Monday, April 14, 2014

10 Productivity and Practice Ideas with Tab Glue and Scissors

(A SMARTER Balanced Testing Toolkit Post!)
Helping students be more productive using technology tools is a great thing.  What's even better is when that same tool supports learning as well.  What is beyond better (epic?) is when a tool also support students in preparing for activities they will be asked to do on state testing, in Wisconsin the SMARTER Balanced Assessment.  Tab Scissors and Tab Glue are two Google Chrome Web Store Extensions that I have used all year as a productivity tool, but one that I recommend teachers work with students to use in the classroom.
Tab Glue and Tab Scissors are extensions so they will sit in the space to the left of the OmniBox of your browser (the URL address bar).  When you add them, through the Chrome Web Store, they will look like this:
As we are not working within Google Apps for Education so much of our work including preparation of presentations, work processing, etc. happens in a browser between many tabs. Sometimes you find yourself frequently switching between tabs.  While it would be convenient if we all had a second monitor to place one window on each monitor while we work, that is often not the case.   Tab Scissors allows you to split your browser window into two separated windows  at the tabs you indicate.  Simply click the tab of which you want Tab Scissors to split the browser window, click on the Tab Scissor icon, and your page will refresh as two perfectly split pages allowing you to see both tabs simultaneously.  Tab Glue, when clicked, will paste these tabs back together as one.  

See the image for an example:
Working between two tabs
Using Tab Scissors to split the window:
Split window notes
So what does this mean in the classroom and how can it help my students? 
As our students are becoming more and more proficient with taking notes, identifying important information, paraphrasing content, and talking in multiple visual cues, we need to find ways to incorporate those skills into everyday teaching.  The SMARTER Balanced Assessment had students working with a split screen throughout the entire testing situation.  The content on wither side of the window can change, but if they are not practiced at attending and using both windows, they will struggle there and in other areas of digital literacy.  Why not practice this concepts with our current content so it does not seem so foreign as we go into testing situations?  Here a few suggestions for learning experiences that might help our students become proficient in using side-by-side windows.

  1. Note taking - As shown above a website on one side, notes or a presentation on the other.
  2. Video Notes - While there are some tools for video note taking, this might also be a way to have students view a video and take notes. (Students could even be doing this collaboratively!)
  3. Graphics - Interpretation of a graphic or map 
  4. Question sets - Create a Google Form with questions to match the media on the other side of the split screens.
  5. Resources - provide students with an important resource on the left such as a multiplication table or other reference material as they work.
  6. Direction or Steps - Use one screen as a reminder tool for those that need to see directions or steps while they work.
  7. Maps - Allow students to have a map as a resource while they watch a video or read resources about a new area of the country.
  8. Vocabulary - Provide a vocabulary key or have students develop a vocabulary list as they deal with difficult literature.
  9. Review - Have students take a practice test or pretest for a unit of study and capture notes on what they need to study additionally.
  10. Back-channel - Have students in small groups collaborate on a shared Google Doc as a Back-channel discussion while working with digital content.  

Monday, April 7, 2014

TextHelp Highlighting Tools - SMARTER Balanced Assessment and Classroom Practice

This past few weeks I have been in many classrooms that are piloting the SMARTER Balanced Assessment.  While I am not a fan of practicing for a test, I do not have any problem with using quality techniques to teach  that will help our students to practice a processes.  Especially if that process includes a solid use of technology integration that will be used in their future as a learner. As I watched students taking the SMARTER Balanced Assessment pilots, I found that I frequently thought to myself, "Wow, I don't think our kids learn in regular classroom processes in that way" or " I bet our students would do better at this is they had some experience taking in information in this way."  Then I got to thinking about how I could provide resources, lessons and or opportunities for teachers to give our students practice in instructional strategies.  This is the first of a series of blog posts to share ideas of how teachers might practice the process that students will encounter in the SMARTER Balanced Assessment.  They are intended to be used with regular curricular activities so that when students encounter them in a testing situation, they don't seem foreign and unusual.

