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.

It’s Not About the Tech… It’s about the Planning

EQ: How can we effectively, practically and authentically embed technology within our curricular areas?

Anne Karakash’s article 5 Steps for Planning Lessons Around Technology states that the steps for planning effective technology integration are:

  1. Plan – consider the content then pick the technology
  2. Research – take the time to explore the technology fully
  3. Engage – think about the interaction that the students will have with the technology
  4. Explore – expand the project beyond the initial task
  5. Synthesis – bring it all together

I agree with Anne in many ways. I often find that teachers contact me about using technology without having considered these steps. They contact me as an integrationist and expect me to come into their class and teach a lesson without them having gone through the steps above to consider how the technology will integrate.

Teachers often ask me to teach something with tech by saying “I want you to come in and teach ____ app.” When I ask what they want to accomplish with that app they generally tell me. “Oh, I want them to know how to use it because I want them to make a ___ at the end of this unit.” My next question is always what will you require them to have in their final element? They then give me a list.

This is usually the point where I have to make them backtrack for one of two reasons. One they haven’t’ given the students anywhere close to enough time to accomplish this or two they have a very narrow goal for the technology. These two problems are mostly because they haven’t taken the time to become familiar with the technology for themselves.

Then they are surprised when I make them pause and reexamine the plan for the lesson. They don’t like when they are told that one lesson will not be long enough or detailed enough to accomplish what they want.

This is why planning with teachers from the beginning of a unit is essential. If I am there at the beginning of the unit planning I can help a teacher better gauge the student’s understanding of the technology along with the needs of the teachers and students. I can help the teachers plan how to more effectively use technology throughout a unit not just slap some in at the end. It also allows me to help teachers manage to spread out the learning of a new technology throughout a unit instead of trying to cram it all in before the project they want to complete.

Spreading the technology lessons out over the course of a unit, allows students to begin to synthesize their knowledge and understandings all of the ways through the unit instead of waiting until the end. This gives them time to explore both what the technology can do as well as go deeper into their knowledge. By synthesizing along the way they see the holes and gaps in their research and are able to take the time to go back and fill those in.

It was pointed out to me recently that the way integrationists work is Design Thinking in action. Once we realized this we realized that one of the best ways to help our teachers is to help them use Design Thinking when they are planning for the use of technology within their lessons.

This leads me to the second article that I read. 16 Modern Realities Schools (and Parents) Need to Accept. Now. I think that teaching teachers how to think in a Design mindset will help them teach students how to think in a design mindset which would address many of the 16 realities mentioned in this article.

Can I get a WOOT WOOT! They get it.

Can I get a WOOT WOOT! They get it and here is the proof!  

This student was asked to plan an Eco-Friendly House for an assessment. They could plan any way that they wanted to. She chose to plan using a popplet. Not just using a popplet, but using it well. 

She not only used it to planning platform, but she wants to have this along side her drawing to teach anyone who is viewing her drawing what the items in her drawing are and how they work. 

This makes me very happy to see a student who has only been in our school for a year, starting to embedd the use of technology into her learning.  

Explain Everything Explore Lesson

I thought that I would write about a lesson that I am doing with grades four and five to better introduce Explain Everything. In the past I haven’t done the best job of introducing the app and many teachers and students have thought of it as a slide show app.  They didn’t realize the importance of the audio track.
Over the summer one of the things that Explain Everything updated was adding a “Simple Interface”. I was very excited about this before school started. One of my issues with Explain Everything was that it was so full of tools that students spent a lot of time playing instead of working.

So I started with grade four. We decided that we were going to use Explain Everything to complete a Math activity. We decided first to give them an explore activity. So I planned out an explore activity where the students had to follow the directions on some slides and show “proof” of each thing that they had learned how to do with the iPad.  

One of the nice things about the fact that many of these students have had iPads for 2 or three years in school, is that they know what some of the obvious common buttons are and they aren’t afraid to click and try them before asking for help.    

Once they had some time to explore around in Explain Everything they were given their Math task with directions for what must be in their presentation. 

