Teaching Blog

Google Add-On: Class Folder Creator

As a teacher at a one-to-one school who uses G Suite and Canvas as an Learning Management System (LMS), few things are more annoying than the "You must request permission" screen.

This happens a lot for my teachers and I. You give an assignment description on Canvas, the student creates their work in a Google Doc or Slides presentation, they turn it in on Canvas, but they only share the local version from their computer, which is really just a fancy link.

Or, the student just gives you a share link, so you can see it, but only by loading the link in a new tab and not in the Spred Grader window. Annoying!

Google Classroom gets around this issue by creating a new folder for the assignment and putting all the created Docs there. It's great because you can see the work in progress, letter-by-letter as the student works. This isn't perfect either though, because Google Classroom is very limited in functionality compared to a full-featured LMS.

Often over the last few years I have said that eventually Google will spin-off that shared folder ability from Classroom so that you can use it elsewhere. Then, a few weeks ago, I got impatient and decided to stop waiting for Google and just make it myself.

And, Class Folder Creator was created as a Google Sheets Add-On. Now, simply by creating a by period list of student names and email addresses, you can create a folder for each of your students that they will create all their work in, and you will have access to all of it.

Here's how it works

  1. Click here to install Class Folder Creator (free).
  2. Click Setup Sheet from the Class Folder Creator Menu.
  3. Put your class name and largest class size.
  4. Input the list of student names and email addresses into the associated columns.
  5. Click "Create Folders" in the Class Folder Creator Menu .
  6. Magic!

Now, each of your students had a folder shared with them on Google Drive with Their Name - Class Name - Period #. You will have a folder for each period, and within that, each of that period's student folders.

When Johnny raises his hand in class and says they need help, you can go straight to his folder and pull up the document he is working on to start providing feedback and support.

When Johnny finishes his work, you will have access to it no matter which way he turns it in.

This was a labor of love, and like all Google Add-Ons is completely free. It is my first Google Add-On, so if you have any thoughts for improvement or comments, let me know!

You can find more details about the add-on at the add-on site.

On a Field Trip with My Son

My son's kindergarten class went on a field trip to a farm recently, and I had the chance to chaperone the trip.

First of all, it was really interesting being a chaperone for another school, another group of kids. With kindergarten field trips, the ratios are something around 5 kids to each chaperone. With that kind of split, we didn't have a specific group of kids to monitor. Instead, we kept the entire class together and all the chaperones stayed close by.

Overall, it was really nice getting to spend the day with my son as he experienced something really unique. We sang songs on the hay ride, fed some goats, milked a cow, and even chased down and held chickens (more on that below).

The trip definitely confirmed that I could never teach kindergarten. The kids are so tiny! I love my son completely, but the other little ones his age? Meh. I mean, they were sweet and all, but so needy!

His teacher was wonderful though. She was attentive the whole trip, sweet in the way that would get her eaten alive in a high school class, and aware of where all her kids were the whole time. I got the chance to discuss my surprise at the parent who was shocked that she spent her own money on student supplies (see this post), and she agreed with me that parents should know that at this point.

Not surprisingly though, the best part of the trip was watching my son. Field trips like this are truly experiential learning and it was amazing to sit back and see him do it. From figuring out the best way to feed a goat, to telling me that milking the cow "felt like touching pee pee", there were some cool moments.

Chief among them was watching him catch a chicken. The tour guide explained to them before we went in the coup that you needed to grab them from above. Z wasted no time chasing one down and doing that. He did not, however, get an appropriate grip on the chicken. I was able to catch an amazing video of him during this true learning process. The video starts right as the chicken flies out of his precarious grip. Z looks to the tour guide, frustrated, and the tour guide explains that Z needs to grab the chicken from above and make sure he wraps around its wings so it can't wiggle free, and pantomimes the hand gesture. In the video, you can see Z watching the instructor and matching his hands as demonstrated. After listening, and clearly learning what he's been shown, he looks down at the chicken, plucks it off the perch, and then looks to me with the biggest smile ever.

