Teacher Dashboard Update

At the end of the month, Teacher Dashboard will transition to a new and improved version of itself. You can switch to the new version now, or wait until the change is automatic.

Here are the most important changes to keep in mind. 

  1. Update your bookmarks. You will log into Teacher Dashboard at a new URL
  2. You can now rename your classes so they are easier to identify.
  3. You can group your students and students can belong to multiple groups. This group structure can mirror groups within classes in Schoology.
  4. You can now share multiple documents at one time using Smart Copy, which is now called Smart Share. This button is also found along the left side of the screen rather than at the top left corner.
  5. You can now share documents with multiple classes or groups at one time.
  6. Teacher Dashboard will now generate a random string when resetting passwords. If you do not want to assign a random string of characters as a password, you can still type your own. Please remember not to reset passwords unless the student is requesting this in person, and always check the “reset password on login” box to help us maintain a secure environment.

I’ve created a video highlighting some of the new features. b  (GHS and GMS faculty groups) rather than here since so many student user names and full names are visible in the video.

If you have any questions, please let me know.

Feedback: Google, TD, and Schoology as Puzzle Pieces

It is funny how sometimes we have to go far away to hear what people nearby are saying. While I was in Ireland last month, I was sitting in a presentation and the following quote was on a slide:

Providing written feedback at the culmination of a writing product is like doing an autopsy. It’s deconstructing a dead document.

The quote was attributed to Samantha Morra (@sammorra on Twitter) who teaches in New Jersey. I usually do not take pictures of slides during presentations. I find that looking at the pictures later, out of context, is not very useful at all. But, in this case, I did hold up my phone and snap because feedback is something I discuss with teachers every single day. And, while this quote is specifically referring to writing, I believe it applies to all projects regardless of the medium or subject area.

When I work with teachers to plan projects, I discourage single due dates. I encourage teachers to break up projects into smaller parts of the process, each with a deadline and maybe even a grade. While we want students to be independent, we have to understand that they are children, students just developing those skills that allow them to be independent. These intermediate deadlines let teachers see where the final result is headed and help correct the course before it is too late to turn the cruise ship around. Of course, the frequency of the feedback and the size of each chunk in which teachers break down projects should be different at each grade level.

The best part of this idea is that we have the perfect collection of tools for students to share their work with us and for us to provide feedback.

Regardless of what your students are working on, the work can be shared with you using Google Drive. In the past, this was a cumbersome process. Now we have Teacher Dashboard that lets teachers access student work very easily without getting lost in piles and piles of shared documents. Once a student creates or uploads any file, teachers have access to observe and comment. While almost anything can be shared via Google Drive, the easiest way to give feedback from within Google is to type comments on the sides of documents.

In addition to these two tools, we also have Schoology. Instead of creating a single final assignment, teachers create multiple assignments in a folder, with the last one asking for the finished product to be turned in. Anything a student has in Google Drive can be turned in via Schoology. And inside Schoology, teachers can give feedback using text, annotations, voice recordings, and video.

Imagine a classroom full of students turning in a particular assignment to you. You write “Great work!” across the page of a bunch of papers. Or you draw a smiley face. Or you simply check boxes in a rubric. You could have done all these without really telling the students what you think of their work. Now imagine a classroom in which you record a ten second audio message telling the student something about their project. Those are not just words on a page. Students can tell you really liked their work, or not. And it takes no longer than typing or handwriting repetitive, mostly meaningless feedback.

As you see, there is a great area where Teacher Dashboard and Schoology overlap, but the tools are both necessary and useful. I have put together a handy cheat sheet outlining the differences and similarities between the two. Below is the portion related to feedback. If you would like the full sheet, I’ve made that available, too.

Now it is your turn to provide some feedback for me.

What do you think of these tools? What can I do to help you incorporate their use into your everyday teaching routine?

Ready, Set, Research!

Today and tomorrow I am working with Ms. Thomas and Ms. Samuel, 8th grade Language Arts teachers, helping them kick off their research unit. We are using Schoology, Google, and Wikipedia.

Yes, yes, I know. Google is making us stupid and Wikipedia can’t be trusted. If you say so…

I think these tools are indispensable in today’s world. They are only seen as bad by people who don’t want to take the time to educate kids on how to get the  most out of them. Wikipedia is the absolute best place to start any search. Articles are written in very accessible language and organized in ways that help students narrow down topics, formulate a research question, and get to the original location of the information by following the links at the bottom. Google has given us A Google a Day puzzles to help students hone their search term selection skills. With the appropriate guidance, students can learn lots about validating sources, something they miss when using a paid service such as GALE (does anyone still use GALE?).

