Information Literacy Collaborative Unit

Copy of this entire project (pdf) I created this unit for one of Library courses but several people asked me to share my process of using Google Forms as “digital notecards” – See Lesson #2.

High School Literary Criticism Research Paper


Throughout the semester in English III, students have been reading and analyzing various literary novels and writing their own essays with supporting quotes and documentation from the novel.  In this research project, students choose an acclaimed American novel or play, read it and then use published literary criticism to help support their thesis statement about the novel.

Enduring Understandings

  • Authentic research involves an ethical and legal use of information and information technology.
  • While the purpose of research is to consider the ideas of others, the researcher should use these to support, not replace one’s own.
  • With today’s influx of information, we need to be savvy, critical users of information, paying attention to source, bias, and responsible research.
  • Utilizing the research process allows for a more authentic presentation.
  • Utilizing the writing process allows for thoughtful clarification of ideas.


Teacher’s objectives and goals

Essential Questions:

  • How can I use the ideas of others in order to support my own?
  • What is more important:  product or process?
  • Whose ideas are these? What bias do they hold?
  • When is a piece of writing finished?


  • Students will choose an American novel or play from an approved list to read and annotate.
  • Students will create an Annotated Bibliography to practice summarizing main ideas from literary criticism and evaluating a source’s effectiveness for research project.
  • Students will create an outline as the “blueprint” for their research paper. This is a sentence outline which will dictate how the paper is organized (but it does not include quotations from work or research).
  • The students will write a research paper centered on an American work (novel or play) of their choice. This 5-7 page paper will be supported with at least five outside sources and written in MLA format.


  • Perform research focused on a theme or character development in a novel.
  • Annotate a novel following a theme or character development.
  • Analyze secondary sources and incorporate these thoughts and ideas into the paper.
  • Determine when to summarize or paraphrase research instead of using a direct quote.


Library teacher’s objectives and goals

Essential Questions:

  • How do I locate relevant resources about my novel or author?
  • How can I show that my sources are quoted, summarized or paraphrased?
  • How can technology tools be used to help me sort and organize my research?


  • Students will be able to access quality print, electronic and web resources about literary criticism related to their novel and author.
  • Students will be able to evaluate these materials for usefulness and select resources that support their thesis statement.
  • Students will be able to cite the resources used in correct MLA format.
  • Students will use “digital notecards” (Google form/spreadsheet) to document sources, quotes, and summaries from print, electronic and web resources.

LMS/Teacher Unit Overview using Big 6 Model


BIG 6 MODEL Students / Classroom Teacher Librarian
JAN Students select an acclaimed American novel or play and begin reading Librarian assists students in locating novel or play
JAN Task Definition:
Big Ideas
Student annotate novel looking for themes, POV, conflict, symbols, character growth/importance/function or complexityStudents write a summary of novel to check for understandingTeacher reviews the concept of literary criticism.  Students complete quotation search and commentary assignment.
Information Seeking Strategies:
Evaluate resources for  accuracy, validity, appropriateness for needs and importance.Location & Access:
Literary Criticism books
Reference Books
Students come to library to locate resources Lesson #1: Librarian introduces search strategies for locating and evaluating print, electronic and web resources.
February – wk. 1 Use of Information:
Note taking
Citing sources
Students locate 3-5 sources and create an Annotated Bibliography in a Google document which is shared with classroom teacher.Students write the first draft of their thesis statement. Librarian teaches students how to access their Google Apps accounts, plus document and sharing basics
wk2 Quotes
Students come to Library computer lab to set up their forms and practice taking notes from their novel/play. Lesson #2: Librarian instructs students in how to access the Google templates to use a form for “digital notecards”.
wk3-4 Students use form to create 50 entries from their novel, literary criticism, reference and web sources. Librarian checks with students on progress and needs for additional sources
wk5 Synthesis:
Students organize their notes and create an outline of ideas to support their thesis statement.
wk6 First draft
Students type a first draft of their paper in Google document and share with classroom teacher
wk7 Citations Students finalize their Works Cited page for all of their sources Librarian assists students in creation of Works Cited following MLA format.
wk8 Revisions
Students edit rough draft with revisions and type final paper.
wk9 Evaluation:
Self- evaluation rubric
Student self-evaluationTeacher evaluation


Lesson #1:  Locating and evaluating sources for Literary Criticism



Students will gather literary criticism from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and complete an annotated bibliography.

Anticipatory set:

You have read your novel and annotated various sections of your book while looking for: themes, point of view, conflict, symbols, character growth/importance/function or complexity.  Question to ask:   How can I use the literary criticism of others to support my own views and opinions of this novel?

Input (from Classroom Teacher):

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

  • A bibliography is a list of sources
  • An annotation is a summary and/or evaluation of a source.
  • An Annotated Bibliography is a typed document which contains bibliographic entries followed by a summary and evaluation of the source.

Why are we doing this?

  • Writing an annotated bibliography will allow you an early look at what the critics say about your novel.
  • It will also allow you to practice making MLA citations which will be required in your paper.
  • Writing an annotated bibliography demands that you paraphrase and summarize literary criticism.  These are skills you will need to use for this assignment as well as others in your academic career.

Modeling (done by Librarian):

Locating Sources:

  • Literary criticism books in our school library.  Search the OPAC for your author’s last name.  Ignore results that are fiction, instead focus on Dewey numbers 813.009.  Locate the print title on the shelves and check to see if the book is about your novel.  Some books contain several essays about a novel from various authors and each of these essays can be used as a separate source.
  • Reference books in our Library:  Frank Magill’s Masterplots, American Novelists, Contemporary Authors, Gale’s Contemporary Literary Criticism, etc., – check reference section.
  • Literature Resource Center from Gale.  Access this database from Library webpage (you will need password) and search by your author’s last name.  Look for articles marked literary criticism; avoid book reviews
  • Literature database from ProQuest.  Access this database from Library webpage (you will need password) and search by your author’s last name.  Look for articles marked literary criticism; avoid book reviews
  • The Internet Public Library (IPL) Guide to Literary Criticism:
  • Gale Literary Index – A master index to every literary series published by Gale (such as Contemporary Literary Criticism, Twentieth Century Literary Criticism, etc.). Search by author, title or nationality.