I am so glad I joined in on this trip. These are the kind of memories I will hold onto forever. And how many parents can say they have an actual recording of their child learning something?

I'm Done Holding My Tongue In Class

It only seems fair to start this post with an admission. I am a gun owner. In the past, I was even a member of the NRA. I was born in Georgia, have family that still lives on hunt-able land there, have gone hunting myself. I've made the arguments myself that people having guns makes us safer. I've quoted the 2nd Amendment, I've said that taking guns away doesn't help.

Today, I've decided enough is enough and I'm done keeping these thoughts to myself. I just had a lengthy argument with one of my students who argued against taking guns away to prevent further deaths, and point by point I dismantled his opinion. And, in the interest of sharing this discussion with you, here is a summary of that discussion.

Student: My dad is a gun owner, he goes shooting with police officers regularly, takes care of his guns. Taking his guns away won't fix anything.

He's not wrong here. Here's the real issue. Taking my guns away won't save anyone's lives, won't prevent a school shooting. That isn't the same as saying that taking guns away won't prevent school shootings.

There is a simple economics principal to consider, so I'm going to try to put it simply. Think about supply and demand. Currently, if a crazy person wants to shoot up a school, they have a demand for a gun. Currently, there is a massive supply of guns. Therefore, the cost (both monetarily and in difficulty) is easy low. Even if you require more stringent background checks, you won't fix it because private sales are still a thing, and guns can be stolen, lost, transferred, taken, etc.

Reduce the supply, you increase demand. Costs of illegal guns will go up, and just the act of owning it becomes illegal, making the chances of preventing the shootings go up. It isn't a fix that will happen overnight, but over time.

Student: Second Amendment! We have a right to bear arms!

First of all, the Second Amendment says "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." Given that roughly none of the current citizens owning firearms are also members of a Militia, it feels less valid. We don't ever hear that part though, do we? "Right to bear arms!" "right to bear arms!" they scream. They don't really want to actually drill with their neighbors, march across the roads and practice maneuvers though, do they?

Beyond that though, lets look at the spirit of the amendment. It was intended to make sure that the people would be able to stand up against a tyrannical government, to reinforce the idea that the government is for the people. Should the government get out of control, the people can stand up, armed, and defend themselves.

Except, even ignoring the fact that assault weapons are banned in many states, the citizens do not own weaponry that would give them any chance against our military. We don't have missiles, drones, fully-automatic weapons, or any other of the myriad of machines of death our military does. Hell, even in the Revolutionary War, we probably couldn't have won against Great Britain if they didn't have to transport their army to us. A militia doesn't overthrow a government in power on the home front.

Student: Shooting is fun, I like target shooting.

I agree, it is fun. It isn't 16-people-not-going-home-to-their-families fun. If the cost of me going to shoot at some targets at a range is the deaths of children in schools, it isn't worth it. That equation doesn't balance in my head.

Student: You want to take all guns away based on the hope that something is going to get better. This is all opinions and guesses. 

You want to do nothing based on the hope that things will get better. I don't need your thoughts and prayers, I need change.

Still, if we take this further, lets look at some of the facts.

Look at that chart again. Please. Because it is that important.

"But people will kill each other regardless!"

Teachers, this is what I ask of you. Stop holding your tongue. Even on twitter, I saw teachers drying up, stop talking. I heard teachers say "thoughts and prayers", but few of them said "Oh hell no, this has to stop." We cannot stay quiet, cannot do nothing, while the NRA and other groups pour money into the pockets of politicians who don't care to represent us, who continue to allow these atrocities to occur. It has to stop.

Stop staying quiet. Stop believing we have to play the middle ground. Stop thinking that it's our job to make kids think on their own. There are 16 people from a city not 3 hours away from me, who will never think again, on their own or otherwise.

Enough is enough.

I Am A Valuable Brand

Ok, so admittedly, that title makes me a little uncomfortable. It's a strange statement, and gives me the impression of someone with an inflated ego and unhealthy dose of arrogance. But, how am I wrong?

