Autocrat Tutorial- Using Google Forms As A Rubric and More

A question was posed to me today. I love it when questions come my way where I don’t know the answer and am challenged to find the answer.


The challenge was that a few teachers wanted to use Google Forms as a rubric. They want to be able to quickly and efficiently score the work of a student using a Form and organize all their grading in one spreadsheet.

Easy and check.

They wanted to use the same spreadsheet for students to upload their self evaluations using the same Form.

Easy and check.

They also wanted to be able to take the scoring/feedback of each student from the spreadsheet and email the students their assessment in real time


Do what? Is that possible?

Today I am happy to report that indeed it is possible. It is amazing. It is efficient. It eliminates stacks of unnecessary papers and provides real time feedback that requires very little extra time on the teacher side of things.

What is this mystery? How do I harness the magic powers of all of this in which you speak?

Check out the video as I attempt to walk you through it. As always, I am super excited to see examples of how this plays out in real classrooms.

Even more important I plan to run PD and do live trainings to help those who need it. I really think this could be something big for teachers and students.

Go be awesome. Hi Ho!

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Tetrix PRIZM Tutorial 2 – Hello World

Alright, it is time to do some fun programming with PRIZM. The obligatory first challenge has to be HELLO WORLD. This is just standard programming protocol when starting any new learning with a device.


For this activity you will need

  1. PRIZM
  2. USB cable to connect to computer
  3. Arduino software
  4. Battery supply
  5. On/Off switch

If you have not already downloaded the PRIZM library, then please do so as we will be using the example code provided for this challenge.

Step 1: Your first step is to open up the first sketch in the library called Blink_RedLED

You should see the following code

/* PRIZM Controller example program
* Blink the PRIZM red LED at a 1 second flash rate
* author PWU on 08/05/2016

#include <PRIZM.h> // include the PRIZM library

PRIZM prizm; // instantiate a PRIZM object “prizm” so we can use its functions

void setup() {

prizm.PrizmBegin(); // initialize the PRIZM controller


void loop() { // repeat this code in a loop

prizm.setGreenLED(HIGH); // turn the RED LED on
delay(1000); // wait here for 1000ms (1 second)
prizm.setGreenLED(LOW); // turn the RED LED off
delay(1000); // wait here for 1000ms (1 second)



Step 2: Go ahead on turn on the power to the PRIZM. We need to make sure the device is recognized by the computer and ready to rock and roll.

Step 3: Verify the code.It should be good since it is in the library, but it is a good habit to practice when you start writing your own code.

Step 4: Upload the sketch to PRIZM. Once the orange light stops blinking on the PRIZM you are good.

Step 5: Push the green start button

BOOM! You should see your red light flash off and on.


What next?

  1. Can you turn on the green light?
  2. Can you mix and match the red and green?
  3. Can you change the tempo of the lights?
  4. Can you create a pattern on morse code?

Please upload and share your ideas by leaving a comment here or on my YouTube channel


As always let me know what you think and what questions you have. Until the next tutorial, keep programming.







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Google Tip: Using Google Books and Docs/Forms for Quality Assessments

Here is your weekly tip using Google. In this episode I will explain how we use Google Book, Google Docs and/or Forms to create a high quality common formative assessment for the following standard


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.

Let me know what you think. Leave a comment here or on my Youtube channel

What do you do? Share with the world.

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The End of Average: Is It Time?

No one is average.



Point blank. The whole point of the book that I currently read, The End of Average by Todd Rose,  and my current thinking is simply that average does not exist. At first I could not grapple with this concept because my whole world is dependent upon average. I had to read this book, pause, write things down, rethink, question, scribble notes, and in the end it started to sink in. Below is my stream of thoughts woven into a semi coherent blog post.


  1. There is no such thing as an average student because we just have too many variables as a human. You can replace the word student with any other term such as athlete, kid, musician.
  2. One of the key ideas that constantly swirled in my head was how much we try to rise above average. We constantly try to seek the “average” and do just enough to rise above to not be average or point fingers at those who are below average.
  3. There has been so much talk in education about moving away from the industry style model of teaching and learning in schools. We know this is based on a system that has been ingrained in factories for over a hundred years. However, despite a shift with makerspaces, deeper learning, and project based learning we still have the tenets of averagarianism where we still evaluate, sort,and manage students by comparing them to the average. We do this in PLC, team meetings, standardized data, state tests, grades, and pretty much anything else we do in school.

