Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Get Organized! 4 Ways to Declutter Google Drive

We teachers are known for our superb organizational skills. We have a dazzling array of folders, envelops, bins, boxes, cabinets, and cubbies. And, yes,  they are all clearly labled. But what about your Google Drive?

What is a Google Drive?

Wait a sec, what exactly is a Google Drive? Glad you asked becuase it's a pretty important part of our Googleverse!
Google Drive is like a closet that holds every single Google thing you make or is shared with you (except email and calendar). It is where all your Docs, Slides, Sheets, Drawings, etc. live.

Every time you create a Google Doc or anything else, it is automatically  stored in your Drive.

So wheneverr you  need to find something you've created, just go to your Drive. It'll be there. You can get into Drive a couple of ways. I usually type  in the address bar at the top.

You can also click on the little black grid that hangs out near your profile circle. That's your apps launcher and you can get to many of your Google apps from there.

Organizing Your Google Drive 

If you simply throw everything into a closet without organizing it in any way, you'll quickly have a mess on your hands. It's the same with Drive. If you don't take steps to organize all those files, they will just pile up into a painful-to-look-at list of files and icons. Thankfully, it's easy to create organization.

Step 1: Create Folders 

You can use digital folders in the same way you use regular folders. Here are the folders I have created in my Google Drive. As you can see, I'm into folders. 

Creating a folder in Drive is very easy. Just click on the blue NEW button at the top left of your screen. Select the first choice, Folder. Then name your folder. This gif shows you how. 

 Step 2: Drag Your Files into A Folder

After you have created a couple of folders, you simply drag your files into the appropriate folder. This is very easy as the gif below shows, but if you have many, many files in your Drive, it can take some time to organize them in a way that makes sense to you. 

When I have to create a doc or slide deck or anything, I usually start out in the folder where I want my doc to live. To create a new doc, I just click the blue NEW button or right click inside the folder. This saves me from having to go back to my Drive later and dragging the new file into the appropriate folder. 

(Optional) Step 3: Boost Organization by Coloring Folders

Do you notice how some of my Drive folders have a little color on them? I do that to the folders I use frequently to help me find them quickly. It's totally simple. Just right click the folder, choose change color, and select the color you want. 

(Optional) Step 4: Get Fancy and Fun by Adding Emoji to Folders

If you find yourself with a few extra minutes on your hands (and really, what teacher doesn't have time to spare? hahahahaha) you might want to add emoji to your Drive folders. I like to use emoji to highlight important folders and just to add a little flair and frivolity. Here's how. 
  • Go to 
  • Find the perfect emoji
  • Click and drag across the emoji to highlight it
  • Right click and choose copy (or use Ctrl Cto copy)
  • Go back to your Drive 
  • Right click on the folder you want to add the emoji to
  • Click rename
  • Use the keys Ctrl and V (hold down the Ctrl key and press v at the same time) to paste the emoji in the name.

There are more ways we can add organizational value to Drive, but we'll save that for a later date. This post is already too long.

Like any other storage space, a well-organized Drive is quite satisfying! It can also save you from spending loads of time and energy searching for that one cool thing you created last year and want to use again. And if you're not a regular Drive user, hopefully you will be inspired to check out this wonderful app! As always, I'm here to help!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A Quiz Kids LOVE: Kahoot!

This post is dedicated to Sarah Whitehouse (BMS) who turned me on to Kahoot and took time to show me how she uses it with her first graders. 

Would you believe my students beg me to quiz them on boring and technical topics such as circuits, binary data, and computer hardware? I'm not exaggerating. They do...but only if we are using

Image result for kahoot

Kahoot! is an online quizzing tool that turns formative assessment into an exciting and challenging game for students. Kids love it because it is exciting, competitive, and they get to choose their own game name (a huge deal for these guys). I love it because it allows me to quickly gauge how well my students are mastering learning objectives. I think my kids also like to see how well they are learning the content, especially compared to their peers.

If you are new to Kahoot! Here is a video of it in action in a second grade classroom (not ours)

Did you notice the suspense-building music?

