Sunday 26 November 2017

Turning students green

Green screen is not anything new, it has been around since the 1930's. Green screen technology has also been available to a mainstream audience for a while now, pretty much since iPhones and iPads came on to the market. there are a myriad of apps and techniques for creating your own Green Screen Movie effects.

You can use iPad apps like Green Screen by DoInk (paid app) and TouchCast studio (free app, but you need an account and internet connection, it is also a little bit more complicated for students)
There is also movie making software like iMovie and Windows Movie Maker that you can use for Green Screen effects.

There are thousands of teachers and students using green screen techniques all around the world every day. It is pretty easy and has lots of opportunities for innovative classroom use.

You will probably want a screen!

You don't need an expensive / professional green screen or green room (we have some green walls at school that work very well as a green screen)

Three cheap / easy options for a green (or blue) screen are 

Some green material / sheet and a couple of bulldog clips
A data projector showing a full size green slide
A minature green screen made with some cardboard

How to do Green Screen

Here are  instructions for some of the popular Green Screen Apps

Green Screen by DoInk

Green Screen using iMovie

Last week I did a quick Teach Meet session on innovative ways to use Green Screen in your classroom. For me Innovation in education as not just doing new or different things, but doing new things that add value to the learning experience. 

Being Different

Some of the innovative ways we have been exploring with green screen in our classes (beyond the usual news reports and cool photos) include

Putting green material or a green plate on the floor to make a portal to another world or a massive volcano in the middle of the classroom.

Having students wear green clothes or wrapping green material around themselves to disappear, be a floating head or adding their face to an animal body. You can also do some pretty cool ghost pranks with this effect.

You can download green screen videos from youtube that have action scenes with a green background. Then use these to add dinosaurs to a playground or a shark swimming around a classroom. Wonderful for provocations, story starters or for student created movies

Students can also use apps like Explain Everything, Tellagami or even Keynote to create animations with a green background, which they can then add to a Green Screen Video. That way they can interact with cartoon objects just like in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit"

Anything can be a green screen so one of my favourite green screen projects has been using green shirts or aprons on early years students and projecting the human body or skeleton on to them. It looks like they are seeing inside their bodies. They can then use another app or seesaw to annotate the images of their insides

If you are lucky enough to have a drone and a green field / oval you can create some cool effects, you could have your class standing on an ice berg or standing in the middle of the dessert.

(I haven't done this one yet, but hopefully a video coming soon)

Tuesday 31 October 2017

The Amazing race revisited part 2 - make your own

This is a continuation (how to post) following on from this post

As I stated earlier I began with this Google Slide Presentation

All of the resources can be found here

The main features of the Amazing race are

  • Email sent to the participants with a link to -
  • Google MyMaps to show tasks and locations
  • A form is filled out to complete the task
  • Another email is sent out with the next location / task
  • Add ons are used to automate the process
For all of this to happen

I created

  • 6 Google MyMaps (contain locations and task instructions)
  • 7 Google Forms (used for the teams to submit their evidence or answer questions)
  • 7 Google sheets (used to track results and send emails)
  • 1 starting slide show

Collecting the team information

To collect team information I used this Google Form (1 form per team)

That way I get to collect all the email addresses and team names.

I could then go to each Google Form (6 of them) and add the teams names as a drop down menu or I could automate this using Form Ranger.

I prefer to automate this so I use the Form Ranger add on, Form Ranger allows you populate questions on a Google Form from a column (range) on a Google Sheet.

I used the column 'Team name' from the sign up sheet as the data source for the team name drop down question on each of the 6 Google sheets.

You can set up Form Ranger to refresh the questions on form submit or every hour, the problem is that I want the form to be refreshed as soon as the Amazing Race starts. To do this I need to go into each form and just start the Form Ranger Add on and the questions are populated (you occasionally may have to use the refresh button).

I have a copy of each question form open in a tab and then just go from tab to tab and start the Form Ranger Add on. This might seem like a hassle but it is much easier than updating the question as a drop down myself. I do this as soon as the race starts when the teams are sharing their chants.

