May 032012


Yesterday, Google facilitated the Education On Air Conference, a virtual conference for educators focused on and around Google Apps for Education, featuring their master teachers. I sat in on a few sessions – Managing Digital Portfolios w/ Google Tools from Kern Kelley, and The Paperless Classroom with Google Docs from Eric Curts. Both sessions were great, and both spelled out and reinforced a great process or workflow for teachers and students to easily and successfully use Google Docs for every day work, for group projects, and for digital portfolios.

I have a few teachers that have gone down this road of using Google Docs exclusively for student work, and their Docs/Drive inboxes have exploded with student work – and has been a struggle for them to manage. What I learned yesterday, and what I’ll outline below will make their lives easier, and will help me make the lives of the teachers that will follow this path much easier from the start.

Here’s the bullet points for success, and then I’ll explain each in detail below:

  • Digitize student work, and store it all in Google Docs/Drive
  • Students create collections or folders for their work, and share that folder with their teachers.
  • Teachers create collections or folders for documents to share with students
  • Teachers create an ‘Assignment Hand-In’ Form for students to submit both information about the assignment as well as the link to the assignment.

With this workflow in place, it’s fast and seamless for students to turn in their work, and for teachers to manage and grade the mountain of student work.

Now, let’s see how it all works…

Digitize Student Work

No matter what a student does, it needs to end up in a digital form, and then saved in their Google Docs/Drive space. All of your students will obviously need a Gmail account – either directly from Google or through a school/district Google Apps domain.

Digitization is a breeze for any sort of document, presentation or spreadsheet by working directly in Google Docs, but what about math homework or artwork? Enter the cell phone camera or a web-cam connected to an accessible computer! Students snap a photo of the work, and save that file in Google Drive/Docs. If it’s a skill in PE, acting in a play, or any other physical activity, capture a video and upload it to YouTube. Anyting that a student does can be quickly and easily digitized with the right tools.

Student Folders/Collections

With all of their work available in Google Docs, students will have a complete record of their own learning. Their best work can/should eventually end up in a Digital Portfolio, but let’s just stick with the Paperless Classroom workflow for now. Students create a folder or collection for each of their subjects (which can be later organized by school year) with a standard naming scheme: Subject/Period – Last, First or something similar. Then, they share this folder with their teacher with edit rights. Now, when it comes time to ‘hand in’ their homework, all they need to do is to drag the file/document from their Google Docs list to the appropriate folder. Since the folder is shared, the file is automatically shared with the teacher!

On the teacher end, they can organize these shared folders in Google Docs however they’d like – by school year, subject, or period. Just create a folder, and drag the shared student folders into it – since you used a naming convention, it’s all automatically organized alphabetically by the subject or student name. No more long, long, long list of student work!

Folders/Collections for Teachers

Obviously, teachers often need to hand out assignments or documents to students. To help make this instant and paperless, teachers should make two folders to share with their students.

The first is a ‘Hand Out’ folder with View Only rights. Here’s where you’ll put documents and/or assignment templates for students to access and view – and you don’t need to share it with EVERY student EVERY time. If it’s an assignment template, the students can use ‘File –> Save a copy’ to save the assignment outline to their own Google Docs to edit. Make sure that if you do share a document this way that students rename it from ‘Copy of Assignment 1’ to ‘Last, First Assignment 1’ to make viewing/grading easier later.

The other folder is a folder that will contain editible documents for collaborative papers and presentations that you’d like all of your students to be able to access and edit. Share it with your students with their email addresses, and give full Edit rights. Now, any document that is in that folder, students will automatically have access to!

