Staying Organized using Google Apps for Ed. in the classroom


(Scroll to the bottom to skip to the video)

I was recently asked (twice in the same week) to share how I organize student work shared with me via Google Apps for Education. At nErDcamp Northern New England I attended a session on using Google Apps to give feedback to students (See the session notes here) and shared how I organize all the documents that students share with me.

-A side note: As an 8th grade teacher in Maine, each of my students has a MacBook Air to use. We are also a Google Apps for Education (GAFE) District which has allowed me to be a mostly paperless classroom.

When I began using GAFE in the classroom the document list was much easier to navigate, but when the format changed I knew that I had to as well.

I always have students make two folders – an “LA” folder and a “LA Pass in” folder, they share the “LA pass in” folder with me and put it in folder inside the LA folder. This serves a couple of purposes: 1. It provides students with some structure for their own files (I actually lead them through this process for each of their classes). 2. It provides an easy way to share and see what is shared with me – after the folder is shared with me, EVERYTHING they put in there becomes shared with me.

–Another side note: I have strict naming protocols, EVERY DOCUMENT (and folder) must follow this format: [Last name, First initial NAME OF ASSIGNMENT]. I don’t look at anything named “untitled document”.

When an assignment is ready to be passed in they fill out a form I create using GAFE. It asks for their Name (a separate question for last and first), class section, and a link to their shared document. Now, I often will include other items – a question that forces them to go through a formatting checklist, a reminder to put the assignment into their “LA Pass in” folder. I have recently began including a grid question that recreates the rubric so they can self evaluate on the assignment and I also include questions that make them reflect on the process of the assignment.

The student accounts (and so the account I use to interact with them) are managed and I am unable to share the exact forms I use with students but here is a link to a PDF of the form students used to submit the final draft of their poetry essay.

The brilliance of using a form to collect student work like this is that I then end up with a spreadsheet with a link to the assignment that I can sort by last name, class section, or by how they scored themselves.

Watch the video below to see the form, the spreadsheet it creates, and how I use it.

Embedded Web Browsing in Notebook software


I just discovered that you can embed a web browser in a notebook page. This makes it much easier to use web content – you don’t have to bounce from program to program. You can also ‘pin’ a site, which means you set it as a home page for that particular notebook page – the content you want to use already cued up in Notebook! I’m pretty psyched about this find and wanted to share!

 

Set up a Digital PLN


 

When I mention to people that I’m on Twitter most respond “I don’t see the point” or “I don’t get it”. That is when I explain to them that I use it as a Personal Learning Network (PLN). If you set it up right, Twitter is a hotbed of links, resources, thought-provoking questions and statements, and support for educators. If you looked at the list of accounts I follow on Twitter you would see that they are all related to education and technology, this means my feed only (well 99% of the time) contains only items I have interest in (okay maybe I’m not interested in every post, but the chances are high that I will be).

Of course some of you are thinking – I can’t sign up for yet another site. The good news is that you can reap the benefits of Twitter without participating. As an educator we know that participation is a better model, it works without it but is so much better with it. By utilizing the search bar on the twitter site you can find tweets on just about any topic. Even better is to search for hashtags, that is a tag added to the tweet that provides a way to have a conversation. At the Google Apps for Education (GAFE) Summit people tweeted about what was going on using the hashtag #gafesummit This means that if you go to the search bar in twitter and put in #gafesummit (include the # symbol) you will see all the tweets. If you wanted to have students tweet about a novel their reading and have other students (within or outside the school) interact you could have them add a hashtag, e.g. students reading Lord of the Flies would add the hashtag #LOTF to let everyone quickly and easily be a part of the conversation.

There are lots of hashtags you can check out such as

Find me on twitter here. Look at who I follow (this is a great way to find new people to follow)

I also use Google+ as a PLN. The great thing about Google+ (and this is similar to Twitter) you can add people to circles and they don’t have to add you back. Being able to organize your contacts is great (so great that Facebook copied this), this allows flexibility, you can have a PLN circle (that’s what I call it), a friends circle, family circle, people you’ve met once but don’t really know circle – PEOPLE WILL NOT KNOW WHAT CIRCLE YOU’VE PUT THEM IN!!!!!

The advantages of Google+ are:

  • Not limited to 140 characters
  • Much easier to follow a conversation
  • HANGOUTS!!

If you don’t have a digital PLN start with Twitter and putz around there. Leave a comment with your tips/tricks/suggestions for follows/hashtags!

 

 

Review: Moa by Tricia Stewart Shiu


I read Moa as part of a promotional tour. The book was given to me and I can win prizes for posting an excerpt from the book, an interview with the author, and my review (which you are reading right now). If you scroll to the bottom you will see more information about the tour and contest for bloggers. 

Hillary is eighteen and goes to Hawaii to visit her sister, Molly, and niece, Heidi. Molly and Heidi are dealing with the death of their husband/dad – a fact that seems like it will be more important than it is, it really serves to create a touching moment later in the book and solidify Molly’s believe in Moa. Hillary doesn’t think of herself as a witch (a sure sign that she is one), yet does create spells to redirect positive energy her way and to influence events. Hillary arrives just in time to play a major role in saving Hawaii by helping Moa, the spirit of a seven-year old.   

This book is billed as Young Adult (YA) but is more Y than A. I might recommend this book (if I couldn’t think of any alternatives) to a struggling reader in the 7th or 8th grades, however I’m not sure that the plot would be enough to keep their attention. I was not impressed by this book at all. The characters are flat, the plot seeks to be philosophical and deep, but rather comes off as a cheesy advertisement for a Christian afterlife under the cover of Hawaiian culture. Moa’s whole personality struck me as a caricature of the benevolent spirit, granted she is the spirit of a seven-year old, but she has been a spirit for much, much longer and that was not reflected well. The scenes that were meant to be suspenseful (Hillary racing through the town full of evil spirits that are in the guise of humans) seemed to me contrived. I was never hooked into the story. 

The interview with Shiu (read it here), reveals that the book comes from personal beliefs and draws on personal experiences, including visits to Hawaii and from spirits bearing messages. (As far as I know Shiu did not save Hawaii at anytime, but that is the sort of thing people never get credit for). The interview supports the idea that Shiu really wanted to write about her metaphysical beliefs but didn’t know/wasn’t sure how to do that in a non-fiction manner. I think if the book had taken shape as a non-fiction book, drawing on her personal experiences it would have resulted in a more interesting read. Needless to say (which is an interestingly untrue phrase isn’t it?) I will not be reading the sequel. 

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Moa and Statue of Ku eBook editions have both been dropped to just 99 cents this week. What’s more, by purchasing either of these fantastic books at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes. The prizes include $600 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, and 5 autographed copies of each book.

All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win!

To win the prizes:

  1. Purchase your copies of Moa and Statue of Ku for just 99 cents
  2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity
  3. Visit today’s featured social media event

About Moa: Eighteen-year-old, Hillary, anticipates adventure as she embarks for trip to Honolulu, but gets more than she bargained for when Moa, an ancient Hawaiian spirit, pays her an unexpected visit. Get it on Amazon.

About Statue of Ku: The second book in the Moa Book Series, “The Statue of Ku” follows Hillary and Moa as they jet to Egypt on the Prince’s private plane to reclaim Moa’s family heirloom, the inimitable statue of Ku. Get it on Amazon.

About the author: Tricia Stewart Shiu combines her addiction to the written word with her avid interest in the healing arts and all things metaphysical in her novels Moa and Statue of Ku and looks forward to finding new ways to unite her two loves. Visit Tricia on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

Interview with Tricia Stewart Shiu


Please enjoy this interview with Tricia Stewart Shiu, author of the paranormal YA novel with a literary bent Moa. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including $600 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, 5 autographed copies of Moa, and 5 autographed copies of its sequel, Statue of Ku.

You can read an excerpt from Moa here. You can read my review of Moa here.

1. The Moa Book series has a metaphysical theme. Do you have any expertise in this area?

I am an energetic intuitive and have a talent for creating powerful healing essential oil blends and gem elixirs. The unearthing of these talents occurred as I embarked on a metaphysical journey, which included studies in mediumship, pagan and Huna rituals as well as an energy healing technique called “Crystalline Consciousness Technique.” I also studied a variety of shamanic clearing methods and healing rituals.

2. You get pretty heavy into the metaphysical. Are you, in fact, a witch?

Like, Hillary, I question who I am on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. For centuries, women have been persecuted and even killed for being labeled a witch. I have studied many forms of healing rituals and magic and discovered that I have talents for using essential oils and crystals for the highest good. Others, who have witnessed the results of my practices, have called me many things: healer, shaman, and yes, witch. I choose not to accept any of these names but to embrace all of them as one growing changing name—wishealer or heshitch—to coin a phrase…or maybe not. As I discover more talents, gifts and unique parts to myself, this unusual word is sure to undergo a metamorphosis and may grow to the size of Moa’s real, and quite lengthy, Hawaiian name.

3. What are your favorite books and how have they touched you as a reader?

Albert Einstein said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” The books/stories that touch me most echo the theme of humanity and self discovery and include a sense of adventure and wonder. Ray Bradbury‘s short story, Frost and Fire is a shocking, but tender story about a boy’s journey into a world where people only live eight days. James Joyce‘s Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man inspired me to unleash my inner censor and allow my truth to shine though my writing. If I could wish anything for those who read my books, it would be the gift of self acceptance and self acknowledgement.

4. How long does it take you to write a book from start to finish?

Good question. I went back into my notes and discovered that it took me exactly three months and ten days to write Moa from beginning to end. That seems to be my average writing speed, three months. My aunt Rebecca Gummere is my editor extraordinaire. We have developed a comfortable and productive working rhythm that balances creativity and structure and brings such joy and enrichment to the work.

5. Who designs the covers for your books?

The brilliant and talented Sydney Shiu took the cover photos when she was six during a trip to Hawaii. Scott Torrance brought his years of experience in photographic art and design to the layouts.

6. What was the hardest part of writing your book?

The time between stories is the most challenging for me. When I am inside a story and writing I am filled with peace and joy. When I finish and have to leave that world, I mourn the loss of this comforting place–the same is true when I finish reading a great book. Nevertheless, I believe that this sadness brings with it a great opportunity and depth of creativity and I wouldn’t change a thing about the process.

7. Any take-away message you want readers to grasp?

Each of us has at least one divine gift to remember. The moment we wake up and retrieve the memory of who we are and what we are here to do, that’s when the adventure begins.

8. When did you first consider yourself an author?

I was in middle school and read James Joyce’s Portrait of an Artist for the first time. About an hour later, I was overcome by an urge to write, an impulse I readily indulged. Time stood still, I still can’t quite remember what happened during that frenzied period of first creation. All I remember is coming to with pages upon pages filled with words in front of me. It felt incredible to express myself so freely. I’ve never looked back.

9. Did you start out writing novels?

No. I started out writing short stories when I was young. Then when I began acting, I wrote one-woman shows and plays, eventually combining my efforts of performance and writing in a piece called Doing Lunch which made it’s way into a short film trilogy directed by Hal Trussel. That film won “Best Dramatic Short” at the Houston Film Festival.

10. What was your main source of inspiration for the Moa book series?

When I was five, I was visited by a vision. I’ll never forget it, I was running down the stairs and the entity, a girl with dark hair, stopped me in my tracks. The spirit said that I would go through a deeply challenging time in my life, but would resurface, later in life, with unimaginable joy and fulfillment. That vision stayed with me. In middle school, I would sit quietly at my desk adding up the years to figure out exactly when my life would turn around.

And then I forgot. I got busy, my work and the stress of family life took over and I was completely overwhelmed and in desperate need of a vacation. My husband, daughter and I decided to go to Hawaii.

When the plane landed in Honolulu, I remember feeling the difference in the atmosphere as I disembarked. The air made me somehow, remember that there was a part of me that knew…something…what was it?

Never mind, I was in Hawaii it was time to see the sights! So, I sped off to see Diamond Head, Waikiki Beach and then headed home for an afternoon nap before an evening luau. As I drifted toward sleep, I heard my name being called. In my mind’s eye, I saw a beautiful young woman with dark hair, who said her name was Moaahuulikkiaaakea’o Haanaapeekuluueehuehakipuunahe’e—Moa for short.

And then I remembered.

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Moa and Statue of Ku eBook editions have both been dropped to just 99 cents this week. What’s more, by purchasing either of these fantastic books at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes. The prizes include $600 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, and 5 autographed copies of each book.

All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win!

To win the prizes:

  1. Purchase your copies of Moa and Statue of Ku for just 99 cents
  2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity
  3. Visit today’s featured social media event

About Moa: Eighteen-year-old, Hillary, anticipates adventure as she embarks for trip to Honolulu, but gets more than she bargained for when Moa, an ancient Hawaiian spirit, pays her an unexpected visit. Get it on Amazon.

About Statue of Ku: The second book in the Moa Book Series, “The Statue of Ku” follows Hillary and Moa as they jet to Egypt on the Prince’s private plane to reclaim Moa’s family heirloom, the inimitable statue of Ku. Get it on Amazon.

About the author: Tricia Stewart Shiu combines her addiction to the written word with her avid interest in the healing arts and all things metaphysical in her novels Moa and Statue of Ku and looks forward to finding new ways to unite her two loves. Visit Tricia on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

Excerpt: MOA, by Tricia Stewart Shiu (review to follow)


Please enjoy this excerpt from Moa, a paranormal YA novel with a literary bent by Tricia Stewart Shiu. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including $600 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, 5 autographed copies of Moa, and 5 autographed copies of its sequel, Statue of Ku.

You can read an interview with the author here. You can read my review of the book here.

Eighteen-year-old, Hillary Hause’s left thumb searches frantically to turn on the “I’m Okay to Fly” hypnotherapy recording. Her nerves on edge, fuchsia fingernails press into the blue pleather armrests of her airplane seat.

“No spells can help you now,” she whispers to herself under her breath—then checks to see if anyone notices. Nope, they don’t.

