Tag Archives: Google Docs

Setting behavioral expectations in a makerspace


2 ways to bring in transferable skills

makerspaces and project-based learningMakerspaces are amazing. They’re a big carnival of lights and sounds and glue and lasers, arduinos, controllers and 3D, oh my. They’re a beloved opportunity for students to get hands-on with their learning, a place where they can get up out of theirs seats and go make all the wondrous machines and capers in their imaginations come to life.

And that makes them both shiny possibilities and potential pitfalls.

Just like the proverbial kid in a candy store, students in a makerspace need guidance and boundaries, so no one gives themselves an upset stomach from eating all the papercrafts.

(You know what I mean).

Giving students boundaries and setting up behavioral expectations for using the makerspace not only keeps students safe, it empowers them in developing self-direction and agency. So here are two strategies I’ve seen work in setting behavioral expectations in a makerspace.

1. Project Roles

Group work can feel a little awkward in the middle grades, as everyone brims with ideas but no one knows what exactly to do with their hands. Introducing roles for project work gives students specific direction for how to contribute effectively.

One educator I know created specific well-defined roles for groups as they undertook project-based learning. There were roles such as:

  • Project Lead
  • Note-taker
  • Norms-checker
  • Documentary Filmmaker

The responsibilities of each role were clearly laid out in rubrics made available via Google Docs. And each time a new project began, students were encouraged to take on a different role from their previous one.

But even before determining project roles:

I would have the class come up with a list of guidelines they should follow when working collaboratively, as well as some behavior expectation regarding working in the makerspace.

setting behavioral expectations in a makerspace

More about Team Roles

Here’s a Padlet Proctor Elementary School’s Courtney Smith created regarding the team roles. Sometimes there are groups of just three, but I wouldn’t do more than four per group though. This one has four roles, but I think that Task Manager and Recorder/Reporter can be combined.

Made with Padlet


2. Project Planning & Review

Another educator produced project planning documents that students filled out before jumping into the hands-on portion of making. Students wrote about:

  • what they hoped to build;
  • which materials they needed;
  • the steps they were planning to take, and
  • how they would know their project was successful.

The planning rubrics were again given to students as Google Docs, and they turned their finished drafts in to the educator as part of their Google Classroom work. The educator, in turn, reviewed each plan and provided valuable feedback, as well as encouraging students to examine additional considerations. As students worked through the making process, they had that planning rubric — a type of contract between maker and educator — to refer to for guidance.

This approach had the added bonus of giving students who had completed a round of projects the opportunity to provide guidance to new makers, based on their experience.

Check out this document for how we approached the first couple of days with 7th and 8th graders in a Genius block.

setting behavioral expectations in a makerspace


How have you set behavioral expectations in your makerspace?

Laying the groundwork for effective teaching teams

Or, What to Bring to the First Staff Potluck

#everydaycourageOpening up to fellow educators can be hard. We all know we’re doing the best we can, but many of us also feel like we could be doing better for our students. We want to do the best we can and sometimes we get terrified that it’s not enough. What if none of the other teachers feel this way?

Except: they do.

And that’s why it’s important to be brave enough to connect with the other teachers on your team, to really get to know them as people — and to let them get to know you in return. They can be some of your most important resources during the school year.

Continue reading Laying the groundwork for effective teaching teams

How to use Google Docs so students talk to you

Using technology to help build relationships

[Editorial Note: We originally ran this post back in 2014, but have updated it for today’s unique and challenging remote learning situation. Let us know how things are going! We’re incredibly proud of all of #vted for putting students first during this momentous shift.]

Laura Botte, 6th grade math educator at Edmunds Middle School, in Burlington VT, shared with us how she’s been using Google Docs to encourage her students to open up about what’s going on in their lives, and how that affects their ability to be present in the classroom. This is how you can use Google Docs so students talk to you.

Continue reading How to use Google Docs so students talk to you

Using digital tools to change student goal-setting and reflection

Measuring how students approach goal-setting in the 5th and 6th grades

Google Tools for personal learning plans


Educators at Wallingford Elementary School and Shrewsbury Mountain School, in central Vermont, undertook an action research project measuring how their use of digital tools — specifically Google Docs, Forms and Sites — changed how middle grades students approached setting goals and reflecting on their achievements.

Both schools are 1:1 with MacBooks.

