Sunday, January 25, 2015

Dear all,

Hope you are having a good weekend. As you all have a Google Drive account and with Kim Cofino coming to visit and work with you all in the week before Tet, I thought that it might be useful to share this set of best practices for those of you supplementing Firefly with Google apps.

In case you know Google docs etc inside out, I have added another very short read giving the top 10 tips for bringing laughter to your classroom from Sue Stephenson, author of Kidding Around: connecting kids to happiness, laughter & humour

Have a good Sunday,

Google Apps for Learning: 9 Best Practices

Jennifer BloomingdaleA few years ago when I was first introduced to Google Apps, I was not convinced it was such a great thing, I loved using my traditional products and I didn’t want to change anything. That was…until I got a classroom set of netbooks and began teaching in a 1:1 environment. I discovered that Google Apps was so much more than productivity tools. There was a whole other level of collaboration that could happen when using Google Apps, not only could we develop group projects, but then we could then easily share our work and receive almost immediate feedback. Although I am not currently in a classroom, I continue to use Google Apps professionally and personally, I love that I can access a file whenever I need it even if I don’t have my computer, that any work I complete is automatically saved and that I can easily work with others. Here are some tips to consider as you use or consider using Google Apps.

1. Utilize the Collaboration Features

handsThe most powerful feature of Google Apps is the ability to collaborate with colleagues, both synchronously and asynchronously. You can create, edit, and chat even if your project members are in different locations.
There are three ways to do this:
1.    Work on a project in real time. You can have a number of people on one document at the same time making changes and you will see their changes as they are making them. Keep in mind, there are limitations to the number of people you can have editing at one time. This varies depending on what app you are using. 50 people can edit or view a spreadsheet, doc or drawing, while only 10 can edit or view a presentation.
2.    Any user signed into a gmail account can use the chat feature alongside the document. This allows you to work synchronously with other collaborators.
3.    If you are working asynchronously then you can also leave comments for your colleagues. Users can reply to specific comments or add their own as well.

2. Practice Netiquette

One thing to keep in mind when collaborating on a document or project with someone is that at times you will be editing someone else’s work. Be sure to establish guidelines with your group or partner to determine how changes will be made, when and if the group should be notified when changes are made, and how everyone will communicate.

3. Know the Share Settings

In order to collaborate with others, you will need to share your project. Google Apps provides you with several options for sharing your projects.
1.    Share with specific individuals by adding their email addresses. Individuals will need a Gmail account in order to edit the document.
2.    Create a live link, anyone with the link can access the document. Be sure to keep in mind that the link can be passed on, so you never know who will be viewing the document. If you send the link to someone, they do not need a Gmail account in order to edit the document.
3.    Make your project a public webpage, which can show up in search results. When you publish to the web, this also allows your document to bed embeded your project into a blog or site.
When you are determining how to share, be sure to think about the content and purpose of your document. If you have information in the project that you would not want passed around, consider sharing with specific people and ensure that they can not change the share settings.

4. Utilize folders to organize

As you begin to use your Google Apps account more and more, you are probably going to want to keep things organized. The folder feature has greatly improved over the past few years, you can create folders within folders, share whole folders, name and color code them as well. The ability to share folders also allows for more organization within projects and ensures that everyone can access all of the documents they need.

5. Save time with templates

iStock_000019916493SmallNeed to organize information or create a project using Google Apps? One way to save time is to search the Google Apps Template Gallery. There you will find templates created by other users or google, you can even create and add your own! If you have a certain form or layout that you want everyone in the group to utilize, you can upload that into the template gallery (keeping in mind that this will be public to everyone using the gallery) and then send your team the link.  They will then be able to create a copy of the document in their own Google Drive and edit it freely.

6. Know where to find your files

It can get a little overwhelming to find files as you begin to share projects and add your own files. One way to help you organize is to know the difference between the different areas of your Google Drive.
·         My Drive: Any file that you have created or uploaded.
·         Shared with me: Any file that has been explicitly shared with your email address. (These files do not show up in your drive, unless you move it your drive)
·         Recent: Anything you have opened recently.
·         Activity: Anything that has been recently edited, including your own files, files shared with you, or links that you have opened.
·         All items: Everything in your Google Drive.
If you are still having a hard time locating a file, Google Drive includes a search bar that allows you to apply many different filters.

7. Use the Revision History

google_apps_logoThe revision history allows you to see who made what changes and when. This is very helpful when you have several people editing and developing a project, as you can see who has contributed the different aspects of the project. Another useful feature of revision history is that if there has been a mistake made, you can always revert back to any of the versions listed.

8. Use the Research Tool

The research tools allows you to research a topic or find pictures without even leaving your document! It will also search your personal emails, files, and Google+ accounts for information as well. If needed, it will also automatically add a citation or link for you!

