Sunday, May 14, 2017

Have Students Create Content and Collaborate with Google My Maps

*This post has a video tutorial to get you started with My Maps. Not all features are in the video.

Google My Maps, in it’s basic sense, is about content creation and collaboration. See the attached video tutorial on how to set it up. In terms of pedagogy, how can this be used and what are some practical classroom applications? As I’m attending some Google geotools workshops, as well as planning to deliver some, I thought I’d add a post about some of the tools, one by one over time. Access Google My Maps directly here: and / or go to the support center here:

How might we use My Maps? Consider that you can add text, photos, videos, directions, measure distances, import numerical and text data, as well as create “regions” within the map. You can also use multiple layers to show changes over time through data. These features can be applied to many subjects and topics. Here are some ideas:

Natural Disasters Map. My school here in Japan collaborated with others in the US to create a map in which we researched and pinned their writing. Sample:

Historic Places. Take a photos or 360 video of historically significant places in a given location. Your students (or you) create the content. I intend to develop one for Tokyo. (I have four 360 videos researched and filmed but not ready for upload - yet!) 

History Timelines. Have students create a map of a war or period in history. 

English Lit Trips. Map the life of a person in a book students have read, or the events. 

Geography / Science Biome or Animal Habitat Map. Use the Polygon feature to create specific regions in which students differentiate with colour. When students finish research and synthesis, they upload to the map, including photos of each climate region / biome / habitat. 

Environmental Science / Geography CO2 Emissions Map. See changes over time with layers, or compare places with data uploaded to create a visual understanding of the problem.

Mathematics / Science. Import statistical data to learn stats visually.

Creative Writing Travelogue. Have students write a travelogue with images and video. See this "Japan & the World Travelogue Map" sample:

Physical & Outdoor Education. Have students do a nature walk and then create a map with photos and a writeup of each place. 

Religious Studies. How about a map of the local places of worship that includes images and a history of the place? A map of the travels of a prophet or saint? 

Empires in History. How about the expansion and decline of the Roman Empire? The campaigns of Alexander the great? Link to images of those places today. 

Mathematics. Calculate distances and travel time; area and perimeter. 

Science / Business. Create a map of a product’s environmental journey to see how globalization has led to products with a massive environmental footprint. 

Political Science. Forms of government map.

Social Studies. Have students from around the world collaborate on their local culture. (pin significant places with own photos and video)

Social Studies. Map a migration of people. 

Social Studies. Volcanic eruptions / earthquakes statistics map. Import the data to create a visual of the data and then analyze it. Here is a tectonic plates sample: *This is a basic map but could also include information in each "plate" on the map. 

School Trips. Create a map of a school trip. (great for parents) Have student create a map of a school trip using their photos and videos. 

New Faculty Info Map. Create a map for new teachers to your school with info on shopping, transportation, popular restaurants, entertainment, city hall, etc. See this fun sample of craft beer places in  the Tokyo area. (no student collaboration on this one!) Sample: 

Here are some of Google’s picks:

What’s my process? It depends on the topic or task. I am a social studies teacher, so loosely speaking here are the steps I follow (keeping things such as academic honesty / copyright in mind):
  • students determine questions for investigating their topic
  • conduct research: find reliable sources, take notes, find images / video needed
  • synthesize, create content (this may be simply writing, or perhaps also video creation)
  • peer review / edit 
  • publish and share with the world
The map itself doesn’t take a lot of time to produce, so the focus is still on the learning skills with the added bonus of collaborating and sharing what students have learned with the outside world. (embed to a website, share in a blog, QR code posters, etc) 

Look at the links in the Works Cited for more ideas. 

Works Cited
Ditch That Textbook. "20 ways Google MyMaps can enhance lessons in any class." Ditch That Textbook. 15 Mar. 
     2016. Web. 14 May 2017.<

Edutopia. "10 Reasons to Use Google My Maps in the Classroom." Edutopia. Web. 14 May 2017. 

"Google My Maps: Lesson Ideas - Teacher Tech." Teacher Tech. 20 Apr. 2016. Web. 14 May 2017. 

"How to Use Google's My Maps in Your Classroom." Web. 14 May 2017. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Turn Web Pages to PDF Documents

Sometimes you want to keep a web page or share it in a text format for yourself, colleagues or students. Bookmarking is fine, but what if connectivity is a concern? Working offline may be an option, but sometimes you may want to keep a copy of the page. There are Chrome extensions and Chrome apps that allow you to do this with relative degrees of flexibility. (to learn about Chrome extensions and apps see this Installing and Managing Chrome Extensions video tutorial).

