Switzerland Summit

Off again to another summit! This time at a boarding school in Hasliberg, Switzerland. We already knew that this summit would be unique when we agreed to present, because it would include all of the students and teachers from the school. All of the events I have worked before have only had a handful of students who volunteered to help and occasionally sit in on the sessions So this would be an interesting experience.

Ecole d’Humanite begins at grade 6, but most of the students who came to my sessions were high school aged. The school runs parallel US and Swiss programs, so the summit had English and German sessions. The school has about 115 students who board with them in the mountains. The campus is made up of multiple buildings that have classrooms on the bottom floor and dorms on the top floors.

This is also the first summit where I have fully worked as part of the ‘core’ team. I did this a bit in Tashkent, but not to the same extent. Being part of the ‘core’ meant that I worked 9 out of 10 sessions over the two days. When I was first invited I wondered if I would have enough presentations ready. It turned out this wasn’t an issue because the school wanted sessions repeated so that everyone could attend as many different sessions as possible. Also because my sessions revolved around the basics. I ended up just doing 4 sessions on repeat. Google Keep, Google Sites, Google Sheets and Google Drive!

It was interesting having the students in the class, but they were for the most part, just like teaching adults. Once we got over a few hiccups about the way their Chromebooks were set up, the sessions flew by. At the beginning the students seemed a bit unsure about interacting with us during the sessions, but they quickly loosened up and asked questions and stopped us for clarifications.

Each day we were invited to eat lunch with the students, which allowed us time to talk to them about their lives at school. Their normal school day as them in the core content classes in the mornings and elective classes or activities in the afternoon. For example they may go skiing or snowboarding in the afternoons, or take care of their school goats, or take blacksmithing classes.

The school is a very small close knit community that seemed like a positive place to be. The summit experience of teacher teachers beside students I think worked well. I would love to get in touch with the school in a few months to find out what the impact of the summit has been. I think that training everyone together has helped them have a clearer understanding, as a whole school, of the possibilities available to them within G Suite.

I mean just look at these classroom views!

Serbia – September 2019

I was lucky enough to present at another Google Summit for Apps Events. This time the summit was in Belgrade, Serbia and I got to present not one but four sessions. I think that this is also the first time that I have attended one of these summits with a colleague. This was fabulous because it gave me the chance to watch her grow her Google skills and comfort level!


Even before it starts I find that there are things I love about these summits.

  • They are well organized while at the same time they feel spontaneous and adaptive.
  • The people who work them are awesome to be around and interact with they are also encouraging and motivating
  • The summits are a chance to meet up with other Google super Geeks and Geek out!

I ended up presenting four sessions during this summit after one of the other presenters was unable to attend and I was asked to present more. I presented twice on Google Sites, once on Google Drive Basics and once on Google Keep. This particular summit was mostly for the International School of Belgrade teachers, but there were a few other educators and tech folks from other schools who attended as well. It does help to have teachers from other schools join as it means that a wider range of questions gets asked. They also share ideas and things that they have done in their schools, which always adds to the experience.

These summits are great for educators who want to see and hear about real ways that the G Suite is being used in the classroom. That is why they are so well received. Even though this is my 3rd Summit I learned some trick, tip or new technique to use right away when I return to work. This has happened at every summit that I have attended, which is part of the reason I keep going!


It was a pleasure to share the website I created with my grade 4 class last year with other educators. It was good to finally be able to show them an actual working site instead of a theoretical site as I usually have to do when I present. By showing the teachers an actual working site they were able to see what could actually be done when building a Google Site in a classroom setting. Teachers engaged in my session and many even began creating websites during the session that they hoped to finish and use when they got back to their classes. A few already had a site created and asked some good questions about possible changes that they could see being useful to their site.

One of the things that I realized during the session is that a lot of teachers know enough to create and use some of the Google tools, but don’t fully understand how they work or why things work like they do. For example, one teacher had a site with hidden pages but didn’t realize that he could do hide pages using the “hide from navigation pages” setting instead of manually hiding them by burying them under subpages.