Evaluating sources:

  • Check to make sure the source is relevant and accurate:  Is the source literary criticism or just a book review?  Does this essay contain information about your novel; not just other works by the same author.  This is especially important when evaluating sources from the databases.
  • Check the authority:  Who is writing the essay?  What are their qualifications to review the novel?
  • Check the bias:  These essays will give the author’s opinion about the novel.  Try to find sources from various points of view.

Check for Understanding:

  • During the review of the various sources, students will indicate on a notecard which sources they are going to check first.  Review with a partner how to locate that source and what they are going to do when they locate it.  Share some of these ideas with the class.

Guided Practice:

  • Students will then look for print and digital materials in the school library.  Students will photocopy pages from print sources as well as the page that contains the Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data.
  • Once a source has been located, the students will skim and read through the material.  They should try to get an overall understanding of what the source is saying and make sure it contains information that support, compliments or gives new ideas for their thesis statement, for example:    Does the source address some of the ideas you have considered for your paper?  Does the article suggest something about your novel you may not have considered?  Students should also look at the authority of the source and check for bias.
  • For the annotated bibliography, students will need to select three sources.  Students should type out the correct MLA citation for the first source (use MLA handout or for reference).  Write a summary that paraphrases the points in the literary criticism.  Write the summary in your own words and place it below the citation.
  • Check with a partner or the teacher that you have completed the first citation and summary correctly before moving onto the next step.

Independent Practice:

  • Students should complete the above process for each source.  The annotated bibliography should include at least one print and one electronic source.  Use the MLA handout (linked on Library website) to review formatting of MLA citations.  The annotated bibliography should contain at least 3 sources but it can contain more.  You may not end up using all of these sources in your actual essay.




Objective Exceeds Expectations Meets Expectations Needs Improvement
Locate print resource from school library Student is able to locate multiple literary criticism print sources independently using Library OPAC. Student is able to locate literary criticism print source(s) with assistance. Student does not locate literary criticism print source from school library or only uses electronic sources.
Locate sources from electronic database or website Student is able to locate multiple literary criticism sources independently from Gale or ProQuest database. Student is able to locate literary criticism source from Gale or ProQuest database with assistance. Student does not locate literary criticism database or web sources.
Source Evaluation Student chooses a wide variety of sources to support their thesis statement and is relevant, accurate and has appropriate authority.  They may have chosen materials from varied points of view or from advanced scholarly material. Students choose sources to support their thesis statement that is relevant, accurate and has appropriate authority. Students choose sources that do not support their thesis statement or choose irrelevant or inaccurate material.
Annotated Bibliography Contains 3+ proper MLA citations.  Contains detailed summaries of each source that demonstrates a strong understanding of the material. Contains three proper MLA citations.  Contains appropriate summary of each source. Contains missing or improper MLA citation.  Contains missing or summaries that are too vague, does not demonstrate understanding of material or is copied directly from source.



Lesson #2:  Using technology tools to create “digital notecards”



Students will access an electronic form/spreadsheet to take notes from their literary criticism sources (novel, literary criticism essays, reference material, electronic databases, websites, etc.) to support their thesis statement.

Anticipatory set:

Ask yourself this question:  How can I use the ideas of others in order to support my own ideas? You have already located resources for your essay and have written a summary of the material with your Annotated Bibliography.  Now it is time to carefully read the material and locate quotes, ideas or themes that will support your thesis statement.


Google Apps for Education

  • Each student has a unique Google Apps for Education account that gives them access to an online word processing and a forms/spreadsheet program.
  • The teacher can create a template that students can access for the digital notecards form.
  • The Google form allows you to quickly take notes from each source.  The form includes information such as:  Source title, author, type of source (novel, literary criticism, reference, database, website, other, etc.), topic, subtopic, quote, summary and notes for the teacher (optional).  See sample.
  • The information entered into a Google form automatically fills an adjoining spreadsheet.  The data in the spreadsheet can be sorted by any category (topic, source) which will make the process of organizing and synthesizing the research material much easier.
  • Google spreadsheets can be shared with the classroom teacher so they have access at any point during the research process.  The teacher can open the spreadsheet and write notes or give advice to individual students.
  • The use of the Google form and spreadsheet allows the student to access the same document from any computer, anytime.  This means the student can work on their research from school or home and do not have to worry about emailing drafts back and forth or remembering to save the data on a flash drive or losing 3×5 index cards.  Students access their Google Apps accounts online at:


  • The Librarian should model for the students how to use a Google form to take notes from the novel and from a literary criticism source.  The purpose of this quick review is to help students get an overall understanding of how to use a form, why we are using a Google form and spreadsheet instead of paper notecards and how we are going to be able to sort the data afterwards.
  • Have the students explain to the Librarian how to fill out the sample form using a previously read literature novel.  Repeat the process from a literary criticism source.

Guided Practice:

Accessing the Google form template:

  • The librarian should walk the students through this process step-by-step to avoid confusion on how to create and use the Google form.
  • Log into your Google Apps account at
  • Go to Create New / from Template.  Browse the list of La Salle Prep’s templates and select:  Digital Notecards for Research Paper.
  • Important Note:  The template opens in Edit view.  The only thing you do at this point is change the title of your form to include your name.  Select SAVE.   Select the link at the bottom of the form to access the “live form”.  This will open up a new tab in your browser with the actual form.  It’s OK at this point to close the “edit view” and template gallery browser tabs.

