved attending the Illinois Education and Technology Conference and focused the blog on the first amazing keynote, Joe Sanfellipo. He spoke about leadership and culture in your school which is really important for the building as a whole. The second day of the conference was all about Alice Keeler for me. She was 100% about putting tools into the hands of teachers so we can serve students better.
Who is Alice Keeler?
You can find out a lot about Alice Keeler by going to her website (alicekeeler.com). What she shared with us at the conference was that she is a mom and was teaching math and needed Google apps to do more for her. She started coding within Google apps and sending them to her friend who works at Google. Some of what she codes becomes an extension Google offers. Others she lists on her website for easy access regardless of becoming an official extension or not. These extensions exist to help save time or be more efficient or effective in teaching or organizing information. Also, I think she may like sheets even more than me...I didn't know that was possible!
Alice at IETC
I attended two breakout sessions as well as her keynote lunch. Her first breakout, Google Apps Coding for Noobs, was a great introduction to coding. A lot of people get intimidated when they hear the word "coding" because they picture someone sitting in a dark basement surrounded by computer screens wheeling back and forth between them and speaking words no one ever really uses...or maybe that's just me! I went anyways and I was pleasantly surprised! Alice reiterated that most of coding is looking for patterns and then knowing which things to copy and paste. The link below takes you to the presentation she used for the session and walks you through how to:
- Create a Google sheet that has a separate tab for each student with one click of a button
- Send an email
- Copy a Google Doc
- Do something a lot of times with one click
-And more that we didn't actually get to within the breakout
Google Apps Coding for Noobs Presentation by Alice Keeler
No, I would not need to write a code in order to send an email or copy a Google doc BUT learning the code behind it was helpful in order to complete the other codes.
NO, THAT'S TOO OVERWHELMING! I CAN'T CODE!
THAT'S OK! THE SECOND PART WAS WAAAAAY EASIER!
The second breakout was about the add-ons that she has already created so that all you have to do is copy and paste! At alicekeeler.com/scripts there is a list of add-on codes that Alice has already created, posted for easy access, AND written a blog about how to use.
***Because they are created by her and not an official extension of Google, you will be prompted to give access to your GSuite apps each time you copy Alice's code. Just do it.***
I already thought she was pretty legit but this breakout and exploring her website more just put it over the top! There are so many to choose from. I highly suggest taking an hour or two one day and just playing with these.
This may seem overwhelming but please try one before you decide it's too much! You may decide you really like them!
My Favorite Alice Codes
Not sure which ones to check out first? Here are my favorites!
Testing season is upon us for some or has just passed for others. It is always a time of stress and anxiety for the subjects that are tested. Even those of us that are not tested feel some of the strain. I am not one of those teachers that has to directly deal with testing and am usually at war with myself about my feelings on testing. I am relieved that I do not have the testing stress that other teachers have, but at the same time I feel like my subject has been slighted and diminished to a subject that is not as important.
I teach social studies in Missouri at the secondary level and have never experienced what it is like to be a tested subject. In Missouri the only thing that is tested in my content is government which is taken by seniors at my school. There really isn't much pressure on me as teacher except to do some things that support government so that when students get to government, they will hopefully have some foundation.
When I taught middle school there was even less pressure on me as my only experience dealing with testing was an encouragement to support English teachers by having activities that included reading and writing. Honestly I would do that anyway because I think it a good practice and skill for any person and especially as a social scientist.
Many of my co-workers have told me that I should feel lucky that I don't have to worry about the stress of jumping through the testing hoops. Honestly I am happy that I don't have to worry about it. I don't agree with testing and I don't really feel that the tests that have been created really tell us if they are learning, but it is what we use so we have to deal with it. However, even though I’m not an advocate for state testing I have always been bothered by the fact that they don't test social studies because of the message it sends to schools, parents, students, and communities. It sends the message that social science and social studies is not as important as the other subjects.
In my career I have had the conversation with students and parents about why it matters for them to take history classes when they aren't tested. I recognize that this is a subject that I love dearly and am probably biased when it comes to its level of importance in every single person's daily life, but I have come to realize in our current society that we have lost what it means to be a citizen... I don't mean the legal requirements of being a citizen but the knowledge required to participate in our society and understand the significance and meaning behind it. Dealing with the big issues of our day are all relevant and many are connected to the social sciences. The lack of testing just reinforces the sense that this subject isn't as important as its counterparts.
I realize that I am probably overreacting and to be honest I do enjoy the freedom that is allowed to me as teacher that doesn't have to teach a very specific curriculum for the test. I have the freedom to evaluate my standards and create learning experiences wrapped around needs that I see in my different classes. I also realize that I am not alone in teaching a subject that seems to be undervalued or that as teacher we all recognize that the learning experience is more important than the test, but we are all stuck in this give and take of balancing learning and testing. I am not even sure that I would want social studies to be more heavily tested because I don't like testing, but I am frustrated as a teacher that wants her subject to be valued and understood. I think that is really what it boils down to. I want all of us in education to be taken seriously and valued like we should be.
I guess my message in this post is this: teachers that are not tested are both envious and relieved at the prospect of not being tested. We love the freedom but wish to be taken more seriously. My hope for the future of education is that we come together as an education community and show our country and community how important all our subjects are and how they work together to create a citizen that can participate in our society.
