Friday, May 23, 2014

Takeout Your Data!

Google offers a fantastic resource called Google Takeout that will help you to backup and or store your data.  When making use of Google tools, your data is stored in the cloud. While we are promised that the data is secure, sometimes having a copy of your data "just in case" is nice.  Also, at this time of year, should you be moving or retiring, you might want to take a copy of your Google work with you.  While you might not like all the services archived, you can elect from many services as shown:

 A Google Takeout Archive is created, downloaded and can be taken with you easily.  Our friends in Franklin have created a great synopsis of Google Takeout in this tutorial:

Click here to launch video

Once you have exported your data, you are emailed a notification that your archive is ready for downloads.  This archive is downloaded as a zip file.  When the zip file is opened, you will find a folder that contains organized folders by the content service type.  This process is not only easy but a great way to archive valuable data.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Add-on Additions

Google Docs has a few new Add-Ons that are worth checking out! It had been a while since I check back into the Google Add-on menu.  I suspect that the resources available in the Google Docs Add-on page will grow quickly and in just the past few weeks there are some notable new ones.
If you are not familiar with Google Docs Add-ons, they appear in the main menu bar after opening a Google Doc or Sheet.  You will see different Add-ons depending on which App you are using.  The ones that run on a Google Spreadsheet (like the Doctopus Add-on) have no use for a Document, so they do not show when entering the Add-ons from a Document.  To explore the Add-ons first open a Document or Spreadsheet.  In the top menu bar, click Add-ons, and Get Add-ons as shown:
Much like you would see in the Google Store, you will see icons of the available Odd-ons.  Clicking on the icon will bring up information about that specific tool.  The benefit of Add-ons is that they work within the document type that you are working on and you do not have to leave the document to make use of the tool.  When this feature first become available, you just knew it was something that would take off, and I suspect it is beginning to!

Here are a few of the new Add-ons I am excited to explore how they can make a difference in the classroom as well as some that have been there from the start but are worth looking at again!:

Docs Add-ons

g(Math)

This Add-on addresses a problem that math teachers have complained about when using Google Docs for some time.  This tool will allow the user to create complex math and graphs from within the Google Doc from a sidebar tool.  There is a graph creator by which you type in an equation (y= formatted) and it will display the graph for the equation.  It also will create geometric signs, custom characters and formulas.  The creator of g(Math) has a great tutorial that will be valuable to those deciding if this is a worthwhile Add-on:



Openclipart


A second tool that is available in Google Docs is OpenClipArt.  This resources provides over 50,000 images as clip art from a sidebar in the Google Docs window.  This is a fantastic resource for educators and students wanting to add interest, color or image resources to their work.  



Sheets Add-ons

Doctopus

Doctopus is a well-loved scripts that you used to have to access through the scripts menu but is now and Add-on.  This script takes you class spreadsheet of names and emails and will organize and disseminate documents, assignments, and materials to certain or all students' Google Drives.  It will name the documents for each student and will even allow you to set up sharing settings.
This video should get you started:


Flubaroo

Again, a well-loved script that is now available as an Add-on, Flubaroo is fantastic.  This script will support you as you assess students.  It will help you to grade, analyze and even email the students the results of the assessment.  An overview video should help you see what this script has to offer:



All of these Add-ons seem to be "adding on" quickly to keep checking back for more!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Teacher Appreciation Week - Thank You!

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week Google has published this beautiful video.  The comments on the page read:

Thank you to the millions of passionate teachers who inspire curiosity in their classrooms...lesson after lesson, unit after unit, year after year. We're fortunate to have had many of you in our lives, and we can't wait to see what the future will bring because of the work you're doing today.
Please give yourself the gift of watching!



Thank you to all the amazing teachers out there!

Boost Engagement with EverySlide




PowerPoints, Keynote and Google Presentations are not necessarily my favorite choice for sharing information with large groups of people, but sometimes they are just what is needed. If you are going to use a presentation, why not make it viewable and available for each student as the information is presented? It gets even better as you can also add interactivity to run a quick poll of the group using the information on the slide itself! Everyslide is super simple to use and does not require any type of install for you or the students.

