Going Google: Realising I had already gone.

Extending my Professional Learning 

The choice to take on a course offered by Eduro Learning was an easy one.  I knew the quality of course design would be innovative, the instructors were engaged and fellow international educators, and that what I was going to learn would be used the next time I saw my students.  The Google Apps for Education class was both pedagogically practical and effectively manageable for a busy international teacher like myself.

Photo Credit: ePublicist via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: ePublicist via Compfight cc

Course Organization

The Eduro course is organized into 4 levels of mastery learning and thematically linked around tools within the Google toolbox. Content and skills are chunked into usable and differentiated groupings.  This allowed me to interact with the curriculum in ways that were suitable to my prior knowledge of Google products.  I was able to move through content I already knew and was able to share my prior, and new knowledge, with others on the G+ Community connected to the course.  Effectively allowing knowledge, tips, and questions to become a back channel through thematic links in the G+Community.  This proved to be a great reflective and learning experience.  My one fault was one that I often found I moved through the content too quickly and didn’t take the time to correctly reflect on the content I was learning.  This post is meant to be a summative reflection on what I have taken from the course.

Take Aways

What I think has been most compelling is the overall environment that Google creates for educators; the connected suite of well designed and easy to manage tools is outstanding.  Being a Google Apps for Education user for fours years already, this course really hit home the transformative way it has changed how I interact with my students and what I can push my students to create.

Teaching with Google Apps has enabled me to:

  • Keep track of my students blogging with other MS artists around the world through the use of Blogger and Google Sheets.Google Blogger logo
  • Have students house, showcase, organize, and reflect on their work through the use of student portfolios in Sites.
  • Communicate with parents, groups, teams, clubs and individual students with Gmail.
  • Really collaborate with students in Docs.  Providing immediate feedback!

These are not all things that I learned in this course.  But, they are all things that I learned because I was curious about Google as a platform to enhance and streamline elements of students learning.  Ultimately this is the crux of what this course is about – being curious and wanting to learn the systems that can enable our students to create great things.  As an Art teacher I know there are times a piece of paper and a pencil work better than something written in a Google Doc, and that a Google Drawing is a far cry from a sketchbook.  But, I know that Google Apps for Education and engaging with this platform is part of my teaching practice that I am unable to move away from, now that I am involved in it.

Another takeaway from the course is that learning to work within any system should be undertaken in steps or chunks and there needs to be time to try things out and test them in real life situations.  Although this course is short in duration I appreciated that time was given to test elements of the Google universe.  This being said I know for a fact that even after four years of using these tools a constant at Google is a high stock price and CHANGE!  I know the hope is that educators will take what they experienced here and continue to try things  out in their own classrooms.  I know I will, Google is not the quick fix, it is part of the long paradigm shift.  I wanted to take this course because I wanted to ensure I had the skills to use the systems that we use at my school.  It is the same reason that I worked through a Bachelor of Education program, attend professional development regularly, and try and stay current with my own professional learning.  For me, the Google Apps for Education class was meant to level the playing field with the beast that Google, and “Tech” in general can be seen as.  I look forward to sharing my learning with others at my school through professional development days and a professional learning site I am part of at my school.  Perhaps I can convince a few others of the importance of Google Literacy!


For those in need of further reading. Here are a few resources I have found incredibly useful when working with Google Apps for Education.

Alice Keeler: Teacher Tech

60 Rockstar Chrome Apps and Extensions for the New School Year

Join a Google Educator Group


Own photo
Own photo




National Core Art Standards: New Skills Needed for Success

This year our school is piloting the new National Core Arts Standards in all Fine and Performing Arts classes K – 12.  It is an ambitious step in a direction that will support standards based grading finding its way into next year’s assessments and ultimately reporting.  As the year has progressed I have been mapping units in Atlas Rubicon with the new standards as my guide for teaching and learning in my Art classroom.  As I explored the Model Cornerstone Assessment units for Middle School published online on the National Core Arts site.  I realized the scoring devices used in Standards Based grading are not only evidence based but also decidedly process oriented.

Anchor Standard #1. Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.

Anchor Standard #2. Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.