Once you have done this (and started the race), everything else runs itself.

The Start

To send the emails (and start the race), I use the Form Mule Sheets add on. Form Mule allows you to send personalised emails either in bulk or when a form is submitted (automagically). For the first form (sign up) I want to send the email all at once (when the race starts) for all the other sheet I want the emails to be sent as soon as the form with the task evidence is submitted.

Once I preview and send to all, each team gets their first email with a link to their first MyMap.

The MyMaps

Google MyMaps look cool (like an Amazing Race route) and are pretty easy to make. I added different icons in different colours and lines to show the route. The tasks are markers in the Map You can add Youtube videos, images, links to Google Docs, Forms or drawings, in fact you can add links to pretty much anything you want the participants to do.

Once you have made your first Map, you can easily copy the map and then add the extra marker and a route line from one task to the next, that way you slowly build up your map and end up with something looking like this  

This quick video shows you how create your own series of MyMaps for your own Amazing Race

The Tasks

The tasks can be anything really, depending on your subject area. In this Amazing Race I made each task a skill or tip on how to make your own Amazing Race. Each task needed evidence (a link to a Google drive resource, uploaded file ) or correct answers to questions before the team could proceed.

The tasks included

  • How to take a screenshot and then upload it to Google Drive, including finding the link, giving correct permissions and adding the link to a Google Form
  • Creating a Google MyMap 
  • Answering questions in a Google Form. The form can not be submitted until they get the correct answer (using Response Validation - text contains)
  • Giving some ideas of how they could use an Amazing Race in their subject, they could not submit the form until they completed the required number of characters. (response validation - Length minimum character count)
  • Finding a blog post on how to make an Amazing Race. The form could not be submitted until the team correctly posting the URL (Response Validation - text contains)
  • Creating a flow chart in Google Drawings and uploading (using the file upload function in Google Forms) 
Each MyMap task had a link to a Google Form (often extra instructions and videos are added to the form) where the participants had to complete or add their evidence.

Forms and Sheets

Once the Form was submitted with the evidence, it was sent to the Google Sheet. I (once again) used Form Mule to send out the next task (link to the MyMap) in another email. This time I used the Form Trigger - Send on Form Submit
That way as soon as team completed the task, they were sent the next task.

This continued until they had completed all the tasks and were sent the last Email / Congratulations video.


In the past I have had a team of scorers who keep an eye on the google sheets when the answers come in and give each teams points depending on the quality of their answer. This is a great way to do it if you have the person power available. Usually I have another Google Sheet linked to the spreadsheet that has a running total / grid of each teams score. Students are great as scorers and it is always fun to give the students some power over the teachers.

I didn't have the helpers so I wanted to make the scoring automatic and simple, I just wanted a visual representation of where each team was on their journey.

That way we could make it a bit more competitive and get some energy flowing. This ended up being harder that I thought.

I started by adding some extra sheets (tabs) to the sign up sheet  one for score total and one for each task. I then used the Import Range Function to import the responses from all the sheets into this one sheet.

I then needed some way to determine / record if a particular team name appeared in a sheet. i.e. I want a cell (next to their name) in the scores sheet to show a number 1 if the team name Kool Kids appears anywhere in the sheet "KL". Their name will only appear if the team has completed the task.

I tried a few things, but finally Jay Atwood came to my rescue the day before I was due to present. 
I used the Countif formula
 Here the formula is counting the number of times the term in cell A2 "Kool Kids" appears in column C in the sheet KL. That way if the term "Kool Kids" appears in the sheet a number appears in cell C2. I then used conditional formatting to change the colour of any cell that has a value greater than 1
That way I get a nice blue visualisation of where each team is at during the race.

To insert the sheet into your Google Slide it is as easy as copying the cells you want to be seen and then pasting them on the slide. You will be provided with an option to link to the spreadsheet.

If only Google slides had the ability to auto refresh an embedded spreadsheet, that would be great. At the moment I need to manually press the refresh button. It works and it will have to do for now.

I would love to hear about other Google Amazing Race's people have created.

The Amazing Race revisited Part 1

At the recent KL Summit I ran my "Amazing Race Google style" workshop. This is something I have been doing for a while (usually with staff as a beginning of the year activity). It does take a while to set up, but is well worth it. I originally got the idea from Wesley Przybyoski at the Google Apps Summit in KL (2015). Wes' Amazing Race Site

Last year I blogged about my staff Google Amazing Race here. Reading over it now, I noticed it is a bit light on detail and for my KL Summit version I added a few extra features. With this in mind I thought it might be time for a more detailed explanation and an update on how it could be used.

All of the resources and links can be found here

I started with this slideshow (the music was blaring as the teachers started trickling in)

To start the participants got into teams of 3 or 4, they thought of a team name and created a team chant. They entered these details into a Google form. (this is how I collected the email addresses of each team) Once everyone was done we went around the room and each team shared their chant. (This gave me a chance to refresh Form Ranger in each of the google forms so that names were automatically added - but more about this later)

I explained how it was all going to work (see the slideshow)

To start the race I pressed the magic button in Form Mule and the first email was sent out to each team.
The teams had to
  • open the email, click on a link to a google MyMap

  • the MyMap contained a task

  • once they completed the task the participants had to fill out another form with the evidence

  • once the form was submitted a link to the next MyMap was sent and they repeated the performance

  • This continued (with live updates via the slideshow) until everyone (or at least one team) completed the race. I played music, walked around giving hints, took photos and just had lots of fun.

I also had some student helpers who actually joined some of the teams and added an extra element to the experience.

The whole thing was high energy, fun and some people even learned some things. All of the tasks were skills, apps or hints on how the participants could make their own amazing race.
I got lots of positive feedback from the participants. Including this quote

"will definitely do an amazing race activity for a summative in grade 4 and will also look into creating one of these for new staff orientation."

The winning team was of course

The legion of the Rainbow Unicorns

So how did I create all this mayhem and fun?

Friday 13 October 2017

Google Docs Scavenger Hunt

A fabulous start of year activity (actually a great anytime activity) is a Google Scavenger Hunt

Google Drive Scavenger Hunt

In grade 6 a couple of weeks ago, we did this scavenger hunt

Whenever I think of an idea for an activity, I always go to Google it to see if anyone has already created one that I could use. I found this Google Doc's Scavenger Hunt by Catlin Tucker. But it wasn't exactly what I wanted, I wanted the kids getting up, moving around and learning together rather than sitting at their laptops.

I found a few others but they were all a bit 'sit at your computer and do this', So I had to create my own. I used Google drawings and just stole a few ideas and developed some of my own for the tasks.

It was a collaborative activity / lesson / activity. The students had to find someone else in the room who could do the task on the square (even if they already knew how to do it). Then that person had to show them how to do it. e.g. if the task was "use voice typing to record your thoughts" someone in the class had to show you on their computer how to do it (not just tell you they could do it). The students then wrote the name of the student who showed them.

If no one in the class knew how to do it, the kids could research (google it) or just play until they worked it out. If the students knew how to do something but no one else did, they had to show someone, then the person they just showed had to demonstrate the skill.

It was lots of fun and it was great to see the kids teaching each other. Kids were walking around the room talking to each other. Some of the interactions I heard included

  • "Do you know how to do this?" 
  • "Arlo knows how to do, why don't you ask her to show you" 
  • "Who did you get to show you how to use the built in Google training?"

It was really powerful to hear lots of oohhhs and ahhhhs as students learnt a new skill or hint (they loved voice typing) and the energy in the room was super high. Much better than walking past a classroom with everyone with their heads down in computers and no human to human interaction.

One of the big takeaways was that there are lots of other people in our class that can help us with technology (and it is OK to ask them for help). The students were given explicit permission to ask each other for help and told that the teachers would also be asking them for help.

We are now thinking of other ways we can use this concept with other tools and apps.

