Visualizing Our Understanding: Graphic Organizers

“The use of graphic organizers,” says the El Campo ISD’s Intervention Warehouse website, “is a powerful tool that is easy to integrate into daily instruction.” The ECISD site then goes on to share access to several sources for graphic organizers for visualizing learning.
Graphic organizers are teaching and learning tools; when they’re integrated into classroom experiences, students are better able to understand new material. Creating a strong visual picture, graphic organizers support students by enabling them to literally see connections and relationships between facts, information, and terms.
Source: Teaching Graphic Organizers
As a writer, I often skipped “outlining” and note-taking as ways to organize my writing and notes. Instead, I created graphic organizers to capture ideas and map out my writing. When taking notes, I captured powerful research concepts using a graphic organizer rather than laboriously writing out page after page of notes This approach helped me build a gestalt of the ideas presented.
yED Graph Editor

The Problem with Graphic Organizers

Imagine that when someone says to you, “Could you read this technical text and summarize it?” you could ask yourself, “Well, which graphic organizer should I select?” Then, after some deliberation, you would pick the appropriate graphic organizer and use that one. You wouldn’t be limited to the default spider web graphic organizer with a main concept in the middle.
Instead, you would just use the right one for each task. Unfortunately, that has always been my problem with graphic organizers. Although I know there are different types (e.g. Problem-Solution, Fishbone, Time Order, etc.) for various functions, I never knew which one to rely on when I was growing up. To this day, I still rely on the easiest graphic organizer, the spider web with main topic in the middle and ideas radiating out from the center. Drawing graphic organizers by hand, though, can be cumbersome since mistakes are tough to correct.

Solutions for Visualizing Our Learning

“To know” goes the old constructivist saying, “is to know how to make.” When teachers pre-print graphic organizers for their students, they inadvertently do several negative things. Those things include:
  • Modeling the use of a graphic organizer appropriate to a text and thus
  • Removing the responsibility and ownership of selecting the correct graphic organizer appropriate to a text from the learner
Obviously, if students have less of a say in exactly what graphic organizer to use and when, their long-term use of this tool may suffer. This is because graphic organizers are visual representations of what we store in our brains. This can lead to challenges in comprehension. That’s pretty profound, isn’t it? That’s why it is so important to get students to create their own graphic organizers.
Let’s explore three tools you can use to create graphic organizers via digital devices.

Hand-Drawn Graphic Organizers with OneNote

If you’re not familiar with OneNote, it is a phenomenal mobile app that makes digital ink a reality for those with touch-screen computers or Surface Pro/Android/iPad tablets. With digital ink (that is the ability to draw on the tablet screen with a stylus or fingertip), students are able to finally create graphic organizers that are representative of their own visualizations.

Computer/Browser-Based Tools

If you have access to a Windows, Mac, or Chromebook, then tools abound for creating graphic organizers. Here are my top two favorite no-cost (free!) tools, but there are many more available, also known as “mind-mapping tools.”
  • Looking for an easy to use, browser-based diagramming or graphic organizer creator? Look no further than! It works in your browser, but allows you to save to whatever cloud storage system you prefer, such as Dropbox, OneDrive, or Google Drive.
  • yED Graph Editor: yEd can be installed on your computer (Windows, Mac, GNU/Linux) and works fantastically well. You can create graphic organizers using its simple layout. It also scales up to meet the needs of grade 9-12 and adult learners.


I still remember my first copy of Inspiration graphic organizer software. I was amazed at what I could create to represent my understanding of a process, a concept, or a text. Learning how to use graphic organizers, short of learning to read/write and use technology, remains one of the best lessons my high school teacher taught me. How are you teaching your students to use graphic organizers?

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

The Power of Yet! for Hackers and Phishers #yetpower

“Why did he click on that email attachment?” asked one technology director I spoke with recently. The click led to a ransomware attack that expanded to the business department’s server, resulting in frantic data-saving actions.  For many technology directors, the problem is not the phishing or the ransomware. The real problem is their lack of influence to bring about change in the organization. Consider this problem in light of a common occurrence in education today.

