Using Add-Ons in the Classroom

I’m a bit of a fan of using Google’s Add-ons in Docs, Sheets and Forms. In fact I pretty much rely on them for everything that I do. I’ve been asked a few times which my favourites are, so here goes:

Flubaroo

Flubaroo allows you to grade Google Form submissions using a form submission as the correct answers. Flubaroo was made by a Googler, and you can find it as an add on in Sheets. 

I like Flubaroo because it saves a mountain of time. Teaching Math I ask students to complete their homework and then type in their numerical answer to the form. I ask them to round and then mark their answers using Flubaroo. If you use %or between your answers then you can have a list of multiple correct answers. You can also assess multiple choice answers (although Forms itself does a good job of this through the quizzes feature). I like that you can share the results back to the students with the correct answers included, and you get the choice between emailing the results, or sharing them in a Google Doc (this is great if you’re not using Gmail).

FormMule

If I need to automate emailing someone on a form submission, then formMule is my go to tool. It’s easy to use, it always works and it will translate the message for you into another language. I’ve used this for workshop sign ups, contact forms, registration forms and even appointment scheduling and follow up.

Edit-o-Matic

I wrote this really basic add on to retrieve the edit URLs of submitted form responses. It works in Sheets.

Essentially this does one thing, it goes and fetches the form edit URL and puts it into a sheet next to the form submission. I use this for homework assignments to send the student the link to change their answers if they have been for help. It cleans up the sheet and avoids multiple submissions from the same person. It should be noted that if you have your form limited to one submission per person, the edit URL won’t work.

Copy Down

This simple add on copies the formula in a cell and pastes it in the cells below whenever a form is submitted.

This is really useful when you’re dealing with data that you need to manipulate that you’re collecting in a form. Let’s say you need to split the first and last name of a student, you just use an =split () and then each time it will get copied down and the cells get adjusted! Genius.

Doctopus & Goobric

If you assess using Google Classroom you’re going to want to look into this combo. Doctopus is a sheets add on and Goobric a Chrome Extension.



Simply put Doctopus allows you to retrieve assignments from Google Classroom, and Goobric let’s you then assess them using a Rubric. It makes Google Classroom marking far faster. This video from Jennie Mageira is a must watch.

EquatIO

This isn’t really an add on but it’s so freaking awesome that I have to mention it.

EquatIO is a product from Texthelp which allows users to input math via either text, voice or handwriting. It then converts this inputted math into ‘real’ look math formatted as you would write it on paper. You can edit equations and it will also do text to speech on equations.

Others

I’ve also used apps script to develop custom solutions to simple problems such as the student progress tracker that I’ve previously written about.
Which tools do you use which you can’t survive without?

Why do I love Google for Education?

Most of you know that I’m a Google advocate. Most people know me as as a math teacher. What a lot of people don’t know is that I actually have a computer science degree and taught ICT (Information Communication Technology) for five years in the UK.

So what does this matter? Well… we taught office skills, write a letter, make a spreadsheet, use a database, (yes all important skills potentially for the workplace), and this was dull, it was dull as dull can be. We used Office, now don’t get me wrong, Office is great in the office, but it’s expensive (I know you can get it for free for edu), cumbersome, and not designed for Education.

A couple of years ago my district decided to go Google, I didn’t really know what this meant, but the computer science geek inside me wanted to find out more. As I found out more I realised how perfect GSuite is for education. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Everything saves all the time, and with revision history you can always go back – this is great because it means students don’t lose their work anywhere near as often.
  • You can access content anywhere, even if you don’t have an internet connection.
  • One account allows you to access all your services, but also allows you to log into some of my favourites like RemindGoFormativeEquatIOEdPuzzle, Scratch and more.
  • Classroom – I can’t say enough about classroom, it manages your entire document workflow with assignments. 
  • AppsScript – if what you want GSuite to do, it doesn’t do, you can find, or write an add on to do it. From finding edit URLs for form submissions, to document merges and automated emails.
  • Forms – in built quizzes and assessment features
  • Explore – allows students to carry out research from right within the core apps and cite their images properly.
  • Collaboration – everything is sharable, students can complete group work from home without needing to meet up.
  • Suggested edits and comments make peer editing and grading simple.

