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Showing posts from July, 2012

The Essay Machine: Demystify the Five-Paragraph Essay

If I can get my students to leave my class knowing how to write predictable, formulaic five-paragraph essays, I feel like I've done my job. I believe that before young writers can learn how to dance, they need to learn to be pedestrian, and I find that my students still have a hard time walking. I've offered handouts, lectures, activities, and group discussions about how to structure a five-paragraph essay, and when they turn in their work, still too many of their essays are disorganized messes. Then I created The Essay Machine.


The Essay Machine is simply a Google Docs template using a table in a text document. The table has two columns with my instructions on the left column and a place for students to write their sentences in the right column. I have the rows divided into six different sections. One for each paragraph and a separate section for the title. Within each paragraph section, I have rows that explicitly instruct what kind of sentence goes where. Writing becomes fi…

Google Educast #56

Had a great conversation with Chris, Fred, and Google's Tasha Bergson-Michelson about A Google a day, and the Power Searching with Google class. I also talked about my 20% project and this video of my students presenting their work.

Hate grading essays a little less with Google Forms

Watch this screencast that shows you how to create forms that will help you grade essays faster while removing some of the mystery students feel about subjective assessments. Also see how I use the iPad while I grade.

Here is a link to the Google Docs Template. You must be signed in with your Google account to view this.

Do badge systems undermine motivation in the classroom?

Could offering a students badges for doing great work actually discourage performance? Perhaps. At our school we're looking at adopting a badge system to distribute when students demonstrate various skills particularly in our technology and information literacy class. For former scouts, the badge system will be nothing new. Learn a skill, earn a badge. I recently posted on my PLC a request to find a resource that offered digital badges we could use. James Sanders replied that he is working on a site that will provide just that at classbadges.com. Awesome!
One teacher brought up an informed and thoughtful question regarding badges, which I thought I would explore here. He asks: 
For this upcoming school year some teachers and I are introducing badges and other gamelike features into the online community that our students work in. One of the teachers has raised concerns that badges will stifle the students'  intrinsic motivation, that students will focus more on getting badges tha…

Demo Slam: Google Earth + Presentations

This is a video of my Demo Slam at the California Google Apps for EDU Summit on Thursday, July 13, 2012. In this slam I demonstrate how to overlay screenshots of Google Presentations into Google Earth to create Prezi-style presentations. Thanks to JR Ginex-Orinion @gochemonline for recording this and sending me the file.

See the history of the London Olympic Stadium Site in Google Earth

During the Google Apps for EDU Summit, I did a workshop on Getting Going with Google Earth. In it I demonstrated how you can see the history of any geographic location using the Historic Imagery feature. Here's a screencast of how it works.

Give your students 20% time to do whatever they want

"Seriously? You're going to let us do whatever we want for 20% of our time in English class?"

"I'm skeptical." 
"That's awesome."
Taking Google's lead, and inspired by Dan Pink's book, Drive, I decided to take the plunge and give my students the kind of radical autonomy they both suggest, and I gave my students 20% of their time in my English class to pursue a project of their choosing.  Rules and expectations You may work alone or with a small group.Choose a project that is new to you and something you wouldn't normally do in another academic class.Write up a proposal and pitch it to the rest of the class that includes a purpose, audience, timeline, and resources you will need to complete the project.Reflect on the process once a week in your blog.If at any moment you feel lost, overwhelmed, or uninspired, you must set a meeting with me to find a solution.At the end of the year, you will present your project and reflect on …