Adventures in Innovation: Five Takeaways from the Google Innovator Academy

An Experience of a Lifetime

Last week, I had the privilege of attending the Google Innovator Academy in London.  I can say, without a doubt, that this was one of the most amazing and impactful learning experiences of my professional and personal life.  Every minute was filled with learning experiences to develop our innovation projects.  If I was excited about my innovation project before the academy, I cannot even explain how excited I am to continue working on this project with the guidance that I received while in London.

While I work on my Innovator project over the next year, I know that it will be difficult and challenging at times.  I am dreaming big with this project.  I want to do something that can have a positive and transformative impact on education.  While at the academy, I realized that you should dream big but also understand that there will be times where you fail – and that’s okay.  It’s not failure, it’s opportunity to improve your original idea and make it something even better than you previously imagined.

Before you read this, you may want to consider reading a previous blog post: Adventures in Innovation – My Google Innovator Journey.

Let me share five more takeaways with you from the #LON17 Google Innovator Academy.

Five Takeaways

1.) Understand the problem that you are facing and fall in love with it.

Without a doubt, my favorite part of the Google Innovator Academy was going through the design thinking process to understand my problem and develop solutions.  All of the Innovators came into the academy with ideas on how to fix the problem they had discovered.  However, when we arrived, we were encouraged to let go of all our preconceived ideas and solutions.

Les McBeth encouraged us to create a lot of solutions to our problems, whether they were good solutions or bad solutions.  Each Innovator took a piece of paper, folded it into eighths, and were given 1 minute per each box to draw a solution to their problem.  The first 4-5 boxes
were relatively easy but I started running out solutions at the sixth box.  After we completed all 8 boxes, Les challenged us to find the our “wow” solutions and the ones that could be done now.  This activity was fast-paced and did not allow for us to overanalyze any solution that came to our mind.  From this activity, I was able to narrow in the focus of my solutions and add some ideas that enhanced previous parts of my solution to the problem.

Through the design thinking process, I realized that the I needed to focus on the problem.  The solution is simply the tool to fixing the problem.  I know – that sounds obvious.  It is very difficult to focus on the problem when you have all these ideas of how to solve it.  However, to truly solve the problem, you must understand and fall in love with it.  This way, you are passionate about the problem and want to put in the time and effort into solving it.

2.) Always focus on the users when solving your problem.

Before we arrived at the academy, we were asked to complete several tasks to prepare for the work we would do on our projects.  In one of these activities, I developed questions to ask my users (the teachers) about the problem.  As a reminder, the problem I chose was based upon the idea that teachers are not receiving the support  that they need to properly implement technology into the classroom.  (Read more about it here.)  Although I understood that I needed to focus on the problem, Mark Wagner and Les McBeth helped me to realize that I needed to put my focus on ensuring that any solution I developed would be of interest to the users.  After all, I might think that my solution is the best idea in the world but it doesn’t matter if there isn’t anyone else that is interested in using it.

Due to this session, I have embedded multiple opportunities for teachers to beta test my program and offer feedback into my yearlong plan.  I will need the feedback of educators that I can trust to give me an honest opinion and will be able to see problem areas that I am unable to see.  The feedback of these teachers and educators from dozens of different backgrounds will ensure that I am being true to my users.

3.) 8 Pillars of Google Innovation

During Mark Wagner’s spark session, our cohort was introduced to the 8 Pillars of Google Innovation and it completely changed the way that I look at my innovation project.  The 8 Pillars of Google Innovation is not a complicated idea, in fact, it is a simple list of things to remember when developing a project.  As I go through developing my project over the next year, I want to keep myself focused on these pillars to ensure that I am developing an innovative project that has a profound impact on my users.

The 8 Pillars of Google Innovation will help me to remember to dream big and believe in the impossible – but start small.  Don’t move too fast and do to much at once.  Break it down, step by step.  This is the reason that I have developed monthly goals to pace myself throughout the next year.  The pillars help me to remember to build in processes for receiving feedback from users to continually modify and refine my project for continued innovation.  Also, I should never stop dreaming about my project and get stuck with my current solution.  My solution may evolve based upon my interactions with my users, so I need to remember to never close my mind to new ideas.  I will need to share my program with my users while the program is in development but, especially, once it is ready to be released to the public.  Through this, I will be able to find new solutions to ideas based upon the needs of my users.  Finally, never fear failure.  As I mentioned before, failure is just an opportunity to try again and to develop a better solution than previously imagined.

4.) Eat the Whole Apple

Have you ever eaten a whole apple?  I have (during David Hotler’s spark session) and it actually isn’t that bad.  Simply, start from the bottom of the apple and work your way up towards the top of the apple.  By eating from the bottom of the apple to the top, you don’t even realize that you are eating the core of the apple.  Once you get it out of your mind that you cannot do eat the whole apple, or that you shouldn’t be eating the whole apple, then you can eat the whole apple.  (Side note: You may still want to remove the seeds.  We are pretty sure you’ll be fine but you don’t want to eat to many of them as the Google Home relayed to us during this session.)