It works like this:
  1. Upload any presentation you have already created to your free educator Everyslide account.
  2. Click "present".
  3. A unique code will be generated of which you can share with the class.
  4. Ask for feedback or run a poll as you present.
  5. Students will be prompted to enter their email addresses at the end of the presentation, if you want to collect data on the class. Information about the responses and students will be downloaded to a spreadsheet. 
Check out the introductory video:

Saturday, April 19, 2014

NoteOn Extension for Chrome


(A SMARTER Balanced Testing Toolkit Post!)


I have been looking around for a good extension that could be added to student accounts ahead of SMARTER Balanced or research projects that would allow students better practice in the process of taking notes digitally with a mini-window while viewing content on another window.  This is a task students will see more and more with testing and in digital work. 
Practicing the concept of taking notes, capturing the main idea, collecting data and information from various text, graphs, and online sources is an incredibly difficult but useful skill kids need to learn. In my search for a good app or extension, I have come across many different resources, although NoteOn seems to be the best one thus far.  What I like about the NoteOn extension is that the extension icon (as shown):
 is obviously a note app.    Students can title the note, carry the note from different pages, and they can organize the saved notes by color scheme.  Best of all: it auto saves!

Just a few great uses for NoteOn in the classroom might include:
  • A research tool for organizing notes as students navigate around the web.
  • A place to store citations, websites, etc. on a different topic as students explore a specific topic.
  • Using the colors assigned to notes, help students assign a color scheme to the types of notes (dates, main idea, famous people, etc.) and/or areas of research within a larger topic.

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 Google.com/voice.

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, www.remind101.com, 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:

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Movenote - 10 Reasons I love it!


A few weeks ago some good friends shared Movenote with me at the ICE conference in IL.  I was thrilled with the tool and have been trying to find the time to get a blog post out about it.  Then Movenote was featured in the DEN March Madness set and again, I thought, "I have really got to share this one".  Today is the day!
Movenote is a tool that can be added to Chrome, used online or even through gmail that allows you to capture and record and instructional video with inset video from your webcam.  Movenote is awesome for many reasons.  Here are my top 10...


  1. It is FREE!  It is a simple process to get signed up.
  2. The tutorial videos are short, sweet and easy to follow as you can see from the 40 second intro video here.
  3. Another reason I love Movenote is that it can be used on a Chromebook with students! In fact, Movenote also has a great video on this that would be great for students.  The video is linked here (See what I mean in #2 ?).  
  4. Movenote will access Google Drive to load content.  This makes it easy to make a video from anywhere!
  5. Movenote assists with that challenging "Allow" microphone and webcam access request that many kids miss when trying to use a tool.  Movenote's page actually shows a large red arrow pointing to the toolbar.  Great thinking!  
  6. Movenote can be added to Gmail making it super easy to send a Movenote video right from your email window.  This is so cool!
  7. Movenote allows you to add annotations to the slides you present.  
  8. You can share a Movenote through email but also on a website, SMS, Google Drive, Facebook, etc.  The Gmail feature is super cool. Check it out here.
  9. Using Movenote with students a teacher could easily create a quick tutorial for a task that students might need to review multiple times, send instructions to a substitute, or engage students in a fun lesson starter.
  10. Using Movenote as a student the possibilities are endless!  Students could create a video to demonstrate understanding.  Students could share a video to help other students understand a process.  Students could share a video to demonstrate ability to speak another language  in a foreign language class.  The possibilities here are endless!
Give Movenote  a try!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Create a Map - Make it Personal



Finding Maps that show exactly what you want for a lesson can be hard.  There are many map services out there on the web that support different maps from different locations, eras and time periods, but creating a map that is personalized is easy using Google Maps Engine Lite.  By simply clicking "Create a new map" you can create up to 3 layers of data, drawings or annotations, and directions on your map. Turning of different layers allows you to see certain information at will.  Powered with Google's search feature you can search for certain landmarks, addresses or general information.  Each search displays with results labeled directly on the map.  Clicking on a search marker brings up an information marker that will display Street View Images, directions, websites and other information about the location.
Different Views make a huge difference in the way that a calendar displays.  Clicking on "World View" displays the map with 3-D building and terrain and satellite imagery. Users have the ability to tilt and change perspectives.
The same map in "Map View" looks quite different and might offer some interesting comparisons for students.

