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“Be Internet Awesome”: Helping kids make smart decisions online

Posted by John Allen on July 5th, 2017

As a parent, I’m constantly talking with my two daughters about how they use the Internet. The way they use it to explore, create and learn inspires me to do my best work at Google, where I lead a team making products that help families and kids have positive experiences online. But for kids to really make the most of the web, we need more than just helpful products: We need to provide guidance as they learn to make their own smart decisions online.

This is one of the most significant issues that we all face as a new generation grows up with the Internet at their fingertips. It’s critical that the most influential people in our kids’ lives—parents and teachers, especially—help kids learn how to be smart, positive and kind online, just like we teach them to be offline. It’s something we all need to reinforce together.

With school out and summer break giving kids more time to spend on the Internet, it’s a great time to introduce Be Internet Awesome: a new way to encourage digital safety and citizenship.

Developed in collaboration with online safety experts like the Family Online Safety Institutethe Internet Keep Safe Coalition and ConnectSafely, Be Internet Awesome focuses on five key lessons to help kids navigate the online world with confidence:

  • Be Internet Smart: Share with care
  • Be Internet Alert: Don’t fall for fake
  • Be Internet Strong: Secure your secrets
  • Be Internet Kind: It’s cool to be kind
  • Be Internet Brave: When in doubt, talk it out

The program includes a range of specific resources for kids, educators and parents, so everyone has the tools they need to learn and participate in the conversation.

For kids

To help kids learn these lessons in a way that’s fun and immersive, we created an interactive, online game called Interland. It’s free and web-based so it’s easily accessible by everyone, and most importantly, it’s in a format kids already love. In this imaginary world of four lands, kids combat hackers, phishers, oversharers and bullies, practicing the skills they need to be good digital citizens.

For educators

We partnered with the Internet Keep Safe Coalition and educators across the country to create a classroom curriculum that brings the five principles of being Internet Awesome to life, at school. To practice being Internet Alert, for example, students can work together to identify whether websites and emails contain signs of a phishing attempt. The lesson plans, activities and worksheets align with the International Society for Technology in Education’s Standards for Students, which educators look toward to define skills for safe and positive action online.

“Building these skills in our students will require ongoing attention as new technologies pose challenges and opportunities for students both at home and at school,”  says Carolyn Sykora, Senior Director of Standards at ISTE. “Be Internet Awesome provides materials educators and parents can use to help students learn about online safety in a fun and engaging way.”

After reviewing the game and curriculum, ISTE has awarded Be Internet Awesome its Seal of Alignment for Readiness. Educators can find the curriculum on the Be Internet Awesome resource hub, or as part of a new online course in the Google for Education Training Center.

For parents and guardians

Without some guidance, having a meaningful conversation about digital safety and respect at home can be really hard. These are sensitive topics and parents may not know where to start. To help make starting the conversation easier, we teamed up with a group of YouTube creators, including John Green, the What’s Inside? Family and MinutePhysics, to launch the #BeInternetAwesome Challenge, a video series that makes talking about online safety fun and accessible. Families can reinforce important lessons at home by signing the Be Internet Awesome Pledge to stay smart, alert, strong, kind and brave online.

My team and I will continue Google’s work to make the Internet a safer, more positive place for kids, and this is an exciting new chapter in our ongoing efforts. Ready, set, Be Internet Awesome!

Posted in Admissions, Lecturers, News, Notification, Student | 6 Comments »

Enjoying Chicago After ALA Conference Hours

Posted by John Allen on July 4th, 2017

Over the last few days I have written about Affiliate Assembly at ALA and my favorite ALA Events. While ALA was a seriously busy conference, we did manage to squeeze a little fun in the after hours that weren’t filled with banquets and other ALA sponsored events. Every time we went somewhere we asked our cab or Uber drivers to share things to see and do, and places to eat. We gave it a good college try that’s for sure. Here is a sampling of some of the ones we enjoyed!

Chicago Cultural Museum

I enjoyed touring the Chicago Cultural Museum, an institution in Chicago. The Cultural Museum was filled with five floors of artifacts and displays. The most unique one showcased a Tiffany Glass domed ceiling. I visited the museum with two Affiliate Assembly pals from California, Jane Lofton and Katie Williams. I learned that the building was originally stocked with 8,000 books gifted by English donors after the Great Chicago Fire, making it the city’s first public library. It wasn’t until nearly 100 years later, in 1991, that it became the Chicago Cultural Center. We went specifically to see the Tiffany Glass Dome.