The plane lifts through the early morning, gray fog of California, “June Gloom” giving way to the azure sky, and Hillary covers her curly brown head and retreats beneath the questionably clean plane blanket cranking the volume to drown out the drone of the engines.

“Outer shell close to breaking.” This time she doesn’t care if anyone hears.

I hover just beyond her “outer shell”—a movement in the periphery, a faintly familiar scent, a fond memory just beyond recognition, a non-human observer. Before the week is up, Hillary will save my life, as I will hers. But, for now, more about Hillary.

The drink cart rolls past the blanket, which has, by now become a moist steamy cave.

“Hey, freak. I hope your plane crashes.” The memory reverberates through her brain despite her attempts to distract herself with the hypnotherapy recording. She increases the volume, but the ugly conversation, which occurred just before school ended, still haunts her mind.

“I guess the only people they check on those flights are the suspicious ones,” Krystal Sykes, a bully from her home room, leans in as Hillary hastens to grab books for her next class. Krystal, also a senior, has hounded Hillary since the first day of freshman year and this is the final day during the final hour at this tiny high school of 376 students —where everyone knows everyone else’s business.

“Look, Krystal.” Hillary turns her eyes toward the sneering blonde. “It’s the last day of school, we’ll never see each other again. Can you give it a rest?” These are the most words the two young women have exchanged in the entire four years of high school.

A look of shock replaces Krystal’s smug snick, “Oh, so now you talk.” She leans in, so close that her spray tan becomes a patchy Impressionist painting. Her pores are blotched with cakey, two shades too dark powder, her unblended cream eyeshadow creases across the center of her lid and her tropical breeze flavored breath threatens to strangle the words right out of Hillary.

“I know all about your witchcraft practices and have made a few spells of my own. Trust me. You’ll never make it to your sister’s house in Hawaii.” Krystal’s backpack jingles and Hillary watches her spin around and skip down the hall.

Hillary is not a witch. She has, however, carefully crafted a “shell” to protect herself from bullies like Krystal—who, as far as Hillary can tell—is not a witch either. She has watched Krystal throughout elementary, middle and high school and has not been able to discern whether or not she practices witchcraft. No matter what Krystal’s background, her intent is to harm. And there is nothing worse than a spell with an aim to hurt. Hillary has had no choice but to remain in a constant state of defensiveness.

The twenty-minute recording ends and Hillary falls into a troubled sleep—feeling every bump and hearing every creak of the plane.

With about an hour left in the flight, Hillary awakens with a “turtle headache.” Hillary’s older sister Molly taught her this term which means a headache caused by sleeping too long underneath the covers of one’s bed.

Sadly, Molly lost her husband, Steve, last year in an unfortunate surfing accident. The throbbing pain in Hillary’s left temple could be the result of remaining submerged beneath an airplane blanket and wedged between the window and armrest, or it could be from worry about how Molly and her niece, Heidi are dealing with their devastating loss.

Disoriented, Hillary pokes her head out just in time to glimpse puffy clouds and sparkling sea below. A flood of excitement and sheer wonder flows through Hillary in the form of a tingle from her head to her toes. And then, a lovely thought: “…And for an Everlasting Roof, The Gambrels of the Sky…” She will enjoy this plane ride, thanks in part to Emily Dickinson.

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Moa and Statue of Ku eBook editions have both been dropped to just 99 cents this week. What’s more, by purchasing either of these fantastic books at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes. The prizes include $600 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, and 5 autographed copies of each book.

All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win!

To win the prizes:

  1. Purchase your copies of Moa and Statue of Ku for just 99 cents
  2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity
  3. Visit today’s featured social media event

About Moa: Eighteen-year-old, Hillary, anticipates adventure as she embarks for trip to Honolulu, but gets more than she bargained for when Moa, an ancient Hawaiian spirit, pays her an unexpected visit. Get it on Amazon.

About Statue of Ku: The second book in the Moa Book Series, “The Statue of Ku” follows Hillary and Moa as they jet to Egypt on the Prince’s private plane to reclaim Moa’s family heirloom, the inimitable statue of Ku. Get it on Amazon.

About the author: Tricia Stewart Shiu combines her addiction to the written word with her avid interest in the healing arts and all things metaphysical in her novels Moa and Statue of Ku and looks forward to finding new ways to unite her two loves. Visit Tricia on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

YA isn’t just for YA’s


Young adult (YA) books are saving publishers right now. The market is huge and expanding. This article on the Young Adult Library Services Association page (YALSA) talks about the rise of readers reading YA that are, as the blog foreveryoungadult.com puts it, “less Y and more A”. Adults that aren’t teachers, librarians, or people in the publishing business are discovering the young adult genre is filled with well written, interesting books. I encourage everyone to check out the YA and Teen sections of their local bookstore, library, or favorite online store. You can see the YA books I’ve read on here on Goodreads.

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