Monday, November 30, 2015

Parent Teacher Conference Slam

Wow...it is already December! As with any school year, time is flying by, and we are already gearing up for final exams. November was a crazy month due to numerous professional conferences, parent teacher conferences, and Thanksgiving; however, we did some great things at Neuqua Valley High School that I wanted to share. 

Parent teacher conferences can be a stressful time for teachers. While it is always wonderful to meet the students' parents, it can take time to properly prepare for each conference if a teacher plans to share student artifacts from class. In an effort to help save teachers some time, frustration, and stress, we sent out various tips and tricks in order to help teachers DOMINATE their parent teacher conferences in our Parent Teacher Conference Slam video series.

What is a slam you might ask? A slam is a quick, fun, and energetic tutorial of some sort of app, skill, or idea. The goal….learn something awesome and use it in order to make your life easier! SLAM!


Live Polling in Your Classroom - Poll Everywhere in Google Slides

Reasons to poll your students frequently and consistently?
  • Discussion Starters
  • Quick Checks for Understanding
  • Enhance Communication Skills
  • Inspire Creative Thinking
  • Critically Evaluate Resources and Ideas
  • Jump Start Collaboration
Poll Everywhere is a recently released Chrome Extension that works with Google Slides to allow presenters to quickly and easily create quick survey questions in Google slides. Create a survey ahead of time or quickly insert one during a presentation. 
  • Polls can include multiple choice questions, open-ended questions, Q & A / Brainstorm, or even clickable images. 
  • Results can be displayed live on screen or hidden from the audience.
  • Students can respond via Text, via the Web, via a Mobile Browser, or even through Twitter. 
Initial Setup Guide:
  1. Click here to open the Poll Everywhere Extension description in the Chrome Web Store. 
  2. Click on the "Add to Chrome" button to install the extension. 
  3. A dialog appears letting you know about the types of data that the extension will be able to access. Click Add to grant the extension access to the data described and install the extension.
  4. The Poll Everywhere Extension will work in your Chrome Browser behind the scenes in the address bar. You will not see a Poll Everywhere icon in your row of extensions. It will appear as a menu option in Google Slides and be viewable
  5. While you can get started with the Poll Everywhere in Google slides, we recommend that you first sign up for a free educator account.  Click here to signup for a free Poll Everywhere K-12 Educator account.
  6. Open a new or existing Google Slides Presentation and you will see Poll Everywhere in the menu. You will need to login in the first time you insert a poll. You will be able to create a new poll or insert an existing poll from you account. You can only have 1 active poll at a time in slides.
  7. You can learn more about the setup and views in Google slides in the Poll Everywhere user guide. Click here to access the User Guide and then click on Control+F to search for "Google Slides" to learn more about the features of the Extension.
  8. We recommend testing out the features with a colleague or on your own using a mobile device before going live with a full classroom.
Click here to learn more about installing and managing all your Chrome Extensions.
How will you use Poll Everywhere with your students?


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Annual Online Holiday Shopping Tips and Tricks

Happy Holidays! Every year I share a revised guide to shopping online during the holiday season. It is a busy time of year and my wife and I find that doing the majority of our shopping online helps us both reduce our stress level and save a little bit of money. This guide is built for educators, but just about anyone can find some resources to save money online. Please let us know in the comments below if you have any additional suggestions or resources we can add to this guide!
Here are some tips to help teachers, their families, and just about anyone to save a little green this holiday season.

1. Online Cashback
There are many sites that take advantage of online advertising to provide the consumer with coupons and cash back for major retailers. They also provide links to some great online coupons from most retailers. They are free and easy to use. Combine this with rewards on a credit card and it can really start to add up.
  • Mr. Rebates - Cash Back rebates of up to 30% on all of your online shopping plus get free money-saving coupons at over 2000 online stores. 
  • Ebates - Find coupons and earn cash back at over 1800 stores when you shop at Ebates! Save with online rebates, deals, promo codes and discounts. 
  • Mainstreet Shares - MainStreetSHARES gives you more than just cash back when you shop. We help you turn your shopping into an investment in you! 
  • Fat Wallet - Find coupons, cash back, hottest deals from hundreds of top retailers. Get deals shared by our huge community of frugal shoppers. 
2. Apple / Google / Amazon
What Tech are you looking for this year? Smartphone, iPad, iPod, Tablet, Kindle, Wearables, Chromebooks or Macbook? Most major tech retailers will have online and in-store sales.
3. Educator Union Membership Card
Did you know that the IEA / NEA / AFT posts some excellent deals for teachers? These deals include merchandise, restaurants, and travel.
4. Shopping and Coupon Websites
Many websites that compile information about sales, coupons, and deals year round.
5. Protecting Your Credit Card Online
Most online stores / credit card companies do a great job taking care of credit card purchases, but a great way to pay for many online purchases is to use PayPal. It’s free and provides an extra layer of security between your credit card and online shopping.
6. Amazon, half.com, and eBay
Great places to shop for just about everything new and used. All three sites have great customer support.
7. Electronic Reviews and Retailers
I know many of you are searching the best gifts for your favorite educators. Here are some great places to research and by electronics for teachers.
Get the Reviews – What’s good or not so good? A couple of sites that I use to decide what I want.
  • c|net (Great Reviews of Just About Everything Electronic)
  • Consumer Reports (Great Reviews and Guides to Lot’s of Stuff)
  • PCMag (Main Focus is on Computer Tech)
Online Electronic Retailers – Good prices and excellent service.
  • newegg (New and Refurbished Electronics – Just about everything)
  • TigerDirect (Tiger Direct and CompUSA all in one – They even have a warehouse on 59 near the mall if you want to save on shipping. 
  • geeks.com (Great deals on new and refurbished electronics)
Fun Stuff for the Geek at Heart