Note: This blog entry originally published by TCEA TechNotes blog. Read other awesome blog entries by the TCEA team online at

Knowing vs Doing

What is Known:
  • Hackers, phishers, and scammers want our personally-identifiable information. They can sell it for $10 or more on the darknet, where illegal transactions happen (think “Silk Road“).
  • Bad people send out emails to educators. These emails appear legitimate. They invite district staff to surrender their username and password and then send decrypted sensitive data and/or ransomware that use staff’s machines as a beachhead to infect the rest of the network.
  • Staff know NOT to fall for these traps, but do so anyways.
What is Done:
In spite of knowing these things, staff continue to click on phishing links where they happily share their username and password via an insecure website, send copies of confidential documents to complete strangers, or click on ransomware that encrypts their computer, then spreads to everyone else’s. These actions by a few individual wreak havoc on the whole network, and small districts especially are overwhelmed.

The Traditional Response

The traditional response involves disciplining staff, even terminating them in severe data breaches. They should have known better, right? Oh, but wait, your district does not have a safeguarding sensitive data policy in place (many districts do not, which is why I offer this one as a start). It involves buying and issuing hardware (e.g. Chromebooks, iPads, Macbooks) that malware (e.g. ransomware) can’t work its dark magic on (YET…you just know hackers subscribe to growth mindset, right?).
It means locking down Windows computers with Active Directory policies, Deep Freeze so that technicians don’t have to spend a lot of time fixing user errors. This has been standard practice for years. Here’s a roundup of advice that should help districts who want to keep closing the gate after the livestock has made its getaway. That is, mopping up the mess after someone has been hacked, phished, taken.

TCEA’s Roundup of Ideas for Safeguarding Sensitive Data

But what if there was another approach, employing motivation, influence, and authority?

A Fresh Approach: Influence

In their book, Influencers, the authors suggest identifying vital action(s) that can be taken. These vital actions consist of the desired behavior(s) that must change. Rather than try to change twelve or more behaviors staff exhibit, focus on one or two that will have the greatest results. For example, try encourage adoption of this behavior:
Assume emails with attachments are suspect, so verify the source of the email. This can be as easy as sending a new email to the person who contacted you and asking, “Did you send me a file attachment that says, “burnbabyburn.exe?” Wait, you can even get more done. Walk over to the person who sent you the email attachment and ask them “Did you send me a file I didn’t ask for?” Or just call them or text them on your mobile phone. This ONE behavior change would stop 99% of the issues technology departments complain about (e.g. ransomware, viruses, malware as attachments, AND sending sensitive data to complete strangers).

Changing behavior

When seeking to change behavior, the authors of Influencers recommend recognizing that there are six sources of influence. Often, we take into account only the first two when trying to bring about change:

Source 1 – Personal Motivation

Make the undesirable, desirable.
Example – Do you really care if your computers gets infected with malware and you lose data? It’s not that big a deal, after all. A technician will come fix it eventually and most of your work is done on paper anyways. Instead, you must passionately care about protecting your data and that of your students. If someone tried to take one of your students hostage, you wouldn’t be so passive.

Source 2 – Personal Ability

Surpass your limits.
Example – Do you have the skills and knowledge to know when you’ve encountered an email that is intended to do you and yours harm? You probably have an idea that you shouldn’t click on bad emails. Learn what you need to be better on guard.

Source 3 – Social Motivation

Harness peer pressure.
Example – Do others on your team or your department really care about email and email attachments? Maybe they go through their spam folder looking for problematic emails because they need a break? What if everyone on your team was motivated to help each other NOT open spam emails with attachments or to practice the desired behavior?

Source 4 – Social Ability

Find strength in numbers.
Example – Who could you speak to in the district who could help you obtain the knowledge or resources you need? Maybe there’s a SafeSchools or EduHero eCourse you can take or a free ebook you can read.