Checkout Katie W., Jane L., and myself getting a selfie with the Tiffany Glassed Dome.

Palmer Hotel Lobby Bar

Jane, Katie and I went on to visit the Palmer House Hotel’s Lobby Bar next, on recommendation of Katie’s relatives who work in the area.  Several ALA events were held in some of the Palmer spaces. I learned this place is touted as the home of the brownie. Check out the  gold peacock doors!  In my research (you knew I had to) I found out that the Peacock Doors pay homage to House of Peacock, Chicago’s first incorporated business from 1837. House of Peacock was a Palmer House retail establishment known for fine jewelry and luxury goods like fine china, silver and gold. The arched ceiling was really special too.

A few of our shared pictures from the Palmer House Bar

Chicago Crime Tour

I walked so much after my first day, I had blisters on my feet, causing me to ditch the cute sandals in favor of comfy shoes after that. So I missed our AASL Region 4 Affiliate Assembly outing, which was a Chicago Crime Tour! My SCASL colleagues reported that I missed a lot of fun. The following pictures were on Region 4 Chair Misti Jenkins’ Twitter here and here. After the Bus Tour, they went to have Chicago deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati’s. (Confession, this was the deal breaker for me in my decision to skip it. Sore feet and, ick, deep dish pizza! I decided to rest my feet back at the hotel, eating a sandwich from a neighboring deli instead.)

Pictures captured by the AASL Region 4 Gang


In  other exciting news, SCASL President Cindy Symonds and colleague Katie High scored tickets to the broadway show Hamilton, which was in town and very close to the ALA venues. We were all rather jealous! Worse, I haven’t seen the first picture of their fun.

Brittanica Event

All of Region 4 was invited to an evening out over at the Brittanica Corporate Office. Gladys Brown of Brittanica (and friend of SCASL) certainly showed us a good time! There was a tour and everything. The building is a classic, and it was featured on our boat tour the next night. Here is a shot of the building that I took from the boat tour.

My photo of the Brittanica Corporate Offices from the boat tour.


We left the Brittanica event early because we made reservations at Ditka’s. Of course we had to try it. It came highly recommended several times, and I shared that David Jakes years ago at a Science Leadership Academy Conference I attended raved about the Pot Roast Nacho’s. It didn’t take too much convincing for our party to make reservations. We were not disappointed.

Our visit to Ditka’s

Favorite Meal in Chicago

We had some really awesome meals while in Chicago, but I suffered greatly from sticker-shock. I was dumbfounded by the cost of food and drinks! I so wish I had a photo from the Brittanica gig, as that was the most ridiculously good food I had, possibly even the best. But for me personally, a breakfast person, I loved the small little diner we found called Eggy’s. It was certainly off the beaten trail, and one had to be determined to find it, but Eggy’s did not disappoint. It serves both breakfast and lunch, and will not break the bank, and shocking most of all, they had GRITS!

Eggy’s Breakfast

Chicago Architecture Boat Tour

At the encouragement of my friend, Heather Loy, we signed up for the twilight Chicago Architecture Boat Tour. While it was a fascinating tour along the river, and we even had to stop one time for a drawbridge lifting, it was freezing cold. These southern gals were ill prepared for the cool temps that dropped to the upper 50s by dark that evening. Factor in a stiff breeze off the water, sandals and only light weight jackets, and you can imagine how cold we were. No matter though, it was the best after conference event I participated in! The SCASL entourage and the CASL friends who joined us had an absolute blast. I heard on the news late that night that those cool temps were unseasonable for Chicago this time of the year.

Time to say Good Bye Chicago

We bid a final good bye to Chicago by eating at yet another local’s recommendation. The cheese fries were to die for! Heather T had the highly prized chocolate cake shake. While Portillo’s is a chain, it was certainly new to us, and best, the food and fare was very reasonably priced. Based on the really long lines, we could tell it is a favorite.


Next ALA Annual

Next summer your SCASL cohort travels to New Orleans for the ALA Annual Conference. I’d better start saving now as my per diem did not go very far on Chicago food. I imagine that will be the same in New Orleans!

Posted in News | 1 Comment »

Proactive Teachers vs Reactive Teachers

Posted by John Allen on July 1st, 2017

Is this you most days?

