Friday, December 18, 2015

Google Classroom and EDpuzzle Working Seamlessly Together!

As my last post for this calendar year (Christmas break is coming up so I'm going to skip the next two weeks),this is going to be a short post, focusing on some new features in EDpuzzle that allow it to work seamlessly with Google Classroom.  For more information on EDpuzzle itself and how to use that tool, see my previous blog post here.  EDpuzzle has created some additions that now allow teachers to post videos directly to Google Classroom, as well as easily create students and add classes.

First, in EDpuzzle, you can now use the Share to Classroom button to add a new EDpuzzle video directly to your Google class for students to access.  They no longer have to go out to EDpuzzle itself to access the videos and you can still see all of the results and analytics that come with the video.

In addition, you can take existing classes of students from Google and import them into EDpuzzle.  This means that if you are a current Google Classroom user and want to try EDpuzzle, you do not have to have your student sign up for two separate classes in two different tools. They can sign up for just your Google Classroom and that's it!  This will also make beginning of the year set-up much easier.  When new students are added during the school year, one click in EDpuzzle lets you update those classes by pulling information from Google.

These new features have really taken EDpuzzle to a whole new level.  It is a great tool for a flipped classroom on its own, but with the new integration to Google Classroom, it makes assigning and managing video assignments much easier and more efficient for the teacher.  If you are an EDpuzzle user or are interested in trying it out, these features will make your life much easier!  Check out the video below for more information on how to use these features.

Have a Merry Christmas and I'll see you all in the New Year!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Getting More Out of Presentations and Posters with Smore

Yes, s'mores are a sweet treat around the campfire, but is a simple way to create an online, beautiful flyer, brochure, or project. With so many design and content options and a finished professional product with multiple privacy options, it is perfect for educational use!

If you are looking for a quick poster tool that can be printed as a flyer or a PDF, or can be shared electronically, Smore may be for you. 

One of the things I love about Smore is the variety of options for items to add to a poster, like text, pictures, audio, video, links, and forms.

There is a free and a pro version, but I have found the free version is very robust. Once you have logged into Smore and click the new flyer link, a window opens with choices of the type of flyer you want to create. You can go from there using premade templates for creating your own from scratch.
If you share the flyer you create electronically, Smore gives you analytics regarding how many views your flyer has had. 

Here is a great example of a student project created with Smore.  

You can find more information about how to use the tool and ideas for using at this link

Interested in learning more? This is a great video tutorial on the tool.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Keeping it Organized with Google Keep

Well, it has been a few weeks.  Things got kind of crazy before Thanksgiving, so hopefully we can pick it up again in December and finish the year strong. I'm going to keep it simple this week and talk about a tool I learned about a couple of weeks ago from a colleague of mine at South that I absolutely love! While it has been around for quite a while, this is a new tool for me and has proved incredibly useful in just a few short weeks.

I am a list-maker.  I make lists for everything: groceries, things I have to do at work and home, Christmas cards to send, tech tool ideas for this blog, etc. Just about anything in my life that can have a list, does.  I have tried a number of tools to organize and track my lists.  I have used tools from the computer, online tools, and ones I can sync to my phone.  While most of them had benefits and I liked them, this new one is by far the best I have found and definitely a keeper.

Google Keep is not just a post-it note type list organizer.  It goes beyond just making my own lists.  One of my favorite features so far is the sharing feature.  I have lists that I have share with co-workers for things we need to get done, and lists I share with my husband so he knows what to get at the grocery store on his way home.  Just like with my Google documents, I can share separate lists and notes with different people.  This has been incredibly helpful and has helped streamline my organization.

Some other features I really enjoy include color-coding my lists.  For example, right now, my work lists are orange, my home lists are blue, my purchasing lists are green, and my Christmas lists are red.  This helps with visual organization.  I can also drag and drop my lists on my Google Keep page to organize them in any order I want, so I can keep work and home lists separate.  For individual lists, I can set reminders for myself if there is something urgent I need to get done, add a picture to my list (this has been really helpful for my Christmas buying list), archive lists I don't want immediately visible but still want to access, and other features like labeling, including checkboxes on my lists if I want, and deleting items I have checked off the list.  For a quick and easy tool, it really has a lot of features and options.

Overall, this is a simple tool and for many of us, a necessary one.  What I like most about it is the easy use while it includes a variety of features.  Most of all, I like the sharing options.  Check out Google Keep and add it to your Chrome on your PC from the Chrome Store, or add it to your phone, or both!  This is a great tool to help keep both teachers and students organized.  So if your New Year's resolution this year is going to be getting organized (again!), get a head start and try out Google Keep.

Google Keep Site

Friday, November 6, 2015

Orange Slice - Not the Kind You Eat

This week my tech coach colleague up at North called me with a new tool he was just starting to look at called Orange Slice.  While the name won't tell you what the tool does, basically it is an add-on for Google that lets you use rubrics right within a document.  For teachers who use rubrics for grading this will be a great tool.  Additionally, because of the Google connection, it works great for integrating within Classroom and for peer editing.

