Author - Nancy Minicozzi

So you think you know Slides?

child on slide

Everyone loves Google Slides. They are free, device agnostic, and easy to use for a variety of purposes. They have all the collaborative power of Google. You can even add to the default theme options by importing free themes from Slidescarnival.com or similar sites. Of course, you can use Slides to make slideshows, but you may not know just how many creative options they offer.

Enter Tony Vincent. He recently posted this article on Getting Creative with Google Slides explaining how you can go easily go beyond the basics and make the most of this application. From finding and customizing images to new uses for drop shadow formatting to creating flow charts and printing your own custom sticky notes, you won’t believe how much you can do with this presentation tool.

Can’t find an icon you like? Create your own from an image. Want to choose your own adventure? Slides is the perfect tool. Looking to publish a newsletter? Feel like making an animated GIF out of your slides? Tony will show you how. One of our favorite ideas was using the custom gradient tool to fill in shapes or create unique backgrounds with the colors of your choice. Tony suggests using the uiGradients visualizer to see what various color combinations will look like (and wisely cautions against gradient overuse).

So avoid summer slide (see what we did there?) and check out Tony’s article, Getting Creative with Google Slides. You’ll be glad you did.

TLC Ninja: Jen Roberts shares her secrets

Jen Roberts, author of Power Up: Making the Shift to 1:1 Teaching and Learning, tells Lisa and Nancy about the secret ways she leverages tech to keep an eye on how her students are reading in her 9th grade English class. In fact, her methods are so secret, she won’t even publish them on her blog, so you’ll have to listen to find out. Hint: It’s not a reading log.

Connect with Jen on Twitter, Instagram, or Google Plus.

Meme Yourself – Create Custom Memes in Quizizz

success kid meme

There are many online quiz platforms out there, and Quizizz is one of our favorites. Free and easy to use, you can search for a quiz to give as is, modify, or create your own in a flash. Students don’t need accounts, and they can play live on any device or use Homework Mode to participate asynchronously. Grading is done “automagically” so you save time. (Keep your reports in the dashboard on the website or download the spreadsheets.) Use Quizizz as part of the Fast and Curious eduprotocol, and your kids will achieve mastery in practically no time.

One of the reasons students love Quizizz is that it is entertaining. After each question, students are shown a meme, a funny image like this one letting them know whether they got the question right or wrong. There are several meme sets to choose from. What makes Quizizz extra special is the ability to create your own custom memes. You can include yourself, a cartoon of yourself, your class mascot, or any images that you think your class will enjoy.

To create and use custom memes, all you need to do is create a new meme set, then add and save your images. As you upload each image, you will be able to crop it, add text, and get it just the way you want. Once you have a full set (they recommend 10 images for correct answers and 10 for incorrect ones), save it. Your meme set will then be ready for use next time you use Quizizz. Simply select it at the bottom when you are assigning the work. You can make multiple custom meme sets, so you can have different ones for different classes, sections, or content areas. If you need more help to create your custom memes, there are specific directions and some how to videos on this page.

Summer break is the ideal time to take pictures of yourself to use in custom meme sets. Have fun with them! Here are some examples I created.

custom meme examples

A Night at the (Virtual) Museum

paint palette

For many of us, summer vacations include a trip to a museum to see famous works of art. If you can’t get away, don’t like crowds, or simply can’t get enough, give Google Arts and Culture a try. With Google Arts and Culture, you and your students can visit museums, tour famous sites and landmarks, and explore world culture, right from your computer, Android, or iOS device.

Explore the Grand Canyon and Machu Picchu, then take a tour of the British Museum, and finally immerse yourself in the beauty of everyday Japanese items. Whatever your passion, you will find something here to satisfy your cultural curiosity.

Every week, different stories and themes are showcased. As of this writing, the curators are highlighting musical instruments from around the world, flamenco dancing, the Central Academy of Fine Arts museum in Beijing, the African Heritage House, Pakistani women of arts and culture, LGBTQ history, shoes, and more.

Using the Nearby tool, you can visit places close to you. What a great way to prepare students for a field trip or allow them to cement and expand on their experience after they return.

Looking for art? There are tools which let you search by artist, subject, medium, movement, place, color, and more. Save favorites to your personal collection and create your own galleries.  When looking at the exhibits, zoom in to view them in incredible detail; you can get closer than any museum guard would ever allow. Of course, art teachers will love sharing Van Gogh’s brush strokes with students, while in a math class, learners might analyze the dots of a Seurat painting. There is a wealth of resources for social studies, language arts, science, you name it. In short, no matter your content area, you’re sure to find something to incorporate into your class.

Do you like 360 degree images and videos? Google Arts and Culture has you covered. Watch the Nutcracker ballet in 360 degrees, listen to orchestral performances, or visit museum exhibits and view them from all angles. Google has also partnered with natural history museums around the world, so you can take your students on a virtual tour to explore dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures or visit endangered and exotic animals in their natural habitat.

And let’s not forget about the famous selfie tool. On the mobile app, scroll down and look for “Search with your selfie.” You will find out what famous painting you most resemble. Or at least what famous painting Google’s AI thinks you most resemble. You may or may not agree. In any case, we urge you to visit Google Arts and Culture to take advantage of all it has to offer.