They were then given two class times to complete their presentation.  As expected, students were taking different amounts of time to finish.  Some finished on the first day, some thought they finished on the first day and some took all of day two to finish. 

What was nice about having the explore session first is that the questions that were asked on the day that I introduced the activity were questions like:
How do I show my thinking?
Can I use my whiteboard?
Can I use a piece of paper?

And not questions about how to insert pictures or other elements that we had explored. This was great because it meant that they had become comfortable enough during the explore lesson to concentrate on the activity they should be doing and not how the app worked.  

Padlet Ideas for the Classroom

I have just read a blog post by John Jones about ways to use Padlet in a math setting. This one post got the ideas flowing for me so I wanted to expland on what he suggested. I love is idea of taking a screenshot of something from the iPad and uploading it directly to the Padlet. This could be used for so many things.  

We are using Big Writing in our school and one of the things that the students are always on the look out for are WOW words. This would be a great way to “keep” them. You could have a Padlet that acted as your Word Wall. Keeping the Wow words that you find while reading and writing. The students could refer to it whenever they wanted. QR codes could be placed in strategic places, like the front cover of their writing notebook. This would make easy reference a snap. The students who use it regularly could also add it to the home screen of their iPads.

After a keynote speech from Sugata Mitra many of our upper primary teachers began having iTime or iInquiries in their classrooms. Many times these are short inquiries into something that the student is interested in but not connected to their current units of study. Because of this many times the presenting of their findings takes the longest time. Using a Padlet is a great way to allow students to share their findings to their class.

You could use Padlet as a way to collect “exit cards” from all of the students in your class.

In math class you could create “multiplication walls” where you post images of different ways to mulitply by a number. For example multiplying by 5. Then the students could take pictures of different ways to show multplication by 5 and post it on the wall. These would make great resources for homework. 

Speaking of homework, wouldn’t this be a great way to hand in written homework instead of notebooks! In grade five they do a lot of writing in a homework notebook, this could be a good way to students to hand in their work and a teacher have one place to check it and nothing to carry home for grading!

Reflection journals, each student could have a padlet where they reflect on lessons for the day. It is share with only the teacher so that it is private, but videos, images and text can be uploaded to make the reflections more interactive. 

Oh the possibilities are endless!


ePortfolio – Options 4 Google Drive

Again this would work for grade three – five.

Postives for using Google Drive:

  • teachers can view and give feedback instantly
  • single subject as well as classroom teachers could contribute 
  • teacher contributions able to be made directly to site
  • is live
  • videos, audio, text, drawings, any file time can be uploaded 
  • unlimited space
  • printable (for some items)
  • viewing and creating can happen on iPad
  • viewing and creating can happen on computers
  • students from grade three can be independent
  • customizable
  • can be private
  • can be shared with parents 
  • a “table of contents” like page could be created with links to items in folders

Negatives or Things to Consider:

  • only some items would be printable
  • could get messy if not managed
  • lots of different places to go and click


Puppet Pals

I taught grade four how to use Puppet Pals today. After a bit of an explore with adding characters and backgrounds, I asked them to tell me ideas that they had for ways to use Puppet Pals in the class other than for story telling.  These are some of their ideas.

  • Use it as a planner for a drama.  Before you act out a drama, make it on Puppet Pals so that everyone can see what they are suppose to do.
  • Use it as a presentation tool.  Create backgrounds that work like slides.
  • Use it to explain something like a diagram.  Have a picture of the diagram as the back ground and have a character point out the different things in the diagram.
  • Use it to record our Monday Message (weekly lower school news cast).  Thanks Cerys!!
  • Have a “scientist” explain something to you.  The scientist is the puppet and the background is what they are explaining.
  • Use it to explain a math problems.
  • Use it to show someone who was absent how to do something that they missed.

I am always amazed at the variety of answers that the students come up with when we don’t prompt them.  They came up with so many more than I would have if I had sat down and tried to think about ideas.  Thank you grade four!