This is by far the easiest tool I have seen so far for grading in Google Docs with rubrics.  Once the teacher installs the add-on (simply search for orangeslice in the Chrome store or use the link below), the next step is to either insert an existing rubric you already have, or build one within the tool.  There are some great easy to build options and it recognizes a variety of rubrics.  You can choose to assign scores to each category and give points or use a holistic rubric and just give feedback.  I was very excited to find that this tool works great with our existing 21st century skills rubrics.

One of the great things about this tool is how easy it can be if you incorporate it with using Google Classroom.  For instance, if you already give assignments in classroom and use the awesome feature that allows you to distribute one assignment document per student, you can simply include the rubric on the initial assignment, and then as you go into each assignment to grade it, you can use the rubric and grade right on the assignment.  It makes using rubrics with Google documents incredibly easy and fast.

Additionally, Orange Slice makes it very easy to have student peer review each other's work.  Again, if the rubric is already in the assignment, all the students have to do is install the add-on (which takes less than a minute), share their assignment with whoever will be peer reviewing it, and then they can use the add-on to rate the other student on each area of the rubric and provide feedback.  It is fast and easy and can help eliminate some of the organizational time that peer reviewing often requires.

Overall, this is a great tool to use for grading student assignments with rubrics, or for having students peer review.  Check out the videos below for more information on the tool and how to get the add-on yourself!

Orange Slice Youtube Channel
Link to Install Teacher Rubric from Chrome Store
Link to another blog post about the tool with great commentary from the creator

Friday, October 30, 2015

Making Life Easier with the Chrome App Launcher
After taking a break last week for NDEA, this week I wanted to talk about a tool that is more about making life easier and more efficient for both teachers and students.  The Chrome App Launcher is a tool that I have only recently started using, and I am amazed at how much easier it is to access the things I need to get to easily and how much faster I can be using that instead of my Chrome Apps page.

Basically, the Chrome App Launcher allows you to launch your favorite and most frequently used apps right from your desktop instead of having to first open Chrome, go to your Apps page, scroll through your pages of Apps, and find the one you want.  Even if you are accessing something on your main apps page, for most of us we are talking at least 3 steps: launch the browser, click the apps button to get to your apps page, and then clicking the app.  The App Launcher allows you to access your apps faster by essentially putting the apps page access on your desktop.

In addition to making it easier to launch your apps, it also makes it easy to organize and find them.  If you have a lot of apps (I had three pages of them when I started), you can organize them into folders, making them easier to locate.  I now have folders for my Office apps, my personal apps, my educational tools, my new things to try, etc.  My most frequently used ones I left on their own on the main page to make access easier.  And if you still have a ton of apps even after organizing them, you can use the search bar at the top of the tool to search for specific apps.

But wait, there's more!  This tool does more than just allow you to organize and quickly access your apps. The search bar also allows you to do basic searches for simple questions or do a Google search that will then open in a browser.  I found the simple question searches helpful because you can search simple math questions and avoid having to open up a calculator on the computer, or simple conversion questions, which can be helpful in a math or FACs class, but also just for personal use.

Overall, this tool has a lot of potential just for making life easier.  Teachers and students can both use it to make working and using Google more efficient and to stay more organized. To get the App Launcher on your computer, do a search on your computer for Chrome App Launcher.  You should see the app launcher icon appear and you can either right click and choose "Pin to Taskbar" or drag it to your taskbar.  Then you are ready to go!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Storyboard That

Yesterday I was reminded of a tool that I haven't looked at in a while called Storyboard That.  In the past, I think I have mostly considered this to be a more elementary or middle level tool, but in reality it has great potential for high school too.  Basically, Storyboard That is an online tool for creating storyboards and organizing ideas.  You can even take your storyboard and turn it into a greeting card.  While the free version has some limitations (like a limited number of cells, only creating 2 storyboards per week, set layouts, etc.), it can be an easy and fun way to have students show what they know.  While the most obvious areas to use this would be English or Social Studies, Storyboard That provides a large variety of lessons and ideas using the tool that could be beneficial in multiple areas.  In addition to the collection of lesson plans and guides there are many existing storyboards that could make great supporting resources for a classroom lesson.  I would definitely recommend checking those out!

Basically, in the tool, you create a storyboard (either 3 or 6 shots for the free version) and then you can put in backgrounds (lots of different scene choices), people, speech bubbles and text, descriptive text for each cell, shapes, or uploaded pictures. While the free version is limited to a traditional 3x1 or 3x2 grid layout, there are still many possibilities for classroom use.  And of course, you can sign in with a Google account, making the one click login and registration process smooth and easy.

Overall, Storyboard That is a tool with a lot of classroom potential.  The lesson plans and guides provided on the website are incredibly useful and have a lot of great ideas!  Check it out using some of the links below and try one yourself!

Getting Started with Storyboard That Video

Link to Lesson Plans and Guides

Link to a Webinar About Storyboards in the Classroom from Free Tech for Teachers- It's good and worth checking out if you want to get more out of this tool - it's just long (60 minutes)

Here's a fun example of a teaching storyboard for Julius Caesar:

Create a Copy | View Larger

Friday, October 9, 2015

Formative Assessment in the Classroom and Tools to Help

Formative assessment has become a focus in the classroom here at my high school and there are a number of technology tools that can help with that.  I did a couple of blog posts last year on different formative assessment tools and the ones I like to use, so this post is simply a review of a couple of really helpful ones, with a link to a chart comparing a variety of options.

