Epic Updates and a Day-long

27992885494_5fd46d6f0c_mThis week I have two epic updates to share that you will love!

First off, actual updates to Epic!, an amazing site I have posted about before.This week while on Twitter I saw this fantastic post by Sara Malchow which naturally piqued my interest since it is about reading and connecting with other classes.  As you might know, Epic! is a  FREE (for teachers and librarians), fantastic, browser-based site and app for books. It is “the Netflix of books” as they are known, and now with recent updates, as recent as last week, teachers can now create collections of books and then assign those collections to their students! Imagine the possibilities here: you have groups of students in your class researching various topics (as a group)- you can create a collection of books that they can read for information (or for fun), then assign that group the collection. You can differentiate based on interests, reading level, topic, etc. You can pull together collections of books for thematic units; the possibilities are nearly endless! Sara has created a collection of books and padlet activities for the month of November that you and your elementary classes can easily participate in. She has the primary and intermediate versions here that you can print out, hang in your classroom, and use a QR code scanner for the activities (or share with your students via Google Drive). This is a great way to read and connect with others around thematic and seasonal books.

Next is an epic update to Google forms. As you might recall, one of the things you can do with Google forms other than collect information, is create self-graded quizzes. While it used to be that you had to use only multiple choice, true/false, or drop-down questions, now you can assign point values to short or longer answer questions, grade them, and then return the graded quizzes to your students. Eric Curts’ post does a great job of explaining and showing exactly how to do this in a step-by-step fashion. Now you can get your students’ higher order thinking on- hooray!

Speaking of Google, it is just one month until the Google Education On Air online conference begins in the Americas with the keynotes starting at noon on December 3. Breakout sessions led in English and Spanish will go all day from 1:30PM until 7PM with sessions geared to teachers, leaders, IT professionals, and everyone. Themes range from hacking the classroom, using Google tools, empowering students, professional development and more. I am looking forward to hearing from Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton, and Sarah Landis as they speak about HyperDocs at 5:00PM (Hyperdocs? Read my recent post). Of course there are many other exciting sessions that I will tune in to and will happily share my learning with you once it is all over.

Feeling like you want more? Check out the Shipley PLN Lower & Middle School Edition for great articles like this on how a happy school can lead to successful students and this on adding mindful pauses to your classroom to engage your students.

photo credit: Say It With A Camera Find My Epic via photopin (license)

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It’s New(s) to Me!

This afternoon I learned about a new Google Docs feature- or, I should say, it was news to me because I do not recall having seen the option before. We can (now) add up to three columns to our Google docs. Imagine the possibilities that this feature will allow! Take a look. Thanks to Ryan Lynch for sharing this on Twitter!

Next is something I think you will really love! I learned this from Richard Byrne‘s Free Tech for Teachers newsletter that pops into my inbox weekly. JoeZoo Express is an add-on for Google Docs that you can get from my favorite store, the Chrome Web Store. What JoeZoo does is gives you a selection of comments to choose from (or you can add your own) which will make reading your students’ papers and offering feedback a snap! You can also create and add rubrics right there in the add-on and it will become part of the document.


Being classroom teachers, you probably have some sort of classroom library or set of books that you may let your students or colleagues borrow. Perhaps you have a sign-out sheet on a clipboard or cute stickers in the front of the book that says something like, “This book belongs to the classroom library of ________” , or maybe your name is emblazoned on the front cover in sharpie. While they all work, Google has come up with another way! It is an add-on for Google forms called Check-It-Out that you can get in the Chrome Web Store. You begin a Google form as usual, but you enable the add-on Check-It-Out to create the items. Then, when someone selects that item to check out, it is removed from the list of options and moves to the To-be-checked-in section (or whatever you choose to call it). The great thing about it is that because you are using Google forms, you are able to then see which items are out, who has them, and when they come back in. For more on this tool including a video explaining how to create your check out system, please read this post.

I have been reading a lot of articles and posts lately on personalized learning and thought I would share this opportunity with you to join in on a webinar next Tuesday from 1:00 – 2:00 PM Eastern Time called, “Beyond the Buzzword, Personalizing Learning at the Elementary Level”. Included with this link is also a free 16-page guide to Creating a Personalized Learning Plan for Every Student that you can download and begin using.

Finally, as one who often refers back to John Dewey and his educational philosophy, this next article from the Shipley PLN Lower and Middle School Edition on reflective questions to get your students thinking about learning is right up his alley. As I learned in my American Education Reform course that I took via Coursera, Dewey believed that genuine learning only occurs when humans focus attention on solving genuine problems AND then reflect on those experiences which makes future intelligent thought- intelligence comes not from just doing, but doing and reflecting. So perhaps you will choose to use these questions as exit tickets, reflection prompts, or just ways to encourage your students to think more deeply about the learning that is going on everyday in your classroom.

For more great articles and videos, please visit the Shipley PLN Lower and Middle School Edition.

Back to School, Back to Sharing

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Summer break has come and gone and the new school year is off and running. With the new school year comes new things to share, do, read, and try. Here are some of my picks for this week!

Google Cast for Education is a brand new app that allows you to easily and seamlessly share your screen with any or all of your students, and your students to share their screen with you. No need to connect student laptops to projectors, ask them to airdrop, or share (well, it will not replace sharing) in order to project their work, now your students can request to “Cast” to you and you can then project their screen. Take a look at this video to see how it works. @WendyE40 and I tried it and it is pretty cool.

Want to give it a try? We have already pushed this out to all laptops! You will find the Google Cast for Ed app on your school Chrome home page AND as an app when you go into or launch (F4 key) your apps.

If you love Google forms, you will love this Quiz option. Now you can create immediate feedback quizzes for multiple choice, drop-down, and checkbox questions when you choose the Quiz template.

Looking for a good book or two to read aloud to your classroom? Last night I was browsing around for read aloud options and I came across this fantastic 2016 grade-by-grade read aloud book list.

Next is an article that I saw posted (on Twitter I believe) and I like it because it reminds us of four important focal points we can use to guide our teaching: Outcomes, Big Questions, Passion for the subject, and Value of learning.

This is something that I literally stumbled upon. OK, perhaps I did not actually trip over it, but I did accidentally come across it when I was just looking through the Shipley PLN Lower & Middle School Edition’s (slight name alteration to include my middle school colleagues)  #sschat (Social Studies chat) section. This one is one I think my fifth grade team will love as it is all about exploring ancient Egypt using Nova’s interactive site to see 360 degree views of the Pyramids of Giza, the sphinx, temples, tombs, and more. But don’t stop there– while you are put exploring, you can explore North America, Australia, and other areas of our world. Yet one more reason why I continue to mention PBS in my shares.