Entering Notes

  • You will now fill out the form for your first notecard.  Locate the title from your source and type it into the form.  Next add the author and indicate with a check mark whether this source is from a:  your novel, literary criticism, reference, database, website, or other (you fill in the blank).
  • Determine a topic from the source.  You may also want to choose a subtopic.  (Hint:  Relate the topics to your thesis statement, if possible.  The topic might be character’s name; subtopic might be a characteristic of that person).
  • In the Quote section, type the exact quote from the source and use quotation marks.  Indicate a page number if it is a print source.
  • In the Summary/Notes section, write a brief explanation of how you are planning on using this source in your essay.
  • The “questions for the teacher” section is optional.
  • Choose SUBMIT when you are done with the first notecard.  You will see a response after submitting indicating that the notecard has been added to the spreadsheet.

Check for Understanding:

  • Have the students close the form and open the adjoining Google spreadsheet to make sure the first notecard was recorded properly.
  • Students should change the name on the spreadsheet to include their name and class period.  They should select the SHARE button in the top right hand section of the spreadsheet and type the teacher’s Google docs email sharing address in the sharing section, such as:  Select SAVE.  Now the teacher will have access to the spreadsheet.
  • Important Note:  When the student is ready to access the form again they do it from the spreadsheet!  With the spreadsheet open, go to Form / Live Form to open the form so you can add additional notecards.  Each time the form is filled out and submitted, a new entry is added to the spreadsheet.  It is critical that the students access the form this way – do not go back to the template gallery and create a new form or you will have duplicate spreadsheets.
  • The teacher or librarian should check to make sure that the student is filling out the form and spreadsheet properly before moving onto Independent Practice.

Independent Practice:

  • Students should complete about 50 notecards for their essay.  About half of the quotes should be from their novel and half from their criticism sources.
  • Note:  Some students might find it easier to type their notes directly into the spreadsheet instead of using the form.  Either method is fine.




Objective Exceeds Expectations Meets Expectations Needs Improvement
Create Google form from template Student is able to create the Google form from the template independently. Student is able to create the Google form from the template with assistance. Student does not create form correctly, or makes duplicate forms from template.
Quality of notecards Notecards have all required information plus detailed explanations of how the quotes will be used in the essay. Notecards have all required information. Notecards are missing important information, summaries are of poor quality, or have not indicated appropriate source or type.
Spreadsheet with notes 50+ notecards are added to the adjoining spreadsheet and the student has sorted the spreadsheet according to source or topic.  Spreadsheet is shared with teacher. 50 notecards are added to the adjoining spreadsheet.  Spreadsheet is shared with teacher. Less than 50 notecards are added to the adjoining spreadsheet, or there are multiple spreadsheets with a few notecards on each one.  Spreadsheet is NOT shared with teacher.


Copy of this entire project (pdf)

NCCE 2011 is in Portland, yeah baby!

I’m so thrilled when NCCE 2011 comes to Portland because that means I get to sleep in my own bed and show my PLN buddies the beautiful city.  Early bird registration ends January 31st so get your registration in ASAP.

Here are my plans:

Wednesday 3/2/11 Attend the Teacher Librarian Summit II with Mike Eisenberg.

Thursday I will be giving a workshop in the afternoon:  Integrating Google Tools 4 Teachers.

Friday:  I will attend the concurrent sessions.

EduBloggerCon 2010

My head is still spinning from EduBloggerCon but I want to write down a few notes and impressions of my time today.  My goal today was to really listen, participate, ask questions, and think.  I barely went online and I barely tweeted out a link (I figured everyone else had the smackdown covered.)

I facilitated a session called “Crap Detection and Student Research” and asked teacher-librarians and all interested educators to discuss how we can effectively teach research skills.  Here are some of my fragmented thoughts

  • Angela Maiers passionately explained her view of literacy.  Critical literacy can start at pre-school with the types of questions we ask students.  When reading, we ask the student to answer these questions:  What is being said?  Who is sharing the message? Why is it worthy of my attention?  We read with the writer in mind and then when we write – we write with the reader in mind.  Just imagine if every teacher K-16 led their students with these type of questions, evaluations… we wouldn’t have high school teachers complaining that “kids today don’t know how to properly cite sources”.
  • We can model for students how to attribute authority during everyday conversations & when teaching.  For example, say ” According to the source __________ …” instead of just stating a fact.  By modeling this type of references, we constantly are asking our students to evaluate the source, is it credible, what is the author’s point of view.  We can change how we frame the conversation … “How does the author fee about …” Ask more questions and give less delivery of information.  When older students are stating a fact, ask them to back up their statement with a source or reference.
  • By placing our students in the position of authors themselves, we give them the opportunity to really care about their topics and then they take ownership of backing up their topics.
  • When doing more formal research, give the students scaffolding to help them through the process.  Joyce Valenza said “Don’t place the oweness on the child.”  Search tools can help compensate for the their lack of knowledge of how the search process works (like Google WonderWheel and Timeline) but we need to model the lessons and show them our thinking process.   Joyce discussed having high school students created critical annotative citations of their research to explain why they used a particular sources and how it demonstrates evidence of their research.  They need to “search with intention.”
  • David Warlick stated several times that students need to CARE about their research topics.  It’s not just enough these days to “do research” on a topic. Instead of writing a report ABOUT something – conduct research that supports a goal, an opinion,  a comparision or something they are passionate about.  One of the Australian teachers shared a great project done at their school – something like a CSI crime investigation to teach and model critical thinking and investigative research.
  • Howard Reingold work was cited, Crap Detection 101 and the Critical Thinking Wiki.
  • Instead of using a checklist to evaluate websites to check for credibility (ie, source, author intention, domain) we can use all type of sources – including primary sources of blogs, twitter, & wikis to check facts against and develop those critical evaluation skills.

My overall impression of the session is that I really want to think about how I frame my questions with my students when they are conducting research in the library.  I hope to influence teachers to “work in a project-based environment where the core values of inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation and reflection” (vision statement taken from Science Leadership Academy).

Introduction to Google Earth

What is Google Earth?

Google Earth is a free, downloadable program that combines satellite images, maps, and terrain to create a 3D virtual model of the world.