Dr. Will's words on Episode 30 of my show about teachers needing to make their money have been bouncing around in my head for the last month, and I am trying to own them. Over the last few days, they've really been hitting me hard, and I'm going to tell you all how.

On Sunday, a company reached out to me on twitter through DM, and this conversation occurred.

When I saw the first message, I admittedly got excited (and reached out to Will for advice). I wasn't about to do a full episode with an advertiser, that isn't my show, but the idea that someone wanted to use my platform was flattering and energizing. I felt unworthy a little, that imposter syndrome everpresent, my "little show" as I sometimes think about it. But I asked for my money on Will's advice.

Then I saw their response, and I quickly got heated. I get it, you're trying to start a business, and funds are tight. You have to make smart financial choices to stay afloat. But to be upset about the people who only want to "pay to play" is ridiculous!

Running a podcast, recording, editing, posting, managing a website, running a social media presence, and blogging all take time. Lots of time. So. Much. Time. Not unlike, I would imagine developing a set of "evidence-based child behavior tools and games." Which is why they aren't giving their product away for free.

And out of the other side of their mouth, complaining that I'm not giving my brand away for free. They are asking me to endorse them, feature them, and share them out to my audience, my friends, my PLN. And they want me to do that for free. No.

It lit a fire in me though. Not just the bright flash of rage, but a lasting heat of coals. My podcast isn't just a "little show." I create quality content. I put time into editing it so it sounds good. I put effort into finding great guests and working on my interviews. I interact with my audience on many platforms at all hours day or night. I get on live shows, blog, create promo graphics, and support other podcasters. I talk to mentors who do their own shows and take ideas and advice from them. And people listen to an hour a week of my show as a result.

My time has value. My show has value. My brand has value. And yes, it has intrinsic and personal value to me, but it also has monetary value. My audience trusts me, or they wouldn't listen. My PLN gets me or they wouldn't interact with me. I will never support a product I don't believe in, and I definitely won't do it for free. I, like will, am going to get my money.

And you know what? You should too.

Why The Teacher Moral Standard May Be Necessary

A few weeks ago, I learned that a teacher my little brother Travis had as a kid was arrested and charged with stalking his ex-girlfriend. It was a pretty intense case, as the news reported it, including thousands of calls and even putting a GPS tracker on her new boyfriend's car.

The news piece was shared to my brothers and I from our dad, who was a teacher at the school with this teacher when we were all kids, and at one point he was even a family friend. The former connection made it interesting to me, but I wouldn't have gone so far as to say that I really cared. Sure, his job is a teacher, but being a stalker doesn't exactly impact the students in that class.

Maybe that's a slightly callous opinion, but as I've talked about before, few other professions have the moral standard that teachers are held to, and few other professions have it for seemingly no reason. Fine, he's a stalker (allegedly), that doesn't mean he isn't a good teacher or that those actions endanger the children. I'd say the same thing about drunk driving or public drunkenness. Sure, none of those things are good, and they show questionable decision making at the very least, but they don't mean that the kids are getting a lesser education (unless of course the teacher is teaching students that those aren't bad things, or they're showing up to work drunk).

What really struck me from this scenario though was Travis' reaction. He was truly annoyed by it. I explained what I said above, that ultimately I didn't feel like he deserved to be fired over it, but Travis felt differently.

The way he tells it, knowing that this is what his teacher is up to outside of work tarnishes the memory of class.

In my argument, I am considering the rights of the teacher, and somewhat cavalierly ignoring the long-term impact on students. Before this moment, Travis looked back on fifth grade and remembered a teacher that was really great, active, caring, personal. Now though, he looks back and wonders "What was he doing after that last bell?"

I'm not completely sold on the idea that this means teachers should be held to such a high moral standard. We are still people, we are imperfect creatures, we make mistakes. Those mistakes shouldn't cause us to lose our jobs in most cases. Maybe they should though.

But where do we draw that line? Should I be fired if I get excessive speeding tickets? Do we only include felony charges? Or only if it makes the news? Do we only get fired if we don't self report?

I don't have answers on this one. I'm calling for input. Use the comments or reach out on twitter and let me know.

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