Monday, December 19, 2016

Do You Even HyperDoc?

My favorite thing lately is the HyperDoc. You probably use elements of HyperDocs in your classroom in some form or another, and didn't even know it.
"HyperDoc is a term used to describe a Google Doc that contains an innovative lesson for students- a 21st Century worksheet, but much better." 
I found a great website that goes into depth about the definition, philosophy, and structure of HyperDocs (a best practices overview) over at - I've been re-vamping many of my units into the HyperDoc format, and I really love the simplicity of it.

Here's where it started: I was noticing that my Google Classroom assignments were becoming a bit of a jumble of attachments to videos, rubric doc files, web resources, and templates for work. Then, in the middle of a unit, I'd find another relevant resource, and I'd go add it to the assignment by editing it and adding yet another link, or adding a comment with the link on the assignment. This gets really confusing for students really quickly. Even for 8th graders.

My light bulb moment came while I was going over the Google training information for the Certified Educator program, and I came across the concept of a HyperDoc. Why hadn't I thought of this earlier? I can put everything students need for a lesson into one doc shared to students and it will always be updated, because Google Docs! No more attaching a zillion things to my assignments.


Best practices for a HyperDoc follow the basic components listed above. I'm also a pretty big sucker for formatting - making the doc very easy to read and follow; using tables, images, fonts, and colors to emphasize important aspects as needed. But easy to read/ease of use is number one.

I'm constantly going back over my worksheets and digital resources to update and re-vamp them, so a shared Google Doc that constantly syncs to all of my updates and revisions is really the best thing ever. I made a HyperDoc for my 8th grade WeVideo unit, and I love the fact that I can update my student examples as time goes on - the projects just keep getting better and better, and therefore so do my examples! 

Here are some screenshots from my WeVideo HyperDoc:

A good majority of the links here can only be accessed from within my district network, so a screengrab will have to suffice.

The only part that's kind of frustrating is that YouTube is currently blocked for all of our middle school students. Even if I use SafeShare to get a "clean" view of a video, the view is still blocked because it originates from YouTube. 

What I do in these cases is show the video to the whole class, since my teacher access is not blocked. I still keep my video links in there, so that a student could access it from home, if needed.

You can create a HyperDoc and have students make their own copies so that they can work directly on the doc, and then submit the copies to you via Google Classroom, email, or any other preferred method. I like to use my HyperDoc as a main hub for directions and resource material, with work completed and submitted via separate files (like our WeVideo project file) submitted via Google Classroom where the HyperDoc is posted. The nice thing about my view-only method is that students will always see the most updated version, even if I have to make changes/additions during the unit. (As soon as a student makes a copy of your Doc, it becomes a separate file and does not update. Not necessarily a bad thing, but something to be aware of.)  

For even more on using HyperDocs in the classroom, check out this blog post by Justin Birckbichler.

Have you used HyperDocs in class before? What worked for you?

- Mrs. L.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Why You Need an Epic Hallway Maze at Your School.

Every quarter, I put a new maze down out in the hallway outside my classroom. It's just blue painter's tape on linoleum floor, but to students, it's the greatest thing, ever.

My classroom is in the basement, across and around the corner from a couple other elective/specials (whatever your building calls us) classrooms. So a whole bunch of students from all three grade levels pass by in the course of a day. The first time I did this, I had an unexpected but hilarious result: students would walk up to the maze, glance down, and then proceed to walk through the maze pathway to get to the other side as they were traveling to their next class. Like, during passing periods.

The art teacher and I entertained ourselves by watching this phenomenon happen this first week, even joking with students that if they did not follow the maze, they would be reported to administration for "non-maze compliance." This usually resulted in giggles, eye-rolls (it is middle school), or a quick back-track to walk through the maze correctly a second time.

So, advantage #1: Hilarious social experiment.

I didn't put the maze down for the reason listed above, though. I taped down a maze for the purpose of using our Sphero robots. Students use the Tickle app on iPad minis to write a drag-and-drop block coded program to (hopefully) send the Sphero through the entire maze. It's not nearly as easy as you would think! Few, if any, students are actually able to accomplish this task each term. But everyone makes an attempt.

Therefore, advantage #2: Awesome curricular challenge using Spheros:

Another unexpected thing happened when I put down the hallway maze the first time. Other teachers became curious; they actually asked me about what I was doing in class. Students not enrolled in my class would stop and ask about it. My administrators came down to see it. In a random stroke of good luck, it was open house night not too long after I put down the maze. Therefore, parents even stopped and asked about it.

Advantage #3: Curiosity! Opportunity to talk about your class to others! Free advertising!

I made up the maze on my own the first time it occurred. But then I thought, "Hey, why am I doing all of this work, when students will take way more ownership over something that they do themselves?" So for round two, I had a student stop by after school and make the maze himself. He designed it and (with a little help from me) taped it down. All I had to do was give the parameters: ten squares long by five squares wide was the area he had to work with. It was pretty fun.

This quarter, I gave all of my students a chance to design a maze for the hallway: I created a simple grid on a half sheet of paper, and had each student draw and submit a design. I chose one that I thought would functionally work out best (after having done this a few times), and surprised the students the following day with the "winning" design, in actual maze format on the hallway floor. Pretty sweet prize, if you ask me.

Advantage #4: Student ownership and buy-in. Motivation.

After using this maze concept a few times with 8th grade, I realized that I could do so much more with this! My 6th graders have Dot and Dash robots, and the maze would be the perfect challenge for Dash! Similar to programming the Sphero to travel through the maze, students could write a program for Dash using the Blockly app and have him travel the path, too. I love when I can do work and get some extra bang for my buck!