Some days are going to feel like the cards are stacked against you no matter what you do. The question to ask is: On average, how often do those days occur?

Do any of these happen to you on a regular basis?

  • you receive a memo about 15 minutes before you start your day letting you know about the change in schedule for today
  • there is an unannounced fire drill during your testing time
  • immediately following independent reading time, your classroom library is trashed – and the students have already made their way to specials
  • the copy machine is jammed.  Again.
  • at lunchtime, your soup splatters all over your pants when trying to get it out of the staff lounge microwave
  • a student randomly starts shouting during your formal observation
  • “Johnny’s” mom comes walking through your classroom door determined to have a serious talk about his math grade, while you are in the middle of the morning meeting
  • two students are horse-playing in the corner and accidentally knock over a huge stack of papers all over the ground you have yet to file
  • you need chocolate, aspirin, and perhaps an adult beverage – and it isn’t even 10 am yet.

Ugggggggh, it’s time to make the donuts

Some days are going to feel like the cards are stacked against you no matter what you do.  It doesn’t matter who you are or what job you do – those days will happen.

The question to ask yourself is “On average, how often do those days occur?”

If you are having more stressful days than satisfactory days, perhaps it’s time to reflect on ourselves.  It’s the one thing we ALWAYS have control over.

Proactive Teachers vs Reactive Teachers

If you constantly feel as though you are swimming upstream, you are taking on reactive characteristics.  And that takes a toll on your mood, self-worth, and happiness.  Believe it or not, those feelings will transfer to your students too.  They can sense when you are struggling.  Classroom environment really takes a hit when the teacher is not on his or her A-game.

Proactive teachers realize that there will be unexpected events throughout the day, but she has a plan for addressing the surprises.  He knows if A happens, he will do B.  There are very few reasons to panic throughout the day if you have created a contingency plan.

Proactive teachers are less stressed and are far more flexible.  At the end of the day, the proactive teacher feels great about how the day went.  She knows there are some things she can change, and she took the positive steps to work towards those changes.  And she knows there are things that she cannot change – but she does have control as to how she reacts to those items.

I don’t know about you, but I personally feel terrible at the end of the day if I feel I had no control over my students, my schedule, my teaching, or even my thoughts.  In my opinion, there is nothing worse than feeling powerless.  We all need to feel success on some level – and knowing you did the best you could when the unexpected happens because you had control over the actions you took gives you that feeling of small wins.

We can’t be effective teachers if we are feeling behind the 8-ball all day every day.

It is time to be proactive and take back control of your classroom, if nothing else.  You owe it to your students, but most of all, you owe it to yourself to feel good about your choices, even when it seems like all choice is gone.  I am here to tell you control has not been taken away from you – how you choose to work within your options is where your control really lives.

Choose to be the proactive teacher.

Are you usually proactive or reactive?  Share with us in the comments below so others know they are not alone.

Posted in Lecturers, News, Notification | 1 Comment »

7 Myths About Differentiated Instruction

Posted by John Allen on June 28th, 2017

The classroom is on fire!   Literally!   And your only way to put out the flame is to use differentiated instruction strategies.  Could you do it?

I bet many teachers would say no.  Or they would say that they have tried DI in the past, but it was too confusing, took too long to prep, or was not needed.  But guess what?   I bet you are already doing it on a regular basis and didn’t even know!  Being aware though is an important component of a successful DI classroom.  You can’t improve on what you are doing, if you don’t know what you have in place already.

Let’s talk about 7 common myths of differentiation – and see if you can relate to any of them.

1.   It takes too long to figure out who needs what.

When you hear the word differentiation, do you cringe thinking about pre-assessment, assessment, post-assessment, formal assessment, benchmarking, informal assessment, or more?  I totally get it.  Sometimes it seems as though you are spending way more time testing what they do or don’t know than actually teaching them!

DI doesn’t have to encompass eons of testing.  Even do a picture walk through the upcoming story of the week in reading will give you some knowledge as to what students know ahead of time.

And that just covers the ability part of DI.

You also want to think about the interests of your students.  Knowing that Stella is interested in snow because she has never seen in real life before could be a huge reason to correlate the story of the week in reading with the water cycle in science with standard vs customary measurement in math – all tied back to the white stuff.  You can be sure Stella will be an active learner.

Example:  Interest surveys are a wonderful way to see which students might be interested in a related topic.  Tie in those topics with the background knowledge – and you have a lesson in which students are engaged beyond the norm.

