Google Apps for Education Summit, Bahrain, Day 2

A couple days late, but I had to share what I learned at the Google Apps for Education Summit, Day 2. I loved this conference with so many people from so many schools and places!

I was looking forward to the second day, even though my thoughts were with the Accreditation Steering Committee team from my school, which also met today. I had to miss it, but I was not disappointed to be at the Google Summit!

Ben Friesen‘s keynote was as captivating as yesterday’s by Mark! It was so inspiring. It just made me want to keep on creating, annotating and sharing.

The first breakout session, however, was a disappointment. Really, I should learnBen Collage to just not take a chance on vendor sessions. I was sitting in the front row, excited to learn how to use the reading and writing app I had downloaded the night before. However, then I learned that we have to buy a license to use it. I guess the version on my computer is a 30-day trial. I wasn’t enamored enough with the demo to even want to buy it.

The next two sessions I attended were by our keynote speaker–Ben Friesen. One session was using Google Drawings and the other My Maps.

In the first session, we worked on a collaborative drawing of the 1980’s with Ben. It was fun, and, if you click, you can see the messiness of large group collaboration. Then he demonstrated some of the features we can use. A few new features I learned:

  1. There is a red snap-to grid to mark the center of the canvas. That is handy.
  2. You can  connect box lines to group the boxes in a graphic organizer. That way if you need to move the box, the line comes along with it.
  3. You can customize the size of the canvas to fit the project you need. Go to File–Page setup. For instance, if the limit of the header size is 800 x 200 pixels, you make your canvas that size and create it just the right size. No need to crop or fit in later when it’s uploaded.

Finally we worked on our own header for a Google Classroom, which I won’t be using for a while until our students get their own GAFE email addresses assigned. Next on my wish list.

The session I looked most forward to was using My Maps. I love maps and, I really wanted to see how Ben so cleverly compared the true size of Greenland (2.17 sq km) with Saudi Arabia (2.15 sq km) in the Demo Slam on Friday. You would never know these two countries were so similar in size if you use the all too-popular Mercator projection.

I majored in geography in college, largely because of my love for maps. In this session, it was exciting to see the great transformation over the past few years in what Google has done with their map programs. I hadn’t been paying attention!

I used to make maps showing where the participants were from in the Global Read Aloud and other experiences. I still used Maps and Forms, but it was more difficult importing my data with third party applications that most of the time I didn’t understand. Nowadays, My Maps skips the middleman! Excellent. We each easily used the same data to work on our map of places we wanted to take a virtual field trip, manipulating the data during this session. In my map you can see different colors for all the teachers who shared their Twitter handle. Ben’s was a far better and more productive  presentation than one I made several years ago when mapping our connections. (If you visit that link, I’m sorry to say you’ll find that some of the links to my maps have been lost into some unknown digital graveyard.) Ben also shared two warm-up mapping games for kids and adults–GeoGuessr and Smarty Pins. Very fun!

During the last session, I had fun using the virtual reality glasses and apps with Shina in the Google Cardboard session. Amazing! Shina is a geeky technology coach in Saudi Arabia. (And my new friend. She is the first person I met Friday morning at breakfast.) She is also the journalism teacher for her district. Her students make the yearbook for the school, and she helps them use new technologies to make a physical book more interactive. Last year’s book had tons of examples of augmented and virtual reality for readers to access in order to enhance the book. One example was a 360-degree photo sphere of the old campus they vacated last year, so it will always be available as a memory to students.

Speaking of photo spheres (Not that photosphere, Astronomers!), I took my first 360 degree photo in our meeting room at St. Christopher’s School while we waited for the last keynote to start. (Again, I was reminded of all the wide world of learning, creating, and producing we can do with just an Android device! So many things we don’t even know about, YET.) I’ll be ordering some Google Cardboard glasses ASAP!

Finally, Chrystal Hoe did a nice job wrapping up with the session with another keynote address. I loved the video she showed about Erno Rubrik about the importance of asking questions to make amazing things happen!

Check out the schedule to see what other sessions there were.

I’d like to make a challenge to my new friend, Asma, who I enjoyed tweeting with and meeting at the Google Summit. I hope to read on your new blog what you learned last weekend!

My World


I created a picture of my world today on The Open University Create Your World.