TLC Ninja: Amber Harper is Burned In

Summer is a good time to rest, recharge, and think about how we can avoid burn out next year. In this episode of TLC Ninja, Amber Harper shares the importance of being a burned in teacher with Nancy and Lisa. You can connect with Amber on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest at burnedinteacher. Her website is burnedinteacher.com and it’s chock full of resources. Maybe you will even be inspired to sign up for the Burn On Challenge here: bit.ly/BITchallenge. We hope you will stay burned in!

Going Green (Screen)

If you think incorporating video making in your class is expensive or difficult, think again. There are a variety of tools and resources available to get you started. And no green screen? No problem!

If you’re like me, you have your hands full teaching the curriculum, revising lessons, differentiating, and meeting the needs of your students. Which then begs the question, how will I fit another item on my plate? One that requires a set of new, and scary, skills. No worries. Starting with small projects is the key.

Photo by Alexander Dummer on Unsplash

Let’s first look at the classroom with Chromebooks, not necessarily 1:1. One teacher had her 1st graders write Fractured Fairy Tales, then create simple scenes and paper characters to act out their stories. Using the Screencastify Chrome Extension and the computer’s own camera, with a little help from their 5th-grade buddies, they created videos and shared on Google Classroom. No editing required. Best of all, the teachers weren’t as proficient as the students

Want to add editing into the mix? WeVideo is a great online source for teachers and students. They have an educational option. Why not give the 30-day free trial a whirl?

Another teacher had her students write, edit, direct, and create their own movie. With the help of A Tale Unfolds, the students met several learning standards in a fun and engaging manner. A few more tools and apps were needed for this. A large green screen was used. Green screens can be green plastic tablecloths from the dollar store, green fabric from your local fabric store, or complete green screen setups. Students filmed on an iPad using the Do Ink Green Screen App ($2.99) and edited in iMovie.

Then there are the news shows. Many schools are creating news shows to make morning announcements more relatable. Try TouchCast Studio, available only on iOS. This free tool allows users to record within the app, import clips from the camera roll, and insert a newsroom studio background to use. You can also upload to YouTube for easy accessibility. In addition, the students can create tutorials and so much more.

So what are you waiting for? Start creating videos in your class. It can be as simple as an announcement about an upcoming school event or as involved as creating an original movie. Go for it! And remember: YOU don’t have to know how it works, have the students learn and teach you and have fun!

The End is Near: Clean up your Google Classroom

cleaning products

Or maybe your school year has already come to an end.

Either way, as you are putting everything away and sifting through the physical items in your room before summer, why not take a few moments to tidy up your digital space as well? Your Google Classroom might seem like it’s bloated and overflowing with assignments, comments, and student work. Your Drive may be feeling cluttered and disorganized. This is normal. After all, you have all been working hard all year. If you clean up now, you will feel much better coming back into your (Google) Classroom next fall.

So, where to begin? The always awesome Eric Curts has got you covered. His blog post 6 End-Of-Year Google Classroom Clean-up Tips has six easy things to do now so you can start fresh next year. He will help you remove the clutter from your Google Drive, Classroom, and Calendars, while making sure that your posts and assignments remain available for you to reuse next year. It will only take you a short time, but it will definitely be time well spent.

While you’re on your cleaning binge, you may also want to visit Alice Keeler’s article on the same subject. She has some great ideas on how to set things up to avoid creating so much clutter in the first place, which will make things easier on you in the future.

TLC Ninja: Dr. Karen Jackson Thinks Teachers Have Inquiring Minds

Dr. Karen Jackson talks with Lisa and Nancy about the importance of inquiry learning for teachers. If it works for students, why not for adults, too? She started the Teacher Agency Project to allow teachers to pursue their passions.

Find her online on TwitterGoogle Plus, and Pinterest. You can also check out her website and the Flipgrid for feedback on the project (contact her for the password).

Let All the Children Boogie

sheet music with computer mouse

(Apologies to David Bowie)

One way to move up the SAMR ladder is to have students create multimedia projects. Did you know there are lots of places where you can easily find free music and sound effects to include in your work?

Dig CC Mixter has thousands of songs, about 4,000 of which can be used at no charge. They are divided into three main categories: instrumental, music with vocals, and music for video games, and you can also search by genre, style, and/or instrument. There are additional filters to fine tune your results, and the download process gives an easy to copy citation link.

The Free Music Archive allows anyone over 13 to download songs for free and use them in projects. Their music must be approved before it’s published on their site and most pieces must be cited to comply with Creative Commons licensing requirements. You can search by curator, genre, or by recent popularity. Their FAQ for Educators will answer most questions about use by teachers and students.

SoundBible.com offers thousands of free sound effects, sound clips, and other sounds. Some of them are in the public domain, but others are licensed under Creative Commons and will need citation information, which the website provides when you click on the link to download the sound.

Purple Planet has free music arranged in different genres for you to download. There is no search function but it’s not difficult to find what you want. They ask you to link back to their website if you use any of their tracks, especially if you post any of their music on YouTube to ensure you are not flagged for copyright violations.

There are also several generous composers who have websites where students of any age can search and download free music to use in any way they like. All they ask is that credit is given when the project is published. Our favorites are Incompetech and Bensound, both of which offer a very large selection and can be filtered by genre. Incompetech also lets you search by tempo, “feels”, and length.

Note: If you are concerned about your students hearing inappropriate lyrics or simply taking too long selecting their music, you can download and share options for them to choose from along with a doc containing the citation information if needed.