Students with a Google Apps for Education account can also create and share a Google map that indicates information, locations and personalizations.  Adding and personalizing markers and titles could make for some great tools to add to a research project for classroom work.  Finally each map, like other Google Apps for Education, can be shared allowing students to collaborate and make a map together.  A map can also be linked or embedded into other Google tools.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Collaborative Studying with CardKiwi



Our students are learning to do some much of their learning collaboratively these days.  Simple tasks that kids use to learn new words and ideas while at the bottom of the taxonomy are important elements to more in-depth learning.  Flash card learning, while boring and lower level can be a learning process for kids.  Make it fun with CardKiwi.  Upon returning home from work the other day, I arrived to find my middle schooler on a Skype call with a friend in her Spanish class.  The had been on a Skype call in which they had each built their own set of flash cards (paper ones) and were testing each other by holding the cards, one-by one, up to the camera and quizzing each other.  The tool CardKiwi is just one of the flash card tools out there that could have made this a much smoother process.  Watch the video below and see what you think.

Click for Video

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Engage kids with a Spotlight on Strategies from Discovery Education!



I am frequently told by teachers that they love the Discovery Education content and the video segments provide for quick hit media which engages students in the content in a form that they enjoy.  While short videos are great, even they can become "just the average part of the lesson" when used often.  Did you know there there are many other forms of media available in the Discovery Education service available to you?  In addition, there is an entire series of lesson plans to introduce you to different instructional strategies for using this media.  These ideas will help you keep the spark and interest in the media that you choose for the curriculum with which you are working.
After logging into Discovery Education, navigate to the feature section called, "Spotlight on Strategies".  This section includes strategy ideas in lesson format with easy to use instruction for many types of media.  Give the lesson, Sound Check a try to integrate the use of the many sound effects into a lesson to add interest and trigger memory for students.  Or, try the Table Top Texting lesson for a time when you are showing a longer clip to keep students engaged in the media for a longer period of time.  These are just a few of the many strategies you can find in the SOS section.  Each one contains a downloadable PDF that if full of ideas and extensions for the great ideas.  You can even download a folder that contains the whole batch.  If you are interested in trying one or more out, let me know as I would love to team teach it with you!  Check them out and check back often as this is a frequently added to section in your Discovery Education subscription!
Check out of the samples included below:

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

I Geddit!


Sometimes getting a sense of understanding in a lesson is challenging.  With all the different learning styles, personalities and levels of comfort within the social factors of a student's life, who can possible keep track of it all.  That is where the tool Geddit comes in to help you out.  In a 1:1 Chromebook environment it is super easy.
As a teacher you sign into Geddit for free, creating an account using their step-by-step process.  You will create a class and generate a unique class code.  This code is then shared with students who only need to use it one time.  Geddit provides a great PDF poster to explain the check in levels that could be printed and reviewed with students.
Poster for explaining Geddit available at link above.

You determine when you might want to judge the comfort level of your class.  Geddit recommends at the beginning to judge prior knowledge, during the lesson and specifically before moving to a new task, and finally at the end of the lesson as an "exit ticket".  Make clear some ground rules about checking in.  The creator of Geddit, a teacher himself, recommends these three "rules":

  1. Check-in's are private
  2. Check-in's are not graded
  3. Students can check-in at any time to let you know where they are in the lesson
Geddit has created some really great videos to upport the use of the tool in the classroom.  The intruductory video is below.  If you think this might be a great addition to your classroom, watch this and other videos to get started.  This is a great way to differentiate the pacing and attention that you offer for the students in your class.  I would love to see this in action, so let me know if you will be giving it a try!  ~Rachel

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Take a Risk and Feel the Glory!

As mentioned in an earlier post, I was able to get to the ICE conference in Illinois this past week.  One of the best keynotes they had was George Couros from Alberta, Canada.  His has a great blog here.  The blog is definitely worth checking out and very inspiring.  George shared a lot of great information about taking risks and being willing to embrace change.  His personal story included an image of his father on the boat immigrating through Ellis Island from Greece.  He joked, although seriously, and queried the audience of why was it we get hyped up about small changes in life today when there are people out there who took up real change like his father and others like him on the boat.  The presentation was uplifting and inspiring.  One video that he shared really struck with me was the one below.  It is a video taken of a child's first ski jump.  What makes this video so fantastic is that this child audibly narrates their misgivings, fear, and apprehension as the child approaches the jump, anticipates as well as celebrates the finished jump.  There is so much to think about and reflect upon personally  after seeing this video.

