Thursday, January 19, 2017

Maximizing Google Search Part 4 - Find Information Faster

This is Part 4 of a blog series on the Google Powersearching course, a free online course that is self-paced. (feel free to skip to the first topic)

This lesson helps us to find factual information more efficiently. There are so many useful search options such as Google Flights, "time now in [city name]", translation, etc, that it's difficult to keep up. Here is a small list of approaches to refining your searches from Google support. 

The point of the series is to give short summaries of the course with useful links and links to the videos Google provides. If you want to jump ahead and get go directly to many of the Search features you can access this work-in-progress Google Slides deck, entitled “Google Search: Foster Independent Learners & Search Like a Ninja”. It is based on Google Search workshops I have facilitated and continues to evolve. The goal is to learn how to use Google Search with maximum efficiency. As Google states, you will “Hone your searching skills by solving complex search challenges alongside peers from around the world in this online class.” The skills you will learn here will give educators the tools needed to foster your students’ independent research skills.

Search by Image 
This section teaches us how to search by dragging and dropping images into the Google search bar. This is great for any class. You can find out what something is, where someplace is, and the sources of similar images. It doesn’t have to be the full image, but the more “full” the image is, the “fuller” result you’ll get. The text in the search result will indicate the best options. 

  • Go to the Image search tab
  • Click on the camera icon in the search bar
  • Drag and drop an image into the search bar, which processes the image
  • The best possible description will appear

Search Features 
By doing a search called [Google Search Features] you’ll get the search features master list. This is great! You can find detailed information on so many topics: population, unemployment, medicines, weather, time in a specific city, conversions, spell check, earthquakes (nice while in Japan), and more. When searching you’ll be able to find things like flight details, exact time, weather, details about a specific illness or related names. These are great little shortcuts.

Conversions and Calculator 
Google as we know converts for us and calculates weights and measures. It also calculates. Here are some straightforward conversion scenario examples:

  • 35C in F
  • 23 bushels in liters
  • 3 km in miles
  • dollars to yen (this will also allow you to convert again; there is a disclaimer)
  • % of a number
  • recipe conversion

World Development Index: population calculations, for example, gives you a data page in which you can compare nations (I’m not certain how accurate this is as I compared Canada and Japan in “primary children out of school” and had an odd spike in different years on the graph for each; still, worth looking into)

Right Hand Panel and Date Range Limiting 
This feature allows us to customize the range of time we want to seek information, such as when a book was published, or articles from a specific period of time (weeks, days, years). You can narrow this with operators such as “intext:”, “filetype:”, and the “OR” synonym finder.

  • Do a search with keywords
  • Choose the time in the time filter (click “more search tools first)
  • Click on another filter, such as “News” or “Books”

Translation and Search
This feature allows you to search foreign pages, in their original language, to get perspectives from other cultures. You can grab a news article and mouseover (or rollover) to get the original text as well. Using the translation features allows you to select the language or languages you desire. I think in teaching history, and especially using sources, I’d be somewhat careful of the translations at the moment, but would definitely give this search option a try. The example used in the video is with dolphin temple in Greek culture, but from the perspectives of the Greeks.

  • You can narrow the search to news, as well as use the time range feature
  • The more option allows you to shift from one language to another
  • There is a pronunciation feature with the speaker icon, but it’s very much like a computer voice
  • I find the translations I’ve “played with” are not great

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Google Forms (Surveys) for Understanding Learning Processes and Teaching Practices in Your Classroom & School with Visible Learning

Visible Learning Surveys: Putting John Hattie’s Research into Practice
*There are three forms in this post that can be copied and used in your own classroom or school.

John Hattie’s Visible Learning approach to teaching helps teachers use evidence to create innovative learning environments. The surveys presented here are based on Biggs’ Learning Process Questionnaire (John Biggs) and John Hattie’s reflective surveys on teacher and school environments that influence learning. (which he entitles “To what extent are teachers developing skill, will and thrill in the school?”) Access the Google Forms following each explanation.

Biggs’ Learning Process Questionnaire
The modified Biggs survey focuses on students’ attitudes towards learning, and is intended for older students. (teachers can determine what age is appropriate) The questions have been deliberately developed to cover most aspects of schoolwork, recognizing that learning depends heavily on subject interest and learning styles. I recommend teachers instruct students to apply it only to the class / subject in which it is used.