And it’s not just these things that make me love Google for Education. The training center, dedicated to teaching teachers how to use the tools to empower student learning, their certified Trainer program which shows that you have a solid understanding of the tools and the Innovator program, which showcases innovative educators. The surprising thing is that all of this costs $0. 

As #ISTE17 continues this week, one thing is also guaranteed, and that is there will be exciting new developments all focused on educators. These new features, products and programs will allow students to achieve more, teachers to adapt to the current education shift better and for parents to be reassured that their child is learning the vital digital literacy skills required for today’s workplace. 

Google for Education makes learning exciting, simple and empowers both students and teachers. 

∑quatIO Changing Math EdTech in GSuite

I’ve been a huge fan of g(Math) since its inception. Its creator John McGowan has been so responsive to my friend Emily Fitzpatrick and my constant nagging for features and functionality in the product. John contacted me in January excited about a new project that he (and TextHelp as they now own g(Math)) were working on called ∑quatIO. Obviously as a Math teacher and an EdTech obsessive, I wanted to get to try it out.

What is ∑quatIO? Well simply put it is a Chrome Extension which runs atop the Chrome browser. It allows you to create equations in both Google Docs & Google Forms, but the magic really happens when you use it with Forms. Let’s take a look:

First of all I created a form about Pythagoras. As soon as I viewed my form in view mode, the ∑quatIO symbol appeared next to the question prompting me to use it to fill in my answer.

EquatIO 1

We can see this in play here with the blue boxes.

 

Next I clicked the button and typed in the equation into the editor at the bottom of the screen. I got the editor to appear by clicking on the logo Icon.png in the Chrome toolbar.

EquatIO 2

Then clicking on the Insert Math button sends the equations into Google Forms as an equation!

EquatIO 3

The magic starts to happen when your equations become more complex like this one, using the Handwriting editor makes life so much easier, and you can correct mistakes by typing in the box on the right hand side.

EquatIO 4

 

 

EquatIO 5

Inserting the Math into the form makes it easier for students to see what they are entering and also makes it far more pleasant to look at than earlier solutions which were given in g(Math).

Finally as the teacher looking at the form submissions we can see that the equations carry all the way through into the form responses.

EquatIO 6

So this is a fairly simple example but ∑quatIO can actually do far more. Not only does it predict as you type. This is a load of gibberish, but you begin to see the power behind it:

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All of these features are available in both Forms and Docs. The power of this in the math classroom is incredible. It has been difficult thus far to get students to enter math into Google Forms and into Docs due to the clunkyness of equation editors and the difficulty of using LaTeX (which is still available here). I hope to bring you some more blog posts on using ∑quatIO in the Math Class.

∑quatIO will launch on April 4th

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Mathematical Mindsets

As a Math teacher sometimes I find it hard to integrate technology into my classes. As a Google for Education Certified Trainer and Innovator, teachers in my building and my PLN turn to me for ideas as to how they can integrate technology into their classrooms. Recently I have been trying to do this more and more, and I have discovered a number of things:

  1. Integrating technology doesn’t have to mean that we’re using technology every class.
  2. It doesn’t require every student to have access to a device.
  3. Even in a school with few devices, it is not that hard to achieve.

Substitution of Tasks

So I’m guilty of a few SAMR no no’s… The first is digitising a task, I suppose that first S, I’m just taking a worksheet and making it so that it is now digital, or instead of handing in the sheet, they are now completing it using a Google Form. Now in a lot of subjects this would be a ‘big’ deal, but actually in Math it can be really useful. Look at this scenario:

Students are given a homework assignment where they have to work out the lateral area and the surface area of different shapes. Each shape has a question asking for the area of a face, the lateral area and the surface area. Students then submit their answers to each question via a form.

Once our results are in, we can assess these using a tool such as Flubaroo, this not only saves a lot of time looking at whether students questions are right or wrong, it also allows us to analyse particular questions, identifying the low scoring ones, find trends and address those trends in the next class. This has a number of advantages over paper:

  1. The amount of time required to correct them is vastly reduced
  2. Each question is broken down, both by student and by class, allowing you to see an overview
  3. The low scoring questions can be grouped or tagged, and we can send an additional assignment to those students to see if they now have the correct skills.

