Differentiation using Google Classroom

When I first heard about Google Classroom last year I was excited. Was this going to be a free LMS that integrated with the already excellent Google Apps for Education (GAfE) suite? Would it be bigger and better that Moodle or Edmodo? How would it integrate with Google Drive and Google Sites?

When Google Classroom finally hit the cloud, I admit that I felt it was a bit of an anti-climax. It was so simple with limited functionality. It didn’t take me long to realise the simplicity was actually a huge advantage, and I got excited all over again. It was so easy to create a class and enrol students, set an assessment, create a template to share with students automatically, provide links to resources, keep track of student progress and accept submissions. Better yet, since it’s initial introduction, it is now available as an app for Android and iOS as well as being browser based.

I still think of myself as something of a beginner when it comes to Google Classroom. I’m looking forward to further experimenting with its application in both high school and adult learning educational environments. I do believe that it is potentially a tremendous tool to support differentiation, particularity in mixed ability environments. Here is an infographic I have put together based on my experiences, outlining some ideas on how Google Classroom might be utilised to support differentiation.


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ePortfolios without tears using Evernote

Okay, so I’m taking a slight detour from the Google highway (although you can get an Evernote web clipper extension for Google Chrome so that kind of counts!)

One of my other favourite bits of software is Evernote. Have you ever seen the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”? If you have, you might remember the Dad used Windex as a cure-all, even healing a pimple on the groom’s face on his wedding day.

Well, Evernote is a bit like the Greek Dad’s Windex. It’s such a blank slate of an app that it can be used for so many purposes. Of course, like any software, Evernote does have its limitations. At the same time, its simplicity and flexibility opens up so many possibilities.

One application is as an eportfolio. I use it to put together a portfolio of my instructional design work and to document my professional development (particular informal learning which is not always easy to capture). I share this with potential employers and clients. It’s also a great tool for curating resources and lesson plans.

I also use it with students to put together protfolios of their work either for personal purposes or for assessment. It can also be shared with other teachers (with the students permission, of course!)

Below is a simple graphic to plant ideas on how Evernote might be used as an eportfolio. My advice is – try it! It’s free and easy to use. Just have a play.


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Picture books made easy with Google Slides

Who doesn’t love a picture book?

Growing up, the range of story books my generation had available to us was limited compared to today. Amongst my favourites as a child were Where the Wild Things Are and The Rainbow Serpent. Oh, and of course, there were the amazing Dr Seuss books.

One of my favourites from my son’s younger years is Stanley Paste. I love the illustrations and the story always makes me cry!

Of course, the range these days is immense and so diverse. I love this list of the best picture books of 2013. Some of them look amazing.

And, these days, we have so many options to create our own story books. And not only that, we can even publish them, digitally or on paper. Picture books are a great way to encourage students of all ages to express themselves and to collaborate. Personalised story books are potentially a great way to encourage reluctant writers and readers.

As a GAfE user, I decided to create a picture book template using Google Slides and made it available on the Google Drive template gallery. The dimensions are industry standard 8×11 size. The template comes with instructions but…. stories don’t need to come with rules!

Research story book design, experiment with fonts, colours, backgrounds. Try clip art, photos, drawings (both digital and hand drawn). Just jump in and create!

Below is a preview of the template. To find it, click on the link below:


Like the template? I’d love to hear how you put it into action. Use the comments below or contact me using the link to the right.

Story Book Template Preview; click to find on Google Drive template page.

A preview of the picture book template created using Google Slides.

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Google Maps Engine – where have you been all my life?!?!

I’ve been a fan of Google Maps for some years now. Despite being spatially and geographically challenged, it has helped me get to where I’m going on many occasions. Only (very, vSimple Google Maps icon ery) recently I discovered the magic of Google Maps Engine Lite and the huge potential it has to be used in the classroom across so many curriculum areas. It’s free and easy to use. Log into your Google account, go to Google Maps, from the search bar select ‘My custom maps’ and get started with a new map and a new layer.

A simple example for using Google Maps Engine Lite is getting students to map locations used in a book or around a particular historic event. You can add complexity by getting students to add additional information such as:

  • pictures
  • information about the location
  • links to other websites

You can also get students to collaborate on a map using the ‘Share’ feature.

Here is a link to a simple map I created using significant childhood locations:


I added a little bit of information and a link to a photo with most of the pinned locations on the map.

Below as a great tutorial on using Google Maps Engine Lite to make data come alive in the classroom from Contour Education. It’s a great idea and, once again, one that can be used with lots of different topic areas.


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Infographic-Mobile learning: are workplaces missing out?

Okay, so this is not strictly speaking about Google Apps. But this inforgraphic does contain some interesting information about how we learn in our personal lives compared to work, particularly using our Internet connected smart devices like smartphones and tablets. And Google Apps can certainly better facilitate our use of mlearning (especially capturing informal learning) in the workplace.

Feel free to share and distribute this infographic.

Infographic on mlearning in the workplace.

Infographic on mlearning in the workplace.

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