Saturday, January 30, 2016

Student Profiles on Google Chrome

In my school district elementary students do not yet have the privilege of individualized login credentials for our lab computers. We have a mascot login, so once the computers are started up at the beginning of the day, they stay that way. As students open Google Chrome, I have set up a mascot profile which preserves useful bookmarks and certain extensions that all benefit from using.

This does nothing to help our students learn about the power of "Link Data" in Chrome! So, my first Google training sessions for second through fifth-grade classes begins with setting up their Chrome profiles. Students have assigned computers in our main lab so it makes this task easier to manage. Students are excited to know when they go home and log into Chrome, whatever bookmarks, extensions, themes and apps  they set up at school they'll be able see at home. 

At the end of each class, it's important for students to always remember to sign out of their Google Drive to protect their stored data on our shared computers. Also important to remember that you don't sign out of Chrome, you just switch profiles. Switching profiles is as easy as a right click on the profile name to choose from a drop-down list of available users!
Here's a quick video to see how it's done:

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Bringing the "Mixtape" back with Dragontape

I grew up in the 90's and I would spend hours putting together a "mixtape" of all my favorite songs.  Dragontape has brought that back for the 21st century.  Dragontape allows you to create "mixtapes" of your favorite YouTube videos.  Dragontape uses a familiar drag 'n' drop timeline based user interface that is very similar to other video editing apps like Apple iMovie.

To find content on YouTube you enter search terms into Dragontapes built-in search box, which pulls in a bunch of thumbnails representing any clips that have been found.  You then drag and arrange those clips on the timeline of your 'tape,' and repeat! You can even trim the videos and create your very one video mixtape!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

ICE Conference Workshops and My Personal Learning Network

Welcome to the Future - Illinois Computer Educators
The 2016 ICE Conference is under a month away. It is going to be an incredible conference with so many incredible opportunities to learn. If you've been to the ICE Conference in the past you know what a great learning experience it is.
If you've never made it to the conference here are a few highlights this year:

  • Incredible Keynote and Spotlight Speakers
  • ICE & IETL Leadership Summit
  • Wednesday Build Your Own Conference
  • Over 100 full and half day workshops with some incredible EdTech Innovators
  • More Breakout Sessions than I can count on Thursday and Friday
  • Breakout Edu at ICE
  • EdCamp: ICE After Dark
  • Digital Badges
  • Tinker @ ICE
  • Google for Education at High Noon
  • ICE PLN Palooza
  • Build your PLN
I am incredibly excited by the many awesome members of my PLN who are facilitating workshops and breakout sessions. Some of the workshop facilitators from my PLN include:

Tuesday Workshops

  • Rhonda Jenkins (T-01 All Aboard the Google Train) 
  • Aida Awad & Dexter Roknich (T-10 Google Apps + Google Classroom + Collaboration)
  • Robert Schuetz & Keith Sorensen (T-24 Schoology for New Users)
Wednesday Workshops
  • Robert Schuetz & Keith Sorensen (W-05 Schoology for Advanced Users)
  • Steve Wick & Melissa Wilson W21 Engagement with Edtech and the 4Cs 
  • Karen Saad (W-31 Making Professional Development Work)
  • Joy Kirr (W-33 Passion-Based Learning Workshop)
  • Jenny Magiera (W-34 PD is Not a 4-Letter Word)
  • Andy Fekete (W-36 Stay Classy with Google Classroom!)
  • Megan Preis & Allison Sobotka (W-38 Student-Driven Instructional Coaching)
Thursday Workshops
  • Allison Gest & Adam Roubitchek (Cooperative Technology: Make it Work for You!)
  • Melissa Wilson & Steve Wick (TH-09 Digital Learning: Using Google to Enhance and Transform Your Classroom)
  • Elizabeth Marcellus & Benjamin Hartman (TH-11 Functional Feedback Using Google Apps)
  • Michael Biondo & Linda Ryan (TH-18 Open to Closed: Supporting and Sustaining Inquiry with Technology Tools)
  • Katie Aquino (TH-19 Silver Screens to Schools: Bringing Videos into the Classroom)
  • Brian Giovanini, Tania Moneim, and Brian Veit (TH-23 Using Technology to Build Your Brand)
  • Tina Sabatello (TH-24 Visible Learning: Student E-portfolios)
Friday Workshops

  • Tina Sabatello (F-03 Automate the Differentiated Feedback Process with Google Apps)
  • Michael Biondo & Alexis Liakakos (F-11 Five Fantastic Features of Formative Assessment and Supporting Tech Tools)
  • Charlene Chausis (F-09 Discovering Your Students' Learning Potential)
This is just a small sample of the many awesome workshop presenters. I can't wait for the breakout sessions to post. I have no idea how I am going to learn everything I want to learn.

