Archive for the ‘Google’ Category

If you read the first Totally Awesome Things to do with Spreadsheets in the Classroom post, you’ll know that I’m a little obsessed with spreadsheets right now becaflat-28205_150use I made the lowest grade of my life on a recent grad school assignment involving spreadsheets.

As I do more research, I’m beginning to see how versatile spreadsheets can be, and how, as teachers, it would be very beneficial to our students to use them in regular classroom activities.  By using formulas, students are able to show their procedural knowledge.  Through database creation, students are taken through the research process and can then use sorting and filtering to find what they need quickly.  Spreadsheets have the ability to instantly take data that we have input and create charts and graphs, which will help students understand how information can be shared visually.  Even young students can use spreadsheets!  Go ahead and set up your input columns and headings, and insert a chart.  As students (either individually or as a class) enter data that they’ve collected, the charts are automatically updated!  How cool!  Continue reading below for some specific activities and links that incorporate spreadsheets into classroom activities.  I have included two activities for elementary, middle, and high school.  Read what applies to you, or read all of them and adapt the activities to your needs!

Elementary School

Create timelines:  To help students get used to typing in boxes (cells) rather than straight across a line, using spreadsheets to create timelines is a great activity.  In the lower grades, I’d go ahead and have a template set up, but in the upper elementary, I’d let the kids play around with setting borders around boxes, hiding rows and columns that they don’t need after they’ve sent up their timeline, etc.  Here’s a sample timeline template for you to use (Google Spreadsheet).

Making Decisions:  Before having your students  collect or input data, go ahead and set up the spreadsheet and charts like I said before.  Set up several different spreadsheets for the same data, but have each spreadsheet generate a different chart.  In groups, have students input the same data and examine the charts.  As a class, discuss what each chart shows and then decide which chart was the best for displaying the data.  You’ll want them to recognize that line graphs are best for showing change over time, bar charts are best for showing comparisons, and pie charts are best for showing percentages or parts of a whole.  Although I listed this under elementary, this would be a great activity for middle and high school as well since you’ll be asking the students to justify their decisions.

Middle School

Exploring Weight and Age on Other Planets:  In small groups, have students research how our weight and age are different on other planets.  Set up a shared spreadsheet (Google), and have the students set the formulas for what age and weight would be on other planets.  Some students may not feel comfortable putting in their actual weight, so you could set the fill color to the same color as the text to “hide” their original weight.  Have students draw conclusions about effects of planet mass and diameter on gravity and weight, and rotation and revolution periods on age.  As a challenge, you could have students try to write the formulas for comparing weight and age on planets not starting with their Earth weight and age.  I did this activity one year with my third graders, but I had already set up the template.  They loved seeing how their weight changed on the various planets.  BTW, Pluto was still a planet then. 🙂  Speaking of, here’s a sample template that you could use.  I used the information from this article from, and this website to help set up the template.

Budget Planning:  Financial literacy is becoming more and more important for our students.  If you’ve read the About Me page, you’ll know that my husband and I are working Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps to financial freedom.  We are always saying, “I wish I knew this before I graduated high school!”  I love scenario-based learning, and if I were a middle or high school teacher, I’d definitely have my students go through the scenario of planning a budget based on a specific set of criteria (monthly take home salary, cell phone bill, cable bill, groceries, car payment, house payment/rent, utilities, etc.).  Having students set up a simple spreadsheet where they can set up a subtraction formula would be a great way to show them how quickly money can disappear each month.  Challenge them to make decisions about sacrifices they may have to make.  Ask questions like, “How would you budget be different if you were supporting kids?”, “Last month, your spouse lost their job, so now your monthly budget is __________.  What adjustments are you going to have to make?”  You can find budget templates all over the Internet, but in middle and high school, I’d definitely have the students set up the spreadsheets themselves.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy.  Here’s a blank template of the one my husband and I use each month.