I think that learning these more detailed settings is a part of my job because I have time to explore. This how I differ from many teachers who use technology. I often find that teachers don’t always fully understand the ins and outs of the tech they use. They learn the basics, just enough to use something, but then just get on with using them and rarely get back to learning more in-depth elements. Of course, this isn’t all teachers and all situations, nor is it necessarily a bad thing. This is how many teachers get started using tech until they get comfortable and build enough skills to progress further.

The issue is if they get stuck but don’t have anyone who can support them, what do they do? These summits are great for teachers who are at this point, but what about the ones who can’t get to a summit or the summit comes at the wrong time in their development? This is why having a Tech Integrationist/Coach at your school is so important. Even if your teachers are very highly skilled, there will always come a point where they will need support. Having educators who are given the time to go further, research, and build new skills is essential.

This is the dilemma of staffing a school, do you keep Tech Integrationists/Coaches on staff when they are ‘not needed’? Or, do you change their roles in some way and keep them so that when they are needed they are ready to help and support their coworkers. One thing that I am thankful for is that I work overseas so that my school has the financial flexibility to make the decisions to keep Tech Integrationists/Coaches on staff to support their teacher’s and student’s growth and learning.


Check out my travel blog for more about Belgrade.

Google Sites Website Creation in G4 – Coetail Course 1 Final Project

Unit Planner

I started out writing this unit based on an idea I had for our Grade 4 Sharing the Planet unit. This is a unit that the Grade 4 team had always written a nonfiction report as their writing integration. This year we looked at ways to develop that into something integrated technology beyond the student’s typing their report. Since I had been using Google Sites this year to build several websites, I suggested using a Google Site as the product of the writing unit that integrated with this unit of inquiry. I choose to develop what we started this year into a more fully realized unit for my final unit. One of the reasons is that am developing this lesson further is because I can see it being used with several grade levels and several units. I wanted to make sure that I had a fully developed lesson so that when I discuss integration with teachers I can give them a fuller understanding of what is involved in a project of this nature.

One of the struggles that I find is that teachers severely underestimate the amount of time needed to complete a unit like this. Also, they don’t always see all of the ways they can incorporate elements of this unit into what they already do within the course of a unit. Writing it out in this much detail allows me to show them all of these things.

Most of the changes that I made were to break down the lessons in more detail to include both the integrationist role and the class teacher role. I also had to think of the unit differently than I was originally thinking since my role is fully integrated into the classroom, I had originally started to plan this unit using the original Unit of Inquiry. Then, I realized that I needed to think of it as a sub unit within the full unit. Once I realized that I began to see more clearly where I needed to develop the unit and how to explain the steps and elements necessary to complete it.

One element that could make this unit link into the coursework that we have done so far would be to try to create a global collaboration with another school/class doing a similar unit for their Sharing the Planet theme. We could work together on the websites with each class member having different pages/roles with the creation of the website. This would also allow students to do peer editing with peers that may have different perspectives. Because of this, I have already contacted a fellow teacher about this possibility. So hopefully that is something that we can develop further.

The biggest influence I think has been making sure that the unit plan clearly identifies both the integrationist and class teacher’s roles so that they have a clear understanding of the plan. It also gives me a good understanding of the amount of time it takes to teach the lesson effectively as well as the level of commitment that the teachers will need to give to make sure that the unit is a success. In my unit plan, I tried to make the roles and time needed clear for everyone to understand. I also tried to show areas where elements of this unit can be integrated into lessons and time commitments that the teacher will have already set aside for the unit of inquiry. All of this is part of the planning process which is what I talked about in my third week.