Registration for the Workshops closes on February 12th.
Learn more and register on the conference Site: ICE Conference 2016

What facilitators or sessions would your recommend? 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Share to Classroom - Powerful Google Chrome Extension

"Get your class on the same (web)page, instantly."
Share to Classroom by Google

I typically use a Google Hyperdoc (Google Doc with links.) to get my students to the right online resources during an activity. Sometimes I want to move them quickly to a resource or need to make an adjustment to a lesson. The "Share to Classroom" extension is a powerful tool to save time when I need the students to visit a web page, quickly connect to a drive file, or watch a YouTube video. 

"Share to Classroom" is a Chrome Extension that connects your web browser to Google Classroom. Gone are the days of having every student copy a shortened URL. With just a few clicks, I can make sure every student in my Google Classrooms can quickly access a resource with no messy URLs. 

Key features include:
  • Push web pages from Chrome to Google Classroom.
  • Create assignments in Chrome and post them to Google Classroom.
  • Ask a Question in Chrome for students to respond in Google Classroom. (Newest Update)
  • Make announcements from Chrome that post in Google Classroom. 
  • Students can also push web pages to their teachers if they install the extension. 
  • Quickly access Google Classroom from the extension
Click here to learn more and install the extension in the Chrome WebStore.
Click here to visit Classroom Help to learn more about using the extension. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Great Chrome Extension: Google Docs Quick Create

Click the Easy button! Make opening a new Google Document, Spreadsheet, Presentation, Drawing or Form a whole lot easier with this extension: Google Docs Quick Create!

To open any of Google's apps, you usually need to be in your Google Drive, click on New and then select your desired canvas. Not any more!

  • Install the extension: Google Docs Quick Create. Once installed, the icon takes its place to the right of the Omnibox. 
  • If you are in Chrome and do not have a tab open with your Google Drive and you need to begin a new doc, sheet, presentation, drawing or form, just click on the extension and choose.       
This is one of five extensions I teach all students how to install and use. 

Timers in Student-Centered Classrooms

Over the past couple of years, I've tried to shift to a more student-centered classroom. This has been a great experience with many ups and downs. While I do sometimes miss lecturing and spewing what I know, my students and I have enjoyed the experience.

One area we frequently struggle with is time. When my students and I are engaged in an activity, we sometimes lose track of time and miss some of our objectives for a day. Sometimes this is ok because the engagement trumps the schedule, but there are times when we need to get something done.

I've used a variety of online timers and the Omnibox in Chrome to set timers. This has worked, but it always involves an extra step. 
Recently I discovered a more efficient way to time activities in my classroom. I discovered that YouTube has a timer for just about any time frame I am looking for. I've started to embed a YouTube timer on the objective or instruction page that I am projecting.

Here is an example with instructions if you want to learn more.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Why Technology in the Classroom?

We live in a world where technology is all around us. It is a blessing to many and a curse for some. The incredible growth of educational technology has flipped many teachers upside down and we often struggle to use technology effectively to enhance learning.  I believe that is easy to use technology in the classroom, but difficult to use it well. The challenge of using technology in the classroom is too often overlooked. 
Too often technology initiatives focus on "If you build it they will come." and not enough on good learning practices enhanced by technology. 