Anchor Standard #3. Refine and complete artistic work.

See more at: http://www.nationalartsstandards.org/content/national-core-arts-standards-anchor-standards#creating

National Core Arts Standards in my Class
National Core Arts Standards in my Class

This notion of process oriented and evidence based are both things that I find incredibly liberating as an Art teacher.  These are also two major elements that will require a shift in how stakeholders look at Art classes, and Art assessment.

What this year of piloting has showcased to me is how Standards Based assessment using the new Core Arts Standards democratizes the playing field for students who previously struggled because they thought they had no talent.  This notion of “I am not a good artist because I can’t paint, or draw, or sculpt” is completely defunct as using process as the guide, and evidence as the means, grading against standards which are liberating and open ended allow for the self proclaimed non-artist to still excel.  What is truly exciting is that this form of process based art making and assessment is also indicative of the forms and types of artistic expression present in a postmodern society.  Artists today often work collaboratively, are process oriented and expressions of their ideas don’t always take on aesthetically beautiful end products.

So where does this get me?  Evidence: Evidence is a word that crops up in many of the scoring devices from the National Core Arts Standards Model Cornerstone Assessment units.  In fact, it often sounds that a student is more of a lawyer engaging in a discussion with a client (the teacher).

So this got me thinking what type of skills should we be teaching students to deal with this transition. How will we enable them to showcase their best efforts at success?  I believe it is our duty to help students bridge the gaps in these areas:

<div>Icons made by <a title="Freepik" href="http://www.flaticon.com/authors/freepik">Freepik</a> from <a title="Flaticon" href="http://www.flaticon.com">www.flaticon.com</a> is licensed by <a title="Creative Commons BY 3.0" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/">CC BY 3.0</a></div>



  • We need to teach students to document their work in effective ways.  A blurry photo of an incredible project, or working through a math problem shows the viewer nothing and is difficult to see learning.


<div>Icon made by <a href="http://www.freepik.com" title="Freepik">Freepik</a> from <a href="http://www.flaticon.com" title="Flaticon">www.flaticon.com</a> is licensed under <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/" title="Creative Commons BY 3.0">CC BY 3.0</a></div>    Data Organization 

  • We to help students find venues in which they can showcase and organize data about themselves and their learning process.  I have found for me Google Sites is the best venue.  Making those sites be the best presentation of student work is the next step in my classroom.

  <div>Icons made by <a href="http://www.flaticon.com/authors/freepik" title="Freepik">Freepik</a> from <a href="http://www.flaticon.com" title="Flaticon">www.flaticon.com</a>             is licensed by <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/" title="Creative Commons BY 3.0">CC BY 3.0</a></div>         Reflection

  • It crops up so often -we don’t give students enough time, and or thoughtful enough ways to reflect on the process not only the product of their learning.  


<div>Icons made by <a href="http://www.flaticon.com/authors/freepik" title="Freepik">Freepik</a> from <a href="http://www.flaticon.com" title="Flaticon">www.flaticon.com</a>             is licensed by <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/" title="Creative Commons BY 3.0">CC BY 3.0</a></div>         Making Thinking (and Learning) Visible

  • Perhaps a summation of all of these points but I think at the heart of the matter allowing students to showcase their thinking and learning and showcasing this in a way that has a purpose for the student is really really important.

My goal for a follow up post will be to outline how and why I am using Google Apps for Education as a platform to showcase student’s learning through process portfolios and supplementary Google docs.

Community Engagement

Community Connections

Over the course of the last few months I have really tried to make a conscious effort to seek out collaborative and connecting opportunities.  I have tried to do this through twitter as I find it easiest to use and the network I have developed is fairly strong on this platform.  I really wanted to highlight my twitter activity as of late so I have implemented a recipe from IFTTT (If This, Than That) which allowed me to aggregate my twitter mentions and showcases the conversations I have been having between fellow COETAILers, and others, in lead up to our final project and other educators on twitter.