Print Friendly & PDF. This Chrome extension allows you to create a PDF document form as web page. You can delete sections and images, as well as reduce the size of the text and images. The document can be emailed and printed as well. Links are kept active.

Save as PDF. Less flexible as the Print Friendly & PDF extension but links are kept live and images are included.

Web Page to PDF Converter. This Chrome app (different from extensions) allows you to save the PDF to Google Drive directly, and send the PDF by email using your Gmail account directly.

Thinking about the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami victims and survivors in Tohoku.
We're with you!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

YouTube Editor: Getting the Most From Your YouTube Channel

YouTube Tutorials Playlist:

We all love YouTube videos to enhance learning in our classrooms. There are some educators that are getting the most out of YouTube, and others who would like to get more out of it. This series of tutorials shows how you can take your channel development to the next level, whether it is for your classroom, school, or private use. You will learn to use YouTube editor in the same way as you would iMovie. (but with fewer options, meaning fewer distractions) Videos can also be shared with your students as they develop their use and understanding of social media, and in particular how YouTube works technically. Look below for links to free, self-paced lessons on everything YouTube.

Learn to create and edit videos; highlight specific elements of your video with Annotations; access copyright-free audio; add pop-up Cards and Annotations to direct people to your other videos.

The tutorials cover:

Basic Features Overview
Uploading, Visibility, Tagging, Descriptions & Sharing
Edit Multiple Uploaded Videos to Make One Video
The YouTube Audio Library
Add Cards to Your Videos
Add Enhancements for Aesthetic Appeal & Blurring
Add End Screens to Your Videos
Add Annotations to Your Videos

Each video has a description to help you quickly understand what you will be learning.

Connect with me at:

You can also take free, self-paced YouTube lessons online, complete with PDF files and video introductions with advice from top YouTubers. Take a stroll through YouTube Creator Academy and YouTube Creator Hub (for the more serious YouTubers).

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Enhance Learning with Effective Teacher and Student Made Videos & Video Tutorials

After reading...

*Access a Google Slides presentation with active links and more ideas on this topic; work in progress)
*Download this checklist handout, copy and modify as needed. Version 1. Version 2. (thank you, Rushton Hurley)
*Link here to a video playlist of tutorials.
*See a list of benefits for teachers and students below, and a short “how to” approach.

While I agree that we should make an effort to figure things out for ourselves, I don’t completely buy into the argument that video tutorials are a crutch or lazy way to learning. I believe that student-made tutorials can demonstrate learning and communication skills, as well as creativity. Teachers as well can differentiate learning by creating or using online tutorials. Additionally, I believe that students want to hear from their peers. (this isn’t to say that they don’t appreciate the classroom teacher) As for the teacher, resources provided by excellent organizations such as Khan Academy and TEd-Ed are truly valuable, but sometimes we want a specific point highlighted (which can of course be done with video quiz platforms like Zaption or by making your own Google Forms).

Carefully crafted activities (or assessments) can lead to students creating some very powerful learning materials, generated by students. Of course, the teacher should be guiding and monitoring student research and progress. (including confirmation that students have the correct information, copyright obligations are honoured, and credit or citation is given when necessary)

Try not to forget that it doesn’t have to be perfect, and sometimes simple is all you need to get learning happening! Here is an example of two EAL students demonstrating their learning with a quick and easy screencast. They demonstrate character relationships in A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Lysander and Demetrius using a document camera, paper/pencils, their voices, and stick people! (screencast with Quicktime)

First, what am I talking about? Have a look at these examples my students made in the 2015-2016 academic year. (in this case hosted on Next Vista for Learning - more on this educational NPO below)

Shield Volcanoes (stop motion animation)

These examples aren’t flawless in terms of production, but are excellent examples of strong research, citation, and planning of a final product. These were part of an assessment in a Grade 8 Social Studies class, with a secondary piece in which they were submitted to Next Vista for Learning, an educational NPO based in California.

Screencasting with some Google Chrome extensions (Screencastify, Nimbus, Loom, Awesome Screenshot, or Screencast Recording by or Apple’s Quicktime, or iPad apps such as Vittle, are quick and effective. (depending on what you want to achieve) They are so simple, in fact, that your students can be making simple videos to demonstrate learning or to create tutorials for other student. The following video tutorials on will help you out. (note: Vittle iPad app tutorial coming soon, along with others)

Upon reading Dive Into Inquiry (2016), by Trevor MacKenzie (for purchase at Amazon or the EdTechTeam) the discussion on students creation of an “authentic piece” prompted this blog post. For the last couple of years I have had students create tutorial videos as an assignment, as well as presenting on the topic at EdTech events. These thoughts come from that. (and I’ll likely post again!)