I’ve also been using Gradecam (who gave me a free year @ ISTE2016) and I thought that it would be something that I’d never use. I love it, not only can you get it to mark MC questions (which I’m not a fan of) you can use it to get marks into a sheet by just colouring the numbers on the sheet and scanning the sheets at the end.

Redesigning the Lesson

At Innovator Academy I got given a copy of the Hyperdoc handbook. I was inspired by it’s content and the way in which I could get students to use rich content whilst completing a task in Google Docs. I’ve used them for a variety of topics including proportions, Linear Equations and more. As I continued to explore the idea of Hyperdocs, and the simplicity of them, I came across GoFormative, which allows you to combine questions, text, videos, drawing canvases and images. Students can also inlcude math and diagrams as they work through the content, and explore external content through links. Classes can be imported from Classroom and assignments pushed out to classroom automatically.

The idea of getting students to work through classwork at their own rate is something which clearly has its advantages. There are plenty of other tools which can allow you to do this, but this has to be one of my favourites.

Exploring Ideas

Another thing which I’m trying to do more of is explore ideas in Math, making them more tangible. I think that it’s a lot easier to learn about a concept in Math when you’re not a strong student, if you can see it, feel it or picture it in your mind. That’s why recently when I’ve been doing a unit on Solids I’ve done two different activities with my students. The first was looking at the nets of a cube. We explored how many ways there were of designing a cubes net. To do this we used paper squares which we taped together.

Once we’d done this activity I asked them to produce a video about their findings. Some used Explain Everything, some used iMovie and another group asked if they could use Book Creator instead! It was interesting to see how they interpreted the task and the results were somewhat mixed.

The second activity that we did was exploring the surface area of a sphere using Clementines. I asked the students to draw around their clementines circumference five times, then to peel their clementine and to see how many circles the peel would fill. Most found that it was around 3.5 circles, which led to a whole new discussion on why it wasn’t 4 circles. I loved the fact that this required zero technology and that it was so easy to achieve with a simple piece of fruit, which most of them consumed afterwards. The most important thing is that they will always remember how to establish the surface area of a sphere, and undestand why the equation is what it is.

Discovering Patterns & Functions

Over the last week I’ve spent some time look at functions and patterns with my Grade 8 class. They’ve been struggling with the idea of creating a rule for a set of values. I’ve also been reading Jo Boaler‘s book Mathematical Mindsets, which made me think about trying an exploratory activity to introduce the concepts around functions.

I’ve looked at the NCTM’s Illuminations site a few times, and struggled to find anything which I could relate to the topic that I was currently teaching, but this time I came across an activity where students made different length trains using Cuisenaire Rods. Unfortunately in my school we didn’t have any rods, so I ended up using snap cubes which I created different length rods with.

Using the activity sheet provided on the website, students began to explore how many ways they can make each length train from length 1 to length 5. As they started to work a lot of them began by looking at the length 5 train which was a hard place to start. I encouraged them to look at the smaller lengths first.

As they began to explore, they discovered that there was a pattern to their work and some of them started to try to figure out the rule that went with the pattern, as I asked them to find how many ways there were to make 6, 10 and 32 length trains (they had quickly realised that working it out with the rods was impossible).

Almost all of the students realised that the values were doubling each time, and quickly wrote out every combination all the way up to 32. Once they had done this, they started thinking about the link between the length of the train and the number of ways to create a train of that length. Someone mentioned that 2 should be the base, and then another said that the pattern was 2 to the exponent of the length of the train.

img_20161019_134710They tested this theory but discovered that it was flawed, and this led to the realisation that if you divided the answer by 2 then you arrived at the correct answer. I hadn’t been expecting this to be the solution that they came up with. At this point I prompted them to think about which value they were actually finding and they came up with the fact that the exponent should be x-1. We wrote all of this onto a giant post-it sticky note  showing the rule and all of the steps. I also wrote on their solution to ensure that I’d treated them as sense makers. (if I’m honest they were more excited about the size of my post-it than they were about the fact they’d found the solution to the problem).

img_20161020_133330Next class I introduced them to Pascal’s triangle, using a sheet which I had created (you can use any template). I then asked them to write a table of how many ways there were of making a train of each length using 1 block, 2 blocks, 3 blocks, 4 blocks and 5 blocks. As they began to do this and fill out the tables by drawing their patterns, none of them actually realised what they had found, it was only as they began to count and fill in a numerical table that they slowly one by one realised that they had written out the first few rows of Pascal’s triangle. They then made the link to the fact that they now knew how many ways there were of making a train of each length using a certain number of blocks.

