Saturday, March 11, 2017

Don't Be Scared, Google Sheets Won't Hurt You

by Jeffrey M. Welch

In the summer of 2016, I had the opportunity to give a training at an Edtechteam summit in Stanislaus County. I chose to build a training around Google Sheets. My reasoning was that Sheets is both incredibly powerful, and often intimidating to users. My concept was to teach users everything they needed to know to get started in one-hour training. Secondarily, I was hoping to prep teachers to take the Sheets portions of the Google for Education Level 1 and Level 2 exams. I have now done this training three times, with substantial modifications each time.

Version 1.0 - was a one-hour training with around 20 teachers. It went well, even if a bit too fast. This entire training took place within a single spreadsheet broken up into tabs.

Version 2.0 - I beefed up the instructions and added several activities for a Google Certification Bootcamp with the idea that the learners would mostly go through it on their own.

Version 3.0 (current) - I decided to break the sheets into specific activities using the new Google Sites and stretch the training to two hours, since I also added in several activities. It now has a basic and an intermediate/advanced training. I have presented this version live once. I feel it was well received, but being brand new, I still have some work to do on pacing.

If you want to see the training, or even go through it at your own pace, take a look here:

I am looking forward to presenting this again and continuing to improve in my timing and presentation skills.

Friday, February 24, 2017

ETC! 2017

by Jeffrey, M. Welch

I am presenting on Google Sheets tomorrow at Stanislaus ETC! 2017 at CSU, Stanislaus. Everything you wanted to know about spreadsheets but were terrified to ask!!! Putting my freshly minted Google Certified Trainer status to the test.

Check out my sessions and stop by if you are at the conference.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Twitter Chat

by Jeffrey M. Welch

Check out the Twiterversity guide for more.

What is a Twitter chat?

A Twitter chat is a live synchronous meeting utilizing Twitter as the meeting tool. They have become very popular and a a great way to learn new ideas, expand your network, and possibly communicate with interesting and sometimes influential people.

How does a Twitter chat work? 

In a Twitter chat, the convention is that a moderator will present a series of questions for you to respond to, these will be labelled #Q1, #Q2, etc. When you answer, you tag your response with #A1, #A2, etc.

Joining a chat is very simple. Go to Twitter at the correct time. In the search box type in the hashtag of the chat that you are interested in. You will see a few choices, the search mode defaults to “Top”, that is whatever is most popular. But that is not what you want to see. Instead, click “Live” and you will see tweets as they come in with that hashtag. When the questions appear, tweet back and include a hashtag and the answer number you are responding to in your response. Like this: “#interestingchat #A1 and your answer.”

As you are participating in the chat, click on the profiles of anyone who has interesting information to share and consider following them. There is a good chance that they will follow you back right away if you have interesting things to say. Answering questions and getting ideas is the reason you are in the chat, but a secondary benefit is that you will make new friends on Twitter and expand your network.

How to find a Twitter chat?

If you are an educator go here and use the calendar to find a topic and time for a chat that works for you: As you can see in the calendar, there are chats pretty much at any time you might want to join one. Look for one or two that look interesting and plan to take part. Times may vary, but typically, these chats are for about an hour.

For other topics outside of education here are a few places to look to find a chat that fits your interests:

Check out the Twiterversity guide for more.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Growing Followers on Twitter

by Jeffrey M. Welch

Check out the Twiterversity guide for more.

Expanding your Following

There are a few key points to expanding your following on Twitter, and these will be similar on most social networks:
  1. You need to be a credible person. You look like a real person (see this post).
  2. You have to feed Twitter to stay relevant. This means if you really want to use it, you have to check in and post at least a few times a week. If you stop Tweeting, people will unfollow you.
  3. Pick a theme and then stay on theme. Post regularly on the theme you have chosen.
  4. Retweet things that are interesting, this will help you to find followers.
  5. Join in on a Twitter chat on a topic that is interesting to you
  6. Follow influential Twitter users.
The way to really expand your following has to with an expansion on #6. Presume you are already doing 1-5, your final step to building a large Twitter following is to identify a handful of important and influential Twitter users and to piggyback on them. Find users that post great content that is on your theme and have a large following (more than 5000 users as a minimum).

Your next step is to start to follow their followers. It is kind of difficult to do this in Twitter. Fortunately, there are tools that will help you to do this. Two that I have used are Tweepi and ManageFlitter. Your task then is the following:

  1. Identify users that you that have your interests and a strong following.
  2. Identify their users that are worth following. This means utilising filters:
    1. Bio (They have a bio, and you may want to filter for key words).
    2. Profile pic (filter for "Have profile pic", ignore users without one, this indicates they are not serious).
    3. Filter out users with high follower ratios. (Follow ratio means the user's followers divided by those that they follow. A user that has 60,000 followers, and only follows a few thousand may have interesting content, but they probably will not follow you back.)
    4. There are a number of other categories in filtering. Do some experiments and see what gets you the best results.
  3. After a while (allow at least three days), unfollow users that do not follow you back. Immediately unfollow users that post content that is off topic or annoying to you.
  4. Follow back anyone who follows you that is interesting to you, do not follow users that appear to be spam, fake, or post content that is not what you are interested in. 
Repeat this cycle a few times a week. Twitter will let you follow a maximum of 1000 users in a day. It is probably a good idea to keep your followers way below that number. Twitter also limits the number of unfollows in a day. You should not follow someone that you do not think you will continue to follow in the future, this is both rude and may be considered abuse by Twitter. This is why filtering is so important. Filter so that you find people that you are interested in connecting with and you will be fine.