You can search for specific locations in Google Earth and create your own virtual tours.  Other options to explore are content developed by NASA, Discovery Education, National Geographic Magazine and more!To get started you need to download and install the latest version of Google Earth from  Google Earth is available for PC, Mac or Linux computers.

Navigating Around Google Earth

When you first open Google Earth you will see a large globe of the world. You can “fly to” any place by typing the name of the location into the search bar and then press enter.  Google Earth will rotate the globe to the location and zoom in.

Move your cursor over right corner of your screen to use the navigation controls.  Here you can tilt the view, move around, or zoom closer to view your location or better view the geography. There are also many keyboard controls for navigating Google Earth (for example Ctrl+Up=tilt up or try holding down Shift and use scroll wheel on mouse).  Another option to better see variations in geography is to go to Tools > Options and the 3D View Tab – change the “Elevation Exaggeration” to 2.

Saving Locations

Use the Places panel to save and organize places that you visit, addresses, or natural features by zooming in on your location and clicking the Placemark icon on the toolbar menu.  You can then name the placemark, write a description and choose a position and altitude for the placemarker icon.  To permanently save this point of interest to the My Places folder, right-click on the placemark in the viewer and select Save to My Places. You can also share placemarkers with others on the Google Earth Community BBS website at

You can tour items in your Places listing by selecting the check box next to items you want to tour and clicking on the Play Tour button at the bottom of the Places panel. The tour begins playing in the 3D viewer, which flies to each location and stops for a period of time before flying to the next place in the list.

Exploring Content

The Layers feature in Google Earth provides a variety of points of interest that you can select to display over the map.  Layers content is created by Google (or its partners) and can be turned on or off by checking or unchecking various layers in the Layers Panel.  You can spend hours learning about the world by exploring this information.

  • Turn on the Borders and Labels layer to see outlines of countries and names of locations.
  • Turn on the Terrain layer to show 3D elevation of your current view. Elevation is limited to natural geographic features, like mountains and canyons, and does not apply to buildings.
  • In the Ancient Rome 3D layer, you can fly into Rome as it looked in 320 A.D. and tour famous buildings. You can visit sites such as the Roman Forum, Colosseum and the Forum of Julius Caesar.
  • In the Rumsey Historical Maps layer, you can view overlays of maps from historic period that represent the cartographic art of that time period.  Some of the maps fit perfectly in Google earth while others reveal interesting geographical misconceptions of their time period.
  • Turn on Panoramio images in the Geographic Web layer to see photos from all around the world.  Panoramio community members share their photos of travel locations and Google Earth selects images to embed in this layer.
  • Interacting with the various layers in Google Earth is fun and educational.  Check out 360 Cities, 3D Buildings, and National Geographic Magazine.  Remember to zoom in on a region to see if an icon appears.

KML and KMZ files

KML (Keyhole Markup Language) and KMZ (Keyhole Markup Zipped) is a file format used for modeling and storing geographic features in Google Earth.  You can use these files to share places and information with other users.  You can find interesting features and places on the Google Earth Community website or search for KML/KMZ files by “file type” in Google’s Advanced Search.

*Google Earth 5.0 required to view KML and KMZ files

Google Earth Resources

Google Earth User Guide
: A listing of
topics to learn Google Earth basics – navigating the globe, searching, printing, and more.  (

Google Earth Community BBS website is a forum to find KML & KMZ files, ask questions, read about Google Earth features and more.  –

The Google 3D Warehouse –  A free, online repository where you can find, and share 3D models that can be viewed in Google Earth.

  • Saint Peter’s Basilica and Square in Vatican City
  • Herold’s Temple
  • Egypt’s Wonders and Monuments

Google Lat Long Blog – Official Google blog with news and notes about Google Earth and Maps team

The Google Earth Blog
– Stay up to date on new features of Google Earth –

Google Earth curriculum ideas

Even More

There is so much to Google Earth that can’t fit into one blog post.  Check out Google Sky, Moon and Mars.  Take a ride on the flight simulator.  Play the fabulous tours and travel the globe.  Open your custom Google Maps in Google Earth … and so much more.

Tech Tip Tuesday: Favorite Google Tools

For our last Tuesday Tech Tip of the year, MaryFran and I decided that we should share our Five Favorite Google Tools.

Mary Fran’s Favs

Five…how could we possibly narrow the number of favorite Google Tools to 5? It has been more challenging than I would have guessed In the end, I decided to chose the five tools I use most.

Most people have their first encounter with Google through Search. They expect to be able to ask a question and get their answer in return. I am continually amazed at the quality of the results and the number of Search Features Google offers. Recently, the Google Search team put together a series of 15 Second Search Tips. The topics range from Unit Conversion to finding local Movie Times. It’s always good to go back and refresh your memory on all Search has to offer.

Search Options, added to the Search page in May, lets you filter your results by type, time, and even offers suggestions for related searches. If you haven’t yet looked at Wonder Wheel you ought to give it a try.

Custom Search
A feature of Search that I like that we haven’t covered is Google’s Custom Search Engine. Being a third grade teacher, setting my students loose in the World Wide Web can sometimes be a bit scary. When I assign third graders to do a research presentation on spiders in the Media Center, I don’t want to have to worry about what results they are going to get for [black widow] and since I want to incorporate teaching skimming and scanning skills, I want to make sure my primary students can read the results they get. So, I set up a Google Custom Search to limit the sites they have access to by simply dropping the URLs for the websites I’ve pre-screened into a form.

My favorite characteristic of Docs is its collaborative feature. It has helped Colette and me coordinate our schedule, my third grade team and I work together on the Educational Action Plan while I spent two weeks in Buffalo in September, my grade level team share grades for our rotation students, and my students to put together two presentations while working on it at the same time in the Media Center (thank you, Kelli Glass for putting up with the noise and confusion). And because it is all stored in “the Cloud,” I have access to my Docs wherever and whenever I have a device that can access the internet. This came in super handy when I went to give a presentation with my laptop and forgot to bring along the connector to hook my Mac up to the projector…I was able to turn on their Dell and access my slides!