As we push for personalized learning and student voice in schools we must ask ourselves, “Where does individuality come into place in a standardized system?”


You know what I will answer that for you. It doesn’t. I cannot exist.


So why do we continue to fool ourselves that operating in a school system based on Taylorism where preparation of a mass amount of students is to develop average workers instead of developing a system of geniuses? We still use the Gary Plan system in many schools to mimic the factory setting. We still work to make sure every student obtains a standardized average education – you know, teaching to the middle. Or I mean creating some extension opportunities outside of the school day because those needs cannot be met during the 8 hours students are already in school. Why can’t we simply do more of this during the 8 hours they are at school? Is that not enough time? At what point do we begin to stop doing things the same way because it is just the way it is or is simply cannot be done? Oh I know….. because to do anything unlike others would go against the grain of the factory model of average.


Still don’t believe me? Then why do we rank students? Why do we look at data and say, “Well on average this many got this question right….”


This leads me to the most important statement of the book


“We all strive to like everyone else, only better.”


Let that sink in…….


Sinking in some more


And some more


You see we squeeze out the passion for individuality. I do it as a parent despite trying not to. My five year old stated the other night that she wants to grow up to be an artist of everything! How great is that? I  love it and yet I know that this beautiful goal and aspiration will be sucked out of her soul to do something that makes the economy float, to blend in like everyone else, and to avoid being different. To be different has become taboo, an obstacle, a headache to those that just want to be like everyone else. The majority of the world “is clearly set up so the system always matter more than you.”


One of the mind opening examples in the book for me was the question comparing two men and asking, “Which man is bigger?” In the photo one is taller while one has a larger belly and other variables(just read this book already!).


The question leads to the answer that there is indeed no answer. There are simply too many variables and therefore we cannot rank them because of the jaggedness principle. According to the author this principle is defined as not applying a one dimensional thinking to understand something that is complex and “jagged”. We can argue that the question above has too many variable to come to one conclusion. The same holds true for IQ. Two people could arrive at same score but for different reasons. We see this time and time again when we do summative assessments in our classrooms and projects. One thing we could do is look at one specific standard and even then it is tough because there are so many variables that allow students to either achieve or come up short.


As posed in the book, a question that I yet don’t have an answer for is “If human abilities are jagged, why do so many psychologists, educators, and business executives continue to use one dimensional thinking to evaluate talent?|


I thought about it. I pondered what my answer would be. And then I started to dive into more about statistics(which I am not great at). Todd Rose discusses how a .4 correlation is really just explaining 16% of the behavior of the two dimensions. So when we look at the work of Hattie how impactful are these numbers really? I am not suggesting that he is all wrong, but what is the great impact of 16%? Not much, unless you are once again looking for the average to do average thinking to do average work.


So what do we do? What are some answers? I don’t want this to be a post that all I do is complain. Complaining is easy and actually these are not complaints but my ideas typed up from the side margins.


One idea I loved from the book is IGN and how it operated Code-Foo. Instead of looking to do the same old average system of resumes(I hate resumes by the way) they had applicants submit a statement of passion and then apply their knowledge by answering four questions on coding. What they were looking for were people eager to learn and be part of something special. I think the same idea could be applied in education. If I could run an innovation lab where I could connect students to things they love doing and in the process cover the “requirements” that we think every student needs to know. The hard part to all of this is that the people in education have not been trained, educated, and hired to be thinking this way. We have been hired to meet the average, to follow order, instructions, and be like minded. It is who we are and who we have trained to be. To break this system would require new training, and restructure of higher education teaching courses, and a whole new model of how schools operate, look, and feel. These ideas are calling for a rebranding of education across the nation from the ground up.


I believe that we must not scrap everything. The world does not work that way. What we need to do is question why we keep doing the same. Why do we do things when we don’t have a why? We just allow ourselves to follow a path and we don’t know the destination in which we are headed. We must be able to think for ourselves.


