Small Pieces can Lead to Big Pieces: Some Ideas on How to Start Small with Technology

One of the amazing parts about being a teacher is that you are learning, too.  There are so many options to explore. With a general never-ending to-do list, it can be hard to find yourself time to play with new pieces or parts of technology.  It can be daunting!

However, there are some small features that you can embed in your lessons right now – ways to make simple tasks a little more engaging (super powerful when done with collaboration) and enrich student experiences.

Here are just a few little items to make student work more collaborative and engaging, but don’t require a lot of time (in fact, your students will run with them!).

Inserting a Drawing into a Google Doc (Brainstorming Awesomeness):

This is great, I think, to add a brainstorming “messy thinking” feature to a Google Doc. This is great for a chance for students to talk before they write (or, brainstorm a math, science, history, etc. idea), especially when you have limited Chromebooks.  The great part is you can easily use your finger with the ‘scribble’ option, or, on the 300e Chromebooks, a pencil!

First, insert a drawing. If you create a 1×1 table and make it big, students can enter their brainstorming right in the desired space – just as long as the cursor is in the table before they draw.

screenshot drawing

Next, students choose scribble.  This gives them free-flow writing.  Try the line and arrow if you want them to make smooth connectors, or draw shapes.


Next, go for it!  Let students create a web, or, brainstorming idea.  Hit save and close when complete, and it will appear in their Doc.  Now you can see their brainstorming and close insert drawing

Later, this could lead to:

  • Art/media lessons, including sketching ideas before creating infographics or posters.
  • Number Talks:  Students could draw their mathematical ideas in a Google Drawing, and shared to a slide you as a teacher can highlight various representations.

Use the Camera in Docs, Slides, Drawings, Sheets, and Forms:

Did you know you can take a photo from the camera and put it in your various G Suite programs?

Great for when and if your students want to add visual evidence of their work.  Let’s say you have whiteboard thinking, models, manipulatives – and you want to record and annotate thinking.  Use the camera!

Later, this could lead to:

  • Having students add photos of their math manipulatives, science experiments, etc. and adding them to a shared slide.  You as a teacher can then give feedback and assessment.
  • Developing student portfolios that students document key pieces of their learning.

Do a Flipgrid Mid-Point Check:

Flipgrid is a fast and easy way to get kids to pause, and stop and share what they are thinking in the middle of a task (a math problem, while researching while reading a text, etc.).  Set up a Grid quickly, and Topic place for students to video record their thinking.  Share the link or code via Google Classroom, for example (or you can make QR Codes if you are more adventurous – or want the littles to avoid lots of logging in).

Check out the quick walkthrough video here.

If you want to add student QR codes, check out this video.

Later, this could lead to:

  • Having students give feedback to each other’s videos and extend each other’s thinking.
  • Helping you determine guided groups, and next steps for teaching after watching student reflections.
  • Extending recording skills into WeVideo, where students can edit, add effects, and green screen.

Do a Quick Google Forms Exit Ticket:

Google Forms can go from straightforward, to really complex.  You can easily create a quick Exit Ticket (one or two math problems, a reflection, etc.) for students to fill out to consolidate thinking.  You can share the link in your Google Classroom for students to fill out.

goole forms creating questions

As you can see, there are many types of questions you can ask.  Choose one or two questions for a fast exit ticket.  To add a new question, hit the plus sign on the far right of your screen.  You will see responses automatically fill in the responses section as students fill them out. You can get a fast picture of what your students are thinking, learning, and feeling about a concept.

To share, hit the send google form sendbutton (top right), and copy the link so students can access.  Now you will have instant student information, and can now base your next instructional move on student data.

Here are a few examples of mine (Grade 6 Math exit tickets):

Later, this could lead to:

  • Making more complex Google Forms that include a link to a Google Sheet so you can create an assessment folder.
  • Creating your own form with curriculum expectations that you can fill out as you observe students working.
  • Students can create forms to assess themselves and their own ideas.

So, Start Small:

Even trying one small “tech trick” will lead to your students for asking more, for you wanting to go deeper, and giving yourself permission to take time to learn, ask questions, and determine next steps for yourself.  Enjoy the journey!

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