Another favorite feature of Docs is Forms. I used it to collect phone numbers and e-mail addresses at back-to-school night, thus avoiding having to decipher a parent’s handwriting :-), to collect information from students on science observations, reactions to our field trips, to “vote” in the November elections, to gather “book report” information, and so much more. It is so easy to set up and the summary information provides instant graphs, and the kids love working online in the classroom or from home.

While it took a bit getting used to, I love, love, love, Gmail’s threaded conversations. It is so nice to have all of the communication on a subject right there, in chronological order to refer to. But when that doesn’t work in finding that e-mail I want to refer back to, Search Mail always seems to come through for me.

It is very easy to filter messages to have them go to separate folders, and Google has done an amazing job at keeping SPAM out of my inbox. I also like getting a view of my Calendar and Tasks from the one screen I use most.
I am very excited to see how Google Wave will transform the “email” experience.

Colette’s Fab Five

My favorite Google tools are similar to MaryFran’s choices – but I guess that shows how valuable these products are.

I’ve been using Gmail since it first was in Beta and love it.  It keeps getting better and better.  I first loved how the conversations were linked together and have learned how to “search” for mail instead of wasting time organizing my mail into folders.  The integrated tasksand calendar features are really nice.

Docs / Forms
Using Google Docs& Spreadsheets this year with my HS Computer students has been transformational.  Students are much more willing to collaborate on projects instead of relying on one student to do more of the writing.  We have found so many uses for Forms, like surveys, data collection, and quizzes.  I am even moving all my lesson planning documents online to keep them updated and accessible from anywhere.

Personally I use maps all the time.  How did I ever find any location before Google Maps?  But now I find that I first go to maps to choose restaurants, accommodations and parks by using the “search nearby” feature.

My students also enjoyed mashing up Google Maps with photos, text and video this year.  Having the ability to go between Google Maps and Google Earth is also pretty cool!

I’ve convinced my whole family to start using Google Calendarthis year and now its easy to remind them of important dates and upcoming events.  I color-code different categories (family, school, PD, etc) to make it easier to glance at my calendar and see what’s happening or sort by category.

Last but not least is Google Search.  I love the new Search Options that I wrote about last week.  I use search for everything — recipes, questions, health information, current events – you name it.  I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t use Google search for something.  I find the results relevant and accurate but always have the option to narrow down or broaden my search with advanced search or the new options.

MaryFran and I met nearly a year ago at the Google Teacher Academy. At the end of a jam-packed 12 hour day, we were challenged to stretch ourselves to learn more about all that Google has to offer and to make a plan to share what we learned with other teachers. As one of our three projects we were asked to commit to, we decided to take on the task of putting out a weekly tech tip for our staffs. It’s been great for the two of us and hopefully you learned something too.

We will not be doing Google Tech Tips Tuesday again next year but I am planning on continuing weekly Tech Tips but branch out to other technology resources.

Once again, thank you for all support and encouragement you’ve given us over the year.
~MaryFran Lynch and Colette Cassinelli

Tech Tip Tuesday: new Google search options

This past month Google unveiled some very helpful Search Options.  Search Options are a collection of tools that allow you to view your results in new ways.  After you search, click on the “show options” link in the upper left hand side of your screen.  This reveals ways you can redefine your results.

The options are grouped together by their type and you can combine options for more precise searches.  The explanation for these features is taken from the Google Search help:

Video: You can sort videos based on their attributes, such as length or date.

Forums: For each result, you can see, among other details, how many people have contributed to the discussion and when the last reply was posted.

Reviews: See results from sites that specialize in posting reviews.

Recent Results: Google automatically optimizes the time period used for your filter to make sure that the most relevant and recent results are included. (This option is only available when All results is selected in the first group of options.)
Past 24 hours / Past week / Past year Use these options if you want to find web pages from a specific period of time.

Images: See image thumbnails from the page alongside the snippet for each result.

More Text: Snippets give you a preview of how words from your search term are used within each result. Click this option to get longer snippets, which will let you see more examples of your search term for each result. Longer snippets can also be useful if you have a lengthier search phrase

Related Searches / Wonderwheel: If you’re ever unsure about the precise terms you should use for your search, start out with a broader search term (e.g. [ principles of physics ]), then use the Related searches and Wonder wheel options to discover alternative search terms.

  • The Related searches option puts related searches at the top of the results page.
  • The Wonder wheel visually presents connections between related searches and your search term as an interactive diagram. Click the different nodes in the diagram to see how searches can branch out.

Timeline: See results along a timeline, which is a handy view if you’re researching information about a historical person or event. You can click any section in the timeline to zoom in on that time period.

Don’t want to see the search options on the sidebar?  Just click on hide options and your search results turn back to normal.  Also don’t forget to clik on the Reset Options to stop filtering if you choose to narrow your search by time or category.

Ideas for classroom use:

  • Use Wonder Wheel to teach students how to narrow down their search results by clicking on one of the related terms on the wheel.
  • Use the Timeline view to see when certain terms (like: swine flu) show up throughout history.
  • the Past 24 hours option is great to help you find information about current events.
  • Use Reviews to assist is making purchases for the classroom.

Watch a video overview of search result options

Tech Tip Tuesday: Google Tasks

By MaryFran Lynch

About this time in the school year there seem to be so many things going on I am constantly afraid something important will slip through the crack. I’ve always written lists on paper, but then as often as not, find myself in a different place than my list or rewriting my list as I cross things out or want to add to it. Enter Google Tasks.

Google Tasks helps you keep track of everything that needs to be done by creating lists and setting due dates, and, because it is stored online, it is available whenever and wherever you have access to the internet.

Tasks in Gmail

To use Tasks in Gmail, you’ll have to enable it in your Gmail Settings.

Find Settings to the right of your e-mail address at top of the page.

