Google Apps Create Online Experiences That Allow for Collaboration

§ March 8th, 2014 § Filed under Google § No Comments

Many years ago it was a fair statement to say that students in an online class wouldn’t collaborate in the same way face to face students would. Those days have certainly changed. Of course, with the invent of blogging and content management systems, students were able to engage in somewhat synchronous activity. Those tools provided an excellent way for teachers to integrate technology that encouraged discussion and provided opportunities for students to demonstrate understanding.

Around 2007 Google launched Google Apps which forever changed online collaboration.

Teachers are now able to design learning activities for online classes where students can easily collaborate and demonstrate understanding in innovative ways. Even better, much of the collaboration can happen synchronously. Students can launch chat windows or a Google Hangout to discuss and collaborate. While in the hangout, they can even work on Google documents at the same time.

As a teacher, I’ve worked hard to use Google Apps to deliver sound instruction. My students have worked hard to use Google Apps to demonstrate understanding.

  • GoogleDocs allows students to collaborate live on documents, presentations, and spreadsheets
  • Google Hangouts allows to up to ten students to meet live to collaborate, discuss, and present. Here’s a sample from my speech students. Basically, the learning objective was to have students test their public speaking skills in a webinar format, similar to webex. As you can see, Google Hangouts allow students the ability to present information via video and audio; they can also screen share which adds another level of collaboration.
  • Google Sites allows for collaboration in the same way a wiki does. Several years ago I had students in separate classes collaborating on research projects using Wikispaces. That was nice, but Google Sites is certainly a better tool in that

That’s just a drop in the bucket. Seriously, you need to check out what Google Apps can do for your classroom. Don’t be intimidated by the power. With proper training and support, you can do it. Find a few buddies, so you can support each other. Utilize training tools like Atomic Learning, Google trainers, or your local Edtech groups to coach you through the experiments. Of course, don’t hesitate to turn to social media for outstanding connections!

Sensory Details in Descriptive Writing

§ February 10th, 2014 § Filed under Describing, Perception § No Comments

I think back to when I taught the good ole’ Personal Narrative. I wonder how many of them I’ve read. Probably over 500. The skill of describing is so important regardless of the career. Looking back, I wish I would have spent even more time on the unit.

Every day we take in sensory imagery. Actually, too much most days. Movies, TV, and music alone can create a rich experience simply because the sensory images are stimulated. Think back to your favorite movie. Every time I was Seabiscuit I get emotional. I know, I know. He’s just a horse, but the production team does such a good job stimulating sensory imagery that I become caught up in the moment.


Description will attend to sensory imagery, but also time, person, or place. We use descriptive transition words to let us know it’s time to move to the next part. Here are some transition words to signal visual description:

All of these things will give us a mental picture of the person, event, place, object, scene, or situation. Study photographs and movie scenes. Ask yourself what you see that’s triggering thoughts and feelings. Much of the time those details are included to trigger perceptions.

You all will use descriptive writing in some way. Depending on your career, you’ll be able to use it more creatively. For example, someone going into sales will enjoy a great deal of freedom with descriptive writing as they’ll be creating persuasive messages. Rhetoric will be your friend. Others will be heading into health care or public safety where accurate description is a must, but creative writing is taboo. You have to describe a scene of an accident or the behavior of a patient, but your ethical practice will tell you to stick to the facts.

The writer has the ability to spin the facts however they want to. Honestly, it’s hard to find a media source that’s unbiased. Even in our local media we‘ll see angles. On event that comes to mind is the Tumbledown Golf Course 9/11 special.



A New Addition

§ December 31st, 2013 § Filed under Family Stuff § No Comments

I grew up with oodles of animals, so it just seems par for the course that I’d want that for my kids. It was good for me. I learned compassion and hard work.

I chum with other folks that feel the same way, so I’m often surrounded with all these crazy ideas. This past spring my family fostered two mother cats and nine kittens for about four months. That was so much work!

This winter we adopted a dog from the Dubuque Regional Area Humane Society. She’s a one year old lab mix. I specifically picked her because she looked so afraid in the shelter. We have a ton of work. She lacks confidence and isn’t trained, but she deserves a chance.

Her name is Ally. :-)

Can Craigslist be a Teaching Tool? YES.

§ December 1st, 2013 § Filed under Business Communication, Students Today, typos § No Comments

It’s always a good feeling when students are able to easily critique bad writing, especially online. Folks say that these young whipper snappers can’t write or read a darn thing because of all these computer gadgets they’re playin’ with. To some degree I agree, but I know they can cut through the digital mess with guidance.