Enjoy the video below and feel free to share in the Comments your reflection...


Help Your Parents ... or Yourself!

I have spent the last few days at the Illinois Computing Educator Conference and the Illinois Google Summit.  I have a ton of resources that I am excited to bring back but an easy one to share and blog about is the Teach Parents Tech site.  This site is a parody for those people that frequently find they are in the position of helping parents learn tech.  It is easy to use, full of helpful topics, and not necessarily just for kids who want to help frustrated parents learn about tech.  I think we all might find something here.
The landing page allows you to select and personalize the video and recipient messages.  Once complete, it looks like this:
You then enter the email address you want to send the video to and off it goes.  the recipient gets a very similar message with the videos embedded right into the email.  Each video is about 30 seconds long.  There are many videos that any of us could learn from.  Easy, simple resource for not just parents.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Global Wrap for Current Events



Knowledge and understanding of current events are an important part of being a good citizen.  As adults, most of use dislike the feeling that there is something going on in the world that we know nothing about. Wouldn't it be great if kids would have that same feeling and be driven to know the current events of the world in which they live? Through an account with Discovery Education, you have access to the Global Wrap, a resource that will allow you to instill that drive in your students.   Global Wrap is featured on the Discovery Ed homepage after you log in.

Sometimes what's in the news is not always appropriate for the age of students you are working with.
Discovery's Global Wrap is organized so that you can show segments or the entire Wrap.
 This allows you to be able to select the news you want the students to view or see the entire news in one whole video.  You can also chunk it out to allow kids to view and experience a little each day.

Ideas for Classroom Use


  • Have a Current Events Day of the week.
  • Assign a segment to different groups through the Assignment Builder and have them share out.
  • Build a writing prompt about different segments to encourage deeper thinking and responses about the media
  • Have students select one topic/segment and then have them report out about that particular topic

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Biblionasium - Social Reading for kids 6-13



Finding a site for kids to be active, have fun AND stay safe while doing educationally approved activities under age 13 is tough. Keeping kids safe online is incredible important so most sites decide to just limit use to over age 13 to be complaint with the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act or COPPA.  When you do find a site, it is often challenging to navigate due to the privacy settings that must be in place.  Recently I heard about Biblionasium a social reading site for kids 6-13.  I am really excited for the features within this site.  Biblionasium allows teachers to set up accounts, select from various reading level scales to encourage kids reading at their appropriate levels, has a place for parents to get connected and involved, and incorporates a social experience all surrounding literacy.  It does not get much better than that.  The website is free and allows each teacher up to 200 student accounts which is also a fantastic feature.  Teachers can even set up reading challenges for the students.  There is so much in this site it is hard to pull it all together here.  The video below is just one of the many that the company has featured on their YouTube channel to support set up, use and understanding of their product.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Screencastify - Screen Casting on the Chromebook




A new tool being discussed in many places I read is Screencastify.  This great, easy to use extension allows for easy screen recorded videos or screen casts that can be done on a Chromebook.  I have been considering creating a tutorial to this, but was beat to it and lucky for you, this one is better than I could have done!  (Additionally the author, Chris Betcher, has a great accent that is much more enjoyable than my voice.)

There is a lot of great potential for using screencasting with kids.  I wonder about students screencasting to explain their thinking and then sharing that screen cast with their teacher or with other students. There are many great reasons to screen cast with kids.  Capturing elements of a lesson, a series of steps needed for learning or to get to a location online, as a recording of a visual that needs audio like challenging pronunciations, or even as a screen capture to record a student's progress as a way of building a digital portfolio.
Look for Screencastify in the Google Chrome Web Store here!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Flippity - Digital Flash Cards

Flash Cards have their merit as a study tool.  There are many times where a student just needs to have basic recall of information.  Digital Flashcards are great as they are always available, don't get lost or damaged, and can be shared widely with groups of people.
Flippity is a service that allows you to create and share digital flashcards through a Google Spreadsheet.  There are many advantages to using a Google Spreadsheet as the content holder for the flashcards.  Flippity makes use of them all.  While it would be easy for a teacher to setup and fill the content of the course for the spreadsheet, it also could be collaboratively created by students in the class.  The creation of several spreadsheets for a study tool might be something that groups who finish work early complete, then share with a teacher who creates a Flippity card set for the rest of the class.  In addition to the ability to create the content easily, Flippity allows the creator to add media such as YouTube and images to the card deck. Here's an example of a few cards created using the Spanish word for "Cat" and a picture of a cat.
Side 1
Side 2

I've created a quick tutorial on YouTube of this resource to show you how easy it is to create a Flippity deck.