Once in Settings, select Labs, and finally choose to enable Tasks. Don’t forget to Save your changes before you return to your Inbox. Once this is done, you’ll find Tasks right below Contacts in the left-hand side bar.

When you select Tasks, it’ll open at the bottom right of your window. To begin your list, just click in the Tasks window, start typing, and press enter. You can now enter another task. You can also enter tasks by using the + button at the bottom of your list.

Add dates and notes to your task by selecting the arrow at the right of your task.

Here you’ll be able to enter a due date and add notes to your task. You can switch tasks between lists using the drop-down list.

Actions will let you create a list with sub-tasks, reorder your list, or sort your list by due dates.  Don’t forget to check off a completed task, to have that great feeling of accomplishment. You never have to delete a completed task. You’ll be able to “Hide completed tasks” to get an uncluttered view of what’s on your list. Later, you can chose to “View completed tasks” to see how much you’ve done.

Notice that many of these tasks have keyboard short-cuts for the busy person.

Most people like to keep their lives segmented, keeping their work to-do list separate from their home chores list, etc. You can create as many lists as you need by clicking on the list icon in the bottom right-hand corner. Google Tasks helps you keep track of it all.

Probably the coolest thing about using Tasks in Gmail is automatically adding a task to your list while reading an e-mail. While the e-mail message is open, press Shift + T and the title of the message will automatically be recorded in your list of tasks. You can then edit it for due date and add notes. Right beneath the task will say “Related email.” Click on in, and you’ll be taken back to the original email, saving you time!

Tasks in Calendar

Any task lists you have created in Gmail will automatically appear in your Google calendar. When you choose the Tasks link, the Tasks list will appear on the right side of your calendar.

You add and manage tasks much like you would in Gmail, but with a few added features. Tasks that have due dates will automatically appear on your calendar in the All Day section. To add a task with a due date, click in the All Day section of a day, or on the date in Month view. You’ll get an “Edit details” balloon. Select Tasks to enter information. It is easy to change the date of a task in Calendar. Just drag the task to the new date (just like you would with any calendar event).

Even More

If you like keeping track of things on your iGoogle page, you can choose to add Tasks as a gadget.  You’ll have to search for it; just type [tasks] in the “Search for gadgets” box. It’ll return “Tasks (Labs).” Choose “Add it now” and it will appear on your iGoogle page.

Not only can you now access your tasks from any computer or device that is connected to the internet, you can even access and manage your Tasks list from your iPhone or Android mobile phones. Now there is no longer a need to carry scraps of paper with notes around.

For more information about Tasks check

Tech Tip Tuesday: Google Groups

If you have a club, team or any type of group that you need to communicate with – consider creating a Google Group.  Google Groups allows you to manage and archive the mailing list for your group.  You can share files, create shared webpages within your group, and archive posts. Group members can create profiles including a photo and quote.  Group administrators can customize the look of the group site and members can read posts online or sign up for email notification.

Here are some other ways you can use Google Groups:

  • Organize meetings, conferences or social events among a private list of group members
  • Collaborate on projects or presentations using customizable wiki pages and file storage sections
  • Find people with similar hobbies, interests or backgrounds
  • Learn more about topics of interest such as sports, health or philosophy
  • Stay in touch with old classmates, coworkers and friends

To get started just follow these steps:

  1. Click the “Create a group…” button on the Google Groups homepage If you’re not already signed in to your Google Account, sign in, name your group, and fill out the other required information.
  2. Enter the email addresses of the people you’d like to invite to your group. If you’d prefer to directly add your members, click the “Add members directly” link. (Copying and pasting an existing list of email addresses into this form is one easy way of populating your group.)
  3. Write an invitation or welcome message, and select an email subscription option for your members if you’re directly adding them.
  4. Click the “Invite members” or “Add members” button. Google will send notifications or invitations to your group members.

There are two ways to submit a post to your group:

1.  Visit the homepage and click the + new post button in the colored Discussions bar on the right side of the page.

2.  You can also send an email to your group’s email address. The subject line of the email will be the title of the post, and the body of the email will be the content of the post.  Remember:  You can reply to anyone’s post on the discussion page or by email.

Many Google Groups activities don’t require you to have a Google Account, while many others do.

Activities that don’t require a Google Account:

  • Reading posts in public groups
  • Searching for groups, posts, or authors
  • Posting to groups via email if they are unrestricted or you’re already a member
  • Joining a public Google Group via email

Activities that require a Google Account:

  • Creating and managing your own Google Group
  • Posting to groups via our web interface
  • Creating pages and uploading files
  • Subscribing to a Usenet newsgroup and receiving posts via email
  • Joining a Google Group via our web interface
  • Changing your subscription type (No Email, Abridged Email…)
  • Reading a restricted group’s posts online

Don’t have a need to have your own group?  Consider joining one of the many public Google groups located at the Google Groups directory

For more information how to use Groups or manage your group go to

New Google Teacher Academy – August 5th

Google announced:

Google Teacher AcademyApplications are open for our next Google Teacher Academy, which will take place in our Boulder, Colorado office on Wednesday, August 5th. The Google Teacher Academy is a free professional development experience designed to help K-12 educators get the most from innovative technologies. Each academy is an intensive, one-day event where participants get hands-on experience with Google’s free products, which will help you bring communication, collaboration and fun into your classrooms. Teachers will also learn about innovative instructional strategies, receive resources to share with colleagues, and immerse themselves in an innovative corporate environment. Upon completion, participants become Google Certified Teachers who share what they learn with other K-12 educators in their local region. Applications are due Friday, July 3rd.

Last year I participated in the Google Teacher Academy at Mountain View, CA.  It’s a super-intensive one-day training on all things Google – but the best part is the very active online learning community to follow up your training.

