Tuesday, December 11, 2018

eBinders: A Place for Collection, Reflection and Recollection

A little more than a year ago I began to focus on a single question:

“Why haven’t more teachers began to look into utilizing their student’s devices as a portfolio of work?”

Please notice I say “more” teachers, as I know there are many amazing teachers who have created or dabble in the eBinder experiment. The question began egging me on the more and more due to my particular subject, Science. In Science we utilize an Interactive Science Journal or ISN. These spiral bound notebooks are meant to collect student work, glue in labs, reflect on the essential question, and organize student thought. In class they achieved many of these purposes, but i began asking myself “We have computers, can’t all of this be collected on a computer?” I especially asked this question on binder turn in day when 150 spiral bound notebooks were turned in at once for review. Oh and don't get me started on all the pages stuck together by over gluing. Looking back, i maybe shouldn't have collected these notebooks, rather I should have had scheduled progress checks, but collect them I did. As these collections days progressed I continued to ask myself “Is this the best way.”

Now as I began to become vocal about a digital ISN, many people began to take offence to my line of questioning. Some thought I was questioning their teaching or approach, this was not at all what I was doing. I was just asking questions as any scientist does when beginning an experiment. As with any class, I did not want to take away the writing component completely (especially with rocketbook, see my post HERE), I wanted traditional writing and digital collection to have a symbiotic relationship, one in which each can benefit from one another.  I believe collecting information in the written word during class is important, but so is collecting multimedia components such as pictures, videos, and vocal components to tie into your reflection later. It just so happens the only place all of these artifacts can co exist is a digital binder.

As I started my  eBinder experiment I focused on one singular question “What is the purpose of any binder?” The idea behind any binder is organization, primarily collection of work, a place to reflect on their learning process, and finally recollection of what they learned for purposes of sharing or studying. This organizational structure is "Collection, Reflection and Recollection". If we focus on this as the primary goal of the binder the creation process becomes that much clearer.  
I believe one central theme of any binder is the incorporation of storytelling. As with any story there is a beginning, middle and an end. As with a story the learning process can be easily told through the eyes of one who has learned along this journey of discovery. As with every activity in the eBinder, there should also be a familiar cadence for every entry. The structure of the binder is still in need of discussion, such as how will it be broken up? Is there a separate eBinder for each class or is there a Page setup for each class? These are discussions which I believe will be an integral part of the eBinder discussion during the strand, as it is possible different districts or sites might want to adjust their own structure that works best for them.  
Regardless of the structure, each post in the binder must reflect a single activity or task. If this task is part of a greater picture or lesson we can adjust the structure accordingly. For the purposes of this example I will use a eBinder created for a science class called the Digital Science Notebook (DSN) example HERE. This notebook was purposely separated  by units, which all have their own overarching theme. Each unit is then separated by a task (which is a lab or activity) which has a 3 tired cadence:  

  • Essential Question/Guiding Question 
    • What do I already know about this topic 
    • What do I hope to learn 
  • Learning Artifacts 
    • Handouts completed 
    • Pictures taken during activity 
    • Google Slides/Powerpoints used/created/annotated on for the activity 
    • A short description and explanation of each artifact for learning 
  • Learning Blog 
    • What was your aha moment? 
    • What do you know now that you did not before 
    • What was the most challenging part of the task? 
    • What guidance would you give to another student just starting this task? 
    • What questions do you still have about the task? 
Video entry (can be a Flipgrid or WebVideo)You may be wondering what constitutes a Learning Artifact, please see below: (A SlideSnap is a great way for students to create a learning artifact in an easy to use template, get the template HERE)

A learning artifact (or educational artifact) is an object created by students during the course of instruction. To be considered an artifact, an object needs to be lasting, durable, public, and materially present. The concept of making knowledge visible is a central component. The creation and display of these artifacts allow students opportunities for engagement, revision and feedback, all hallmarks of quality learning design.