Our whole lives we have been shown to eat an apple a certain way.  It has to be eaten from the sides and towards the middle.  The core and stem are left behind and you throw away the excess.  The question is…why?  Why do we eat an apple that way?  Do we have to eat the apple that way?  Are there ways to eat an apple that were previously unimagined?  

Now let’s relate that to education.  Think about yourself as an educator.  Think about the tools that you use in your classroom or school and the way that you teach.  Think about the problems that you face on a daily basis and how you solve them.  How could you use these tools or strategies in a way that was previously unimagined?  Let me give you some examples:

  • Traditional – Use Google Forms as a survey.  New Idea: Use Google Forms for assignments.
  • Traditional – Use Google Slides for a presentation.  New Idea: Use Google Slides to create an interactive “Choose Your Own Adventure” story.
  • Traditional – Use Google Drawings to create a picture.  New Idea: Use Google Drawings as infographic.

As you can see, these are just simple adjustments to already used tools.  Try not to get stuck on how it’s “always” been done by try to think about how it “can” be done in an innovative or new way.

5.) My Lagniappe

Tinashe Blanchet introduced our cohort to the word “lagniappe” and challenged us to find what our own lagniappe.  A lagniappe is “something given as a bonus or extra gift”.  What is your lagniappe?  What is it that you give that is more than you are already giving or are required to give.

For myself, I am a Math & AVID teacher, a Team Technology Leader, and an AVID Coordinator.  There are a lot of responsibilities that go along with the roles.  I take each role and responsibility very seriously and have spent considerable time developing these classes and programs.  However, that is what I am supposed to do.  Although it is what I love to do, it is just the basic requirement of any educator that is in these roles.

So…What is my lagniappe?  What is my “bonus” or “extra gift” to others?  I believe my lagniappe is my blog and the resources that I share with teachers all over the world.  I love writing my blog, sharing resources, and having conversations with other teachers about their students and classrooms.  I haven’t felt any desire in requiring people to pay for my resources.  I simply want to share what I have developed in hopes that other teachers can use it in their classrooms, too.  Am I required to do this?  Not at all.  It’s just that little extra thing that I love doing and giving back to others.

In relation to my innovation project, it has definitely challenged me to dream big and think “What if…?”  Although I have a solution to my problem, I have been challenging myself to think about the “extra” I could be giving or creating to offer greater support to teachers when I publicly launch my project.  It could be something simple, an idea or extension of a previous idea, but I will keep asking myself this question:

How can I give just a little bit more?

Next Steps

The Google Innovator Program is a yearlong program and I have just finished outlining my monthly goals for the next year.  I would like to share this with you soon but I am hesitant to do this until I have been assigned a mentor and we begin going over my innovation project.

Here are a few of my next steps:

  • Begin developing the self-assessment form for the BoostEDU program/service.
  • Begin building a website for the BoostEDU program/service.

BoostEDU is the current name of my innovation project but it is definitely in development.  I need to do some research to see if it is a name I am able to use or if there are copyrights that will prohibit me from using this name.

Throughout the next year, I will be sharing my journey in a series of blog posts titled “Adventures in Innovation”.  I look forward to sharing more with you in the future!

Adventures in Innovation: A Q&A for Students

Hi students,

This video is arriving a bit late since I had a very busy day at the academy.  However, I do have some answers to your questions about the academy and London.  Just an FYI, this post and video were created after Day 2 of the academy and I have so much more to share with you about Day 3.

Question #1: What sites did you see in London?

Although the majority of my time has been spent in the Google Innovator Academy and networking with other educators, I was able to go see a few sites before the academy began.  The easiest way to view the most famous sites of London was by taking one of the “big bus tours” around London.  The tour was only a few hours but I was able to see Big Ben, Tower of London, London Eye, Westminster Abbey, and several other famous sites.  As I mentioned, I wasn’t able to do very much sightseeing since I was attending the academy but it was great to see some of the famous London landmarks.

Question #2: Did you meet any famous people?

No, I did not see any famous people in London.  There were quite a few plays being featured around London that had some famous actors but I did not have the time to see any plays on this trip.  Altho

ugh I didn’t meet any “famous” people, I did get to interact with a lot of educators that I have been following on Twitter.  So, I definitely had some nerdy moments when I was able to meet them in real life.

Question #3: What kind of training/fun activities did you do?