The formative assessment online tool I find myself recommending more and more is called Formative.  Not a super original name, but it tells you what it does.  I think what I like most about this tool is the variety of question options it has, both quick responses where you don't have to pre-load the questions, and quizzes and assignments you can create ahead of time.  Additionally, you can assign formative assessments to students, so it doesn't always necessarily have to be done live in class with students.  Students can answer a variety of ways, including by writing or drawing on the screen, or by taking a picture of their work and uploading it as an answer.  I find this one very helpful for math and science where it may not be feasible to have the students actually work through the answer on the computer as easily.  With formative, they can still work through the problem on paper, but then take a picture of it and turn that in so the teacher can still see their work.  Overall, formative has shown itself to be a well-rounded formative assessment tool, so if you don't like to use a lot of different tools in your classroom, this is a good one to try. And for more information, check out this old post from last year about Formative.

Kahoot is another formative assessment tool that I really like, simply because it is easy to use and fun.  I have used this with a few library lessons during summer school and the students are always engaged and have fun with it.  In an nutshell, Kahoot takes formative assessment and turns it into a game.  The premise is still the same (find out what your students know), but the set-up of Kahoot, the multiple choice answer format, and the "rankings" it gives after each questions turn it into a fun game for the students. This is a tool that can make a formative assessment more fun if not overused and timed right with the appropriate lesson. For more details about Kahoot, check out this old post from last year.

Plickers is a formative assessment tool that I have not personally used but learned about from a teacher during summer school who used it in her class.  It is basically the old version of holding up your notecards with an A, B, C, or D on them, but using technology.  The benefit of the Plickers is that instead of notecards with letters it uses QR codes, which are then held in one of 4 different directions by the students, which helps cut down on those students that are only holding up the letter A because they see everyone else doing it.  The students hold up their cards and then the teacher scans the room with the app open on a device (computer, iPad, tablet, phone, etc) and the app feeds the student answers into a format the teacher can see and review.  Like Kahoot, it is something a little neat and different, and while it is fairly limited in the types of questions you can ask, it is fun and engaging for students and can make formative assessments a little more interesting.

Well that's plenty of formative assessment information to get you going, but if you are still looking for different formative assessment tools to use in the classroom, check out this comparison chart from Richard Byrne at Free Technology for Teachers.  It is a helpful way to compare different formative assessment tools and find the one that's right for you!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Voice Typing in Google Docs

So clearly I am on a little bit of a Google kick to start they year out, but I promise to expand the horizons going forward.  However, Google just has so many neat little tools, add-ons, and extensions that can make life so much easier when they are used at the right time or in the right circumstances.  The tool this week is one I learned about earlier this year from our Special Services Assistive Technology Consultant.  It is a tool in Google Docs called Voice Typing.

Voice Typing does just what it sounds like.  It allows an individual to speak text into a document instead of typing it.  This can be a great tool for some of those students you have who struggle with writing, with forming their thoughts into organized, constructive papers and assignments, or who have limitations with being able to type.  It would also be great in foreign language, as it supports a variety of languages.  So far, the tool appears to be very easy to use and very accurate.  Additionally, it is already a part of the documents tools menu, so there are no additional extensions or add-ons to add to the document or account.

Overall, this tool is simple, easy-to-use, and could be very helpful for certain students, certain classes, or certain assignments.  Try it out or check out the link and video below for more help and info!

Link to Google Page with Help Info

Youtube Video About Voice Typing

Friday, September 25, 2015

Welcome Back with More Google Classroom Features


Welcome back!  It was a short summer and it has been a fast school year so far.  Even though we've been in school for almost a month already, this is my first chance to get back to my weekly blogging.  This has been a whirlwind school year so far but things are finally settling down!

This blog post is actually a topic with some new tips that many of you who already use Google Classroom may be aware of.  However, there are even more new features that I just recently learned about from a colleague of mine, the tech coach at another school, and I think these new features are great and make Google Classroom even easier to use with other tools and sites!

So first, as many of you probably realized as you came back this school year, Google has added a number of new features to Classroom, making it easier to create and share assignments with students, but also to reuse assignments from year to year, which is a question I got A LOT last year from teachers.  In Classroom now, when you go to add content to a class and click the plus button at the bottom of the screen, there are some new options for asking questions and reusing posts.  Ask a question is a new option to start a discussion in class or do a quick formative assessment,  You can pose a question to the class, decide whether students just answer your question or can reply to each other, and then easily grade and give feedback in one place.  It also keeps the discussion stream in one place, instead of cluttering up the main classroom stream.

Along with the question feature, teachers can now reuse assignments.  This means that if you create a new class for each new year or semester, you can easily reuse assignments from last year, including creating new documents for your new students. Also, if you forget to assign a new assignment to multiple classes, you can easily fix that by reusing the assignment, instead of having to create it from scratch again.