If we know as a parent, coach, and teacher that we develop, grow, change, and adapt through our own process based on our physical, mental, moral, and social aspects of our lives then why don’t we allow our students to develop on their own path? We constantly try to get the below average caught up to average and let those above just float along. If we have children of our own we see the flaws in these systems and do everything we can as parents to build upon the skills and help them develop. Is it any wonder that outside companies and organizations are raking in millions to meet our kids needs?


I cannot tell you how many times my wife(8th grade algebra teacher) has come home blown away by all the methods in which students solve a problem. It is amazing to listen to their ideas and see how they came to their conclusion. Why can we not allow more of this to happen in schools? This is what I want to solve and come up with more solutions. Why do we care if it takes one child two weeks to solve a problem or master a standard while another takes two years? Do you care if your doctor took 4,6,8 years to earn their degree? No, you care if they can perform to the highest level to keep us alive and healthy. Same is true for a variety of things. The headache is how does this look in schools? We cannot have 1000 different pathways going on in any one school. Perhaps we leave the Gary Plan operations behind and move away from age specific grade levels? Just a thought.


We must work to push for new methods of operation. We still work in a world that rewards those above the “average”. We provide a class rank of one metric that allows for scholarships and access to elite colleges. Until higher education changes their one dimensional value of student’s there is little that can be done. We must work to change the system. What if…


What if…

  • Schools offered credentials where students could earn legit certificates of learning in various skillsets?
  • We got rid of grades altogether since they mean nothing(one dimension of compliance and not learning)
  • Created schools within schools to allow students to begin focused learning on what they want to learn
  • Developed a unified badge system that could be accepted by higher institutions where students had to prove their work and showcase they can actually create what they claim.
  • Classes were not based on seat time, but competency proficiency


What if schools eliminated the mindset of average and truly changed methods to meet the needs of all learners and pushed them to be their best? What if we stopped striving to be like everyone else and got back to what made America amazing in the first place and allow individual creativity and flare to take hold again?


Please read the book The End of Average by Todd Rose to understand where my brain is going. This book has made me rethink my whole perspective on life and what exactly it is we should be striving to accomplish.

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LEGO EV3 Tutorial 8 UPDATE: Data and Loop Line Follow Program

This is an update to a previous video I created a few weeks back. I have been pushing out a wide variety of line following programs. The video  I shared previously covered how to use data blocks, data wires, and a loop block to line follow. One of the great questions that came from the video was how to move the robot back to being straight when it kicks out of the loop interrupt. At the end of the run there is a perpendicular black line that kicks the robot out of the line follow program. However, originally the robot would swivel at the end which would not be ideal if you are doing FLL or other programs outside of the line follow program.


This update includes one way to solve this problem. Thanks to those who have left comments. It has been great to share my learning and then learn more from the questions and ideas left behind.

Finally, I have a new line follow program coming out next week that has become my favorite of all the programs so far. Stay tuned!



For previous tutorials and more that will come each week during FLL season please subscribe to my YouTube Channel.

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Tetrix PRIZM: Tutorial 1 – Connecting the Battery and Connecting to Arduino

Each week I am hoping to bring you a tutorial of my journey with PRIZM. This is the next robotics controller to hit the market and so far I love it. In the previous episode I shared an overview and unboxing of PRIZM.


In this episode I will be covering some very simple and basic information, but important nonetheless. We will cover plugging in the battery and making sure PRIZM is up and running with the Arduino software. For many of you this is something you can do quickly, but I don’t want to leave anyone behind once we get into the coding.

For this video you will need the following:

  1. PRIZM
  2. Battery wires
  3. On/Off Switch
  4. 12V Battery
  5. USB cable to connect PRIZM to computer

*All items come with the PRIZM except the battery unless you order the Tetrix Max or one similar

You will need to make sure you have a 12 volt NIMH battery pack.

Links for video

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Gmail Tip: How To Unsend an Email

The tip this week is super simple, short, and easy. We have all had the moment where we have sent out an email and instantly wished we could take it back. Whatever your reason for wanting to bring your words back, there is a way to make it happen quick and easy.