As a society we are completely over-stimmed with information. Research has proven that our mind trims off excess information as a means of preservation. Hence, we miss typos. Plus, there’s no doubt, we read less now than 50 years ago. As a teacher, I’ve noticed that students who read non-fiction or informational texts, are almost always better writers. Those that don’t read, make oodles of mistakes.

Really, we all make mistakes. I’m no grammar elitist, that’s for sure. Still, there has to be value in a carefully crafted sales message, even if it is just for Craigslist.

I asked my students to critique a few Craigslists ads against the AIDA format. Boy, did that open their eyes! It’s such a simple format, but very few ads on Craigslists follow a model.

Here are a few samples they thought provided poor examples of the AIDA format.

Finally! I did it.

§ November 3rd, 2013 § Filed under Google, Making a Difference § No Comments

My good friend Katie Grassel became a Google Certified Trainer well over a year ago now. Maybe it’s been two years. I don’t know. I was immediately envious at her knowledge and commitment.

In my defense, I had started a new job and was getting settled at home. There was no way I was keeping up with Katie. :-) About a year later, Kurt Wismer, another friend became a Certified Trainer too. Gah! More Google envy.

Both of them had been to a Google summit and had immersed themselves in those tools, whereas I had only taught myself how to use them on my own time. I vaguely remember watching Chad Kafka at WEMTA three years ago; other than that, I was on my own. Again, I was jealous.

This summer I decided to stop making excuses and get those tests done. Honestly, the tests were a lot harder than I had anticipated. Finally some time in August, I finished my tests. On November 1, I became an official certified trainer.

I am excited to share my knowledge with others. Maybe I’ll get to a Google Summit, who knows.

Overall, I’m proud of myself for getting through this. I’m glad Katie and Kurt reached that goal first; they certainly inspired me to finish my goal. :-)

Paying Attention to the Media

§ October 13th, 2013 § Filed under Business Communication, Life on the Internet § No Comments

Almost every week I share some tid-bit of how businesses, government agencies, or social groups are handling digital communication. I often reference how those entities are communicating using social media, specifically. Once in awhile a student will ask, “Where do you find this stuff?!”

It’s a good question. Part of my job requires me to be current on all these trends, right? I thought I’d share the list of tools I use nearly every day to help me stay connected to current happenings.

  • Twitter. It only takes one friend to retweet just the right article. I’ve also searched for certain terms to see what folks are saying about a particular business or topic.
  • Flipboard. Flipboard allows me to create magazines based on my interests. I can create a magazine called “social media news” and Flipboard scours the internet for me looking for relevant items. Those selections can be shared to a multitude of social media outlets.
  • Facebook Groups. Typically I only use Facebook for personal use, but I’ve found a few Facebook groups that share great resources for my classroom. Particularly, I like Mashable lately, although they also have posts that are of no value to me. Like with all resources, the usefulness fluctuates.

These three resources can prove to be useful for any teacher if used frequently. I have everything synced on my laptop, iPad, and phone. Yes, I’m wired, but someone in Communications should be. The days of only paying attention to the printed word is long gone.


Tomorrow the Kittens Go

§ August 23rd, 2013 § Filed under Family, Giving Thanks, Making a Difference § Tagged , , § No Comments


Since mid-april I’ve been a foster mother for the Purr-fection Animal Shelter and Rescue of Galena, IL. During that time I raised 9 babies and helped 2 mothers transition away from their parental roles. These kittens were born from a semi-feral cat colony that exploded in East Dubuque, IL. We only took maybe 1/4th of the colony to my house, I think.

20130823-230610.jpg My children and I helped the kittens learn the ropes of being kittens and we helped the mothers understand that not all humans are mean. It was a long road. We lost one baby along the way; we never did understand what took his life. He faded in a day and the next night I found his mother resting on him. He lived for a few days, but in the end, his little body couldn’t recover. That was a tough lesson to learn. He was buried by a willow tree in a friend’s yard.

My children learned a great deal from this experience. I hope my son, especially, learned the importance of being compassionate. Whether I like it or not, he’s shown all sorts of images in media and school that tell him men are only tough and domineering. I hope this softens the edges a bit. I hope my daughter learned the value of hardwork. She’s a bit of a princess and at times we had to get really dirty in a cat-poop type of way. It was not pretty work, but the reward was great.


Tomorrow some of the kids are heading to a new foster home. The others that are neutered are heading to a farm where they’ll be reunited with their mothers. They’ll be able to live peacefully with food, shelter, and affection.

I am thankful that I was able to do this the past five months. I’ll admit I’m tired, but I’ve also rekindled a new-found passion for animal-control and neutering awareness. I’m thinking to be the Bob Barker of Grant County if I have to. It seems that I’ll burn out cleaning up the problem. I wonder how I can help from the other end — prevention.