Source 5 – Structural Motivation

Design rewards and accountability.
Example – When you check your email, are there a ton of emails waiting for you, so that you despair about getting through all of them and just click on anything? Maybe you can adopt Inbox Zero strategies so that email isn’t so overwhelming. Avoid sharing your confidential data (username and password) anywhere online since it can be so easily taken.

Source 6 – Structural Ability

Change the environment.
Example – Maybe your district could adopt a different communications medium that isn’t susceptible to malware email attachments, like Slack or Microsoft Yammer or Teams.


While this has been a lighthearted attempt to address the challenges end users face every day, it is important to realize that changing ONE behavior can result in significant change. When you go about changing it, realize that asking people to do the right thing and training them is not going to get it done. Unleash all sources of influence to bring about the change you want.

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Minecraft: Education Edition Tutorial Videos

Are you a Minecraft: Education Edition digital native? If so, do we have a treat for you! Take a look at this new video series focusing on introductory videos to everyday tasks in the popular program. These short videos walk you through some common tasks, such as changing a skin, finding materials in creative mode, as well as using the compass and map and mastering the teleport command.

Note: This blog entry originally published by TCEA TechNotes blog. Read other awesome blog entries by the TCEA team online at


The Three Little Pigs

One of my favorite activities involves asking participants to narrate their own Three Little Pigs story using Microsoft Office Mix. One fun activity involves building straw, stick, and brick houses. In this Minecraft video series, you will learn what you need to know to re-create this famous story.

Video Series

  1. Changing a Skin (2:00)
  2. Finding materials in creative mode (2:24)
  3. Compass Map Teleportation (4:08)
  4. Survival and Finding Materials (0:57)
  5. Smelting and Torches (1:05)
  6. Building a Straw House (1:33)
  7. Building a Stick House (2:19)
  8. Building a Brick House (4:59)
  9. Make/Spawn a Wolf and Pig (3:17)
Note: Notice a young voice? I’d like to thank James E. Guhlin (@jguhlin) for his work creating these video tutorials. You can follow his regular Minecraft video creations here.
These videos are intended for teachers to learn some of the simple things they need to know to get started and offer an easy entry that scaffolds your efforts. Need more support?

Register for Minecraft Professional Learningthreelittlepigs

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Infographic: Ten Ways to Customize MS Classroom #tcea17 #msftedu #msftexpert @

Get Adobe PDF version | Note: This blog entry to appear at TCEA TechNotes Blog

#1 – Add Students to Your Class

  1. Login at MS Classroom
  2. Click on Teachers & Students in top right section of page
  3. Add students after quick search. Click DONE after finding all students

#2- Add Co-Teachers

  1. On the same screen where you add students, you can add teachers
  2. Search and select them

#3 – Create OneNote Class Notebook

  1. Click on Class Notebook tab
  2. Create Class Notebook with desired settings
  3. Open it as OneNote Online then EDIT in OneNote 2016 to sync a copy to your Win10 device

#4 – Start Conversations for Student Participation

  1. Create Conversations around identified class topics
  2. Edit members in group by clicking on ellipsis in top right corner of screen

#5 – Make Assignments

  1. Click on Assignments tab
  2. Click on + New Assignments
  3. Set title, due dates, description
  4. Set assignment for all classes for whom it applies, attach relevant documents, enable Conversation

#6 – Grade Assignments

  1. Click on Assignments tab
  2. Click on Assignment name in “In Progress” column
  3. Review “Submissions” and then easily enter grades, assigning comments as needed.

#7 – Share Files and Resources

  • Click on “Files” tab to access the shared files for the class.
  • Place Word, Excel, Powerpoint Online documents and other files for students to access.

