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Thinking Outside the Slide: Using the Technology Integration Initiative to Move in New Directions

Thinking Outside the Slide: Using the Technology Integration Initiative to Move in New Directions

I am a big fan of textbooks; I love to page through them for ideas, stories, and activities to share with students. However, sometimes it is hard to find materials that are “just right”; the level is off, the vocabulary is antiquated, and the images are hard for students to understand. Sometimes the only thing left for us to do is make our own materials.

Google Drive offers the perfect tools for this task, which is why I jumped at the opportunity to participate in the Technology Integration Initiative (TII) offered through the Minnesota Literacy Council. I hoped to gain insight into how to maximize Google Drive for the classroom, and I was not disappointed.

The easiest part of using Google Drive is getting started; if you currently use Gmail, you already have a Google Drive account, which you can access by clicking on the grid symbol in the upper right-hand corner of your email display and then selecting Drive. Within drive, you can use Docs as a word-processing program, Slides as a presentation program, Forms for surveys and quizzes, and Sheets as a spreadsheet program.

While I came into the training already equipped with a basic understanding of the functionalities of each program, I did learn a lot from Susan Wetenkamp-Brandt, our facilitator. For example, I learned that Google Docs is integrated with Google Translate, so any document you create can be translated into any language Translate can handle (including Somali, Spanish, Hmong, Nepali, Swahili, and Burmese among many others).

Another great tool is the Quizzes option for Google Forms. Teachers can make quiz questions and assign point values to each question. Then the teacher can send the quiz out to the students via email. The program is very helpful: it will grade the quizzes for the teacher and even show the students which questions they get wrong. A slightly less high-tech option is to create the quiz in Forms and then print it out for the students to complete pen-on-paper.

The most life-changing thing I learned was during our unit on Google Slides. Reading one of the links that Susan sent out, I learned that the slides can be resized to any rectangular shape that you want, including 8.5 x 11 inches. This means that within Google Slides, we can create graphic organizers, worksheets, and even books that are shareable online and downloadable as PDFs that can be printed.

At the same time that I was involved in the Technology Integration Initiative, I was tasked with creating a new course at my workplace, HAP. We needed to create a class that would be multilevel and incorporate all our ABE standards (CCRS, TIF, Northstar) as well as soft skills for job seekers. I decided to create all of my new materials using Google Slides, and I have never been more delighted. (I am a nerd.)

Everything I make is instantly saved in my Google Drive account, so I never have to worry about “losing” a document. I can open a separate tab, search for an image, grab it with my mouse, and drag it onto my Google slide seamlessly. I can print the slides that I want, or download the slides I want as PDF files and save them on my computer. If you are interested in my materials you can find them here: https://tinyurl.com/LinkStories. (Susan also taught us how to make our links into more manageable tiny URLs!)

If you have an interest in creating digital materials, incorporating technology into the classroom, implementing the Northstar Digital Literacy Standards, or just need some “sharpening of the saw,” I would recommend the Technology Integration Initiative cohort. It gave me a lot of new tools and inspiration for teaching lessons and creating materials in new ways.

If you would like to chat with me about the Technology Integration Initiative or my materials, I will be doing a poster session about my project at the 2018 Summer Institute in Saint Cloud. See you there!

Brenda Anfinson, ESL Instructor Hmong American Partnership