Just a few more thoughts:

Video Ideas
  • Children’s Storybook Readings
  • Children’s Picture Book Readings
  • How to Solve a Math Problem
  • Teaching a Grammar Point
  • Choose Your Own Adventure (admittedly a big job)
  • Explain a science process
  • Explain & record a drawing or diagram
  • Green Screening
  • Describe characters in a story or novel
  • 360 Degree Video Tours (if you can afford the camera)

Teacher Benefits
  • Supports flipped classrooms more time to discuss difficult content in class
  • Allow students to learn at their own pace
  • Teach students when you’re absent
  • Give basic instructions (ie) PE demonstration, pronunciation
  • Wide range of learning styles addressed (audio, visual)
  • Interactivity: embed them in a Google Form as a quiz to determine learning (or other interactive video programs such as Zaption)
  • Share with parents and gain parent support at home

  • have voice and agency
  • create content for an authentic audience
  • demonstrate learning
  • learn from their peers (sample why they love it)
  • learn the importance of words, images, sound
  • can collaborate or be independent
  • become motivated
  • build self-confidence and pride in their finished product
  • leave a record of their learning
  • can share with the world

Skills developed…
  • research, analysis, synthesis
  • citation & accountability
  • critical thinking and metacognition
  • oral communication
  • written communication
  • storyboarding and storytelling
  • creativity and design
  • digital and social media use
  • problem solving
  • creation skills
  • empathy (explaining so that others understand)

  • Have a plan
  • Choose your tools: have the resources and materials ready
  • Take the video
  • Edit audio and video (common to use a second video editor, such as iMovie or Camstasia)
  • Determine if you want to be branded or not (a good idea so students recognize you over time, and to build your network; pr so that the class has a brand that new and old parents and students can follow and contribute to)
  • Make it public on the web (YouTube, Vimeo, your own website - include credits, further learning, links)

*Final note: using video in the classroom is growing more and more common, though naturally depends on the resources available to schools and students. Resources and access will be addressed in another future blog post.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

How do we use school and classroom space? Book Review of "The Space: A Guide for Educators" (2016)

The Space: A Guide for Educators (2016)

by Rebecca Louise Hare and Dr. Robert Dillon (purchase from the EdTechTeam Press)

Have changes in educational technology or pedagogy led to new (or more) conversations about how space is used in classrooms and schools? Thinking back to my earlier teaching days, I remember years ago having competitions with a colleague about making the best seating design for our respective classrooms. Aside from wishful thinking we didn’t talk or even think much about facilities. However, as an experienced educator I think a LOT more about how space is used in schools and how to get the most learning potential out of our spaces. “The Space: A Guide for Educators” is a thoughtful book that doesn’t begin with the assumption schools have to spend a lot of money building new facilities, but rather strategies to increase the learning potential of what your have, and cost-effective methods to make it happen. As project-based learning, inquiry based learning, and understanding by design have taken root in Western education I believe there are more conversations about how we use space. The authors, Rebecca Louise Hare and Dr. Robert Dillon, have a cleverly structured book that takes us on a journey of reflection, collaboration and student voice. They offer ideas to put ideas into action. The design of the book itself is unique, with many images, graphics, tables and labels - along with descriptive text - that cleverly gets the ideas across. The book doesn’t even have page numbers! Note: my comments are italicized.

The guide begins with a reflective process that brings students into the conversation, allowing them to consider what their learning environment provides. (and what it doesn’t) What’s the purpose of our learning spaces? Who are the spaces for? What kind of behaviours does our present learning space encourage? What kind of learning behaviours do we want to encourage? What implications does changing space have? I’m going to take the advice of the authors, out of interest, and survey students on these very things. Perhaps I’ll post on this blog the sample form. My current situation is a challenge, as teachers move to several different rooms. There are a variety of subjects taught in each individual room, so the “spaces” serve a wide range of people. That’s not a complaint; that’s the reality that will impact these considerations.  The overall message is a suggested process for co-designing learning space with students and tapping into collective creativity.  

The next part discusses the “things” - the physical materials - that could be used to change learning space. What will support student learning in that space? We’ve been having discussions in my current school with regard to our use of space - not new facilities that we need or want, but how we’re using space. There have been some good ideas. (ie) putting in new window blinds that can be used as green screens; mounting Apple TVs so that they are moveable; refurnishing that allows for the entire room to be mobile. Our Middle School classes all have whiteboards on the walls, which I’m loving. I disagree with the argument that brainstorming doesn’t support learning. So, what kind of things do the authors suggest? You’ll have to get the book, but here is a brief synopsis.