#8 – Use Class Calendar

  • All assignment due dates appear in calendar
  • Add new dates for events (e.g. field trips) to class calendar for students to access

#9 – Manage Class

  • Modify course info using the Manage tab as well as
  • Update class banner, icon and course description

#10 – Update Notebook Settings

  • Add/remove sections
  • Update teacher/student button if changes to roster have been made
  • Lock/unlock Class Notebook Collaboration space for student use

Attending TCEA 2017 Conference?

Microsoft believes in empowering every student to achieve more. In our mission to support educators in guiding and nurturing student passions, we are offering preconference professional learning to TCEA participants. Attendees at these sessions will be eligible to receive a complimentary Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) and Microsoft Certified Educator (MCE) exam voucher for attending and earn badges on the Microsoft Educator Community to recognize their achievements.*  Preregister to secure a seat.
2-Day MIE Trainer Academy
  • Monday February 6th and Tuesday February 7th | 8:30AM-4:00PM Register Here
1-Day MIE Teacher Academy
1-Day MIE Teacher Academy:  Minecraft Education Edition
Visit to find session schedules and other information about Microsoft’s presence at TCEA as it develops.

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Connect then Engage with @Flipgrid Video #msftedu

Technologies that connect us, engage. One example of this is Flipgrid, a free video discussion board service. With Flipgrid, you can create grids with topics on them and have workshop participants or students respond to the topics with recorded videos. Several workshops ago, I decided to begin using Flipgrid as a regular part of the learning. Some of the applications of the tool included:

  • Ask participants to introduce themselves and/or each other.
  • Watch videos about a topic and then share a summary or take-away.
  • Summarize an article they have read.

Free Online Flipgrid Course

The Microsoft Education Community offers a free course, Amplifying Student Voice, that features FlipGrid uses. In that course, the developers imagine Flipgrid as being more than just a communication tool in your classroom:
For students, Flipgrid provides a safe space to connect with their peers, share their voice on relevant course topics, and add to the collective knowledge of the classroom. For teachers, you can see firsthand as your students develop confidence, reasoning skills, respect of diverse opinions, and understanding through reflection. Moreover, as Flipgrid videos are asynchronous, you can conveniently connect your students with classrooms around the world by sharing your grids with other educators. Their students add their voices to the grid building an active community of shared knowledge.
You can watch videos embedded in the course, as well as view content, without completing the course (but then you wouldn’t earn the badge!):

Introducing FlipGrid for Professional Development

Introducing Flipgrid to others has been easy. I point out how to access the Flipgrid topic I’ve set up for the process, either on a laptop and mobile device (e.g. tablet or smartphone). I start with a quick demonstration, often recording the video prompt in front of the class. Then I invite participants to work in groups of two to three to record their responses. Some even go out into the hall. After they have completed their video responses, we share a few to the whole group. Who would not be engaged by their own face and voice as they connect with others?

FlipGrid in the Classroom

“Seeing and hearing students’ video responses can make discourse fun; the site allows personalities and ideas to shine in 90-second clips,” says Polly Conway, Commonsense Media reviewer. “Design is colorful, clean, and intuitive.” Curious about how participants in my workshops would describe Flipgrid in their classroom, I asked them to share some reflections. “How would Flipgrid be helpful?”
  • In computer programming, students could use it to demonstrate how the code works and the output.
  • Formative assessment tool.
  • Quick check for understanding.
  • Have students work on a collaborative group project and then share their collective or individual video reflection on each task.
  • It is a great resource to use with the teachers we coach so they can reflect on their practices.
  • English Language Learners (ELL) students can experience opportunities to develop their language and practice language mastery.
  • Flipgrid in elementary would be a strong resource for reading responses.
Listen to this Voxercast (audio recorded using the free Voxer app). It features two TCEA Microsoft Innovative Educators (MIE), Jocelyn Crew (Lyford CISD) and Jodi-Beth Moreno (Education Service Center, Region 1) sharing about Flipgrid.

Flipgrid Resources

Others have been exploring Flipgrid for classroom use. Consider these examples:
If you’re interested in exploring FlipGrid or other video annotation solutions? Check out this blog entry on Video-based Active Learning.