Components of using technology well in the classroom:
  • Students must be engaged in the content.
  • Content alone is not enough. Content should help students build essential skills.
  • Technology should support skills connected collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking. 
  • Technology should open doors to more learning.
  • Technology in the classroom should be learner-centered. 
  • Technology should always be used with a purpose connected to specific learning objectives. 
  • Technology cannot be an event. Good teachers seamlessly shift in and out of technology
  • Technology will never replace teachers. Teachers must facilitate the learning, not the technology. 
  • Technology is an enhancement to good lessons. It will not transform a bad lesson into something better. 
  • Technology should open the doors to new questions. Questions are often more important than answers.
I recently put together a presentation that I designed to explain why I am motivated to use technology. What more would you add to help inspire teachers to use technology well?

Monday, January 18, 2016

Chrome Extension of the Week: Cite This For Me: Web Citer

It’s research season, and there is a Chrome Extension that will help alleviate all of your MLA, APA, and other citation woes. Cite This For Me automatically creates website citations for people with just a click of the mouse. This extension allows users the option to create citations without having to leave the website they are currently viewing. From there, users can copy and paste into a works cited page or store in the extension’s online bibliography for later use. Cite This For Me is easy, quick, and efficient...a perfect option for students during their unit of research.
  • Click here to download the extension
  • Click here to see the extension in action

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

IE in Chrome!

Image result for ie tab chromeHave you ever tried to use on Chrome? It doesn't work . . . no problem, just use IE Tab and you'll be able to create a wordle in Chrome!

With IE Tab, you are able to display web pages using IE within Chrome. Sites that use Java, Silverlight, ActiveX, Sharepoint, and more are now accessible!

Install the extension and when you come to a site that does not ordinarily display in Chrome, just click on the icon and it will open as if using IE.

Speaking of word cloud generators, have you tried Tagxedo? It's Wordle on steroids! Choose from many shapes and create dramatic word clouds! Don't forget to use IE Tab on this site too!

Must Have Chrome Extensions

Google’s Chrome browser is already pretty great. But there are plenty of ways to make it better — like downloading extensions.
Extensions are essentially small apps that add extra features to a Web browser. Google has dozens of extensions available in the Chrome Web Store.
You can manage Chrome extensions by pressing the menu icon in the upper right-hand corner of the browser, selecting the “More tools” option, and choosing “Extensions.” After installing an extension in Chrome, you’ll typically see a tiny icon for them appear next to the URL field.
Here are a few Google Chrome extensions I have recently discovered that I like the most.
LastPass: Free Password Manager:  Remembering your password for multiple websites can be a hassle. Plus, it can be difficult to brainstorm passwords that are both unique and easy to remember for each new online account you create. LastPass wants to make this process simpler by generating new secure passwords each time you log into a website. After installing the Chrome extension, you can enter account credentials for websites you’d like LastPass to remember. The service will also ask you if you’d like it to remember certain login information whenever you sign in to a website in Chrome.
StayFocused:  When you are sitting in front of a computer with a task at hand, it can be easy to get distracted by Facebook, Twitter, and the countless news articles flooding the Web each day. StayFocusd is designed to help you avoid those distractions — or just enjoy them in moderation. The extension allows you to set a specific time restriction on certain websites, with 10 minutes being the default option.
Sidenotes:  Sidenotes is an excellent tool for jotting things down quickly as you peruse the Web. As its name implies, the extension launches a blank notepad in a sidebar alongside a website so that you can take notes without having to switch between apps or windows. Those notes are then saved to Dropbox so you can access them later.
FlashTabs: If you’ve ever struggled with studying for a test or learning a new language while keeping up with your other responsibilities, the FlashTabs extension for Google Chrome might be helpful. The extension will show you a new flash card each time you launch a new tab in Chrome, providing an opportunity to study as you go about your other daily tasks.
Tab Wrangler: Leaving too many tabs open in your browser can get disorienting and distracting, especially when you’re trying to get work done. Tab Wrangler takes care of that dilemma by automatically closing tabs after they’ve been inactive for a designated period of time. It only closes tabs that aren’t pinned, and you can choose to lock tabs that you want to keep open even when you’re not browsing in them. Closed tabs are easy to recover, too; just click the Tab Wrangler icon to see a list of closed sites.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Become a Connected Educator

The purpose of a Personal Learning Network is not to learn from everyone. Instead, the goal should be to learn something from someone. I will be the first to admit that I struggled to get started with Social Networks. In particular, I struggled with the sometimes overwhelming pace of information that can be found on networks like Twitter. When I realized that it was ok to miss something on Twitter, it became my go-to resource to grow as a teacher and learner. 