High School

What is Average?  Read the short story, Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut, with your students.  It’s about a dystopian society where people are forced to wear “handicaps” in order for everyone to be equal.  AWESOME story.  You can even register at and get a free DVD of 2081, the movie version of this story.  Have students brainstorm various characteristics that they’d like to find the “average” for in their classroom.  Some characteristics could include height, weight, a rank for mental ability, a rank for athletic ability, etc.  Create a class spreadsheet with each student’s data, then use the AVERAGE formula, filtering, and sorting to find a class “average” of each characteristic.  Discuss what handicaps would be necessary for certain students/characteristics.  Have students create an illustration of themselves with their handicaps.

Doctors as Detectives:  This lesson activity was actually created by the Learning Times people at the New York Times.  In the activity, students read an article from the Times about how doctors sometimes serve as detectives when it comes to infectious diseases.  Students then research a particular disease and input data about it into a shared database (Google spreadsheet).  Here’s a spreadsheet template with the fields recommended by the lesson developers.  After students have filled in their database information, they write a short story like they are a patient suffering from the disease they researched.  They’ll swap stories with a partner, and then the students will have to use the information in the database to try to diagnose their partner.  Here is a link to the lesson plan.  This one really sounds like fun!

I hope that some of these activities and spreadsheet templates are useful to you in some way.  I also am hopeful that some of these activities gave you ideas of your own about how you can utilize spreadsheets in your classroom.  If so, please share those ideas with us in the comments below.  Thanks so much for reading!

Since last January (2013), I’ve been working on an add-on for my teaching license that will qualify me for my current position as an Instructional Technology Specialist/Facilitator.  This spring I had one assignment in my current class that gave me quite a bit of trouble.  In fact, I made the lowest grade I’ve ever made on that assignment…I mean EVER! It’s all good though, I still have an A. 🙂  Anywho, the assignment was on the use of spreadsheets in the classroom.

In the past, I’ve used spreadsheets to create basic gradebooks, budgets, and lesson plan templates, but I’ve never really thought about using them with the students.  I’m the kind of person that I’m not not going to know something for long, so when I recovered from the shock of my grade, I became determined to learn more about spreadsheets in the classroom.  Holy cow, have I been missing out!

Tammy Worcester Tang is using Google Spreadsheets in some really incredible ways.  You definitely have to check out the Google Stuff page on her website.  A couple of her awesomely creative ideas include:

    • coloring lines and resizing rows and columns to create index cards, notebook pages, and journals.  Since a spreadsheet can have multiple tabs, those are great ways of creating study aids and digital notebooks for your students. Here’s an image of an index card I created. spreadsheet_indexcard
    • use “if/then” statements to create “Guess and Check” activities for your students.  Hide the actual answer in cell A1 and set the background color to the text color.  The correct formula for an “if/then” statement is: =IF(what you’re testing, “true value”, “false value”).  In the example below, I asked the question “How old is Mrs. Boucher?”  I had three formulas that I used: =IF(C6>A1, “Too High”, ” “), =If(C6=A1, “Correct!”, ” “), and =IF(C6<A1, “Too Low”, ” “).

Some other ideas that I’ve found through my research are:

  • Creating math review for basic facts or finding the average of a set of data using a spreadsheet.  Print them out and have your students complete them.  Show students how to use the basic formulas for addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and average.  Have a computer station set up where students can input the formulas and check their answers.  By putting in the formulas, they’re cementing their procedural knowledge.
  • Have students collect data on the latest tablets or other desirable electronic devices.  Record the prices for each and have them use the MIN and MAX formulas to identify which one costs the most/least.
  • Have students research different summer jobs that are available in your area.  Input the data and use the MIN and MAX formulas to determine which are the best jobs.  You could go a step further and use charts to compare pay per hour for the jobs to see which jobs offer the most money for the least amount of hours.
  • Have students create databases using spreadsheets, then teach them to sort and filter to find the information that they need.

