Google Form as Choose Your Own Adventure Tool

Just a quick proof of concept for a session I’m doing at VSTE. I’m trying to show how you can use most things in all sorts of ways despite what they were intended to do. Apparently the example Google put out for this way back when actually used choose your own adventure to demo the concept. I promise I didn’t know that.

Embedded below is a simple example of a choose your own adventure story using the branch logic options in Google forms. It’s a little hard to keep the pages straight at first but it gets easier as you go. Were I doing something large, I’d probably have to map it out first.

VSTE Conference Presentations


I’ll be updating this post as I pull the content together. These are presentations I’m doing at VSTE this year.

Common Tools, Uncommon Uses

Take a sideways look at educational uses for common tools and websites. Projectile motion in Word? Google forms for a choose-your-own-adventure novel? Yep. Stuff like that.

This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list and the goal is more about encouraging people to look at these tools and realize that no matter the goal of the creators/marketers we can use them in all kinds of powerful ways that were never intended. I think in the end, I’m going to organize it by concept and show multiple applications that support those concepts.


  • Movie frames for comics
  • Capture motion data
  • Summarize movies


  • Visual timer
  • ComicLife/Mind Mapping
  • Choose Your Own Adventure


  • Text manipulation
  • Self-Correcting Crossword Puzzle
  • MadLibs
  • 8 bit graphic design


  • Onion skinning to map motion
  • DIY ComicLife, Omnigraffle etc.


  • Choose your own adventure
  • Intelligent assessments


MOOCs: Define and Applied to K12

Massive Online Open Courses are catching on. What are they and what can K12 teachers learn from them? Both professional development and concrete classroom applications will be explored

After I explain what a MOOC is and show a few examples that might be interesting for K12 educators. I’m going to take what I found to be the most interesting elements from my participation in DS106 and talk about how and what I’d apply to the K12 environment both the classroom and the professional development arena.1

Stuff from DS106 that’s applicable to the classroom.

  • Aggregation blog
  • Student spaces
  • Student created assignments
  • Mixed online and f2f communities
  • Multiple media outlets
  • Cheerleading

Professional Development

  • Leveraging existing MOOCs
  • Integrating the concept into the district
  • Providing for mixed experiences for teachers
  • Aggregation and promotion

Also coming out of our office are-

iPads in Early Elementary

Henrico just deployed 4 iPads in every K/1st grade classroom. Why’d we do that? What Apps are we using? How are we managing devices? How are we documenting results?

Reflective Friends- Changing the Culture of Henrico County Public Schools

Ever feel like you’re spinning your wheels? Getting nowhere fast? Come learn what Henrico County did to establish an expectation for 21st century, student-centered instruction in all K-12 classrooms. After years of one step forward, two steps backwards, we have implemented a reflective friends process that consists of a series of classroom observations by “outside consultants” (in-house and outside our county) using our Teaching Innovation Progression Rubric (TIPC). Data is collected on 21st century instruction comparing select teachers versus random teachers, students and teachers are interviewed, and all data is triangulated to paint a baseline picture of a school’s 21st century instruction. Additional observations are performed at the end of the year to measure growth. Administrators from all schools have been an integral part of this process and learned how to use TIPC to further develop their own observational skills surrounding 21st century instruction. We are beginning our 3rd iteration of observations this year will bring all 46 elementary schools into the process this fall. We are also beginning to help school teams develop their own observational teams by bringing department and instructional leaders into the process. Reflective Friends, along with Henrico 21, is setting expectations and accountability for 21st century instruction in HCPS.

Henrico 21- Part 2- One year- 238 lessons later…

Teachers are ready, willing, and able to implement 21st century instruction in their classrooms but their cry is always “Help! Show me what it looks like!” Henrico 21 does just that. We have currently posted over 230 lessons that teachers can use as models for 21st century lessons at various levels of implementation. Participants will learn how we use the power of WordPress to format and post lessons and take advantage of the social networking aspects of WordPress. We are using this constantly evolving site to change the culture in our schools and develop community surrounding 21st century learning. Participants will learn how we use our Teaching Innovation Progression chart (our 21st century rubric) as the foundation for high quality lesson development. Henrico 21, along with Reflective Friends, is helping us begin to experience real change in instruction which is evidenced by the growth in the site from 8- to 238 lessons in less than a year.