Want to know more about DI setups for your classroom?   Check out Simple Classroom Systems HERE!

2.  My students only need to master the current year’s standards.  That is what I am responsible for providing.

That is partially right.  But think about this way:  keep the content and change the delivery.  Do you like to eat the exact same meals day after day after day?  Maybe if you are on a special diet out of necessity.  But doesn’t that take some of the joy out of eating?

If your students are all learning the exact same material in exactly the same way day after day (think lecture style), you are taking some of the joy of learning away from them, even if you are not knowingly doing this.  Students can still be required to learn the grade-level content, but simply by changing the format of the learning often, they are more invested in showing up and giving more effort.

Example:  Open-ended projects can be great lead in or lead out activities for a unit.

3.  That’s what my gifted intervention specialist and special education teacher are there to do.

Wellllll – not exactly.  While having additional teachers who push in or pull out students throughout the day can help to get students some more individualized learning, those specialists typically only have the student for a portion of the day.

In addition, those teachers also usually have huge caseloads of other students in various classrooms ranging a huge spread of grade levels, that all need help all throughout the day.  Imagine being on a  field trip at the zoo where your students have all scattered to different places.  They are interested in different animals, have varying degree of understanding about those animals, and want to learn the facts about the animals in different ways (by hearing a podcast, seeing a handler explain, or even by touching the animal).  This is how a GIS or special ed teacher feels most days.

Instead of being to individual units working on the same curriculum that every other student is taught, work together to create something unique for the student.  Two heads is better than one.  You can move mountains when you work together for a common result.

Example:  Work with your extra hands to use the student’s interest, readiness, and/or learning profile to individualize a special lesson that will not only be fun for the student, but fun for the co-teachers as well.

4.  Differentiated instruction lesson plans take too long to document.

Use a highlighter (or highlight the text if you are a computer-based lesson planner) and highlight anything that changes up the content pink.  If you are changing the processes of the lesson, use a blue highlighter.  And use yellow for the times when you are asking for varied products from students.

In addition, grab a green highlighter to show variations based on interest, ability, or learning profile!

Example:  When you teach mini lessons or with small groups, you are using DI.  How about listening to a story on tape?  That too.  Graphic organizers also fall into the DI category!  I challenge you to go through your current lesson plans and highlight when you are changing up the content, process, and/or product.  I bet it’s more than you think!

5.  Preparing multiple assessments and manipulatives is too confusing for the students.

I know some teacher who have taken DI to a new level and have even gotten to the point of differentiating weekly center rotations!  WOW!   While I LOVE the idea of completely individualized everything, I also wonder whether those teachers ever sleep because we all know setting up something that intense will definitely take up serious time.

Not to mention – students MIGHT be confused if they show up to a center/station and there are 3 choices, but they are only to do one.

I like easy, but effective.  If there is a way for me to make it be simpler to understand – and still get the same benefit, I will always choose the simpler route.

Example:  A differentiated assessment doesn’t always have to involve individualized rubrics and tons of moving pieces.  Use an exit slip to test for understanding of the lesson that day.  Use that basic information to pull small groups the next day based on whether to reteach or extend the lesson concepts.

6.  DI only works on paper – not in a real classroom environment.

If you have students who are far below grade level standards and those who are far above (which is pretty much a typical mixed-ability classroom), and you are teaching all students the same, some students will be bored while others are going to be overly-frustrated.  And you will have behavior issues.

In my opinion, I would rather have behavior issues because students are trying out new ways to learn than have behavior issues because of the academic ability gaps that I am not addressing in my teaching methods.

Will students need to be trained on how to work differently with inquiry projects than lecture style?  Absolutely.  Another thing that will need to be addressed is varying degrees of work.  One student might be asked to complete ALL centers available that week, while another is asked to complete just 2 centers.   That is the difference between fair and equal.

Example:  Make sure you are taking the time to explain the difference between “fair” and “equal” in the classroom.  Once students grasp the notion that everyone has unique learning challenges, they are far more likely to jump in and help one another rather than complaining if learning doesn’t look the same.   Here is a great lesson from Denise at Sunny Days in Second Grade.

7.  I provide DI:  my higher functioning students are able to assist the lower ability students.  It not only helps me, but they benefit as well.

So this is a sticking point for me.  I used to be 100% against this method.  But along the way, I have read current research and I can see the pros and cons of using this strategy in your DI classroom.

