The Challenge

Ms. Kane, a 9th grade English teacher at Notre Dame School in Manhattan, understands the importance of authentic learning experiences for her students. She thinks outside the box, pushing her students to gain a comprehensive understanding of concepts. Recently, she took her students to visit The Dinner Party installation at the Brooklyn Museum, a feminist work in which female heroes from history and myth are “given a place at the table”. While the visit itself added another dimension to their learning, she wanted her students to interact with the work on a deeper level.

The Solution

With the support of George Ganzenmuller, an instructional technology coach at Educate LLC, Ms. Kane developed an in-depth research project for the students to complete. After reflecting on the exhibit, students researched a female figure of their choice, noting their achievements and impact on the world around them. Synthesizing the information, they wrote strong proposals as to why their chosen figures should be invited to The Dinner Party. The final step in the project was to create a themed plate and runner which reflected the female figure.

The students used Google Sites to present their research and proposals to their classmates and the broader community. Ms. Kane created a “home” site, including a description of the exhibit and an explanation of their research project. Students had editing access to the site and created individual pages for their own variation on the project.


The Outcome

George was excited to share that the students were “highly motivated” by this project, as Google Sites allowed “…their work [to] be seen by a wider audience.” The “live” aspect of their final research encouraged the students to pay closer attention to detail and quality. The element of choice also provided multiple access points which allowed students to personally interact with the topic while practicing multiple skills.






Make it happen in your classroom…

The Tools

  • Google domain for the school (can be applied for by school leader/technology expert)
  • Google accounts for teachers and students
  • Device (laptop/Chromebook, desktop, tablet, etc.)


The Steps

  1. Work with your school leader or IT person to be sure that your school has a Google domain and Google accounts for teachers and students. If you do not yet have a domain, Google can walk you through the process here.
  2. Familiarize yourself with the basic Google Apps: Google Drive and Google Docs. (These work in conjunction with Google Sites and having a basic understanding of them will benefit you greatly).
  3. Set up your Google Site, creating a landing page and an individual page for each student. I personally recommend using the New Version of Google Sites, as it is extremely easy to use and quick to set up. Need help? Check out this screencast.
  4. Share your site with your students by “adding” their email addresses, giving them permission to edit.
  5. Give students time in class to explore the features of Google Sites, including: inserting text directly into the page, inserting images/videos, inserting files from Google Drive, previewing their page, etc.


Don’t forget that if you’re ever feeling a little bit stuck, or you just need a thought partner, feel free to reach out to us in our new online community, the Innovative Teaching Co-op! (Check us out; we’ve gotten a facelift)!

Spotlight Stephanie Carlsen

For our inaugural Educate Spotlight, we are proud to profile Stephanie Carlsen, high school math teacher at LaSalle Academy. Stephanie believes that learning begins with solid relationships, and she seeks to build those relationships with students by giving them a voice in her classroom and by letting them know that she is always there to support them. Her Catholic-school education imbued her with a service mindset, and she comes to school every day mindful of nurturing and supporting her students in any way she can.

“My students are my life. I don’t say this lightly. I’m always thinking about them, and trying to figure out how I can better reach them. I want for them to feel and be successful in school and beyond. I’m hoping that I’m helping them to become their best version of themselves. I wake up each morning for these students.”

Stephanie’s first educational experience was being homeschooled by her mother in Petaluma, California (a town best known for its butter, eggs, and potholes), and her early experience with a personal approach to education has helped form her instructional philosophy. Her third grade teacher, Mrs. Giacometti, and her Honors World History teacher, Mr. Kavanaugh, both taught her to expect more from herself and to push herself to become her best.

While this is Stephanie’s first year at LaSalle, she has already worked with Educate coaches for several years while teaching middle school math at Mt. Carmel Holy Rosary School, also in New York City. Because of her curiosity and ingenuity, Ms. Carlsen would inspire students wherever she taught, but she feels that working with instructional technology coaches has helped her to feel supported as she finds new ways to use technology to support her teaching.

Ms. Carlsen looks for EdTech tools that put students at the center of their learning, and for this reason, Google Classroom, Nearpod, and Khan Academy are some of her favorite tools. Khan Academy helps her  provide instruction that meets the needs of individual students, and also allows her to design inquiry-based activities where students pursue their own growth. Google Classroom helps her communicate with her class and to check for understanding on a consistent basis.

Recently, Stephanie designed and led workshops at LaSalle on using Nearpod to make presentations more interactive. She worked with roughly twenty teachers who were used to using slideshows to supplement their lectures, and she showed them how the transition to interactive slideshows could help students to be more engaged in lessons, and to get real-time feedback on how much students are understanding.

Coaches at Educate love to work with teachers like Ms. Carlsen – not only does she embrace technology and innovative practices for her students, she is committed to building a community of learning among the teachers at her school. She is constantly developing her teaching craft, and shares what she learns with her peers and through her twitter account. Follow Stephanie on Twitter @Ms_carlsen.

By Jeff Lisciandrello @EdTechJeff