Once you get to the point that you are following more than say three times your followers, you need to stop and pause for a time. Then unfollow users who have not followed you back. You will only be allowed by Twitter to follow a maximum of 5000 users. After that they will prevent you from following more users until you have unfollowed some. Once more than 5000 people have followed you, the rules will change, but that is something to worry about later.

Check out the Twiterversity guide for more.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Technology First: Background, Concept, and Results

by Jeffrey M. Welch

Part of my "Technology First" series.

For the 2015-2016 school year, a few teachers in my district were given dedicated sets of classroom Chromebooks to use with our students. While some school districts have already made the leap to a 1-to-1 technology deployment, we have not yet jumped in the deep end.
Creative Commons Licence: Source: Sadly, not my classroom!
My colleagues and I were tasked with charting the path forward for our district’s teachers. In discussions with a few collaborators we made a decision to go a little farther than integrating technology, we chose to abandon all that came before and choose Technology First. This post will explain a bit of the logic, results, and implications of that decision.

Here is what we told our students on day one:
  • This class is designed using a technology-first model.
  • The class will operate with minimal use of paper, either given to the students or received by the teacher.
  • Nearly all assignments and activities will be completed utilizing a classroom set of Chromebooks.
  • Students will utilize Google Apps for Education and other online services to complete most of their tasks.

Making this choice is by no means required, and we make no guarantees that it was even the right thing to do. Rather than arguing that everyone should do this, we took it as a personal challenge to see if we could do it. There has never been one right solution to every problem. In most any case, a number of solutions can be devised to solve any difficulty that arises. The field of education is no different. There are numerous successful and useful methods of teaching any particular topic or activity. Technology for its own sake isn’t the answer to everything. Yet, we made a decision to try to find a technological solution to every problem.

The challenge for students
Today’s students live in a world that is fundamentally different from even a decade ago. Seemingly everyone and everything is being connected through technology ways that are new. Education is the one place where this revolution has not yet fully taken root. Some schools are tech savvy, but huge numbers of schools teach like they are stuck in the early 1900s. This is a major disconnect for students who walk into a technology desert for the seven hours of their school day.

They will not leave their high school upon graduation and enter a world of pencils, books, and spiral-bound notebooks. That time is gone, but many schools are stuck in a bizarre time warp. How can a student be prepared for the worlds of work and higher education if they cannot use technology effectively and productively?

The challenge for teachers
There are many limitations placed on teachers. There may be inadequate or even non-existent devices or networks. There may be draconian limitations imposed by web-filtering software limiting which sites and connected tools can be used (i.e. Youtube and most social media). For tools that are available, many of the best are not free or possibly “freemium,” thus have limited usefulness. Classroom budgets are almost universally miniscule, if a tool that has significant costs, but is not embraced by administration, it will probably not be an option for teachers to use.

The challenge for administrators
Administrators must always look at the big picture. What is in the best interest of the school, the students, and their team? In managing teacher implementation of technology, administrators will likely have to cope with the two poles of classroom adoption. Some teachers cannot move fast enough at putting technology into use (my colleagues are in this boat). In other cases, there are those that have no interest or may even be terrified by the movement toward higher levels of technology integration.

Dealing with these two staff extremes is no easy feat. On the one hand, the early adopters must be both encouraged and occasionally restrained. On the other hand, the technologically gun shy must be moved forward without overly stressing them out. In both cases this balancing act is very tricky. Schools need to be moving forward with technology integration in a way that works for the school community, but also prepares students for the world that they will enter post high school. Administrators need to find and promote effective technology focused professional development to bring their teams along. Further, administrators need to engage with their teachers as a team to develop a broad plan and set of tools that will be utilized across the school. One tool or technique that is useful in many classes is always better than many tools used in a few classes.

What we have learned
Is technology always the best answer? No it isn’t, but we have confirmed much of what we expected when we began.

Some positives:
  • Technology makes things possible that were not possible before (see my post on SAMR and TPACK).
  • Technology, if used well, can lead to self-directed learning experiences.
  • Students have adapted quickly and become expert users much faster than we expected.
  • Students like using technology, so this can be a strong motivator.
  • Most everything that can be done with paper, pencil, and book can be done using technology, and results can be superior.

Some negatives:
  • Classroom management is every bit as important, and maybe more, when you introduce a device into the classroom.
  • Students can and will be off-task and this must be managed.
  • Students can and will use technology to bully others (though they don’t realize how much easier it is to document).
  • Edtech apps rarely talk to each other, so there is much legwork and “app feeding” to be done. You most likely need to transfer grades from apps to your gradebook, too little automation here.

