Sunday, October 30, 2016

What is Inside Your Head? An Introduction to Inserting Pictures into Google Drawings

This week we talked about schema.  Schema is the background knowledge that we use to make connections.  We use our schema in both reading and writing; therefore, it is important for students to recognize their own schema.

Usually, I introduce the topic of schema by asking students to reflect on what is in their head.  This project includes a picture of a large head in which students draw pictures of things that they are "experts" on.  I thought this would be the perfect opportunity for students to learn how to insert pictures on the Chromebook.  Therefore, I assigned the students a picture of an empty head in which they could fill with pictures of things that were important to them.  This template was created in Google Drawings.

One of the best features of Google Drawings is the ability to search for images without leaving the program.  When you insert an image, choose the search tab, and you are able to search through a large amount of images.  Students love this feature because they are able to pick the picture that is best for their project.

Here are a few pointers when teaching students to insert pictures into Google Drawings:

1. Spelling is important when searching images.  Sometimes if the word is close to the correct spelling, it will work.  However, students usually have to spell the word correctly to find their image.

2. Students struggle with resizing the image.  When you insert an image into Google Drawings, the image is usually very large.  Resizing the image is a task that needs to be modeled constantly for the student.  However, by the end of the lesson, the students are successful with this task.

3.  The undo button is your friend.  Sometimes I would check in on a student and the head would be missing.  Usually, we were able to undo enough times to find the head again.  Sometimes I had to restore the project to the original version if using the undo feature was not successful.

You can download a copy of schema template here.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Becoming a Better Writer with Google Drawings

Google Drawings is my favorite program to use with the Chromebook because it offers endless possibilities for student projects.  Basically anything that a student creates with a blank sheet of paper can also be created in Google Drawings.

Right now, my students are focusing on writing two or more sentences.  This is not an easy task for a first grader but practice makes perfect (or better in the case of a first grader who is still mastering the art of spelling).  Last week, we were blessed by a visit from two baby goats.  The students loved meeting the goats, so I thought it would be the perfect foundation for a writing activity.  Sometimes the best lessons happen by accident and never make it in your lesson plans.

I love teaching writing with technology.  This is an excellent opportunity to highlight focus on the capital letter at the beginning of the sentence and the period at the end because editing is super easy on the computer.  The students also love to correct their own spelling when the red squiggly line appears, telling them that they have made a mistake.

One thing that I have noticed with writing on the Chromebook is that misspelled words stick out like a sore thumb.  In my head, it is okay for students to misspell words when it is in their own handwriting, but when the students misspell words while typing, the teacher inside of me wants to correct it.  I am trying to work past this need to control my students and remind myself to let it be because it is their creation.

When using Google Drawings, students are given the freedom to pick their own fonts, colors, and shapes.  One of my favorite features of Google is the ability to write in a shape without having to add a text box.  It makes it easy to create professional quality work (so easy that a first grader can do it).

Lady is pretty. Prince is handsome.  I did not know that goats can climb.

The How To: This project was created by assigning a blank Google Drawings document in Google Classroom.  Each student had an individual picture taken with one of the goats.  All of these pictures were put in a folder in Google Drive and shared with the student's e-mail address so that the folder would appear in the student's Google Drive.  The instructional technologist on my campus created a group e-mail for my class so that I was able to quickly share the folder with all of my students using one e-mail address.

Another positive quality of Google Drawings is the ability to insert an image without leaving the program.  When the student inserts an image, they pick the option to insert an image from Google Drive.  From there, the students can choose the "shared with me" tab or the "recent" tab.  Here they are able to pick their picture and insert it into their project.  I thought this project was going to be a lot of steps for the students, but they quickly learned the steps to insert their individual picture.  Remember, slow and steady wins the race.  Start small and add a new technology feature with each new project.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Exploring with Google Maps

This week we are learning about characteristics of maps.  As I was preparing my lesson plans, I tried to remember the last time that I used a paper map.  Truthfully, I think the last map I used was at the zoo.  When I am driving, I rely on Google Maps.  Therefore, I thought this was a great opportunity to introduce the students to how maps have evolved.  Of course, we will look at maps on paper, but today we focused on maps that can be used on the computer.

Last week, I sent home a sheet asking the parents for help with this project.  I asked them to write down their home address and a special place of interest.  I wanted the students to search for locations that were familiar to them.  I also added the school because it was a place that I knew they would be successful in finding.

The purpose of the note was to promote independence among students as they are searching for places with Google Maps.  However, some of the parents filled out the information for the students, and the students still had to ask me for help because they could not read their parent's handwriting.  Next time I send the note, I am going to ask the students to write the information themselves.  

The students loved exploring with Google Maps. I gave a quick mini lesson about how to search in Google Maps and how to turn on Street View.  I assigned a link to Google Maps in Google Classroom, and the students were off exploring.  It was amazing to see how quiet and engaged the students were because they were excited to find their special places on the map.

When using technology, I have learned that you have to let students go where their interests lead them.  Some stayed on track looking up their address while others just started exploring.  Even though this was not my intention, I had to let my control go.  All students were exploring with maps, and that was the purpose of the lesson.

It is amazing the things that the students teach you when they are free to explore technology.  One student started searching random places.  He started in California and then ended up in Las Vegas.  Another student had zoomed out so far from her house that she saw an aerial view of Earth.  Some students found their house, turned on street view, and started following the road to a familiar place such as a nearby restaurant.  Who knew that Google Maps offered so many learning opportunities for students.

One cool thing that a lot of the students did was change the map to terrain view.  This was a neat experience because students were able to see elevations of mountains and density of vegetation in the area.  I think when we learn about landforms, we will use Google Maps to look up some well known mountain ranges and different national parks.    

Since we live in a rural area, street view was not available for some of the student's houses.  These students were super disappointed but were easily redirected when I told them to look up our school.  They became happy again when they were successful finding the school.  Sonic was another popular location that was easy for the students to find, and some of the students figured out that you could do a virtual tour of the local burger place in our city.

Overall, I was happy with our experience with Google Maps.  I think the students will enjoy exploring landforms in the future.  I am also contemplating adding Google Maps as a free choice activity on the Chromebooks.  

Download the parent letter here.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Who Am I?

Our project this week was to complete the riddle that accompanies our selfies that we took last week.  The students were given a template that I created in Google Drawings, and they had to fill in the blanks about themselves.  This is usually a worksheet that the students fill out, but I thought it was the perfect opportunity for the students to practice their technology skills.  Here is the template that they were given:

I am proud of the work they completed.  Not only were the students able to fill in the blanks with ease, but a lot of them were eager to change the color and the font of the words.  There is an epidemic in my classroom where everyone wants to choose the cursive font.  We will see how long the cursive font is popular.

The riddles and selfies are in a class book in our classroom.  The students love reading the book and answering the riddles.  I sometimes hear them ask each other how they added a certain technology feature in their project.  I love how they are eager to learn about technology.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Taking a Picture with the Chromebook

Model...Model...Model.  That is my advice when teaching the students to use the camera with the Chromebooks.  Even after you explained how to take a photo at least 5 times to the class, the students will still ask a million 100 questions.  From experience, I recommend teaching the students to take a picture be the only skill that you teach in your lesson.  This skill is a challenge, and teaching more skills after taking the picture only adds a headache for yourself. Believe me; I have made the mistake once twice now.

Of course like an fool I did not follow my own advice to only take a picture the first time you introduce the students to the front facing camera on the Chromebook.  Our project this week was to take a selfie, and write a sentence: My name is ______.  Writing a sentence is simple when the students have a template.  With this project, they started with a blank Google Drawings document; therefore, they had to insert their own shape and type a sentence in the shape (both new skills).

I repeat: The first time you take a picture on the Chromebook, let it be the only thing that you do on the project and take a break.  You can add more later, but taking a picture for the first time is difficult for the students.  When you insert an image into Google Drawings, you choose the option to Take a Snapshot.  In order to use the camera, you have to allow the program access to your camera not once but twice.  See the images below (both images will pop up, but students have to hit allow on both for the camera to work).

This project will be part of a Who Am I? class book that the students are making.  The first page tells riddles about the students; the second page shows a picture and the student's name.  Usually, the students draw a picture of themselves on paper; however, I thought this would be the perfect chance to teach the students how to use the camera on the Chromebook.  Here is an example that I created.  You will see my lovely face as an example because I have not asked for parent permission to use student images on my blog (yet).  Enjoy!