We had gone from not understanding rules to a situation where students could conceptually explain what was happening, and identify the patterns in what they were seeing and doing. The final work is now stuck on the classroom wall for them to look back at, and a number of other classes have looked at it and talked about it too.

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Final work presented on the wall in my classroom

 

 

 

It’s only the beginning…

On the 5th October I was one of the luckiest people alive to be able to attend the Google Innovator Academy held at Google Canada’s Head Office in Toronto. The journey had begun 4 weeks earlier, when I received an email telling me that I had been accepted to the Innovator program. You can read more about my feelings to being accepted here.

Day 1

I met fellow innovator Jody Meacher at the airport as we were on the same flight and we headed off to Toronto!

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Welcome to Google Canada

We were told to arrive for 4pm at the reception of the Google Office where we were met by our coaches (Sylvia Duckworth, Sandra Chow, Rafranz Davis, Jeffery Humphries, Afzal Shaikh and Donnie Piercey), the organisers (Becky Evans from the Google For Education Team, Michelle Armstrong, Wendy Gorton and Mark Wagner from EdTechTeam) and all of the new cohort of innovators.

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My Name Badge

After being escorted upstairs (and being told what we can and cannot take photos of!) we were led into a room for the welcome and introductions. We formed our groups (we decided to be GSweet7) and met our coaches (our was Rafranz Davis). We also introduced our American friends to Canada by performing a dance for them

 

Then the fun began. We went off in our groups with our Breakout EDU boxes which we had been sent to us in the mail. We had to work out each others Breakout puzzle and then they told their story. It was a great way to get to know one another, and really broke the ice. We also took part in a larger Breakout Challenge in one of Google’s meeting rooms, which found us pulling the room apart to find clues. We failed… but again we got to work together!

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After we had got to know one another it was time for dinner, and I got to meet someone who I have known for a few years online being a GEG Leader and a Google Education Trainer, Justin Lacap. Justin makes all the things happen in the background for the GEGs, Innovators and Education Trainers!


Day 2

Day 2 started with Breakfast and in typical Google style it was healthy and fresh! Once we were fed, and ready to go we were led into a room which can only be described as incredible. It had a stage, a full production suite and was totally awesome.

Once we had got seated in our teams, and listened to introductions from Becky, we were given a lightbulb challenge. Each team was given the task of building a lightbulb out of pencil lead, D batteries, a mason jar, a foil tray and alligator clips. Not only was this task a lot of fun, it was another great team building activity and allowed us to begin to communicate with one another, getting the creative juices flowing. The feeling of achievement once the lead lit up, was incredible and the whole task was a lot of fun.

img_20161006_095428Once the task was over, we were introduced to Liz Anderson the Head of Adoption for Google for Education. Liz’s story and her message were not only inspirational, but also made us feel like we were joining a larger family. Mark Wagner then followed telling us about previous innovators successes. People like my friend and colleague Tanya Avrith who rolled out a 1:1 chromebook program in my school board, and the incredible Les McBeth whom I have had the pleasure of working with at MapleSyrupEDU over the past 12 months. I was fortunate to spend time with a lot of members of MapleSyrupEDU over the three days I was at the Innovator Academy. Michelle Armstrong, Jeff Humphries, Sandra Chow, Marie Andree Ouimet, Sylvia Duckworth, Les McBeth and Charity Helman.

We were then introduced the idea of Sprints and Sparks. The rest of the two days were split into a series of activities, where we were either being inspired (sparks) or we were working on our project (sprints). The sprints were all based around Design Thinking and led by Les McBeth from Future Design School (She was also in the MTV 16′ Innovator Cohort), and we were walked through a range of activities from Crazy Eights to developing and prototyping our ideas.

It was during this process of developing our ideas that Larissa Aradj and I realised that our projects were almost identical, and we decided to combine our projects. This allowed us to focus on the rest of the time we had as a team rather than working on two separate projects.