Here's how it works:

  • First, log in to and create a quiz. You can choose how many questions to have, whether to show images or even a video, and how long students have to respond
  • When your class is ready to play, project your computer screen onto a whiteboard 
  • Click Play. The game will load and show a game pin
  • Students go to, enter the game pin, and enter a nickname 
  • Once all students have joined, click start and you are off to the races
  • The question and answer choices will be displayed on the smartboard
  • Students will see colored rectangles that correspond to answer choices. They click on or touch the rectangle that matches their answer choice
  • Each question will show the top three responses based on time and correctness. That means that students can move up and down the leaderboard throughout the game. This is very exciting.
  • At the end of the game, the leaderboard shows the top 5 players based on response time and correctness. 

Kahoot! is free and you can sign up with your Google account so you don't need to create a new username and password. It's also easy to use for you and students.

Another bonus: students don't need to sign up to play a Kahoot! quiz. They just enter a game pin, a nickname, and play. Plus, students can use Chromebooks, iPads, smartphones, laptops, or desktops.

Several of our teachers (including me) use Kahoot! with kids as young as first grade. The kids sit in front of the whiteboard with iPads. I plan on using it with Kindergarteners soon too! I'll use images rather than words.

One caveat I have to mention: There have been times when some of my younger kids have felt pretty upset about not doing as well as their peers or stressed out by the competition. I let kids who are not comfortable playing Kahoot partner with another student or just play in their head. I don't see the point in stressing out kids in an activity that is supposed to be fun.

Give Kahoot! a try! I guarantee you and your students will have a great time and learning will be had by all.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Classroom Management Tools at Your Fingertips

Need a timer for an activity? How about a noise level indicator so kids know when they are getting too loud? How about a random name picker or dice roll? You can find all these and more handy classroom tools all in one place at

Simply project classroom screen onto your whiteboard and you'll have a host of tools literally at your fingertips. A few of my favs:

Work Symbols

Time & Stopwatch

Sound Level Indicator - helps kids be mindful of their noise level

Text (note pad)

There's even an exit poll feature!

These are just some of the useful tools Classroom Screen has to offer. For a more in-depth look, check out this tutorial

Or, go to and have fun exploring!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Interactive Videos! An Amazing & Free Tool to Make Any Video an Active Learning Experience

A couple weeks ago I was pretty excited about using polling cards to add multiple choice questions to YouTube videos. Well, move over polling cards! The video editing tool I'm in love with now makes you look silly.

Introducing Edpuzzle! Edpuzzle lets you upload or link to ANY video and trim it down, add voice over, add other audio, and insert written comments or questions. You can also have your students create their own video projects. And guess what:

We all know that most students enjoy watching videos and there are many truly great educational videos out there. We also know that it's all too easy for videos to become a passive, zone out experience. That's why I love the abilty to oblige my students to think about what they are watching by inserting comments and questions that must be addressed before continuing. I don't know about you, but when I create questions in a video, I have to do some critical thinking to make sure my questions are meaningful. Imagine a student having to do the same when they make a video!

Here's a quick vid demonstrating some features.

Another Pro feature: Teachers and students can sign up/logon using their Google account info with a single button click. So easy. And, you can import classes from Google Classroom. 

A Con: Students have to watch the videos from within the Edpuzzle site. As a teacher, you create a class in Edpuzzle and then give students the link to the class. It is actually very easy but extra steps like this do take extra time.  It would be extra wonderful if you could create an Edpuzzle interactive video and plop it right into a Google Classroom and maybe that will be a feature at some point. 

Another Plus: You can do a lot with the free version. Actually, the free version has all the same editing features as the pay-for version. As far as I can tell, the pay-for version is designed for whole schools or districts that want to create a shared library of videos and want to use a gradebook feature.

Edpuzzle was created by teachers who understand our need to craft meaningful learning experiences with little or no funding. That's why they have given us a free, easy to use tool that helps us leverage the popularity and power of video. I'm excited to see what kind of video magic you create!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Embed Your Calendar into Gmail

Like most of you, I pretty much live on my gmail while at work. That's why I love, love, love this little calendar gadget that gives me a three-day at-a-glance view. I don't always remember to open up calendar every day to see what's happening so having this little gadget has really saved me from missing events and meetings (and even personal appointments since I have my personal calendar integrated into my work calendar. Here's how to do that.

