Technology Pursuit

Blending Technology Into the Language Arts Classroom

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Hiding Easter Eggs in Google Drawing

Easter Eggs in gamified classrooms come in myriad forms. I’ve seen drool-worthy Easter Eggs as cryptic messages, invisible ink, and thousands of other amazing ways.

But Easter Eggs don’t require a lot of time and energy. For my Hamlet unit, I hid Easter eggs using invisible links in Google Drawing.

I organized the unit using a Google Drawing map, as seen above. Most of the links are obvious–links to the videos on Edpuzzle, reading check quizzes, and choices of assignments. You can also see a link at the bottom of Hamlet’s illustration that connects students to Ryan North’s game To Be or Not to Be, if that’s something they want to pursue. (I also own a version on my iPad).

However, I also hid Easter Eggs within the document that linked to other interesting Hamlet links, including the Simpsons’ version of Hamlet, comics about Hamlet, and an article that describes Hamlet being translated into wacky languages.

Here’s how I did it.

First, use the drawing tool to draw a shape–doesn’t matter what shape. Change the line color to invisible.

Then, click the edge of the shape again to highlight it, and link it (Shortcut: Command + K on Mac, Control + K on PC) with the URL.

That’s it. Now I have  7-8 different Easter eggs hidden within the Hamlet map. As of now, I’ve had some students find some of them, but some still lie hidden, waiting for a curious student to find them.

GameJam Takeaways: #games4ed Chat 4/27/17


Thursday night, I enjoyed my very first chat with the amazing Tammie Schrader @tammieschrader, who first led an Edtech Interactive on planning a regional game jam, followed by an entire hour where we got to chat about it on Twitter.

Let me tell you–the amount of planning Schrader puts into her game jams: Remarkable! If you’re planning ANY type of an out-of-classroom game jam in the future, you definitely want to review this webinar first

So many ideas were tossed around during the #games4ed chat that followed that there’s no way I could read them all the first time through the chat–a second time of reading the chat archives (found here!) was needed for me to get through everything!

Schrader shared so many essential things that need to be covered when planning and hosting a regional game jam that I can’t list them all here. However, I do have my favorite takeaways:

  1. Location, Location, Location! Schrader spent a lot of time scouting potential venues for her game jam. In fact, there are so many potential places: schools, of course, but also libraries, community centers, and college unions. The time span of the game jam heavily impacts your venue choice. Schrader hosted an all night jam (what an exciting jam idea!), but hosting it at a school forces you to follow even more administrative rules for that location. Another alternative you might want to look into is a private tech business that wouldn’t just be supportive of your mission, but also have the tech infrastructure you need if you’re planning a digital chat.

That said, maybe you decide on your school. Nothing wrong with it. If you do, though, host it in the media center or commons area. Rearrange the furniture. Make it seem as “unschoollike” as possible

2. Donations!  Schrader first started with a grant that helped fund the game jam, but other businesses also donated prizes and, most importantly for teenagers: FOOD.  Actually, just important for any game jam.

3. Staffing. If you’re hosting a digital game jam, find some computer science mentors to come in and help advise groups. Schrader used local college students. But the staffing doesn’t end there. Adult volunteers will still be needed to help with supervision and keeping food stocked.

4. Theme. Perhaps my favorite idea was using a them for a game jam. Asking students to create a game jam that deals with a community problem, or the Hero’s Journey, or any other idea provides a starting line for the groups.

Join us for #games4ed on Twitter any Thursday night at 8pmET/7pmCT




The Easter Egg: The 4/20/17 #games4ed Chat

Nearly every week I participate in the #games4ed chat, and every week I am so blessed to learn new takeaways from some of my favorite Twitter peeps! Last night’s chat focused on Easter Eggs in games, and here are some of my favorite ideas:


Tale Blazer: New to me, Tale Blazer is MIT’s AR software that allows teachers and students to build mobile games around any subject. It sounds like it has amazing potential and can’t wait to play with it more!


Easter Eggs Throughout the School: I loved the concept of planting eggs for the entire student body. One very simple idea was putting Easter Eggs in the daily announcements–something that would be great for middle and high school students. Another idea shared was setting up Easter Eggs during Back to School nights or Student Orientation Days–a great way to get incoming freshmen to interact with their surroundings more!