Saturday, February 15, 2014

Quietube for Chrome

Quietube is a Chrome Extension that only appears when you need it in the OmniBar or Address Bar of Google Chrome.  It is a great resource for teacher that show videos through YouTube and want to "quiet" the page for students by removing ads, distracting sidebars and unexpected video suggestions.  This Apps can be found int he Chrome Web Store here.  When on a page that you can use the extension, a small icon  appears.  Clicking that icon will open a new page in which your video will play without all the distracting ads.
This is a simple solution for focusing student attention on what is important in a simple, easy way.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Class Badges Put Some Fun into the Day!


We sometimes forget how far just a little praise and fun can go for a student.  While we give an enormous amount of feedback to students, it rarely becomes a badge of honor that they cherish and remember the learning by.  Try as we would like, we want to honor even the smallest accomplishments towards a greater goal.  One way you might find useful is through the free resource Class Badges.
Class Badges is an online resource of which you can award a digital badge for different things you would like to encourage in the classroom.  While the debate about intrinsic and extrinsic rewards comes into play for this tool, I think sometimes it is just good to have a little fun!  Class Badges is a great way to discretely acknowledge behaviors, learning milestones, and exciting events in the classroom easily and without expense.  Teachers create a class, add students, create simple badges from easy to use graphics and designs and they are off!  Simple, free and easy!

I tried it.  I created a few simple badges, create a sample class and student.  I awarded them two badges and this is what the student badges looked like.  Took me about 5 minutes.  How fun!


A great quick start tutorial and some starter ideas for using Class Badges can be found in the following video.  





Tuesday, February 11, 2014

It's Cold! - Get them Moving Inside


GoNoodle is a free service that promotes movement in the classroom.  While most of the graphics and games are geared to the elementary classroom, I got to wondering if some of our middle school students might not just benefit from the laughs that the games would bring their classrooms.
Registration is free and the teacher then builds classes within the site.  As the class participates in various games, stretches, athletic endeavors for indoors and Zumba-like movements, the class earns points and progresses.
When it is so cold outside why not give the kids a brain/exercise break and let them laugh and have fun?  Pick from a variety of different games and activities:










Monday, February 10, 2014

Get them Engaged with Plickers


Sometime the ways that technology can amaze us is so simple you can hardly believe it.  Plickers is one of those simple ways to engage and inspire kids to participate.  All you would need is ONE smartphone (Android or iOS) and PAPER!  (I have not tried this with an iPad).  This simple app for Android or iPhone is built for a teacher that does not have access to devices but wants to make a digital difference.  The app is free!  A teacher simple needs to download the free iOS or Android app.  From the Plickers Website, the teacher prints a "paper clicker".  Teachers ask a question in class and the students answer the question by showing the "Paper Clicker or Clicker" paper assigned to them.  The teacher uses the camera on their phone or device to read the room's responses.  The teacher will get a real-time bar graph and the data stored individually by student.  A set of student "Plickers" provides enough access for 40 students and could be reused for different classes.
Student "paper clicker or Plicker"


The process to use is simple:

  1. To start the class poll the teacher presses "Start" using the app and holds the device up as though taking a photo.  It will begin to collect student data.
  2. Students hold the card so that the correct response is facing up and the code is facing toward the teacher's camera.
  3. Plickers will collect data until the teacher presses "Stop".  Press "Reset" to reset the graph and save responses.  

 Classroom Ideas:

  • Create a daily Exit Slip question set for students.
  • Offer a fun get started assessment.
  • Use a Plickers Quiz to add interest to the current events of the week.
  • Use Plickers to gather data on a learning target and how well students feel they understand the target.
  • Do quick math review of facts, mental math ideas, etc.
  • Review basic vocabulary.