Another new feature that has just been added here in September is the Calendar feature.  Each class now has a calendar and assignments are automatically there.  Additionally, teachers and students with multiple classes can view their Classroom Calendar to see all assignments and due dates for all classes at once.  This is an easy way to stay organized for both teachers and students.

And best of all, my favorite new feature to Classroom and one I think will continue to improve, is the ability to now easily add info from other online tools straight to your classroom.  Some online tools, such as Quizlet, PBS, Discovery Education, etc., have a button that allows you to share content from their sites directly to Chrome. So for instance, if I have a Quizlet review I have made, with one button I can share that to my Classroom for students to access. Check out the video below from my tech coach colleague at North for a walk through on how to do that.  
But it gets even better!  Now, Google has also created an extension for Chrome that lets you share any site and content from a site directly to your Google classroom.  So if I find a great resource to use or if I want all my students to access the same website at the same time, I no longer have to write it on the board and wait for them all to type it in, e-mail it to them all, or try and find another easy way for them to access it.  I can just post it to classroom with the extension button and they can all easily access it at once.  It makes things so much easier and faster.  Teachers have the option to Push the link to students and if they also have the extension it will actually open the website immediately, or use it in an announcement or assignment. There is so much potential for this extension!

Overall, the new features in Classroom means it just keeps getting better and easier!  It seems like every time I have a teacher tell me "it would be really nice if I could do this (insert thing they wish they could do) in classroom"... it eventually shows up.  So keep watching for more changes and updates, but for now, using Classroom continues to be an easy and effective way to manage content in the classroom.

Video for Using the Share Button in Online Tools:

Video for Using the Share to Classroom Extension:

Friday, May 8, 2015

Flipsnack - Make Interactive Online Flipping Books

Flipsnack is a free online tool that allows you or your students to create flipping books, either by using existing PDFs or by creating books from scratch on their website.  While there are some limitations with the free version, like limiting books to 15 pages and not being able to download them, it is an easy tool students can use for creating projects.

To create a book from a PDF, you simply upload a PDF or multiple PDFs and combine them into one book.  The book can then be easily shared with others through a link and read online.  Any interactive content from the PDFs like web links are still active and the book can be "read" by turning pages, just like an actual book.

My favorite option with flipsnack is the ability to create books within the site.  Students can create a book, add and rearrange pages, use premade layouts to make page creation easier, insert pictures, text, links, and other media, and then publish and share their books.  Creating and editing pages is easy and streamlined, as well as publishing and sharing.  All of these options make flipsnack a great choice for student projects or for teachers to use to create resources for their students.  Check out the links below for more information on how to use flipsnack.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Formative - A Great Assessment Tool

There are a number of formative assessment tools available for classroom use, some of which I have blogged about before.  One new tool I learned about this week thanks to my colleagues up at North is an online tool called Formative.  Like the name suggests, this tool is designed for formative assessment in the classroom.  However, it goes beyond the classroom and lets teachers create assignments that students can complete in or outside of class.  This is a great feature that most existing formative assessment tools do not have.

Formative has a number of very useful features.  Teacher can create classes and then students can either join those classes, or join an assignment without having to log in.  But with Google quick log in, it's easy to have students log in and have accounts.

First, you can start by creating an assignment from scratch or by uploading an existing PDF, Word Document, or Google Doc.  If you start from scratch, you can add different types of questions, including multiple choice, true/false, text, or drawing.  The drawing response also lets students upload photos, so if a problem is too complex to draw on a computer, they could potentially work it out on paper, take a picture of it, and add it that way.  The possibilities are endless!  If you start by uploading an existing document, you can then add those same types of questions to the document, making it interactive for students.  However, you do not have to prepare assignments and questions ahead of time - you can also do quick questions live in class and receive data back as well.

Once an assignment is made, the teacher can then assign it to one or multiple classes, and then give students a quick code or link to join the assignment, or have them access it through the class dashboard.  Teacher can choose to do assignments together in class, or have students complete them outside of class.  Sharing assignments with other teachers is easy too!

Finally, once assignments are under way, teachers can see student work real-time and receive data in a variety of ways to track how students are understanding the class materials.  Teachers can choose when students can view the feedback as well.

Overall, this tool surpasses most of the other formative assessment tools out there with it's variety of options and choices.  While there are still new features being added, this tool has a lot of potential to provide an easy way to track student progress and gather data about student learning.  Check out the links below for tutorials and more information!

See more about how to use this tool here:
Transforma document into a formative assessment (4:11) 
All Formative Tutorial Videos

Friday, April 24, 2015

Google Classroom - It's Getting Even Better with New Features Added


I did an earlier post in October about Google Classroom and some of the new features it added last fall.  Of course, the requests keep coming for new and better options, and just this week Google added a couple of new, frequently requested features.

First, one of the biggest things teachers have asked for is the ability to collaborate with other teachers by adding them to your classroom site.  Until now, if a teacher wanted to "share" their classroom site with other teachers, those teachers could only be students.  This works well to just access assignments and posts, but does nothing to allow for true collaboration on assignments, shared grading, or both having access to all student assignments.  Now, you can add other teachers to your Google Classroom by going to your course's "About" page and choosing the option to "Invite Teacher."  This lets other teachers access your classroom site, post comments, announcements, assignments, see student assignments, and grade those assignments.