Assignment Hand-In Form

This last step is an extra step for your students, but it is the last piece to really making management and grading easy for teachers. Create a new Form in Google Docs with the following items:

  • Class Period or Subject (You can make a new form for each class, or use a ‘choose from a list’ question type for this for all of your classes)
  • Quarter/Semester (optional)
  • Last Name
  • First Name (If you teach elementary, you may want to add all of your students in a ‘choose from a list’ question type)
  • Assignment Title/Name (Can be a text type, or a ‘choose from a list’ type if you are that organized)
  • Link/URL for the Assignment

Assignment link/URL? Students can publish their work with a copule of clicks so that anyone with the link can access the document. They do this by clicking on the big blue ‘Share’ button on the top right of every Google Doc. The document will list ‘Private’ for access, and the student below as the owner. Click the ‘Change..’ link next to Private, and choose ‘Anyone with the link’ and save.

Students will still need to ‘turn in’ the assignment by adding it to their shared class/subject folder with you, so why you need the assignment link in this form? The form will allow you to sort the contents by any of the fields or questions asked, and the link will allow you to quickly access that assignment right in the form spreadsheet – without needing to go to each students folder, finding the correct assignment, and opening it up.

With the Assignment Hand-In spreadsheet, you can sort by name, assignment, class – whatever to group the work as you like, access the student’s work with a single click to make your comments or edits, close the assignment and instantly access the next one. You can even add in your own information in the cells to the right with notes, grades or scores – as long as you don’t add columns to the left or change the information gained from the form, you’ll be fine.

This form/spreadsheet brings this whole process and workflow together and wraps it with a bow.

Student Digital Portfolios

With all student work digitized, available and easily shared in Google Docs/Drive, the creation or showcase of a student’s best work is now a relatively simple task. Using free online tools such as Google Sites or Posterous, student can share and link to their very best work for this year and for the school years to come. This portfolio can not only serve as a showcase for students, parents, and teachers but could also be quite useful when student apply for a job or attempt to get into the college of their choosing. All of the hard work of collecting and organizing student work is done naturally in th
e process outlined above. All that is left is to identify the students best and linking to it on their own web site.

Going Paperless with Google Docs PowerPoint:

Going Paperless with Google Docs Presentation in PDF:


Again, I have to thank the fine folks who presented at the Google Education On Air Conference. Below are links to the resources and information that they shared with myself and the other conference attendees to help them both make Student Digital Portfolios something easy to accomplish and to get us to the promised land of the Paperless Classroom.

Feb 272010

Are the students of today different than the students of 30 years ago? How about 10? Or even just 3? It is hard to keep up with the pace of change in technology and communication, but as teachers we NEED to be reaching our students on THEIR turf, in the way that THEY learn and understand – and that is probably a little different than how you or I learn.

Here’s a little taste of how your Digital learners view the world – they are curious and they WANT to learn, but they expect to do it a little differently. Meet Joe & his Non-Notebook:

Students today expect to be able to interact with media & information, not just sit back and try to absorb it. Information is always at your students fingertips – is it at yours?

In our presentation today, we’ll look at some 21st Century tools to enable you to walk the walk and talk the talk of your Digital Learners today. Here’s the resources and tools that we’ll look at, and I’ll explain each below. (Note: you can download the presentation from today’s session here)

Qik lets you share your everyday life experiences as it happens with your family and friends — the easiest way to record and share videos right from your mobile phone.

Would your students benefit from having a video archive of your lecture/presentation/teaching available to them anytime and anywhere? How about that sick student at home?

Qik not only allows you to video the classroom happenings, not only saves it for you on it’s site, but people can view it live as it happens and be a part of what is going on. Requires some sort of App phone (iPhone, Android, Blackberry and others).

How many of you in the room today have a class/school web page? How many times do you update it in a school year? Daily? Weekly? Monthly? Never – someone else made the page? Why don’t you keep it up-to-date?