Being able to “teach” something to someone else is a gift.  We know that from the line of work we do.  And you only truly deepen the understanding of the concept when you are immersed in teaching those principles to another person.

High ability students can be used to assist lower ability students, but only if both students agree to the situation.  If the high ability student feels as though he or she is being shortchanged by not learning anything new, resentment will soon follow.  Not to mention:  can the high ability student successfully instruct the peer?  Just because they may understand the topic, doesn’t mean he or she is a competent (or patient) teacher.

If the lower ability student feels talked down upon by another student, it may create social situations that happen inside and outside of the classroom.

Example:  Assign peer helpers when the student feels comfortable doing so – and when the partner student asks for assistance from the peer only.

Want to know more about DI setups for your classroom?   Check out Simple Classroom Systems HERE!

Differentiation in your classroom doesn’t have to be challenging, over time-consuming, or confusing for your students.  Be noting what you are already doing, you become aware of what is working and what can be added or changed up.

I don’t know about you, but some days I like McDonald’s for breakfast, a salad for lunch, and a fancy steak restaurant for dinner.  Differentiation is a critical part of successful instruction.  Your students will be excited to hear what is coming next!

Posted in Admissions, Lecturers, News, Notification, Regime, Student, Training | No Comments »

Libraries across the U.S. are Ready to Code

Posted by John Allen on June 15th, 2017

Editor’s Note: Alan Inouye leads public policy for the American Library Association, and today he tells us about a new partnership with Google that will equip librarians to offer coding programs for kids in their communities

Emily Zorea is not a computer scientist. She’s a Youth Services Librarian at the Brewer Public Library in Richland Center, Wisconsin, but when she noticed that local students were showing an interest in computer science (CS), she started a coding program at the library. Though she didn’t have a CS background, she understood that coding, collaboration and creativity were  critical skills for students to approach complex problems and improve the world around them. Because of Emily’s work, the Brewer Public Library is now Ready to Code. At the American Library Association, we want to give librarians like Emily the opportunity to teach these skills, which is why we are thrilled to partner with Google on thae next phase of the Libraries Ready to Code initiative—a $500,000 sponsorship from Google to develop a coding toolkit and make critical skills more accessible for students across 120,000 libraries in the U.S.

Libraries will receive funding, consulting expertise, and operational support from Google to pilot a CS education toolkit that equips any librarian with the ability to implement a CS education program for kids. The resources aren’t meant to transform librarians into expert programmers but will support them with the knowledge and skills to do what they do best: empower youth to learn, create, problem solve, and develop the confidence and future skills to succeed in their future careers.


“It always amazes me how interested both parents and kids are in coding, and how excited they become when they learn they can create media on their own–all by using code.” – Emily Zorea, Youth Services Librarian, Brewer Public Library

For libraries, by libraries

Librarians and staff know what works best for their communities, so we will rely on them to help us develop the toolkit. This summer a cohort of libraries will receive coding resources, like CS First, a free video-based coding club that doesn’t require CS knowledge, to help them facilitate CS programs. Then we’ll gather feedback from the cohort so that we can build a toolkit that is useful and informative for other libraries who want to be Ready to Code. The cohort will also  establish a community of schools and libraries who value coding, and will use their knowledge and expertise to help that community.

Critical thinking skills for the future

Though every student who studies code won’t become an engineer, critical thinking skills are essential in all career paths. That is why Libraries Ready to Code also emphasizes computational thinking, a basic set of problem-solving skills, in addition to code, that is at the heart of connecting the libraries’ mission of fostering critical thinking with computer science.

Many of our library educators, like Jason Gonzales, a technology specialist at the Muskogee Public Library, already have exemplary programs that combine computer science and computational thinking. His community is located about 50 miles outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma, so the need for new programming was crucial, given that most youth are not able to travel to the city to pursue their interests. When students expressed an overwhelming interest in video game design, he knew what the focus of a new summer coding camp would be. Long-term, he hopes students will learn more digital literacy skills so they are comfortable interacting with technology, and applying it to other challenges now and in the future.