Games that use Easter Eggs–Literally: While planning the chat, I ran across some great idea for actually using eggs, like using eggs to teach prefixes, roots and suffixes. Other uses could be for math problems or any type of game that connects two ideas together–Great for tactile learners!

Full Transcripts from the Easter Egg chat can be found here.


If you’ve never been to a #games4ed Twitter chat, come check it out! Every Thursday, 8pmET/7pmCT/6pmMT/5pmPT!





The Peer Review Process

It’s spring, three weeks left with my seniors, and time to review what worked well this year–and what didn’t. And one thing that I’m never fully happy with is my peer review process.

I’ve used myriad ways: Google forms, Google docs, plain old hard copy. This year I used, which is a handy tool and helped the organization of it all.

But still, I’ve never been content. Some students take it seriously. Some don’t. Although I know these are teenagers, and I may not get 100% engagement every minute of every day, some peer review half-heartedly.

I don’t blame them. I blame myself–at least partly. As a teacher, I don’t feel like I’ve yet truly prepared them all for peer review. In fact, there have been years I bypassed using peer review completely–after all, I decided, I’m the teacher. Shouldn’t they get their feedback from me?

Then I think back to my masters degree workshops. I learned just as much about writing reading and thinking through giving feedback on others’ papers as I did getting feedback for my own. Perhaps even more.

This past week, I read Starr Sackstein’s new book Peer Feedback in the Classroom, which gave me a great idea: Jigsaw peer review. Rather than having students assess all aspects of writing, Sackstein describes how “expert groups” focus on one area of writing, such as introduction, analysis, and organization.

I love the advantage of having students focus on one area. It’s less overwhelming to them, especially for those who aren’t completely confident in their feedback.

This is certainly something I’ll try next year–and if you get a chance, take a read of Peer Feedback in the Classroom. It applies to ANY type of peer feedback, whether it be writing, art, science projects, or any type of student creation.


Listen Up! Two New Gaming Podcasts

A few weeks ago, I finished forensics season. I was spent. Exhausted. Dare I say–a bit burned out.

What better way to get rejuvenated than to tune into a couple new podcasts while out walking in the spring weather?

  1. Legends of Edgames Podcast: The Legends of Learning crew launched their podcast this past January, focusing on #GBL in the classroom. This past weekend, I listened to Episode #4 with guest Chris Aviles, gamification guru. Anything with Chris is a great read (or in this case, listen) as he shared his insights and learnings about gaming in the classroom. Plus, if you’re a middle school science teacher, you definitely need to check out the hundreds of games Legends of Learning website now has to offer!      
  2. Well PlayED Podcast: Michael Matera and Tisha Richmond talk about gamification, game-based learning, and just plain old playful learning. Just launched, this podcast promises to be another staple in the game-loving-teacher’s toolbelt. In the first episode, Michael and Tisha share the reasons they love gamifying their learning and their overall process in how they started.


Of course, there are always amazing Twitter chats to join for game-based learning and gamification! All three of the chats are filled with great minds, always welcoming new folks and lurkers!

Tuesdays, 7pmCT: #MinecraftEDU

Wednesdays, 7pmCT: #XPLAP

Thursdays, 7pmCT: #games4ed


Tackling Fake News

Fake news and extremely left or right news has bombarded social media, and what truly scares me: the number of people–people I respect as intelligent beings–who are reposting it and using it to support arguments.

My fear has prompted me to put together a fake news unit to piggyback onto my college composition research unit and my Brit Lit satire unit. Here’s a rough rundown.

Day One:

I introduced the idea of fake news through one of the several fake news quizzes online. I’ve used this one from the BBC today. Then students read two articles at the Actively Learn website and answer questions embedded in the article. Article 1 is Fake News Fools Millions published in Scholastic’s New York Times Upfront magazine (subscription needed to access). The other is  Fake News: How a Partying Macedonian Teen Earns Thousands. At the end of the second article, I ask this question: Should Google & Facebook do more to restrict fake news? (Some of my students’ responses are here–I tend to publish top student responses on Google Slides anonymously for their classmates to peruse.)