Yes!  We participated in quite a few fun activities, as well as helpful training.  In relation to the fun activities, I participated in several icebreaker/team building games while at the academy.  (AVID – I have some ideas for new games!)  We also had a really interesting activity where we at
e an entire apple.  Yes, you heard me right.  An entire apple.

Besides the activities, there were also many sessions led by the leaders and coaches of the academy.  These sessions helped guide us in our design process for our innovation project.  We also had a lot of time to start developing the ideas for our innovation project through breaking down the problems, creating story boards, and collaborating with others.

I’ll be talking about this a lot more in a future blog post – so keep your eyes out for another post soon.

Question #4: What was your favorite part?

It’s hard to pick just one favorite part of the Google Innovator Academy – so, I am going to give you two.  First, I have really enjoyed the sessions by the leaders and coaches of the academy.  They have sparked many ideas that I will take to the classroom when I return.  These sessions have been inspirational but also meaningful.  Honestly, I could write so much more on this topic but that will be for my next blog post.  Second, I have enjoyed going through the design thinking process to breakdown and refine my project and solution.  If you are in my AVID class, this is very similar to our 20Time projects – just on a much larger scale.  I wish I had gone through this process before our project because it has given me a million ideas.  As I mentioned in my last post, I am very passionate about this problem and finding a solution to support teachers in developing more rigorous and tech-based curriculum.  So, working on my Innovation project over the last two days has been an amazing opportunity.  More importantly, I truly feel like I understand my problem, my users, and the likelihood of implementing my solution.

Question #5: Are the other teacher at the academy working in different project like you are?

Yes, all of the teachers are working on their own projects.  Each teacher had a problem that they discovered in education and a solution to solve this problem.  As we went through the design thinking process, many educators saw these solutions start to change.  For myself, my solution is similar to what it was originally but it is starting to adjust and extend beyond what I had initially planned.  Just like myself, all of the educators are going through the design thinking process and are in the process of developing some amazing projects.  If you are interested in checking out these projects, visit this link: Google Innovator LON17 Cohort.

Adventures in Innovation: A Letter to My Students

Hi guys,

So, I wanted to send you a quick hello from London!  The Google Innovator is underway and I want to share the beginning of my story with you.

To begin, I know all of you are wondering what it is like in London, right?  Well, it’s similar and very different to America.  For myself, the biggest differences are: the time zone, language, and transportation.  The time zone is totally different than California.  Currently, I am writing this blog post at 1:00 AM in London but it is 5:00 PM in California.  Isn’t that crazy?  Even crazier – at 4:00 PM London time, you guys have not even started class yet.  It’s been tripping me out this entire time and I want to thank those of you who have been patient on receiving emails.  Now, the language in London is English but it is also very different.  As an example, fries = chips, subway = tube, pants = trousers, line = queue, potato chips = crips, and so on.  Also – I guess asking for “non-caffeinated hot tea” is a weird questions, based upon the looks I received.  Finally, the transportation is simply amazing.  I have not driven a car since I left California.  The subway (AKA tube) system is amazing and you can easily get around London.

Now onto the important things…

The Google Innovator Academy is why I am visiting London.  It’s an academy that accepts 36 educators from all over the world to develop an innovation project that will create a positive change in education.  I want to transform teacher lesson plans to create more relevant and engaging lessons for students.  Sometimes, I worry that (us) teachers can become disconnected with what is important and relevant to the students.  Although we have content we need to cover, how do we create content that is interesting and engaging to you?  How do we make it relevant to your lives?  The Google Innovator program will be a yearlong program where I will be assigned a coach and mentor to assist me with this vision.  It’s going to be a lot of work but it is an amazing opportunity to make a difference.

The thing that I want you to take away from my experience is that life is full of possibilities.  It may be difficult to think about that right now as a middle school student but you have no idea where you could be in 10, 15, or 20 years.  Honestly, the entire world is ahead of you and you have the opportunity to make your dreams happen.  My advice: Find your passion, discover how it relates to a possible career or goal, and give it your everything.  Always work hard and do not be afraid of failure.  Failure is inevitable.  (That means it’s going to happen.)  The question is – how will handle your failures?  Will you let it destroy your passions?  Or will you allow it to transform your passions and your dreams into something even greater?

Keep these thoughts in your mind and think them over the next few days.  I am hoping to get back on and blog again to you tomorrow.  If you have any questions about my trip, email me these questions and I will respond to you in my next blog post.

Be awesome and have a great day!

Mrs. Kelly

Adventures in Innovation: My Google Innovator Journey

In March, I was accepted into the Google Innovator Program for the #LON17 cohort.  It was probably one of the most exciting moments of my career – actually, one of the most exciting moments of my life.