Roughly from left to right, here’s what my picture represents:

  • Good conversations with new friends here, and also faraway friends and online connections
  • Brain research, thinking, questioning and teaching the ABCs and more to five-year-old Arab children
  • Jesus, the Tree of Life, bringing shade to the world, as well as standing over the puzzle piece of my life
  • Wedding rings represent my husband and me
  • Two flowers for our two lovely daughters
  • Good books, fruit, creativity and art are some of my favorite things

Am I a Planet-protecting, probing motivator? I’d like to think so! 🙂

Sheri Edwards created a wonderful connected language lesson using this Inspiring Learning: My World app.

Read all about the picture of her world and her middle school lesson plan on her class blog post called: “#teach2blog About Me World Ms Edwards

My Favorite 21st Century Web Tools

It’s not about the technology; it’s about the learning. In a recent blog post, I asked, “What does technology have to do with it?” It’s about the learning, BUT a little bit about the technology, I concluded.

If it wasn’t for the awesome web tools I’ve learned and social learning networks I’ve become part of, I never would have transformed my learning and teaching. So, in honor of this evening’s #21stedchat, here are the tools I use every day, my favorite 21st century web tools:

  1. Twitter – I believe I wouldn’t have learned about many of these tools without Twitter. I also would not have met many of the educators, innovators, and reformers that are helping me shape my 21st century philosophy of education.
  2. Google Apps – For three years now, my students and I have used Google Docs, Presentations, Spreadsheets, and Forms. Students don’t turn in papers, they just share them with me. I wouldn’t do it any other way.
  3. Edublogs – In 2009 I knew nothing about blogging, but I happened to sign up for an Edublogs’ blog, my “test” blog. (Note the URL of the blog. I wouldn’t name it like that now.) However, since then, I have never looked for any other blog platform. I love my Edublogs Pro account. Sue Waters and Ronnie Burt are amazing. They help at the drop of a hat.
  4. Edmodo – My students and I are enjoying our Edmodo pen pals this year.
  5. Wikispaces – What a great free tool! Our Geniushour wiki and the Global Read Aloud wiki are hostd on Wikispaces. My students and I are creating wikis too–rebellions, presidents, geography, etc.
  6. Flickr – What can I say? I used Flickr when I began to take seriously our call to contribute our genius to the world. I want to share my photos with a CC license so others can use them.
  7. Goodreads – As a reading teacher, I love connecting with other readers, including many of my students who also have accounts.

Which web tools do you use every day?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

Thanks to the #TeachersWrite Summer Writing Camp, I’m following Maria’s Mélange blog, so I noticed this “What are you Reading?” meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. And the children’s literature version, hosted by Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts.

I thought I would give it a try today. This summer I decided to get serious about using Good decision! It’s a success. I’ve read more and faster, I’ve had many good books recommended through great reviews and suggestions, and my two children’s lit students have joined and log their books on GoodReads too.

Here’s what I’ve read this week.

Professional Book – I have to revamp my literacy classes next year because I am sad I’m going from two periods (English and Literature) to one period (just English). I’m reading lots of books about reading and writing. I must take advantage of every minute I have with my students.

Children’s Fiction – I liked the book Ivan the One and Only. After I read it I noticed it is the intermediate book pick for the Global Read Aloud 2012 (#glread12). I was curious about the Benjamin Pratt book, so I read that one too.

Children’s Non-fiction – I like Jean Fritz, and I teach U.S. history and government, so I read two of hers. Then I also checked out all the Diane Stanley books in my library.


Short Stories – This one has taken me a while to finish. The stories are old, written about the Civil War by women in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

For this Week – I’ve been plugging away at John Adams, but I have two children’s books handy for when I need a break.

My Favorite Photo Tools

On this New Year’s Eve, I thought I would share some of my favorite photo tools. The reason? I have photos on my mind today because tomorrow I start a yearlong photo-a-day challenge!

And now, on to the tools…The first three are not only free and easy, but they are also quick, for you can use them with or without creating an account.

My go-to online photo editor is It is fast and has many features for making photos beautiful. Some of my favorite effects are watercolor, oil painting, impressionist painting, underpainting and cartoonizer. Here are some samples…

Impressionism Effect
Using the Cartoonizer Effect Watercolor Effect Mosaic Maker

Mosaic making has become a favorite for me. When I want to show a linear progression between photos, I make a one row mosaic. I wrote a blog post about how to create a mosaic from a Flickr set–easy! Here are some of the different mosaics I’ve made this year.