Monday, November 23, 2015

Learning To Be An Instructional Coach

I've watched the role of Technology Coaches evolve in some powerful ways in recent years. The first generation of Technology Coaches focused on finding and teaching the tools. Pedagogy for most was secondary to the shiny new web resources or device. We put the old proverbial carriage before the horse. We made huge strides integrating technology into classrooms, but many questioned if we made any significant impact on the ways we teach and learn. A webquest after all was frequently little more than a digital worksheet. 
Times they are a changing.  The new generation of technology coaches no longer focus on the tools first. In fact, I've begun to see many districts replace the title of technology coach with the title instructional coach. Today's instructional coach is no long just an expert on how to use different technologies. We instead focus on technology to enhance good teaching methodologies. Good pedagogy usually comes first, with the tools added in as an enhancement. 

We've tried to model pedagogy before tech tools with our staff in several ways:
  • First, we focus on the why before the tool. When a teacher is looking to get something done, we first try to focus on essential student skills connected to the task before finding the tool to support the activity. 
  • Second, we look for tools that can be used for students across content areas. We prefer tools that support students throughout their day. Instead of focusing on tools that only support a science classroom, we instead look first for tools that can support different activities in multiple classrooms. 
  • Finally, we try to always emphasize that technology alone does not have the power make a bad lesson great. Technology at its best only enhances what is already there. Great teaching must come first or the power of the instructional technology is often reduced. 
As an instructional coach, I try to focus on these 5 broad areas as I look to support teachers and students: 
Here are a few resources we use to plan our professional development activities: 




Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Grading Online? You need Permanent Clipboard - Chrome Extension!

As a former English teacher, I remember grading stacks of papers and writing comments on the side of the student's paper.  I would write the same comment over and over again on multiple papers. The Chrome extension Permanent Clipboard is a tool that allows you to save phrases with a friendly name at your fingertips.  You no longer need to type "What?"  "Watch Subject/Verb agreement" on every paper.  This extension will save these phrases for you and you can insert them where you deem fit.

Here is a short video that shows you how to install it and how it works:

Monday, November 16, 2015

Google Apps for Education - Math Resources for K-12

Chrome Apps and Extensions, along with Google Drive Add-ons and Apps, can provide valuable support for Math Classrooms.

Recently Jennifer Carey posted  4 Math Add ons for Google Docs on the Free Technology for Teachers Blog. The post included several add-ons that I have never used, so I decided it was time to update my own list of resources connecting Math to Google Apps for Education.


The included resources cross over multiple categories of curricular skills. Clicking on a resource link will give a longer description that will include images and sometimes an introductory video.

Here are the three resources I added based on Jennifer's post:
Sometimes you just want a simple calculator! No more rearranging windows or clicking back and forth, just to do some basic math.
Use Wizkids CAS to plot graphs and solve equations with the powerful math tool in your document.
Formula Editor lets you to easily type mathematical equations from the sidebar in your Google Doc.

What would you add (pun intended) that we've missed?

Monday, November 9, 2015

GAFE Workflow - Using Chrome to Be More Efficient Online


The Chrome Browser is a power tool to enhance your learning experience and save you time while online. Understanding how Chrome can help teachers and students be more efficient with their time online is an essential skill. 

Getting Started with Chrome

Open Chrome and make sure you are signed into Chrome on the device you are using. Click here if you need help signing into Chrome. When you sign in to Chrome, you can save and sync things like your history, bookmarks, and passwords, so you can get to them on any device.

Chrome Browser Essentials

Chrome Learning Activity 1:
Review the Chrome Essentials Document and learn more about the following aspects of Chrome:
  • Making Chrome the Default Browser
  • Setting Homepage
  • Setting Startup Pages
  • Incognito Window
  • Bookmarks
  • Omnibox
  • Tabs 
  • Shortcut Keys
Chrome Learning Activity 2: Explore the Chrome Store Web Store and find an Extension or App that could be used to support teaching and learning.

Click here to share an Extension or App.
Click here to view responses.

Learn more about Chrome Browser

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Google Sheets Add-On Every Teacher Should be Using!