As always please let me know what you think, tips, ideas, and questions. Each week I will share another tip to help make your life easier and more productive with the GaFE interface.


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Tetrix PRIZM: Overview of the Next Generation of Robotics

PITSCO has finally released their next generation programmable device that I believe is going to push coding, engineering, and STEM experiences for students to a whole new level. According to their website PRIZM is



The TETRIX® PRIZM™ Robotics Controller is a fully integrated, programmable brain for your bot that features a variety of motor, servo, encoder, and sensor ports with convenient connectors that enable you to control your robot’s behavior like never before. This controller offers the best of both worlds – a learning tool that is powerful yet easy to use. With PRIZM you can take learning to new heights by creating robots that are smarter, more precise, and as real world as it gets.


I have been fortunate enough to have had my hands on a PRIZM for about a month. I have had a chance to code with Arduino and push my knowledge base with coding with this language. I have a chance to test a few sensors, program my robot to move, and begin to think about the benefits of PRIZM with students.


I would be a fool if I did not acknowledge that there are a ton of great products out there already. My school uses LEGO EV3 for our robotics classes. My makerspace has Raspberry Pi’s, Sphero’s, 3D Printers, and a host of robots in various shapes and sizes.


What I like about PRIZM in comparison to the others are the following components

  1. Plug and Play – it is easy to swap out motors and gears and various components to the PRIZM. This shortens the time to prototype while allowing students to push to higher levels of coding and problem solving.
  2. Arduino based – there are so many resources, tutorials, and guides with Arduino that the sky truly is the limit(and even then the sky may be pushed to new boundaries) when it comes to student potential. Teachers won’t have to create it all as there is already plenty to be created. What will be developed next by your students?
  3. TETRIX MAX – being compatible with this kit and just TETRIX in general really opens the door to build a wide variety of projects. These pieces are almost universal anymore and to be able to build with these parts and expand with everyday materials makes it a great choice

I know this post reads like a sales pitch. This is not the intention. This is my excitement. I recently placed PRIZM in the hands of my students and we are already developing some crazy ideas.


Here is a quick unboxing and overview video


Be sure to check their website out to read all the specs and what is to come.


As we plan to roll out a series of videos and tutorials with PRIZM we would love to know what you want to learn. Leave us a comment with your questions and ideas and we will work to experiment and give you the answers you seek.


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LEGO EV3 Tutorial 9: Data Wires

Are you ready to learn more about programming in the LEGO Ev3 software? Have you come to understand how to program motors and sensors, but want to move things to the next level?


In this episode we explore data wires and how you can begin to program your robot to to use data wires to create more precise programming.

A data wire is used to send information between programming blocks. In this tutorial we will be sending information from an output plug to an input plug by having a robot slow down as it moves closer to a wall.

For previous tutorials and more that will come each week during FLL season please subscribe to my YouTube Channel. You can also check things out here as well

  1. Coffee For The Brain: LEGO EV3 page
  2. Coffee For The Brain: LEGO EV3 Tutorial page
  3. OneNote Resource Guide
  4. LEGO EV3 Youtube Playlist
  5. Symbaloo

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment here on on YouTube and if you have a question let me know and I will address it in upcoming videos.

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Why is “innovation” crucial to education today? Or maybe it isn’t? #IMMOOC

Why is “innovation” so crucial in education? What impact do you see it having on our students and ourselves long term?


These are questions that plague my brain. At one end of the spectrum I see innovation being the epicenter of much of what I try to instill in my philosophy of education as a teacher, coach, mentor, father, and husband. Much of what I try to create in students is an innovative mindset for them to believe that they can indeed solve complex problems.


I struggle with the concept. I struggle because I want everyone who walks into my room to be innovative. As much as I know that we want EVERY child to be proficient, competent, innovative, growth mindset, have grit, etc. I realize that being innovative can be something that we try to accomplish. In the end not everyone will be innovative. It is not how the world works. I believe that everyone has POTENTIAL to be innovative, but for many it will never move beyond potential into TALENT.

Ponder this…..

Jonathan Huebner states in his paper titled, “A possible declining trend for worldwide innovation” that:

The rate of innovation peaked in the year 1873 and is now rapidly declining. He defines innovation as “The number of important technological developments per year divided by the world population.”