While the questions may differ based on teacher preference or activity, the task section should always remain the same. Teachers may use digital guides through Google Slides (Slide Guides) or PowerPoint as a map to task completion. These guides may include digital breadcrumbs for understanding such as hyperlinks to activities, embedded videos, and Slide Snapshots of Learning or SlideSnaps (example HERE). These guides may also include some of the questions above to ensure students are thinking about the questions prior to finalizing them on the ebinder entry.  

When created with care, and executed with purpose, an eBinder can change the way students implement “Collection, Reflection and Recollection” of their daily work.

Thursday, November 1, 2018


One of the most important things aspects of being an educator is having a growth mindset, being one of these early adopters who gravitate towards the technology or a new idea because it provides a meaningful experience for our kids.  Even if we're not those early adopters, we at least need to have that mindset of being the part of the early majority who are going to really tip that new technology on its head to make sure it's meaningful and and beneficial to all students.  I was an early adopter of Google Glass, don’t judge me. I didn't buy Google glass to be like “WooHoo it's the new fancy thing and I want it!” No, I had an idea behind that purchase and the idea was to utilize the Google Glass as a back channel into the mind of my students while we are discussing a topic during class. I was always finding that I had many students who would not raise their hand to ask a question or I had a lot of students who were just passively listening, but they were not being part of the discussion in any way. I knew I had many learners  who wanted to ask a question but they were fearful to talk because of their accent or that they didn't have the best grasp of the English language to string together a sentence that they felt they share to the class. So what I actually did was I took those Google glass and I attached them to a Twitter feed for my students, #MarquezScience, and we started to do something called Twitter in the classroom. The feed actually went through my eyepiece and so when a student had a question instead of raising their hand they would tweet at me and I would see their question in real-time and I would be able to answer it in real-time without them feeling like they were being singled out. I was uncertain if this idea would work, but i knew i had to give it a try.
This is the kind of idea that I'm looking for with early adopters. Innovating with new technology to find a way to best fit the needs of our students. It's that innovation that excites me. Innovation that challenges my teaching norms and forces me to transform my classroom to meet the needs of all my students. I always find myself asking this question “Would my students still be in my classroom if they didn't have to be there if after attendance was taken? If there was no repercussions of getting up and leaving how many students would still stay because they found it meaningful to them?”  I always fashioned my lessons towards with these questions in mind. Because there's no one-size-fits-all in teaching, we have to find and utilize technology that's so malleable, so that you can embed things into it that is that truly meets the needs of all types of learners. Visual learners, auditory learners , tactile learners. All these different kinds of learners have to be thought about when creating a lesson, no matter if you're an English teacher, a science teacher, a social studies teacher or PE teacher. All of our lessons need to be accessible to the students so they have a pathway to have their voice heard and learning amplified.
When I start looking in all this tools that are available to teachers today, I get excited! In fact, I actually heard a term a while back called TAMASHA which helped me to understand why i was so excited to be a teacher today. I heard this term in one of the most unlikely places, it was a documentary for cricket. Don't ask me how I started watching this documentary on cricket, lets just say it was a long layover at an airport one night. In the documentary  I found out that India wanted to find a way to take this British game and make it their own. Take this British game that could last up to five days and and truly make it a faster paced game where a younger generation could enjoy it. They transformed the old outdated game, into something similar but new called T20 cricket, a fast paced game with a Bollywood style atmosphere, they said the game was now TAMASHA. They say now it is called TAMASHA because cricket in India is fun, exciting and important but also uncertain with an outcome that they don’t know.  

