Audio Feedback in Google Docs with Kaizena

New Kaizena audio-feedback add-on allows users to open within Google Docs…no need to visit the website!


Celebrating resilience

All educators and policy makers need to watch this TED talk by teacher Clint Smith, a beautiful testament that draws attention to the “false, one-dimensional narratives” so often perpetuated about our students.
“So often we focus so much on the quicksand, that we fail to see what has refused to drown”
“No one can define who we are if WE are the ones holding the dictionary.”

Genius Hour + Student Talent = Success!

Every Wednesday our school runs on an altered “Activity Period” schedule that allots 30 minutes for organizations/clubs to meet. Along with standard organizations like student council, class officers, and National Honor Society, teachers also volunteer to host clubs or activities in their rooms that are geared toward students’ interest. This year’s include chess club, guitar club, computer club, knitting club, writer’s circle, and literature club. Not everyone has a place to go each week, and not every club meets every week, so we also try to offer programming and invite students who are not already committed to another meeting to try something different. 

Today, we invited students to enjoy performances by their peers who volunteered to share their singing, music, and poetry at an open mic. The even was organized by one of my students as part of her genius hour project. She set a one dollar admission fee, and the money raised will be donated to help USMC Sgt. Charlie Linville climb Mt. Everest as part of the Heroes Project.

The best part of being part of something like an open mic is how amazing it is to discover students’ hidden talents. Today, the audience truly enjoyed the event, and our assistant principal even requested print copies of students’ original poems because he was so impressed by them. Overall, we all left the auditorium imbued with the spirit of the event theme: HOPE. 

audience IMG_5233

More Google Goodness!

Last week I shared the Docs add-ons EasyBib and Table of Contents. Joyce Valenza highlights more of the most useful Google Apps Add-Ons for education in her NeverEnding Search blog:

Among the launch partners of most use in classrooms and libraries are:

  • EasyBib’s Bibliography Creator: allows you to search EasyBib and generate citations in MLA, APA or Chicago Manual of Style formats.
  • Thesaurus: highlight a word and synonyms appear in a sidebar box to the right of your document
  • UberConference: seamlessly organize a Web conference within Google Docs
  • Table of Contents: creates a clickable table of contents in a sidebar box
  • OpenClipArt: Find clipart from among more than 50,000 images and click on an image to insert it into your document
  • Kaizena Shortcut: opens your document immediately in the audio feedback app
  • ProWriting Aid:  offers a plagiarism, redundant phrases and grammar check
  • Template Gallery: allows you to select document formats, for instance: resumes, letters, invoices, calendars, planners, attendance sheets
  • Track changes: Manage the editing process when collaborating on a document
  • LucidChart: create and insert flowcharts, mind maps, and diagrams directly into your document
  • Calculator: a simple calculator appears in the right sidebar for help with basic math

Note:  Add-ons are not available for Google Spreadsheets unless you’ve installed the Google Sheets refresh.

Streamlining the standards with Google tools

As an avid user of Google Docs both personally and with my students, I was thrilled when Chrome released a suite of tools that work within a Google Document. Our juniors, who have been working on research essays, became enthusiastic users of the Easy Bib add-on the day after it was released!

In this age of standards-based assessment and lesson planning, I also suggest a use for the Table of Contents app that has helped me streamline finding and using standards in my lesson plans and rubrics. I look forward to finding other uses for other apps as well. Thank you, Google!


In this video, I use the incredibly fun app, Tellagami to introduce the Easy Bib tool:

Have fun exploring these new productivity tools with your students!


Mad City Money!


Today, over 100 senior students participated in a real-world financial decision-making simulation sponsored by two local credit unions. The hands-on simulation, called Mad City Money, “gives youth a taste of the real world – complete with occupation, salary, spouse, student loan debt, credit card debt, and medical insurance payments.”

Students arrived in the library and received a fictional profile that included their occupation, income, family, and specific debt. They then visited merchants, (staffed by credit union volunteers and other community members) to select housing, transportation, food, household necessities, clothing, day care, and other wants and needs while building a budget. To troubleshoot, ask for guidance or invest money, they could visit their local credit union table as well. At the end of the 2 hour simulation, their goal was to have no debt, and to have money invested in savings or other investments.

The simulation allows participants to make mistakes, and troubleshoot the consequences of their decisions in a realistic, educational environment. Students were surprised to learn the true costs of housing, insurance and other necessities, especially when the expenses of children, day care and/or college loan debt was added. 

I loved walking around observing and overhearing students stand up against pressure tactics from the “Entertainment” table by saying things like, “I do NOT need to go to Hawaii. My kid is fine wearing hand-me-downs and I have loans to pay off.”  Of course, there were also those who allowed themselves to be wooed by Mustangs, Flat screens and nights out, only to be approached my Mr. Sheets and his Fate Cards, which ranged from “Your prize orchids won the $500 grand prize” to “You woke up to find your car vandalized, your tires slashed, and your laptop stolen. Deduct $500 from your checking account.”

Overall, it was the kind of simulation/education I wish I had had before I graduated from college, rented a swank apartment I couldn’t afford, purchased a computer on a credit card, and proceeded to practically starve as I sold my plasma to pay the interest on the computer. Four years later, I finally paid it off — for a grand total of over $4000!


Genius Hour and The Heroes Project

This post is a shout out to my student, Ariel, and the amazing work she has done with her Genius Hour Project! Ariel is president of Voice For the Troops, a school club that has worked to support current and former military members in a variety of ways.  For Genius Hour, she wanted to develop a way to raise money for wounded Marine Corps veteran Charlie Linville, and his quest to climb Mount Everest.

Ariel discovered The Heroes Project website while researching military-related causes she could support. She was moved by Sergeant Linville’s inspiring and courageous story. Wounded by an IED in Iraq, Linville suffered fractures to his right foot, amputation of his right ring finger, lower spine trauma, mild traumatic brain injury, and ultimately, amputation of his right leg below the knee. Despite these injuries, he has fought his way through rehabilitation and teamed up with The Heroes Project to climb Mount Everest this Spring.

To date, Ariel has single-handedly accomplished the following tasks related to her project:

1. Set up and scheduled an open mic fundraiser to be held in our HS auditorium
2. Created a Facebook Fundraising page with the option to electronically donate to Sergeant Linville’s Everest fund.
3. Researched and communicated with members of The Heroes Project who put her in direct contact with Sergeant Linville
4. Arranged a Skype interview with Sergeant Linville himself! Below is a clip from the interview she she set up during our school-wide activity period today. Attendees were inspired and awed by his story, and his uplifting and personable demeanor.

I look forward to updating this post with the results of Ariel’s fundraising efforts, as well as updates on Sergeant Linville’s quest to conquer Everest!