Schoology is letting us curate student ideas using the discussion tool. It is also making the distribution of documents and links to students very, very easy. Using a folder with student completion requirements, students will race each other to solve selected A Google a Day puzzles to earn badges.

Of course, when we are done with this introductory phase, students will take notes and draft their papers using Google Docs, and using Teacher Dashboard, Ms. Thomas and Ms. Samuel will be able to give timely feedback and scaffold progress without killing any trees.

Teacher Dashboard SY 2014-15

Teacher Dashboard is Here!

This year, we once again are offering the Teacher Dashboard product for managing docs, sheets, and slides with Google Drive with students!

If you need a refresher or want to know more, check out this post I made last year covering the integration of TD and Google Drive.

This tool is now available and can be accessed at: http://teacherdashboard.appspot.com/glnd.k12.va.us. Once authenticated with your Google Account, you should see a “dashboard” with your classes, and within, your students.

If you encounter any issues, please inquire with your technology coach (ITRT). TD is only for managing Google Accounts and affects students in grades 3-12.

Teacher Dashboard and Schoology

One barrier for getting kids into Schoology was the reset of Google passwords. Now that TD is online, we can reset student passwords if needed. That means Schoology is now open for business, too! Schoology can be accessed via their mobile app or through http://goochland.schoology.com. We only recommend using this new tool with students if you’re daring and bold. We will be advertising training sessions next week on this new tool.

Again, if you encounter any anomalies, please let your technology coach know!

Maps Everywhere

I love maps. Now we have a new resource to find very, very cool maps of all kinds. Google has teamed with National Geographic, the US Geological Survey, World Bank, and many others to digitize and organize maps. More are being added every day. Check out the Google Maps Gallery and see for yourself.

Again, thousands and thousands of maps, all available to you, and all FREE!


Teacher Dashboard and Google Passwords

Earlier this month I blogged about passwords, the importance of having strong ones and keeping them safe. It is important for students to learn to manage passwords. The first step is learning to remember passwords.

School is a place to learn with a safety net, and right now we have a safety net that is pretty easy to use. Any teacher can access Teacher Dashboard and reset a student password. The question now becomes how often we want to do this. It is up to you, the classroom teacher, to decide how often you do this for students. If you don’t ever expect them to develop a skill and provide opportunities and incentives, do they learn?

This is a tutorial to help teachers reset passwords for students who forget their Google password.


Teacher Dashboard: Smart Copy

One of the best parts about Teacher Dashboard is its Smart Copy feature.

Hapara Teacher Dashboard – Smart Copy Wizard from Hapara Team on Vimeo.

In case you didn’t know, Teacher Dashboard is available for all teachers, grades 3-12, for managing Google Apps with your students. Support for Docs, Spreadsheets, Sites, and more. And at GHS, support for Student Blogs.

Let us know if we can help you get started!

Minecraft and Spatial Thinking

How long has SketchUp been around? My earliest blog post referencing SketchUp is from December 20, 2008, but I know it had been around for a long time before that. I enjoy working in SketchUp, and I have encouraged teachers to use it many times. I always warned teachers and students there would be a steep learning curve and an adjustment to working in three dimensions. Today, however, something clicked.

This morning I was working with students in Mrs. Kass’s Science class on creating zoo enclosures for endangered species. As I did last week in Ms. Curfman’s class, I started our SketchUp project by helping the students build a house. This is a great introduction to all the most commonly-used tools. In the past, I would have to spend a long time discussing what students were seeing on their screens, learning to use the orbit tool, zooming, etc. In Ms. Curfman’s and Mrs. Kass’s classes, the kids jumped right in and started working. Nobody was confused. Nobody ended up looking at their house from underground, trying to figure out how to get back to the top.


As the class was wrapping up and students were putting their computers away, one girl said to another, “It is like Minecraft, but you build with lines instead of blocks.”

There you have it. These kids can navigate virtual 3D spaces effortlessly. It is what they do in their spare time. If we make the most of this spatial thinking ability (see why it is important), if we apply it to creativity and problem-solving, I think we are going to see some interesting things.



By the way….I’m INSANE about the teacher dashboard.  The amount of info it gives you is incredible.  I don’t have to worry about logging in to a million different accounts when there is a question.  It’s so convenient.