“Ready to Code means having the resources available so that if someone is interested in coding or wants to explore it further they are able to. Knowing where to point youth can allow them to begin enjoying and exploring coding on their own.”- Jason Gonzales, technology specialist, Muskogee Public Library

When the American Library Association and Google announced the Libraries Ready to Code initiative last year, it began as an effort to learn about CS activities, like the ones that Emily and Jason led. We then expanded to work with university faculty at Library and Information Science (LIS) schools to integrate CS content their tech and media courses. Our next challenge is scaling these successes to all our libraries, which is where our partnership with Google, and the development of a toolkit, becomes even more important. Keep an eye out in July for a call for libraries to participate in developing the toolkit. We hope it will empower any library, regardless of geography, expertise, or affluence to provide access to CS education and ultimately, skills that will make students successful in the future

Posted in News, Notification, Student | 1 Comment »

Secrets of Stellar Student Listening

Posted by John Allen on June 14th, 2017

True story:   I was tired of repeating directions and instructions over and over and over again in the classroom.  I was also frustrated with the noise level – and how when I really need to get my students’ attention, I had defaulted to trying to talk over them in order to be heard.  I also knew a few students were good listeners and I wondered how I could get the rest of the class on that route.

I knew there had to be something out there that would help me to teach my students how to be active listeners {before I lost my marbles} – but when I did Internet searches, most came back for ESL listening activities.

Hmmmmmm…my students weren’t ESL students.  In fact, their English was definitely front and center.  Especially during the school-wide assembly, when I wanted to crawl in a hole and hide until it was over.  lol.

Trust me, I hear you…

The thing is that the students weren’t necessarily being defiant.  They honestly just wanted to be heard.  And it didn’t matter if their best bud was talking – or the president of the universe – they would just talk louder to make sure everyone knew they were there.  Being so wrapped up in being heard, it was virtually impossible for that child to actively listen to someone else.  You can’t be the star of the show and the supporting actor at the same time.

And again – there was nothing out there to help me make sense of it all – or offer specific activities to improve this situation.  I knew if I was having this conundrum, so were other teachers out there.  No way I could be the only one.

So I conducted my own research and created some quick and easy action steps you can do if your classroom of angels is also struggling with active listening.  Or maybe you are just one “I didn’t hear what you said” away from a meltdown.

Where, where, where?

Where is this magical unicorn training you ask?  Right here at Secrets to Stellar Student Listening! A completely FREE on-demand workshop which will share the 4 secrets to active student listening – WHAT?!  Yup.  For reals.

Oh – and did I mention you can watch it at home, at your leisure, and in your PJs with your favorite snack and beverage??  I wish PD at school were this cool!  PLUS – I have included a certificate of attendance for .75 hours if you are allowed to use it for continuing education credits (make sure to check with your district to see if it is accepted).  That certificate will appear once the training is over.  So you really do have to pay attention.

Can you hear me? Free online training for teachers that will show you how to infuse better listening and following direction skills in your classroom!

And listening.  Actively.  Kind of a cool skill, right?

Head on over and sign up for the free training now.  Kick back and prepare to get your wheels turning!  Your “about-to-meltdown” self thanks you many times over.

Posted in News, Notification, Student | No Comments »

Developing critical reading skills with media literacy apps on Chromebooks

Posted by John Allen on June 5th, 2017

Editor’s note: Over the last year, we’ve introduced new ways for students to develop important future skills with Chromebook tools, including active listeningand creativity. Yesterday at ISTE we announced our latest bundles in this series, curated in collaboration with educators. In this post, we dive into the Media Literacy apps on Chromebooks bundle, designed to help students evaluate and think critically about the information they see online. Follow our updates onTwitter, and if you’re at ISTE in San Antonio, visit us at booth #1718 to learn more and demo these tools for yourself.

Bringing current events into the classroom is a great way to engage students in what’s happening around the world. With countless online news sources to choose from, it’s more important than ever for students to develop media literacy skills that help them understand the difference between reliable information sources and “fake news.” And media literacy skills aren’t just helpful in the classroom—they’re essential  future skills that help students thrive beyond the classroom and into their adult careers.

Earlier this month we announced Be Internet Awesome, a program to help kids learn how to become smart, confident explorers of the online world. One module teaches how to be Internet Alert, including how to avoid “falling for fake.” Now, to help school districts provide more media literacy opportunities to students, we’re offering a bundle of Media Literacy apps on Chromebooks, designed to help students evaluate and think critically about the information they see online. These apps are available at a special discounted price and may be purchased alongside Chromebooks or independently from U.S. Chromebooks resellers.

