Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Google Apps and the Brain Friendly Classroom

Drawing and Artwork

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Dr. Marcia Tate has made it her life’s work to show educators how to create a brain-friendly classroom through her Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites series. This post is second in a series linking what Dr. Tate has identified as brain-friendly strategies to various Google products. I will share what makes the strategy powerful and how to leverage the multiple Google tools to help in student learning.

This Week: Drawing & Artwork

Why are these important?

Dr. Tate sites several studies showing how drawing and artwork can help a student in their learning process.

  • When students add drawings to their notes, it aids in recall of that information making the abstract tangible.
  • It has been shown that drawing in math helps students to visualize the problem before solving it.
  • Success in STEM is linked to accurate observation, spatial reasoning, and kinesthetic perception, which are also art skills!
  • Different areas of the brain are activated during drawing and artwork activities thus increasing connections.
  • Patterns in the arts help the brain in finding meaning.

How can Google Apps help?


While the core Google Apps suite focuses more on productivity, there is a creative app included in Google Drawings. Google Drawings does allow for some basic artwork creation by adding and manipulating shapes and images and can be a great tool for students to use when trying to visualize math problems. The Drawing app is also embedded in Docs, Sheets, and Slides for ease of adding creativity to productivity.

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But you can get really creative if you get beyond the core apps and embrace Drive Apps and Chrome Apps! Drive apps are third-party sites that work with your Google account in that they allow you to use your Google login for access and your Drive for storage. Many of them are also collaborative! Chrome Apps can be added to the Chrome browser through the Chrome Web Store, and like Drive Apps, these third-party websites allow you to use your Google account for login and access and provide you with a wealth of creative tools!

Here is a list of Drive Apps and Chrome Apps to help you bring drawing and artistic creativity to your classroom.

Drive Apps
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“JSPixely is a graphics editor tailor made to create pixel art for game sprites, icons or just plain pixel art. All icons used in the JSPixely GUI (except the Google Drive™ icon) were created with JSPixely.”

“Online Vector Graphic Design by html5 and SVG effects! It’s like Illustrator but works on the cloud with Google Drive”

Moqups: Mockups, Wireframes, and Prototypes

“The best HTML5 app for creating crisp mockups, wireframes & interactive prototypes.
Achieve flow with our web app for creating mockups, wireframes and interactive prototypes that look great onscreen and on paper thanks to the Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) technology.”

Chrome Apps

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“Create awsome art using this cool painting app.”

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“MyPaint is a fast and easy graphics application for digital painters. MyPaint lets you focus on the art instead of the program. You work on your canvas with minimum distractions, bringing up the interface only when you need it.”

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“CanvasDraw is a HTML5 rich drawing application supported by the online drawing community at RateMyDrawings connects your artwork with one of the most active drawing communities online by showcasing your drawings to the community of members who provide you with feedback and help you grow as an artist.”

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“Remember those old cartoons where hand drawn lines appeared to vibrate because of slight variance between frames? This app lets you draw sketches like that right in your browser and share replays with friends!”

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“Procedural Drawing Tool. Simple drawing tool with a set of special brushes.”

InspirARTion - Sketch and Draw

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“Open your creativity with this easy to use painting application. Number of amazing brushes give you a way to create beautiful artworks just in few strokes. Try symmetry modes to create an interesting effects. Save your creations or share it you with your friends.”

Kenneth Wesson, an educational consultant specializing in neuroscience, agrees with Dr. Tate and has said that every discipline should have students draw. He says "...we have ignored much of the recent research on how the human mind develops when art is a consistent part of long-term instructional planning."
Get Drawing!

Next Week: Field Trips!

Aaron is a Google Certified Teacher and authorized Google Education Trainer and former instructional coach with 19 years of classroom teaching experience. He has presented at state, regional, and national EdTech conventions including Google Education Summits and the ISTE annual convention.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Google Apps and the Brain Friendly Classroom
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Dr. Marcia Tate has made it her life’s work to show educators how to create a brain-friendly classroom through her Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites series. Too often, we create a learning environment that is very unnatural thus making it difficult for the brain to make connections between old and new learning. For example, we naturally learn by talking, by playing, working in groups, using technology, and by experimenting. Very rarely do we learn silently, by ourselves, sitting still.

Now look around at the typical classroom in our schools. Do you want kids to not just learn but also REMEMBER? Make the environment make sense to the brain.

I am going to be writing a series of posts linking what Dr. Tate has identified as brain-friendly strategies to various Google products. I will share what makes the strategy powerful and how to leverage the multiple Google tools to help in student learning.

This week: Brainstorming & Discussions

Why are these important?

Both of these activities are important because they allow the learner to truly think about and process the questions and possible answers. Marcia Tate sites multiple studies that show adolescents learn more from small group discussions, that brainstorming is a creative process thereby engaging the brain at a higher level, and that discussions allow the learner to clarify their understanding. These activities get students beyond just “what is” type questions and takes them into “how might,” “what could,” or “why is” levels of thinking.

In our normal, everyday lives, we learn from talking to others. Our ideas and understandings are shaped the more we have to defend our points of view and the more we hear the ideas of others. This is very natural for the brain.

How Can Google Apps Help?

Google Docs are perfect for brainstorming! The fact that a document can be edited by up to 50 people simultaneously makes this an incredible virtual whiteboard. But it can also get a bit daunting and here are some ideas that might help.

  • Share Smart: Don’t take the time to share it with each individual. Set the sharing to “Everyone with the link” “Can Edit.” Then, use a URL shortener (I like the shortener extension for Chrome) and project that new url. Students can then type it in and get to editing the document. You can also email the URL or share it via Google Classroom. Just find a quick and easy way to get them there!
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  • Use Slides instead of Documents: If the group gets a bit big, one document can get tough to navigate and all of the colorful cursors can get a bit distracting and in the way. Use Slides and give each student, or small group, their own slide. They can still see what others are typing but have their own contained environment to work productively.
  • Use the Collaborators Icons at the Top to Navigate: When you are working on the same document as another person, or group of people, icons representing those collaborators will show up at the top. Click on an icon to be taken to where they are currently editing the document and you can see what they are talking about.


  • Google Groups: Keep the classroom discussion going outside of school! Set up either a Web Forum or Q&A Forum depending on your classroom needs. These can be easily embedded on your website and the membership and moderation options allow the teacher to maintain a safe environment.
  • Google Docs & Fishbowls: The “Fishbowl” activity where you have the students in two concentric circles. The inside circle is discussing the topic with the teacher while the outside circle is communicating via a Google Doc. The outside circle can interject ideas, comments, or other thoughts that the teacher (who is monitoring the Doc) can use to guide the discussion with the inside circle.
  • Hangouts: Whether it is a video or text hangout, the ability to have a group discussion no matter where the members are in the world, has been made easier by Google. Bring in a guest speaker or an entire class from another part of the world to join your discussion!

Next Week: Drawing and Artwork

Have a happy day!