Sometimes we find a good tool. Sometimes we find an insane tool. I’m very happy we have Hapara’s Teacher Dashboard, and if we judge by the above quote, so is Mrs. Abbott.

We have been using Google Docs for about four years now, but there has always been a high entry point for this tool. Teachers must feel comfortable organizing files in folders and tracking who is sharing what where. With Teacher Dashboard, all that becomes so easy you can get started in just a few minutes.

Head over to John Hendron’s blog and watch the video. Let me know if you would like my help. I know you are going to like this.

Teacher Dashboard is Here

This year we are introducing a new tool called Teacher Dashboard that will allow you to manage Google Apps for use with your students. This short 4-minute video gives you the best overview for how we plan to use TeacherDashboard.

Access our PD wiki sign up for a GoogleApps session to cover TeacherDashboard formally.

Access the TeacherDashboard here with your Google Account.

Google Apps is available this year with sites for students in grades 3-12. Blogger will be available to students at GHS. Student emails will be available soon, and from grades 3-8, student email will be limited to only other students and teachers here in the division.

New to Google Templates?

I’ve just created a short video detailing how to get started with Google Templates. They’re a way to create or find templates for use in Google as forms, spreadsheets, docs, and more. When you make your own, students can use them. Templates can be a digital worksheet, a research brief, or the start to a complex lesson using a spreadsheet. Just remember – each Google Doc experience doesn’t have to start with a blank page!


This morning I read an article on copyright laws in which the origin of the word “pirate” was discussed. I doubted the given etymology was correct, so I did what I do: Google.

To my surprise, instead of getting to my first choice for such searches, Google gave me the answer directly. Here is Google’s answer and my expected answer right below.

I immediately started trying other words.

Then I realized there was an arrow to expand the information. Look at all the cool stuff!

Definitions, historic data, options for translations, antonyms, synonyms, usage examples…

A word geek’s dream. A fun way to learn.

I hope teachers make good use of this.


On Using Google Forms

One of the most useful of Google’s free “Apps” is Google Forms. They’re a great way to collect information – from the public – but also students, staff, and any stakeholder in between. This past year, Google has changed the way Forms works and looks, and this guide is an excellent resource if you’ve been intimidated by creating forms, or want good instructions on how to create forms using the new interface.

Leading Through Example

I’ve always believed that we can each lead through the choices we make. And those in leadership positions, whether they like it or not, are viewed especially by the choices they make. This came to light yesterday during a conversation during the audit of our Google Apps for Education Audit (GAFE).


The audit told us a lot about how we use Google Apps in our division. We learned who the biggest Google Docs user is (ahem, it was me), and who used up the most storage (hmm, Peter!). But that was really just trivia. We saw interesting things when you looked at things a different way. As it turns out, and our consultants echoed this for us, when building administrators embrace the tool and use it, teachers tend to follow.

It takes bravery to try and adopt a new tool. At first, I myself had a hard time launching a browser instead of a Word or Pages icon in the dock. But I’ve now been living so much in the “Google ecosystem” with cloud-based doc creation, that it simply has become habit. I know if I’m going to share something with someone, I now start “in the cloud.” And the think is, I like it now. I’ve always been in love with desktop applications — but I’ve come to realize the trade-offs are worth it, when you have the power of collaboration as the biggest feature. Part of this has been shown to me working through my doctoral program with colleagues from Henrico. Just last night we edited over 50 pages together in a Google Hangout using Google Drive. At one point I had to sit back and take stock, I could see and hear my colleagues in real time, and we were all editing the same documents simultaneously.

Our teachers in grades 3-5 at GES this year will be adopting new tools and pedagogies. I’m their biggest fans right now, and think they’re going to accomplish great things with our iPad initiative. I know Google Apps will be one of the tools they’ll come to rely upon. They’ll be leading with the choice of tools they adopt with kids.

I’d like to remind my colleagues wide, near, and far, that the simple choices you make can have an effect on what happens in a classroom. Things as simple as the choices of tools we use can inspire a teacher to use the same ones. And the effect can be a profound difference when it comes to the impact on instruction. Writing in Word and writing collaboratively in a Google Doc aren’t the same thing. It takes courage to make the change I am optimistic we can do it together.

Interactive Google Earth

This afternoon I’m leading a session on using Google Earth with kids–and making it interactive! We’ll look at building content within Google Earth, Google Lit Trips as one example, and even brainstorm more.