One of my projects has been a weekly Tech Tip Tuesday along with my fellow GCT, MaryFran Lynch.  We took turns writing the weekly tip and shared them with our faculty and posted them at:

I also have created several presentations about how I use Google in my classroom – check out my collected resources here:

Another one of my projects was an interactive Postcard Geography project using Google Maps:

Some people may tease me about drinking the “Google koolaid”, but I don’t care.  The collaborative nature of incorporating Google Apps for education in my classroom this year has been transformative.  I strongly recommend this professional development opportunity for anyone looking for an active personal learning network.

Doodle 4 Google

I’m very proud of my high school Graphic Design students who all participated in the Doodle 4 Google contest.  All of the entries were fabulous this year but the class voted to submit the following designs for our school entry.  Great job kids! (click on thumbnail to see full image).

Tech Tip Tuesday: Google Sites

By MaryFran Lynch

With Google Sites you can create custom web pages. As with many of Google tools, one of the great things (besides being free) is that you can collaborate with others on the creation and content of the pages. It is easy to share video, presentations, and calendars. You decide the level of sharing you would like to permit, and you can limit access to your site to small group or you can make it viewable by the public.

To get started, you will need a Google account. Once you sign in, you can find “Sites” under the “More” drop-down menu, or you can go to Here, you can choose to “Create new site.” It’ll take you to the page you will use to name your site, set up your initial security option, and chose a theme.

Once you create your site, adding content is as easy as using many text editors. Choose “Edit page.” You can now rename and add content to the page.

In the Edit mode, you can easily insert video, Google Docs documents, spreadsheets, spreadsheet forms, presentations, Picasa photo slide shows, calendars, or gadgets You can change the format, insert a table, or chose to have a two-column layout.

Once you save your page, you are taken back to your “home page.” To grant permissions and manage security, go to “Site settings” and chose “Share this site.” Here you can invite owners, collaborators, or viewers. While collaborators can add edit and add content to the site, owners have advanced permissions. If you would like to limit viewing to only a select group, make sure you have unchecked the “Advanced permissions” box. Now only people you invite by email will have access to the site.

Under “Site settings,” you can also “Change appearance” of the site. Add a custom logo, change the theme or the colors and fonts of the site, add background photos. The combinations are as endless as your imagination. Don’t forget to save your changes before returning to the site.

Each time you add a new page, you will have to “Edit sidebar” if you would like it listed. This is found at the bottom of the sidebar or can be done under “Site settings” > “Change appearance.” Under “Navigation” chose “edit.” You will need to add the page to the sidebar. Once there, use the arrows to move the pages around until they are in the order you’d like.

There are so many uses for Google Sites. My students use it to share their writing and class projects with family and friends. Colette has used it to manage an Online Safety Voice Thread project her students did.

Next week, we’ll feature websites that other people have made using Google Sites. But if you’d like to get started making your own Google Site, here are some resources to help:

Tech Tip Tuesday: Google Earth curriculum ideas

by MaryFran Lynch

Google Earth can be wonderful to use to introduce your students to the places in their text books. You may want to create your own lessons or use some that have been made available to compliment your lessons. Here are a few you may be interested in:

Language Arts

Whether your class is reading,  Possum Magic by Mem Fox, By the Great Horn Spoon by Sid Fleishman, or The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, Google Lit Trips can take your students to the setting of the book and make the story come more alive with the pictures and resources available in the placemarkers.

Older students will enjoy seeing the places in Shakespeare’s Plays,   Jane Austen’s Life and Work, or John’s Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley. These sites are found in the Google Earth Community along with numerous other resources.

Social Studies

Also found in the Google Earth Community is a map showing the westward explorations of Lewis and Clark.  The placemarkers take you to the website for more information.

See the California Missions Alta California and in  Baja California by exploring these sites.

Find out about the Crisis in Darfur or track the US Unemployment Rates at the Google Earth Outreach website. Look here for other Google Earth files from community and environmental action groups.

See what Ancient Rome looked like in 3-D. Walk down the streets of Rome in 320 AD and explore the insides of ancient buildings, all recreated in Google SketchUp.


Here are some places to check out for using Google Earth in math


Can you think of a better tool to teach geological map interpretation? Here is great lesson from On the Cutting Edge to help you get started.

Study the effect of Global Warming with this lesson from David R. Wetzel.

Just for Fun

  • Send a GeoGreeting . Have your message spelled out with buildings found in GoogleEarth.

There is so much available for Google Earth, and more resources being posted all the time. All it takes to implement these ideas is a free downloaded version of Google Earth 5.0 , and your lessons can take you (and your students) places.

Make a self-calculating Survey

I am currently teaching Excel to my computer students and we always do a project where the students create surveys and graph the results.  I was inspired by Jesse Spevack’s self-graded quizzes – so I thought I would use the same process with surveys and teach some formula writing along the way.

surveyYou can download a PDF of these directions HERE.

Create form:

1.  Create a Google Form for the survey.  Only use “multiple choice” or “choose from a list” for the answer type because the answers must be consistent.  Consider making the last question required to prevent users from accidentally submitting their results before they are done.

2.  Double check spelling and directions for each question.  You don’t want to edit the survey once you begin.

3.  Email your survey (Google form) to the recipients or provide a link for easy access.  Google Forms can also be embedded in blogs, wikis and web pages.  See a live sample of this form at .

4.  Fill out a test sample on the form to make sure all questions work correctly.

5.  Answers to the survey are going to be automatically dropped into the corresponding Google spreadsheet.  Close the form and open the spreadsheet.  The spreadsheet indicates the time the survey was completed. Right click and rename Sheet1 to “Data”.  You do not need to wait until all the surveys are completed before going on to the next step.

Transfer the data:

6.  Add a NEW spreadsheet to your page by clicking the “Add Sheet” button on the lower left side of screen.  Rename the new sheet “Calculations”.copy1

7.  Copy the data from “Data” to “Calculations” using the following method.  Type this formula in cell A1 of “Calculations”:  =Data!A1 This will copy the information from the first spreadsheet (which we renamed “Data”) to the second one.