My approach to this survey is to have students complete it at the beginning of the year, when there is little or no influence of my teaching on them. (though I think it can be used at any time of year and a good reflective practice for discussion) After I consider the responses I go over a few questions at a time every week for several weeks. This serves as a continuous discussion about how we learn, our attitudes, and strategies towards learning. It also reduces the tendency to use surveys such as this as a checkbox.

Make a copy of the survey here:

Answer choices can be explained as:
5. This item is always or almost always true of me.
4. This item is frequently true of me.
3. This item is true of me about half the time.
2. This item is sometimes true of me.
1. This item is never or only rarely true of me.

Developing Skill, Will and Thrill in the Classroom and the School
Hattie uses his research to identify key messages about what teachers need to think about in relation to their practice. He makes reference to effect size of each, which can be explained in detail in his book, Visible Learning for Teachers. “Skill” identifies prior achievement. This is more of an influence on learning as a child grows older. Working memory is another skill. Students can only move so much information from short-term memory to long-term memory, actively processing material to consolidate it.

The “will” includes learning dispositions, which are capabilities or the “toolkit” of a learner. However, there must be a willingness along with the abilities. Research shows that students will think at higher levels if they are disposed to. (and likely won’t happen all the time) Another element of the “will” is confidence. There is evidence that students perform better when they have confidence that they have the knowledge, skills and understanding prior to attempting a task. Self-belief apparently does matter. Hattie suggests there’s an implication that activities to building confidence are useful.

Hattie also considers what creates the “thrill” of learning. Surprisingly, he tells us that feelings such boredom have less impact than we might think. When it comes to motivation Hattie brings us back to Biggs, who suggests there are deep, surface, and achieving approaches to learning. Essentially, he says low or surface motivation comes with performance based tasks, such as passing a test. This is merely reproducing information. A deep approach leads to the desire to develop understanding, makes sense of what is being learned, and create new ideas of their own. (the highest level of SOLO taxonomy)

Make copies of the surveys here:
Reflective survey for teachers:
Reflective survey for school leaders:

Some further thoughts from Hattie that apply to the above surveys as you try to identify influences of teaching practices on learning…

Knowing Success
Knowing what success looks like involves showing students what successful achievement looks like before attempting a task. This includes knowing what criteria teachers will use to judge student achievement, so teachers must be clear on the criteria that will be judged.

Teachers that use advance organizers help students connect old ideas to new ones being introduced. (an introduction of the new information or skill being addressed in a lesson) Students learn better when key points of a lesson are identified. This provision of structure has proven to help students learn.

The teacher’s impact on progress must be carefully addressed by school leaders, to ensure that students get “a year of progress”. (or more if a student comes into a year behind in knowledge and skill)

Hattie also makes an argument for concept mapping as a tool for summarizing main ideas graphically, helping students make connections. He suggests students be involved in the process, and notes it has a bigger impact when students have some prior surface knowledge.

Managing the Learning Environment
The learning environment is the space in which students and teachers learn. It includes a consideration of distractions, lighting, use of space, and the resources in that space. (this could be applied to school spaces such as the classroom and home) *Read The Space: A Guide for Educators by Rebecca Louise Hare and Dr. Robert Dillon. The learning environment includes student agency. Choice and some control over learning does have an impact on motivation, but research shows these actually do not have a great impact on learning and achievement.

Works Cited
Hattie, John. Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning. London New York:
Routledge, 2012. Print.