Want to build or expand your PLN?

Additional Resources to  Build Your Digital PLN and Connect with Other Teachers:

Ideas to Build your Face to Face PLN
  • Go to lunch and sit with teachers from other subject areas. 
  • Visit the office of another team or department to hang out or talk shop. 
  • Visit another teacher's classroom. 
  • Present at a local conference. 
  • Join and attend a professional group connected to your teaching.
  • Attend an EdCamp (This is by far my favorite!) 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Chrome Extension Allows you to Write in 70+ Languages

Awesome Chrome extension allows users to type in more than 70 different languages anywhere on the web!

The extension is called Google Input Tools.  You'll be able to type in a different language with the click of the mouse and switch back just as easily.

After installing the extension you need to set it up. Click on the extension icon and select Extension Options in the menu. A new tab will open. Here you can select the languages or input methods to meet your needs. You can always return to this selection page to add or remove language options.

To use Google Input Tools, simply click on the extension icon, select the desired language and then click on any text box on the web page (or in a Google Doc) and type. To turn it off, simply click on the extension icon again to switch back.

I know you're probably thinking, "I already use Google's translating feature." That is obviously an outstanding feature. However, in certain languages, a literal translation from English oftentimes does not make sense. This extension allows users to convert sounds of languages into correct words, not take the meaning. For example, to type the characters for the word "hello" in Chinese (你好) you have to use the sounds "ni hao," and then hit the space bar to pull in the correct characters.

If you can write in a different language, there are also handwriting options available through the extension.

For a quick review about the extension, check out this video.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Get Quick Test Results with GradeCam

 GradeCamHave you heard about GradeCam? Using this site, teachers can grade multiple-choice assessments in a flash! 

Here's how it works.
  1. Create a multiple-choice assessment (up to 100 questions).
  2. Sign up with GradeCam for free and get 60 days of full service for free.  
  3. GradeCam will install a couple of necessary plug-ins and ask for permission to use your webcam or document reader. 
  4. Create a class and add students in GradeCam. Students are given a unique GradeCam id, or you can simply use their student ID. 
  5. Create an Assignment. The assignment becomes the multiple-choice key used to score your assessment. Complete the general description and then assign the correct multiple-choice answers and give point values for each question. 
  6. Print your GradeCam answer documents for your class. You have two choices, blank forms where students would bubble in their unique id; or an answer document that has the unique id bubbled in for each student and also prints the student name in the upper left-hand corner. (Make sure to select the correct amount of questions). 
  7. Choose the class and select Student Mode. This opens the camera and 
  8. Students take the assessment and use the answer document to bubble in their answer choices. When they are finished, they simply walk over to your computer, allow the webcam or document camera to "see" the sheet and it instantly gives the student the results. 
When all tests are complete, you can take a look at a detailed analysis of the assessment. Viewing the Item Analysis reveals answers in a graph format. 

The site also allows grades to be exported right into most types of online grade books. 

Overall, this is so fast. Students get results right away, you don't have to spend any time grading, and the scores get entered right into your grade book! 

After the 60 days of free service, you do have to subscribe. Subscriptions are $15 a month. There are ways to gain free months by sharing the site with other educators! Spread the word . . . GradeCam is awesome!

Here's the site: 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A New Year...A New You

Happy New Year! Don’t you worry...
Chrome Apps and Extensions can help you stay healthy in 2016!

Chrome Extension of the Week - Move It
Get students moving in your classroom! Sitting all day is exhausting, and this is a reason why students lose focus during the school day. Move It is an impressive Chrome Extension that encourages physical activity, and it can easily be used in the classroom. Click here for more information about Move It and to download the extension.

Chrome App of the Week - Fat Cat Workout - 7 Minutes
This 7 minute Chrome app provides a quick, efficient workout that can be done at work or at home. Fat Cat Workout provides 12 exercises - 30 seconds per exercise with a 10 second break - and also displays a countdown timer and visual of the exercise. Choose from the following workout options: Fat Cat, traditional workout, or desk workout. Click here to download the app and get moving!