Sunday, August 24, 2014

3 Different Things You Can Do With Google Classroom

This article was first appeared on Edudemic

Google’s advance in the education field has brought to schools around the globe affordable devices and effortless access to educational content.  Google’s latest solution for learning is called Google Classroom.  Although Google Classroom will be available at the beginning of the school year to all schools that have adopted Google Apps for Education, the Mountain View based company granted access to Google Classroom to a select few individuals in July.
Image courtesy: Edudemic
 I was fortunate enough to be one of these early adopters/testers of Google Classroom, and I can honestly say that I am impressed by its simplicity, and its ability to seamlessly integrate Google’s Docs, Sheets, Drive, and Gmail in order to provide a wonderful and highly productive user experience.

Overall Design & Purpose
Google Classroom’s design is absolutely stunning.  Following the latest design trends, the interface is simple, elegant, and free of unnecessary distractions, created to help the user focus on productivity.  Google Classroom features some of the best tools teachers can use to manage and distribute assignments and class announcements.  Also, it provides teachers and students with a safe environment to communicate with each other and exchange ideas and comments on educational content.  Of course, all these perks come absolutely free, and because this is a Google product, you are guaranteed a user experience of superb quality.

Paperless Classroom with Google Classroom
Regardless of the subject you teach, Google Classroom is a fantastic tool for teachers who wish to create a paperless classroom environment that allows the teacher to have instant access to student work, and manage every aspect of the classroom workflow digitally.  With Google Classroom a teacher can manage multiple classes.  Within the Google Classroom environment, the teacher can create and distribute assignments and announcements to each class, edit and return student work for revision, grade student work, initiate and participate in whole class or private discussions, and have overall a seamless paperless assignment workflow that eliminates all the tedious and time consuming tasks that take up a lot of instructional time.  This extra time can be allocated to learning. 
The true power of Google Classroom lays in the fact that it weaves together Google Docs, Sheets, Gmail, and Drive to eliminate the need for hard copies.  This allows teachers to:
·      Create a document, a spreadsheet, a presentation, or a form
·      Distribute this assignment to students
·      Customize due dates, organization of content, and copies of the assignment for every student

Obviously, Google Classroom can be a useful tool for 1:1 and BYOD settings, where every student is able to access class content on his/her device, and receive real-time feedback from their teacher. 

Flipped Classroom with Google Classroom
Google Classroom may be the perfect tool a teacher can use to flip a lesson or an entire class.  The flipped classroom’s ability to personalize learning to all students and make them take ownership of their learning can be greatly enhanced with Google Classroom.  For instance, videos, presentations, and other material can be delivered to students outside of class using Google Classroom.  Students can not only access and review content, but also have a safe avenue for online discussions with their teacher or other students that can clarify misconceptions and help students master the content.  In addition, due to the fact that often many students have the same questions, Google Classroom’s discussion threads, which are visible to all students, can be a lifesaver for many students, especially for the ones who are too shy to ask questions overtly. 

Professional Development with Google Classroom
Google Classroom’s primary purpose is be used in the classroom by teachers and students, however, nothing can stop us from finding more creative ways to take advantage of such a wonderful tool of content delivery and organization.  Since we are approaching the beginning of the school year, naturally, professional development might be one of the areas that comes first to mind. 
Google Classroom can be used by schools and districts to organize and deliver professional development content for teachers.  In fact, our school will be one of the first schools in the country that will use Google Classroom for this purpose this coming school year.  Trainers/presenters can create a class/training and import the participants/teachers in the class, or simply send them an email with the code to access the class.  Before, during, or after the training, the presenter can share with the participants a number of resources such as presentation slides, multimedia files, and other documents.  The participants can communicate live with each other during the training, exchanging ideas and working collaboratively on projects.  Finally, after the training, due to the fact that when someone uses Google Classroom, a folder is created in their Drive and all content is saved in that folder automatically, the participants will have access to all of the materials they used or developed in the training, not to mention the fact that during the training they will have gained a lot of knowledge about how to use Google Classroom with their own students!

Nikolaos Chatzopoulos currently teaches 4th grade Math and Science at Plato Academy, in Clearwater, Florida. He is a technology enthusiast, and enjoys discovering ways to incorporate technology in the classroom in meaningful ways, in order to provide opportunities for authentic learning experiences.

