Google Docs & iPad: The Perfect CRT (Casual Relief Teacher) – How-To

The CRT, an incredibly brave species that wakes early, enters new environments, and deals with hostile natives…

In the schools I have worked with, I think that being a new CRT must be tough. You have a whole new place and class to deal with, unsure of your environments and what to do. The last thing they would want is having to deal with technology.

It has been common practice that if a teacher is going to be away, they would leave work in a filing cabinet, or on their desk for the CRT to pickup and use. Even this can be a pain, if the teacher is sick they may not have left work. Even tougher these days, with teachers (like ours) using online platforms like Google Apps, leaving physical work can also be a hassle (and a waste of paper). Finally, as our teachers take their devices home so CRTs are given the dreaded ‘loner laptop’ (which may not have been charged by its last user)

How can we make life easier for our CRT Champions?, it only takes two things; iPad and Google Docs.

Google Docs is the platform (teachers share planners, work, comments – from anywhere and anytime, the CRT can leave notes and updates), iPad the delivery system (that lasts all week, is super portable, CRTs don’t have to deal with passwords and log-ins, and be customised for our needs)

So, how can you set this up at your school, just follow my simple 9 step program below…(batteries not included)

(download the full-size PDF here)CRT


(Apple) Watch your Wellbeing

Continuing on my Wellbeing interest, I thought of an interesting occurrence I witnessed over the past few weeks. People doing what their wrist tells them. Let me explain.

The Apple Watch is now in the wild (for those that managed to snag one) and I have been seeing some warning signs that yes, machines will rule the world.

1426620730392The watch has fitness tracking abilities that look at your heart rate, movement, and even standing, allowing you to set goals (the watch will also help you in deciding those goals – Just like the Terminator would – you have been warned). It even will give you a slight tap to motivate you, to say, stand every hour (and even give you a medal for achieving your goals, ’cause you know, everyone loves medals!) Now the funny thing I have been seeing is people doing exactly that. I was in a meeting the other day when all of a sudden a person stood up and took a slight stroll, why?, “my watch told me to”.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think this is great, the positive effects exercise has on wellbeing is widely documented. So, it go me thinking, why not extend it to have a wellbeing focus. A simple app that does exactly what the Apple exercise app does, but focus on your Wellbeing goals (no, it’s my idea…(c) Garcia Corp.)

  • Have you had some time to think today?
  • Asked someone for help, or offered?
  • Given yourself 10 minutes of fun?
  • Talked with a friend or colleague (not about work)

AppleWatch_Process_Book_HI-kwc01-37-1024x691Things like that. And just like the exercise app, you set your daily goals and get a nice reminder to do one (with medals of course…more medals!)

I sure would love in my next meeting to see people get up, have a positive chat with another person and then come back saying “well, my watch told me to…”

Young people are surrounded with distractions, make a focus on their learning (and wellbeing) part of that distraction

Recently I have been thinking about how we teach our young people, both during classroom hours and beyond.

One thing I always focused on in my teaching was to create my own resources for my students. The teacher knows their class, they know that everyone learns differently, then why should they all be using the same textbook or resource? Were is the diversity, the engagement, the opportunity to speak directly to your students.

You could dig through my archives on this blog and see the approaches I took in this (making things up as I go being new to teaching). Creating original, interactive Multi-Touch Books (iBooks) and Online Courses, Recording my lessons, Creating original videos and animations, gaming, opening up discussion and collaboration, and most importantly, allowing the students to create and explore.

Wellbeing of our young people is of great importance, and one it seems that teachers don’t feel is their job*, they are busy teaching content. What I hope is teachers see that by changing the content you teach, and how you teach it, you will be doing wonders for student confidence, engagement, and more. If you provide your students a room (be it your classroom or an online space) that fosters creativity and choice, you’re going to make the room a great place to be in (our students have no choice in being there remember!).

*We don’t have time for mental health: teachers – SMH 4 May, 2015

This brings me to my main point. Our young people are distracted, and I don’t say this as something that they are totally responsible for or have complete control over. Society has changed, gone are the days when you would come home from school and all you had was the Power Rangers on TV and maybe the Nintendo (if you were lucky enough that your mate Ryan who had said Nintendo was home)*

*(Sorry about that small window into my childhood)

1Young people now are exposed to huge levels of distractions, from commitments such as sport, hobbies such as gaming, and of course the many social networks that surround us. These also extend to parents. Parents of our young people, the exact people that they look up to, may also be finding their time torn between these platforms.

This is an escapable fact of our society today, and one that can’t (and should not) be attempted to fix be limiting or removing these distractions altogether (that will not fix the wellbeing issue, as much as some people may think it will). What I am telling my teachers is to try to look at ways to make their students learning part of this distraction.