It is important to read the paper, but basically it boils down to the fact that innovation is declining. It peaked a hundred years ago and continues to decline because we are reaching our limits. Now because of this he asks some powerful questions that I believe could spark the next wave of innovation in face of saving innovation.

  • What are the implications for the economy, government and society of declining rates of innovation?
  • What standard of living corresponds to the economic limit of technology?
  • Will the level of technology reach a maximum and then decline as in the Dark Ages?
  • Did the failure of ancient people to invent the printing press cause the Dark Ages?
  • Are there any key inventions that could reverse the current decline in the rate of innovation?
  • Are improvements in the flow and processing of information the primary sources for increases in the rate of innovation?
  • Are there any other reasons for the decline in the rate of innovation during the 20th century besides the approach of an economic limit of technology or a limit of the human brain?
  • What is the relationship between innovation and democracy?
  • Does democracy depend upon innovation?

But I don’t think all is lost either. I am currently reading Kevin Kelly’s new book The Inevitable and he brings up a different mindset from the study above. In chapter one he discusses the internet and how 20 years ago today if you would have said there would be the Internet as we know people would have laughed at you. It simply was not imaginable that people would do all this work for free as we have down to crowdsource the Internet that contains 60 trillion web pages.

Think about this as he reminds us this has all been created in 8000 days. People would have lost their mind to have the power of the Internet back in the day. Because of this we are reminded that indeed, “the impossible is more plausible than it appears.”

The Internet is just getting started and how it operate, look, and function in another 30 years will be mind-blowing. We cannot fathom the concept yet because all we know is what we know. The day will come where we can search literally anything about anything whenever we want. The internet is in its infancy as we speak.

As he closes a chapter he states, “Right now, today, in 2016 si the best time to start up. There has never been a better day in the whole history of the world to invent something. There has never been a better time with more opportunities, more opening, lower barriers, higher benefit/risk rations. better returns, greater upside than now.”

With this thought we must ask ourselves what are we doing to tap into this moment ourselves and with our students? Are we truly doing all that we should to take advantage of the moment?


Innovation cannot be a goal because I feel it is a natural outcome of many circumstances. We must work to develop the mindset that allows for innovation to take place. We must provide the context for students to push to new limits. We must model and mentor how to think, how to learn, and how the world operates so they can begin to truly ask, “What if?”

Innovation is amazing when it happens which is why it is called innovation. Innovation itself is not crucial, but providing the environments, atmospheres, confidence, and skills to allow innovation to happen is crucial.

Students must be given the chance. Innovation cannot be a grade. It cannot be an expectation. It cannot be something that is written up into a recipe. It just is and happens when it happens.

However, teaching the same, teaching to the middle, teaching wth practices we know are not what is best while we know it is not what is best, will not lead to innovation.

I guess in the end does your learning conditions allow students to innovate or suffocate?

If only education were that simple that it could be boiled down to a yes or no option. You see, I believe that all ideas in education are good in the land of theory. I have read more than my share of books and research and each time I read one I can see how it would work……

Until you put it into practice in a real classroom of one adult, 30+ kids of which half have a need that really must be adhered to all times, and a mixed bag of other variables depending on the school, time of year, and time of day.

This is where it gets muddy. Technology is not an answer. A new system of “x” is not the answer. Competition is not the answer. Unions are not the answer. Standardized tests are not the answer. Nor are they they problem either.

What works best for me as a student cannot be applied to everyone. We are all different. We are all trying hard. We are all trying to make sense of the world as it changes, as people change, as our needs change, and doing so in a time where teachers have never been asked to carry so much upon their shoulders.

If innovation was easy and readily available these issues would be solved. And this is why we must nurture the minds of the youth so they believe they can innovative and help to one day be part of a solution…….. and perhaps that solution is the answer to one of your problems if you happen to be so lucky.

Regardless of your opinion if you think innovation is declining with little hope or you have the optimistic mindset that the moment is now you are pushing for innovation. Both mindsets require and are asking for innovation to either save us or to take advantage. We are all in this together striving for the same thing. The question now becomes HOW?





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