Twitter for Teachers

I’m giving a presentation on Twitter for Teachers at our school this afternoon as part of our “Tech Tuesday” professional development. I’ve really gotten into Twitter as a way to connect with other teachers who are into using tech in their classrooms. I’ve also gotten some good ideas about homework and grading philosophy.

In putting together my presentation, I found one resource that introduces teachers to Twitter better than anything I could put together myself. It’s a blog post from Alice Keeler, “Using Tech and You Are Not on Twitter? You Better Rethink That.”

One highlight is a link to a Google Doc that gives you directions to set up an account. It’s educator-specific and has many great tips. Another  highlight in the post is a list of educators on Twitter and what subjects they can help you with.

One final resource for teachers new to Twitter is from the Education Chats website. It’s a list of regularly scheduled Twitter chats, moderated discussions on specific topics.



Worksheet Wars

In her blog post “Paper Worksheets are Frustrating,” Alice Keeler points out a major problem with paper worksheets: the feedback arrives too late to be of much help to the student, creating plenty of frustration. I think worksheets also cause (expose?) laziness in many teachers. Those paper worksheets are just too tempting when you aren’t feeling creative. And even if you don’t have an old worksheet in your files, it’s too tempting to find one online. I know because my daughter, a 6th gader, in one week brought home one worksheet from 1986 and another that was downloaded from a website.

It didn’t take much detective work to figure out the first worksheet was from 1986. The copywrite was printed at the bottom of the page. It seems like you’d be ashamed enough to use a little white out to cover your tracks.

It took a little more work to track down the downloaded worksheet. My daughter, a bright kid who is good at the “game of school” and is motivated by grades, asked for help with a language arts worksheet. The question she was having trouble with was poorly worded and baffled me, an experienced English teacher. I can’t remember the topic, but I remember that I suspected it was downloaded. I Googled the question and quickly found the worksheet AND THE KEY! Now that is lazy teaching. (That’s actually not true–it’s not teaching at all.) My daughter, God bless her, refused to use the key because she considered it cheating. I took the position that the teacher was cheating her and was asking for it. But she didn’t buy my argument and finished the worksheet on her own.

I don’t remember how she did on either worksheet. I bet she doesn’t remember either.

Making (Not Showing!) Movies to Finish the Year

The end of the year at our career-tech high school is filled with field trips, testing, and home-school events–all things that take students out of your classroom. One day I was missing 17 of 18 students in one period. I use Google Docs as a way to distribute and collect assignments. We are in our first year of using Canvas as our LMS, and many teachers use that to handle the mass absences. I asked teachers how they handle the absences and discovered many teachers use videos–screencasts and presentations. Here’s a summary of some of the tech people are using to handle the end-of-the-year absences.


  • No, not showing movies—making them. Several teachers with MacBooks use Quicktime to record a screencast of their lesson. Here’s a link to the basics.
  • The next step is to get the video to the students. You can attach it to an assignment in Canvas. You can also add it to YouTube and give the students the link.
  • There are also two services, Playposit (formerly EduCanon) and Edpuzzle,  that allow you to embed questions into a video to ensure the students watch the video and engage with it. Both of the sites have good tutorials to help you get started.


  • Nearpod is an interactive presentation several teachers use, but we are not able to assign it to individual (absent) students with the free version.
  • You can share a presentation through Google Slides. This works well on laptops and iPads.
  • Convert a PowerPoint to  video and share it using the video techniques above. PowerPoint has a “record slideshow” option, or you could just start a Quicktime recording and play the PowerPoint (and this second way should also work for a NearPod). You can add your own narration as the PowerPoint plays.

Edcamp Ohio 2016

My wife Stacy and I recently attended our first “Edcamp,” Edcamp Ohio held in Tiffin, Ohio, at the North Central Ohio ESC. Edcamps are a type of attendee-driven tech conference. The first 30 minutes or so of the Edcamp is spent with attendees filling out a shared Google doc with topics they’d like more info on–the “Wishlist.” Here’s the wishlist from Edcamp Ohio:

Edcamp Presentation Board

Then, if attendees see a requested topic that they have some expertise in, they put themselves and the topic on another shared Google doc–the “Presentation Board.” Here’s the board from Edcamp Ohio:

Edcamp Presentation BoardI must admit I was dubious about the format. I was afraid nobody would be brave enough to admit they needed help with anything, and I was also afraid everyone would be too humble to think they could present anything worthwhile. I was wrong! It ended up being one of the best conferences I’ve attended. I got some great ideas, but more importantly I met some great people. Oh, and I also got some door prizes! edcamp swag

Comment Banks for Google Docs Grading

I actually look forward to grading essays since I went paperless. Alright, I don’t really “look forward:” to it, but it’s much less daunting to carry home a laptop rather than a stack of stapled papers. I use Google Docs to comment on the essays, and copying and pasting from comments saved on another doc has made the process both quicker and richer.

To make my comment bank, I copied comments as I graded a set of papers onto a doc. After several grading sessions, I had dozens of comments pasted. I then organized them into separate categories (mechanics, usage, grammar, style, organization, research issues) to make them easy to find. I also added links to websites and videos to allow students to get tutorials on each writing issue. So instead of students just getting “comma splice” as a comment, they also get a link to the Purdue Online Writing Lab website where the issue is explained in detail.
Many tips and tricks make the Google Doc essay grading process work, but developing a comment bank document is invaluable. Here is my comment bank. Feel free to use and adapt it.

Student Journals the Easy Way

Most English teachers would agree that student journals are a great way to get students thinking and a great way to get some formative assessment. However, most English teachers would also agree that journals are a pain. Is there any worse feeling than hauling a milk crate full of journals home on a Friday afternoon? Or, even worse, pulling one out and also pulling up 4 more that are all tangled by the velcro-like spiral binder?

Google Docs to the rescue. Just have the students create one doc to share with you. They can insert a new page for each entry, labeling it at the top however you wish. Better yet, the new entries can go at the top of the doc so you can check them easily. Using this tech also allows the students to include pictures and links in their entries.