10 ideas from Google’s 2016 Education on Air Conference

Looking for ways to innovate in the classroom with Google tools? These videos will help! (Screenshot from educationonair.withgoogle.com)

Students and teachers are doing amazing things with Google tools in the classroom. They’re collaborating. They’re creating. They’re sharing. They’re doing things that would be pretty tough — or impossible — without those tools. Some people look at all that innovation and think, “That’s all well and good … but I can’t dream up all […]

I’m excited to present at the Google Technology Conference in Vandalia, IL!

Date: October 6, 2017
Time: 8:00am-3:00pm
Event: GooglePalooza
Sponsor: ROE #3
Location: Vandalia, IL
Comments (0) | | Posted in Events
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase. If you decide to purchase, think of it as a way of supporting Ditch That Textbook without paying anything extra! I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Creating eye-popping infographics with Google Drawings

Infographics are visually stimulating and force us to summarize well. What if we did more infographics in schools and less research papers? (Graphic by Matt Miller)

Infographics are everywhere. I first started noticing them on the front page of USA Today as a journalism major in college. As Pinterest became more popular, the long, tall infographics have begun popping up everywhere. There’s a reason you see infographics all over social media and beyond: They’re eye-catching. They summarize information succinctly. They’re very visual, […]

Become a Google Certified Trainer Course

Everything you need to become a Google Certified Trainer


Do you want to travel and help other teachers learn how to use Google Apps in their classroom? Do you want to get your foot in the door as a consultant, trainer, or present at national conferences? Want to make a little extra cash in summer training teachers?

This e-course from Kasey Bell of Shake Up Learning has everything you’ll need, including:

  • 35+ Video Lessons (including the archive)
  • Private Google+ Community
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Learn from an experienced Google Certified Trainer and Google Certified Innovator that will show you the ropes, give you the advice and tips you need, provide a roadmap for accomplishing your goals! Receive step-by-step instructions to help you prepare for all of the exams and the application, case study and video—all on your own terms!

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If you paid to attend a face-to-face boot camp, you would easily spend $299 or more for just two days of non-stop cramming. Make it easy on yourself, do this at your own pace. With an in-person training, it is just one-and-done!

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Kasey’s “6 Steps to Google Certified Trainer” video

Who is this course for?

  • This course is designed for educators who deliver training and professional development to teachers, or those who wish to become trainers and consultants, and who have a goal to become Google Education Certified Trainers. 
  • This is an advanced course with a focus on best practices for trainers with the purpose of passing the Trainer Skills Assessment and applying to become Google Education Certified Trainers. 
  • Those who are looking to learn more about G Suite for Education and take their knowledge to an advanced level can also benefit, but keep in mind the goal of this course is to help educators become certified. 

Why take an online course?

Finding time to attend a Google Certification Boot Camp can be a challenge, and if you don’t have the support of your administrators it can be almost impossible to get time away from the classroom to pursue your dream of becoming a Google Education Certified Trainer.

Even if you do get to attend a face-to-face boot camp, often times it is overwhelming and too much too fast. You probably had no idea what you signed up for!

This is why I decided to develop an online, self-paced course to help educators reach their goals and take their Google skills to the next level on their own time and at their own pace!

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  • How to Market Yourself as a Trainer
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**Note: Shake Up Learning and Kasey Bell do NOT grant certifications. Certifications come directly from Google through a competitive application process. 

Kasey’s “Become a Google Certified Trainer E-Course” video

What people are saying

This course is AMAZING! You have done a fantastic job! It is very user-friendly with a ton of great resources. I love that I can work at my own pace, on my time, and still go back and look at materials as needed. I especially love that I don’t feel stressed trying to learn everything in just a few days like I would with a boot camp.

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I’m excited to present a keynote and breakout sessions to educators who attend GoogleFest in Eureka, Montana!

Date: February 3, 2017
Time: 8:00am-3:00pm
Event: GoogleFest
Location: Eureka, Montana
Public: Public
Comments (0) | | Posted in Events
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase. If you decide to purchase, think of it as a way of supporting Ditch That Textbook without paying anything extra! I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Google Apps workshop (Yorktown Middle School)

Find this page at: DitchThatTextbook.com/Columbus

Twitter full content in safe zone

Part 1: Using Google Classroom as the hub

1. Set up your classes.

  • Create classes with the + icon.
  • Add details and files in the “About” tab.
  • Have students join your class with the join code.
  • Change your class theme if you’d like. (Create a custom header image with Google Drawings!)

2. Add to your feed.

  • Announcements: Posts that don’t have a grade.
  • Assignments: Posts that do have a grade.
  • Discussions: Posts encouraging students to discuss and comment.
  • Use the “Add to Google Classroom” extension for Google Chrome to add webpages, articles, etc. to posts in your feed quickly and easily.

3. Grade student work.

  • Open attachments from students.
  • Leave comments in a variety of ways (see graphic).
  • Give assignment a grade and return it to students.
  • Remember that students can’t access files when they’re turned in to you.