Advantage #5: Bonus curricular content with Dash robots!

My math teacher friend crocheted these cute little winter hats for our Dash robots. :)

Hopefully I have convinced you that you need your own epic hallway maze. I can tell you from experience that blue painter's tape will NOT mark the linoleum floor, no matter what your custodian may try to tell you. Don't use masking tape though - that will!

Even a carpeted floor would be just fine for making a maze. If you have space in your actual classroom, go ahead and do that. But the hallway is more advantageous, if you ask me. I love the curiosity and excitement it builds when people see it. When I was an art teacher, advocating for your program was one of the philosophies that was drilled into my brain as an undergrad. So, anytime I can "advertise" what's going on in my classroom, I consider that a very good thing.

- Mrs L.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Strategies for Building an Ed Tech Resume

I'm always on the lookout for ways to improve my teaching and keep things exciting. If I'm not feeling motivated and enthusiastic, how can I expect my students to be?

It turns out that a lot of the things that one might do to keep growing as an educator are also awesome for building your ed tech resume overall - and you never know where that may lead! I'd love to eventually leave the classroom and start helping other teachers (in a more formal capacity) to utilize innovative teaching strategies and new technology in their own curriculum, so I'm trying to get lots of experience in a variety of areas in order to help facilitate that dream.

Here are some things that you can do now, as a teacher in any subject area, to start building your ed tech resume. You don't need to necessarily intend on leaving your current gig; these steps will help any educator at any level/subject area become more effective at their job!

Grad School: 

You don't need to go back to school for a full degree; explore your state's requirements for additional endorsements on your current teaching license. You may be surprised to find out that it only takes a class or two to become endorsed in a brand new area! This is what happened to me when I switched from visual arts to computer literacy. I was actually able to snag endorsements in computer applications and technology specialist at the same time! Depending on your district's policies, you may be able to complete these classes via an online program (my program was through University of Illinois), and even get reimbursed for classes.

Google Certified:

Does your district use Chromebooks? Does your school have G Suite for Education? For either of these situations, I highly recommend the Google Certified Educator programs. There are two levels, so if you're feeling a little timid, you can start at level one and see how you feel before moving on. The Google Certified Educator programs are a great way to learn in-depth about the possibilities and functions of G Suite - you'll likely learn lots of fun new tricks that you can begin integrating immediately into your teaching! There is a small charge associated with each level test, but I think it's a good way to make sure that the people completing the program are really serious about it. When you pass level one or two, you get a nifty digital badge to display on your website, resume, or portfolio for the next 24 months!

Apple Teacher:

Similar to Google Certification is the Apple Teacher program. Although my district isn't a "Mac/Apple" district, we still have some iPads deployed within the schools. I have a set of 8 in my own classroom for use with our Spheros, Dot and Dash, etc... So I feel like this would be a good way to get in some more professional development that expands my areas of expertise. My husband's district is 1:1 iPad, so he's been working on his Apple Teacher badges. I decided to go along for the ride! You can earn badges in the area of iPad or Mac (I'm currently working on iPad), and if you earn all eight badges in either area, you get the privilege of being known as an Apple Teacher, which also has a sweet logo to display, and the opportunity to earn even more badges in other Apple areas.

Teacher Institute/In-service Programs:

Unless you are in a coaching/TOSA type of position in your district, you may not have a whole lot of opportunities to teach other teachers. Keep an eye out for potential small events in your district, or building, and volunteer if you can! Last year, my district hosted a "Tech Camp"-style in-service day, and I taught two different sessions to other teachers in my district. Sometimes you can submit a proposal to teach a class within your district for other teachers, or present to one particular subject area or department on an institute day. If you are lucky enough to have these types of opportunities, be sure to take advantage of them! They're a great way to start small in preparation for larger presentations, like at professional conferences (see below!).

Conference Presentations:

It's one thing to attend a professional conference. It's a whole other ballgame to actually present at one! If you have a job where you don't have a lot of opportunity to be a leader (say you're a classroom teacher looking to move into a coaching position), but you have something to share, try presenting at conferences! If you're nervous, start small. I started out by presenting at my state professional conference (the IAEA - all art teachers!) on a topic that I was really comfortable with. The following year, I decided to present on social media, which, although being a presentation for art teachers, was still within the realm of technology and easily adaptable to many different subject areas. Up next on my presenter schedule are a Google Summit in January, and the ICE Conference in the spring!


Grants are awesome for the simple fact that you can get free stuff to help you out professionally - maybe it's supplies for your classes, a rad guest speaker, or tuition for continuing education classes. But winning a grant is also a great item to add to your professional resume, because it shows that you are innovative (hey, you won!), but also willing to go above and beyond in your job, because writing a grant is quite a bit of work on top of your normal job responsibilities. My district has an education foundation that holds fundraisers year-round, and then grants money to teachers who apply for various projects. I've been fortunate to win grants from this program several times! If you've never applied for a grant before, a really simple program to win small tech toys and/or accessories is the iPevo Wishpool program. In past years, I've been granted iPad keyboards, cases, and charging accessories.

As is my philosophy with most educational concepts, dream big, but start small. You'll be amazed how much you can accomplish within a small time frame if you just focus on little steps along the way.

These tips will help you to build your educational technology resume, both for teachers looking to move into technology roles, and for those working on a future-ready approach to teaching. Do you have any special strategies for building your technology skills?

- Mrs. L.