I recently connected with Brian Jackson at ISB Bangkok and our DT classes are looking to share some ideas and examples of what we’ve been up to.  We have also asked Brian’s class to be consultants for our Middle Schoolers as they experience the Design Thinking Cycle.  Its incredible what can happen when you open yourself and your classroom up to others.  I suppose this takes a level of risk taking and a growth mindset, but I hope my experiences might spur others at my school.

Below is again an example of how I used IFTTT to manage tweets that I was favouriting.  I know that Twitter does this as a list automatically but I also wanted to track my activity via this google app.

Attempted Connections

I attempted to connect via Google+ but felt that Twitter was a more manageable platform for me.  I think as a father, a husband, a teacher, an artist, and son I needed to decide on one application and stick to it.  Likewise I wanted to spend time cultivating my PLN on Twitter and thus focused my attentions there.  This being said – I did end up joining the Google Educators Group in the UAE and will actually be presenting to this group about my COETAIL final project on May 2nd.

Google Educators Group UAE Community
Google Educators Group UAE Community

I also posted on the Coetail Course 5 Project board set up by Vivian looking for other participants in our quad but in the end didn’t get any real response and ultimately chose to go with educators from ASD Dubai whom I spoke to face to face.

My attempts at connecting via Google +
My attempts at connecting via Google +

Relying on Old Faithful

When Twitter didn’t do the trick, my fellow group mates and I of course resorted to connecting via Google Docs and good ol fashioned email. The docs we created were shared and edited collaboratively (see other post on my final project for the examples) and we were able to of course connect within these two forms easily and often.

43 Back and Forths between our collaborative quad
43 Back and Forths between our collaborative quad

A really cool attempt by our group to connect was through Google Hangouts. I must sadly say that only on one occasion did we manage to get 3 of us involved in a group call but our attempts at a Google Hangout may have been hampered by my school’s administrative settings. In speaking with the tech department and legitimising my needs my access has recently been changed and I hope we can get a Hangout on Air working soon.

Reflecting on my community involvement I realize the importance of sustained connection through conversation, sharing, and exploring. I recently added the idea of starting our Art Department meetings with a 5 minute twitter search revolving around key hashtags pertinent to our Fine and Performing Arts Department. Not everyone in my group is on twitter and I got some pretty interesting looks from some teachers, but when I shared with them the power of a PLN via twitter I think that many interests were piqued.

Scrolling through the tweets from IFTTT – I really get a sense of my last three months of activity. I see what I was sharing, who was interested in it and how far my ideas as a connected educator were reaching. This is pretty powerful stuff and I even showed it to my Curriculum Co-ordinator who subsequently joined twitter – feel free to follow her – @lisaemborsky  Looking at what I have been tweeting and my nodes of connection also showcase for me an incredible wealth of professional growth and recognition of outstanding opportunities.  It really is incredible how connecting can lead to collaborating, which can lead to a changed pedagogical approach!

The Future

I noticed on Vivian’s Coetail Google + community that there will be a chat about “Life after COETAIL”.  This really got me thinking.  What will happen after COETAIL as a course I take is over?  In the words of Reid Wilson’s infographic back from Course 3 – “Coetail is more than a course it is a way of life” – my PLN is developing everyday, my students feel the impact of my learning, my thoughts on teaching and learning have changed drastically.  Whats incredible is that all of this started by attending Learning 2 back in Singapore in 2013.  Who knew the path it would set for me.  Now the path is wide open and it is my turn to push myself along it.  I am ready and willing to continue to challenge myself in this journey of teaching and learning and I know I will have my community right there along the way with me.  Nicki, Anne, and everyone – although we are far away physically – we are only ever a tweet away.

Course 5 Final Project: Video & Reflection

Course 5 Final Project: Video & Reflection

First off I need to thank my students, my PLN, my fellow COETAILers and instructors but especially Nicki Hambleton and Anne Driligen.  Without these two incredible Art educators this project would not have happened.  Making this video has been a fun experience – its asked me to think about my final project in a visual and critical way – which as an art teacher I appreciated doing!