9. Be adaptive

As with any web tool, things are probably going to change. Google is constantly adding features, adjusting layouts and making changes, so keep that in mind as you use this tool.
As you work with Google Apps you will begin to see what works for you and what doesn’t, I find it all depends on my ultimate goal for a project.


1. Nurture your own sense of humour, like a unique funprint, and laugh more.

Rediscover your inner child. Search for funny entertainment. Tell stories about yourself. Collect funny stuff. Go fun places with fun people. Look for the humour around you. If you’re excited – tell your face and smile! You may even have to “Fake it, ’til you make it”. No matter what attitude you have – you have chosen it.

2. Take your work seriously but yourself lightly. Lighten Up!

Find the perfect blend of play, fun and work to make yours a positive experience. Remember The Happiness Scale and make an effort each day to be on the + side. Invent a new job title for yourself like “Chief Goddess of the Photocopier” – make one up.

3. Reach out for help if you need it! Watch for signs of depression in others too.

If you are feeling depressed or sad, reach out for help and talk it over with a doctor and friend.

4. Teach your family, staff and students about laughter and happiness too.

Teachers can include these strategies and concepts in their curriculum. Encourage children who have comedic intelligence by positively channeling their energy. Make fun a discussable topic too!

5. Try new things – be eclectic and playful.

Keep reinventing yourself, dare to be different and get excited about something! Find music that makes you feel good. Burn a Happy CD for yourself to play when you need it. Try these three websites:, (Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor) and

6. Enjoy others for who they are.

Focus less on controlling and changing them to be what you want. Start now and forgive the past. Live in gratitude for what you have. Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some sort of battle. Variety is the spice of laughter too. Remember The Serenity Prayer “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

7. Laugh with other people, not at them, nor at their expense.

Laughter is contagious so start an epidemic! Be inclusive with humour. The only person you can safely laugh at is yourself. Be conscious of appropriate and helpful humour and eliminate non-appropriate or hurtful humour. Think carefully about the use of sarcasm. Teach children about this too as part of an antibullying program, They often don’t know the difference.

8. Eliminate Roadblocks to Fun Through Trust and Teamwork

Laughter & humour are part of the bigger picture of the Circle of Trust. Make trust a discussable topic!

9. Structure the fun at first and then it will become more spontaneous.

Employees must take responsibility and design the fun environment they want at work. Give people permission to laugh and have fun. Social activities help and time to have some fun! Ask for suggestions and have a Committee for Fun! Remember there are different humour personalities.

10. Live each day like it’s your last!

 My motto is Squeeze the Day! You never know when it will be your last. Show up fully present. Woody Allen used to say, “80% of success in life is just showing up!” 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Food for Thought: Reinforcement of our Principles for Learning

Dear all,

It was wonderful to see how quickly our community settled back to the rhythm of school and the energy and engagement that emanated from our classrooms. What a great start to our second semester.

This weeks food for thought is a TED talk that is a couple of years old and I re-watched recently. I wanted to share this talk because there is much to reflect upon in the story that Shimon Schocken tells that relates to our mission and vision; the pedagogy we use in our classrooms; our Principles for Learning; the mindset needed for success and education in general. There is something for all of us to think about and explore in this talk, so don't stop after the first 5 minutes because you aren't interested in building your own computer. Although even this concept of building meaningful understanding from the bottom up is fundamental for learning.

Have a good weekend,

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Dear all,

Hope you all had a wonderful vacation and are re-energized and ready for Semester 2. 

As promised, there were no food for thoughts during the vacation although there were moments when I had to restrain myself.

Thought that I might share a three part food for thought today to get you inspired for your return to school. Each part will take you between 3 and 10 minutes to read or view.

During the vacation I was re- reading Martin Seligman's book, Flourish, which has a great chapter about positive education. His work and the foundation of our mission regardiing our achievement culture and the use of choice words links very well with this article from Mindshift, What Believing in the Possibilities Can Do For Learning and Teaching (approximately a 10 minute read)

"This “open” placebo research is the realm of positive psychology, mindfulness, studies on kindness and so forth. That is, powerful, positive beliefs openly transmitted to others result in positive thinking, brighter attitudes, a greater sense of well-being and other indicators of a more alert, resilient, and balanced individual. While it’s difficult to track the corresponding brain changes, we can be sure that a student exhibiting these qualities is NOT in a flight or fight, stressful mode. Rather, the brain is freed to invent, solve and investigate."

This short video illustrates how empowered students can express themselves in very powerful ways. ( 4 minutes)

And last but not least. You might be wondering why during the vacation when you have more time to sleep that you feel more alert and energized to do more things. Here is a great TED ED video, The Benefits of a Good Nights Sleep, ( 6 minutes)  that I will share with parents and that you could share with students who stay up too late working or playing games.

All my best wishes to you all for a Happy and Healthy 2015,

Yours as always,