Continue reading Using digital tools to change student goal-setting and reflection

Google Tools for personal learning plans (PLPs)

A teacher-authored case study

Google Tools for personal learning plansToday we hear from a grade 5-6 team venturing into the world of personal learning plans (PLPs) using Google Tools.

Jared Bailey, math teacher, and Joy Peterson, English Language Arts teacher, provide concrete details on how they rolled out PLPs this year, including links to such resources as graphic organizers that they used for goal setting and an assignment (including rubric) on identity.

Continue reading Google Tools for personal learning plans (PLPs)

Exploring digital citizenship as a form of literacy

7th graders learn video as reflection tool

digital citizenship and students onlineWhen I sat down to work with my students on digital citizenship and literacy, I wanted to do something different. These are 7th graders coming from lots of different schools, different levels of understanding, different exposure to the concepts of digital citizenship and I was trying to think of some way to have them understand digital citizenship as something more than no online bullying and no plagiarism. They’ve heard that before.

I wanted to really get them to see how digital citizenship was part of their everyday lives – now – and to make them want to delve into it.

Continue reading Exploring digital citizenship as a form of literacy

O is for Online Collaboration

Online collaboration extends student learning networks

online collaboration extends student learning networksOnline collaboration takes on new significance as students extend their learning network in conjunction with more personalized and meaningful learning: they can use online networks to learn with mentors, with community partners, remote collaborators and with asynchronous and synchronous group work.

Continue reading O is for Online Collaboration

Technology in the math classroom

technology in the classroom
A 1958 illustration of “the push-button classroom” by Radebaugh. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

When we first started our work with the Tarrant Institute I was hesitant. I am a math teacher; unless using innovative technology in the classroom means a graphing calculator I had no idea where to start. Everything was new to me, and I have to admit, I was overwhelmed and intimidated by the prospect of how I could embrace technology in my room.

With the support of Tarrant and our technology specialist I took baby steps.

Continue reading Technology in the math classroom

#1minutehowto: Use EasyBib to create a GoogleDoc bibliography

Why We Like This

This is Amy Gibson’s fabulous (and brief!) tutorial video about the EasyBib Google Docs Add-On, which lets you easily create a works-cited page for any Google Doc. Now, I could’ve simply linked you all to her video and added a bunch of exclamation marks, but I wanted to point out a couple things I really like about this particular tutorial:

I’m going to tell you a secret: I have a teeny little attention span. I get easily distracted by Twitter, Pinterest, my dogs, stray gusts of wind, etc. And it’s way more engaging to watch a gesturing cartoon character narrate a screencast than a disembodied voice. Also, with a background that’s relatively fixed and um, un-dynamic, shall we say, the Tellagami provides a visual focus that makes everything more fun to look at.


  • Addressing the human element in evaluating a credible internet source

EasyBib is indeed an easy way to locate, capture and format your online works cited, but Gibson mentions the all-important Check Your Source factor. Do not trust the internet. Check out what you’re citing, in case octopi don’t actually live in trees, and there’s not really an island sanctuary ruled by dogs.


Too many times when I’m watching tutorial videos do I find myself squinting at a GIANT desktop with an itty-bitty activity area. Or worse yet, the narrator will simply say “over there to the right” and I’ll squint in vain for where I’m supposed to follow along. I am old, people. Old and half-blind. Do me and all your other viewers a favor and use Skitch or Notability to add large, brightly colored arrows to your screencasts.

All in all, a terrific tutorial, but also a great example of how to create an engaging tutorial video. (And can you say “app-smash”? I can, and do. Often. App-smash!)

I’d love to see some folks try this with their students. Any takers?

Essays on Rube Goldberg: capturing the scientific process with iPads

A tale of how physics can be successfully essayed on.

How one class of 8th grade scientists at Harwood Union Middle School used Google Docs, Schoology, and iPads to capture long-form essays about Rube Goldberg. Featuring everyone’s favorite tech-tastic science educator, Brian Wagner. As HUMS principal Amy Rex commented, “Exemplar teaching and learning — narrow the field and provide rapid feedback :)”

How to: add voice, text and video comments to student Google Docs



Brought to you by the inimitable Susan Hennessey, who shows here how you can use the Chrome browser extension Kaizena to add record voice comments and link students to video resources on a sample writing assignment. Best part: you can assemble a library of video resources and shoot out your favorites over and over.

Anyone been looking for something along these lines?