I’m making new Google Sites. Are you?

Once Google released it’s testing version of Google Sites this summer, I immediately switched over and haven’t returned. In fact, I redid my Fennovation site to the new Google Sites. Does it do everything I want it to, yet? No? Is it better in almost every other way, though? Yes.

Curious how you, too, can move over to the new and improved Google Sites? Check out “Google Sites : New and Improved.”

So far, I have helped our entire staff make consistent splash pages (there is not a domain template option yet, but since the standard Site looks the same, it’s not hard to standardize them). I have also taught my English class to make them for three different digital writing (collaborative) projects.

What are you using the new Sites for?

Beef up your Google Geo knowledge!

My favorite area of Googleness resides in its geography arena. And, they are not just for the geo teacher. They are cross-curricular. For instance – use Tour Builder to create ePortfolios of their journey through school. Use Earth or Map Builders tools to take measurements and integrate geometry.

Google’s Geo tools transcend the social studies classroom. So, I challenge you to check out some of my favorite geo tools. How can you use it in your classroom? How can you collaborate with another teacher to use it in both of your classrooms?

Check out fennovation.org for an extensive list of Google tools.


Let’s get Digital

Before spring break, it’s a great time to remind students and staff to take a digital detox, or to beef up their digital image. In honor of our upcoming spring break, I’ve added some new resources to assist in this:

  • NYC Department of Education’s guide to creating a better digital image
  • NYC Department of Education’s guide to social media
  • NYC Department of Education’s guide to social media (for teachers)

Check out the full “Let’s Get Digital” presentation as well as fennovation.org for all things innovation!

Making your GSuite experience even better

Recently, I realized I had been using some of GSuite’s latest updates, but I had not shared them out. So, today, I’m sharing out a few of my favorite “recent” updates.


Assigning work through the comments feature is great. As an English teacher, I use this every time I give feedback to students. While I used to use the directed commentary, now I can assign it to them as a task. They receive a noticed and must complete it. Wonderful.


I love being able to link to a range of cells within my spreadsheets. I can now set up a table of contents of sorts in my sheets.


I’ve saved the best for last. Google Slides have always been a cleaner alternative to PowerPoint. The minute I started using them, I never went back…8 years or so later. So, when they stepped up their game with the Q&A feature, I wasn’t surprised. However, when they added in the ability to insert  YouTube videos and choose the stop and start points, that blew my mind. Plus, you can now insert videos from Google Drive! I used Screencastify to make many screencasts. Those go into my Google Drive (though, they can go into YouTube). Now, I can immediately put them in my presentations! Plus, you can also now automatically put images into a slideshow!


Check out Fennovation.org for more Google Tips!

Become a search ninja & fake news detective

Fake news is more than just evaluating sources for their legitimacy. It’s also understanding the way search results are sorted – their algorithms. Without understanding this, it’s easy to live in a “filter bubble.”

For today’s addition to “Becoming a Search Ninja,” I’ve added in a section on how to detect fake news and how to understand the science behind your search results. Being a search ninja is not only about searching effectively, but understanding how searching works.

Check out the new additions to “Becoming a Search Ninja” below (new additions appear after slide 89). You may also check out Fennovation.org for a digital citizenship approach to searching.

Coding – Why are we still debating it?

I went to a conference a few months ago, and the presenter made an interesting point: In many classrooms, the haiku is still taught, but we don’t have debates on whether or not to teach it. However, while students will interact with some technology daily, we still debate whether or not it is essential to teach them how to use it and how to understand that.

Stop debating it. Today, computer science is necessary to understanding the world around us. Currently, I’m interested in “filter bubbles” as they relate to fake news and digital citizenship. These are entirely controlled by algorithms – a.k.a. computer science. To understand our lives, computer science is essential.

Hopefully, I’ve won you over with my debate, and now, you’re ready to start learning or teaching it. If that’s the case, check out the Fennovation Coding Bookmarks to get started.  You can also check out Fennovation.org for more STEAM resources.  Today’s addition to teaching and learning resources includes repl.it, a cloud environment for many platforms including Python, HTML5, CSS3, NodeJS, and many more.


Infographics – key to concise writing

When I taught high school English, I asked my students to write a full essay on a persuasive, current topic of their choice. We’d review it, critique it and edit it. Eventually, when they thought it was final, I’d ask them to transform it into an actual letter to the editor. They were required to choose a local paper of their choice, find the word count required, and cut their words to meet the requirement. They moaned. They groaned. They became concise writers.

When you are challenged to state your argument in fewer words or in another medium, you force your brain to think creatively and critically. You cannot afford to waste space on words without impact.

Infographics are a great way of setting up this challenge. An infographic must state an argument in words, pictures, and engaging design. When creating an infographic, you are challenged to meet your audience’s needs. This is not to say there is no purpose for a full essay. But, there is something to be said for writing in multimedia.

To show that point, I’ve transformed by Infographics presentation of my favorite resources into an infographic! I used Piktochart to create the infographic, but Canva to create many of the presentation slides.

Recently, I transformed a standard thesis writing assignment into an infographic. Students were challenged to write a simple thesis statement and support it with three pieces of evidence, with each piece of evidence written with contextual notes. Essentially, students wrote a small paper, but without the hype. As a teacher, I was able to dissect elements of their writing to offer better help going forward. Check out the assignment here.

Check out fennovation.org for more writing tips (fennovation.org soon to move under fennestudio.com). Enjoy!

Google Classroom – The Basics & The Extras

…all in one presentation! We recently asked all of our teachers to create classes in Google Classroom, whether they used all of Classroom’s features or not. The idea behind this was to create a consistent interface for students. For our teachers who use a hybrid of GSuite apps and Moodle, we asked that they place a link to their materials in the “About” page of Google Classroom. Now, when a student needs to access work, they only need to go to one spot – Google Classroom.

In helping all of our teachers get on board, I added some new tricks to the “Fennovation – Using Google Classroom” presentation. Check it out and other Googlicious resources at Fennovation.org!

Let’s Get Digital!

With the hot topic of “fake news,” digital citizenship should be on every educator’s plate if it was not already. However, we tend to just think of fake news as articles from sources that are not accredited. What about the other “fake news”? You know – the kind that you see because of the “filter bubble.” That is – this is the news that is built upon your own interest biases. We owe it to ourselves and our students to discuss this.

With that in mind, I’ve updated my “Let’s Get Digital” presentation to include an interactive activity at the beginning that can be used with students or staff to discuss fake news. Check out “Let’s Get Digital – Interactive.” Check out Fennovation.org for more digital citizenship resources.