I think in the end the product we have created is pretty amazing.  A venue for students to discuss, connect, and reflect about Art they are creating and created by other Middle School students is pretty incredible.  The fact that it involves students from varied locations also adds to the exciting nature of this project.  My students have been incredible during the process and I can only say how much I appreciate their help and support.  I tell them this all the time.  It has been a really wonderful way to connect with my students around learning with a capital ‘L’.  Its really great when students in my class prompt me with “Hey Mr. McGrady – how’s your course going?”  What I hope to be able to ask them some time is – “Hey how is that blog you are part of going?” as the gradual release of our Quadblogging takes hold.

My video was created using a screen capture using Quicktime and voice over of a Haiku deck of images taken by myself or searched through the image search function in Haiku.  This meant that all of the images I used were either self taken or applied to CC licence which would allow for use and modification.

 My Project

If you or your students would like to make a comment on OUR art – please check out – http://artimusprime8.blogspot.ae/

Our Art Quadblogging Google Doc

-feel free to use – below is a blank template

Blank Template

Student Feedback about the Process

The Haiku Deck without Voice Over

-just in case you were interested.

Peer Feedback Goes Global – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires


Below is the UBD of the unit

Community Engagement Tool

As part of our community engagement for course 5 it is important that we showcase our presence within our PLN.  I came across IFTTT and realized I could use their recipes to do exactly this.

The recipe I am using to keep track of twitter mentions as part of my PLN engagement.
The recipe I am using to keep track of twitter mentions as part of my PLN engagement.

This is what it looks like in Drive.
The site is really easy to use and allows for this recipe to run in the background.  In my Drive a new folder was created and aggregates the tweets where I am mentioned. Super cool!

I also did the same for any tweets that I favorite so I can keep track of conversations and involvement this way as well.

Just wanted to share!  Enjoy!

Canva – part two – worth a look for teaching Design

Student’s thoughts on Canva and final reflections

Our journey in Canva is coming to a close and I wanted to reflect on some of the success and failures we have experienced over the past 6 weeks.  I wanted to do this via the student’s words so I left it to them.  To give you the background, students worked on formative classwork which asked them to work through a variety of Canva’s tutorials.  These tutorials were posted on their student portfolios (Google Site) and were accompanied by some reflective points for each section.  Then students worked towards both a formative and summative assessment which they designed based around needs in the class and in the broader school community.

Has working on Canva helped you see graphic design differently?  If so, how?  If not?  Why do you think that is?

Yes I believe it has made me look at it differently. To start off, before I thought that Graphic Design was designing on a computer. And then putting it online. But I realized it is used for the real world such as planners, invitations, etc. I also found how stressful it is to pick one design of all you made because you are working on something then you realize you want to try something out so you duplicate it and try it then you go back and look which one over all looks better and you do this many times. – Student -Grade 8


How would you have changed the structure of the work you did?  Things to consider:

  • using your portfolio as the house for your work.

I liked the way we did it except maybe next time we could try more mini formatives. Like the teacher sends students a presentation to each one where you have to correct different things to see if the kids understood the concept of each section. And I also think we could of housed our work in one presentation which we put on the portfolio.

– Student – Grade 8

  • working through tutorials

I liked the tutorials because I could work through them at my own pace.  I also liked that they were all similar, they all had a do and learn section which I liked a lot.

– Student – Grade 8

  • Using docs, drive, and or other means to share your work

I also think we could of housed our work in one presentation which we put on the portfolio. Because it is easier to edit things on there. And its easier to upload pictures to a presentation for everyone to see.

-Student – Grade 8

Below are some examples of a student’s portfolio which is how they housed their formative and summative work.

Responding to formative work : screenshot taken with the permission of the student
Responding to formative work : screenshot taken with the permission of the student
planner cover.
Image of summative design challenge: Screen shot taken with permission of the student
Unit Work
Connecting Section in student portfolio: student’s tutorial work organized on Google Drive.







Round 1 of Quadblogging: Student Reflections


I can only say I am incredibly impressed that 28 8th graders can comment so positively about a shared experience. I am so excited that they see the potential in this project. I thought the comment from one student about the inequity of responses was a good point and possibly one to discuss with the group. What is the basis of why he/she is not getting their work looked at? What could this student take from this?

All in all – so far – so good!