4. Managing your Google Classroom

  • Number your assignments (i.e. “001 Getting to know you survey”).
  • When creating your classes for the first time, create them in reverse chronological order. (If you do this, they’ll show up in Classroom in chronological order.)
  • Schedule assignments to appear later. Use the drop-down arrow next to “Assign” and choose “Schedule.”
  • Add descriptions to your assignments to avoid confusion later (especially for absent students).

5. Tips and tricks for Google Classroom

  • To see what Classroom looks like from the student side, have a colleague create a class and add you as a student.
  • You can create assignments that don’t have files to turn in. With these assignments, when students are done, they can go to that assignment and just click, “Mark as done”.
  • You can add co-teachers to courses if more than one teacher needs access.
  • Use the “Move to top” option (in the + button in the bottom right) to bring an old post back to the top (and to students’ attention).

6. Save time in Google Classroom

  • When adding grades, use the up and down arrows (instead of the mouse) to move from student to student while entering grades.
  • Use the “reuse posts” feature to use an old post as a template to create a new one.
  • Get email from Classroom the way you want. Click the three lines button in the top left of Classroom and choose “Settings” at the bottom. There’s a checkbox where you can toggle email notifications.

7. Find more Google Classroom resources and ideas

Read Ditch That Textbook posts on Google Classroom:

Part 2: Google Genius: Practical Google activities for class tomorrow


Shared notes. Students often have lots of information to share with each other when they work together as a group. By sharing a document with group members, they can all add ideas and resources — and see everyone’s changes in real time. Teachers can use this in committee work and at staff meetings.

Rethinking rough drafts. With the comments feature in Documents (and other Google Apps), rough drafts aren’t a paper students submit to a teacher. They’re a process. Teachers can guide students throughout the entire writing assignment so there are no surprises when it’s time to turn work in.



Shared presentations. Create a presentation with one slide per student and give students permission to edit it. Then assign an activity — some quick Internet research, a writing prompt, an image search to find an example, etc. When they’re done, show the presentation on a projector. It’s student work instantly on display.

Practice with the shared presentation below:

Animation. This is a great hack (i.e. non-traditional use) of Google Slides that could take some time to complete but yield amazing results. Check out this video, where the creators made an impressive animation with 450 slides in a Google Slides presentation just by clicking through the slides quickly.

Create a PDF ebook: PDF files are about as universal as it gets. You can open them on almost any Internet-ready device. They’re read-only, so publishing a PDF is a good way to distribute information to be consumed by reading. Google Slides is a great, simple PDF ebook creation tool. Create a slide presentation, change it to the dimensions you prefer, add content and finalize by going to File > Download as … > PDF Document.

Create a “slide deck book”: This idea is inspired by Matt Macfarlane, a middle school history teacher from California. In true “Ditch That Textbook” fashion, he has turned from traditional textbooks to creating his own. He finds engaging content on the web and collects it in his “slide deck books.” His students access them online and can click links to get more information. He gives students a “everyone with the link can view” link so they’re read only. Some examples:

Play a “Jeopardy!” game: Jeopardy on a PowerPoint presentation has been a staple in many classes. It’s also possible to create via Google Slides.Eric Curts, a Google Certified Innovator, created this template that you can copy into your own Google Drive to customize with your own questions and answers. Keep track of score on a whiteboard/chalkboard, on paper or through some other means. (Note: When a question is answered, it doesn’t disappear from the board. You might want to display the game on a whiteboard instead of a projector screen. When a question is selected, draw an X through it with a dry erase marker.)

Choose Your Own Adventure story/activity: As a child, I loved these books, where your decisions affected the outcome for the character in the story. Google Slides lets you create similar experiences. They can be stories where the student can choose the path for the character. Students can create them, or teachers can create them for students. They can even be tied to any kind of class content. Tie the choices to answers for a question. (i.e. The character goes left if the student thinks the answer is 4.4 and goes right if the student thinks the answer is 7.2.)

I created a quick example of an impromptu, decide-on-a-whim vacation trip story where you decide for the main character. Click here to see that file (and feel free to make a copy and change the text for yourself!)

Assess with self-grading quizzes. Self-grading quizzes give students immediate feedback. They also let students practice as much as they’d like without depending on the teacher. You can create self-paced assessments that provide answer feedback with Google Slides. For each standard four-question multiple choice question, you’ll need five slides:

  • A question slide
  • A feedback slide for answer A
  • A feedback slide for answer B
  • A feedback slide for answer C
  • A feedback slide for answer D

On the question slide, for each possible answer, create a link to the feedback slide. Then, on each feedback slide, create a link to go on to the next question.

Want to see an example? Click here to see my quick one-question self-grading quiz.

