Reflection on Google Classroom Promo Video

by Randy Fairfield, 5/19/17

For every three likes this Google Classroom promo video has, it also has one dislike. Seeing all the dislikes got me wondering why so many people were turned off, so I decided to investigate! If you would, watch the video and let me know what you think on Twitter (@RandyFairfield)!

My feelings on the video are mixed. Here are some reflective questions I think the video begs:

  • Are you intimidated by all the devices coming into classrooms?
  • Do you feel like you should retire if you don’t “get it”?
  • What problems can devices help solve?
  • Can the use of educational technology help close the achievement gap?
  • Is it a waste of time to write on paper instead of typing something out?
  • Will students’ “beautiful thoughts just come out” because they are using Chromebooks and Google Classroom?

At first I thought the negative comments about the video would be coming from teachers offended by the implied answers to some of questions begged by the video. What I found instead surprised me:

Reading stuff like that from kids really gets me thinking about a previous blog post I made about what kind of backwards planning needs to be done by school districts to lessen the likelihood of this unintended outcome on students when it comes to district and building technology initiatives. If this kind of planning does not take place, unfortunately, students are the ones that ultimately end up getting hurt.

When integrating technology in the classroom, best practices and student-centered outcomes need to be at the forefront! A tool like Google Classroom is great, but only if used intentionally.


Using Google Forms for Course Evaluations

by Randy Fairfield, 3/22/17

While your administrative evaluator might only be in your classroom a few times in a school year, your students are in your class every day and they know you are doing a great job! Rather than relying on a snapshot your evaluator saw of your classroom, why not let your students evaluate you? You can use the results of their feedback as a part of your ongoing evaluation conversation with your administrator, and—perhaps more importantly—the feedback you get from your students might also open your eyes about the way you are perceived in your classroom.

The student survey below is aligned with the majority of the criteria outlined with the CEL 5D+ Teacher Evaluation Rubric for the 2016-17 school year. Scroll to the bottom of this page if you are interested in having a copy of this form!

Click this link and you will be prompted to make a copy of the Google Form above:

Even better, check out the “Share That Form” section of my website and you’ll have access to a number of different Google Forms that you are free to take a copy of for yourself.


How to Create Interactive AVID eBinders Using Hapara and the Google Suite

Hapara Icon

by Randy Fairfield, 3/22/17

If you’re an AVID school that’s gone or is going 1:1 and is using Hapara and Google Apps for Education, check out this brief tutorial I created on how you could create eBinders at your school! Having eBinders either replace or supplement traditional binders can be a great way to teach students the digital organizational skills they will need to be successful in a 21st-century economy.


Voice-to-Text Typing and Leaving Feedback in Google Docs

by Randy Fairfield, 3/13/17

Do you have students that struggle with handwriting and typing? Perhaps they struggle to get the ideas in their head down on the paper? Why not have them use the Voice-to-Text feature in Google Docs? Simply open up a Google Doc, click Tools, and then click Voice Typing. Game changer!

If you’re leaving a comment in Google Docs, click on the voice-to-text tool, and then say, “insert comment” followed by your comment, you will have voice-to-text in comments as well!


How to Turn off Recommended Content from YouTube Homepage

by Randy Fairfield, 2/25/17

I haven’t been browsing NSF content on YouTube, yet the “recommended content” showing up on the homepage of YouTube is not anything I would want my students to see. Do you have this problem too? Here is a link to the page that will guide in the simple steps you’ll want to take to adjust this setting on YouTube:


Reflections After EdTechTeam Roseville Summit Featuring Google for Education

by Randy Fairfield, 1/18/17

This past three-day weekend was one of the best weekends of my life! I had the privilege of getting to head down to Roseville, CA and present three sessions at the EdTechTeam Roseville Summit featuring Google for Education. I shared some basics on Drive, Forms, and Chrome, shared and heard some ideas about leveraging the GSuite in Schools looking to support students coming from poverty, and showed my love for the Seahawks and the LinkClump Chrome Extension in a Demo Slam. The presenters with the EdTechTeam were great too! That is, except for Dee (@deelanier), who gave away the score of the Seahawks game. Actually, Dee was pretty cool because he showed me why I should be using Google Photos (which is awesome) at the hotel, so all is forgiven, my friend! This was the fourth annual Summit in Roseville, and you could see that the educators there were open to innovation and eager to try new things in their classrooms. There has clearly been a history of high-quality professional development offered by the team as the Summit was sold out and overbooked.

