5.31.2017

It's All About Design


Throughout this school year, I have been thinking about how content is shared with students. Before any 1:1 program, we as teachers would put something together in a Google Doc (or lets be honest and say Microsoft Word) and print the document out for each student. You might have tried to keep text to a page. Very little graphics, if any, were included.

Fast forward to today where students have a device. We can think about creating and designing content on a document that has more of a design element to it.

At the beginning of the school year, I was fortunate to participate in a YouTube Live conversation with Lisa Highfill and Kelly Hilton, co-creators of the term Hyperdocs. You can watch the recorded conversation HERE. I also previously wrote a blog post about Hyperdocs which can be found HERE. Basically, their main objective with hyperdocs is to help guide students through an informal, reflective journey. This can be accomplished through the following steps:  Engage, Explore, Explain, Apply, Share, Reflect, and Extend. More information can be found on the hyperdocs website.

There are times however where you don't want to create a hyperdoc for students but still need to share information. This is where an element of design, in terms of layout, color, and style come into play.

Two different examples come to mind when I think of the design element. One has to deal with sharing information to staff about two senior project celebration days (days where we do not hold classes, but instead learn from our students and their senior projects) and the other about sharing information to students over the course of a unit in a Global Humanities course.

It is important to note that there is not one 'right way' of putting information together. The whole point of this blog post is to help people think about how they are sharing information to others.

  • Should everything be in Times New Roman font, size 12, black font?
  • Should there be some color?
  • Should tables be involved?
  • Should a different file type be used besides Google Docs?
If students have a device in front of them, should things be more visual? Is the expectation for people to print said file - if that is the case maybe there shouldn't be much color. One could argue for or against each of the questions above. It is up to you as an educator to make your best judgement.

Senior Project Celebration Days

What: Teachers must be informed with how two days at the end of the school year are run to accommodate student presentations.
Problem to Solve: Before curating information, several (10-20) emails were sent out on the school wide group email causing staff to not know when or what was sent. As a result, a member of the committee, Ms. Doyle, came up with an idea last year to put all of the important information together in a Google Sheet.


This year, the decision was made to organize the information differently to help staff out. Again, keeping in mind that the committee didn't want to send several emails out, they decided to put all of the information together in a Google Drawing.

Both the Google Sheet and the Google Drawing share the same information - it is just presented differently.  Each file had links that opened up different files. Ask yourself, which would you rather look at? Your answer might be different from a friend of yours. I hope however, you think to yourself, how can/should I share information out with students beyond just typing text.

Unit Study in Global Studies

What: Students must 'Go the Distance' to learn and extend themselves in a Global Studies Unit.
Problem to Solve: The teachers, Mrs. Cooney and Mrs. Hatzidakis, wanted a way to curate and share the steps and procedure they wanted their students to take along their journey. Below are three different versions of the same information. Which one would you rather be on the receiving end if you were the student in their class?

Version 1 (White background with black text)
Version 2 (Purple background, with tables, different font)
Version 3 (Circular workflow process table, with different font and colors)

I know...I don't have the all the answers or the 'right way' of putting content together. Hope that this has gotten you to think about design however. If you have any questions or you would like to talk about this topic with me, you know where to find me.

It all comes down to design! And that is my Spiel...

5.22.2017

Sometimes We Have to Unlearn to Learn....

This past week, I was reminded, from time to time, we have to unlearn what we have always done in order to learn and improve. Sometimes this can be difficult to do. You have always done something a certain way...why would you want to ruin what is 'good'? However, sometimes change can be for the better. Sure it might take you awhile to get used to doing something new, but in the end you will see the benefits and progress.

Unlearn to Learn

Here is my recent journey of having to unlearn to learn over the past week.

I help manage our school's social media accounts. Whenever something needs to be posted on Instagram, I think to myself:

"What picture do we already have that I can use that relates to what needs to be shared?
"What picture could I take around the building?"
"Who can I ask that would have an image of...?"

There have been times in the past where I have thought,

"Well, I don't know what I would use as a picture so I don't know if I am going to post it on Instagram. Instead, I will just post it on the school's Twitter and Facebook accounts."

You probably already know what the problem might be with the last statement. Most of our students live in the Snapchat and/or Instagram worlds. They might not see what is shared on Twitter or Facebook.

Posting to Instagram 
"Traditional Method"
Let's say that I have already have the picture that I want to use for Instagram. In many instances it is a picture that was sent to me by mail. I would either need to send the picture to myself and open up the picture on my phone to post on Instagram, or I would share it to my drive. Sure that is a lot of steps, but hey, it is what I have done in the past.


"New Method"

I realized I should be using my phone to help me be creative in sharing information with the community. For instance, our school is celebrating turning 10 years old. I needed to find a way to share 'text' information in a visual format. Sure I could type all of the information under the image, but I didn't really have a 'good' image that related to the content.



It dawned on me that I really should push myself to try out Adobe Spark Post Mobile app. I have used the web version of the application but hadn't really tried the mobile version. To my surprise, I discovered that there were some great features in the mobile version that I had not seen on the web version.









Once I opened Spark Post, I discovered that you can 'remix' a spark post that some else has already created. I remember a colleague of mine, Mary Marotta, shared this information with me but I did not know what she was talking about until I actually used the app myself. I like the fact that I did not have to start from square one. Remember, I needed to share information through Instagram but I really did not want to spend more than 10 minutes to complete the task. I immediately scrolled through the 'school' category to see if there was something useful.











The Spark Post that I decided to use was an 'Open Mic' theme post. I decided to keep the background color and theme. The only thing that I changed was the text and content in the original Spark Post. 













Below is what I ended up creating and posting to the school's Instagram account.


Since then, I have also created other posts using the mobile version of Adobe Spark Post.



How and what I am using to post content to Instagram is not necessarily THE way to post to the social media platform. For me, realizing that I might want to change the way that I had ALWAYS posted to the platform might not always be the way that I want/should post. It is important from time to time to unlearn what you have always done to learn how to do the same task differently.

As always, if you ever want to chat about this idea, you know where to find me. And that is my spiel...

5.09.2017

Keyboard Shortcut for Providing Comments in Google Doc

Last week, I attended a math workshop put on by Alice Keeler. One of her talking points is all about being efficient and using keyboard shortcuts to save time. We as educators only have a certain amount of time in the day to get work done. Let's take back some of that time with using keyboard shortcuts. One way that this can be done is when we provide valuable feedback to our students through a Google Document with the commenting feature.

Keyboard Shortcuts:
Most people know the shortcuts when it comes to copying and pasting text. Many also know the shortcuts for opening a new tab. You might be asking yourself, "Self...how do I find out what keyboard shortcuts are available while using Google Documents?" Have no fear! Google has provided a keyboard shortcut page, which can be found under the Help Menu.


*NOTE: The keyboard shortcuts that you see in the gif file above are for mac users as I recorded this on my mac computer.

Assessing/Providing Feedback on Google Doc
Assessing/providing feedback on a Google Document can take sometime, especially when you first start to venture in this direction. I have heard many say that it takes longer to grade online compared to the 'traditional way' with pen and paper. However, there are a couple of keyboard shortcuts that can help save you time.

STEPS:

  • Place cursor where you want to add a comment
  • Use the following shortcut keys depending on the device that you have so that the commenting window will open on the right side of the Google Document:

Mac user: Command, Option, M
Chromebook User: Control, Alt, M

  • Provide your feedback
  • When completed with the comment, use the shortcut keys Control, M so that the commenting window will close




Close Current Tab

When you have finished providing feedback on the Google Document, don't hit the x on the tab in Chrome. Instead, use the following keyboard shortcut:

Mac user: Command, W
Chromebook User: Control, W

This will automatically close the current tab you are on.


I know that this seems basic, but you might be surprised at how efficient you become with providing feedback the more and more you get used to the keyboard shortcuts. Don't believe me...ask Jess Doyle as I know she has been using keyboard shortcuts for a couple of years now.

And that is my spiel...