When I heard this story it deeply resonated with me. It reminded me of my desire to take the older methods of teaching and mash them together with something new and innovative. This is the way teaching needs to be transformed in a manner that fun, exciting, important and uncertain. TAMASHA is Teacher. As a teacher you have to have fun while you are teaching. That doesn't mean every day you're gonna walk in and be the super excited teacher,  it would be awesome if you were. I mean there's gonna be times you're like “It's Monday...how many more days until the weekend?”, which by the way the answer to that question is always five, there are always five days until the weekend if it's Monday. You just need to have that air of fun inside you, no matter what, because if you're not having fun, if you're not happy to be there, if you're not excited that you have an opportunity to change the world on a daily basis,  if that's not you, then maybe you should look for something else than being a teacher. TAMASHA also says you have to bring excitement into the classroom. Excitement doesn't mean you have to jump on your desk and and scream at the top of your lungs or or be this entertainer. Excitement means that you're making learning meaningful to the students. It means your learning, as Dave Burgess says, has a hook to draw your learners into your story. This is where you have to ask yourself, is my lesson exciting enough to keep them on the edge of their seats? For the students to want to hear more about our topic? What excitement also means is you have to make sure your lesson is important to them now, today. I remember when I was in my seventh grade math class and I was asking my teacher  “why do we have to know this?” and I was told “In 20 years you're gonna…” Students don't care about “in 20 years” They want to hear it now how is this affecting them now. Finally, and I think this is one of the most important aspects about TAMSAHA, uncertainty. As a teacher you don't have to be certain your lesson is going to work. You don't have to be certain that you know how to use a tool 100% perfectly. You don't have to be certain at all, you just have to be willing to try new things. I think a having a portion of uncertainty in any lesson is incredibly important when you're looking at teaching in the classroom, it doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact I always emphasize a great teacher doesn't mean perfect teaching, right? A great teacher is somebody that loves what they're doing, makes the learning meaningful and important to their students and tries new things to make it relevant for them. That's it. That’s TAMASHA. How are you going to embody TAMSAHA in your classroom?

Save the Mavericks

This past week I had a great chat with my lifelong friend Ron Severson. We were discussing the need for difference makers in our society, individuals who look at their profession differently. Individuals and leaders who are willing to buck the system and differentiate from the status quo. My friend Matt Miller would call these individuals Mavericks. A week later Ron forwarded me a letter from his Navy Commander with a very specific message on this exact same subject. Here is an excerpt from this letter:

"I heard a great story while in San Diego  and there's a lesson in this for
all of us.  Many years ago, behavioral scientists put five monkeys in a
glass living enclosure, hung bananas from the ceiling and provided a ladder.
The monkeys, of course, quickly figured out how to move the ladder under the
bananas.  However, when they got about 2/3 of the way to the top they got
sprayed with cold water.  All five monkey quickly figured out not to go up
the ladder because they didn't want to get sprayed with the water.  Then
they started replacing the original five monkeys one at a time.  The new
monkey would almost immediately start to climb the ladder before he/she was
tackled by the other four monkeys who knew what was going to happen next.
Eventually, all the monkeys who were sprayed with the water originally were
replaced and what they found was that any new monkey who tried to climb the
ladder was tackled even though no one in the group had ever been sprayed
with water.  Why did they do that?  Because they were afraid of getting
sprayed with water?  No. It's because that's what they were taught to do.
How many things do we do each and every day because that's what we we've
been taught to do even though we have no idea why that's the rule or policy?
I need us all to challenge the status quo when it doesn't make sense or when
we have no idea why we do it that way.   It's the only real way to get
meaningful change that will truly move the needle.  

This leads to the topic of mavericks (not the
Top Gun version) and the value they can provide to an organization and is
right in line with my consistent message that we've got to think differently
about things if we're going to get the 5X even 10X improvements we'll need
to continue to expand the advantage."

Quote:  "As we continue on this change journey and particularly as we try
and scale it, one of the key actions we all need to do is to protect our
mavericks.  They are essential to moving the organizational forward and
enabling us to get jumps in improvement, not just little steps.
Unfortunately, they can also cause internal friction and quickly excite the
auto-immune system within our organization, which acts quickly to root them
out and kill them. I see this as a particular risk in the DoN culture.

That is where I need you to ensure we are not killing them off individually
or systemically. That is an essential part of leadership I am expecting out
of each one of you

As leaders, we must protect (and attract) mavericks or we will
sub-optimize for the sake of conformity and pleasantry - that is exactly what
our enemies want.

I am expecting you to step up and give your mavericks space to operate and
organizational cover for mavericks to challenge assumptions, drive change,
and enable us to compete and win."  

This message fits right in with what can happen in an educational system which is not challenged by new ideas and fresh eyes. How the norm can become the norm, not because it is right, but because it is the way that has always existed. This happens when a new educator is given material and told here you go, no need to reinvent the wheel.  When this norm is challenged, the change makers or MAVERICKS may become chastised or criticized for rocking the boat. Sure there may be newer teachers who will gravitate towards these new pedagogies and applications of skill, but there may be others, the old guard, who may not want to see this change take place. Why such resistance? It may be a simple FEAR of technology. FEAR of the unknown. FEAR of losing relevance. FEAR of becoming obsolete. These FEARs can lead to excuses and excuses are the enemies of innovation.

This blogs hits deep in my heart as I have worked hard at becoming a lifelong learner and changemaker on my campus. The need for change was not just to better myself, it was a  necessity to create important change to my student’s learning environment. I needed to include new skills and communication techniques my students were already using in their personal lives. I needed to bring in these changes not to change the way I could teach my kids, rather it was to create a new way to REACH my kids. My success in the classroom allowed for others on my campus to follow suit and I was asked to become a 7-12 TOSA in my district.

Unfortunately, they can also cause internal friction and quickly excite the auto-immune system within our organization, which acts quickly to root them out and kill them.”

After years in this position i was told by the new high school principal I would not be returning the following year in my TOSA role. The reason, he told me, was that I knew too much and the teachers were afraid I would make them change as much as my Jr. High teachers had. I was told my forward thinking ideas intimidated the staff so i needed to be removed. I was rooted out, but i refused to be killed. My innovative spirit will never die.

“I need us all to challenge the status quo when it doesn't make sense or when we have no idea why we do it that way.”

I will never stop being a forward thinker and I will always strive to be the best I can be to change the lives of as many students I can reach. I strive to meet, converse and befriend as many educators I can to collaborate on their journey to change the world. I truly believe if we walk with the wise, we will become wise. Let’s continue our walk together. Let’s keep our innovative spirits alive no matter how many hits we take. It is our time to save the Mavericks and root out the true destroyer of education, monotony. Lastly let us remember, a great teacher is not a perfect teacher. A great teacher is a teacher who is willing to take risks and try something new to impact their students education journey. That’s it.

“It's the only real way to get meaningful change that will truly move the needle.”

The One-Pager: Amalgamation of APPsmashing Awesomeness

The One-Pager
Amalgamation of APPsmashing Awesomeness

One of my favorite extracurricular activities is finding ways to APPsmash
multiple GSuite Tools to produce a collaborative, creative, student centered
lesson. APPsmashing is a way to bring in multiple tools, such as Google Docs,
Google Slides, and other Google friendly apps and meld them together to
create an amalgamation of awesomeness. One such lesson that I love to
implement multiple times a year is my “One Pager” activity. In this activity
I assign 3 to 4 current/relevant articles to my students from sites such as
NewsELA, and ask students to independently annotate the articles to dig
deep into the meaning of the text. This annotation can be done through
pencil and paper, or entirely in a Google Doc using add-ons and extensions
(See Redefining Annotation Blog) . Once the annotation process is complete
the students move on to the “One-Pager” Google Doc to collect their thoughts
and summations of the article. As the students complete this “One-Pager” they
gather into groups of 3 with other students who also read the same article. In
a group setting, the students then discuss their findings, difference, and similarities
in what the article was trying to convey. During this discussion students realize
that even though they were reading the same text, many of their takeaways from
the article could be completely different.


Once the articles are discussed, the group then creates a Google Slide
presentation/lesson on their findings. By allowing the students to share
this document and work collaboratively, each student's point of view will be
heard and the lesson will be created in a student's authentic voice. Once the
collaboration process is complete the students need to practice their
presentation, but how can this be done effectively so they can critique
themselves on their delivery? Screencasting, as I have discovered, is the
best way to go. By getting the Google Chrome extension “Screencastify”
students can record their screen and voice, then watch their presentation
to make adjustments to slides, timing of delivery, and the addition of more
visual resources. Once the students are happy with their presentation, we
add another layer of awesomeness by turning the Google Slide into an
interactive lesson via Nearpod. By using the Google Chrome extension
“Nearpodize” we can, in one click, transform our static lesson into an
interactive presentation. Through Nearpod we can add questions, videos,
drawing activities and more with the simple click of a button. Now the
students are not just listening to a presentation, they are becoming part
of the lesson. Through this “One-Pager” activity we are actively cultivating
the idea that students can become the creators of content, all the while
participating in a fun, collaborative, creative process.


In preparing for this lesson we have to remember, as educators using
multimedia and technology is a great addition to traditional methods,
but all technology should be looked at through the goals and
achievements you have in mind for your students. Going digital
does not mean to go 100% paperless, it only means to begin to
leverage the digital techniques our digital natives are already using
outside the classroom walls.  Many educators will continue to point out
studies that show pencil and paper allow for more measurable growth.
These studies may show writing notes to be more effective than typing
notes, but that is not what we are doing here. In fact the integration of
integrated/manipulable/hands on technology use is still in its infancy
and studies are just beginning. Data is hard to gather based on the
many variables at play with technology use such as the tools being
used, who is teaching/implementing the technology in the classroom,
and the activity being studied. Blended learning is the best model to
look at when implementing technology into the classroom.  Correct
use of technology in the classroom allows for the instructor to make
the learning more meaningful by allowing their students to interact
with the lesson, not just consume it. It allows the students to become
creators of content, not just a passive audience. When used correctly,
technology can become a powerful tool to enhance and empower
student growth. Anything new will cause pause in our community,
but remember no one ever became a leader by following the status
quo, and you can’t be a leader if there is no one following you.
Through implementing technology in the classroom we can consistently
uphold our mission as educators: To be lifelong learners and to prepare
our students for tomorrow, not just today.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

CD with 3D: Culinary Design with 3D Printing

CD with 3D
Culinary Design with 3D Printing

How can we infuse technology into classes that do not see technology as a benefit to their curriculum? Follow me on a journey of discovery as I use CAD and a 3D printer to amp up culinary design of a cake before I attempt to bake!

In today’s world we can now become novices to experts in anything with the help of Youtube, Pinterest and Social Media. With the help of these digital resources I have become a:

Street Sign Creator, Firepit Pergola Builder, Shed Designer, BBQ Transformer and Playroom Architect

Yet there is one thing I have always wanted to be which is easier said than done… a great Dad! Now I know there is no one way a father can become a great dad, but I wanted to create a tradition where my kids would be able to say “I loved it the way dad always…” One tradition I always keep going is to dress up as Santa on Christmas morning for daughter and nieces, just like my grandpa always did. But besides the perfect pillow, there isn't much effort put into this tradition. I wanted to do something more. I wanted to show how much I cared by learning a new skill and making a tradition out of that. I decided to become the baker of my daughters birthday cakes. So off to pinterest I went to find the perfect cake to bake.

As I always emphasize to my students, preparation is key to any new project, or as my grandpa used to say “measure twice, cut once.” With wood and stone preparing and measuring is pretty easy, but with cake a mistake can set you back hours. So I was stuck with deciding how perfectly design my cake before any batter was mixed. At first I started to sketch out my design on paper, but i could not get my vision from my brain to translate over to the blueprint. How could I create a rendering that would best execute my design and vision. The answer was CAD, TinkerCAD to be precise. I would use the 3D design software to design my cake.

The main reason I decided to use TinkerCAD as my medium is the pre-cut shapes already to use for my design. The shapes could be resized to “become” the exact size and shape of the plans I already had available to me in my kitchen. By resizing and stacking the shapes I was able to create an exact replica of what my brain was showing me.

Below is what I was able to create in TinkerCAD using only the size and shapes of pans I had in my Kitchen:

I was then able to print out my design using a Makerbot 3D printer to use as reference during the actual building of the cake. Now I know this seems like a lot of pre-work, but I am an extreme planner and do not mind spending extra time on preparation if it means the final product will be that much better. This is the same mindset we need to ensure is encouraged in our classrooms on a daily basis. It is not always about the final product, but the steps you took to get there. If the project does not turn out the way you wanted, you can always go back to your preparation and determine what you need to fix or do better next go around.

Oh and how did the actual cake turn out? Well it’s not going to win any competitions on Cake Wars, but for a two year olds party and a dad’s attempt made out of love, I think it turned out pretty well:

This activity would fit perfectly in a Home Economics class, or a Culinary class on your campus. To infuse technology into a class which normally would see no use for it is such a SWEET idea!!!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Kahoot! BootCoin

The Kahoot! BootCoin
Think BitCoin but more FUN!

I raved about Kahoot in an earlier post HERE, that Kahoot is the ultimate “Gateway Tech” for classroom teachers. Even the most wary of the bunch can see, when used correctly, the power of gamifying the classroom through competition. Because Kahoot is so easy to use and enticing for teachers I saw a problem begin to emerge… Kahoot resistance.  Now I use resistance here in a few different ways, but all lead to the same problem. You see, in my school I felt like the Scientist Sir Alexander Fleming and his discovery of Penicillin. Penicillin become the wonder cure of its day. The simple introduction of this wonder drug helped to save lives and cured diseases once thought incurable with almost instant results. It became the ultimate weapon against human ailments. My Discovery of Kahoot all those years ago, felt the same way. The simple introduction of Kahoot, helped me cure the diseases of normality in the classroom. It allowed Teachers the ease of implementation and helped teachers see near instant results of student understanding in the classroom. Kahoot started a revolution at our school… and then the resistance emerged.

Penicillin was seen as a cure all for all ailments. So much so that it started to become overused. The drug constant usage in hospitals and prescriptions lead rise to a resistance of the cure, it gave rise to superbugs. In school Kahoot started to run into the same problems. Because of its ease of use, it was being “prescribed” everyday, in every class. This constant use and the students constant exposure to it began to create a resistance in the students, it started to lose its desired effect in the classroom. Students began to say “Kahoot Again?” or “Let’s see how long we can make this game go.” Kahoot targeted programs also began to emerge, such as Kahoot Smasher, Kahoot Hack, and Kahoot Spam. With all these problems roaring their ugly head, I had to ask myself “Is Kahoot Dead?”. I refused to believe it. I would not let my discovery diminish. I couldn’t change the game, but maybe I could change the way the game was played.

From this Kahoot resistance, I envisioned a new kind of game play. One in which I could build upon the competitive nature of my students. One in which students could physically play a part in their success within the game. To bring Kahoot back to its glory, I introduced:
The Kahoot! BootCoin

What is the Kahoot Boot coin? How do you use it? How… Ok Let me explain. The Kahoot Boot game feature is like a wild card during the game. As the students play and compete they may just be a few seconds slower than other students or they may have accidentally clicked the wrong button and selected the wrong answer moving them down the leaderboard. To put them back on top they can play their “Kahoot BootCoin”. When this coin is played I, the teacher, must Boot out the student who is in first place. Now this at first may appear to be mean spirited, but the student getting the boot may choose to play one of their coins to nullify the one being played. This extra competition in the game helped me to re-gamify Kahoot for my students, and bring back the joy of Getting their Kahoot on!

How do the students earn a BootCoin? Well just like the early days of BitCoin, where I gained inspiration for the BootCoin, they have to “mine” or work for it. One way is to win a Classic or Challenge Kahoot game. If you end up on top you earn a BootCoin for use in a future game. To make sure all students have a chance to compete I have many challenge games going on at once, at varying levels of difficulty. Students can also earn a BootCoin by helping another student in class, portraying a random act of kindness on campus, or going above and beyond in a classroom project or presentation. I have not even scratched the surface of all the varying ways students could earn a BootCoin. The coin was designed in TinkerCad, so when I need more, all I do is 3D print more on my trusty MakerBot.

By turning to the BootCoin, the resistance faded and a new era of gameplay emerged in my class. Students began to strategize when, how and if they should play a coin. Students discussed when was the best time to create a coin. Students began to form alliances, which were consistently broken, in order to gain more BootCoin. At one point students talked about selling BootCoin, but i absolutely put a stop to that before it started. Because of this new addition to Kahoot, nore students were willing to help each other in class, stay after to get extra help for understanding, and be overly kind to others outside the classroom. Only time will tell if this new addition will stay immune to resistance, but in the meantime I am enjoying this new currency for learning.  

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Redefining Annotation

Redefining Annotation
Ditch That PDF and Hyper-Annotate

Learning how to read and annotate text is an important skill all our students need to truly understand stories, articles, and *GULP* textbooks. This is a skill which needs to be taught and learned over time to master. The hard reality of the situation is though, most college level texts are now distributed in PDF or other digital formats for our students to manipulate. In the face of this new reality, it has become a necessity to teach our younger students the skills of digital annotation and manipulation. With digital devices we encourage students not to not simply substitute traditional annotated techniques with digital tools, but rather level up their annotation practices to create a redefinition of the entire model. Below we will see how one single PDF can be transformed into a living annotated document with a few simple tricks, tips, and (...).

Your first step is to locate a PDF which you wish to have your students annotate. My favorite site to grab up to date current event articles for any subject and lexicon level is NewsELA. Once in NewsELA  find the article you wish to use and select the “Print Icon”, of course we are only going to digitally print it as a PDF. NewsELA will ask how you would like the article, select “Article Only”. This will redirect you to a chrome PDF “preview” screen where you will select the download icon in the upper right. You now have the PDF of the article which you will then upload to your Google Drive.

Once the PDF article is in your Google Drive, right click on the file, select “Open with” → Google Docs. The PDF with instantly be transformed into an editable Google Document, after a little formating takes place. The article is now ready to be distributed out to our students via Google Classroom. Now we can get to hyping up our annotations.

It’s not paper, Supersize your workspace and Change your Orientation

Hey, this is a digital document! Because of this fact, we are not limited to the confines of a 8.5x11 piece of wood pulp. So let's supersize our workspace. Go to file in the upper right corner of the Google document. Select “Page Setup”. Change the orientation to landscape, then change the paper size to something larger, I like the “Tabloid” option. Your students now have a supersized workspace to annotate like a rockstar.

Split text up with columns and tables

Annotations work best when you have a space to leave your thoughts/notes/comments on the article as you read it. To help with this great strategy why not create a 2 column table. First copy all the text on the document by using “Ctrl+A” then “Ctrl+C”. Now delete all the text, select “Table” on the toolbar and create a 2x1 column table. Now paste the copied text into the left column by using “Ctrl+v”. Now you have your text on the left and a place for your students to write on the right. But wait there's more! Add a 1x1 single box table underneath each section of the text and type “Summary”. Want a third of fourth column? To insert new Column, “Right-Click” in current column, then select “Insert Column Right”. A digital document is malleable, it has no set size, shape or form, make use of its transformational properties! Now you have a space for the students to summarize that portion of the text.

“Talk to the Text” with the Comment tool

One of my favorite strategies when reading an article or text is to “Talk to the Text”. This refers to the reader commenting on what the article is making them think/feel when they read that portion of the text. Statements like “This sentence is confusing” or “I can relate to this scenario by…” . This strategy can be easily done with the comment tool built right into the Google Docs tools. Just highlight the text you want to “Talk” to, you will see a comment icon pop up to the right of the document. Click this icon then type in your comment. Easy Peasy!

Highlight and Group text with Highlighter Add-On

Here is a great way to allow your students to create easy highlights on their document, with each highlight representing a specific task, and then extract them to automatically create a color coded table of those highlights. First, in your Google Doc go to the Add-on option on the toolbar. Select “Get Add-ons” and search for “Highlight Tool”, you want the one as seen in the picture below, then select “Add to Drive”.

Once you have added the tool, it should now appear as an option in your Add-Ons. Open the Highlight Tool, then select Highlighter Library. Here you can select your Highlight colors and label them for whatever purpose you would like such as: “Main Topic”, “Confusing Statement”, “Will be on Test” ect. Select save and then begin to highlight the text. Once you have concluded your highlights, go to the bottom of the highlight tool where it reads “Extract Highlights”l and select “By Color” and extract to “This Document”. The tool will then extract all your highlights and place them in a color coded table at the bottom of your document. Amazing tool to help “collect” your students thoughts for easy reference.

Add relevant images using the “Explore” tool

One of my favorite activities to include in text transformation is the skill of identifying images to support the topics of the text. Google docs has made this process a snap with its embedded “Explore” tool, found in the bottom right corner of any document. This “Explore” tool allows students to research relevant images to the text. After clicking on the “Explore” tool it will automatically search the article text for content, then bring up images it thinks will be relevant. If the images it suggests do not fit what your students have in mind, they can use the search bar at the top of the tool to make another search. To add the image all they need to do is drag and drop it into their favored location on the document. Once brought in, I ask my students to label the image and explain why they brought it in and how it relates to the text.

Add student created images or models with Drawing option

When standard images won’t do, why not insert a drawing. At times I want students to create a visual of the text. This can be a recreation of a item described in the text, a mind map of their thoughts about the text, or a model of the content being described. Students can even bring in an image which they believe is relevant, then label/annotate over this image for a greater impact.

Hyperlink outside learning resources (websites/videos),and leave “Sticky Notes” on these resources.

The “Explore” tool is also a great place to locate supportive texts and articles on the internet to further student knowledge of the article content. Simply click on the “Explore” tool in the bottom right corner and search keywords for related articles and websites. Students can visit the website to expand their knowledge or fact check information found in the article being read. If the website was helpful the students can then hyperlink the website to their text and comment on the reason they found the article helpful. Students can even easily cite the website as a footnote by simply clicking on the icon next to the article link in the explore tool. The citation can be placed in MLA, APA, and chicago format with an easy click of the “Three Dots” next to the web results icon in the explore tool.

An extra step students can take is leaving a “Sticky Note” on the website they visited and leave information behind to review later. This digital sticky note can be place right where the student gathered information they deemed helpful, and leave a note as to why they choose to use it. To use the sticky note, simply install the Google Chrome extension Note Anywhere so it is available in your extension toolbar at the top of your Chrome browser. When your student is on the webpage they click on the “Note Anywhere” extension and a sticky note will pop up. Move the note anywhere on the webpage. This note will now be on this webpage until it is removed by the user.

Create artifacts and Short Video Screencasts of learning with Awesome Screenshot Extension.

How many times have you left a comment or taken notes only to come back to them days later and not know what the heck you were talking about or referring to? Now we can leave short screencast reminders/tutorials for any idea, concept or tool. To unleash this powerful new strategy add the Google Chrome extension “Awesome Screenshot” to your chrome browser. Once it is installed, click on the “Awesome Screenshot” icon in your Chrome extension toolbar. This will bring a dropdown box with many different choices to take a screenshot of your page. If you simply want your students to take a “picture” of a certain portion of a webpage have them select “Capture Selected Area”. This will take a picture of the area of their choice and then annotate over it with ink, highlights or text to create an artifact of learning. This image can now be added to the document in the pictures column of the Google Doc.

This artifact of learning is great, but sometimes you need a visual and narration to remember key points of your learning. When this is the case select “Record my Screen” from the Awesome Screenshot extension menu. This will allow your students to record their screen and voice for up to 30 seconds. Select “Record my Screen”, turn the microphone option on, then select, start recording. This video clip is then saved to the local drive or in Google Drive and can be easily hyperlinked to their document for easy review later.

It’s NOT a Substitution task

Technology is meant to advance our knowledge and leverage the 21st century skills our students will need in college or their next step in life. Simply substituting handwritten notes or annotations, with a digital medium is not acceptable. We must take which is not possible with traditional tools and redefine possible with digital tools. Try one or two strategies in your class to get started, and add more as your students begin to understand their purpose. Some of the tips above are simple, other are a little more complicated, yet all leverage the power of the digital device to make the impossible, possible.