Monday, December 17, 2012

Color Code Your Data in Google Sheets

Ever have a need to color code your data in Google Sheets?

Here's an easy trick.

1. In Google Spreadsheet, go to the column you want to analyze.
2. Click on the drop-down menu to pull up the choices shown below and select "Conditional formatting."

3. A new window will pop up.

4. Create your rules.

Back in your spreadsheet, you'll see the data displayed in the colors you want.  

This is especially helpful if you have students fill out Google Forms and want to analyze the information they submit.  I use this trick when I ask students to evaluate each other, and I want to color-code their rating.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Enticing Students to Becoming the Leaders of the Class

This year, I decided that my students needed to learn how to moderate as well as participate in our online activities.  After all, students love power!  So I decided to post job openings for positions such as blog and discussion thread moderator as well as peer editors and tutors.

First, I created a Google Form to entice them.  Then, I explained how these are privileged and well-sought after positions.  Soon, students were furiously typing on their iPads, wanting to be the first to apply.

These were the responses I received:

"I'm a worthy candidate for this job because I'm a good teacher and I'm patient. I can explain situations, problems, and questions well. If you're looking for someone who can work well with others, then you've found her!"

"I want this job because I am completely against inappropriateness and don't like blogs that don't have to do with learning, I pay attention to detail really good, and I know a lot of people in this class and in other classes. PLEASE PICK ME!!!"

All great reasons, but this one might be one of my favorites:  "I am suited for this job because I am good at telling people what to do."

My kids are so awesome!  But after I stopped laughing, I realized the hard part, how many out of the 45 people who applied should I pick?

Do you offer leadership positions in your class?  If so, please share what they are in the comments below.

Monday, May 28, 2012

For the Love of Blogging

Written by a shy student who never raised her hand
in class.  Only I knew how brilliant she was...
until she started blogging.
In the fall of 2011, I introduced my students to blogging for the first time.  It has enabled my writers to discover their voice and uncover a true love of writing. One student wrote, “You gave us wings and taught us to fly, letting us find out for ourselves that the sky really is the limit.”

A blog may be a reflection at the end of a unit of study, a theme piece that introduces an upcoming lesson, or a poetry vlog that feature their own poems in a movie slideshow with music. In addition, many students are motivated to write topics dear to their heart like the one titled “Computers, Konglish, and My American Dream,” in which the writer recounts a story of when she taught her immigrant grandmother how to use the Internet. During her piece, she comes to an epiphany about her heritage and her relationship with her grandmother. Another student wrote a review on the show “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” and comes to the conclusion that the show “is a refreshing new take on the original concept.”

Our blog readers hailed from many parts of the world. My students regularly look forward to reading comments left for them by our visitors, and they swell with pride at all the praise they have received. As for me, I am as excited as my students. I am awed by how reflective, mature, and intellectual their posts have become.

I believe one of the most important outcomes from blogging is that my students have found a creative outlet where they could express themselves, challenge their writing skills, and build their self-esteem. It is my hope that they will continue to blog even after they leave my classroom.

I use as our blogging platform because it is very safe and secure for students. It gives teachers as much administrative control as they wish. Teachers can decide if their students' posts and/or comments need to be approval before they are published. Alternatively, teachers can configure all posts and comments to publish without being moderated. This is a feature that many parents appreciate since some are concerned about their child's privacy and safety. Setting up a class is also a breeze. Students can easily enroll by using a code or teachers can create student accounts themselves.

My students blog regularly throughout the year. Their blogs feature a variety of topics, some of which are assigned by me and some of which are chosen by the student. Students submit their blogs for credit via a Google Form. I find this to be the easiest and most efficient way to read their work. The key is for students to copy and paste their exact post into a Google Form. (See image on the right.) They submit five posts at a time. This way, I can read all of the posts in one place, on a Google Spreadsheet. (If you're feeling geeky, you can use data validation to require a minimum word count on blog posts, too.)

To drive readership to your students' blogs, consider joining, soliciting other teachers with the Twitter hashtag #comments4kids, #kidblog, or reaching out to your PLN on social media.

If you are interested in forming a blogging partnership with me, please contact me.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Using An Email Alias to Receive Student Work

Have you ever asked students to email their work to you and all it does is create a big mess in your inbox?  If you don't use a Learning Management System, then one way to organize incoming assignments is to use an email alias.  Both Gmail and Hotmail have this capability.