In the end, I hope to see student created websites that show many different ways for information to be shared with others. I hope that students will take some of their time and think of interesting ways to add to their website. I look forward to seeing what creative ways they can share their knowledge with others in interesting ways. I would like to see a progression of student’s skills in regards to their research skills in their ability to find information, site information and rewording of the information for their audience. As well as a progression of their skills with using the G Suite apps. Especially students who were using them heavily in previous years.

I look forward to sharing this unit plan and to teaching it in the next school year!

Slam Session: Google Feedback Button

I have it on good authority from Google employees that the feedback button on the Google Apps is actually used to collect information which leads to the further development of an app. I have also had personal experience of Google customer service contacting me after I have submitted feedback to follow up on the information that I gave and help resolve it. 

Here is a quick video on how to give feedback in the Google apps. 


Google in Reality

I recently shared google drive with our 4th and 5th grade classrooms.
I was not surprised by the speed at which they understood the basics of how the google drive works and how they can use it to make things easier for themselves. I have found that once I have a chance to show someone how google works they are always amazed at how fast they pick it up.  I have to say that much of that is due to the fact that Google has made an effort to make their icons universal to other word processors.  Why reinvent the wheel when it works well already!

The students were able to grasp the concept of the importance of knowing where everyone is on a document when I let 17 of the them loose on the same document with only the instruction of “type this …”  It was fun to sit back, watch and listen to the chaos that ensued!  But in the chaos they quickly realised what I could have told them, but they might not have taken in.  “Make sure you know where the other people are on the document and watch what you are doing.”  Much of their issues comes from the fact that many of them still type with their eyes pointed at their hands so they don’t see what is happening on the screen until they finish typing.

In a similar way I let them loose on a presentation with the instruction to add a slide with some specific things on it.  I also said that they could change anything but the theme.  Most listened a couple didn’t, but the chaos wasn’t nearly as crazy.  They were a bit more cautious after having the first exposure to the document.

They quickly began to see how the google drive options are going to help them in their exhibition in the spring to work together in a collaborative way.

Photo Credit: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/75/Google_Drive_Logo.svg

Google Shortner

I discovered Google Shortener a few years ago and I fell in love.

 If you have ever tried to give a group of students a web address to copy then you will love this too!  Google shortener allows you to take a web address and make it shorter.  All google shortened addresses begin with goo.gl/ then end in 5 or 6 characters.  You don’t need to have the “www.” or the “http://” in front of it.  Just click in the address bar and start with the goo.gl.  You can imagine how much easier that is for kids to copy.

The biggest trick is to teach the kids that they have to use case sensitivity.  They must make capital letters, capital and lower case letters, lower case.  Some kids get that straight away and others, well they struggle.  Once they get it sorted though it helps them with other types of addresses too.  I have used this with children as young as grade one and they have been able to successfully link to a website by typing in a google shortened address.  
I have also found that this is a good resource when emailing addresses to people or putting web addresses in newsletters.  It saves loads of space and leads to less mistakes when people copy the address.

Photo Credit: http://kinlane-productions.s3.amazonaws.com/google/google-url-shortner-logo.jpg

Google Forms-the Basics

Google Forms are a great way to collect data.  I have used them to register teachers for PD, find out how comfortable teachers are with IT and schedule my IT lessons.  I will attempt to explain the basics of how to use Google Forms in this post.

Start by opening your Google Drive.  Then click ‘Create” and choose Form.  You will open into the default screen where you can name your form and choose a template.  At the moment Google’s templates are very limited.  Once you have chosen a template, which you can change later, it will open into the editing screen.  You are able to give your form a title and a description. Unfortunately at this moment in time, you can’t change any of the format features like font, size and color.

I have found that on nearly all of the forms I create “your name” is the first question I make.  Once you type your first question into the “question title” box, you can add more information in the “help text” where you can give an example of more information on what you want the question to be about.  Then you choose the type of answer that you want.  All of these things can be edited at a later date.  You can also move questions up and down on the form by clicking them and dragging it to where you want it. You can add as many questions as you want in this section.  Google has also recently added the option to add images to your form.