Digital Curriculum

Changing Instructional Practices

Henrico County Public Schools is currently in a two–year process of replacing textbooks with digital curriculum. By 2013, we will create curriculum for 40 secondary content areas. The content will serve multiple purposes including face-to-face, blended, and eventually online courses. This process will involve multiple stakeholders including educational specialists, classroom teachers, instructional technology resource teachers, and the department of instructional technology. The work we are doing centers around the TPCK model with heavy emphasis on 21st century learning experiences that align with our Teaching Innovation Progression chart (TIPC). Courses are being developed using the Backwards Design framework and will include 21st century performance-based assessments. As part of this project, we are working to develop a container for curriculum and content that will be transparent and open to anyone. This is a work in progress. We will share our journey as well as any materials we have developed with all participants. We look forward to sharing and collaborating with others who are working to meet the same goals.

1 I have some more expansive ideas on how higher ed could leverage this concept to provide semi-facilitated PD for school systems but I won’t torture anyone with that right now.

Bloom’s Rocks!

Rocks are going to REVOLUTIONIZE education! Just look how easily rocks cover all levels of Bloom’s!

Flying without a license


I write things on my rocks and it helps me remember. I can also use rocks as eco-friendly flash cards.

Quartz Varieties


Comparing my rock to other rocks demonstrates my understanding. Sometime I categorize all of my rocks.

Skip Rock


I apply what I know about physics and use my kinesthetic intelligence to skip my rock.

Molasse inspection


I like to use conglomerates to help me differentiate between components and analyze the role of different composite pieces.


Sometimes I just sit on a large rock, quietly reflecting on my rock- thinking about how we are all on a large rock and stuff like that.
Greet the Golden Hour


My rock can be used to make many things. I use it as a hammer mostly but I can stack my rocks into cool towers, use it as a canvas, make it into an arrowhead, or use to ground grain.

HCPS’s Path to 21st Century-ish Stuff in 5 minutes

In case you’re feeling masochistic, here’s my 5 minute Ignite style presentation on Henrico’s path to 21st century skills.1

You can see the other 5 min presentations here. It’s an interesting national look at what people are trying to do. I’m always interesting in how these things overlap.

1 Yes, I plan to transition to awkward PPT based comedy in the near future.


I’m at the State Educational Technology Directors Association leadership summit, yet I am clearly not a state director of anything. Nonetheless, it is an interesting place to be and I’ve heard and had a number of interesting conversations.

I’m going to attempt to get a few of them down on digital paper before they get too buried in email and other mental garbage.

Prior to the conference starting, I had some time to read Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius and it roughly corresponded with seeing another one of those useless top 100 web 2.0 apps for education lists on Twitter.1 Anyway, the point was that the Montessori classroom was structured around choice but carefully selected choice. It went on to discuss that given more choice than they’re prepared for people become overwhelmed and constantly second guess their choice after the fact. I think that happens a lot with technology options. People are presented with all their options when in many cases they just need to choose between three or four that are presented to them. We (HCPS) need to give this some thought with regard to how we structure and display our digital tool options.

Clearly, having a sense of control over one’s environment is associated with better learning and performance in children.

That was another quote about choice that I remembered to share. I think it has some direct connections to student/staff satisfaction with laptops. There are some schools who won’t let students change the desktop image. I don’t think that’s a good thing.

At the actual conference, I spoke to Michael Haney from the National Science Foundation. We were talking about visualizing learning paths and encouraging student metacognition through visuals. It got me thinking about some group from the EdLeader21 conference that had multiple strands for all their projects (content, creativity, problem solving etc.). They, as I recall, had fairly traditional bar graph type visualizations. I was thinking you could use something like a star or pentagram to visualize several elements and clearly indicate discrepancies. It seems like it’d introduce a more dramatic element of disharmony that might matter. No one wants to be lopsided. Mr. Haney also mentioned a few people doing work around computational thinking. That is our next big step at the middle school level and one that is interesting but promises to be complex.

Georgia seems to be doing some interesting things regarding sharing their virtual course content. The resources are here. It’s also my understanding that they will be releasing the actual courses as OER material under a CC license. That’s an awesome thing to see a state doing. GA also seems to be going out of its way to market their work to the school divisions in GA. That’s something HCPS needs to work on internally.

John Keller from Indiana had some interesting comments. His focus was on funding innovation- not catching up those who are behind. I liked his statewide focus on connecting innovators. That’s something else I think we need to work on internally in HCPS. He also mentioned “strategically abandoning” things that failed to work. That’s an interesting idea and one that David Wiley was particularly attracted to.