Media literacy empowers people to be critical thinkers and makers, effective communicators and active citizens.Renee Hobbs National Association for Media Literacy

Here’s a deeper look at the apps in the Media Literacy bundle.

Scrible is a research platform enabling students to curate, annotate and collaborate on authentic online sources such as news articles and blog posts. They can highlight important passages, comment on key points and reply to one another in real time—fostering collaborative discourse, critical commentary, and mindfulness about the quality of their sources. They can later bring their researched content into the writing process using automatic citation capture, bibliographies and Google Docs and Drive integrations.

“Scrible helps students think about information critically through organizing their thoughts on the page,” says Matt Menschner, social studies teacher at Kensington High School for the Creative and Performing Arts (KCAPA) in Philadelphia, PA. “It’s helped foster creative and critical thinking and positive discussion around the efficacy of the information that we’re going through on a daily basis.”

Menschner says that during the recent school year, Scrible “acted like an icebreaker and fostered a lot more creative discussion and face-to-face conversations” between his students. He doesn’t expect the benefits to fade after graduation, either—students from previous years “come back to visit and they tell me they still use Scrible now in their college classes.”

Kopp says Frontier projects are “inherently something students are excited about. They become so interested in some of the projects that on their own they look to read more about them.” One student, for example, became fascinated with crime-scene forensics, and his research paper was shared with a law enforcement officer in Michigan. The officer then shared a video with the class that helped further their understanding of the forensic process.

“The kids went wild over it, because now they’re realizing that their writing has importance,” Kopp says. “There’s relevance, and they’re opening a dialogue with others outside of the classroom.”

Encouraging student choice in research and writing can help students connect more deeply with the core curriculum at hand. Frontier is “building out projects that align to our curriculum, which helps us supplement the social studies portion of the curriculum,” says Kopp. All the while, students learn how to “seek and access information from a variety of sources, related to questions they’re curious about.”

To learn more about these and other educational tools, please visit, check out the websites, or contact your school’s Chromebook reseller. And follow @GoogleForEdu on Twitter to see all that’s launching at ISTE.

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Free Hallway Tips Workshop

Posted by John Allen on May 5th, 2017

As you are walking through the hallway at school, do you ever see the group of students that is goofing off, being entirely too loud, and is either stretched out the length of a football field or is so bunched up they are literally pushing one another?   Maybe that group of students belongs to you?

It’s ok.  We’ve ALL been there.  In fact, I STILL have nightmares about unruly students running through the hallway interrupting every class along the way and angry colleagues expressing their disapproval – lol!

If you would like a couple more ideas for hallway transitions, make sure to get registered for our FREE Workshop:  Helpful Hallway Transition Tips!

This 20-min presentation will give you ideas for lining up, management suggestions, and 10 activities while walking quietly. Includes a free Cheat Sheet!

It includes ideas for management, lining up strategies, and even 10 activities students can be doing while walking and/or waiting in the hallway.  Even if you are a hallway pro, you might grab a new idea or three.

Get registered now HERE => Helpful Hallway Transitions Tips and don’t forget to grab your freebie cheat sheet download after watching the 20-minute workshop too!

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Inspiring the creative problem-solvers of the future

Posted by John Allen on April 5th, 2017

What’s coming next in technology will shape our future. And because we can’t predict what challenges the future will bring, we need to cultivate a new generation of problem-solvers, storytellers, and creative minds to tackle our next problems at scale. It’s not just about coding and programming computers, it’s about helping students learn skills they’ll need to approach problems in a fundamentally different way across every discipline from business to engineering to the arts.

Today, we hosted our fourth annual I/O Youth, part of a longstanding effort to get more students excited about where technology can take them. Nearly 150 5th-7th graders from schools around the Bay Area descended on Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, CA to explore activities focused on digital storytelling, inventing, science, and coding.

Ryan Germick, who leads our Doodle team, along with Krysia Olszewska of Technovation, emceed the day as kids delved into four activities:

  • Animating their very own cartoon with Toontastic
  • Building a wind spinner from craft supplies and analyzing its speed with the Science Journal app
  • Creating and programming a hot potato game using littleBits Code Kit, which uses drag-and-drop programming based on Google’s Blockly to help kids code
  • Coding an adventure on the high seas, programming the type of ship, height of waves, characters and dialogue, using Scratch with Google’s CS First curriculum

It wouldn’t be I/O without a Sandbox, so through “Toy Taxidermy,” an activity developed by Wonderful Idea Co, kids tinkered with mechanical toys to see how they work. The MIT Media Lab showed kids how to make their own game controllers with Play-Doh and tinfoil to control the games they created in Scratch. Kids also got to check out a virtual journey with Expeditions, learn about the Google Assistant and its sense of humor, and see examples of artificial intelligence through Google’s Quick, Draw! and Giorgio Cam AI Experiments.