Another frequently requested feature is the ability to add announcements and assignments and not post them immediately to the site.  This allows teachers to add multiple assignments or announcements at one time, maybe for a whole week or an entire project, and then publish them later on for students to view.  This feature because teachers no longer have to go in and add something new right when you want students to view it, but can better prepare by adding things ahead of time, and then just going in and publishing them right when you need them.

Google Classroom continues to get better and provide more options and choices for teachers as a Learning Management System, and I'm sure they will continue to add more and more useful features based on the feedback provided.  If you use Google Classroom, hopefully you will find these new features helpful.  If you haven't tried it yet, check it out and check out the links below for more info and help about Google Classroom!

FPS Google Training Site Classroom Page

Friday, April 17, 2015

Office Mix - Turn Your Presentations into Interactive Student Lessons

Well, I missed my post last week while I was at the NDATL Conference, but it was totally worth it because I picked up some great tech ideas for some of my teachers to try in their classrooms. In particular, I was very impressed with Microsoft's Office Mix.  Office Mix is an add-on for powerpoint that lets you take an existing powerpoint (or create a new one) and turn it into an interactive lesson for your students.  You can record directly on your powerpoint, do screen recordings or screenshots, insert outside audio or video, insert quiz questions or other app enhancements, and then upload the whole thing so that students can access and interact with the lesson on any device.  But wait, it gets even better... if your students have Office 365 accounts like ours do, you can track their access to your lesson and receive information on how they interact with the lesson and how they do on the quiz questions.

To access Office Mix, you can go to and download the add-on.  Or, if you're in my district, you can access the add-on through the software center and add it yourself.  Once you have the add-on, you'll see a tab in powerpoint that says Mix.  When working in a presentation or creating a new one, you can add the different Mix elements from that tab.  When you're done with your mix, you can upload it directly to Mix where it will be stored and your students can access it.

One of the things I really like about this tool is that once the Mix is created and uploaded, students can access it from any device.  Additionally, while the teacher has to go through the work of creating the Mix and adding all the different elements, once it's done, you can just supply the link to the student and that is all they need to access it.  You can also set different access levels, such as limiting it to your own organization, requiring a link and a sign in, allowing anyone with the link to view, or making it completely public.  However, if you want to make use of the analytic tools and reports, you'll want to require a login or keep it within your organization.

Overall, I found Office Mix to be an intriguing tool that has a lot of potential for flipped classrooms or for changing the way we use existing powerpoints in the classroom.  For more information, check out the Office Mix for Teachers Resources website.  For some sample educational mixes and an introductory video about Office Mix, click here.  Happy Mixing!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Powtoon - Create Animated Videos and Presentations

Well, I missed my post last week just due to a lot going on, and this week we have no school tomorrow, so I'm going to post this one a day early.

One of the biggest challenges teachers face when having students create presentations is how to provide them some options beyond the traditional Powerpoint slides they have created since the third grade.  Additionally, options for creating videos are numerous, but most involve meshing pictures and music and all of the options can sometimes be overwhelming.  Powtoon is a tool that puts a new twist on videos and presentations by allowing students (or teachers) to create animated videos.

The easy dashboard and drag and drop options make it a nice option for creating quick animated videos or presentations with little assistance and easily publish and share them. Additionally, there is app available in the Chrome store, which will make Powtoon even easier to access from your Google Drive and allow one-click sign in.

While there are some limitations to the free version (5 minute video limit, 11 styles to choose from, 10 tunes to choose from, etc.).  However, even with those limitations, the options are wide and varied for the animations and students can exercise a lot of choice and options when making videos.

Overall, I found Powtoon to be a fun, easy-to-use site to make videos and presentations a little different and to try something new and fun.  Check out the links below for more information, examples, and tutorials!

Example Powtoon About Creating Presentations
Example Powtoon by a Teacher About Electricity
Powtoon Video Tutorials - short tutorials from the Powtoon website

Friday, March 20, 2015

Google Research Tool - Make Researching and Citing in Google Docs Easy

Google has a little known and very underutilized tool available for use in Google docs and presentations called simply Research.  However, the efficiency and potential time saver for this seemingly simple addition is enormous.  Working in a library, we spend a lot of our lesson time trying to drive home the idea that students need to cite, whether it's information they get from a source or a picture in their presentation.  The Google Research tool helps with that because it lets you do a search from directly within your document or presentation and then add a citation for information or add and cite a picture quickly and easily.

The research tool can be found under the Tools menu and Research.  Once opened, you can do a general Google search, or limit your search to images, scholar, quotes, dictionary, or tables.  From the list of search results, you can then preview each result, click on the link to go out to the full page on the web, insert a link for the result into your doc, or cite the result within your document.  Now, while the citation features is great, it does provide citations as footnotes, so for most students, they will still need to do some editing to make sure their citations are formatted correctly in their paper or presentation.  Additionally, when searching images, results can be filtered by usage rights so students are only searching for images that are free to use.  When you find an image, you can simply drag it onto your document or presentation, and a citation is automatically generated for the image, again as a footnote.