This is my favorite for making photo collages and a surprise winner for making text posters. What a cool site! I’ve included some of both kinds of collages I’ve made.

The most important tool I’ve discovered this past year is Flickr. I have been using Flickr Creative Commons pictures and teaching my students to properly use them and cite them. Thanks to Sue Waters at Edublogs for teaching me the importance of CC images and making it understandable with this post about enhancing posts with images from Edublogs Teacher Challenge.

We are getting much mileage out of Flickr now, both as consumers and now producers. We used it so much that I now have two pro accounts on Flickr. One is for my own personal photos, and the second is for my students to upload their photos. Here is a post that Shiann wrote about how we have become contributors.

More Photography in 2012

Last year revolutionized photo taking for me! I used to lose my camera or carry it in my purse with a dead battery. On the rare occasion that I needed it, it would not be available and I wouldn’t have known how to work even the simplest point-and-shoot features.  Now, I love to look for possible images, I have read the manuals that came with my cameras, and I rarely leave home without a camera with a charged up battery!

I will look forward to seeing what 2012 brings for me in new photography tools and skills as I take on the challenge of a photo a day.

What are your favorite photo tools to use?

Do you want to consider a photo a day in 2012 too?

How about joining a small group of teachers who will be encouraging each other in the challenge? We are the #T365Project group on Flicker. You are welcome to join!

My Glogster Résumé & Upcoming Glogster Changes

Every time I use Glogster, I learn something new and fun! Recently I created this Glogster résumé.

I think Glogsters are simply beautiful, and I love working with the program. However, I had heard some rumors about price changes, so I did some research. On September 15, Glogster will be changing the products and pricing they provide.

You can still get GlogsterEDU for free with a Single Free account. Existing teacher and student accounts will convert to Single Free accounts–no glogs that we have created will be lost. Students and teachers can each have their own single account for free.

However, if you want to have the teacher management piece with 50 student gloggers, you’ll need to pay a subscription price of $29.95 for a Teacher Light account.

GlogsterEDU Teacher and School Premium accounts continue to be available as well for 200 or unlimited student accounts.

I am not particularly happy about having to pay for a teacher account now, but I do realize that sometimes we have to pay for excellent resources free of advertising. I’ve done it with Edublogs for years, and I just started a Flicker Pro account this summer. I believe this is just another evolution in education. Since I pay less for curriculum and books, now I can use some of my budget for online subscriptions. One thing to be sure–when you are a paying subscriber, the technical support is awesome!

Read more information and FAQs about the new products and pricing for GlogsterEDU.

Mapping Our Connections: My RSCON3 Session

RSCON3 was last weekend. What a great experience! I’ve written about it here and here, but in this post I’m going to reflect on the session I led. I called it “Adding a Directory Map Using a Spreadsheet to Your Wiki.” Yawn!

Here was the published description…
“Recently I added a participant map to the Global Read Aloud wiki using There were a few tricky steps, so come and do a walk through. Also, brainstorm other uses of maps like this. (UTC-5)”

Yes, that was it. And that crazy URL was not even a hyperlink. It looked just like that. Who would come to this session? I wondered many times over the two weeks leading up to my session.

I explained in one of the previous posts why I agreed to lead the session. Clive asked for something like “reserve” sessions. I thought maybe it meant he needed a back-up plan in case someone got sick. I said yes, thinking a “reserve” session wouldn’t be as important or well-attended, and maybe not attended or needed at all.

Clive was very amiable and welcomed me into the “presenter” fold.
I was put on the schedule. I sent a picture. He put me on the map. He began to treat me like a presenter. Hmmmm! I got more serious about planning the session, although I was very nervous!

Sylvia Ellison signed up to moderate. And then I saw my picture on the Reform Symposium Conference web site. OK, I thought, I guess this session is a go.

I got serious about preparing the session. 8:30 a.m. on Saturday. Not a bad time. I even thought someone might show up. In fact, I started to hope they would. In my head I had changed the name and description of the session countless times, wishing I would have been more creative when I first wrote it. I began thinking of it as “Mapping Our Connections.”

RSCON3 people are passionate learners, inspiring educators, and global connectors. Why wouldn’t they want to map their connections? I thought. If they haven’t already done so, I can show them one or two ways to make a map for their blog or wiki. If they already have mapped their connections, they can share their genius with the rest of us and show us another way to do it. I began getting excited.