Where do we go from here?
The complete change in our classrooms has been an excellent learning experience. We have found that we are definitely up to this challenge and that the pervasive use of technology has greatly expanded the scope of what is possible in our classrooms. We still have a lot to learn and much to improve. Our first revision of a Technology First approach has been successful, but we continue to tweak our methods and are confident that in year two and beyond the results will see consistent improvement.

Part of my "Technology First" series.

Taxonomies for Technology Integration: SAMR and TPACK

by Jeffrey M. Welch

Part of my "Technology First" series.

If you have been in the classroom for a while, you are well familiar with Bloom’s taxonomy. If you are knee-deep in Common Core, you know all about Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK) which, simplistically described, is an update to Bloom’s. In the technology sphere, there is a similar model that has a practical connection to the Bloom’s and DOK, but has been built around levels of technology integration in the classroom. This is called the SAMR Model and it has become very influential in the educational technology universe. There is a second model that has also become widespread, it is called TPACK which is really more about the teachers preparation and the interaction of their skills than it is about the particular lesson. These two models will be the focus of this post. If you spend any time in Edtech circles, or go to any training on technology integration, you will encounter these two acronyms sooner or later.

Image Credit:

Background on SAMR
SAMR was created by Ruben R. Puentedura to describe the levels of tech integration in a classroom. As you move higher in the model, you get closer to the kind of learning that excites teachers and students alike. The fundamental goal is not to recreate a paper model of learning using a computer, it is to be able, at least sometimes, to do things that you could not do before you had technology. You might describe this as reimagining rather than recreating existing teaching methods.

A great many teachers introduce technology into their classroom and barely change the way the teach. The device is the new notebook/textbook/pencil. It can be so much more. Technology integration can transform learning and make student into creators and teachers. If SAMR is new to you, look through the descriptions and information below and reflect on where your technology activities fit in the SAMR hierarchy. Not everything has to hit the highest and most complex level, but it should always be a goal to be pushing toward that high level with some of the activities that we accomplish in a classroom.

SAMR Explained by Students

Levels of SAMR
SAMR has four levels, these are generally placed in two groups. The bottom two, substitution and augmentation are grouped as “enhancement” strategies and are within the ability of almost any teacher. The next two levels, modification and redefinition are a step up and will take effort and creativity, first from the teacher and later from the student. These two levels are grouped as “transformation.”

Definition: An assignment that has been redefined is something that could not be done before technology was brought into the classroom. These assignments give students an audience or stage to demonstrate their learning

Examples: Creation of a blog, documentary video, interview, or performance that can be shared through the Internet and allow for broad interaction inside and outside of the classroom walls. Interaction with other classroom separated by distance, or the use of video conferencing with experts.
Definition: Once you move into the modification range, the technology brought into the assignment allows for a significant modification and improvement in the design of the assignment.

Examples: The ability of two or more students to collaborate on a document in real time. Incorporation of multimedia into an assignment: video, audio, interactive animations, and some games. The addition of student nar
Definition: Augmentation lessons are very similar to substitution, except that the addition of the device has allowed the lesson to be improved.

Examples: Use of tools that enhance a process like spell-checking, grammar checkers, thesaurus, etc. Embedded links to resources in assignments. A self-grading assessment which gives instant feedback.
Definition: As the word implies, substitution is taking one thing and placing an equivalent in its place. When technology is brought into any classroom environment, substitution is the first strategy utilized.

Examples: Reading using a device instead of a book, taking notes or writing in Google Docs in place of a notebook, or completing a fill in worksheet on a computer.

SAMR Resources
See the blog post: SAMR and Bloom's Taxonomy: Assembling the Puzzle by Ruben Puentedura, and a video introduction to the SAMR model. The three different presentations by Dr. Puentedura below are an excellent places to learn more about SAMR. If this is new to you, stick with the first one, if you are looking to sharpen your knowledge move on to two and three.
  1. SAMR: Beyond the Basics, a presentation by Ruben R. Puentedura, Ph.D.
  2. SAMR In the Classroom: Developing Sustainable Practice, a presentation by Ruben R. Puentedura, Ph.D.
  3. SAMR, Learning, and Assessment, a presentation by Ruben R. Puentedura, Ph.D.

To find more information from Dr. Puentedura check out his blog. You can find additional helpful information on SAMR prepared by Kathy Schrock.

Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by

TPACK is a way of describing the interaction between three elements: Technological Knowledge, Pedagogical Knowledge, and Content Knowledge. Each successful teacher requires a deep understanding of all three elements. What TPACK brings to the picture is a method for explaining the interactions between these elements, and possibly helping the individual teacher reflect on missing competencies in order to point them toward areas of needed professional growth. For an indepth explanation of these areas see TPACK Explained. To learn about making TPACK part of your activity planning, see this set of resources on activity types for different grade levels and subject areas.

Part of my "Technology First" series.