Gmail Users
Here's a synopsis from the Gmail help page:  "Gmail doesn't offer traditional aliases, but you can receive messages sent to You can set up filters to automatically direct these messages to Trash, apply a label or star, skip the inbox, or forward to another email account."

For teachers, this means you can filter student emails by period.  For example, your Period 1 students can send their work to while your Period 2 students can send their work to msjosiebruin+period

You can use up to 30 Gmail aliases, so use them wisely.

If you don't know how to create a filter, visit this Gmail Help Page.

Hotmail Users
One nice feature of using a Hotmail alias is that your alias can be vastly different from your username.  Maybe your email address is, but your alias is ""  You can send out email using your alias without ever giving away your real email address.  You also can't log into Hotmail with your alias, so that can be an additional layer of security for some.

Hotmail allows a total of 15 email aliases, but you are limited to creating only 5 per year.  To get started on creating a Hotmail alias, click here.

Monday, March 19, 2012

How iPads Transformed My Classroom in 20 Days

Last fall, my school deployed a cart of iPads to be shared amongst 51 teachers and approximately 1500 students.  I’ve always loved teaching with technology and have always dreamed of going 1:1 with my students.  So though I long to sign up for the cart every day, I usually wait until the last minute to give others a chance before claiming it for myself.  

Our iPads are not fully loaded with apps, and since our school hasn't set up an Apple Volume Purchase Program account yet, I make do with what few free apps we have.

So far, I've been able to clock 20 days of iPad use in my English Language Arts class.  How have I been using them?  These are the apps and activities I've used with my students.

1.  Students used a sticky note or mind mapping app for character analysis.  Students could choose from ABC Lite, PoppletLite, iBrainstorm, iCardSort Lite (there used to be a free version), Stickyboard, Idea Sketch, Mindjet, and SyncSpace.

2.  Students used to ask questions and to vote for the most thought-provoking ones.  They can also answer each other’s questions.  Additionally, was used to brainstorm different thesis statements for their upcoming essay.  GoSoapBox events were set up for each thesis, and students had to join an event to submit their supporting evidence.  Lastly, they critiqued each other’s contributions and had an opportunity to defend their choices if their quotes were deemed irrelevant.

3.  Students used Edmodo to join or start a literary discussion on our current text.  Soon, they were initiating discussions on their own at home without waiting for me to assign a topic.  (Update:  In the fall of 2012, I switched to Schoology and never looked back.  Read my blog on my experience with various learning management systems, and why I chose Schoology over all the rest.)

4.  My students used Kidblog to write app reviews, reflect on their readings, and explore intellectual topics.  A number of them ended up writing more than double the amount of blogs assigned.  These became my distinguished bloggers, and I had the class vote for the coveted title of “Blogger of the Month.”  I plan on awarding this title once a month.

5.  Students also used Nebulous Notes Lite to write responses to the literature we were reading.  The integration with Dropbox was an added plus since students could just upload their files to Dropbox.  Because I set up a shared folder on the iPad, everything they put in that folder would just instantly show up on my laptop or iPad.

6.  Students also used Dropbox on the iPad to follow my presentation slides, access handouts I created, and read speeches and poetry.  If my district’s network didn’t have such a rigid firewall, I could’ve also used Idea Flight or Join Me for this purpose, but alas, I couldn’t.  (Update, the Nearpod app is a great way for students to follow along a presentation. You can also add quizzes, polls, and drawings to elicit active participation.)

7.  I used GoogleForms to ask questions for anything I wanted to know, such as their daily technology use, their choice for “Blogger of the Month, how they felt about using iPads in the classroom, etc.  I called it the “Student Pulse.”  It’s a great way to know what they think about anything relevant to their learning.

8.  My students used Socrative to take quizzes, polls, or answer questions.  The “Exit Ticket” feature is great, and you can get a spreadsheet of their responses emailed to you.  Plus, you can randomize the questions on a quiz!

These are just a handful of activities I’ve had the opportunity to try with my students.  Like I said, without the AVPP account set up, our app collection is a bit sparse right now.  However, I feel that my students have accomplished a lot in just 20 days.

Imagine what they can do if we could use iPads every day.

Right now it’s just a dream of mine.  But I hope to make that into a reality soon.

Update:  As of the 2012-2013 school year, I began teaching in a 1:1 iPad classroom.  Dreams do come true in schools after all.