Now, I haven’t shared much about this journey yet.  The reason?  Honestly, it all still seems a bit unreal and I didn’t want to jinx it.  Was I really accepted into this amazing program?  Do I really have the opportunity to develop an innovation project to create change in the education?  Am I actually headed to London to meet with my #LON17 cohort?  Like, I said – it still seems a bit unreal.  Which is probably why I haven’t written this blog post until today…as I am sitting on the plane headed to London.

Although it feels unreal, I keep reminding myself that this is real and that I have been given an incredible opportunity.  An opportunity that I do not take lightly.  It is an opportunity for me to bring a vision project to life and to create a positive impact in education.

Let me share my journey with you…

The Journey Thus Far

Last September, I like to joke that I fell down the Twitter Rabbit Hole and I never came back out.  My district, Hesperia Unified School District, hosted an EdTechTeam Google Apps for Education Summit and I was introduced to this crazy, wonderful world of professional development.  It is the moment where my professional and person live was forever changed.  I started joining Twitter chats, collaborating with teachers all over the world, and began writing and sharing ideas on my blog.  I developed relationships with other teachers and had some of the most amazing conversations I have had about education and ways to improve student learning.  It has redefined by my teaching practices by inspiring to be more innovative and create lessons that truly prepare students for the future.

In October, I saw that many educators were becoming Google Certified Educators and Trainers.  I found myself thinking that this would be a great way for me to grow personally and professionally.  It would challenge me to continue to grow and refine my teaching practices, as well as share my ideas with other teachers.  By the end of the month, I had passed all of the Google Educator Exams, the trainer exam, and had submitted my Google Trainer application.

Then I waited…I collaborated with educators…I blogged and shared ideas from my classroom…and I waited.

January is where everything started to move quickly.  Quite frankly, it’s been a whirlwind of amazing opportunities and opportunities that have challenged me to go outside of my comfort zone.  By the end of January, I had been accepted into the Google for Education Trainer program and had presented at my first EdTechTeam Summit.  I began receiving feedback on my blog and hearing from teachers that were using my materials in their classrooms.  More importantly, I was having conversations with these teachers on how to improve my materials for future use.

Right after this, the Google Innovator Program announced that they were accepting applications for the next academy which would take place in London.  There was no hesitation in my desire to apply for this program.  I knew I wanted to apply.  For the last few months, I had been reading on Twitter about the amazing Innovation projects that were being completed all over the world.  I was inspired to do the same – to make an impact and a positive change in education to affect student learning.

Through the encouragement and advice of other educators that I admired, I submitted my application for the Google Innovator program.

Then I waited…I collaborated with educators…I blogged and shared ideas from my classroom…and I waited.

On March 15, I received an email that I had been accepted into the Google Innovator Program and that I was being invited to attend the academy in London.  The email came to me during our weekly Math collaboration meeting and I am sure I confused the entire group when I began freaking out from excitement.  Honestly, I had convinced myself that there was no way that I would be accepted.  (This isn’t one of those false humility things, either.)  I knew I had a good idea for an innovation project and I was very excited about the idea of developing it.  However, there are so many amazing educators in the world that applied for this program.  When I received the email, I was honored.  I felt blessed to have this opportunity to create a positive change in education.  Again, it was and never will be an opportunity that I take lightly.

So, here I am…Sitting on a plane and headed to London to the Google Innovator Academy.  It’s still unbelievable.

My Vision…So Far.

The idea for my vision project is something that I had been thinking about for several months before I applied to the Google Innovator Program.  I had been thinking about my school and our educational technology integration.  I asked myself, “What is our greatest issue with implementing purposeful technology in the classroom?”  My district is very fortunate to have access to technology as a 1:1 Chromebook district.  However, I often wonder if we are implementing technology appropriately and purposefully.  Or, are we simply using technology in the classroom to substitute what we were already doing and/or simply for the sake of saying that we use technology.

Had our technology integration been purposeful to students?  Meaningful?  Productive?  Were we using technology in our classrooms as a way to promote student learning, increase rigor, and prepare them for 21st century careers?

As I pondered this idea, I realized that the answer was somewhat vague.  The answer was: sometimes.  Sometimes our technology integration was purposeful, meaningful, and productive.  Sometimes it promoted student learning, increased rigor, and preparation for the 21st century.  Sometimes.  It just depends upon a variety of factors but, mostly, it depends upon the teacher.

So, my question shifted to, “How do we prepare our teachers to implement the purposeful use of technology in the classroom to promote student learning, increased rigor and preparation for the 21st century?”  This question was harder.  Every teacher is at a different level of tech integration with a very different skill base.

Then it hit me.  Our teachers are not much different from our students.  They all learn differently and they all have different set of skills.  Some teachers will learn quickly, some will take time.  Finally, my question shifted to one that would be the basis for much of my vision project:

If we personalize learning for our students, why are we not creating the same personalized professional development to support our teachers with tech integration?

As I began applying to the program, my solution to the problem began to form.  I wanted to develop a program that personalizes professional development for teachers to reach higher levels of SAMR in their lessons, activities, and projects.  I wanted to create a program that allowed teachers to see that incorporating purposeful technology for students is not difficult.  It’s not impossible.  If anything, it can be fun and exciting.  It can transform and redefine classrooms.

Below, I am sharing my Vision Deck and Vision Video that I submitted in my application for the Google Innovator Program.  Feel free to look through these resources and learn more about my vision project.

In the title above, I titled this “My Vision…So Far”.  This is my vision but it is also one that might change as I attend the academy over the next few days.  It is going to change and evolve.  It may even go in a direction previously unimagined.  That’s okay.  In fact, I welcome it.  I welcome the challenge to develop this idea and take it in any direction that will support teachers and inspire students.

I’m excited.  I’m nervous.  But…I’m ready.

Over the next year, I will be chronicling my Google Innovator journey in a series of posts title “Adventures in Innovation” so that I can be reflective on my project and share my ideas with other educators.  Keep an eye out for more posts coming very soon!

Escape the Dungeon! A BreakoutEdu Digital on Area of Shapes

A couple of weeks ago, my students were asking when we would have another BreakoutEDU Digital in our math classroom since the last one we had done was in early February.  Before you begin thinking that I don’t like BreakoutEDU Digitals, I have to tell you – I absolutely LOVE using BreakoutEDU Digital in our math classroom.  The students enjoy it, their engagement is at an all-time high, and they are able to review and practice material from class.  The only drawback is that it takes me a few hours to make and the last couple of months have been very busy.  So, last weekend I told myself I would sit down and build a new BreakoutEDU on reviewing area of shapes.

Enter…The “Escape the Dungeon!” BreakoutEDU Digital!

The Storyline:

When I create a BreakoutEDU Digital, I try to create a story that my students will find entertaining.  Usually, that means that I will put their names into the story to create a greater interest in seeing what happens to the characters.

In this story, King Ethan’s kingdom has been taken over by the evil Queen Delilah – can you save break King Ethan out of the dungeon and save the kingdom?

As you can see, this creates some great conversation between the students.  They love hearing that they and their friends are a part of the story.  Next year, I will probably go back and adjust the names to include the name of my new students to continue increasing student engagement.

Math Concepts Covered:

In this BreakoutEDU, students will:

  • Calculate the area of rectangles, triangles, circles, and trapezoids.
  • Calculate the area of combined and shaded figures.
  • Use their knowledge of area to solve word problems based on real-life scenarios.

Digital Tools Used:

In this BreakoutEDU, I have used the following digital tools and resources:

  • Google Forms (of course!)
  • Google Drawings
  • Hidden/Embedded Links
  • Caesar Cipher
  • Unicode

Most of the BreakoutEDU requires students to answer problems on Google Forms but they do have to find the forms and/or break into the forms to solve the problems.

To access the “Escape the Dungeon!” Breakout EDU Digital, click HERE.

Final Thoughts:

It doesn’t matter how many times we do a BreakoutEDU in our math classroom – the students still love it!  I love the engagement and the excitement as they solve the problems.

In addition to this, I saw a huge improvement in their knowledge of the material.  I had given my students a short quiz the week before and many students struggled.  After completing some in-class tutorials and our BreakoutEDU, nearly every student received a 70% or higher on the retake quiz that I offered.  It was a huge increase from the previous week.

One more thing…If you ever create a BreakoutEDU Digital, please make sure that you find someone to test it out for you.  I have to give major props to Aubrey Yeh (@Ms_A_Yeh) for testing out my BreakoutEDU.  If not for her, it would have been a hot mess the next day in class.  There were quite a few errors and permission issues that would have caused some problems for my students.  So – make sure you find those awesome people to test out your BreakoutEDU Digital if you create one for your students.

Enjoy and have a great day!

Exploring Surface Area: A Google Slides Activity

Let’s Get Them Exploring

One of my goals this year was to create more activities for students to explore upcoming content.  I want the students to interact with the material, think about it, and explore the content before they are taught those concepts.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, I truly believe that there is a balance that must occur in math education.  It is the balance between exploring, direct teaching, skills practice, application of concepts and project-based learning.  For myself, I felt that one of my greater areas of focus this year needed to be on creating activities for students to interact with the material in a way that would pique their interest.  How could I create activities to help them explore?  How could I help them visualize these concepts?

Last week, my students were introduced to surface area, which tends to be one of the more difficult sections of Geometry.  It is very difficult for students to visualize the surface area of figures such as rectangular prisms, triangular prisms, and pyramids.  If they can’t visualize these shapes and their nets, then it becomes even more difficult for them to calculate the areas of the faces and find the total surface area.  In the past, I have had students create the nets of the shapes by drawing it on paper but, even though that was a visual exercise, the students still struggled with drawing these images.  More importantly, it took a lot of class time for students to draw them, cut them out, and then glue/tape them together.  The amount of time spent on the activity was not producing the learning outcomes that the students needed before diving deeper into the content.

This year, I decided to create an activity on Google Slides to help the students explore surface area.  I wanted them to go through the process of calculating surface area without even realizing that the have never been taught this concept.  So, I came up with three steps that I wanted them to complete through Google Slides to explore surface area.

Exploring Surface Area: A Google Slides Activity

Step #1: Create the nets of rectangular prisms, triangular prisms, and pyramids.

The students were provided with the net that is shown below.  Their goal was to drag and drop the shapes and measurements to create the net of the rectangular prism.

Once they were done, they should have a shape similar to the one shown below.  It’s important to note that the net shown below is not the only way to create the net – there are so many different ways to create nets for the rectangular prism.  So, if your student’s nets do not look exactly like your net, it doesn’t mean it is wrong.

I was really impressed with how well the students did with this activity.  Of course, there were some students who picked it up quickly and others who did not but, overall, they seemed to get a good grasp of creating nets.  By providing the shapes, it helped them to not get stuck on drawing, cutting, or gluing.  Instead, they were focusing only on creating the net.

Step #2: Calculate the area for each shape on the net.

Once the students created the nets, they were able to see that there were six rectangles that formed the rectangular prism.  From there, the students used the area formula to calculate the area of each rectangle.

By this time, the students had already been introduced to area so they were able to quickly calculate the areas of each rectangle.  One of the best learning moments on this slide is when students realize that each area is repeated.  For instance, the students were able to discover that if the front was 24in², then the back would also be 24in².  This led into a great conversation when the students were introduced to the surface area formula.

Step #3: Calculate the total surface area.

Finally, students calculated the total surface area by finding the sum of the areas of the six faces.  At this point, many of the students were realizing that surface area was just an extension of area – a concept in which they felt very confident.

To access this activity, click HERE and create your own copy.

Final Thoughts

After this activity was completed, my students still completed notes (through flipped instruction), completed some skill practice, and participated in some application based problems.  (Again, it’s all about balancing!)  However,  I feel like this group of students had a stronger understanding of surface area than previous groups by participating in this activity.  They were able to explore the concepts before they were taught which created a great interest and understanding of the material.

As always, no activity is ever perfect.  So – issues?  Time was an issue again.  The students all completed the rectangular prism and square prism but many students did not have a chance to complete the last two shapes.  Although I wish they had the opportunity, I would rather have them get a strong understanding of the first two, then a decent understanding of all four.  Another issue is our trackpads.  Our lease is up for our current set of Chromebooks and we are about to send them back to get the next set.  This is great because the Chromebooks are starting to get older, the screws keep falling out, and the trackpads are starting to not work.  Don’t get me wrong – I would rather of this technology than nothing at all.  However, it is a reality that some students had issues dragging and dropping the shapes due to the trackpads not working.  Although I keep encouraging them to purchase a mouse, that is not always feasible for every student.

As I’ve mentioned before, feel free to use this activity in your classroom and post comments below.  I love any feedback to improve these activities for future students!

Follow Up: Area of Shapes Scavenger Hunt

The Follow Up:

A couple of weeks ago, I shared an Area of Shapes Scavenger Hunt that I created for my students to use during our upcoming Geometry Unit.  (To read more about this activity, view my “Area of Shapes Scavenger Hunt via Google Slides” post.  As always, I find it is important to reflect on what worked, what didn’t work, and what I would do in the future.

Originally, my intention was for my students to complete this activity over a two day period in our math class.  However, I was unexpectedly out of the classroom and had to modify my plans.  My modification was that this activity would become an “enrichment activity” for my students who had completed their assignments while I worked with my “intervention” group in small group tutorials.  Although it was not my original intention, I found that this worked really well as an enrichment activity.

Student Samples:


Five Takeaways:

So, here are my five takeaways from this activity:

1.) Students needed the two days that I originally planned on giving them.

Even as an enrichment activity, one day was not enough for students to finish this activity.  Finding the shapes and uploading them into the Google Slide took some time, so it would have been beneficial to have more time to complete this activity in class.

2.) Students need time to reflect on their learning.

Next year, I want to add a reflection piece to the Google Slide to challenge students to reflect on what they learned from this activity and how calculating the area of shapes in the “real world” would be important.  At the moment, I am imagining a slide at the end of the Slide Deck that has questions and/or a text box for a written reflection.  Nothing to complicated – but something that does require them to reflect on what they have learned from this activity.

3.) Student wanted to go outside the classroom and explore the shapes on campus.