First off, props to Ken Shelton as he did a fantastic job (@k_shelton) as the lead on the Summit. It’s not easy to organize and MC an amazing event like this, and Ken pulled it off with a smile—all while catering to the very particular coffee preferences of each presenter.

My favorite parts of the Summit were the Demo Slam and the Ignite T(ed)TechTeam Talks. Demo Slams are truly an adrenalin hit for tech geeks. Participants get two minutes to get up there and show off something that the audience will find useful. I love the Slams because you can learn A LOT in a very short amount of time, and they are always very entertaining as well. The Ignite T(ed)TechTeam Talks are incredible as well because they are short, sweet, and motivating! They are basically the Demo Slam equivalent of a keynote. As I type this I am realizing my preference of Demo Slams and Ignite T(ed)TechTeam Talks over full training sessions and keynotes probably means I have ADD. I’ll take a look into it…

… In any event, I think one of the things that impressed me most about the entire event was that it wasn’t just about technology. The presenters really focused on student learning and building relationships, and then backed that up by showing how all of the tools we looked at could support those outcomes. This was particularly evident in Jeff Heil’s (@jheil65) keynote about “Technology, High Expectations and the Art of Relationships”. You could hear the emphases on learning and relationships in each Ignite T(ed)TechTeam Talk as well. Each speaker knocked it out of park, including Chris Betcher (@betchaboy), Dee, Holly Clark (@HollyClarkEdu), Rushton Hurley (@rushtonh), Jim Sill (@mistersill), and Jesse Lubinsky (@jlubinsky). Besides learning some things from the content they shared, I think I learned the most by paying attention to their unique and fantastic presentation styles. Now that the event is over, I can’t wait to lead more presentations and trainings and put some of what I learned into practice.

Besides the great presentations and training sessions, the EdTechTeam also had fantastic authors like Lisa Highfill (@lhighfill) of HyperDocs, Trevor MacKenzie, (@trev_mackenzie), and Kim Meldrum (@MeldrumKim) present and leading sessions. Lisa’s grassroots idea to build a culture of collaboration with TeachersGiveTeachers was perhaps the best thing I saw at the Summit. Overall, this was a fantastic event. If there is ever an EdTechTeam Summit near you, I’d encourage you to attend! They happen pretty frequently all around the world, so make the effort to get to one of them! You are guaranteed to leave a Summit full of inspiration and new ideas.


Differentiate Assignments in Google Classroom

by Randy Fairfield, 1/11/17

Google Classroom just added the option today to allow teachers to differentiate assignments for students. This is a feature that teachers using Classroom have been calling for en masse, and it’s exciting to see the Google for Education team responding! Check out the details of the update here!


5 Reasons to Try Inbox by Gmail

by Randy Fairfield, 1/5/17

Inbox by Gmail is an app from Google that has seamlessly interplay with Gmail itself. For me personally, I prefer to use the Inbox app on my phone and prefer using Gmail when I’m working from a PC. There’s more than five, but here are some of the biggest reasons why I love the Inbox app!

#1) The visible preview of attachments with the Inbox app is INCREDIBLY helpful when I’m on my phone.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of what I see on my phone when I’m using the Gmail app versus the Inbox app:

#2) You can “snooze” your Gmail messages, have them disappear for awhile, and then reappear when you’re ready to deal with them later!

The only emails I leave in my Inbox are the ones that I know I still need to deal with; the rest get deleted or archived away. Sometimes, though, my Inbox can still get cluttered due to the volume of email I am dealing with, and there can be an email that sits at the bottom of my Inbox for a while because I don’t need to deal with it for a long time. In such a case, the snooze feature with the Inbox app can be particularly helpful!

#3) You can pin an email to the top of your Inbox.

If you’ve got a lot to juggle, sometimes being able to simply pin the most important email you haven’t had a chance to address to the top of your Inbox can be a useful way to stay organized.

#4) Set reminders so you don’t forget to respond to messages.