Overall, when having students work on papers and projects in Google docs and presentations, the Research tool can be a helpful way for them to find and easily cite information and images.  It can be especially helpful for younger students who are still working on really understanding the importance of citations, and provide them with an easy way to find and include that in their projects.  Additionally, instead of doing a regular Google search for images and videos, it can be an easy way to add images and videos to presentations, searching ones that are reusable by copyright, and easily adding them to a project.

Click this link for more information from Google on using the tool.
Here is a link to another blog post with step by step directions and pictures on the different features.
Final link - same blog as above, but a different post on adding images and videos to presentations with the research tool.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Livebinders - Organizing Student Resources

A livebinder really is just a binder of resources that can be created by or for students.  There are many different ways it can be used in the classroom, and can be an easy way to collect and house resources for students, student work or projects, or a collection of links or sites on a topic.

On the livebinder site, teachers or students can create a new binder, and then organize information within the binder using tabs and subtabs.  Each tab or subtab can include a piece of information such as a link to a website, an uploaded file, a link to an online file, typed text, etc.  What is nice about linking sites is that the site itself actually embeds in the livebinder page, so students can read information and navigate through the site without actually having to go out to every site and have numerous tabs open at the same time.

There are a variety of uses for livebinders in the classroom.  In the library here, we use it for different research products with students, particularly when the focus is more on using the information instead of the information search, or with classes like ELL when we are just starting out.  The librarian will find a variety of resources on the different topic options, and compile them into a livebinder that students can then use as a resource (see example links below).  However, teachers could also use livebinder by having students create them, either when doing research and working on source evaluation, or as an online portfolio showcasing different work they have done, etc.  Depending on the goal, livebinder can be a useful tool in a number of ways.  Check out the links below for some examples and resources on using livebinders.

Example of an ELL Social Studies Livebinder
Link to Educators Guide to Livebinders Resource
Livebinders website

Friday, March 6, 2015

Newsela - Non-fiction Articles for Student at Their Reading Levels

Newsela is a great resource for teachers in all content areas.  One of the biggest challenges teachers face, especially with the implementation of the Common Core, is finding appropriate, grade-level non-fiction for students to read.  Newsela helps meet that need by providing an expansive variety of news articles on a wide variety of topics, and the best part is that each article can be read at five different lexile levels.  This provides an easy way to differentiate within the classroom and allow students to read at their level, leading to greater understanding.

There are thousands of articles available on the site, in a wide range of subject areas, including: War & Peace (great for social studies!), Science, Money, Law, Health, Arts, and Sports.  When opening each article, students can then choose from five different lexile reading levels. And it's easy to change between levels so if an article is too hard, they can change to a lower level.  Additionally, many of the articles have comprehension quizzes so students can get an idea of how well they understand the material.  Or if teachers don't have electronic access all the time in class, articles can be downloaded as PDFs or printed to use in class with students.  There is a wonderful article linked below on how to use Newsela with Google Docs to create reading groups with your students and have them actually comment and engage in discussion on the articles.

Overall, Newsela can provide teachers a resource for finding and using short, non-fiction articles in class to work on reading and critical thinking skills.  While the site does have a paid option with features like assigning articles to students and tracking their quiz results, the free version provides plenty of resources and as the link below shows, there are workarounds for having students engage in discussion about the articles, even without the paid features.  So if you are looking for more non-fiction reading options for your students, check out Newsela!

Link to article about using Newsela with Google Docs - You should read this!
Video about Newsela  (Just watch the first 3 minutes for a good introduction to what Newsela is)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Edpuzzle - Track Student Progress Using Video Resources

Even if you don't have a flipped classroom, Edpuzzle can be a great resource to use if you want to assign students videos to watch and then track their progress.  It allows teachers to assign videos for students to watch outside of class, instead of having to always take the class time to watch them together, and then be able to see whether students watched the videos and track their progress.  One of the best features about it is the ability to add questions to the video that students have to answer as they watch.  You can add multiple choice or text questions, and then see how students did on the questions.  You can use existing videos from places like Youtube or Kahn Academy, or upload your own videos if you want to record your own lectures. Additionally, you can assign students an edpuzzle project and they can create learning videos themselves!

Now, all that being said, as awesome as this tool is, there are a few things you should know, especially if you are thinking of using it with your FPS high school students.  While we only have one teacher who uses it extensively, he has found that for a handful of students, they run into issues when trying to view his videos on edpuzzle.  Generally it's an issue of the video freezing at some point while it is playing. As a workaround, this teacher saves his videos in his Google Drive, so his students can watch them there if needed.  However, when that happens, he is unable to track their usage and questions. Again, this is only a few students, and this seems to have more to do with our tablets or those students, and not the site or the resource itself.  So this will be something to watch going forward.  As always with technology, a backup plan is a good idea.  And even with the possibility of a few students needing to use the backup plan, this resource is well worth it to track videos you assign to students, even if it's not frequently.  Check out the links below for some really good tutorials and videos on how to use it!