Since I had students in tutorial groups, we were limited to exploring the shapes on campus.  Mostly, the students found shapes in our classroom and right outside the door of our classroom.  It worked but the students really wanted to go outside and find other shapes.  This would be one of those amazing activities to get students out of our “four walls” and into the world.

4.) Trapezoids are difficult to find in the “real world”.

So…Trapezoids are really difficult to find on campus.  Next time, I need to spend some time looking for trapezoids on our campus to give the students some clues.  Since we couldn’t seem to find a lot of trapezoids in our classroom, some of the students reverted to creating their own trapezoids, finding them online, or in a textbook.

5.) I should have bought more measuring tapes from the Dollar Tree.

At one point, I had about 12+ measuring tapes that I had bought from the Dollar Tree but I think the wear and tear of student use has brought my count down to 5-6 measuring tapes.  Students were able to use rulers to measure the shapes but it became difficult when some of the shapes were over 1 foot.  There are so many measuring tapes at the Dollar Tree for (duh) $1, so I need to purchase more in advance for the next time we do this activity.

Overall, I felt like this activity has a lot of potential, even though I did not feel like I had the time to allow all my students to participate in the scavenger hunt.  However, it did prove to be a great “beta” test with my student that challenged them to think about Geometry that is in the “real world” rather than just on their Chromebook or in a textbook.

Follow Up: Road Trippin’ HyperDoc

The Road Trippin’ Follow Up

A few weeks ago, I wrote about an upcoming HyperDoc I created to help students explore ratios, rates, proportion, and scale factor.  In this HyperDoc, students were introduced and applied their knowledge of these concepts by creating their own Road Trip.  (To read more about this HyperDoc and get your own copy, please read my post “A Ratios & Proportion HyperDoc” post.)

It is important to note that, although this HyperDoc was an enormous and important part of our unit, it was not the only piece of this complicated teaching puzzle.  My students still completed notes, as well as a set of skills-based lesson practice.  One thing I have tried to do this year is find a balance between all three of these – the notes, the skills practice, and real-life application.  Each piece is incredibly important but it must be balanced.  Personally, HyperDocs have been a great help in balancing these parts in my classroom.

The feedback that I received from my students on this project was amazing.  They really enjoyed it!  They had so much fun designing their maps and creating budgets for food, hotels, and gas.  Many of the students commented that they enjoyed this HyperDoc project much more than the “Cell Phone Plans: A Systems of Equations HyperDoc” that we completed in February.

In this post, I would like to share with you:

  • Examples of student work, as well as the road trip website that contains all of the student creations.
  • Five (5) takeaways that I had from assigning this project to my students.

Road Trippin’ Products: Examples of Student Work

In this HyperDoc, students submitted two main pieces of work: 1.) A Google Map that outlines their road trip, including food, hotels, and destinations, and 2.) A Google Doc that explains and breaks down the math within the project.

The Google Maps

One of the first things that the students began creating was the Google Map that outlined their road trip.  Each group completed a map in Google My Maps and this accounted for 50% of their grade on the project.

To view all of our road trips, please visit our Road Trip website: Road Trips (16/17)

The students completed all of the Google Maps that are listed within this Google Site.  From there, they submitted a title, description, cost, and link to their map via Google Forms and I added this to our website.  For the students, they were so excited to see that their work was published on the internet.  In addition to this, they found the idea that other people could view and use their road trips to be very relevant and engaging.

The Google Doc

Each student completed a Google Doc that broke down the math behind a road trip.  Students explored how to create a Google Map, how to budget for food, gas, and hotels, and how to find the scale factor of the Google Map compared to real life.

To view some examples of completed work, please visit these examples: Example #1, Example #2, and Example #3.

Road Trippin’: Three Takeaways & Three Ideas for the Future

Three Takeaways

1.) Students love projects that have a real-life application.

In Math, students often say, “When will I use this in real life?”  Through this project, I was able to offer them some insight into how math is used in the real world and…they loved it!  It was relatable and relevant which is instantly interesting and engaging to students.

2.) There is a balance between skills practice and real-life application.

As I mentioned earlier, there is a balance between the skills practice (DOK 1) and the real-life application (DOK 3+).  In skills practice, the students should be able to receive immediate feedback on their progress to see if they understand the basic skills practice.  In applications, students may be developing a long-term project that is receiving consistent feedback over an extended period of time.  Both are important and have their purpose.

3.) By moving from a teacher-centered to a student-centered (with choice!) learning environment, student engagement will increase.

Over the last two years, I have tried to create a learning environment that is student-centered, rather than teacher centered.  It is a long process and is constantly being modified but I have found that it has great benefits for students.  Again – there is a balance.  It is not all one or the other.  For myself, I equate it to a scale that is tipping more heavily towards the student-centered side but still has some weight on the teacher-centered side.  However, students love being in charge of their own learning and having the option to choose the types of projects that they will explore.  This automatically increases buy-in which, in turn, increase student engagement.