Google Drive Add-Ons

Last month Google announced Google Drive Add-Ons but it wasn't until this past week that those of us in the Google Apps for Education Domain world were able to see this awesome tool appear in our Google tools.  Yea!  It is here for us too!!!

Google Add-Ons may have been something you noticed in a personal Google account, but now should see coming your way for students and staff in the Edu managed domains.  Here's what to look for:

When you have a Google Doc or a Google Sheet open, look in the menu bar between "Table" and "Help" for "Add-ons" as shown below.

Add-ons add a feature or otherwise separate tool to the existing document.  I recently used Add-ons in a Google Doc to create a table of contents for the document.  It appears in the sidebar of the document and allows me to navigate quickly through a larger document.  Other Add-ons that might be really helpful are:
  • Kaizena Voice Add-on
  • Easybib Add-on for bibliography building in a document
  • Maps will add a Google map to an existing document
  • Lucid Chart Diagrams
  • Charts will help you create a chart from the data in your spreadsheet
Just in the last week I have seen new Add-ons that were not there before so I am certain that there are many ideas yet to come.  Search for an Add-On that helps you.  Click on "Add-on" in the menu and select "Get Add-ons".

Google has prepared a great video to introduce you to this great feature too: 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Get Voice!

Edudemic, a blog I read frequently posted recently on How to Use Google Voice in Education.  As a Google Voice user, I read and enjoyed the article.  I think I even Tweeted out this well-written post.  I found it was one of those posts that I just kept thinking more and more about.  Not because I disagreed with it, but it made me realize that the idea of using Voice in the classroom had only really been touched on.  As I thought about the post, I realized that there were so many other ideas and I kept considering different classroom teachers I knew that I couldn't wait to share the ideas with. As I mentioned, the post is really complete and explains the basics pretty well.  While I will give a quick summary follow the links and get an idea and then read on for my thoughts...

Google Voice seems intimidating, but really it's not too complicated.  It is a phone number that you clim through the use of your Google account that allows you to send and receive calls through your computer and other phones you have.  You can actually set up Google voice to ring other phone lines that you have and interestingly, you can set that up based on the time of day.  Google voice can also be set up to ring no phones but only to notify you on your computer of a call.  I have a Google voice number on both my personal and work Google accounts.  As I travel throughout the day to different buildings, it helps for people to be able to connect with me wherever I happen to be.  I have it set so that my computer will alert me to a call and if I do not answer the call, I receive an alert that I have a message and the message is transcribed to text for me to read.  If I am in a meeting, teaching or otherwise unable to talk, I can still be made aware of the contents of the call without disrupting others.  I have been walking through a hallway and received and answered a call on my computer from Google Voice.  Setting it up is simple and accessed through

What does this all look like in a classroom setting?  Here a just a few ideas I had:

  1. Communication - This seems like an easy one.  This number offered to parents with boundaries could be a means of communication for families.  By boundaries I mean I will not pick up calls between the hours of 9-3 (or whatever you are willing to offer) but I do value the communication, so please leave me a message and I will return the call.  
  2. Texting - While there are texting services out there that are fantastic,, Google voice does have a text feature that would allow you to text a student and with Voice, a student could text you back.   Students could text a response to you as an exit slip response before leaving class.  You have a digital record on your computer that could be saved of the text.
  3. For Assessment - I have students working in the Innovation Center each week that are a part of an online foreign language class.  These kids have to send recordings to their teacher of verbal responses in Spanish to assignments given by the teacher.  Another teacher in my district records using iPods in the hallways.  With Google Voice, students could call in their work to the Google voice number.  The teacher would have recordings in the Google Voice Message center that are also date and time stamped.  The message left can be downloaded and saved.
  4. For projects - While there are other tools out there that allow students to record voice, it is another tool that could be used to record a student's voice for projects in class as you can then save each recording.
  5. Transcripts - In collecting student work verbally, you have a transcript of the message that is left that is editable and also save-able. If Google does not transcribe properly, you can edit so that it is correct, and then save it.  
  6. Portfolio - As I have used this with my children I sometimes smile as I listen to an older message from my children.  As younger children work on fluency in the classroom, a teacher could be calling their own Voice number and recording the student reading aloud several times a year and saving the recordings as a portfolio sample of fluency.  How precious for parents to also have these files!
  7. Accountability - Teachers are always working with students to at least let them know if there is something that they are unable to complete for class rather than to show up and claim they didn't understand something.  Have students leave you a Google Voice message if they are confused with an assignment or homework.  You have a record of the date and time the call came in as well as recording of their issue.  For some kids it is hard to put into an email why they are struggling but being able to tell you in a call might make the difference.
  8. Assistive Technology - We all now that there are times when you have a student with a disability, injury or need that requires them to be able to submit work differently.  If they can read something to you, leave a response, text the answer, Google Voice might just be the answer for them.  A vision impaired student might really benefit from the ability to leave a voice response.