I am really, really forgetful. Like, “I feel really bad for my wife” kind of forgetful. Using organizational tools like Google Calendar, having key notifications set on my phone, and all using the reminder tool in Inbox helps me make sure that my forgetfulness doesn’t catch up to me professionally. We all need reminders sometimes, but some of us (like me) need them more than others.

#5) There’s a window of time after you click send where you can “undo” and retract the message!

Now that I’ve admitted my forgetfulness, I might as well go full mea culpa here and admit that sometimes I can be impulsive. I can get so excited to send an email that I don’t proofread first, or sometimes I immediately think, “Wait a minute… was I ready to send that?” after I’ve already clicked the send button! With Inbox I can click the undo button immediately after having that gut feeling. You’ve got be pretty quick though as you don’t get a very large frame of time before you’re out of luck. You can do this with Gmail too, but this is too important not to share!


Keyboard Shortcuts to Add Bulleted and Numbered Lists to Gmail Messages

by Randy Fairfield, 1/4/17

You can quickly and easily add bulleted and numbered lists to your Gmail messages by pressing “Ctrl + Shift + 7” and “Control + Shift + 8”. Keyboard shortcuts like these can be a handy way to save a little time here and there! Yeah, this one isn’t a big deal, but sometimes it’s the little things, right?


My Journey to Becoming a Google Certified Trainer

by Randy Fairfield, 11/8/16

What is your name?
Randy Fairfield

Are you currently a Google Certified Trainer?

What is your official job title?
Technology/Instructional Classroom Support Teacher. I was hired with the original title, but the first two words were later removed due to shifting administrative vision.

How long have you been in your current role?
1-2 years.

What was your previous role?
Classroom teacher (ELA/SS) in two very different alternative school settings. One was a dropout recovery school, and the other was a parent partnership program with students who primarily came from a homeschool background.

How did you first hear about your current role?
I interviewed for a literacy coach position I didn’t want and heavily focused on how I could serve as a technology/instructional coach. The head of human resources told me I gave a great interview, but it was for the wrong job–which was exactly what I intended. The following year my district created the position I was looking for and encouraged me to apply. 🙂

Who or what most influenced you to become an instructional technology coach?
Google Apps for Education and Edmodo helped me transform from a mediocre teacher to a distinguished teacher. I hated leaving the classroom, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have a broader impact on the field of education by spreading my passion. While I sort of paved my own way into the role I was hired for in my district, it was Google Certified Trainers Allison Mollica and Kristina Wambold that opened my eyes to the “treasure trove” of opportunity out there.

To prepare for this role, did you participate in any formal education/training?
I hadn’t really had much in the way of formal education/training to prepare for the role I’m in now, though I’ve taken a great deal of pedagogy-focused professional development since moving into the role. After seeing the power of educational technology in the classroom, I turned down three full-time jobs to take a half-time job at a school that was open to innovation. It was a financially risky move for my family and me, and—instead of subbing the other half of the time like I was supposed to—I would go and hole up in the public library to hone my craft. The personal learning network I developed through Twitter, Google+, and reading blogs was important in my development, but what helped the most in terms of developing the technical skill required for the position was simply taking the initiative to explore myself. When I went to the Seattle Summit Featuring Google Apps for Education last year, I discovered I already knew the bulk of what the presenters were sharing and I decided then and there that I wanted to join their ranks!

Outside of your core role, please describe any other responsibilities you regularly take on.
I am developing the website for my school using Google Sites, have taken on the roles of AVID Site Co-Coordinator and ATP Co-Chair (for parent engagement), and also serve as a mentor teacher in my building.

Please list any top resources (websites, publications, online forums, etc.) for getting important information or learning content relevant to your role.
Google+, Twitter, and various blogs are helpful. I find myself sometimes looking at other resources by Google Certified Trainers. I especially appreciate Eric Curts’s and Alice Keeler’s blogs. I always learn something from the demo slams hosted by Lee Webster too. I also enjoy sharing my expertise and am working hard to be a resource for others as well.

What is the most challenging aspect of this role?
Many of the people I work with—particularly administrators—simply don’t know what they don’t know. It often seems to me that the IT folks don’t have much of a grasp on the instructional side of things, and the instructional folks often aren’t ready to embrace technology. The challenging role I have attempted to play in the past is to bridge the gap between these two groups, but the lack of a growth mindset from both sides sometimes leaves me frustrated. As such, I have shifted my focus to teachers that have expressed a willingness to learn. The only response I’ve ever gotten from teachers is, “Oh my gosh, this is amazing. Why haven’t I heard about this before? Can we get more training?” The power of the tools to enhance instruction and transform learning is an easy sell to those with an open mind.