Hattie, John. "Visible Learning Plus." "How Students Learn: Improving how students approach
learning." Handout. Professional Development Workshop. Japan ASCD. Seisen International
School. Mar. 2016. Print.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Maximizing Google Search Part 3 - Using Advanced Search Techniques

Google Search uses functions what called “operators”, which basically means terms that help you to narrow down your search to specific files, or reduce the irrelevant “noise” in your search. Operators help you narrow your focus more specifically. Access videos from the links below. The ideas in this post come from the free, self-paced course Power Searching. (there is also Advanced Power Searching) 

This operator allows you to narrow your search to something within a specific web site. For example, [ Genghis Khan] will take you to all the links in the History Channel that have Genghis Khan. This can be done for sites such as [.gov] [.edu] Be certain to keep these things in mind:

  • No space between the colon and site
  • You can use country codes to narrow your search, such as [.jp] or [.ca] for Japanese and Canadian sites, respectively. 
  • You don’t actually need the dot “.” For Top Level Domains, such as [edu], [gov], [], []
  • You can do this with images as well

This is used to narrow your search to specific kinds of documents. Extensions such as PDF, PPT, TXT, DOC, DOCX are common, but there are many, many other extensions recognized. Try [ancient Greece document based question filetype:pdf] to get sample DBQs on Ancient Greece, but in PDF format. Use this for finding info in KML files, which bring you to Google Earth images; seek resource boundaries, watersheds, famous expeditions in history, etc. 

Removing Invasive Results (the minus sign) -term 
By simply putting a minus sign (no space) in front of a term and you’ll narrow your search. For example, if you want Napoleonic history but nothing about his life on Corsica you can use [Napoleon –Corsica] You can use double minuses to narrow your search further [Napoleon –Corsica –St.Helena]

Using Double Quotes “ “
You can seek exact phrases if you sandwich the words in quotations.

  • When searching for synonyms you can do “term” OR “term”
  • Use capital letters for OR

When seeking a specific word or words (ie) a person, a place, a food, try the intext: feature.
After starting a search, click on the gear to the top right. It will bring you to all of these options to help you narrow your search. Be certain of the vocabulary you want to use. Words are important! For example, the query intext:ancient Rome restricts results to documents containing "ancient Rome: in the text. 

Learn more here.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Universal Design in the Classroom

I recently finished reading and writing a (future) blog post on the book “The Space: A Guide for Educators”. It’s a book about reimagining our learning spaces in schools. At the end of the book the authors Rebecca Louise Hare and Dr. Robert Dillon apply universal design to their advice on how to reinvent classroom space. In what ways can we apply Universal Design in reimagining our learning spaces? How do we ensure that our classrooms foster opportunities for equal participation, and discourage exclusion. *Universal design is also referred to as “universal design in education (UDE)”. I recommend giving this article from DO-IT: Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology a careful read - there are some great explanations and examples here. Admittedly, I don’t think I really put a lot of thought into this for a long time. I’ve taught in shared spaces for the last 9 years of my (nearly) 20 years in teaching, so with everyone moving around few rooms are “dedicated” spaces.

This is a framework for educational environments that are accessible to all people, including the tools and (software) programs that are used. Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D, says these include (but I would suggest not limited to): “computer and science labs, curriculum, educational software, instruction, libraries, professional organizations, registration options, student housing and residential life, websites, [and] other student services.”

According to Anne Meyer, the “three key components of universal design for learning are: multiple representations of information, alternative means of expression, and varied options for engagement.” (Edutopia 1998) Some areas that foster inclusion include using materials that have subtitles, apps that read text for students, and visuals that foster understanding of ideas and concepts. Do visuals have audio accompaniment? Are there translation tools available? (admittedly, these still have some development needed) Do we allow students varied approaches to express their ideas and research? (such as orally, visually, drama) Do we give students modified text so that the key ideas are clear, and their focus and understanding is maximized? I think a key component is the inclusion - these concepts are for all community stakeholders.

Let’s look at each of the 7 principles in isolation, and (mostly) in the form of questions, a format I have seen a number of times. Perhaps reflect on your own classroom or learning environment, how it stands up to the principles of universal design, and what may help or hinder making your learning spaces more "universal".

Principle 1: Equitable Use
Do all students have access to all materials? Can they navigate the space without difficulty? Ultimately, can all students learn?

Principle 2 : Flexibility in Use
Does the space offer choice to students? This isn’t only about what they can learn, how they can approach learning, and how they can demonstrate learning, but also where in the room they can learn.

Principle 3: Simple and Intuitive Use
Is the space designed intuitively? Does the space allow for all to use it intuitively? Can a new student join the class and adapt quickly, regardless of experience, language or knowledge? Materials and resources should be quickly accessible to all.

