Author - Nancy Minicozzi

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.

Sparking Art

Bringing art into a classroom can make lessons more engaging, while at the same time adding fun and a welcome change of pace for students. Thankfully, you don’t have to scour the Internet for relevant projects. There are several sites dedicated to art in classrooms. We have found a few created by art teachers that can make this task easy and inspiring.


Elementary teachers can go to Deep Space Sparkle and Art Projects for Kids to find ideas based on grade, season, subject matter, or medium.  This means that the lessons are developmentally appropriate and the easy step by step instructions make it a snap to replicate in any classroom. Several student examples can be found for each project.


The Incredible Art Department (IAD) is a collection of lessons for all ages. This site has many helpful resources for teachers: lessons, toolkits, guides, and rubrics. Both beginning teachers and veteran teachers will have no problem finding something relevant to bring into their classrooms. The lessons are clear, come with a sample, and are easy to replicate.


No matter what you teach, you will be sure to find lessons that enhance your classroom and your students’ learning.

Teachers of the Year

Congratulations to all of this year’s Teachers of the Year.

2018 Teachers of the Year

Not only is it an honor to be named Teacher of the Year for your state or territory, but it is also an opportunity to learn and grow from other inspirational teacher leaders. Recently, all the 2018 Teachers of the Year gathered at the White House to celebrate. However, this cohort will do much more than just celebrate. They will have five face to face opportunities to meet and learn together, as well as to help shape the future of education in this country. According to the Council of Chief State School Officers – the organizational sponsor – one goal is to create leaders of educational policies and ensure that they have a voice in the conversation from state to national level.

Google for Education is the other sponsor for this year’s cohort. They hosted the first of the five face to face meetups.

The best part? We can all learn from these educators. Google has put together a YouTube Playlist called “Lessons from Teachers of the Year” that contains short (less than two minutes each) videos showcasing each of the teachers. The subjects they discuss range from hopes, inspirations, technology, and trust to empathy, advice, and so much more. Hearing their stories is just the ‘zing’ a teacher needs at the end of the school year.

Make a Splash with Unsplash

Screenshot of the Unsplash home page

Images are an important part of any multimedia work, and it is key that students understand that not every image is free for the taking. Teaching kids to be ethical digital citizens means we need to help them find and cite legally usable media.

Unsplash is a terrific resource for public domain photos to use in presentations, websites, or any project you or your students may be working on. Choose from over 480,000 high-quality images and use them in any way you like with or without crediting the photographer (although they do appreciate it if you provide credit when possible). New photos are added every day.

The company also recently launched a new iOS app (for iPad or iPhone) that lets you search through their entire collection and save your selections to the camera roll or drag them directly into other apps such as iMovie.

Check out the screenshot above of some of the latest photos uploaded to the site. Stunning. (We added the CUE logo.)

Oh, and did we mention that all the photos are FREE? You’re welcome.


Three Ways to Start Innovating in Your Classroom Today

When today’s students grow up, many of them will be doing jobs that don’t exist yet. How do we prepare them for the unknown? By changing the way we teach to help them become independent, flexible thinkers. Below are three ways you can start innovating in your classroom today.

Make Connections

You never know where the next great idea is going to originate, so open the door (both literally and figuratively) to your classroom. Take advantage of all the ideas and resources that are out there. Let others lend you a hand and support you in your innovation journey. Online, you can connect with other educators on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or the social media of your choice. Join a collaborative project to give your students a broader perspective as they work with others across the country or around the world. Listen to podcasts, TED Talks, and the like. In the real world, you can go to conferences like the National and Fall CUE conferences or Rock Star camps. If money is an issue, there are unconferences and meetups like edcamps or #CoffeeEDU get-togethers that are completely free. It’s hard to innovate when you are the only one in the room. Gather some people around and bounce ideas off each other. You’ll be glad you did.

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone… and Be Prepared to Fail

You will try things that will be spectacular and others that will not work. That is normal. Innovation is not about having—or borrowing—a great idea, implementing it, and obtaining stellar results. It is about seeing and seizing the opportunity to do something better than you have in the past. Let your students know that you are trying something new. Ask for their support. You will create a stronger and more trusting relationship with them. While you’re at it, make sure that you make your classroom a safe place for your students to fail as well. Your students need to know that they can challenge themselves and that their mistakes won’t hurt them but will be treated as learning opportunities. After all, failing is how we learn.

Give Your Students the Gift of Choice

Make it a real choice: a choice of what they learn, how they learn it, and how they demonstrate their learning. Allow them the freedom to explore. Of course, you will need to give them criteria and guidelines, but let them investigate the material through the lens of their curiosity, interests, and passions. Provide them multiple ways to access the content. Maybe they want to watch a video, read an article, interview someone, or undertake something else entirely. Then, let them create something to share their learning. It could be a blog post, slideshow, poem, video game, or something you never imagined. Even very young students should be afforded this freedom when possible. Obviously, we need to provide scaffolding, and their choices will be more limited, but they deserve the opportunity to pursue their interests just as older students do.

It may be a cliché, but it is true that a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. If you want to do things differently, you need to start somewhere. Here’s hoping that these ideas can be a springboard for you.

Nancy Minicozzi is an Instructional Technology Coach in the Las Virgenes Unified School District. A Google Certified Innovator and Trainer, she is passionate about helping other educators innovate their practices and presents frequently at conferences, including National CUE, CUE Rock Star, and many others. She co-hosts the TLC.Ninja podcast, which airs twice a month and focuses on easy ways to bring out the innovator in you. You can follow her on Twitter at @CoffeeNancy or read her blog at www.coffeenancy.com.

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