Day Two: 

I model examples of fake news and questionably slanted sites that I find on Facebook–yep, I use my own Facebook feed. This is one posted by–deep breath–a relative of mine. When I first show it, many of my students feel very supportive of the Mexico wall…and then they realize they’ve been had. The wall in the photo is in an entirely different hemisphere.

Then we look at some other examples on my feed that are very left-wing or right-wing (I’m a liberal living in a very red, conservative area–my feed runs the gamut of political views). I show them how to go the source’s FB page, then the website page. From there, the headlines and sometimes just the About page gives away if the site is focused on the right or left side of the political spectrum. I do the same with YouTube.

After this, students find a source on Facebook or YouTube and place it where they think it belongs on the political continuum. (We usually have to have a discussion where FoxNews and CNN lie.)


Day Three: 

In teams, students try to deduce which websites (see page 2 of document) are legitimate and which ones are fake. I don’t tell them how many of which there are, though after they muddle for a while, I let them “purchase” (with Classcraft gold) the knowledge of how many of which there are.


Day Four:

Reflection and evaluation. This can be as simple as discussion, as I did with some classes, or a practice ACT writing essay, as my Brit Lit students will do.

There are so many other ideas and options out there! Feel free to post any in the comments below.

My New Favorite Chrome Extensions

Before this morning, I had 43 Chrome Extensions installed in my browser. After listening to Stacy Behmer at the Great Plains Google Summit, I’ve upped that number to 48.

Without further ado, here they are:

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Google Docs Quick Create

Google Docs Quick Create During the school year, I can’t count how many Google Docs I make in a given day. And every time, I have to spend countless seconds finding my Drive tab or opening it from my bookmarks, then wait for it to load. (OK, so maybe 8-10 seconds.) However, I can click this extension, and a dropdown menu of the different doc types drops down. I click on one, and I’m done: a brand new doc/sheet/form/drawing appears before me. Maybe it’s not a huge timesaver for occasional use, but for someone who makes a dozen or so docs a day, it adds up!

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Note Anywhere

Note AnywhereMore than once, I’ve wished I had virtual sticky notes to put on a website, just as I would a hard copy of an article. Now I do with Note Anywhere! Close the website, come back to it later, and the sticky notes are still there where you left them.

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Google Cast

Google CastI haven’t had a chance to play with this yet, but I’ve been so excited for it since Google announced it at ISTE last month! This extension allows students (with teacher authorization) to project their screen onto a television or screen, cutting out the need for other apps or gadgets to make this happen. Major time saver and a great way to allow students to share the stage.


Google Dictionary

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Google DictionaryThis is one I’ll highly encourage my students to install! If you don’t recognize a word you’re reading, just double-click on it. A small window opens with the definition! Looking up a definition has NEVER been this easy!!

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Make a GIF

Make a GIFThis summer, I’ve fallen in love with GIFs. With this extension, I can make my own GIFs by recording a video on my computer or using a YouTube video. If I’m feeling lazy, I can search for already made GIFs through this extension. It’s great for adding humor, but I’ve also recorded myself demonstrating something on my computer and then adding them to Twitter posts.

If there’s a new one out there that I MUST try, post it below! I’m always on the lookout for great new extensions!!


Sharing Conference Takeaways

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Coming back from ISTE in Denver is an overwhelming and inspiring conference–one that took me two full days to truly come down from. There’s so much I learned, so much I wanted to share with my staff.

However, I’m holding back a bit. Why? Because I don’t want to overwhelm them.

Putting myself in their shoes, I imagined how I would react to a long email about a conference. Is it long and multi-paragraphed? No headings? Then no way would I read it.

What would I read? Headings with quick blurbs of a sentence or two–that way I can scan through it, pick through the information most important to me, and disregard the rest.

On the drive home from Denver (we had five hours to kill), we wrote a Smore page with our favorite takeaways from ISTE. You can see it below.

Have you shared your favorite takeaways from your most recent conference or workshop? If not, jump on a Smore page (or Google doc or whatever your flavor) and make your own top 5, top ten, or top 13!


A Billion or so Things to do with Google Slides

Earlier this summer, I lead a session about all the things teachers and students can do with Google Slides beyond the traditional presentation. Check them out below!


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