Friday 6 October 2017

Make your own Icons and buttons for Google Sites

Use Google Drawings to make your own Google Sites buttons / icons.

This is something that many teachers and staff at IGBIS have been doing in many of our sites and pages. It is pretty easy to do and once you get into a rhythm you can make a new icon (or change an existing one in no time at all)

Icon Template
(you can use this to start straight away)

To create the template I started with a Google Drawing and changed the page setup to a custom setup, to make the image smaller. (This is also useful when using drawings to make A4 or A3 posters, just Google the paper dimensions)

I started with an image and used the mask with a shape (click the little down arrow next to the mask icon) to turn it into a circle (you could use any shape that you like)
Then added text and our icon was made
Then I download the icon as a png file (this keeps the transparency in the background) or a jpeg (if you are happy with a white or coloured background)

You can then drag and drop the icon on to your Google Site to upload it. When you start resizing images Google sites will often crop them for you, which can be annoying. You can use the uncrop button to instantly remove the cropping.

Then link the icon to another page in your site or an external website.

It's as easy as that.

Make your next button / icon

Once you have created your first icon, things start to speed up

You have a template, you can easily change your icon by using the replace image button in Google Drawings

The good thing about using replace image is that it keeps all the dimensions and settings of your original icon. You can then change your text, download your new icon and add it to your Google Site. The workflow is pretty seamless and can be very quick.

start with the template
replace the image
change your text
download the icon
add it to the Google Site
resize and link

You could also add the drawing directly via 'insert from Drive', if you use this option you can't link from the inserted drawing, you would need to add your hyperlink into your Google Drawing and also copy the Google drawing to make more than one icon. 

I think the download as a png is a cleaner workflow.

Have fun playing and making your Google site look

Tuesday 3 October 2017

Make you own animations with Google Drawings and Photos

This is basically a tech updated version of the flipbooks I used to make when I was in school

The other day while working with some teachers we explored and started playing with using Google Drawings and photos so that students could create their own animations. Sure there are plenty of ways for students to create their own animated gifs but we thought it would be cool to try and do it Googley and it might be a bit easier than trying to use Scratch or something else.

We used Google Drawings to create our starting frame

Then we download the drawing as a jpeg

Then we went back to our Google Drawing and made a slight change to create our next frame.
Downloaded frame number 2

Made a change to the drawing
Downloaded frame number 3

this continued until we had created all our frames for our animation.

We tried to make changes uniform by using the checkbox guidelines that are in the background of a drawing

We added speech bubbles by using the shapes tool
We changed the colour of images by using the image option / recolour

To make the text boxes uniform, we first created one and set it up how we wanted, then we cut it, made a few changes / download jpeg / change etc and then pasted the text box back and changed the text. This was quicker than trying to remember the formatting and setting up up every time.

With a bit of creativity, you can make some really cool effects, even something as simple as moving objects to the back can make a huge difference.

Once all our frames were downloaded, they were conveniently saved and renumbered in our downloads folder.

To create our Gif, we dragged them into Google Photos on a Chrome browser to upload.

Once images are uploaded you get the option to create a new album, which we did.

We then selected all the images in order and used the + button to create a new animation

A new animation / Gif is created.

Once you have done it a few times, it is pretty easy and you can get really fast at it.

The animation in this video took less than 10 minutes from start to finish.

Have a go, or even better let your students have a go and get them creating.

It was lots of fun and the kids got the idea that all movies / animations are just a series of still images running together.

Tuesday 12 September 2017

Google Innovator (one month in)

Visiting a Google office is every computer nerd’s dream, I was lucky enough to do just this.

During the summer holiday I applied for and was selected to be a Google Innovator. This is a hand picked program for teachers from all over the world, there are only about 100 teachers per year (32 in Sydney) selected and I was lucky enough to be one of them. The Idea is that you pick an innovation project, an educational problem that you would like to solve. You then work on this problem / innovation for a year and come up with a solution to the problem. The work / learning / creating began before the academy and continues until August next year.