Quick blog: Blogging is a useful reflective activity that can generate a lot of online conversation among students. A quick, simple version of blogging can be created in a Google presentation. Create a shared presentation (see No. 1 above), and have students write a short “blog post” in their slides. They can even add images (see No. 5 above). When complete, students can read each other’s writing and write comments on them using the comment button in the toolbar. Conversations stay grouped together when students reply to each other using the “reply” button. This creates meaningful conversation with very little prep time.



Graphic organizers. Drawings gives users a blank canvas where they can add text, shapes, lines, etc. When done, they can save their work as image files or PDF files and can add those images to documents, slides and spreadsheets. It’s a perfect medium for creating graphic organizers. I’ve created 15 of them that can be copied, saved, changed, tweaked or completely redone to fit your needs and your students’ needs.

Interactive whiteboard. Create a Google Drawing and share it with students, giving them permission to edit. Display the drawing on a projector screen. Students can add text and shapes, draw arrows to important ideas and connect concepts with lines. Everyone can make changes, and anyone can watch — in class or away.

Real life comic strips. Take photos of students using a webcam and add them to a Google Drawing. Add speech bubbles to the photos. Then save those images and add each one to a different slide in a Google Slides presentation. Here’s a Google Site about Comics with Google Tools and Creativity Games for examples and more details.

Timelines. Students can work together in a Google Drawing to add text and pictures to mark events on a timeline. When they’re finished, the image can be saved as an image file (JPEG or PNG) or a PDF file. It can also be embedded in a site to share with others.

Annotate images. A picture is, of course, worth a thousand words, but it can also teach important lessons. Let students manipulate that picture, and they can create meaning and own those lessons. Add an image to a Google Drawing and let students add text boxes and arrows, pointing out various parts of the photo that are of interest to the class.

Interactive posters. Google Drawings are great for bringing images, text and shapes together. Those elements combine for a great digital poster. But these digital posters are way better than a regular one made of poster board. Various elements in the poster can be clicked, delivering webpages and other online content to viewers. Click here to see Matt’s recent blog post on how to create Google Drawings interactive posters.

>>> 10 engaging Google Drawings activities for classes


Mapping Tools

Google Maps Street ViewStreet View makes it possible to drop your classroom virtually onto almost any street in the world and walk around. It uses panoramic imagesthat let you turn around, zoom in and walk down roads to check out the scenery. Just grab the little yellow “peg man” and drop him where you’d like to go. (See animation above.) For practice, try dropping yourself at your doorstep of your school if you’ve never used it before.

Street View Treks Once you’ve seen your school from the curb on Google Maps Street View, take it to the next level with Street View Treks. These custom-produced exploration experiences are awesome for students. They provide information about the location and videos that pair nicely with the panoramic views. Locations include Nepal, Gombe National Park, the Pyramids of Giza, the Great Barrier Reef (a Street View Trek underwater!) and more.

Google Cardboard — It’s a VR experience starting with a simple viewer anyone can build or buy. Once you have it, you can explore a variety of apps that unfold all around you.

Google Earth Tour Builder — Tour Builder is a new way to show people the places you’ve visited and the experiences you had along the way using Google Earth. It lets you pick the locations right on the map, add in photos, text, and video, and then share your creation.

Google Cultural Institute These virtual tours don’t have to be confined to what you can see from the street. Google Cultural Institute gives you access to top-notch art collections from around the world (Art Project) and modern/ancient world heritage sites (World Wonders). Witness significant moments in history with Historic Moments, giving students a version of a field trip to the past.

MyMaps – Creating or viewing an interactive map with images and information can be the next-best thing to visiting a location, and students can create their own. Kurt Wismer’s great resource site for using Google Maps and Google Earth shows you how. Have students create a map using MyMaps. Select locations, use custom icons, add photos and share.

Geoguessr This game is like asurprise virtual field trip every time you play. Geoguessr uses Google Maps Street View and places participants in a random location somewhere in the world. By panning around, zooming or “walking” down the street, participants place a pin on a map to guess where they are. The closer they guess, the more points they win. It’s great for critical thinking and using context clues.

Smarty Pins Smarty Pins is like Geoguessr’s cousin. Granted, it’s a little less like a virtual field trip, but it does use geography-based questions to play. Participants answer questions bydropping a pin where they think the answer is.

The Magic Automatic Lesson Planner with Google Forms

Take the hassle out of lesson planning. Go digital. Make your plans searchable and shareable. Use Google Forms!

Traditional lesson plan books have their limitations. Being paper-based, they’re not searchable and they’re not easily shareable. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to search quickly for a specific lesson plan instead of flipping back page by page? How about being able to share lesson plans with others without making photocopies? You can use […]

20 practical ways to use Google Forms in class, school

Google Forms gives educators a powerful data collection tool. Check out these 20 ways to harness its power in school. (Google Forms logo used under fair use)

Everyone wants data. Schools want it to track student performance. Companies want it to learn about their customers. We track data in our own personal lives (fitness data, banking data, even social media data). Teachers and students have their own data gathering and tracking tool that’s free and easy to learn — Google Forms. Google […]