The work is never going to be done, but at least I know I did the right thing this time.

Why Bother Being “Google Certified”?

§ August 18th, 2013 § Filed under Google, Life on the Internet, Supporting Teachers, SWTC § No Comments

Because I want to be really good at something.

I want to study my interests so that I know them inside and out. That seems like a nearly impossible feat with the vast ever-changing machine called Google.

There are so many useful applications for personal life, education, and work that I seem to learn something new. I would think students would find this these tools nearly revolutionary to their education. Actually, students probably just see them as part of life now; it’s teachers that are freaking out, myself included.

Honestly, the six tests were a pain in the rear. I use almost all of the tools I was tested on and I had to prepare more than I thought. I forgot how much I hated timed multiple choice testing.

Still, now that’s done and I sent in my application to be a certified teacher. I like the idea of committing to instruction. I can fulfill that through Southwest Tech and CESA, thus helping many teachers. I’m most looking forward to that. I love the looks on teachers’ faces when they realize what digital collaboration looks like.

So, that’s about it. I just want to continue to learn and work hard. :-)

PACE Concept

§ August 16th, 2013 § Filed under George Thompson, PACE Concept, Verbal Defense § No Comments

Understanding the PACE concept will help me stay calm under pressure. Now if I could just remember it every time I get upset! It will also help me think about the right response before it comes out of my mouth. George Thompson developed the PACE concept and the Vistelar group teaches it now.

The acronym can best be explained by them, but these notes might hook you into learning more.

Problem — I am faced with a problem. The way I see the problem and the way the other person sees a problem are never going to be the sam. Always distinguish the cause and the actual problem. Figure out how he or she sees the problem. You might have to go to “left field” to see things from his or her point of view. Taking time to analyze just what the problem is must be done.

Audience — Audiences are different than you and I. Appreciate that. I need to be aware that they are watching me, even when I’m not thinking “showtime.” The audience will morph as I interact with them. Audineces are made, not found. Meaning, I have the power to change them. So I have to figure out how my audience is different than me. I have to find differences that are useful to me. Oh, isn’t that interesting? There is value in studying what differences exist so I understand what motivates them.

Constraints — Some constraints can be ignored. If I can’t ignore them, I want to think about how I can use their disclosures to understand and redirect them. For example,, direct insults “I hate _” or “I don’t trust _.” If I can’t ignore the constraint, I will use the constraint to my advantage. Use someone’s distrust of something to understand their point of view. Once I get that, I can think about what will motivate them to comply.

Ethical Presence — This relates to ethos (credibility and character). Never ever show disdain, contempt, or sarcasm. I need to present a presence that shows I am there to help solve their problem. I want someone to know that they are better off because I’m there. For my children, that means they are safer. For my students that means that I will give them a relevant experience. Whatever it is, I want people to know that I am of good character.

In reading this a person might think I enjoy manipulation. That’s not the case at all. I just enjoy studying what will motivate the other person to voluntarily buy-in to my idea.

If you want to learn a lot more about this art, you need to contact the Vistelar group. They are the best trainers in this material and can make anyone a master!

Tactical Listening

§ August 16th, 2013 § Filed under George Thompson, Tactical Listening, Verbal Defense § No Comments

When I first heard the term “tactical listening” I thought it was something for cops. The term sounds “military” almost, right? Really, the tactical listening applies to all aspects of life.

Tactical listening is the ability to listen to what the other is giving you that you can use to handle he or she and direct him or her in better ways — redirect them. That’s an interesting definition, isn’t it?

When someone attacks you physically they give you their direction and this allows you an opening. The same thing is true of verbal attacks. Your usual response is probably a natural, although unhelpful reaction. Tactical Listening is unnatural, but helpful.

When people unload on you, they tell you everything you need to know. Often though we react to just the words; we stop thinking. You need to grow confident and silent inside instead of shouting. This gives you a chance to think and watch people. This goes against how many people are raised. The silence is challenging for me. Even though I’ve had quality training on conflict non-escalation, I still struggle not lashing with a quick response.

When people start to yell, analyze their word choice. Angry people will give you clues as to what they are really mad about. If we lose our cool, we’ll never find out what they’re really mad about. You have to study the other person before you react.

People rarely say what they mean. It’s how they say the words when they’re upset. Never react to the words. Let the words go by and think about the meanings. understand that when people yell at you, if you react, they’ve upset your balance; now you’re being handled.

Listen, remain calm, and redirect the anger.

If you’re looking to study this in greater depth, you should Google “Vistelar” — they happen to be the group that taught me what I know and I think they’re outstanding.

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