My gadget only shows a chronological list of events, but you can also display a mini-calendar at the top. I don't do that because I have a ton of labels so space is limited on my gmail sidebar. From the gadget, you can do a couple of things:
  • see event details by clicking on an event
  • open Google Calendar in a different window
  • choose which calendars you want to be visible 

Inserting the calendar gadget is super easy! Here's a video on how to do it. Or if you prefer to read instructions, here you go!

  1. From your gmail, click on the gear icon on the far right 
  2. Click on Settings
  3. Once in Settings, click on Labs 
  4. If you don't see Google Calendar Gadget listed, search for it in the search bar 
  5. Once the gadget pops up, click Enable
  6. Be sure to scroll down and SAVE CHANGES!!!! 
  7.  Close Settings by clicking on the inbox label (left menu)
  8. Scroll down to the bottom of that left menu, past all the labels, and click on the three little dots, which is your gadget icon 
  9. The calendar gadget will pop up right above
  10. Click on Options to customize your calendar
And it's just that easy! 
Be sure to let me know how this tech tip is working for you!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Make YouTube Videos Interactive!

Videos can be useful learning tools but sometimes I am not confident my students are really paying attention or picking up on the information I want them to learn. In the past, I've used post-vid or as-you-watch questionnaires to help direct my students' attention but I've recently tried out a different strategy: cards. They work so much better!

Cards are not really cards at all, but little popups in a video. There are a couple of different kinds and most seem to be geared toward getting viewers to go to a website or watch some other video. There is one kind of card, however, that we teachers can use - the poll card. You can use it to ask a multiple choice or true/false question like the ones pictured above.

You can set your cards to pop up at crucial points in a video so you can highlight content, or you can have them all visible for however long you need them.

Follow these steps to insert cards into a YouTube video:

First, create a YouTube channel if you don't already have one IT'S SUPER EASY!!!. Here's a blog post (text) on how to do it). Here's video on how to do it.

Now you need a video to work with. The video has to be uploaded onto your own YouTube channel. 

Do you have a video that you created or that already lives on your computer or Google Drive? Here's how to upload it to your YouTube channel.   


Do you want to use a video you found on YouTube? Here's how to download it so you can upload it to your channel. Once you've downloaded it to your computer, follow the directions above to upload it to YouTube. 

Finally, once you have your video uploaded to your YouTube channel, you can create polling cards. 

Here's how to insert cards into a video you already have uploaded to YouTube:

Here's how to view your poll card results:

Creating polling cards on a video seems like a lot of work, but once you are comfortable downloading/uploading videos to YouTube creating the cards is actually pretty quick and easy. Give it a try and remember - I'm here to help!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Students Show What They Know, Beautifully

I have to share this really wonderful tool my 3rd - 5th grade students have been using to create posters and infographics called  Canva. I just used it to create that cool image up there in less than 5 minutes! 

My students love the tons of free templates and graphical elements they can combine to create beautiful media. As a teacher, I love the cognitive challenge that comes with having to translate a message into a visual medium. Having to figure out an effective way to fit all one's talking points into a limited space really helps students nail down key ideas and show relationships between them. 

It's also been a great way for students to practice problem-solving and persistence because while Canva is not difficult to use, it is a graphic design tool, which is not something mosts kids have had to work with before. There was a fair amount of trail-and-error learning happening. 

Canva has templates for posters and infographics as well as (get ready): mindmaps, flyers, brochures, reports, book covers, magazines, 5 circle Venn diagrams, charts, letters, resumes, and , and , and. Really, there is just so much.

I also like it because you can use your Google account to sign up for Canva and then log in every time. No new username and password to remember! Here's how

Before you reach for that poster board or butcher paper, I encourage you to give Canva a try. I bet you'll find it worth the effort (minimal effort)!