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