“Young people are exposed to huge levels of distractions, make their learning part of that distraction”

Let me give you an example. You want to teach your students Weather, you could set a homework task that is many pages long (or in most cases I have seen a poor photocopy from a well used textbook) and send that home. The young person has to actively set time aside for this to happen, all the while having those distractions beating down their door. You could create a wholly original, engaging lesson in the first place, but let’s start out small, why not try creating a short YouTube clip (or reference one of tha many out there) for students to watch, follow that up with a short blog post with some info, have an online discussion space for students to chat about the work, tweet out some positive comments of ‘how are you going?’, or ‘check this out if you need some help’, finally allow students to answer in a way that suits them, a post on the blog, a YouTube reply, movie, series of tweets, Facebook timeline…  these are platforms students are already using, and in most cases will be switching between as they do the homework. Young people are some of the best multi-taskers I have ever seen, give them something to put those skills to use in.2

I know what you may be thinking ‘well, that seems like a lot of extra work thank-you very much’. But, just like we tell our students, these things become part of your teaching, part of your workflow. If you ask me, going to page 144 of Humanities Now (circa 1998), making 30 copies, handing these all out, dealing with students that lost the sheet in the first 30 seconds, marking any work (feedback and positive comments optional), handing it back… is a lot more work than creating a new lesson and tweeting it out (not to mention you can then reflect upon and reuse your lesson next time).

The change will take time, but change is needed, if you need a hand, ask your class what they want, how they like to learn – I am sure they would be happy to help.

I encourage you to read a great paper by the Young and Well Research CentreGame On: Exploring the Impact of Technologies on Young Men’s Mental Health and WellbeingIts focus on link between technology use and men’s mental health and wellbeing can go right back to what I am trying to say here (I have used some of thier stats in this post).

One thing that stands out to me is the information presented in the table below:


Ways young men aged 16 to 25 years commonly spend time using the internet,by level of psychological distress.

The top areas that our young people spend their time on the internet (other that for school or work…but is a lot of this out of necessity?) are areas one could describe as a distraction, YouTube, Social Networks, Gaming, email and Music (I put the reference of Podcasts in there – something I use to learn everyday…and morning run).  

Social Networking is more popular than School Research, and an area they have chosen freely, our students are already in the room – let’s help put with thief learning and wellbeing while they are there.

This is not an all of nothing approach, and yes, I don’t expect a student to tweet me their major assessment piece on the Russian Revolution in 759 tweets of 140 characters, but small things can go a long way, especially with the connection to and wellbeing of our young people, so try to give it a go.

Where to start? – Well I have a handy list right here…

Seesaw Trial Post 4: Parent information session (and Arabic handout)

Our EAL students are all over Seesaw, so the next step was to involve their parents, so we invited them all in yesterday afternoon, the hour before they would usually pick them up.

For the parents of our EAL students, English is not their main language, and most are still learning it. Now, as my Arabic is not the best (or my English come to think of it) we got the students to run the show.

They demonstrated what they have been doing, and how parents can sign up (in both English and Arabic the smart cookies)

It was a great session, below are a few pictures from the day, as well as the Arabic hand-out sheet we sent home the week prior the talks about Seesaw, why we are using it and how parents can get he App on their phones.

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Arabic Handout Sheet:


What is more important to teach – The Tool (iPad, ChromeBook…) Or the Platform (Online Collaboration, Resource Creation, Creativity…) ?

I am not saying an iPad is any better or worse than a laptop, but both can be used as a ‘window’ to the online platforms we want to teach our students.

…now with less typos (thanks iPhone autocorrect and fat thumb for hitting post)…

When I started at my first school all the way back in 2012, I worked at a school that promoted having a 1:1 iPad program. What become quickly apparent to me was that even though the students had iPad, the teachers did not know, or willing to learn, how to use these new devices to enhance and redefine the learning, they quickly became PDF and Internet viewers…

Times they are ‘a changing, you can see the ways I tried to overcome this in the past by going through some of my old posts, but it is an issue that I saw a lot in the following years (and still see).

Fast forward to now (That’s 2015 for those of you playing at home) That original problem has not fixed itself (that I believe can only come with pro-active teachers and leaders and quality, relevant PD) but a new one has come into view.

Let me give you some context. I have been trying to decide what devices would best serve our senior students (Grade 5 and 6). My original thinking was that as 95% of our students would be going to a school that is 1:1 iPad in Year 7, this would be the best choice. We could provide our students skills and knowledge in using the iPad in their schooling, and in turn this would give them an advantage when they head into high-school.