The file available for download is my Keynote presentation and a PDF version all zipped into one. Links are embedded in both for exploring even more resources online.

Revisiting Google Earth

We have two Google Earth classes this winter/spring and I’m always amazed to learn more teachers aren’t using this tool!

It’s great for:

  • hands-on map skills,
  • elementary social studies standards (latitude, longitude, continents, bodies of water, regions, etc.),
  • distance, units, measurement,
  • history (historical maps, placeholders),
  • place and location in literature (Google Lit Trips),
  • change over time (satellite history),
  • solar system (moon, mars, etc.),
  • weather systems,
  • all the third-party content (photos, articles, embedded videos, etc.),
  • science (environment, oceans, research)

I’ve made a 11-ish minute video on just getting your feet wet with Google Earth. I hope if you have never tried it, it won’t scare you away. For me personally, Google Earth is a lot of fun to play with and to explore our planet with, and I think it would be that way for any curious student!

So where to begin after you start to play? We’ve compiled a great list of online resources both for learning what more you can do with Google Earth, and how you can use it at a variety of grade levels and in a variety of subject areas.

I hope you’ll join us at one of our sessions soon – on January 31, 2013 at GES with Krystle Demas and on March 13th with me, location TBD!

From Paper to Pixels

Today am spending my morning in Mrs. Abbott’s room to help answer questions about what will be going on in that room for the rest of the year. Mrs. Abbott’s room has been designated as a 21st Century Classroom, and we will have fifteen MacBooks and fifteen iPads permanently housed there. Rather than relying on paper, students will have access to everything digital. We will use Moodle, Google Apps, Edmodo, and many other tools. Students will have access to much more than any textbook could ever hope to hold within its pages, and their projects will reflect this. At the end of the day, I will be in Mrs. Yearout-Patton’s room with a guest speaker. Carolyn Skibba, a friend who teaches in Chicago, will join our Government students to discuss the teacher strike. Again, we are moving away from what a textbook might say about unions and contract negotiations to hearing it first-hand from a stakeholder in a real-life situation. I hope the students enjoy their conversation and get all their questions answered. I guess this post will require an update at the end of the day.


Moodle and Google Update

Yes, I know. Once in a while I have to post really boring stuff here.

The Moodle accounts have been updated. All students who were enrolled as of August 24, 2012, should have accounts in Moodle. Any students enrolled since then will need to be added manually. If you run across any new student, send me an email message with their first name (real, not nickname) and their last name, their student number, and grade level. 

If any student is having problems logging in, make sure they are at the right place and using the right credentials.

Google accounts will be updated by the end of the week. Students new to the county and new to 6th grade do not have accounts yet. 

To log in to Google, students should go to http://docs.goochlandschools. org. To log in to Moodle, students should go to http://io.glnd.k12.va.us. Please notice there are no www in either of those.

Student credentials all follow the same convention as my example below. If I were a senior at GHS, and my student number were 12345,  my user name and password would be as follows:

Username: beatrizcantor2013

Password: gcps12345

Notice I used my full first name, used no capitalization, and left no spaces.

Other things to keep in mind:

  • If you have created documents or forms on the teacher side of Google (http://docs.glnd.k12.va.us) you can only share them with students if you make them publicly available on the web and do not require users to be logged in to view it.
  • All apostrophes have been removed from names. If a student’s name is Patrick O’Henry, his username will be patrickohenry.
  • All Jr. and other suffixes indicating multiple generations of the same name have also been removed from usernames.
  • Students with hyphenated last names will have their hyphenated last names in their username, with a hyphen.
  • Please remind students to always use their own credentials, no sharing, and to log out of any account left logged in by a previous computer user. It is good digital citizenship.

I’d like to thank all of you for your patience while I got this done. Please email, iChat, or stop by my office if you have any questions.


Master Googler

Everything is in Google if you know how to find it. That last bit is the important one. Do you know how to find everything in Google?

Now is your chance to learn.

Registration is open for the Power Searching with Google online course. In six 50-minute sessions, you can learn all the tricks from Dan Russell (blog). You will even get a certificate. Cool, huh?

I think I’m pretty good at finding things, and have learned a lot from playing the daily Google search puzzle. I still would love to take the class, but will be traveling during the days the course will be live.

It would be great if Google could offer this again during the school year. I know a few teachers who’d find a way to incorporate this into their syllabus.