I am excited to explore even more ideas for this tool in classrooms.  I would love to hear other ideas for Google Voice.  

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Shoot * Edit * Share - Loopster Video

There are some really great ways in which you can make use of video in the classroom. I have shared posts about many tools that will support Flipped Learning such as the Movenote post last week. I went on a hunt for a different type of resource that would allow a user to create a video much like iMovie would. I wanted something that would allow the user to import video, edit using audio tracks, add text, transitions and publish a quality video and... free. I believe Loopster might just be that tool.

Loopster, available in an online or iOS app ($2.99) is clear in their terms about using video of students under 13, but does not restrict students under 13 from creating an account. Interestingly, the policies do indicate that they do not collect information about a person under 13 and if they find they have, they will delete it. Considering I have to give name and email to create and account, I would say that this would be a teacher not an under 13 student tool. The account creation was simple, quick and the how-to video pops up to help a person learn to use the tool. Even without watching the video, it seemed very intuitive and I had no difficulty creating a video. There are over 600 sound effects and audio clips to be added, great transitions and text allows for easily adjusted font, colors and other controls.

Upon uploading a video to Loopster, the tool warns the user that your content is only going to be stored in your account for 30 days. The warning makes it clear that they are not about storage, but the tool itself and that they need to be selective for the account to remain free. Videos can be 10 minutes long and posted to Facebook or YouTube easily from the page. Permissions are very straight forward and simple to adjust in this tool making it a great classroom video tool.

To see how Loopster works, check this video tutorial out:

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Kaizena Voice Comments

Kaizena, the voice comment app for Google Docs makes it simple to add voice comments to a student's work.  I first encountered and shared this app when it was called Voice Comments.  It has been through a name change and some great improvements.  In my recent DEN STAR Ambassador meeting with teachers we looked at Flipped Classroom Resources.  At the end one of the teachers shared that he was using screen casting apps as a way of adding voice comments for a student on work they do in his high school class.  I asked if he had seen Kaizena.  It is a perfect tool for putting a personal touch on grading for students.  As he mentioned, his parents will even play his love feedback on the papers that he sends back to students.  AWESOME! Anytime we can engage students and parents to come around improvement and feedback we are definitely doing something right.  Wouldn't this be a great tool to keep a record of students in the elementary school doing a read aloud and sharing with parents?  It's a perfect addition to an online portfolio!

To get Kaizena navigate to this link in the Google Webstore.  This demo video will help you get an idea of how it works.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Exit Ticket for Google Chrome

Exit Ticket is a Google Chrome App that can be used in the classroom for formative and summative assessment with the digital tools of a Chromebook Classroom but also with any internet device.  The Exit Ticket app has a sign in for both the student and teachers.  This tool has so many great components to it that will allow a teacher to differentiate instruction at all levels.  Teachers can view students progress and performance progression immediately and adjust and personalize learning.  While this apps is aligned to the common core you can also add your own learning targets.  Once you create a free account you will find that there is excellent support in the form of a downloadable pdf guide as well as videos to learn how to make the most out of this powerful tool.
Watch Exit Ticket in action in the video below: