Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Google Classroom Tip I Didn't Know I Was Missing...

I love love love Google Classroom. I've been using it for the last three years (since I moved from art to computer literacy classes), and it is a game-changer in terms of going paperless and making classroom life in general so much easier!

There is a feature, however, in Classroom that I've never used... due dates on assignments. Maybe that sounds weird at first, so let me explain. The way that I grade, there's no such thing as "late" work. Therefore, I don't use due dates. I see kids for a 6-week term, and they either do the work, or they don't. I don't care when it gets turned in... as long as it gets turned in before the end of the term. My husband teaches art in another district, and he runs his classes the same way. We don't assign due dates, because there really aren't any. 

The first year I taught class, I tried assigning a due date based on when we would finish working on it in class, but it only confused students, and I had to keep telling them to ignore alerts from classroom that assignments were late or not done. It was annoying. 

So, for the next two years, I just kept creating assignments with no due date. The problem with this though, is that I never received alerts when students turned in work. Most importantly, if I graded an entire class and someone turned in their assignment AFTER I had graded the work, I never knew to go back and look unless a student took the time to personally email me. Seems like a simple step, but if you've ever taught (or parented) a middle-schooler, you know that every additional step is a huge deal that could possibly (and probably will) get missed. 

I struggled to keep track of work that was turned in after I had already graded the whole class. 

You might be reading this right now and thinking that you already know how to fix this. Well, try not to make me feel too stupid, ok? I'm really comfortable with Google Classroom, and I've even trained others on how to use it! So this was a real light bulb moment for me. 

I could still go in and create the initial assignment with no due date. Then, after I sat down and graded the class, I went back in and edited the assignment to give it a due date of whatever the day was that I graded the work. 

Because I made the date of grading my "due" date, I now receive email alerts after that any time a student turns in an assignment! Why hadn't I figured this out before? 

I was so mind blown by this discovery that I had to tell my husband all about it when I got home. It's a game-changer. So, I thought perhaps there are others out there that might find this helpful, too, and that I'd share. 

Are you familiar with Google Classroom? If not, I have a whole beginner's overview/professional development presentation all about Google Classroom! Check it out here: 

For those of you familiar with using Classroom, what's your favorite Google Classroom trick?

- Mrs. L.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Organizing Student Inboxes with Gmail Filters

One of the best things about being a computer teacher is that I get to teach students super practical skills that are often immediately relevant to a student's needs. This is one of those skills!

Now that most of the teachers in my building are utilizing Google Classroom (yay!), student email inboxes are being bombarded with automatic alerts from the service. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, because most of the information is good to be aware of, but it fills up fast!

I like to teach students how to create filters to automatically label those Google Classroom emails, which then allows students to quickly sort them out and archive or delete them.

Once students learn the technique, it's easy to apply filters to other emails, too: library notices, extra-curriculars, or sorting emails by subject areas - whatever method of organization a student prefers.

I searched on YouTube to find a tutorial, but I always end of creating my own because I'm so darn particular. If you're not like that, feel free to use mine in class:

Do you use Gmail filters with students? What methods work for you? 

P.S. Find my other Gmail tutorial about creating custom student email signatures here

- Mrs. L.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

DIY Techie Craft Ideas for Back-To-School

It's that time of year! I'm back after taking some summer time off to recharge, be a mom, and do some home improvement projects over the summer. It's been great, but it's time to start thinking about school again. My five-year-old starts kindergarten this fall, and he loves looking at school supplies. Hmm... I think he gets that from me?

So we were watching some YouTube videos about DIY school supplies and came across some super fun tech-related projects that Iggy and I had to make, and that I just had to share here.  Check it out!

Cord taco vs cord donut. Who will win?

Earbud cords are forever getting tangled, or lost/broken in your backpack or pencil case, amirite? We've got two new different solutions that you can try out this school year! The past couple of years, I was totally pushing the "mint-container-as-earbuds-holder" craft idea, but I've got a couple of new ones that I think are equally as functional and fun.

The first one is a "cord taco" made from craft foam and velcro dots. My son decided to try his hand at the "cord pizza," and loved it so much that he made one for his dad, too. Here he is, hard at work:

He's not exactly coordinated enough for painting (or patient enough!) just yet, so Iggy opted to decorate his foam cord keepers using colorful permanent markers. I used acrylic paint though for mine.

The second item was a "cord donut" made from Perler beads. This is actually where our crafts all started. My son is hooked on these tiny plastic beads that you place onto a pegboard, and then melt to fuse together using an iron. He started out making flat images of Ghostbusters and monsters and such, but has started to graduate to 3-D creations. I was researching the best glue to use when I came across the DIY for a cord donut. How could I NOT try it out? It's a donut!

And once you go down the YouTube rabbit hole of ideas, it tends to snowball. I became obsessed with the idea of a lipstick USB drive, and had to try to make one for myself:

The trick here is finding a USB drive that's small enough to fit into your empty lipstick tube! I got mine on Amazon, but still had to do a little tweaking via a sanding block to get mine to fit just right... but it's super cute, don't you think? 

Here's my complete playlist with the DIY directions on how to make these (and other) fun tech and school supplies!

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw how I made myself the ultimate finger pointer stick for my whiteboard this school year, inspired by one of my all-time favorite movies, School of Rock:

Heavy metal rock hand for the win!

Hope your school year gets off to an awesome start!

- Mrs L.