Principle 4: Perceptible Information
Is necessary information easily understood? (the use of visuals) This such as images, colour coding and text help all students understand the space around them.

Principle 5: Tolerance for Error
Are the materials safe? Is the furniture safe? Are the rules in the space clear so that mistakes may be limited?

Principle 6: Low Physical Effort
Can things be moved around with little difficulty? Are things easily accessible to all?

Principle 7: Size and Space for Approach and Use
Are wall posters or written instructions at the eye level of the students, or the teachers? Is it appropriate for the age group? (if you’re a high school teacher and have done PD in an elementary classroom, you’ll quickly understand this one)

Works Cited
Anne Meyer. "Universal Design in the Classroom: Do it Once, Do it Right." Edutopia. 1 May 1998.
Web. 31 Dec. 2016. <>

Hare, Rebecca L., and Robert Dillon. The space: a guide for educators. Irvine, California:
EdTechTeam Press, 2016. Print. 22 Jan. 2010. Web. 31 Dec. 2016.

"Universal Design in Education: Principles and Applications | DO-IT." n.d. Web. 6
Jan. 2017. <

Monday, January 2, 2017

Maximizing Google Search Part 2 - Understanding What You Read

This is the second of five posts on the Google Powersearching course (basics), a free online course that is self-paced. This post (lesson in the course) discusses the kinds of information that at your disposal in a search result, and the variety of ways to search and media to search through. The key idea is how to do a better search and get better results.

*Note: the videos feature the old view of Google Search, but the skills still apply.

The point of this series to give short summaries of the course with useful links and links to the videos Google provides. If you want to jump ahead and get go directly to many of the Search features you can access this work-in-progress Google Slides deck, entitled “Google Search: Foster Independent Learners & Search Like a Ninja”. It is based on Google Search workshops I have facilitated and continues to evolve. The goal is to learn how to use Google Search with maximum efficiency. As Google states, you will “Hone your searching skills by solving complex search challenges alongside peers from around the world in this online class.” The skills you will learn here will give educators the tools needed to foster your students’ independent research skills.

Part 2: Understanding What You Read

When Search Results Suggest Something New (video) One way Google gives extra information is a summary panel to the right. (not all pages have this, but you’ll get it for famous people, places, events, sports teams, countries, etc) The problem I had with it, personally, is that Wikipedia is one of the top pages, which I have reservations when it comes to researching history for academic purposes. The suggestions you are given are common queries; this “rapid recognition” narrows down the results.
  • Use the pronunciation feature (it usually appears – great for History vocabulary)
  • Use the “Related Searches” at the bottom; it gives you more ideas of what to search
  • Use the right side panel to see what related links there may be (an activity I chose ended up connecting these words: Tokyo Tower - Burj Khalifa – Adrian Smith – Chicago – Art Institute of Chicago – American Gothic
Understand What You’re Reading (video)
  • Use the [define ‘term’] feature to understand vocabulary you don’t know. See the example image below.
  • Use the pronunciation feature (it usually appears – great for History vocabulary)
  • Click on “More Info” to deepen the search
  • Use the translate feature
  • Look at the word origins feature
Options for Searching with Different Media Forms (video) There are image, video, maps, and news links that appear in a search result. (and the More link that gives books, shopping, and flights) Related searches are based on the results that have helped other people (who’ve gone on to use found links). When searching for “How To”, the result will often begin with a video; Google takes the query and makes the result within the most relevant media (I typed “play C chord” and the first result was indeed a video for a guitar C chord). Switch the media type using the options on the left hand side.

Reading the Search Results Page (video) There are a lot of interesting features from this lesson. Use the rollover feature (>>) on the right side to get an image of the page. Often you can read or skim over pages to seek relevance; it’s a preview. (good for seeking website sources quickly)

*Warning: if you see an ellipsis (…) it means the summary/ abstract/ snippet is a combination of statements in the page; the same statement is NOT in the web page. There are often links to sub pages when the site is large. These links take you deeper into the web site. Big sites sometimes will have search box that funnels your query within that web site. Pay attention to the URL. Addresses like “.gov” may have the official information you want.

Different Kinds of Content (video) We know videos, blogs, images, etc, are in most search results, but there is much more. Click on the MORE link in the top bar. Other features: