Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Using Google Drive to Send Docs To Students With View Only Folders

Organization in Google Drive is one of those conversations ed tech geeks like me are always having, because it is always evolving.  I wrote a few days ago about my evolution for organizing student work in Google Drive, but this morning it occurred to me that maybe you want to know how I organize the outgoing docs, the things I send to students and how I do it.

This summer I learned about Doctopus from the great Kevin Brookhouser and that will probably change some of my workflow, but for those of you who aren't ready for that here are a few alternatives.

Step 1: Get Student Data
To share anything with students you need to know their gmail address. I highly recommend setting up a Google Form to gather this data. Here is an example of mine. Student Data Form.

Once you have student's information you can sort the spreadsheet by period, by name etc, copy the relevant email addresses, click the share button on any document, paste in a list of gmail addresses and you're off to the races.  Great, but a bit tedious to have to do that copy and paste step every time you want to share something.

Step 2: Set Up View Only Folders

You probably noticed when you shared that document, that you had a choice about how you shared it, edit, view and comment, were probably the different options. Giving 36 students edit rights on a single document is a bad idea. Most often I share with students as "view only". A student who has view access to a doc can go to the file menu and "make a copy" of that document. The student will own the new copy. If your 36 students each make their own copy from a view only document then they just saved you a lot of time.

To make this even easier. I share a folder with each period called "View Only". Any document I put into that folder is automatically shared with all of the students and they can make their own copy to edit, annotate etc. I set up separate view only folders for each period because there are times when I want to share something with one class, but not another. I made you a short tutorial video about how to set up view only folders.

Step 3: Set Up Group Folders
Group folders let my students and I share documents with a smaller group. I use this mostly with writing groups. I share a folder with the 5-6 students in a writing group, but this time I give them edit access. (I might switch that to comment access since that is an option now.) Anything I or the students put into that folder is shared with the group. Students use this to share their writing with their group. It is much faster than them having to type in each group member's gmail address.

I create the heterogeneous groups using the spreadsheet, putting a group number next to each student's name. I sort by the numbers and then I have student emails by group. From there it just takes a few minutes per period to set up the folders and paste in the emails for each group.  The prep time it takes me to do that is worth it because it saves my students time in class when they can share their work much more quickly.

File in More Than One Folder
You can still put a Google Doc in more than one folder. (I just found out lots of people thought this went away.) I use this trick to put the same document into the view only folder for each class.
Select the Doc in your docs list.
Pick the "organize" button. (looks like a folder).
Select the first folder you want to put it in then hold down the control key (or command on Mac) and click on all the other folders you want to have that doc go into.  Viola, the document will appear in each of those folders. I use this trick when I want to add the same document to several view only folders at once.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

How do you organize your Google Drive?

One of the first questions teachers new to Google Drive always ask me is, how do you organize your files.  I've gone through several different ways before figuring out what works best for me.  Here are some options. I teach high school, so I have a number of different sections and sometimes more than one course to teach. I also teach a graduate class and have a few other projects going on.

My Files on 08-09
Option 1: Create a file for each period and then subfiles within that for each assignment. This was my first attempt to organize my digital student work, but it had problems.  Generally the more layers and separate folders you have, the slower your work flow gets. And I had to spend a lot of time moving student work into the right folder. Don't even ask me what happened when a student changed from one class to another. 

My Files By Assignment in 09-10
Option 2: Create a folder for each new assignment and put all the student work from that assignment into that folder. This made it much easier to find and review all of the short stories for instance. But, I still spent a lot of time adding student work to that folder.

Option 3: Stop putting student work in folders. Really. This is the system that is actually working the best for me now.  When my class starts an essay they name it according to a strict naming convention, typically period# name and assignment title, so if James is in period 3 the file name for his paper is "3 James Short Story" 

Why this no files method works for my student work: 
Typically my students work on one major project at a time. Google Drive has nice sorting features like "Not owned by me" and "Shared with me" When I want to see what my students work looks like I usually just switch to one of those. I prefer "Not owned by me" because it will still show me work sorted by the "last modified" column. (The "Not owned by me" and many other sorting options are hidden under the small grey arrow at the right side of the search box in Google Docs.)

I can also find a student's work by typing the student's name into the search box. The search will return any document that has that student's name in file name or even anywhere in the document or spreadsheet. Some of my results when I search for Adrian are below. Typing in the name of the assignment will get me all the papers with that assignment title too. 

The next evolution for my Drive organization and student work will likely be Doctopus.  Thats a script that runs in a Google spreadsheet. It will automatically create and share a copy of a document with all of my students. As it does so, it names the docs as I specified and puts the created documents into a folder. Because of that my student work will be back in folders, but as long as it's automatic and saves me time I love that. 

Jay Atwood has a great tutorial video about how to use the Doctopus script. (This is the UPDATED video to reflect recent changes to doctopus as of March 2014.)

I do use folders for most things that are not student work.  I have a shared folder with my colleagues who teach the same course and we use it to organize materials for our unit. It's crucial to be able to group all the docs for the same unit together that way. I also use "View Only" folders to send things to my classes. Read about how "View Only" folder work.

I have a folder about the graduate class I teach and keep all the related docs for the course in there. When I work on an ed tech project or a book project, I keep a folder for those things.  I guess I would say that I use folders to organize the things in my drive that are mine or that are part of a project I am working on. My student's work is easy to find without folders because their documents will share a common search term like the assignment title. (I teach them that the wrong title is like -no name-. They quickly master the naming convention.)

One more Drive/Docs tip for working with students. At the beginning of the year I have students create and share a document with me that we call their English Journal.  We use that for all the small pieces of work we do, quick writes, notes, reading responses, exit slips, etc. I require them to date each entry and keep their newest work on top (no scrolling for me). With this document covering the day to day writing needs in my class there are fewer documents flying around. (I do put all their English Journals in a folder for daily easy access.)

And then there is the preview feature. I use it all the time to review student work quickly.  Select one doc in the docs list. Look for the eyeball icon and click it. You will get a preview page of that doc. The best part is that you can use your right arrow to see the next paper, and the next. Use the up and down arrows to scroll in the document you are previewing. It's fabulous. 
Getting the preview eyeball icon
Previewing the document. Note the blue open button if you want to edit.
Email Notifications in Google Docs
You are probably really fed up with email notifications that your students have shared a document with you. You have probably begged your classes to uncheck the box that says "send email notification", but you still get way to many. You need a filter. 
  1. In Gmail select one of the "I've shared..."emails. 
  2. Then click on the "More" button and choose "Filter messages like these" 
  3. Delete the sender info in the first box and add "I've shared an item with you." to the "has the words" box. 
  4. Click "Create filter with this search"
  5. Select "skip the inbox, mark as read and apply the label."
  6. When you choose the label create a new one called "I've Shared".
  7. Also check the box to "apply the filter to matching conversations"
This should send all your docs email notifications to a separate "label" on the left side of your gmail inbox. Filters are a great way of managing your incoming Gmail.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Jen Helps Holly at CUErockstar

At CUErockstar camps we start each morning with "Shred" sessions. Each presenter gets two minutes to tell the audience about his or her session. On Thursday morning Holly showed a video (as a joke) that had pictures of some of the presenters "blabberized". She was able to make it look (awkwardly) like we were saying people should go to her session and not ours. It was hysterical.

The video below is my reply for Friday. I had never used GoAnimate before, so making it was a lot of fun. Hat tip to Diana Neebe and #Merit13 for the idea to use GoAnimate.

Jen Helps Holly at CUErockstar by Jennifer Roberts on GoAnimate

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

When Strengths Become Limiting: Learning Styles

Photo Credit: Jen Roberts
I admit to not giving a whole lot of credence to the value of catering to a student's particular learning style. Sure some students may be more auditory, others more visual and some doggedly kinesthetic, however the world isn't going to cater to their learning preference and neither will I. It's a tough love stance, but let me explain.

There is some content information I typically teach my students, but most of that content is increasingly a Google search away. I much more highly value a student's ability to critically analyze a piece of writing, their ability to write sound arguments supported by credible evidence, and their ability to produce high quality work cooperatively. Any self supporting adult in our world is going to have to be able to teach themselves, or find the resources to learn new skills and information daily. The best thing I can teach my students is how to learn.

So, why would I allow myself or my students to accept that their learning style is fixed and limited? If a student comes to my class and tells me that he doesn't like to read, I help him find the right books, talk to him about those books, and encourage him to recommend those books to others. I do not say, "Oh, you're not a reader? Well, I guess that's your style then." So why would I accept a statement like, "I'm not a visual learner." If you don't learn well visually lets work on improving that for you.

When a student comes to my class and there is something they don't do well or feel confident about, I try to help that student build competence in that area, including learning styles. Knowing your preferred learning style may help you when you need to learn something fast, but I want to help my students to work on strengthening all their learning modalities.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Of course my students are blogging...

Photo Credit: Jen Roberts
Let me see, I'd like to find a way to get my students writing more, about authentic topics, for a real audience; something that would let them document their learning over time, a place they could showcase their work, leave each other comments, and even interact with others interested in the same topic. Perhaps this could also be something that might represent them well on the internet? What would do that? Well, probably not a series of pieces of notebook paper turned into me.

Why do I teach my students about blogging? Why not?

I've done a variety of different blogging projects with students over the years. The first was probably in 2000 or 2001, when I set up a single web page for my 7th grade class on our school server. The idea was to have a different student everyday write an entry at the top of the page about our class that day. I didn't even know this was a blog. I told the computer lab teacher about it and she said, "Oh yeah, that's a web log or a blog." It had none of the features of a blog today, not comments, no archive, and most likely no actual audience.

By 2006 I had moved to a high school and started a blog for my class with Blogger (still my platform of choice). It was just a weekly recap of what we had been doing in class that week and I was the only author. In the spring of 2008 my classroom went 1:1 and I was ready to try a blogging project with students, but there were so many students. I found a way to break it down.

For our last unit of the year we did a blogging project about issues facing the world. Students generated a list of the typical pressing issues, global warming, terrorism, water shortages etc. I asked each student to list their top three issues of interest and then used their interest cards to group them into teams. Each team started a blog about their topic and added posts as they did their research. It worked pretty well. By using group blogs I had fewer blogs to keep up with. Students collaborated well and went much deeper than ever before into the research on their topics. But the year ended all too soon.

Photo Credit: Jen Roberts
In the 2012-2013 school year a few things came together in a good way. My curriculum team agreed to do an "Expert Project". Each student would develop a research question to become an expert about and I suggested they could keep blogs to track their learning. This was the end of short term blogging projects and the beginning of a year long, sustained, effort. Blogging their research about their chosen topic was not a magic bullet that suddenly made all my students care about writing. Most of them didn't get any amazing reactions from the wider internet audience.  They did however, find out that a sustained effort builds a body of work, that looking back on what you wrote months ago could show how your thinking has changed, that searching for your topic might mean finding your own blog in the results.

I wish I had great stories to tell about miraculous things that happened because my students are blogging. Perhaps that will come in time. But, I also don't have any horror stories about bad things that happened either. I get my students blogging because it's a great and purposeful way of getting them writing. I hope blogging might be something that will help them in the future. I know that experience writing about their research and their thinking is something that they will need, so why not do some of it on a blog.

Now please excuse me while I go write this out on notebook paper, so I can give it to my teacher.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

My Paperless Classroom

My classroom has been paperless since we went 1:1 in early 2008. At the time I went to a training for other teachers who were also part of the very small pilot program and learned about Google Docs.  Now I can't imagine teaching with paper.

When we teach without paper in a 1:1 classroom we are implicitly teaching students values about conservation, resourcefulness, problem solving, creative work flow strategies, collaboration, and digital citizenship. 

Paperless is not the goal. Quality education is the goal, innovative education goes along with that. If reducing paper in your classroom moves your instruction toward a more digitally rich, collaborative and engaged space, then go for it.  If eliminating paper means you show movies everyday instead of reading and writing, well, that may be paperless, but it isn't education.

  • Obviously, we save a lot of paper, but we also save everything else associated with paper: printer ink, staples, paperclips, file folders, spiral notebooks,  binders, and even markers. I still love office supply stores, but there is less there that I need now. 
  • Because my students do their work online in Google Docs I can see it anytime I need to. With a traditional spiral notebook for class notes and writing assignments I have to either look at student work while the kids are in class or collect their notebooks to review on my own. With a shared doc in Google Docs I can check on student work daily if needed. Also, I don't have to take the work away from the students to be able to see how they are doing on something. 
  • Another advantage of digital student work is being able to share that work with other teachers and case managers easily. Giving a writing sample to a special ed teacher for an IEP meeting used to mean finding a student's paper in my files, making a copy of it  and then leaving it in the case manager's box for him or her to pick up later. Now it's a simple copy and paste from the student's doc into an email and it's done. 
  • My paperless classroom saves me time in lots of other ways too. I used to spend a lot of time in the copy room, as many teachers do.  Now I'm not there very often and when I do go it's probably to make copies for a department meeting rather than my classroom. 
  • Students can't loose their work. It's always in their Google Docs and they don't have to worry about bringing anything to class that they might forget in their locker, or their car, or their friends car, or their aunt's house or any other number of places they tend to leave things. 
  • My classroom is also cleaner. No paper means less bits of notebook paper and other trash on the floor. The custodians love me. 

  • Not all students have internet access at home. This number gets smaller every year and we have great access after school in our library, but it can be an issue I have to work out with a few students every year. 
  • Its easier to procrastinate about grading essays when I don't have a stack taking up space on my desk. Sometimes the lack of that physical reminder that students need a response from me makes me take longer to grade work. (I vastly prefer formative assessment to summative assessment anyway.)
  • Students can forget their password. This can cause a temporary slow down. Usually they can recover their password. In rare cases I've had a student create a new account and I share their work back to them at their new account. 
What you need
  • A 1:1 classroom is nearly essential. If you find a way to go paperless without that let me know. I'm curious. It doesn't matter if its a laptop or tablet. It could be school provided or a bring your own device (BYOD) model. However you get them get something in each student's hands.
  • A robust learning management system that you can use easily on a daily basis is also crucial. I use a blog to communicate with my students, but there are probably better options for you if you are just getting started, Edmodo, Schoology, Canvas, My Big Campus etc. Hopefully your school is encouraging (and training) you to use something like that. 
  • A work flow that allows you to easily disseminate materials to students, collect student work and return an assessment is important to figure out.  Your work flow is also something that may change.  This is the place we spend the most logistical time. Its a point of friction. Everyyear I find something, either a new tool or a new process, that simplifies my work flow.  Be on the lookout for things that make it easier to move information and student work between you, your students and a larger audience. 
My paperless toolbox
  • Google Drive/Docs: A really flexible tool for almost everything I need. I can create and publish assignments and link them on my blog, use forms for data collection and assessments, students share their work with me, groups collaborate, even my PLC has begun to use it for grade level collaboration.
  • Dropbox and DROPitTOme: Together these tools make it possible to collect a file from students if for any reason I can't use Google Drive. It also makes collaboration with colleagues easier as I transition them to Google Drive. 
  • Goodreads: A social network for readers, my students join and keep me up to date on their reading preferences, to be read lists and book reviews.
  • Socrative: Great for asking students questions quickly.
  • Remind101: Lets me send my students mass text messages that they can get by text or email.
  • Blogger: As our daily starting point the blog is crucial. I love the easy user interface and the duality of the static sidebar and scrolling (archived) daily posts. 
I wrote this post in support of #CAedchat for Sunday 7/14. You can find out more about #CAedchat on the website at  The archive for the chat about paperless classrooms is available here