Blog Posts

How to remove choices in Google Forms

Have you ever wanted to have selections automatically disappear in Google Forms? I have found myself needing this option a few times from group project selections, to field day activity choices, and even parent-teacher conference timeslots. In the video below I explain how to use a Google add-on plugin to automatically remove choices when a predetermined number of selections is reached. Below the video there is a step-by-step guide as well.

Step 1 Create a Google Form

Go to drive.google.com and go to New –> More –> Google Forms. A new tab will open when you hit Google Forms.

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The 30 minute lesson

What if we took the traditional school day and shortened the length of the periods? Would there be any real benefit to rethinking how we structure school?

Background

I’ve been thinking a lot about school schedules and how to structure schools recently. I think it has been on my mind because our 2017/2018 school calendar just got approved and there is a lot of talk about it. If interested you can read about it here, but the quick version is that school is required by law to start after Labor day and end by June 15th in Maryland. This leaves schools with the challenge of getting their days in while getting rid of some days that were traditionally designated as off.

But why

But calendar discussion doesn’t really address school structure, does it? What I mean when I say school structure is how do students have their day organized? Do they have choice? Does it change? Does it best fit their needs?

The answer to almost all of those questions is a resounding “no.” But why? Why is school set up so that students go from period to period for 45 minutes at a clip? Why are their seven periods in the day? Why don’t those period happen at different times throughout the week?

My idea

I don’t know the answer to those questions but I would like to see some experimentation in how school go about their scheduling. I was talking with one of our school’s administrators the other day and I mentioned that I wish the periods were 30 minutes long. My argument, that she agreed with, was that students learn better when getting smaller chunks of information quickly. And, to add, that teachers should be able to get the content out in 30 minutes because a shorter class forces you to focus on the important points. The details can be filled in later, but the main points should be able to be covered, practiced, and reviewed within 30 minutes.

I’m a tech ed teacher and a 30-minute class would be difficult for me to get everything accomplished in. I lose 5 minutes getting students logged in to computer and/or getting tools out. I lose the last 5 minutes doing the same but in reverse. So a 30-minute class would take my real instruction time down to 20 minutes. That doesn’t really work when students need to focus on a project. I would imagine that science classes and other lab-based classes would have similar problems.

Then it struck me, those classes could be double periods. A double period would give the students more time to focus on a lab-based activity. Maybe I’m getting into the weeds a bit here. Let’s reset.

How it shakes out

I will use my school as an example. The students start classes at 8:30 AM and they head home at 3:15 PM. That makes the total amount of time that students are in school 6 hours and 45 minutes. That time is currently broken down into roughly 7, 45 minute long classes, a 30-minute lunch, and time between bells to go from one classroom to the next.

Now let’s see what happens if we make classes 30 minutes instead of 45ish minutes. For my quick calculations, I’m going to approximate a class as 34 minutes to account for time between classes. 34/60 gives me 0.566 hours per class. If I then take the 6.75 hours students are in school and divide it by 0.566 I get 11.91 or basically 12 class periods. Now instead of 7 periods and a lunch, students have 12 periods. If we lose one to lunch that still leaves 11 30-minute class periods a day. Four additional class periods a day. Four!

What does that do

If there was room in a schedule for students to take an extra four classes imagine what we could do with that time. Students could have more elective choice, more time to focus on areas of interest, or more time to get support in areas of need. We could really tailor a student’s schedule to their needs.

Students would also be able to have better focus in class since they are sitting for a lower period of time and the information is coming at them in more bite-sized chunks of information. Students would also be able to take classes when they better suit them. For example, I loved having math in the morning as it was when I was the most focused, but I didn’t always get math in the morning. When extra periods in the day, it is more likely that students will be able to schedule classes with times that best fit their needs.

Teachers would be able to focus on the most important parts of topic and better engage students with the content. Teachers would also be able to better plan as there would be less variability in things that could go “wrong” during a lesson. They would also be able to address areas of concern quicker because they could more easily identify the key concepts that students might be missing. You may also be able to decrease classes sizes depending on how the schedule is implemented.