Wiley’s comment was essentially that publishers are very excited about digital curriculum and that’s a big warning sign. I agree.

I’m trying to figure out how you move from strategically giving people content/lessons etc. when they don’t have the necessary skills/experience then scaffold them up toward evaluating and using this provided content but also actively adding to that content.

Since VA is too good for common core, I’m trying to figure out how badly that hurts us. It pretty much drops our conversation from national to only VA. The Learning Registry launched today and that illustrates pretty clearly that we aren’t going to be able to make the same connections nor share the same content efficiently that common core states can.

There was a lot of talk about “big data” and its role in digital content and curriculum. Imagine if you could tie together all the disparate pieces of digital content, their usage stats, test data from various systems, and then act on all that information through the lens of your SIS system. The fact that online education opens up an entirely different level of behavioral data tracking and subsequent possibilities for analysis and action but we have to figure out ways to make that less daunting to teachers.

probably more than enough for now and all of it overlapping with the work we’re currently doing in HCPS around digital content and certainly things we have to think about regarding our digital infrastructure.

1 Those lists make me root for alien invasions, the rapture and any number of other things that would end such stupidity.

Digital Content- Things to Consider

Henrico has had a long and interesting relationship with digital content. We’ve been struggling with this issue since we first went to 1:1 back in 2001. We’ve used everything from simple networked directories to full blown learning management systems (Blackboard and Angel). We’ve bought content. We’ve made content. We’ve had content submitted openly from any teacher and content only shared after careful vetting by content specialists. So we’ve tried most thing I can think of. Now the pressure is on to make a scale move to digital content and to do it well.


Use digital content to help define and reinforce best practice in the classroom.
Digital content and digital curriculum are not the same but if you are making this kind of shift it makes sense to think hard about how to use this content to shape teaching in the classroom. Duplicating a text in PDF format won’t get at any sort of change, nor will the slightly modified “rich” online textbooks that most publishers put out.

Invest Internally
The current model in education is to pay outside vendors for “expertise” on a regular basis. This ends up causing a variety of problems. The most important being that our own teachers end up being “given fish” over and over again and then people are surprised to find that they cannot “fish” for themselves. We’ll wish we invested more in our people as funding continues to dry up.

For example, I have argued that we should not buy any sort of map software for social studies. We have Google Earth and the Internet. We should use them. We should invest that money in our teachers, giving them the training and time to find and create specific maps that align to our content in ways that matter instead of spending money on products that give us every map under the sun but don’t create embedded evangelists, increase teacher skills, or provide a pathway towards the habits of mind required to be a creator instead of a receiver.

Current Impediments

Lock In/Overhead
More and more digital content is not sold as digital content but rather as part of a larger LMS/CMS package. Each LMS you take on adds overhead for the students and teachers who have to navigate between and within the various systems. If you add things like Study Island to the mix, it would be easy for teachers to be building and organizing content in three or more systems, each with its own capabilities, quirks, and isolated content.

That’s bad enough but the really unfortunate thing is that most of these systems do not have any way to get your work out. The longer you use the system and build within it, the more trapped you are1. Our initial use of BlackBoard in 2001 taught us the importance of being able to get content/work out. We spent a great deal of time and effort to create courses and build within the BlackBoard system and when it was found the system would not work for us- all of the content was lost. Needless to say, this hurt us badly in terms of teacher trust and hampered subsequent adoption of other systems.

The Box Set Model
The music industry seems fairly progressive and forward thinking compared to the way digital content vendors bundle content. I would be more than happy to pay lower overall costs (higher per item) to be able to target exactly what I want to buy. The current model is worse than the album model the recording industry clung to for so long, it’s closer to only selling box sets. I don’t want to give teachers the Tom Jones box set. I just want that one song. Forcing me to buy the box set actually dilutes what I’m trying to do while adding cruft that someone will have to sort through. The fact that paid content comes with a presumption of approval makes granular decisions about what you provide even more important.

Clarity For Us, Garbage For You
I want to know what people are using and I want to know on the item level. I have every confidence that the vendor knows this yet most data I get from these systems are absolutely worthless. It’ll be logins from the beginning of time2 or I won’t be able to see anything below a 10,000 ft view. This makes it impossible to tell if people are using specific recommended pieces of content or, conversely, if they’re using items you’d rather they didn’t. You can’t ask questions, you can’t target PD, you can’t even tell if it’s worth reordering the product.

1 Expect price hikes.

2 Elluminate is bad about this as is Quia.