Thursday, February 6, 2014

Olympics Theme - DEN Connects


As the world tunes into the Olympic Games this week, a group of fantastic STAR Discovery Educators has been working on the DEN Connects site to build an Olympics theme that will assist you in making better use of the resources found in the Discovery Education subscriptions you have while learning about the Olympics.  There is an added bonus to this site as you can "connect" with other classrooms across the country to share learning.  The DEN Connects site is broken into several easy to read and navigate parts.   You will find:
  • Mini-lessons - based on a 20-30 minute instructional time rich with media and integration strategies.
  • Student Digital Dives -  A scavenger hunt prepared using Discovery media and focused on the topic of the month (Olympics).
  • Content Creation Challenge - A challenge to inspire you to try something new with your students.   This month it is a Paper Slide Video which many of you have worked to complete in other areas in the past.  I'd love to help with these! 
  • Class-to-Class Connections - This part of the Den Connects site give you an avenue to make a connection with another class and share learning ideas and experiences.  Make use of the Google Hangout feature and make a new classroom friend!  
If you want to plan ahead, there is a new DEN Connect theme each month and you can count on these amazing DEN STAR Educators to come through with awesome content and ideas for you to use. Upcoming themes will include Habitats, and Weather/Natural Disasters.

Interested in doing any of these activities or need help with adjusting any of these ideas to your classroom curriculum?  Let me know!  I would love to help.

Interested in being a STAR Discovery Educator?  I can help with that too!



Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Power of a Voice though Google Forms

In educational circles and many meetings I have been involved in lately I keep hearing statements about the number of surveys we are asked to fill out.  With the use of Google Apps for Education in the district we are seeing even more as we become familiar with the ease of use of Google Forms.  I got to wondering about Forms and Surveys in general.  Some questions came up in my mind like:

  • Isn't it good to ask an opinion, give people a safer way to share their thoughts or be a part of a conversation?
  • Is a survey or form a digitized worksheet?
  • What do we gain from gathering opinions if we don't then use the results?
  • Why do people get upset by filling out a form?
  • Do students and adults feel the same about filling out a form?
  • If students are more willing to fill out forms, why is that?
  • Why do people like to create and send a form to others as a means of gaining opinions or information?

I am not sure I have answers to these questions nor do I think the answers would be easy to find, but I do know some the answers to some and specifically the last one.  Creating a Google Form is a great way to gather feedback from a sometimes unwilling participant (think middle school kids).  A Form will allow a student to take risks, have purpose when using the Internet, and most importantly, allows the respondent to respond in their thinking time frame as opposed to the time frame allowable in class.  On the receiving end of the data and information that is collected through the form, it becomes easily manipulated, sharable and easy to read.
I wonder if we underestimate how exciting Forms are for students.  I think they enjoy them a lot more than we do.  If the feedback is explored, analyzed (possibly to plan for future lessons or improvement) or used to develop interest in the classroom, then I don't think forms are just a digital worksheet.  I think forms are an underused tool in our classrooms.

A great tour of Google Forms is here:  


Some great Google Form Ideas might be: (Links below are from the Template Gallery)

A survey of the effectiveness of group work after a project is completed.
A personal reflection on a book, project or field trip.
An exit survey after an important lesson (perhaps a kid review notes to complete it - Even better!)
To collect science observations and then work with class data when complete.
As a parent information collection at the beginning of the school year.
As a Book Log for the year.
As a Parent Communication Database
Book Report




Thursday, January 30, 2014

New Drive Activity

As our district has rolling updates to Google, we will all notice this update at different times, but I wanted to do a quick post about a great new feature in Google Drive.  Google Drive will now have a button in the top right-hand side of your Drive menu that
looks like this:
This little gem could save you a ton of time!  When you click this icon a menu like the one below will appear showing you all the recent activity that has occurred in your Google Drive. Shared documents will demonstrate changes that were made to the document, who made them and at what time.  It also will show you when you made changes or updates.  
As teachers collaborate with students and colleagues and teams work on certain tasks this might be a very useful tool.  I like that the activity bar can be closed, minimizing the distraction of what someone else might be working on.  I see this new feature as being a great addition to the usefulness of Google Drive.  If you Drive has not yet updated, give it a dat or two and check back.  It will soon!