Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Auto sort results of a Google Form so newest responses are on top!

If you use Google forms to collect data of a long period of time you may want the newest results to post to the top of the spreadsheet. For example, I use a form as a way to track books that kids borrow, I’d rather have the newest book to be borrowed appear at the top of the list.

Here is one way you can do this.

  1. On the bottom left of the sheet click the + to create another sheet
  2. In cell A1 paste the following formula:
    1. =sort('Form Responses 1'!A:H, 1, False)
  3. You may want to double click the title of the new sheet (Which will be “Copy of Form Responses 1” and change it to something more descriptive “Sorted” is what I chose.


Remember, this new sheet, “Sorted,” is mirroring the “Form Responses” sheet, so any changes you make to the content will show up on the “Sorted” sheet.


Google Classroom – Edit PDF feature has downside!



The new option of editing PDF’s in Google Classroom is sweet – the math teachers in my building are excited! However. . .

On the iPad, when students click on any resource (even if it is a google document/slideshow) it opens in PDF editing with a “pencil” icon and an “open in” icon (see below) they need to click that “open in” icon in order for it to open in Google docs. I’ve been running into the issue where students are editing a PDF copy of the document instead of the shared google doc, which means I can’t collaborate at all and they can’t collaborate with each other.

It is just a matter of training the students to click that icon!


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.

Managing Student Work in Google Docs

It is no secret that I’m a big fan of Google Docs. Managing student work can be a nightmare though. Collections help but you still end up with multiple open tabs (or windows if that’s your style). The Free Technology for Teachers Blog (written by a Maine educator and something you really need to check out) had a post that provided a link to yet another blog that gives some step by step directions on how collect assignments via gdocs and click through them all in the same window. I’ve set up the form on my site here. I’m going to try it out just for Lord of the Flies assignments as a test run. 

The post can be found here and it includes a link to make a copy of the form (you don’t even have to create it, just add the list of your assignments (or you could have the student fill that out and remove that piece of work. 

What is the “backchannel”?

The term “backchannel” refers to what teachers would call the side-conversations that happen during class. Now we know that not all of these conversations are off topic, sometimes students are getting clarification of directions, brainstorming, getting feedback, or engaging with the topic/material in some other way. Tapping into this backchannel brings all that to the attention of the group. It brings questions and answers, feedback, and other chatter that has the potential of creating a whole new level of engagement to your class. You don’t have to acknowledge everything that is posted and obviously some direction and modeling and practice using it will have to happen. You can archive these conversations and make them available for students to access later.

Todaysmeet is a free resource that allows you to create rooms that expire. (A different room for each unit? class block?) There is no signing up for you or students to use this site. Students enter a name to use and start typing. The downside is that students could put whatever name they want and you would have a hard time monitoring who is saying what (if you wanted to do that), easily dealt with by having clear expectations. The benefit of this site is that only people who have the link can join the room.

Twitter is also geared perfectly for this. The use of hashtags (#) keeps everyone together and allows for a more complicated organization to happen (if desired). This does need a (free) account for all who want to participate. The downside is the need of an account (it is free and easy to set up), and that it is public to anyone (they would have to be following a user or search for the hashtag which would limit the number of outside audience members). The benefit of this is that you could track who is saying what easier, it would be easy to access later, the conversation could continue after class ends.

G+, Facebook, and Twitter – In one place

This find just changed the G+ game. . .

I came across a Google Chrome extension that does exactly what I’ve been looking for. It allows you to post from G+ (which is open to all to join now) and have it post on Twitter and on Facebook. Voila! It also pulls feeds from both of those services into your G+ stream. So in your new stream you will have Facebook, Twitter, and G+ posts – that you can interact with!

This page gives you a very simple graphic, and links to the extension and T and FB, showing how to install this.

When you first install the extension It puts a FB and Twitter icon up in the google bar (you know where it says; G+, Gmail, Calendar etc. See the screen shot below)  and you click them to sign into that service. I had to click each icon and sign in 4-5 times before it actually signed in.

Then when you are ready to post, you can choose to only post to G+, or only to G+ and Twitter, or only to G+ and Facebook. Bear in mind that when it posts to twitter it only takes the first 140 characters. When you are posting it does give you a character count so you can put the important stuff first or truncate it to fit.

Now when you click on  you will see your G+ friends, Facebook friends, and Twitter friends musings all in one place! AND you can post comments on the posts you see. I can comment on a FB post, or reply to a Tweet – right from G+.

When I first opened my G+ stream I was a little overwhelmed – that was a lot to sift through. Then I realized that Facebook and Twitter icons appeared in the list on the left under my “sparks”. But how to see just my G+ stream? Easy, I created a new circle called “G+” (you could call it “everyone” or whatever you want) and put everyone in it, then I can click on my new circle and see just G+ posts.

Or Clicking on the icon opens a menu: So you don’t have to have everything in your G+ stream if you don’t want.

So jump onto your Chrome browser (get it here), head over to sign up, check it out, add me: to G+, get the extension, sign into your other social media and enjoy!

Interpretive Review of Electronic Literacy and Hybrid Texts

EDU 600 Research Methods and Techniques University of Southern Maine Summer 2010

Introduction: The way that students, and many others, interact with information and the world has changed significantly in recent years, and is continuing to change. Though perhaps “evolve” is a better term, I use the word interact purposefully, with blogs, wikis, and other collaborative tools information is no longer static, sitting in a textbook. Information is presented differently now and our students navigate this world of hybrid texts, texts that consist of more than one media, throughout their day, everyday. I’ve always been interested in technology, photography, and as a teacher – getting students to enjoy reading and learn and practice literacy skills. Student engagement is a big part of completing this last task. I think that, through technology, images and words acting together address the new literacies students need to be taught.

Research on electronic literacy and hybrid texts really focuses on the change happening in how information is presented and interacted with by its audience. I think the changes that are happening are fascinating, the research explores how these changes can, and should, be brought into the classroom and the effect it has on students. I want to know more about this and I want to incorporate this into my class. I had mixed success in finding primary source articles that provided the details I needed. The connection of the two topics is the influence of technology on hybrid texts and how electronic and language arts literacies are supplemented or supplement mix media texts.

Design and Purpose: All six of these studies are qualitative. This was not by design, it simply worked out that the article titles that peaked my interest all turned out to be qualitative. Two studies were conducted using case studies, four incorporated ethnographic designs. With the exception of Barone and Wright’s article each study was designed appropriately. I think that a case study of one student along side the ethnography would have provided richer results that would contribute to the articles validity more than the hypothetical day in the life of a fictional student.

Each article had either electronic literacy or hybrid texts, or both, as their focus. The overlap in topics is really only obvious when you look at the collection of articles as a whole and pay attention to the details that allude to electronic literacy or hybrid texts in articles focusing on the alternative topic.

All sought to ground themselves in previous research. Norton references Kay Haugaard at the outset of her article and comes back to that name in the conclusion. Tan and Guo steep their introduction in references to previous research. Rowsell and Burke mention a handful of studies, as does Ranker. Looking at the Matrix (appendix 1) it is clear that the more the researcher grounds themselves in previous work the higher the overall quality of the article.

Sampling: Three of the studies provide no clear count of participants. Authors, Ranker, Barone & Wright, and Tan & Guo study classes (a first grade class, a fourth grade class, and two classes of 14 year-olds, respectively), the number of students in the class(es) under study is not provided. I found this surprising. If I found this in only one article I might consider it to be an accidental oversight, but when half of the studies I’m reviewing leave out this information it points towards more purposeful writing/reporting strategies. Two of the three were convenience samples, which serve to compound the distrust over the sampling measures. These samples, particularly those of Barone and Wright (second authors class), and Ranker (the sample’s teacher was the author’s student) were studies that did not include the number of participants – this caused some highbrow rising as I was completing the Matrix.

The sampling for Norton’s study of elementary school students who read Archie comics had the strongest sampling. Volunteers were taken and this sampling led to thirty-four participants. Rowsell and Burke’s case studies (2009) sample was interesting. The two teens, 13yr female & 14yr male, are from different countries (Canada & United States) and had different social roles. She is into sports, is popular, and receives A’s. He receives special services, is more of “a loner in the class” (p 110). At first I didn’t think this was a very good sample, but when I saw the results I realized how appropriate that sample was.

Data Collection: It should be no surprise that interviews and observations were used in all these studies. I think anecdotal evidence and first hand accounts can be very persuasive. It is interesting how the different types of research work to persuade their audience.

Norton’s study on Archie comics (2003) used only questionnaires and interviews. An analysis of the comics themselves might strengthen claims that students are inferring, understanding “irony, puns, and plays on words” (p 142). Looking at how the language and the images support this complex thinking would support her research question.