Three Ideas for the Future

1.) The students were introduced to the real-life application but there could be a short assessment to see if they understood the important concepts that were being taught.

Although they had a lot of practice in the math concepts listed above, I would be interested in assessing their knowledge of these concepts to determine if they truly understood the material and did not get lost in the “glamor” of creating a road trip.  This assessment should be short and could include something skills-based or a performance task.

2.) It would be helpful to create short videos or gifs to walk students through basic technology skills and instructions.

Unfortunately, I know that I lost too much time by explaining the same directions for certain technology skills multiple times.  In the future, I need to create short videos or gifs to assist students with these skills if they do not understand the directions.

3.) Some student tend to work with the same students for each project.  It would be beneficial to use Flippity to create new groups that would allow for collaboration outside of their regular peer group.

In our environment of student choice, I usually allow my students to choose their own groups.  Although this has its benefits, I often worry that my students are not able to learn how to work with students that are outside of their regular peer group.  Using Flippity to create random groups could be an excellent option to mix up our classroom groups during future projects.

Final Thoughts

The HyperDoc took about two weeks for the students to complete but they seemed to enjoy every second of this project.  It is a great reminder that we need to spend more time finding ways to create learning environments that are engaging for students but also helps them to reach their learning goals.

As I have mentioned before, I highly suggest that you try the HyperDoc model in your classroom – I promise that it will transform how you teach your students!

5 Google Slide Tips & Tricks

Each week, myself and my fellow TTL (Team Technology Leader) send out an EdTech Tip to our staff members to assist with technology integration.  In this EdTech Tip, I was excited to share some amazing (but somewhat hidden) tips and tricks that are a part of Google Slides.

As you have probably realized from my posts, I am a HUGE fan of just about anything Google related.  For myself, I tend to use all the Google Apps on a regular basis but Google Slides and Google Forms are most likely the ones that I use every day.  Both of these apps support the environment that I create in my classroom, so I love when I find new tricks that I can use to support my students and to streamline the creation of lessons, activities, and projects.  Plus, some of these tricks are just too cool.

In the following presentation/video, I will cover how to:

  1. Insert images into Google Slides without leaving your current tab.
  2. Mask and modify images into specific and unique shapes from those images.
  3. Link to slides within your slide (a little bit Inception-y, right?).
  4. Edit the master slide (template) to change colors, fonts, etc.
  5. Set up autoplay and trim YouTube videos from within Google Slides.

I have shared both the YouTube video and Google Slide presentation.  Just as our students learn differently, so do we!  If you are visual/auditory learner, I highly suggest that you check out the YouTube video.

If you do not have the patience for the entire video, feel free to check out the presentation below.  It contains the directions + gifs on how to use the tips and tricks.


Area of Shapes Scavenger Hunt via Google Slides

Geometry is one of my favorite units to teach.  In this unit, there are so many ways to create lessons, activities, and projects that are easily aligned to the real world.  I’m not saying that is not the case for other units but I do have to get a little creative when we start working with advanced operations with exponents.

In the past, I have done many different activities and projects with my students, such as:

  • Calculating the circumference and area of doughnuts.
  • Designing cities based upon geometric figures and terms.
  • Creating and designing Pythagorean Theorem spirals.
  • Measuring and labeling (with chalk) the dimensions of objects around school, as well as calculating the perimeter and area of these objects.

…and more!

All of those activities/projects have been great because they have been engaging to students.  Especially, the doughnut one – which I will continue to do this year.  I mean, who doesn’t love to eat doughnuts in class?  However, I wanted to find a way to allow students the opportunity to explore the perimeter and area of these shapes in the real world.

The last activity that I listed was one of my favorites.  The students really enjoyed exploring the shapes that were outside of our classroom.  In fact, some of them found some very creative ways to form shapes from multiple objects.  This year, I decided that the best way for the students to document their work was to create a digital Slide Deck documenting the shapes that they have found, as well as calculating the perimeter and area of these shapes.

Click on the image below or HERE to create your own copy of the Slide Deck.

The idea behind this “scavenger hunt” is simple.  Students will:

  • Explore the campus to find and take pictures of the given shapes.
  • Document the dimensions (length/width, radius/diameter) of the shape.
  • Upload the image into the Slide Deck.
  • Calculate the perimeter and area.

That’s it!

Although my students have not completed this activity, I will be posting some of their projects once they have completed their Slide Deck.  Within the Slide Deck, I have given examples and instructions to get you and your students started.

As always, feel free to reach out to me with any questions or if you plan on using this activity.  I love to hear from other teachers when they use these projects to give me ideas on how to modify it for future teachers and students.