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Create Lessons with #FREE Interactive #Math and #Science Simulations @flipgrid #msftedu

Note: This blog entry was originally published at’s TechNotes blog. Read it there along with tons of other great articles!

Need to model complex math and science concepts for your students? Use any of the 130 award-winning PhET math and science interactive simulations. Available for grades three through adult learners, these are  open educational resources (OERs), which means they are free to use. Each simulation will work on any device, making it perfect for 1:1 and BYOD classrooms, as well as those with only teacher projection.
Image Source:

Explore Simulations

Each PhET lesson (e.g. Balloons and Static Electricity simulation) comes replete with resources. Included are a video primer, lesson ideas, and teacher-submitted activities. Watch this video for an overview. A main goal of PhET is to assist students in becoming scientists. As learner-in-chief in their classroom, teachers ask questions (combine them with Quizziz or Kahoot for quick assessment) to highlight key concepts and spur deeper inquiry.

Measure Learning with Office Mix

Combine PhET and Office Mix to further support student learning.  Explore a friction simulation. This can help students see what factors affect friction. Students can then respond to multiple choice questions which are placed in a Powerpoint slide show using Office Mix.
Did you know? You can learn how to blend technology into instruction. Schedule an online or face-to-face professional learning session with TCEA’s Microsoft Innovative Education (MIE) Certified Trainers and Experts.

Support Open Inquiry

Another approach involves using a student-centered strategy called POGIL (Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning). Students work in small groups with individual roles or in cooperative learning groups if the learning needs to be scaffolded. POGIL activities focus on core concepts. They encourage a deep understanding of course material and develop higher-order thinking skills. Find out more | See it in Action

Engage in Video-Based Reflection

Deepen reflective interactions focused on a simulation with video. Use to pose video questions  about a simulation’s key concepts. Students respond via their mobile device’s built-in video camera.


These approaches and technologies are so easy, you can get going quickly. Select your interactive simulation and scaffold the inquiry with POGIL. Then, assess learning with Office Mix, Quizizz/Kahoot, and Flipgrid. Your students will be thrilled you made the effort!

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Towards a Community of Sharing: Reflections on a New @Voxer chat

On January 2, 2017, I found myself at a Best Western in Sonora, Texas nursing a bee sting and listening to various Voxerchats, including Edumatch, ConnectedTL, EngageChat. That’s when a request for help came in via Voxer. That evening also found me longing for a Texas Voxer community focused around teaching, learning, leading and edtech (well, of course!).

As I polished off my 8oz cup of Sonic french vanilla flavored coffee (quite good when you’ve been driving for a few hours, starving and bee stung), about to enter a caffeine-fueled swiftly flowing current of creativity (forgetting about my bee sting altogether until it started to throb at midnight, a 6-hour fugue), Dr. Dorian Roberts sent me a vox asking me about Microsoft stuff. She had been referred to me by Christy Cate (thanks!).

Please join in at | Voxer direct link

As we chatted via Voxer, I realized what a tremendous opportunity I was missing–the opportunity to setup a Voxerchat that results in me learning more about tons of different topics! And, what better way than to ask others to teach me what they are great at? So, with that idea in mind, I brainstormed (in a blink of an eye, since I was coffee crazed) what should be needed:
  • This needs to be a slow chat because who know when folks are going to jump in, and it’s great to not have the pressure of “we’re only doing this RIGHT now and you are going to miss out”
  • I need to setup pictures with info. Why not use Google Slides to create that and collaborate with others? (yes, yes, I could have used Powerpoint online, too).
  • Create a virtual space to house content, links, etc. Why not use OneNote Online? See image above
  • Invite new guest speakers to offer 1 question per day, Monday – Friday. 
    1. Build personal connection to topic. (what you feel)
    2. Share research and information (what you know)
    3. Share learning experiences (what you have experienced)
    4. Overcoming challenges (how you have detoured around roadblocks)
    5. Lessons Learned, Resources Gathered that may help others
  • Schedule some tweets using Tweetdeck announcing the chat.
  • Invite awesome folks to be “guest agitators”
  • A way to archive voxer audio contributions, or “voxerbursts” (yes, I’m trying to put that word in circulation).
  • Include voxer chat tips and tricks.
How is it working?
Curious as to how it’s working? Well, it’s working great! Our first two guest agitators have included Diana Benner (@diben; Read Sprinkle Innovation Blog) and Eric Curts (@ericcurts; Read Control Alt Achieve Blog). Both have done an incredible job sharing ideas and getting conversations going. More importantly, others have jumped into the conversations and I’m thrilled to be learning with them.
For example, during the inaugural week, Dr. Katie Alaniz (you may remember her from my series on edtech coaching) jumped in each evening (more like LATE at night) and shared awesome research and insights into everything. Tons of other great folks are piling on this week, sharing their take-aways and learning.