Unfortunately, I became enthused a couple weeks too late. I wish I would have had the confidence and gumption to believe in myself and my topic and write it up with more enthusiasm. But I didn’t.

Maybe that was a good thing because I am so glad I had this experience, and I never would have had a session had not Clive asked for last minute “reserve” sessions. I am thankful he sought that last round of volunteers because I didn’t have the confidence to volunteer early on when the bulk of the schedule was prepared.

Well, the morning came, and I went bright and early into my room to add some live links, to check the sound and make sure I felt comfortable in Room 42. It was over an hour before the session, and Sylvia came in. What a relief that was! She was so professional; we went through the session quickly and I felt ready and so thankful she had come in so early.

During the session I asked participants to share a link to their blog or other website where they’ve made global connections. Here are the links that were shared…

  1. Laura Coughlin in Missouri
  2. Celia Coffa in Australia
  3. Tina Schmidt in Pennsylvania
    Also from Tina: A Week in the Life Flat Classroom Project
  4. Sylvia Ellison in Florida
  5. Sherri Edwards in Washington
  6. Denise Krebs in Iowa connecting with New South Wales, Australia

Those are just the participants who shared links. Here is the map we made while we were in the session, showing where some of us were from.

Amazing! In no other era in the history of the world could this varied group of people, in their own homes, come together from North America, Asia, and Australia to share global connections they’ve made. It was delightful!

After viewing the archive, I learned some things I would have done differently in my session. If I did it again, I would:

  • smile when I had the video on!
  • open the map while it was being updated, but I would application share so everyone else could see it too.
  • move more slowly and deliberately when I was application sharing to avoid motion sickness in the participants.
  • speak up, and not have such a “shy” voice.

After 30 minutes I had not gotten to the meat of the presentation, and I shared that I wasn’t sure what to do at that point because our time was up. Sylvia, so gracious, acted surprised and said something like, “It’s been so fast and exciting so far.” Smile! She is so nice!

Then, Shelly Terrell, who was in the session, suggested that we take ten more minutes to finish. Oh, perfect! Just the time we needed to wrap up by making a map of the data points we had gathered.

But how to do it? Should we go through the slides, which were annotated screen shots of how to do it? Or go out to the Internet and actually do it again? I really didn’t know which one would be more helpful, so I asked.

Do you know when you ask a question to a class and no one cares or has an opinion? It is a sure sign of disengagement and apathy, which is death to learning. As I asked the question, which do you want–slides or watching the process live–I was so afraid no one would care. “Doesn’t matter, Denise, I’m disengaged anyway. Not even sure I heard the question,” came the unspoken answer in my head.

But no, Tina to the rescue! She answered right away, suggesting we go through the process rather than the slides. I was so happy she dared to care and expressed her opinion. I jumped on her suggestion. Thanks so much, Tina!

Anyway, we went through the process, and just like I had hoped and prayed, at the last step when I added the map to the wiki, it opened and really did work. I knew it would, but what if in my nervousness I had missed a digit of the API Key? Or any other of dozens of little mistakes I could have made? Then it wouldn’t have worked, and my closing statement–“just like magic, your map is there!” would have been really embarrassing!

All in all, I was pleased with and proud of my first attempt at presenting online at a global conference!

If you are interested in putting a map on your wiki, you can watch the session’s archive. (You have to click several times to get it open.) If you watch it, I hope you will add your name and location to the map. The links in the archive will still work for you, and the Google Doc can still be updated. Please let me know if you participate through the archive!

Related Links:
Children’s Literature Blog Contributors
Global Read Aloud Tuck Everlasting – Notice there are more participants than the archive screenshot had. These maps  update automatically! Little to no maintenance!
Global Read Aloud Flat Stanley
Participant Map for this Session
You can also watch the slides.
Adding a map to a blog using

Trying Out

Months ago I made a account, and it just sat there, as many of my accounts have done when I first get them. Today, though, Sheri Edwards challenged wordsmiths to use Storybird to tell about what they are reading. I dusted off my account and tried it out.

I have been reading children’s literature with undergrads in a class I’m teaching. My Storybird is about traditional literature.

I Am Traditional Literature on Storybird

What a wonderful program Storybird is! The artwork is beautiful, and it inspires beautiful words. Mine was created by a German and Turkish artist named Oya. The program is easy-to-use and very intuitive.

I also signed up so I could have my whole class involved. I’m looking forward to using it during school with my students. So much potential!