Are you looking for another fun way to open up class or review material? Kahoot is the way to do it! You will need internet access and at least 1 device for every 4 students. Kahoot is especially easy for schools who are one to one or bring your own device allowing all students to be involved individually but it is still effective if you can rent a school computer lab!
Kahoot is most often used as an interactive and competitive online game offering multiple choice or “put it in the correct order” timed questions though there are options for survey type questions as well. There are thousands of pre-made kahoots you can use! Start by logging in to createkahoot.it. You can search by using general keywords or by just browsing through popular kahoots. Can’t find one you like? Make your own! Kahoot is well organized for new users but you can look for a step by step tutorial coming soon!
Once you have either created or chosen a Kahoot you’d like to play, choose “play kahoot”. The screen will then display a pin number for students to use to enter the game at kahoot.it. You have the option to kick students out if they enter a “bad nickname” before starting the game. When you have everyone in the game, begin the Kahoot!
You’ll see bright colors and hear intense music that your students will learn to know and love. Students will try to answer by choosing the correct answer as quickly as possible in order to earn the most points. After each question there is a 5 person leaderboard on the screen everyone can see while each individual student or competing group can see their placement on their own screens. When the Kahoot is complete, there is a podium with the top three students as well as an option for students to give feedback on whether they liked the Kahoot and/or learned from it.
Something Kahoot added this past year was “Ghost Mode”! You can play the same Kahoot (all the same questions) but you are playing against your previous entries. Throw in some retro arcade music and twice as many users answering and you have a great way to review the material one more time!
Use Kahoot to review with your students, conduct PD, or even as a pre/post assessment. With a competitive setup, editable content, and engaging screen design and music Kahoot is an easy and fun tech tool to implement!
CLASSROOM PICK ME UP: TEXTBOOKS FOR AFRICA1/14/2017
Have you ever had that class that just seemed longer(or crazier!) than all the others? It becomes a continuous downer which means you and your class need a pick-me-up! Something new to try out that may or may not change how that class works. In the parts of our blog labeled “Classroom Pick Me Up”, we’ll share about one of those types of classes and a strategy we used to turn it around.
We were in a unique situation in Joplin after the tornado my first year teaching. Our high school was split into two separate buildings: the 9/10 building and the 11/12 building. I taught Pre-Algebra and Geometry in the 9/10 building and while my Geometry class was full of either advanced freshmen or “on-track” sophomores, my Pre-Algebra class culture was very different. When conferencing with these students, many of them identified themselves as “bad at math” or “in the dumb class”. It was heartbreaking.
I struggled throughout my first semester to get buy-in and effort from many of these students who had accepted that they were just never going to succeed in math. Many would do their practice problems and get them right and then fail tests with the explanation that they were the dumb kids and I just needed to accept that. Having spent time in schools in 3rd world countries where kids sat three to a desk and had very limited resources but still worked so hard to do well in school, it honestly made me a little angry that these students in a 1:1 school with internet and all kinds of resources were giving up so easily. There was no way I was going to have a repeat of this overwhelming discouraging semester.
I tried to break down the issue over Christmas break. These kids were continuously telling themselves that they were stupid and incapable of doing well in math, that they were in the dumb class. If I could reframe that mindset, maybe these kids might start to feel success. I tried to think of a day when I had seen this class be motivated or focused. If I could determine what it was that motivated them and give them that feeling every day, class may be different.
Then I remembered a guest speaker I had brought into class. She was from a local non-profit and she told of her experience using art therapy in Thailand to aid children rescued from slavery. The kids were so into it! They had asked questions and showed more enthusiasm that day than I had seen during any other guest speaker or math activity. These kids cared about helping others, so I needed to make math about helping others.
When the students came back to school in January they were no longer going to be traditionally learning Pre-Algebra. They were going to be using the class time to create textbooks for kids in Africa who didn’t have any resources. I showed off a new area in my classroom decorated with pictures and souvenirs from my trips to Africa to be used ONLY in my Pre-Algebra classes. I bought a composition notebook for each student to use.
We would start all the way back at the beginning of the school year with the content in order to be sure what we delivered to the classes in Africa had a complete text. It would be up to each student to make sure their textbook was complete with instructions (notes we would take in class), practice problems with solutions (I provided examples of practice problems while they provided the worked out solutions), and tests (made completely by students). They would also need to add their own flair to the notebooks - drawings, hints or general studying tips, encouraging notes, and more.
I didn’t know if they would really buy into the idea or not until I posted the first section of notes to copy into the “textbook”. The class was silent. They were all intent on copying everything and making sure it was legible. They asked questions so that they could make sure they put everything possible into the book to help the kids in Africa.
After each lesson I took a picture of one notebook. It had to be neat and include all the notes and practice problems and contain correct solutions. I posted these pictures online so that students who were absent could catch up.
I used a rubric to grade each section in the notebook and then the students were tested with the same unit tests that all the other Pre-Algebra classes in the building gave. Their test scores went up and I believe it is largely due to their new mindset. They weren’t in the dumb class anymore. They were in the class that was creating textbooks for kids who didn’t have them. We still had to take tests but those were just one day that they had to take off from making the textbooks. It was a necessary thing required by the school and they were fine with it so long as they could get back to doing work that would impact others.
The whole process made class so much better both for my students and myself! And it got about a million times better when we received pictures from the textbook recipients!
Maybe something like this works for you! Maybe it doesn’t…(sorry!) Regardless, remember that you are not alone with your classroom struggles! Keep pushing through and trying something new!