Today was about opening a door to let kids see what’s possible. Mentors from littleBits, Scratch, and Technovation encouraged kids to get involved in local clubs and activities so that anyone who has a passion for technology has an outlet to keep going. And everyone went home with a littleBits Rule Your Room Kit, so they can continue creating and programming at home. We hope kids discover that a bright future isn’t some distant goal—it’s something they have the power and skills to create right now.

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Helping to close the education gap

Posted by John Allen on March 5th, 2017

Even after four years of primary education, 130 million students around the world haven’t mastered basic subjects like reading and math. Limited access to quality materials, under-resourced teachers, and barriers to learning outside the classroom present challenges for many children.

Through, we’ve given more than $110 million over the past five years to help close gaps in education—whether globally through early and ongoing support for innovators like Khan Academy or focused specifically on how we can support future technologists through our support for CS education organizations. Today, we’re expanding on those commitments with our largest dedicated portfolio of $50 million over the next two years to support nonprofits who are building tech-based learning solutions that tackle these challenges. To start, we’re funding nine organizations around the world that we will also support with Googler volunteers in areas like user experience design, translation, offline functionality and data analytics. By the end of 2017, our goal is to give grants to education nonprofits in 20 countries. And later this year, we’ll be looking for the next round of innovators to join them.

GEI EDU Grant-graphic0.png

Our education grants will focus on three areas where technology can help: giving more students access to quality learning materials, supporting teacher development, and reaching students in conflict zones. Get to know some of our grantees below, and learn about the ways they’re using technology to help close the education gap.

Giving kids the right materials

Around the world, students in low-income communities have to learn with fewer books, out-of-date texts, and materials that are culturally irrelevant or even in the wrong language. Technology can bypass the geographic and financial boundaries that block educational resources from reaching students, while also making those resources more engaging, interactive and effective.

GEI EDU Grant-graphic1.png

One of our first grantees in this area is the Foundation for Learning Equality, which builds free open-source software to bring online materials—including books, video tutorials and quizzes—to the 4.3 billion people who lack consistent access to the internet. Their new platform, Kolibri, runs on numerous devices and helps educators access, organize and customize digital content, even in the most remote locations. So far they’ve brought 7,000 videos and 26,000 interactive exercises offline for students in about 160 countries.

Our funding, along with Google volunteers providing technical support, will help Learning Equality build a bigger content library and scale their reach to hundreds of thousands of new students. This summer, Google engineers and product experts are volunteering to spend four weeks working side-by-side with Learning Equality’s product team in areas such as UX/UI, content integration, and video compression technology.

Keeping teachers trained and engaged

Having a great teacher is one of the best predictors of a student’s academic success, but in many countries there simply aren’t enough of them. By 2030, India alone will need 3 million new primary school teachers just to keep up with its growing population of students. is helping local leaders invest in digital tools that offer teachers quality training and confidence-building tools that encourage creativity in the classroom. The first of these grants goes to Million Sparks Foundation’s ChalkLit,an app-based platform that combines bite-sized, curriculum-aligned content with an online community to support first-rate teaching. Google engineers volunteering their time and skills will advise the Million Sparks team on how to optimize the ChalkLit app for teachers in low-bandwidth and offline environments.

Helping students learn in crisis

Thirty-two million primary school-aged students can’t reach traditional classrooms because of violent conflict and displacement. Quality primary education is especially important to kids who, living in camps or other hard-to-reach settings, are highly vulnerable to poverty and exploitative labor.

One interesting approach to this problem comes from grantee War Child Holland, whose game-based method, Can’t Wait To Learn, children affected by conflict from falling behind by providing a year of lessons and exercises that align with a host country’s curriculum.

Data collected from Can’t Wait To Learn’s first deployments in Sudan showed that students learned significantly from the approach, with boys and girls progressing at equal rates. Supported by Google product experts who are volunteering to help build their product road map and expand their tech team, War Child Holland aims to reach significant numbers of children in the Middle East and Africa the next five years.

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