Nikolaos can be reached at and he tweets @chatzopoulosn

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Digital Storytelling With Animoto

Today I read a great article on Edutopia about why storytelling matters in the classroom.  The author argued that storytelling has been one of the most ancient and crucial forms of communication.  As I was reading the article I couldn’t help but think about all the ways technology has improved our ability to make storytelling more interactive and more appealing to young children. 
One of the best ways to use technology in the classroom is to design multimedia supported lesson plans that allow the students to unleash their creativity and build unique projects that redefine learning.  Animoto is a wonderful app/website teachers and students can use to create digital storytelling projects and immerse themselves in hands-on engaging tasks.  The free version of Animoto allows students to import up to 12 pictures, and videos that are up to 5 seconds long, and combine them with slides enriched with text, to create a final product that looks professional and can be enriched with background music.
Students can use Animoto in the classroom in all subjects.  For instance, students can use Anomoto to create an engaging presentation about a geographical area, a historic event, or a group of people they learned about in social studies.  They can present slides of a series of snapshots they took to illustrate the different steps of a multi-step problem in mathematics. In writing, the students can take advantage of Animoto's ability to construct multiple slides with text, to tell a story using perhaps just a few pictures that enhance their writing piece.  In reading, the students can deliver an engaging presentation about a strategy they mastered, or create a multimedia enhanced book report.

You can download Animoto's iOS app here
You can download Animoto's Android app here

Here is a short tutorial on how to use Animoto in the classroom

If you have used or if you are planning on using Animoto in your classroom, please share your ideas with us in the comments section.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Digital Storytelling RSA Style

RSA Style Animation, sometimes called Whiteboard Animation, is quite intriguing and fascinating.  RSA production was once laborious and time consuming, (for old school RSA producers it still is), but the latest developments in software make RSA style videos an area of intense interest for teachers and students.
My latest Edudemic article on Digital Storytelling workflow generated a lot of interest, on Twitter as well as on our Plato Academy campuses, from teachers who are very interested in using digital storytelling in their classroom this school year.  Many of you were asking specific questions about the steps I took to create the different projects.  So, I have decided to put together an RSA style short animation video with workflow examples of digital storytelling on the iPad.  
I hope you will find it interesting.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

App Smashing and Digital Storytelling on the iPad

This article was first published on Edudemic.

App smashing, the process of using more than one apps in conjunction with one another to create a   One of the most gratifying and effective ways to use app smashing in the classroom is to create digital storytelling projects.  The concept of digital storytelling is emerging as a form of personal and collective expression of knowledge, ideas, and perceptions.  Its numerous and positive effects on students’ communication skills are well documented.  Digital storytelling is the perfect vehicle for the delivery of visual and audio stimuli that greatly enhance a storyline or a simple narrative.
final product, is a concept that allows students to create engaging educational projects and illustrate their creativity in multifaceted ways.
Here is an iPad app smashing activity you can use in your classroom in order to create professionally looking digital storytelling projects.  Although all the apps we will use in this task are capable of creating digital storytelling projects as stand alone applications, as you can see in the video that follows, the inclusion of iMovie as the medium that binds everything together will give the videos an aura of proficiency and will improve the quality of the final product dramatically. 

Getting Hands-On: The Project
A typical app smashing activity has four steps:  First, you start with the end product in mind.  Then you create a list of all the apps you will use in your project.   After that, you outline the process with detailed instructions, so that other teachers or students will have a roadmap to follow in order to be able to duplicate the activity.  In some cases, depending on the level of proficiency of your audience, this stage might even contain step-by-step detailed assistance, and at times, meticulous and explicit support.  Finally, you share the final product in appropriate and accessible ways.

Objective: To create a Digital Storytelling project that illustrates knowledge in effective and appropriate ways.

Apps We Will Use
-       Tellagami (free)
-       30 Hands (free version)
-       PhotoSpeak (Free)
-       iMovie ($4.99 for older iPads, Free with new iPads)

-       Create one, or more Tellagami projects; save them on Camera Roll.
-       Create one or more 30 Hands projects: save them on Camera Roll.
-       Create one or more PhotoSpeak projects: save them on Camera Roll.
-       Create an iMovie project.  Bring all the clips you created using the other apps in iMovie.  Trim, adjust, import narration, background music or other videos.
-       Save your final project on the cloud, (Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, etc).  Share a link to the file with your students.

Short Tutorials
Here is a short video on how to use Tellagami

Here is a short video on how to use 30 hands

Here is a short video on how to use Photospeak

Here is a short video on how to bring everything together using iMovie

Some Final Thoughts
Digital storytelling empowers the students to take control of their own learning, and quickly helps them realize that they can do much more than capture their stories on camera.  Digital storytelling refines the students’ reflection skills, as well as their oral and written communication abilities, and encourages them to use their imagination when creating demanding and complex projects.  As a result, students are able to achieve high levels of metacognition that allows them to synthesize, analyze, and evaluate information.  Furthermore, digital storytelling allows students to cooperate and express themselves in unique ways, creating dynamic products that illustrate the potential of their collective creativity.  Is there a teacher in the world that wouldn't want to see that in his/her classroom?

If you want to learn more about App Smashing you can check out Greg Kulowiec’s blog,

Nikolaos Chatzopoulos currently teaches 4th grade Math and Science at Plato Academy, in Clearwater, Florida. He is a technology enthusiast, and enjoys discovering ways to incorporate technology in the classroom in meaningful ways, in order to provide opportunities for authentic learning experiences.  Nikolaos tweets @chatzopoulosn and he can be reached at He blogs at