Edpuzzle Demo Video
Edpuzzle Video & Question Analytics Video
Great Youtube Video on Using Edpuzzle

Friday, February 6, 2015

Google Chrome Extensions

In an earlier post, I talked about some of the neat things you can do with Chrome tabs to make your browsing experience easier and more efficient (I still love being able to pin tabs!).  However, I thought I should spend a little time talking about some of the more helpful Chrome extensions that I really find useful.  This post is really more about making working in Chrome easier and saving time, as opposed to things you might actually use in the classroom; however, some of these might be useful for your students, too.

For those of you who don't use them, extensions are extra features that can be added to Chrome that can customize your use of it and help make the things you do regularly easier to do.


Managing extensions and apps can be overwhelming.  For most people, they end up with a long line of icons at the top of the browser, and let's be honest, some extensions can cause other programs or sites to do funky things.  In general, a good practice is to only keep enabled the extensions that you use frequently, and disable the rest until you actually need to use them.  But this also means the extra work of opening your settings and going to your extensions control page and then enabling or disabling what you need.  Extensity solves that problem by providing one-click access to all your extensions and apps.  You click the extensions icon to use it, click the extension to turn on or off (gray means it is disabled or off).  You can also launch your apps from the extension, which means you don't have to keep opening a new tab or going back to your apps page every time you want to access one.  It makes using extensions and apps in Chrome faster and easier.  See this Cool Cat Teacher One-Minute Youtube Video for more information about how to use it.

Awesome Screenshot:

This extension allows you to take online screenshots and edit them directly in your browser.  You can capture full or partial website pages, crop, add shapes, arrows and lines, write or highlight, and blur different areas of the screenshot. You can color code your annotations and then save them for future use or copy and paste them directly into an online document or web tool.  See this video for more information and a walk-through of how to use it.


Onetab is another extension that just makes the whole Chrome user experience easier.  If you are one of those people who always have about fifty tabs open in your browser (it's okay, I know you're out there), OneTab is for you.  OneTab will take all of your open tabs (except pinned ones) and pull them into a single tab with a list of all your open tabs.  That way, since we know you aren't working in all fifty of them at once, you can still go back and forth easily, but you don't have to keep so many open that you can't even tell what they are.  It's a nice, easy extension if you like a lot of tabs open at once.

There are many more extensions out there and I'm sure I'll do another post soon with some more, but these are three that are helpful, easy to use, and can make Chrome more efficient.  Hopefully you'll find at least one that you like and can start to use! 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Thinglink - Tag Your Images

The last couple of weeks I have worked with a couple of our foreign language teachers on projects that use a tool called Thinglink, and so I thought it would make a good topic for a blog post here.  Thinglink is a fun tool, because it lets you take an image and add different tags to it, which then link to text, videos, websites, Google docs, other images, etc.  It can be a great tool for class projects and a different way for students to demonstrate how much information they know or understand about a topic or concept.
In this case, these teachers were having students research different places in a foreign country.  So the students uploaded pictures of maps of the country, and then added tags for the different cities telling about them.  What makes Thinglink so useful is how versatile it is when it comes to adding tags.  You really can link just about anything you can think of.
Additionally, these teachers set up class groups and had the students all add their projects to the class group, which allows them to easily view and share their work with the class and the teacher.  The whole process took about 20-25 minutes to get the student set up, added to the class, creating their projects and adding them to the class group, and starting their tags.  It's an easy tool to use, which makes it nice for a variety of classrooms.  It can be used to demonstrate knowledge of places or language, such as the case with the foreign language classrooms, to tell a story, to explain how to do something, or to inform about any number of topics.  Check out the links below for examples and directions to get started!
Using Thinglink - General Directions
Learn to Use Thinglink in Under 5 Minutes - Youtube Video


Friday, January 23, 2015

Microsoft OneNote - The Most Awesome Notetaking Tool Ever

So we are a Google Apps for Education school, and as a result, many of my blog posts are all about Google tools, and ways they can make your life easier.  However, I have found that there are still some things I do that I cannot find a replacement for in Google.  And OneNote is one of those.  There are so many things I can do with OneNote and so many ways it can be used by students, that I have trouble letting go.  So this blog post is dedicated to OneNote and some of my favorite features.

First, I love that I can have many notebooks, and each notebook can have many sections and pages.  It's like the ultimate trapper keeper, but it's on my computer so the papers never fall out.  I have notebooks for personal lists and notes, work meetings, lesson plans I teach for teachers and students, and my own school work as I'm finishing up grad school.  I have everything I need to stay organized all in one place.  And best of all, with my Microsoft account, I can back it all up online, never have to worry about losing it, and even have it synced to my phone so I can access my info there, too.  And that's just the benefits I get from having it.  Some of the features it has make doing different tasks so much easier.

