Getting to Know Your Students - Ideas to Start the Year Right

“You are obligated to understand that you are unique in the world. There has never been anyone like you because, if there were, there would be no need for you to exist. You are an utterly new thing in creation. Your life goal is to realize this uniqueness.” - Aaron Perlow

One of the greatest joys and greatest challenges of being a teacher is starting every year with a new class of incredible students. I love the new personalities and perspectives that wander into my room the first day, but I always struggle with the challenge of learning how to best meet the needs of 30 unique individuals each period that I teach.

My students and I will invest a bit of our time every day outside of learning about Environmental Science to get to know each other. The goal is always to build a learning community that supports the needs of everyone in the classroom.

Here are a few of the things I've planned for the start of the 2018 school year. These projects are designed to also help my students explore some of the EdTech resources we will be using this year.
  • YouVideo Project 2018 (Twitter descriptions and Flipgrid sharing. Students write and share a precise description of who they are. We've added some props into the creations this year with the plan to make some inferences about each other using Flipgrid video responses. ) 
  • Avatar Creation - The Digital You (Students create and share avatars that represent them in a digital space)
  • Identity Challenge Collage  (Brainstorming, organizing, and sharing images that tell the student's story.) 
  • Daily Attendance Questions (We share both verbally and using the Pear Deck Google Slides Add-on. Some of the questions are fun, some dive a litter deeper.)
  • Empathy and Service Learning (A collaborative activity that gives me time to talk to each group of students as they explore empathy and service learning. This is part of our classroom community building objective.)
Looking for something more? Check out these great posts from my PLN.


Exploring Adobe Spark - Design Challenges

Storytelling is the oldest form of teaching. It bonded the early human communities, giving children the answers to the biggest questions of creation, life, and the afterlife. Stories define us, shape us, control us, and make us. Not every human culture in the world is literate, but every single culture tells stories.” 


Adobe Spark is an incredible storytelling tool. In fact, it is three tools in one.
Create and share visuals with Spark Posts.
Create and share videos with Spark Videos.
Create and share web pages with Spark Pages.

Resources to Support Visual Storytelling
Design Challenge: Choose one or more of the options below and create a post, page or video to tell a story. Share your story in this Padlet and on Twitter using the #ShareYourWhy. I've also included a Google Doc version of these challenges that could be adapted for student use at the end of this post.

Option 1 - Spark Video
Explore Spark Videos and then plan and create a Spark Video that you could use with your students, colleagues or parents. The choice of topic is yours, but here are a few ideas to help you get started.
  • Share why you love being a teacher. 
  • Share your teaching philosophy. 
  • Share important classroom procedures. 
  • Introduce a topic or concept 
  • Welcome your students back to school. 
  • Brainstorm and get started with your own idea. 
Option 2 - Spark Post
Explore Spark Posts and then plan and create a Spark Post that you could use with your students, colleagues or parents. The choice of topic is yours, but here are a few ideas to help you get started.
  • Share why you love being a teacher. 
  • Share your teaching philosophy. 
  • Share important classroom procedures. 
  • Introduce a topic or concept 
  • Welcome your students back to school. 
  • Brainstorm and get started with your own idea. 
Option 3 - Spark Pages
Explore Spark Pages and then plan and create a Spark Page that you could use with your students, colleagues or parents. The choice of topic is yours, but here are a few ideas to help you get started.
  • Share why you love being a teacher. 
  • Share your teaching philosophy. 
  • Share important classroom procedures. 
  • Introduce a topic or concept. 
  • Welcome your students back to school. 
  • Brainstorm and get started with your own idea. 
Extended Learning
“There are three responses to a piece of design – yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for.” - Milton Glaser









Tuesday Tips - Two Favorite Google Slides Visual Design Add-ons

I spent part of my summer exploring design and design thinking. This led me to explore a variety of resources that support better visual design in my Slide Decks and HyperDocs.

Add-ons are found in the menus of Google Slides, Docs, Forms, and Sheets. Add-ons are tools built into G Suite that help you do more. You can find Slide Add-ons in the menu of Slides.


You can learn more about finding and installing add-ons using this Google Help Page.

Here are two Google Slides add-ons connected to visual design that I love.

The Noun Project - Quickly find the icon you want, change its color & size, then insert it right into your Google Slides and Docs.

Unsplash Add-ons - Insert free, HD photos from Unsplash easily in any slides presentation.

Looking for more EdTech and Google Tips? Explore the Archive of Past Tuesday Tips.



If you have a question or idea, please share in the comments below. 



Pear Deck Adds New Critical Thinking Questions Templates


Pear Deck is an incredible resource that supports student engagement and student voice through formative assessment, exit slips, reflections, interactive questions, discussion prompts, and more. 

The Pear Deck Google Slides Add-on integrates with existing slide decks to add interactive elements that allow the students to engage with the teacher during a presentation or self paced exploration. Existing Google slides can be supercharged with interactive features and questions including:
  • Multiple choice questions
  • Text entry questions
  • Numeric entry questions
  • Drawing interactive questions
  • Draggable interactive questions

The Pear Deck Add-on also has a Slide Library of templates that can be inserted into a new or existing Google Slide Deck.