As good as an iPad can be in allowing students to create, it does have some limitations when compared with a laptop or ChromeBook (keyboards, multi-tasking, open sourced nature of laptops) and as we are using the Google Docs platform in a big way, would I be crippling what these students could achieve? (Yes, Google Apps are on the iPad, but in a very limited way)

More and more I am seeing the device as a window to some great platforms and programs and ways of working (Google Apps, Seesaw). And more and more I am seeing a huge uptake of mobile device use in the home (iOS, Android) – our students are learning the ‘devices’ on their own, but really have no need to learn the platforms (Google Apps will not get you a high score in Candy Crush). Devices will come and go, update and evolve – but the key concepts behind the platforms (collaborative working spaces, sharing resources, cloud based storage and retrieval teacher created and catered resources) are now (or should be) a main stay in our schools.

I believe that we should be focusing on developing these skills in our students, the device, or window, our students use to access these is still important, but something that will come naturally, and with the right teacher, be used to enhance the learning in the classroom.

Think of it like driving a car. Once you know how to drive, you can hop into any car and go for a spin, learning some of the new features of said car is then an enjoyable experience! (expect when driving my brother’s old car, no one should have to drive a ’87 Camry)


Seesaw Trial Post 3: Trials, Chats and Foxes…

I want to collect as much feedback as possible from all the stakeholders, teachers, students and parents so I am trialling Seesaw in a variety of classes and scenarios. Every grade level (from Prep to 4) have their own unique goals and we are finding that we can tailor Seesaw to meet those (better communication with parents, replacement for handout sheets, journal for students to collect work, reflect on their learning, teachers catering for diversity, language barriers…)

Below you will find a few more videos of me presenting the platform to classrooms. One is our Grade 1 Class, and the other is an EAL Class (English as another Language) this one is particularly powerful as I also have the lesson being translated in Arabic. We are finding the visual nature of Seesaw is very helpful for parents of our students that may not speak the language.

Of a side note, I have also been lucky enough to speak directly with the app developers, a very smart and helpful bunch, and providing our feedback straight to them. Using Seesaw in your class? Just send them an email with any concern and they will get back to you ASAP, great to know.

Seesaw Trial Post 2: Save Time and Money and “Let’s get rid of Handout sheets!” (eventually….)

Seesaw allows a student to reflect upon any piece of work they add into their journal, be it a typed sentence, drawing annotation, or voice recording – all things that allows the student to be more expressive than on a traditional handout sheet.

As much as I would love to rid the world of handout sheets forever, this is something that will come with time and teacher exposure and confidence with online platforms such as Seesaw. But we can make a good first step, changing the way students capture and interact with what would traditionally be a handout sheet (not to mention getting rid of the need to print them and far easier teacher comments, and as a bonus parents, will be in on the action as well)

So, how can you do this? Check out my how-to video below.

Here are the resources I used in my example:


Label the States and Territories of Australia


Label the parts of the Human Body you see.


Practice your letter A


Read and complete this sheet.

Seesaw Trial Post 1: Setup and Use – LIVE from the Prep Classroom

On my other site,, I have demonstrated Seesaw, a great app that enables students to easily create a digital portfolio. What I feel is the best feature however, is the way it opens up the classroom to our student’s parents.

I have spoken with many parents of our students and I get similar responses. They would love to know more about their child’s achievements and generally, what they get up to, in the classroom. I know when I was asked by my mum as a kid, “What did you get up to today?” I warmly greeted her with the…“Upmh, I don’t know” (yes, I was a charming child). Platforms like Seesaw overcome this. The parent can get notifications about their child’s work, comment, like & more, and open up the discussions and continue the learning when they get home. Parents working shift work have also commented on how they miss this valuable time with their child. Finding ways to capture part of their day can make a world of difference (not to mention how you can easily pass this on to Jeda* back in Iraq)

I am trialling Seesaw in a few selected classes for the next few weeks in the goal to roll it out to all our Prep to Grade 4 classes. Digital Portfolios, celebrations of a student’s work over the year, keeping track of work done in specialist classes, and (my secret, ulterior motive) ways of getting rid of static and wasteful handout sheets are all on the cards.

I will document the process here on the blog, starting with this video.

In this video I work with our Prep class to show Seesaw and how to use it. These students have never used this app before and I think you can see how much they are engaged, by the fact that they sit still for 30 minutes!

I show them how it works, how they can reflect on their work, and how it can be shared with their parents. Then they were on their own and in a few minutes started creating some great portfolios!

* Arabic for Grandma (جدة)

iPad…a great tool for innovative learning…and pole dancing… – 小偶 – 我的3D萌偶

There is no doubt that there some amazing apps for iPad that can change the way our students learn, cater and celebrate diversity and empower our teachers and students to become creators and authors.

Then there are apps that allow me to do this…(yes, that is my face)

Swings in roundabouts I suppose…

Get the App here (but you have been warned)