Once you are finished with your questions you need to tell the form where to send your responses.  At the top you will see a “choose response destination” button.  When you click on it you can choose to send your responses to a new spreadsheet or a new page in an existing one.

You also see a button towards the top called “view live form” which allows you to see the form as it looks to viewers.  This is helpful to get an idea of what it looks like, if the questions are in the order you would like and if you want to test it.  Viewing the live form is also where you get the URL to email people who you would like to use your form.

One of the things that you might want to do occasionally is unlink and relink a form so that you can de-clutter your responses page.  I do this at the end of each month so that I don’t have to scroll through so many responses.  You do this on the form by clicking “responses” then “unlink” form.  They you can click the “choose response destination” and then add a new page to the existing response page.  This will keep all of your responses in one spreadsheet workbook but on different tabs.

You might want to set up your form so that it sends you an email notification each time you receive a response.  You will need to do this by going to the spreadsheet that the form is connected to.  Click on “Tools” then click “notification rules”.  You have several options to choose from here for how the form notifies you.

If you would like to see these in action check out this video from Google on Google Forms. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEY10Ub-k-U#t=69

Photo Credit: http://icons.iconarchive.com/icons/carlosjj/google-jfk/128/forms-icon.png

Google Docs-Getting Started

Step 1 of getting into Google Docs is to get a Google account.  drive.google.com and create an account.  You need to decide if you want a new @gmail.com account that will include a new email address, which you will need to occasionally check. Or if you want to use an existing email address.  I use my @yahoo.com account because I didn’t want another email account to check. The only disadvantage I have noticed so far is when trying to log into multiple accounts.
If you already use Gmail for your email, then you already have a Google account! If you don’t then you need to set one up.  Start by going to any Google site like

Once you have set up and account you only need to bookmark drive.google.com so that you can go back to it.  If you are a person with intermittent internet you might want to download Google Drive. This allows you to work offline when your internet is down and then sync your files when your internet is working.  If you are not using Google Chrome as a web browser, then you may want to download that as well.  It is the best, but not only, browser to use with Docs.  You can use any other browser.
Now that your set up. When you log in the default page is your “drive”. On the left you will see a menu of choices.  Their is a create button next to an upload button. This is where you start a new project or upload an existing one.  If you upload a document from your files it will ask you to convert it.  If you are simply storing this document in your drive, then it is not necessary to covert it.  If you want to edit the document it is better to convert it.

 **** Warning: Google Docs does not like tables from Word, you will have to reformat them.****

To start a new document, click on “create”.  When you do you will get some choices.  New folder is for creating folders to organize your drive items into. Document is a blank piece of paper defaulted to US letter.  (This can be changed.) Presentation is like a Powerpoint or Keynote. Spreadsheet is like and Excel or Numbers workbook.  Form is to create an online submittable for for people to fill in.  Drawing which allows you to create a drawing. I will discuss these options in more detail in a later post.

Another thing that you will see on the left is “shared with me” this is where files created by someone else, but shared with you will appear.  You can move these files into your folders if you want to organize them.  You will also see “starred”.  This is a handy aspect because it allows you to star a document.  I like this for frequently used documents or documents that I am currently editing or teaching with.  Starring them also makes them easier to find on the app for the iPad. 

Another important thing to know about is Sharing documents.  You will see in the top right of the screen after you create a document the option to share it.  This is where Google Docs shines.  If you share a document, form, presentation, etc. with someone then they can edit it, view, or comment on it.  You can choose what they are allowed to do with the document when you share it with them.  You can share a document with multiple people by putting in their email address, or you can send them a link to the document.  This is also where you can set your privacy settings for the document.  You are also able to share whole folders so that when a new document is created in created in the folder, it is automatically shared with those people.

Photo Credit: https://cdn1.iconfinder.com/data/icons/free-colorful-icons/360/google_docs.png