Pear Deck recently added new Critical Thinking slides to the add-on. I am incredibly excited to explore these newly updated slides in the Pear Deck Add-on. 
There are 9 new editable slide templates. We''ve created this presentation to show each of the new slides. 




If you would like to explore the interactive questions from a student perspective we’ve created this  Student Paced option for your exploration.
Additional Pear Deck Resources

Let's me know if you have any questions?

Google Drive Essentials

Whether you are just getting started with Google Drive or have used it for years, there is always something new to learn. We've put together some Google Drive Essential Tips. Click on the links below to learn more.

Get the most out of your Google Drive experience by signing into Chrome. 
  • Login
    Login to Chrome to access all Google resources with one sign in. 
  • Account Sync
    Connect preferences and extensions across devices.
  • Incognito
    Login on shared computers for quick access. 
  • Adding/Removing a User
    Sometimes it is good to have multiple accounts logged in, sometimes it can be trouble. 
Getting help is only a few clicks away.
One of the best things about Google Drive is the ability to share and collaborate on files.
Organizing your drive or searching for files? The choice is yours. 
  • Naming Files - Be Consistent and complete. Long is not wrong. 
  • Sorting - Take advantage of sorting options to find recent files. 
  • Symbols - Add Symbols to add favorite folders to the top of the sort. 
  • Emojis - Add Emojis to group essentials folders or docs. 
  • Colors - Color code folders for quick visual cues. 
  • Star - Create a group of favorites. 
  • Search - Google is a search company and drive has some powerful search tools. 
There are many different ways to collaborate in Google Drive.
Apps, Add-ons, and Extensions are just awesome ways to enhance your Drive experience.
  • Chrome Extensions
    Extensions are enhancements to the functionality of the Google Chrome browser. Some connect to Google Drive. 
  • Drive Add-ons
    Add-ons are found in the menus of Google Documents, Google Slides, Google Sheets, and Google Forms. These add-ons add additional functionality to G Suite for Education.
  • Drive Apps
    Apps for creating, accessing, and working with files stored in Google Drive. There are drive apps for editing and viewing documents, spreadsheets, presentations, pictures and more.
More Help
Bonus Quick Tips
Keyboard Shortcuts



Tuesday Tip - Shortcut Keys in Google Drive

"Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely." Rodin

Moments add up and saving a few of those moments is essential when using technology. I believe that efficiency is a skill that can always be developed. One way to be more efficient is to use shortcut keys. Google Drive supports a variety of powerful shortcut keys that can help anyone save moments that can be invested elsewhere.

Here are 5 of my favorite Google Drive Keyboard Shortcuts.
  • Open selected item ( o
  • Create new Items ( New Document: Shift + t | New Presentation: Shift + p | New Spreadsheet: Shift + s | New Drawing: Shift + d | New Folder: Shift + f | New Form: Shift + o )
  • Share selected items - Open the Sharing Menue (  .  The period key )
  • Go to details pane of selected item ( g then d )
  • Move selected items to a new folder ( z ) or add selected items to multiple folders (Shift + z ). If you are interested in exploring the difference between moving and adding files in Google Drive, this post has some additional details.
Open Google Drive and give it a try?

To display the keyboard shortcut list in Google Drive, press Ctrl + / (Chrome OS, Windows) or ⌘ + / (Mac).

My next Tuesday Tips will focus on Chrome Shortcuts. If you have a favorite keyboard shortcut to share, please add it in the comments below.

Looking for more EdTech and Google Tips? Explore the Archive of Past Tuesday Tips.




Diversity Resources for Educators


"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" - The Colossus (Statue of Liberty Poem)

When you think of Diversity, what comes to mind?

For me, the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of diversity is the Schoolhouse Rock Video “The Great American Melting Pot”. I remember watching this video many times on Saturday mornings. I grew up in a rural area with limited diversity and I think this video impacted my worldview at an early age.


I like this definition of Diversity from Queensborough Community College

The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.Source

I used to think that is was doing my best by treating everyone as an equal regardless of how they were different from me, what some educators call "being colorblind."  My mindset has changed and I’ve learned over the years that treating everyone the same is not necessarily the best path for all learners. Today, I do my best to consider how a person's differences impact how they see the world. It is confusing for me at times because I do not always have the knowledge to “walk in the shoes” of another person when my life experiences are so different, but I try to keep an open mind. Today I try to be both aware of and accepting of the differences I see and others.

I firmly believe that diversity should be recognized as a positive for all communities. A diverse community is a strong community, but I understand that there are issues and misunderstands that can result in diverse communities. People will say and do the wrong things, sometimes intentionally, sometimes by accident. I do my best to engage diversity in my classroom on a daily basis.  I believe simple awareness is the first key to making diversity a strength for our learning environment. Eyes wide open.

Here are a few resources I've organized to support diverse learners in our classrooms. If you have any suggestions or ideas please consider adding them to this Padlet or in the comments below.
Diversity YouTube Playlist

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