In amongst our Sprints, we were given sparks, these included:

  • How to write your signature story by Rafranz Davis
  • Zooming out by Sandra Chow
  • Sketchnoting by Sylvia Duckworth
  • Learning to Juggle by Donnie Piercey
  • A Maker Activity with Little Bits by Afzal Shaikh
  • The Power of Google Maps by Aaron Brindle (Google Canada)
  • An update from the Google for Education Team

The end of Day 2 saw us eat dinner, and be treated to an experience of what it is like to work at Google by having massages, a tour of the offices, and caricatures. A group of us then headed up the CN Tower.

Day 3

Day 3 saw us follow Sprints & Sparks again throughout the day, learning more about Design Thinking and working on our Sprints. Before we wrapped up we took some time to share what our takeaways were from the academy, Wendy led us in celebrating our achievements and learning. Mine was design thinking. Once we had shared someone ran down the line, and we shared with the next person.

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The day culminated in our Graduation.

After graduation we were asked to pick a mentor to work on our project with, as Larissa and I are working together we get two mentors! We then took a group photo and celebrated with champagne and sushi!

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The future

So now we look forward, the inspiration from these 46 amazin people may be over, however, the inspiration inside is still burning, and with this we move forward with our projects and put our passion into changing the future of Education.

Larrisa and I will be working on an academy for students to learn skills to present their passions to teachers and students, to inspire others to use the skills which they have learned. We hope to empower a generation of students, and allow them to change their education.

Becoming an Innovator

This week I got the amazing, and exciting news that I had been accepted into the Google Innovator Academy in Toronto this October.

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My friend Tanya Avrith said that “The Certified Innovator program is where the lone wolf meets their pack. It’s where the dreamers, the disrupters, the idealists meet with the intention of being the change”. Tanya became a Google Certified Teacher (now the Innovator program) in 2012. To me it’s more than this, it’s the opportunity to join a family, a  family which has been growing since 2005 when the Google Teacher Academy first began. Since then it has changed adapted and gained more people on it’s way. Now 11 years in a family has formed, they congregate at conferences, summits, workshops and online. A support network, a resource, a group of people cleverer and geekier than I am.

Then it struck me, I’m going to become one of these people, one of this elite group of people who can call themselves Certified Innovators, can I live up to this? Can I make my project become a reality? Then I though more, someone thought that my project was one of the best out of hundreds of applications which were received for the Innovator Academy, I thought it was good, but I seriously doubted that it was good enough. This means that I have a lot to live up to…

So just in case you haven’t yet grasped the scale of this, 2-3 times a year thousands of educators apply to be one of 20-40 people accepted to be a part of one of the most coveted and honored programs in Educational Technology… this is HUGE.

My project looks at how we can better use students as a professional development resource for teachers. I was also honored to be able to have Davis Carlson help out with my video, he is an incredible Grade 10 student from Calgary, Alberta who is already working with Teachers, providing training in his areas of expertise.

So now this incredible journey begins, and I have to live up to some of the people who have come before me, some of whom I have the honor to call my friends, too many to mention, but all incredible and amazing people.

I’ll keep blogging along the way, but for now I’m off to eat some more humble soup and stand in awe at the scale of what I still have to achieve.

Using Google Apps Script to Power a Student Review Checklist

So as the end of the year approaches, I’ve been wanting to power my year review with some hard data. I could look back at tests, and at activities that we’ve done in class, but more often than not I find that the students actually know themselves if they can do a topic. So this year I’ve combined Google Classroom with a little bit of Apps Script. My first step was to create a checklist, (I’m lucky in Quebec that all of our topics are already broken down into a table), so I put all these topics and skills into a Google Sheet and then used a validation drop down next to the skill (Data > Validation). You can see the end result of that here:

Template

Once I had done this, my next step was wanting to share it with my students, so I did that in Google Classroom, and set it as an assignment which they need to complete. I also set Classroom to make a copy for each student, as this is important for the next step.