The Innovator Academy and Google Office was everything I expected and more.

Some of the highlights included

An Amazing race around the Sydney CBD
A team plating challenge judged by a former Masterchef contestant
Breakout Challenges
Magic tricks (Real life and Google Photos and AR magic)
Design Sprints and Inspiration sessions
Playing with Google toys
Peer sessions (I presented on my passion of 5mins4fun and managed to take home a Google Home for the most fun presentation)

Great Google food and kitchens
A quick intro to the design process, where teams had to design and then pitch a new chair. We managed to win the 'Pitch Off' with some volume, crowd support, confidence and great ideas. Go the Volcano Chair.

Then there were the rest of the Google offices

Alas, I wasn't just there to play with the Google toys and bask in the dream of perhaps working in this tech mecca, I was there to learn, collaborate, play and work.

What happened?

The three days was divided into design sprints where we sprinted (and I do mean sprinted) through a design process facilitated by Leslie McBeth from Future Design Schools. I have used the Stamford Design Process many times to designing curriculum, learning spaces, web interfaces and participated in design sprints at conferences. I have also facilitated staff and students in using the Stamford Design Process. Even with some experience it was valuable to work through the process with my own problem and in the company of like minded educators and forward thinking facilitators. It was also good to actually be working on a project rather than being an active listener or semi participant which is usually what happens at a lot of tech conferences. They are not working / problem solving focussed.

While lots of our time was spent working, the inspiration segments from the coaches were great, lots of variety in content and presentation style and all of them managed to challenge me in some way. We were also spoilt to have the Google photos (Sydney) team and the Google AR team - project Tango present to us. We got a sneak peek of some up and coming developments and updates from Google (don't ask because I can't and wont tell)

This is a year long project which meant doing some pre academy work and continuing to see our projects through until next July. It is more than a couple of days exploring the Google Sydney Office. This Google get together was just to light the fire after the spark of excitement of being accepted and the tinder of the pre academy work.

My only criticism of the process was that it was too short and too bunched, I can understand why it was. But we didn't have any down time, time to think, process, reflect and share with the incredible educators that were there. The days were long and it was hard work, I had a splitting headache after the second day and if it wasn't for the Google massage station at dinner, I don't know how I would have got rid of it. Maybe an extra day or two, with some down time and  some activities outside of the office. It is a long way to travel for some of the participants.

Like any of these conferences, workshops, learning experiences often the connections are the most valuable element and the innovator academy was no different. The conversations were incredible, it was so good to connect with Australian teachers (I haven't taught in Australia for 8 years) American teachers and colleagues from International schools in Asia. It was also good to connect with the coaches, Googley people and the Edtech team. One of the ongoing benefits of the academy is that these conversations are continuing, on twitter, google hangouts, via email and hopefully in person where possible. 

What is my Problem
The problem / issue I chose is “student created displays” (think science fairs / PYP exhibition etc) and how they are still stuck in the 20th Century. They waste resources, don’t last, can be dull and boring and can’t be shared.

Like any problem your natural reaction is to come up with a solution, so of course I started thinking about how students could create their own interactive museum displays and how students could create their own VR experiences (Students creating their own Google Expeditions).

One of my big takeaways from the Innovator Academy was to

and the whole idea of
that is; being flexible and open to scrapping ideas and starting all over again or even just being open to new ideas and solutions and maybe even new problems.

Over the course of the week with Google and in my thinking since, my problem is changing from changing student displays to how can students share their learning in new and innovative ways. My problem / solution / project could well change again.

We were also encouraged to think big and act small, the more I thought about it I couldn't help thinking that my problem and my crazy 8 solutions were small and I needed a way to enlarge my solution and take it beyond just our school. That is where I am now, redefining my problem, back to crazy 8's (thinking some AR would be great to add to this project) and basically starting all over again, but with renewed energy, connections, learning and the experience of working through (even if it was at a lightning pace) the design process. I am excited, worried, daunted and can't wait to see where this journey might take me and those who will be learning along with me.