I always stayed away from spreadsheets in the classroom because I really didn’t understand how they worked.  As I continue to research and find more classroom activities that even the youngest students can do, I’m getting more excited about them.  Have you creatively used Spreadsheets with your students?  If so, how?  Please share your ideas and experiences in the comments below.

tellagami Tellagami (free)

Everyone has a story to tell, and with this app, stories are called “gamis”.  That’s why the app is called Tellagami…you create an avatar, and then tell your gami.  Get it?! 🙂  I LOVE this app for its simplicity.  Users create an avatar by choosing the gender, skin color, eye color, hair color, clothes, and facial expressions.  There are default backgrounds, or you can upload your own.  Users can then place their avatar anywhere on the screen, then just hit record.  You can either type what you want the avatar to say, or you can record your voice.  Each gami can last up to 30 seconds, but if you want a longer story, you can use YouTube’s video editing tools to put them together into one video (check back next week on Thursday for a post about YouTube editing tools).  Here’s a gami I created advertising a local Tech Express session.

1_click_timer1-Click Timer

This Chrome Extension is super easy to use and perfect for the classroom.  When you click on the icon in your tool bar beside the omnibox (formerly known as the address bar), the timer will appear.  Simply click the time that you want it to begin counting down from, and it will starts automatically.  When you click outside the timer, it disappears, but you’ll still have a small countdown on your toolbar.  What I really like about this extension is that when time is up, you don’t get this annoying buzzer that scares the crap out of everyone.  A nice acoustic guitar riff plays alerting you and your students that time is up.



This Chrome app was formerly known as Edcanvas.  I’ve just discovered this one, and I’ve already begun sharing it with teachers in my district.  Blendspace allows you to organize all of your links and documents onto a “canvas” or “space” so that your students can have instant access to all lesson documents in one place.  This app really appeals to me because my district is a Google Apps for Education district, and you can also bring in documents from your Google Drive.  In fact, you can sign in automatically with your Google account.  I recently used this tool during a training on Rigor and Relevance by curating various news headlines.  Teachers were able to click on the headlines that appealed to them, as well as see all the resources available at a glance.  Here’s my Blendspace I used for that training:

Please let us know how you’re planning to use these tools, or your experiences with them in the comments section below.  If you have any tools you’d like to see featured on TechToolThursdays, feel free to suggest them below.

When I was young, I knew that I would be a teacher.  In high school, I began collecting items that I knew  would use in my classroom.  By the time I walked into my classroom in 2006 I had an amazing classroom library and a completely awesome set of stickers ready to go on those papers that I was going to love grading.  Well, my love affair with grading papers lasted about a month; after that it was just a pain.  At that point I didn’t have a SMART Board, I didn’t have clickers, and we didn’t have Google Apps for Education.

There are many things that I love about Google apps like Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentations, etc.  The two things I love the most about Google docs is the ability to collaborate with others in real time and the ability to use a Google Form to create digital assessments and surveys.  To learn how to create a Google Form to collect assessment data, watch the short tutorial video below.

I love using Google Forms to collect assessment data because all of the responses are loaded into a Google Spreadsheet.  This allows you, the teacher, to analyze the data in one place and even begin to manipulate the data.  Within the spreadsheet, under “Form”, you can choose to view a summary of responses, and based on the type of questions you may even be able to get a graph of responses.  Like other spreadsheet software, you can also filter, sort, and rearrange the data if you need to.

Not long after I began creating assessments using Google Forms (my students LOVED taking the tests on the computers), I heard about a script that will grade your assessments for you.  Obviously, if you use open ended questions, it can’t grade that.  I have a different solution to that problem that I’ll describe a little later in this post.  The script that will grade your assessment is called Flubaroo.  Watch the video below to see how easy it is grade an assessment with Flubaroo.

