Sunday, March 19, 2017

DocStickers: A Docs + Keep Integration for Old School feedback

Today, I'm excited to tell you about  DocStickers!  If you can give me 90 seconds of your time, this video is worth a watch!  Otherwise, continue below.

I remember getting papers back with stickers and stamps as a kid.  While I may not remember the specific assignments and what I learned from them, but I remember how it made me feel when I saw a sticker or stamp on them.  While my teachers were just taking stickers from a page and adhering them to all of the student papers, it meant something because they took them time to do it.  They didn't have to do it, they cared enough to do it.  It meant something to read "Excellent!" "Great job!" "A+!" and even better when it was the coveted scratch-n-sniff sticker!
Sticker: "Grape Job"
One of my students asked for this sticker, so I made it.
I may have to provide grape bubblegum with it for the full effect though!

With most of my assignments having gone digital, I still want to be able to bring this joy to my students.  I've kicked this idea around for a while, but there really wasn't a seamless way to get images/digital stickers into a Doc...until the latest Google Keep update (in Docs).  So while I can't bring you a way to make your student papers smell like grapes, cherries, or bubble gum, I can show you a way to bring the joy of stickers to your students' digital assignments.  DocStickers was born!

Photo example of a DocSticker in a student assignment.
Example of a DocSticker in a student assignment.  "Now you're flying!"

Brought to you by the wonderful integration of Google Docs and Google Keep.  Enjoy!

Some goodies for you to get started (links open in a new window):
"Starter Pack" of DocStickers (links to a Google Folder...which I will continue adding to)
Quick-Start Video (in case you can't view the one above)
Quick-Start Flier (also pictured below)
*new* Tutorial: Creating Stickers in Google Drawings (2 min video)
*new* Google Drawing Template (make a copy to edit your own)

One thing I want to make VERY clear.  This isn't about turning a worksheet into a digital assignment just to add a sticker to it.  It isn't about creating more work for you as a teacher.  It IS about helping you give feedback to students (and making your grading time a little bit cheerier).  It IS about making sure we aren't just "passing back" (returning on Google Classroom) assignments without some sort of feedback.  Much of the work my students do has gone digital.  This was true in my math classroom, and it is a reality in my computer science classes.

There are many forms of feedback I utilize and this is a complement to written and/or verbal feedback.  Can it be more than that?  I hope so.  The Google Keep integration lets you insert more than just images, and Keep is very much a lesser known tool despite it's power for cross-device bookmarking, shared lists and notes, etc....the possibilities are seemingly endless.  I look forward to sharing more ways you can utilize this tool both as a teacher and with your students.

I have high school students who remember getting stickers and stamps on their work when it was handed back.  And although it may seem childish, they miss it.  They miss the way it made them feel.  I want to make sure that joy doesn't go the wayside as we go paperless.

Tweet me @i3algebra #DocStickers I'd love to know what you think!

If you would like to share this idea (edcamp, tips session, etc) I'd also love to collaborate with you to help you share this idea in the greater context of student feedback.

Click the link above to access this pdf
Quick-Start Flier

Saturday, March 18, 2017

I Was So Observant I Forgot to Post #IMMOOC Week 2

(better late than never)

Week 2 of #IMMOOC, I focused on being observant.  I was so focused on it that I didn't blog.  Oops.  For the purposes of this post, "this week" refers to March 6-10th.  #SorryNotSorry

This week I observed my students in the halls, in the cafeteria.  I observed them in class.  I observed their learning processes.  I watched.  I listened.  I asked some for perspective.   I asked myself the question: "Am I doing what is best for students?"

This week was a great week.  I learned as I observed.  I don't want to share everything, but I'll share this one.  It is an experience I won't soon forget.  It is often difficult to convey the message in 140 characters on Twitter, so I'll elaborate below.

Tied with mere seconds to go, the Longhorns sank a game-winning shot!  The students seated on the other side of the court are my students.  My school's team lost, but this is what happened next.

This is how I described the experience to my PLN without a character limit:

"Today my students cheered against their own team as we played a team from a high school for students with moderate to severe disabilities...and had a blast!  I wish every politician (and school administrator) could see the amazing things that happen when you are allowed/encouraged to teach human beings, not data points."

In all I observed this week, I must never forget that I have the ability and power to influence human beings.  That is the greatest superpower of all.  It shouldn't be wasted.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Give Yourself Permission to do Something Amazing #IMMOOC Week 1

This semester, I started my Computer Science Applications class a bit differently than it had been done before.  I asked the students WHY they signed up for the course and what they hoped to GAIN from being enrolled.

I know not all teachers and courses have the ability to change the course of, well, the course, but I do.  At least I gave myself the permission, for student feedback to steer my class in a big way.  Even if you think, "I can't do that!" My message to you is this: You can, even if it's in a small way.
Even when I taught math, I wasn't ever just teaching math.  We teach students many things and lead by example for much of the lessons our students learn about life in general before they don mortarboard caps and set off "into the world."  My students' favorite lessons were ones that brought in aspects of their lives and let them have some fun while learning.  My favorite lessons to teach were ones my students were invested in.  In geometry, we designed and built a "greenhouse" for our Tower Garden seedlings.  In pre-algebra, we discussed whether Black Friday deals really were good deals (or good purchases).  In algebra, we talked about lines--a lot--but we also visualized them as rollercoasters because much of my class enjoys spending time over the summer at Six Flags.  I previously wrote about using the Design Thinking process (inspired by Launch) with my summer school math students.  End result: Cardboard roller coasters for the win.

For a group of students who have been told they have to pass summer school or they wouldn't get to move on to high can imagine their less-than-excited view on taking math class forcibly.  Many of them surprised themselves by saying math was their favorite class.  This wasn't just during the summer session, but those I taught during the year too.  I gladly accepted the victory.

Coming back to the present--What did my students tell me for my CS Apps class?  They were interested in building apps.  Not surprising coming from a group of junior and senior boys (who can usually be found with phone in hand and a charging cable handy).  What was surprising to many of them is that my intention was to allow them to do just that.  Well, that and the amount of work involved with accomplishing this task on their part.  We are currently working through Apple's App Development with Swift curriculum and it has been an amazing semester so far, especially now that the smaller pieces are starting to come together.  This entire semester is steered by student interest.  The learning goals for this class are still being addressed, the students just have a voice in how we get there.

All of the amazing things I did in my classroom, I did them while still teaching the content I needed to teach.  At every turn, I had the option to do things the way they'd always been done, but I made the decision that is best for my students.  I gave myself permission to do what was best for my students.  Even when it's not something I feel 100% confident with, I'm willing to try it.  Change can intimidate some, I've found embracing it is a challenge I gladly accept.

"The most successful people in the world aren't defeated by change; they thrive on it." -Launch
One of my favorite quotes from Launch
Your change may be big or small.  It may be implementing new technology or trying a new room arrangement.  My classes are taking a journey into new territory, but I don't fear change.  I'm inspired by it.  I've had many opportunities to stop this process and go back to "the way we've always done it."  I pushed through in spite of illness, in spite of missing the first week this semester due to a concussion. If you don't allow excuses from your students, don't allow them from yourself.

What will happen when you are open to the possibility of something different?

What will you be inspired to do?

How will you inspire your students?


If you haven't already, join the #IMMOOC (Innovator's Mindset Massive Open Online Course).  You can find more information at