Today I’m reflecting on another idea sparked during the Google Apps for Education Summit I attended two weeks ago. Ever since Adam Seipel introduced me to Google Story Builder, I knew it was a perfect fit to use with the Elephant and Piggie series, written and illustrated by Mo Willems.
If you follow Book Buzz, the children’s book blog I write for my students, you know I recently posted about Elephant and Piggie. The simple story lines and mostly two-character adventures are perfect for introducing young readers to the comic book format, which uses speech bubbles for dialog. Each year I use comic books/graphic novels to get kids hooked on reading and I encourage teachers to use them in the classroom for a variety of purposes. So what does all of this have to do with Google Story Builder? Let me explain….
Story Builder is designed to create short videos that mimic what you see onscreen when multiple users are collaborating on a Google Doc.
You simulate that experience by naming your characters and assigning them a unique color, then typing in what you want them to say. You can even add one of Google’s music clips. Once your story is complete, you are automatically given a unique URL to share your video. Here’s a Story Builder video I created using text from the book Are You Ready to Play Outside?
My plan is to use this to spark a creative writing activity in which students would create their own Elephant and Piggie adventure. I’d start by sharing the book Are You Ready to Play Outside?, then students would pair up to examine other Elephant and Piggie books and come up with an original idea for their own E&P story. Next I’d show them my Story Builder of Are You Ready to Go Outside and demonstrate how to use the app. Students would then type up their own Story Builders and share them with the class.
Not only does this make a good writing project, it could also serve as an introduction to using Google Docs for real-time collaboration. We could even use it in a punctuation lesson by re-writing the dialog-only Story Builder stories using complete sentences with quotation marks, commas, and periods.
*Update 7/27/15: There’s a great post at the Nerdy Book Club blog titled Top 10 Lessons Elephant and Piggie Taught Us that is fantastic! Jen Terry and Jacquie Eckert have captured the real appeal of the E&P books.
p.s. It would be great if Google provided an embed code for the finished Story Builders, but all they give you is a link to a webpage view. In order to show my Story Builder here in my blog I had to screencast it, upload it to my YouTube channel, and get an embed code there. I used a Chrome extension I learned about at the Charleston GAFE Summit this summer called Snagit to do that, but that’s a post for another day!
I’m still having fun playing with the Google apps I learned about in last week’s #GAFE Summit, and one of the ideas that experience sparked involves using Google Docs to coordinate purchase requests from the teachers in my school. As the media spcialist, I value their input as I decide what resources to order for the library but it can be difficult sometimes to keep track of all their requests.
In the past they have emailed me or written me notes detailing the subjects they cover and the materials they need to support the curriculum. But now, the collaborative element of Google Docs will make it possible for them to submit all their requests in one online document.
Here’s a sample of what I envision the Purchase Requests Doc will look like. (Click the image to enlarge.)
Anyone with whom I share the link to the official document will have editing rights, so all the teachers will be able to add their requests themselves. Each grade level will be assigned a different color so that I can see at a glance if one grade is over- or under-represented in the ordering process. And I can respond to their requests to let them know I have added items to my order, or that we already have the resources they need. This will also serve as a reminder to me to notify the appropriate teachers once the new materials have arrived.
I also do most of the technology troubleshooting at my school, so I may create another Doc for teachers to use to submit any tech problems that need my attention. I could use Google Forms for that, but I think having all of the requests in one place would make a powerful statement about how much of my time is spent keeping the technology working.
If you are already using Google Docs to coordinate requests, I’d love to hear your tips and suggestions. Please leave a comment, or tweet me at @LibraryLoriJune
Our district is transitioning to Google Apps for Education (GAFE) next year, and ours will be the first elementary school to go one-to-one with Chromebooks, so when I was offered an opportunity to attend the GAFE Summit in Charleston last week I accepted immediately. I was already a Docs and Slides user, and like most people I’ve played around with Google Earth and Maps, but that was about the extent of my experience with using Google tools. My world was about to be seriously rocked.
In nearly every session I attended, I was introduced to Google apps and extensions that were designed to facilitate teaching and learning, or enhance productivity. As someone who enjoys trying out new ways of doing things, I was entranced by the options shared by the presenters for everything from collaborating to screencasting to assessing student understanding to flipping the classroom. And if you’ve never seen a Google Demo Slam, check out this video of one that took place via Google Hangouts in January 2015.
Chris Craft opens the Google Demo Slam at the 2015 Charleston Google Apps for Education Summit.
Over the next week or two I’ll be posting specific ideas for using Google in my school library next year, but for now I’ll leave you with my three big takeaways from the summit.
- Google Certified Teachers (GCTs) are knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and incredibly generous with their tips and tutorials. I have to give a grateful shout-out to the following GCTs who led some of the sessions I attended, and I urge you to click on these names and check out their resource pages: Kimberley Hall, Juan De Luca, Jesse Lubinsky, Adam Seipel, and Jim Sill. You can also follow them on Twitter, and while you’re at it go ahead and follow the #GAFESummit hashtag for daily nuggets of Google-y goodness from these and other GCTs.
- There are MAJOR advantages to having all your resources stored in the cloud. Many’s the time I’ve wanted to work on something at home but my files were stored at work, or vice-versa. And many’s the time I’ve misplaced my flashdrive, or not had it with me when I needed it. Google Drive (free, with unlimited storage for GAFE domains) makes it easy to store and access everything I’m working on in one place. And if that’s a big deal for me — a responsible adult who has had practice with working online and saving files — it’s an even bigger deal for inexperienced students. And by the way, the “Recent” button in Google Drive comes in handy if you’re not sure which Drive folder you just saved to.
- The ever-evolving nature of technology means that being able to integrate it into the classroom isn’t just a skill set anymore, it has to be a mindset. We educators need to shift our thinking enough to see ourselves as learners as well as teachers, and be willing to figure out how to use unfamiliar tech tools right along with our students. (Sometimes they may even lead the way!) It can be hard to give up the sense of confidence and control that comes with sticking to the familiar, but when we take a risk we often we gain much more than we lose.
If you’re using Google Apps for Education, I’d love to connect with you! Please leave a comment, or tweet me at @LibraryLoriJune