I attended a conference this summer and one of the presenters left a quote that really stuck with me.  "With all that teachers have to do, if an activity could be automatically graded for you, why wouldn't you use it"!  

Introducing or Reintroducing Flubaroo.  




 Flubaroo will quickly or grade multiple choice or fill in the blank assignments.  Flubaroo is a powerful tool that you Add-On to a Google Sheet that is receiving responses from a Google Form. But Flubaroo is much more than a grading tool, Flubaroo will analyze your students submissions.


More Flubaroo Can Do For YOU!


  • Compute the average assignment score
  • Compute average score per question and flags low scoring questions
  • Shows you a grade distribution graph
  • Give you the option to email each student their grade and the answer key
  • Lets you send individualized feedback to each student

Try Flubaroo as a Student

Check Your Email for Your Results After Submitting

Set Up Your Own Flubaroo

There are FIVE Steps to Take to Make this Magical Tool Work for You.
  • Create an Assignment Using Google Forms
  • Be the First Person to Complete the Assignment
    • Be Sure to Get All the Answers Correct - This Becomes Your Answer Key! 
  • Assign It to Your Students.
    • Give them the Link to the Google Form, Post the Form in Google Classroom or on Your Class Website, Whatever Works Best with Your Class Workflow.
  • Install Flubaroo in the Add-Ons Menu or Click Here and Click to Grade the Assignment
  • Review Your Student Submissions
The creator of Flubaroo has posted these five steps as well.  

(Watch a Demo of Flubaroo)


Please post any questions you may have on using Flubaroo or Google Forms as well as any unique ways you have used Flubaroo with your students.  Hope you found this post to be valuable and that you will take advantage of this great resource! 

Chrome Tips Every Teacher Should Know About

Chrome is browser packed full of amazing features that can make your browsing experience easier and more productive.  I have been working a lot with teachers on why they should use Chrome and the benefits to using Chrome.  I emphasize that these tips will enable them to save, sync and access their Chrome date and bookmarks across different devices, easily access and manage their installed apps, use shortcuts to perform quick tasks in Chrome, restore closed tabs and windows,

  • Importance of signing in to Chrome:  Chrome is part of Google's suite of products - meaning if you have a Google account you can use the same login info to sign in to your Chrome.  Once signed in, all your Chrome's settings, bookmarks, apps, extensions, browsing history, themes, and other data are saved and synced to your Google account.  You can access all of this data when you use Chrome on any other device provided you sign in to the same account. This is especially helpful in when you work on different computers for instance one at home and another at work…etc. Follow these steps to sign in to Chrome 
    • Open Chrome.
    • In the top-right corner of the browser window, click the button with an icon of a person or your name or email address.
    • Click Sign in to Chrome.
    • Sign in with your Google Account.
    • To customize your sync settings, click Settings. This lets you choose what information to share across other devices where you're signed into Chrome.
  • Install Chrome Extensions/Apps:  Extensions are small software programs that get installed on your browser and these extension modify and enhance the functionality of your browser.  Chrome Apps are often enhanced shortcuts to websites. You can find Chrome Apps in the Chrome store.  
  • Drag and Drop:  In Chrome, you can easily take a word or phrase, and drag and drop it into the search bar (or as Chrome calls it, the Omnibox) and it will automatically search those terms.  Similarly, you can drag a URL directly on the Bookmark Bar to save it as a bookmark. You can also drag URL links directly to your desktop and Chrome automatically creates a clickable icon.
  • Open Specific Pages at Start:  If you use the web like me, you end up going to the same sites every time you log on.  Conveniently, you can set Chrome up to open to those same websites ever time you start up.  In the Settings menu, go to the section "On Startup" (or just type chrome://settings/startup in the omnibox) and click on the option to "Open to specific page or set of pages."  Next to that option is a "Set pages" link, which allows you to choose your starting sites.
  • Open Accidentally Closed Tabs:  Have you ever mistakenly closed a tab?  We all have.  But, thankfully Chrome is a forgiving browser and makes it possible to get it all back.  All you have to do is press Control-Shift-T and Chrome will reopen any recently closed tabs.  
  • Create another Profile:  If you have multiple Google accounts (say for professional and personal use) you can create another profile and switch back and forth between the two.  First, create a new profile by going to Settings>People>Add person.  Name that profile and then login.  Note:  Chrome also gives you the ability to "Control and view the websites this person visits."  This can be useful if you have children that you would like to monitor their online activity.  

Monday, November 2, 2015

Table Formatter | Google Docs Add-on


Google Drive Add-ons allow users to add functionality to Google Documents. There are many great add-ons for Forms, Docs, and Sheets.

Google Drive Add-on Tutorial

I recently learned about a great add-on for Google Docs called Table Formatter. While the table tools
in Google Docs have improved greatly since Docs first rolled out, they are still somewhat limited. Table Formatter allows users to use many of the MS Word table features in Docs. Users can customize styles and backgrounds and even create their own templates. If you are using Google Docs and are looking for more table formatting options, this could be a great resource.