I’m not saying this is a cure-all, but it might be worth exploring to see if it has any measurable impact on the students and staff. School and school schedules have been unchanged for so long it might be worth it to take a risk and see if there are any benefits that come from a change.

Quizizz: My favorite way to engage students in a gamified and fun quiz game

I’m a big fan of gamification in the classroom. I’m always looking for new ways to engage my students in safe but competitive areas so that they can flex their brain muscles. About a year ago I started using Quizizz and I haven’t looked back.

What is it?

Many educators are familiar with Kahoot! I like Kahoot! but my real problem with it is that all of the students need to be able to see the board and they have to go at the same pace. Quizizz is different in that it allows students to work from their device only and they are able to go at their own pace. The gamified component is there as well and students get live ranking updates.

Creating a Quizizz

Once you sign-up for a free account you are able to create a quiz via the menu bar at the top. You will be asked to give the quiz an image, set the name of the quiz, and set it as public or private.

After that, you will be taken to a page where you can enter in questions and answers.

You will be able to see a preview of the question on the right-hand side. You can include images in your question or just leave it as plain text. You also need to select a correct answer out of the answer choices you provided.

One of the other great features of Quizizz is that there is a searchable database of all of the public Quizizz’s out there. You can search by keyword and find loads of other quizzes with questions that you can place directly onto your quiz.

When you view public quizzes you are able to hit the red plus button and they will show up on your question list on the left. You can edit the questions later if you wish as well.

Once you are done with your quiz, hit the green “Finish” button on the top right of the page. You will then be given the chance to play/start a game or return back to your Quizizz dashboard.

Playing quizizz

When you are ready to start you hit the “Play Live!” button to begin. You will be taken to a page that gives you a few options on how to have students join the game. You can give them a web address along with a 6-digit code or you can set it as an assignment, announcement, or question in Google Classroom.

Once students start entering the game you will see their username and avatar show up. Once all of your students have entered, you can begin the game. Students may enter the game after it has started because Quizizz is based on student pacing, not class pacing. As students start answering questions, you will get live feedback on the numbers of correct and incorrect answers.

Checking for student understanding

Once students have completed the game they are able to review their answers. Once the teacher decides that the game is over they can end the game and get feedback on individual students or the class as a whole.

Individual feedback is shown in a grid pattern. Green checks are given for correct answers and red X’s are for incorrect answers. I usually try to group particular content questions together so that I can see if a student truly understood what was taking place or not. In the game settings, you can allow question order to be shuffled, but the results will always show in the original order.

You can also get a class view of each question to get a sense of how the class did on particular content questions. I use this as a way to check for understanding, question-wording, and to get suggestions from my students.

As you can see in the questions above, question #4 was overwhelming understood by the students, but question #5 proved to be an area of concern. This type of feedback allows me to go back and reteach items that were not properly understood and allows me to ask questions of my students to find out exactly what they didn’t understand.

As I said before, I’m a big fan of Quizizz. Not only does it allow me to get quick informal feedback on my students, it’s fun for them, and allows me to really check for their understanding. It also helps me quickly catch common problem areas and address them before they become bigger problems.

How to create an animated GIF in Camtasia

One of my favorite parts about Camtasia is its flexibility and ability to create exactly what I need. As a teacher, I like to make a lot of instructional tools for my students. I often create videos and capture my screen to teach various concepts.

Ever since GIFs have been enabled in Google Docs, I find myself creating a lot of animated GIFs to show students how to do things. This allows them to focus on the message instead of having to watch and listen to me. It also gives bite-sized info since only so much can be shown in a GIF. I find that documenting a process through a series of GIFs embedded in a Google Doc is more effective than capturing a whole video that walks them through the same process.

In the video above I review the process of making an animated GIF inside of Camtasia. There are several different settings which control the file size, screen size, and quality of the GIF; all of which are important to understand to get the best product possible.

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