I made a copy of my template and then I wrote a little bit of apps script. This script will go and look in a folder in Drive which you tell it, and then return all of the files  in that folder with their ID, Name and the e-mail address of the owner. Here is the code:

function onOpen() {
 var ss = SpreadsheetApp.getActiveSpreadsheet();
 var findFilesInFolder = [ {name: "Find Files in Folder", functionName: "search"}];
 ss.addMenu("Find Files in Folder", findFilesInFolder);
 }
 
 function search() {
 var ui = SpreadsheetApp.getUi();
 var response = ui.prompt('I need the Folder ID to Search', 'May I know the Folder ID?', ui.ButtonSet.OK);
 
 // Process the user's response.
 if (response.getSelectedButton() == ui.Button.OK) {
 var folderId = response.getResponseText();}
 else {
 Logger.log('The user clicked the close button in the dialog\'s title bar.');
 }
 var ss = SpreadsheetApp.getActiveSpreadsheet();
 var sheet = ss.getActiveSheet();
 var id = folderId;
 var folder = DriveApp.getFolderById(id);
 var files = folder.getFiles()
 var output = [];
 while (files.hasNext()) {
 var file = files.next();
 var owner = file.getOwner().getEmail();
 var fileID = file.getId();
 var fileName = file.getName();
 output.push([fileID,owner,fileName]);
 }
 sheet.getRange(2, 3, output.length, 3).setValues(output);
 }

Once you’ve got this running then you will see a new menu item in your GoogleSheet ‘Find Files in Folder’

Menu

Clicking on that menu will prompt for a folder ID, you can choose the Folder ID of your assignment from Google Classroom by going to Google Drive > Classroom > Class > Assignment and then looking at the URL https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B_FV9bBxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

We want to copy the bold part of the link, everything after folders/ to end end of the URL and then paste this in the prompt box.

You will now get all the files pasted into your sheet, I suggest you do this in a separate worksheet in your Google Sheet and then reference this information.

I used =transpose(range) to get my data in columns from rows

Then I used =importrange(ReferenceofFileID,RangeToImport) to import all the information from the students sheets. You can see the final file here:

Example

Digital Citizenship Shouldn’t Stop at the Door

I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of teachers, administrators, parents and students over the last 12 months. I’ve worked both as an ‘Itinerant Teacher’ (a type of consultant) and as a teacher during this time, seeing a side of education that I had never seen before. It was during my time as an Itinerant Teacher than I began to realise that Digital Citizenship needs to go further, and then over the last few months I have seen more and more evidence. Here are some highlights:

  • I sat in a meeting where a PR company representative said it was OK to take copyrighted images from Google, alter them and then publish them on Facebook as a Meme – just so you know… this isn’t okay, it’s stealing, plagiarizing…
  • I went to a workshop where someone turned up with so much adware and malware on their machine they couldn’t actually take part in the workshop. They had been using this machine like this for months– the scary part here is how much data could have been collected not just about the user but about the students that the user had been working with on that machine.
  • A number of users gave out their usernames and passwords after receiving Phishing emails or Social Engineering emails. The message that they got sent then got forwarded to everyone else in their contacts list after the person stealing their info logged into their account – this happens everyday all around the world, and thankfully Google picked up on it and locked the person’s accounts.
  • A colleague asked me to help with their class computer, it turned out it was full of online gaming downloads that their child had downloaded. It was easy to remove but affected some of the other programs on the machine. – shouldn’t we be keeping work and personal life separate?
  • Some Grade 11’s told me that one of their teachers is ‘friends’ with them on Snapchat -fundamentally I don’t have an issue with this, it’s their personal business, but you’re opening a whole load of doors (see below)
  • Someone posted an obvious scam post in a Facebook community, as it told them to share it with a set of communities to get free stuff – things are rarely free, and if they are usually the domain name isn’t something incomprehensible. 

This all got me thinking, we spend all this time talking about Digital Citizenship with our students, showing them how to cite sources, identify scams, understand how to find good information from bad information, but we never do this with our teachers. The students are growing up in the ‘information age’ but a lot of our teachers did not, they went to school when you had to look up information on a Microfiche (if you don’t know what one of these is you can find out here) or in a database before finding the book or journal that you required on a shelf. When hanging out meant that you got together in person, not that you opened up Chrome and started up a hangout. When Facebook didn’t exist and you kept in touch with people by sending them a postcard.