But, Lauren, that doesn’t grade essay type questions…Well, no it doesn’t.  However, you can use a tool called conditional formatting to let you know which questions you may need to spend more time reading and which ones you can just skim.  When writing your essay or constructed response questions, be very specific in your wording.  You might say, “Using vocabulary that you’ve learned in class…,” or “Using people’s names, describe…”.  This will allow you to color code those responses by whether or not they include those specific words or names.  If you set up your conditional formatting to look for your vocabulary words and a cell is highlighted green (you choose the colors), that will tell you that that student used vocabulary words so you may be able to skim that response rather than read it word for word.  If the cell highlights red, you know that that student may lose some points because he/she didn’t follow directions, but you’d have to read it more carefully to determine if they understand the concept.  Interested in conditional formatting?  What this short tutorial video.

Want to know more about alternatives to clickers for digital assessments?  Check out these other posts on the topic.

Extreme Collaboration



For my first Tech Tool Thursday, I’m sharing with you three tools that I share the most often with teachers in my district.  They are Educreations (tablet app), URL Shortener, and Lucid Chart.  Continue reading for screenshots, how-to’s, and implementation ideas!  By the way, these are all FREE!  If you need a reminder of how to add Chrome apps and extensions, be sure to revisit my initial Tech Tool Thursday post.

educreationsEducreations (iOS only)

Educreations is a simple whiteboard app that allows you to insert images, write or type text, and record your voice.  I love Educreations because you’re no limited to only one page, and as you record your voice and move to the next page, the app automatically pauses the recording.  You have the option to bring in pictures from your Camera Roll, to snap a picture within the app, import from your Dropbox account, or you can search the web from directly within the app.  Since each video generates a link and embed code, you can include them on your class website.  I have had teachers use this app to deliver spelling tests and flip lessons.   A fourth grade teacher gave her students a vocabulary list for an upcoming social studies unit.  The students used Educreations to find images online that showed the vocabulary words and bring them into the presentation.  The students then recorded themselves justifying why they chose the images they did.  This activity served as the first lesson of the unit, and it gave all the students the little bit of background knowledge they needed to be successful in the unit.  Another great feature of Educreations is the “Featured” tab.  This gives the user access to tons of free lessons/videos that have been created.  Here is a link to a video I created on triangulation:

2013-12-02 11.13.30  2013-12-03 10.48.29

google_url_shortener URL Shortener (Extension)

This is probably the Chrome Extension that I use the most.  I am constantly sharing websites with my teachers, and some of them can be very lengthy.  From any website, I can click on the shortener icon beside my Omni bar, and it generates a shortened link that looks like the link above for my triangulation video.  I can also choose to have the extension copy the link directly to my clipboard for easy sharing, or even better, it will generate a QR code!  But that’s not the best part.  If you’re signed into your Google account, each link you shorten gets saved for later reference, and you can see how many times your link has been clicked on.  Too cool!  Here’s a screenshot of what the site looks like for my account.


lucidchartLucid Chart (Chrome App, iOS)

Our district stresses the usage of Thinking Maps and other mind maps as a way to organize student thought, and as a way of making connections to thinking skills.  I have tried a lot of mind mapping apps and websites, and a lot of them area great.  The problem comes when you’re only allowed to create five maps before you have to begin paying for the site/app.  LucidChart is different because, not only is it FREE, but it also connects to your Google Drive!  If you are a K-12 teacher or professor, you can request the free upgrade and get all of the advanced features too. You can create a new mind map directly from your Drive…YAY!!  Although the software can get very complicated if you want it to, the basic functions are drag and drop and very intuitive.  Also, just like other Google Docs, you can add collaborators, and there is a chat feature so that multiple people can work on a document at the same time.  I have had teachers using LucidChart for planning collaborative projects, whole class KWL activities, and small group Thinking Map activities.  Teachers and students are only limited by their creativity!



Please let me know what you think about these tech tools by leaving a comment below.  Already use one of them?  Let us know how!

Clustr Map