Remember Joe? Remember how he tries to access information? If it isn’t online, it does not exist to a kid like Joe. You can easily keep a kid like Joe happy by creating a new Web site from Posterous. It is simply THE MOST EASY way to keep a Web site current. It is so easy, that you already know how to use it. Ever heard of email? THAT is how you add something to a Posterous blog or site. Here’s what you have to do:
  1. Create an account… Er, skip that. You don’t need to do this.
  2. Email your thoughts, photos, audio & videos along with any Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or PDF file to
  3. That’s it. You have just created a new web site and made your first entry.
Posterous will email you back telling you that your new site has been created with links to view the post or your site, and to set up a password. Anytime you want to add something to your site, you simply send an email to and it’s done. It’s even smart enough to figure out what you are attaching and will automatically add audio and video players, links to download your files – it’s all automatic.

Email too tough for you? Try

Poll Everywhere is a service that you can use during class discussion to get instant feedback from your students via text message or web polling or voting. The results are instantly updated on the website, or you can embed a poll into a PowerPoint presentation (now Keynote in iWork on the Mac as well!). 

A basic teacher account will allow for 32 responses for an unlimited number of questions. Questions can be either multiple choice or open-ended in nature. Students LOVE the instant and anonymous feedback that they get, and the teacher can know at a glance what the students are understanding, and what they still have questions about. 

Let’s Try it out. Please give me your best guess as to the question, “How many people use Facebook?” You can also vote via Text Messaging or Smartphone at with the text messaging code.

Facebook Fan Pages

Now that you know just how many people are on Facebook, how many people would you say regularly check your District, School, or personal Web site? Why not try to reach your students where they spend a lot of their time already? Teachers can create a Fan Page on Facebook pretty quickly and students can become a “Fan” of that page. When they do, they will see all of the updates on that page on their own Facebook page! You can even tie Posterous or any other blog page with an RSS feed to automatically update your Fan page. Post it once and it’s everywhere!

Here’s an example – my SEDC Tech Training Fan Page.

I’ve written before at length about TextMarks. TextMarks utilizes the main form of communications for today’s students – text messaging – and allows for instant alerts and reminders for your students, or their parents for that matter. Create an account at TextMarks, and then set up different groups that you intend to communicate with – different class periods, subject areas, parents, etc. and assign them a unique keyword. 

Once students or parents subscribe to the group, you can send out any message or reminder needed from the TextMarks website, and your “subscribers” will instantly be notified of your message. Reminders and messages to your students that they will actually READ!

Heard of a Podcast? They are great for teaching students in t
he new 21st Century mode of instruction…
WWW: Whatever, Whenever, Wherever

Gabcast is a service that will make recording audio for podcasting or video projects MUCH easier. No longer do you need access to a computer lab, microphones, headsets, and QUIET! Send a group of students to a quiet corner and have them call into Gabcast. Gabcast will record whatever they say into the phone, turn it into an audio file, and make that file available for download. 

Once they have the file, they can import it into other editing programs like Audacity or GarageBand for Podcast creation, or into MovieMaker or iMovie to use that recording for movie making. Easy and convenient audio recording. You could even capture a class discussion with Gabcast that you could then post to your website as review, class notes, or even to help that poor student that has been out ill for a week.

Do you ChaCha? I know that your students know about it. ChaCha is basically a web search with your voice anywhere, anytime. Call 800.2.ChaCha (800.224.2242) or or text-message a question to ChaCha at 242242, and the answer will be texted back to that phone. All is costs is the text message fee, which most of your students have an unlimited plan for. Very handy to resolve any question that comes up during class discussion or for research away from the computer lab or Library.

Ahh, Google. The good folks at Google will let you search for the information that you need the most from your phone. Google SMS is like ChaCha, but more focused on YOUR life and services in your current location. 

Text “weather 84720” to 466453 (‘GOOGLE’ on most devices) and you will get the current weather and forecast for Cedar City. Text “define asymptote”, and Google will give you the definition! Very handy and useful! Here is a more complete list of what Google SMS can answer for you.

UPDATE: This article is translated to Serbo-Croatian language by Jovana Milutinovich from Web Geeks Resources.