Favorite Feature #1 - Tags
I am a list-maker.  There is nothing more satisfying that having a big list of things to do and getting to check something off of it.  I love that in OneNote, I can tag different items on my pages to keep them organized.  My favorite is the "To Do" tag.  I use it to make lists with little checkboxes next to the items, and as I complete them, I can check the box and get the satisfaction of knowing I accomplished something.  Now, I know I could just delete the item off the list and get the same result, but if I can check it off, I don't have to worry about remembering if I even put it on the list to start with.  And even better, I can access my outlook tasks from OneNote, which makes keeping track of things even easier.
For students, they can use tags when taking notes to mark important items they need to remember, questions they have, ideas they have while listening to a lecture or reading, etc.  And you can search your tags later, which helps keep things easy to find.

Favorite Feature #2 - Inserting Files
This is another feature I use for personal use, but that students could use while notetaking, too.  OneNote lets you attach or insert files directly into your pages.  So for example, I use this personally while doing my own grad school homework.  It generally involves reading a lot of different articles from different sources.  I insert those articles into different OneNote pages, and then I can highlight and type notes right on the articles.  It also helps organize everything into one place.  Students can do this same thing with articles or things they need to read for class, or to take notes from a teacher on a powerpoint or some other form of lecture.  It's easy, fast, and keeps things organized.

I also love that I can easily insert screen clippings, and with my touchscreen computer I can easily write and take notes that way, without always having to type.  OneNote is definitely a great all-around note taking tool that makes staying organized easier.  See the links below for more help and info!

What Can OneNote Do? - Video about some of the features of OneNote
OneNote Tutorial - Video about using OneNote - kind of long but detailed
Microsoft's OneNote Training and Help Page

Friday, January 16, 2015

Diigo - Online and Social Bookmarking

As we start the new semester, many teachers may be looking for new resources to use in classroom planning and ways to organize all of the resources out there. Enter Diigo.  Diigo is a social bookmarking, web annotation, and research tool that works well for teachers to use to keep track of all those great resources found, or for students to use to keep track of information and research for classroom assignments.

One great feature about Diigo is the Google single sign-on.  There is no hassle with setting up accounts or finding a username and password or any of that.  Additionally, Google has a Diigo extension that makes saving an annotating websites super easy.

I use Diigo in a few different ways.  First, I use it to organize great websites I find and want to keep, both personally and professionally.  With the extension, when I find a site I want to keep, I simply click the extension and click Save.  It then saves that website into my Diigo library, where I can access it later.  I can also tag websites with different terms to help me group them. For instance, my personal Diigo account has different tag groups like recipes, house ideas, kid stuff, etc.  My professional ones has tags like Google, tech articles, web tools, etc.  It works great for organizing and I can create customized lists to help me further organize the sites I find.  Along with saving the site, I can also highlight or annotate the site and save specific information to Diigo.  This works great if there is something about a site I want to remember.

Another way I use Diigo is as part of my Professional Learning Network (PLN).  I belong to a number of Diigo groups, which are just groups of users who share similar interests.  I follow some educational and technology groups, and can then browse and see what these people are saving and posting to share with others. I find numerous great resources through my Diigo groups.

Finally, Diigo is not just for teachers.  It can be a great tool for students to organize information for research projects or to keep track of their own online items they use for school.  Students can annotate and save website information, and then group that information by project or class, and they can even share that with teachers so you can track how they are doing. There are so many uses for this neat online tool!  See the links below for more help and directions.

Under a Minute Tech Tip Diigo Youtube Video
How to Install and Use Diigo
How to Use Diigo (this is a great Youtube video walking you through how to use it)
Link to Chrome Webstore to Install App and Extension 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Online Review Creation Tools

With semester one coming to a close and finals looming next week, teachers are looking for different ways to create online reviews for students.  There are a number of online tools that let teachers create games or different review formats that students can use to study class content.  Many of the tools have existing quizzes or games created by other teachers that you can tap into and use.  In this blog, I'm only going to look at three of the ones my teachers like and use the most.  Hopefully utilizing one or more of these tools will help you in finding different and engaging ways for students to review your classroom content.

Quizlet is an online tool that allows you to create a review set with matching terms and answers, in a variety of languages.  You can also add images and choose privacy settings to make your reviews public, or only to your classes or specific people.  When students go to complete the review, they have a variety of options for how the content is presented, including flashcards, spelling, taking it as a test, a learning mode, as well as scatter or space race games.  It works well for allowing students to review material on their own, and there are many publicly created sets already made that teachers can access and use.  See the links below for more information and help.

Teacher Overview/Ideas for Using Quizlet
Introduction to Quizlet

I just did a recent post devoted solely to Kahoot, but I focused on using it as a formative assessment tool real-time in the classroom. However, Kahoot can also be used as a review tool because students can sign up for accounts and create their own Kahoots, and them make them public and use them to review together.  Having students create their own Kahoots is a great way to assess whether they understand the classroom material.  See the links below for more information and help.

Get Kahoot - Link for Student to Sign up to Create Kahoots
Kahoot FAQ Page

Purpose Games
Purpose Games is a web site for learning and having fun at the same time.  Like the other tools, you can create your own games or use ones created by others.  You can create games or quizzes, and make playlists of your favorite games.  The games involve using images and having students identify different parts or areas on an image, or teachers can create standard multiple choice quizzes.  Teachers can also create groups, which makes managing and providing reviews for students easier.  Click on the links below to get started!

Purpose Games FAQs