Teachers are generally older than the average workforce in Canada [“In fact, the average age of these teachers is considerably higher than in the work force as a whole” – Service Canada] and this means that we need to educate them, we have a responsibility to ensure that teachers understand that:

  • Keeping your Social Media profile private is important, and being friends with students is often not a good idea. The TES in the UK have some good pointers and point out the pitfalls of not securing your Social Media profile.
  • Handing out your phone number to students so they can text you is a massive opening for accusations. Using a service such as Remind can allow you to have the same functionality whilst protecting yourself.
  • Keeping your work life online and your personal life online separate are important. Your employer has the right to look at what you do online on a work computer, if you’re taking that computer home and your children are visiting dubious sites then again you’re exposing yourself to trouble. George Couros talks about this in depth and looks at personal vs private in this blog post.
  • Appropriate use of technology is vital if we’re to embrace technology.

At the same time as thinking about this, we also need to ensure that our teachers understand the things that we are teaching our students, such as:

  • Stealing copyrighted material from the internet and using it for our own work is not cool… especially if you then repost that for others to use. Use Google Image search to find images which are free for anyone to use and/or alter.
  • Using a filing system is far more efficient than saving everything as ‘Untitled Document’
  • Secure passwords are important (I use and love LastPass) and enabling Multi Factor Authentication is a must, not an option (I use a YubiKey NEO and couldn’t live without it), it keeps our data and accounts secure and safe.
  • Don’t EVER give anyone your password, don’t EVER type it into a site which you don’t recognise, and don’t EVER do it after clicking a link in an e-mail.
  • Your employer can and will look at what you’re doing online. This article about a new law in Europe emphasises how important protecting yourself from this is.

Essentially employers have a responsibility to educate employees the same way as teachers educate students in Digital Citizenship. Guidelines are great for teachers who have no experience, but they can stop innovation and create hazy lines as to what is and is not acceptable, sometimes without being obvious as to why something is the case. The Ontario College of Teachers has a set of such guidelines.

What do you think? Do employers have a responsibility to educate, or is it the responsibility of the teacher to get with the times and to read up on how to use technology?

The Power of LaTeX in Math & Science

Often Math and Science teachers don’t see the value of technology in their classrooms. They find that it’s a hinderance, things take longer, students don’t pick up certain skills that they need (such as drawing a graph, or performing a dissection), but they also find that writing equations is a pain, and when I say a pain, I mean a real pain. They can be cumbersome, equation editors suck and let’s face it, if you’re using Google Apps for Education, Slides just don’t support them!

However, there are a few tools out there which will allow you to transform learning using technology, and some of them make you life easier in some cases! One of my favourite things is LaTeX, a markup language for Math (don’t stop reading!), which allows you to create equations from a line of code. One of the joys of this is that you don’t need to be able to remember the code, you can use a free tool such as this awesome one from MyScript, which allows you to handwrite your equation using a touchpad, mouse, graphics tablet, or touchscreen, and get the LaTeX out.

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 7.31.05 PM

Now all you need to do is copy the LaTeX and use it in your favourite tool. Here are some of mine:

  • g(Math) – allows you to create equations, graphs, statistical analysis, quizzes and much much more right in Google Docs, Sheets and Forms. This is a must have tool for anyone in the Google Apps for Education environment. Students can even respond to a ‘quiz’ in forms by inserting an equation using LaTeX or an equation editor, or even insert hand drawn images into their response!
  • Poll Everywhere – you can ‘poll’ your audience using text messaging or the web, and using LaTeX you can have equations as your options for people to respond to! Awesome! For those of you using Google Apps, you can even embed your poll into Google Slides (pretty cool eh?)

So apart from the obvious ability to use LaTeX for equations, you can actually copy the code between applications, so I can use the same LaTeX in Google Docs as I can in Poll Everywhere.

Sometimes LaTeX doesn’t play nicely with its friends, and you will need to play around with it. The biggest issue that I have run into is with fractions, the code to create a fraction is /dfrac {numerator} {denominator}, however, both Poll Everywhere and g(Math) prefer the /frac {numerator} {denominator} version. It’s not a huge difference, but the d makes or breaks it.

Play with it and let me know how you get on, most of all, use it, and use it well!