One study stands out in this area, Tan & Guo’s 2009 study; observational field notes, extensive (10hr) teacher interview, many hours of video of classroom observations transcriptions, and video recordings with transcripts prove to be the most comprehensive data collection methods present within the six articles. This article had the clearest delineation of data collection; it was thorough and concise. The methods themselves were thorough as well; this study had the most data collection methods in use and it also rated highest in over all quality.

Gainer and Rowsell & Burke also should be noted as they analyzed content and documents during data collection.

Data Analysis & Results: Overall, all of these six articles did a great job providing thick description. I personally place high value on having the exact words from a participant as well as the author’s interpretation. The sad news is that with the exception of one, thick description is all they used to demonstrate interpretative validity. This is the one column that had the most impact on me. Seeing that single method listed over and over, and the overall quality score right next to it, really showed me that when I’m looking at research articles to not let quotes be my single knee jerk reaction to a article’s validity. Tan and Guo’s article (2009) added coding and triangulation to their extensive interview quotations.

With all of the faults I’ve found in these articles I can say that the results did not stray from the data. As previously mentioned, Rowsell and Burke’s study had some fascinating results that changed my mind about the appropriateness of their sample size (two). They found that both students were engaging at similar depths in similar ways with their respective online texts. This is interesting when you look at how different their success’ are with print text. This tells me that engagement and hybrid texts, or rather the relationship between these two can lead to success.

Quality of Studies: I find myself rating quality on the half marks. Making the range: Low, Low/Medium, Medium, Medium/High, and High. There was a wide range of quality scores within these six articles; two rated Low/Medium, one was Medium, two earned Medium/High marks, and the last fell on the line between Medium/High and High.

I really noticed the quality differences in the articles, but the area that had consistent low scores was in interpretive validity. Only one article stood out in this – it also earned the highest overall rating. This was a wake up call, as I mentioned before. My focus for 8th grade writers is providing evidence in their academic writing. I forgot that, as a reader, I must look for evidence that shows the researchers findings to be valid. This is an important lesson that this class and assignment taught me.

Summary: Had I to go back choose articles again, I would be more particular about the quality of my choices. Of course, I’m only now able to make those choices based on quality now that I’ve taken this class – a paradox I guess. While writing this review, I found that many of articles were not very solid examples to use. This makes comparing and contrasting a bit tedious to read. Luckily, in each category, there was one that shone, as either a good or bad example and made for something to discuss. The content of the articles was very interesting. It combines my love of my job and content area with my passion for technology. Many of the articles provided examples of practical classroom practices that any teacher could put into operation, such as using comic books to teach inference skills, character development, and the list of web-based resources found in table one (p. 299) of Barone and Wright’s article (2008).

Some of the articles did leave me with questions.

Barone and Wright dropped this bombshell on me: “In 2005, approximately 95% of K-12 classrooms in the United states had Internet access[,] . . . 80% of kindergartners use computers . . . However, the average of U.S. students’ use of computers in school was 12 minutes per week” (p. 292). This caused my jaw to drop and really hooked me into learning more about electronic literacy and best practices surrounding it. I find that 12 min/week is an abysmal average and really just don’t understand how that can be.

I never understood why Norton’s focus was on Archie comics (2003), and not a more contemporary comic – this was never explained (the number of kids who read it was also surprising but I didn’t expect Norton to have a reason for that). Norton also cited that “Ivey and Broaddus (2001, p. 368) . . . found that middle school students ranked their classrooms as ‘one of the least likely places’ to find the texts they want to read.” (p. 145). This is sad and just supports what most English teachers [should] know: Choice in reading material is very important; it goes back to the power of engagement.

My interests, personal and professional, made reading these articles enjoyable and professional development at the same time. My goal now is to bring what I’ve learned from this research and see what results I can get in my classroom, and be a model to others in the area of electronic literacy.


Barone, D., & Wright, T. (2008). Literacy Instruction With Digital and Media Technologies. Reading Teacher, 62(4), 292-303.

Gainer, J.S. (2010). Critical media literacy in middle school: exploring the politics of representation. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 53(5), 364–3 73.

McVicker, C. (2007). Comic strips as a text structure for learning to read. The Reading Teacher, 61(1), 85-88.

Norton, B. (2003). The motivating power of comic books: Insights from Archie comic readers. Reading Teacher, 57(2), 140-147.

Ranker, J. (2007). Using comic books as read-alouds: insights on reading instruction from an English as a second language classroom. Reading Teacher, 61(4), 296-305.

Rowsell, J., & Burke, A. (2009). Reading by design: two case studies of digital reading practices. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 53(2), 106-118.

Appendix: Matrix of Articles – below.

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