Want to be a Guest Agitator? Shoot me a Tweet or sidevox me!

While not every topic will appeal to every Voxer chat member, I am hoping that we develop a community of continuous sharing where everyone will feel comfortable stepping up to the microphone.
When that happens, I know #tceachat will have moved from a group of people hoping to learn from each other to a learning community.

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Redesign That: SketchUp in Schools #txed

SketchUp Pro

“We’re going to redesign our Spot’s dog house this holiday break!”
“What do you have so far?” I asked. My colleague held out a legal pad, crude drawings marring the perfect yellow pages. If you’re going to be re-arranging a dog house or your living room to fit a Christmas tree, take a look at SketchUp Make and SketchUp Pro, available for free to K-12 public schools.

Get SketchUp

With a Google account, you can do the interior design work using the newly-released And if you want the full power of SketchUp Pro (a $695 value), fill out a short form through TCEA. Private schools can obtain SketchUp Pro EDU licenses for as low as $15 per seat per year.

Use SketchUp on Chromebooks, Windows, and Mac

Available for Mac and Windows computers, SketchUp Pro now comes as a web version usable on Chromebooks. What’s more, SketchUp Mobile Viewer ($13.99) allows SketchUp models to be viewed on the iPad.
As my colleague put it, “Google SketchUp is 3D modeling software that lets you create anything you can imagine. It’s powerful enough to build complex projects, yet is easy to learn and use.” Their work appears in SketchUp’s 3D Warehouse, which houses millions of models. Simple enough to use that grade 3 through adult learners rely on SketchUp for a variety of tasks. SketchUp can be integrated into different classes.

Make Creative TEKS Connections

Classes such as, art, science, history, geography, and math are just some of the perfect venues for learning with this free software. Some ideas of how you might want to use it in your classroom are available at TCEA’s SketchUp Resources. Curriculum projects can align to the Technology Applications:TEKS in Grade 6, such as defined below:
Creativity and Innovation: The student uses creative thinking and innovative processes to construct knowledge, generate new ideas, and create products. The student is expected to…
(C) explore complex systems or issues using models, simulations, and new technologies to make predictions, modify input, and review results
You can find teacher guides that provide specific models.

Explore More Features

For children with autism, Project Spectrum shares powerful examples of student creativity made possible. SketchUp Pro can also be used for 3D modeling and printing. Students can create designs in SketchUp, then save them as OBJ files. These can then be opened in your 3D printer’s software (e.g. Makerbot) and printed. Talk about authentic learning!
SketchUp Pro also supports design templates for 3D printing, making it a simple matter to create to scale. You can also export designs in 3D Warehouse to STL file format for 3D printing. Doing so helps clean up your design before beginning to print. Another neat feature involves interacting with holograms. Visualize design data and collaborate with others using SketchUp Pro with Microsoft Hololens.


SketchUp makes creating models for sharing, and printing. Prepare your children for the future and introduce them to it today!
Special thanks to Taylor and Brian Wright for sharing their use of SketchUp to create real structures via their blog.

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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