8.  Select A1 and grab the fill handle and copy this formula across to the other cells.  How far you copy the formula depends on how many survey questions you asked.copy2

9.  With all the cells in the first row selected, copy the formula all the way to the end of the page.  What we are doing here is transferring the data from the first spreadsheet to the second one.  We don’t want to do our calculations on the first sheet and interfere with the data collection.  Using the copy fill handle makes it easy to transfer the data. (Note:  we could use copy/paste if all the survey results were done, but doing it this way creates an automatic update for new results!).

10.  As new surveys are completed, the data will populate the “Data” spreadsheet as well as the “Calculations” spreadsheet.  Now we are ready to write formulas to calculate the results.

Calculate the results:

formula_results11.  Write SUMMARY in Row 1 of the column to the right of all the data.  This is where you are going to calculate the results.

12.  Write the question and answer options in this column.  Repeat down the column for all of your questions.

13.  Now we are going to write the formulas to calculate the results.  We will write the formulas in such a way that if more people fill out your survey, the results will automatically be updated.  In the column next to the first answer option write this formula:  =COUNTIF(C2:C100,H4)  with the range as C2:C100 (this is where the answers are located for the survey; the 2nd cell reference in the range needs to be large enough for all your survey results) and the criteria is H4 (this is the cell reference where the answer option is located).  It is much easier to use the cell reference than the actual answer.  Repeat this formula for each answer option and changing the criteria as needed, for example, the next formula would be =COUNTIF(C2:C100,H5) .

NOTE:  If you understand Absolute References, the formula could be written =COUNTIF($C$2:$C$100,H4)  so that you could easily copy the formula to the other answer options for that question.

14.  Now whenever someone completes the survey, the results will automatically be calculated.  You will have one spreadsheet with the raw data and the second spreadsheet with the data and results.

Optional: Create a graph of the summary results and watch the graph change as new results are calculated.

Tech Tip Tuesday – Google SketchUp

SketchUp is a free downloadable software from Google that you can use to create 3D models of anything you can imagine.  People use SketchUp to create architectural, landscape, and woodworking models or just for fun!

You can build models from scratch, or you can download what you need from the Google 3D Warehouse . This is a huge, searchable directory of models – and just like most things from Google – it’s free.

How does SketchUp work?

First you must download the software and install the program on your computer.  It’s compatible with both Macs and PCs.  The latest version is Sketchup7 .  Schools can download Sketchup7 Pro for FREE.

To build models in SketchUp, you draw edges and faces using a few simple tools.  For example, you draw a rectangle and then use Sketch Up’s push/pull tool to make it 3D.  The models you made can be completely accurate to precise measurements.  You can use SketchUp’s Paint Bucket tool to paint your model with materials like colors and textures. There are many advanced techniques to make your models look realistic.

Younger students can “play” with the software to create models or diagram while at the same time practice important geometry concepts.   The 3D Warehouse contains puzzles and geometric mosaics that would be great for introducing math concepts.

Google Earth Integration

Creating models for Google Earth presents a unique challenge compared to everyday SketchUp modeling. You can place the models you make in SketchUp into Google Earth but you might want to watch these video tutorials first . Click HERE to view basic instructions of how to place your model in Google Earth.

Another thing you can do is include real world context for your models, such as aerial photos and terrain from Google Earth.

Case Studies

Check out the following case studies that have been submitted by the SketchUp K-12 Education community.  Apartment model (right) made by elementary student.

You might spark an interest in engineering or architecture by giving a student access to SketchUp.

Here are some ideas of how you might want to use it in your classroom:

  • Build a 3D model of your school.
  • Use SketchUp to visualize the geometry concepts you are teaching.
  • Create a 3D model of the California Missions and then incorporate those models into Google Earth.
  • Have students build a model of their houses.
  • When studying architecture of the past, create a 3D model of an ancient pyramid.
  • More ideas at Google SketchUp Teacher Guide


Tech Tip Tuesday: Even more … Google Earth

Guest post by MaryFran Lynch—even-more

Once you’ve downloaded Google Earth, you’ll be able to take advantage of some of Google Earth’s features you won’t find in Google Maps. Here are three features worth exploring.

As we all know, more than 70% of the Earth is covered by water. Google recently unveiled Google Ocean.

With Google Ocean, you can explore the deepest part of the ocean with marine experts, or learn about climate change and how it is affecting the ecology of the ocean and its inhabitants. To access this feature, click on Ocean in Layers in the left sidebar, and begin to explore the ocean depths by choosing the different features. Travel beneath the surface with Jacques Cousteau, watch BBC videos on the ocean, or search for shipwrecks. In the State of the Ocean layer, you can find out about the work the Monterey Bay Aquarium has been doing in their Seafood Watch program.

Prefer to explore the skies? Google Earth has a feature to help you explore stars, planets, and constellations.

Switch to Google Sky in the tool bar along the top of the screen. You navigate around the Sky, much as you do in Earth. Mouse over the upper right-hand part of the screen and your navigation controls will appear. Here you can zoom in or out. Chose a specific location to explore by using the search box as you would in Google Maps or Earth.

You’ll find lots of information in the Layers, once again found in the left-hand sidebar. You’ll find lots of great information by exploring the layers. Learn which constellations you can expect to see tonight from your backyard, and how to identify them by clicking on the Backyard Astronomy drop down features. The date and time slider in the upper left-hand corner lets you see how your view will change through a specific time frame, or you can watch the orbit of planets.

The Mars option features awesome images of our closest neighbor planet taken by NASA, along with detailed information we’ve learned from the Mars Rover.

Another recently added feature is Historical Imagery. Find this feature under the clock in the tool bar.

Use the slider to see how a location has changed over time.

Google Earth has so many educational applications! Google has teamed with Discovery Education to help teachers integrate Earth, Sky, Oceans, and Historical Imagery into your lessons. Here is a list of websites to help you get started:

Take a tour and discover what Google Earth has to offer. Now you can truly have the world at your fingertips.