Spaces That Foster Collaboration

  • the need for movement and choice (reduce the use of old-school desks)
  • surfaces that support many people (everyone can see the surface, can contribute); idea walls, moveable desks and tables, writeable tables, bar-height tables
  • a variety of seating options (kinds of seats, tables and layouts)
  • routines that support collaboration

The authors also mention quiet spaces and spaces that showcase student learning.

Students as Designers
An important point made is that we can transform schools into places where students are creators, and not merely buildings in which students acquire knowledge. Creativity is digital, physical, spatial, and experiential. This is a discussion for the teacher who wants to transform their classroom into a creative space, offering suggestions to get started. They mention going to an Arts teacher, which makes sense, as students are often on differing tasks and moving around the room. I’m thinking that planning and management are the big issues here. The advice revolves around what to do with materials and establishing routines and classroom protocols, and moves on to emphasis that “creating is the learning process”. Hare and Dillon graphically outline a process that goes from curiosity and research to showcasing learning and building on that.

Spaces to Create
Start simple and don’t worry about having high tech equipment. Students will be creative and solve the problems of planning and production. Cheap green screens can be fashioned, cardboard and small whiteboards are great, and video editing is available. (YouTube Editor has come a long way if one doesn’t have common software such as iMovie or MovieMaker) The key principle is to create a space that allows for creativity. The author discuss physical maker areas. (also known as makerspaces: see or The authors give a number of suggestions for creating this kind of space. Keep in mind that this isn’t simply another art room. They also differentiate between digital maker areas, spaces that make have green screens, whiteboards for planning, or allow for music production.

Spaces to Showcase
What is the point of making something that isn’t used or shared? However, the point Hare and Dillon make is to showcase the learning process - not just the finished product. Use the walls for learning, not solely displaying, showing the progress, making walls interactive and interpretive. Don’t just throw things around the room, but have space planned with colours, furniture and everything in mind. Get rid of clutter, leave some space open, and be mobile. The authors remind us to plan who is responsible for showcasing, when things go up and come down, who the audience is, and think about diversifying the kinds of materials showcased. Some of the examples they give include magnet walls, digital portfolios, and hanging ideas from the ceiling.

Space for Quiet
I think this is an important point. Students also need a place to be left in peaceful thought. School libraries are transforming into collaborative spaces, not the quiet places I grew up with. Some suggestions include reducing visual noise in the classroom, giving quiet time during lessons or playing quiet songs, or have moments of reflection. Hare and Dillon also suggest creating classroom spaces that allow a student to hide for a little while (kind of like a Google office cubicle), or giving options to not collaborate sometimes. Overall, balance the stimulation in the classroom - we don’t have to be rapid fire, “go go go” all of the time. Have a look at the suggestions the authors provide.

The final section of the book takes time to offer some additional advice as you might choose to reimagine your classroom (or school) space, probably the most important encouraging us to be intentional. Create a culture of “yes”, encouraging students to try new things and push their limits, being unafraid of unknown results. There is a brief discussion on the impact of colour on learning. (something worth delving into more) What are some of the things we may not take into account in our learning spaces? The ability to control light on sunny and cloudy days; decorations; the nature of the windows. They remind us that materials we may need to foster creativity are revolving; when we don’t have all the materials we’d love to have challenge students to improvise and be creative in their problem solving; and that learning and creativity are central to the use of space. Hare and Dillon take into account the impact of digital tools, pointing out that we can’t ignore the reality that our students are growing up in a digital world. Maximize the use of digital tools. (insofar as it supports learning, with learning outcomes at the fore) Find ways to keep the spaces free of clutter so that you’re not tripping over power cables, etc, as you make your classroom mobile.

Another important element, which I find is often ignored, is going beyond the learning space. Strategies to connect the learning with those outside of the learning space to the wider community needs to be considered. (check out Dive Into Inquiry by Trevor MacKenzie, also from the EdTechTeam Press, and his Inquiry Open House approach to what he calls “public displays of learning”)

How Does All of This Happen?
So how does a school go about transforming spaces? Though this isn’t the final part of the book, I chose to place it here in this writing. The authors suggest three parts: initial prototyping, the launch phase, and concept reinforcement. You’ll have to purchase the book for further details. ;) They also provide a recap of the Seven Principles of Design, but apply it to rethinking school spaces.

Hare, Rebecca L., and Robert Dillon. The Space: A Guide for Educators. Irvine, California:
EdTechTeam Press, 2016. Print.