How would you change this role to be more rewarding?
I was just listening to an interview of Robert Gottlieb (a well-known editor and writer) on The Diane Rehm Show the other day on NPR. Gottlieb said a few things that resonated with me immediately. He said, “All I wanted to do was the work. I wanted to be a part of it. It was so much fun…. What I came to realize was that I loved to be in a collaborative situation with like-minded people…. I didn’t really have much of a family…. I’ve spent the rest of my life creating families around me…. I never really differentiated between where I worked and my office where I had fun.”

I wish I felt more of that in my workplace, but instead I often feel that the skill set I bring to the table is incredibly under-utilized in my district and in my building. Unfortunately, providing teachers with professional development on the tools that have been dropped in their lap has not been a priority in the place I’m at. I still scratch my itch by getting up at 5:00 AM almost daily, creating tutorials, posting on my website, and presenting at conferences, but I wish I had more of an opportunity to do what I love where I’m at.

What are the main professional objectives in your role?
? Present to staff on introducing new technologies in the classroom
? Train/coach teachers on new technologies
? Train/coach teachers specifically on Google tools
? Work with school leadership to plan for change management
? Act as technology expert / IT support at my school site/district
• Other: Implement our student-centered coaching model

What metrics (if any) do you track to measure your progress towards your goal?
? Number of teachers trained/coached
? Hours of training/coaching sessions
? Google Educator Level 1 or Level 2 Certifications
• Student performance outcomes
? Percentage of product adoption
? No metrics

Have you set a concrete goal around your objective? If yes, please elaborate. (ex. By end of academic year, I hope to get the entire school site using Google Drive)
We are expected to measure the overall impact of our coaching by looking at student pre- and post-assessment data, and while I get that student performance outcomes are the bottom line, I see some of the other metrics listed above as incredibly useful in measuring my overall impact as well. I also feel that it’s hard to look good and learn new things at the same time, which is why measuring the immediate impact on student learning might not be the best measure of the impact of my coaching when a teacher is trying to learn how to integrate technology into their classroom.

When do you feel most successful? Please describe.
I feel the most successful when I am able to support a teacher in becoming a more effective integrator of technology in the classroom. I realize it takes most teachers a significant amount of time and training, but helping a teacher get to the point where they reach the sweet center of the TPACK framework is incredibly rewarding for me. I believe—and research supports this idea—that quality professional development for teachers can ulimately have a great impact on student learning.

I also feel successful when I know I have left someone with the spark and the initial oomph they need to get going with integrating technology into their classroom. I love it when trainees leave a session I’ve led with a look of inspiration and wonder because I know that means they are going to follow through and start doing some amazing things. I know because I’ve seen it!

What is your next dream role?
I would love to be able to get on with a team of edtech trainers and have more opportunities to delivering professional development. I have spent a lot of time getting certifications and getting my name out there in the edtech community over the past year and will continue to do so. I am not the type to sit back and wait for things to happen for me!

Admittedly, sometimes it’s hard for me to narrow my focus because I love doing so many things: web development, blogging, delivering training, creating tutorials, district planning, etc. Because I love the process of learning new things and because I have such a diverse skill set, I know I often fail to fully utilize my strengths. I am hoping to get better about that… but I want to learn Google Scripts, PHP, and MySQL too, on top of ninety other things. Utilizing my strengths, scratching my itch to learn, being an amazing husband and father, and sleeping sometimes feel like competing interests that I try my best to manage. 

My latest passion, however, has been developing Google Sites for Schools. I really think that having a Google Site as a centerpiece and digital hub of activity can be incredibly beneficial for a school that’s “gone Google.”

What else (if anything) would you like the Google Apps for Education team to know about people in your role?
I think that sometimes people in my role can get so narrowly focused on the use of technology that they forget the importance of using it to enhance research-based, pedagogically sound practices. I hope that the Google for Education team will continue to keep their ears to the ground and look for avenues to make sure they are listening to top educators about how Google products can best support instruction and student learning.