Friday, December 20, 2013

A Champion for Every Student!

Being a champion to each and every student each and every day is a great goal for each of us for the New Year.  On this last day before break I know that many teachers are tired, ready for a break and have given 2013 their all because you are CHAMPIONS!

Have a great holiday break and enjoy this message:

LucidPress - Online Print and Digital Media

Transitioning our students from a Microsoft Office setting to Google Docs with a Chromebook has meant that we have turned to the web to find other resources to do some of the things that we have done before and are not ready to give up.  Creating professional looking print media (reports, newsletters, presentations, flyers, books, etc) can be done with Google Docs, but variety and formatting option are often limited.  LucidPress is the answer and it is a great tool!
LucidPress is a great solution to publishing and presenting.  The great news is that students and staff with Google Apps for Education can log in with their Google accounts easily by clicking on the Google button that appears after clicking "sign in" from the top right-hand corner.  This will link your Google Drive to LucidPress so that you can save documents into a LucidPress folder in Google Drive. In addition, you will  find that when you click "create" in Google Drive, LucidPress will be a new choice in your options for the type of document you would like to create.  LucidPress is collaborative just as you find with other Google Docs so you and your peers can work together to create dynamic media together.
There are just too many great things about LucidPress to talk about so I have included their 60 second video introduction and a short list of the things I love about LucidPress below.  Enjoy!
What I love about LucidPress:

  • It works on a Chromebook!
  • It allows kids to sign in with Google Accounts
  • It integrates with Google Drive
  • It is collaborative
  • It has many creative options
  • It looks professional
  • It prints well and looks great digitally
  • It is easy to use -  mostly drag and drop
  • They have Tutorials!
I could go on, and on, and on!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Screencasting Made Easy - Using Screenr

As we approach the winter break I am sure you are thinking, "Boy, what will I do with all this time on my hands?  No students, no papers to grade, no lessons to plan for."  I have a great solution, try some screencasting! (You know I am joking, right?)
If you are unfamiliar with the concept of screencasting, screencasting is when you make a digital recording or simple movie of the output of your computer.  It often includes audio and is commonly one of the tools used to flip lessons in a flipped classroom.  Screencasting can be intimidating, although the benefits of teaching using screencasting certainly outweigh the effort.  A screencast of the steps to complete a task in a classroom can reach students at many levels.  It is an easy way to differentiate as students can replay the steps as many times as needed, parents can watch then assist their children in the steps you have given and you have an easy review for classroom assessments. Some teachers even use screencasting as an assessment by having students create a screencast of a topic to demonstrate understanding.

Want to give it a try?  One tool you might start with is Screenr.
This online tool is easy, simple and will work with the district laptops.  You have a built in microphone so no additional equipment is needed.  Consider screencasting a lesson in January. Give it a try!
The tutorial on the main page from Screenr will help you get started. Video can also be seen at

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Docs Quickly Extension - 2 Clicks!

All people are different and have different tolerance levels for different things that occur in a day.  One thing that I know about myself is that I have a low"click tolerance".  
Click Tolerance in the Rachel Yurk dictionary is defined as:  The number of times one must "Click" the mouse to navigate the to the desired resource. 
In my world that tolerance level tends to be on the low side.  Which means I get annoyed when I have to click many times to go where I want to go on the computer.  Think about the process of opening a Google Doc, Sheet, Presentation, Form, etc.  While there are many ways to do that, I find that having one easy way to launch a new doc satisfies my desire for fewer clicks in life.
This great extension appears along side the URL bar in your Chrome Browser as a folder with a Green +.  When you click on the folder the image below appears allowing you to launch a Doc, Presentation, Spreadsheet, or Drawing.  I counted, TWO CLICKS!  Love it!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Google Launches Google Tips

This week Google launched a new site called Google Tips.  

This great site is well organized into the different tools using cards of which you flip that give you tips on how to use their products. The products included in the ips are Google Search, Gmail, Google Chrome, Android devices, YouTube, Maps, Docs, Drive, Play, Calendar, Keep, News and Google+.   As you can see below, the Tips page is organized into cards.  Each card contains a sentence about the tip and the icon of what Google product it relates to.

Upon opening the card, it flips over and loads the content.  It give you a small supply list of things you need to use this idea as well as step by step directions on how to try out the tip.  I opened the tip "Ask Google to fetch your stuff" from the card above and this is what I found.

Once I have read the tip, I can rate its usefulness, suggest a tip for Google to make another card for, and even share it on many social sites like Google+, Twitter, Facebook or through email.   This site is bound to grow as people make suggestions.  What an exciting way to learn what you want when you want it!

Hour of Code Challenge - I challenge you!!!

That's right, I challenge you.  Are you ready?  Are you up to it?  Give one hour, progress through tutorials, have fun with Angry Birds and Zombies.  Complete the Hour of Code and print your certificate.  Display in proudly on your door as I will be looking for it!

The Challenge:

Recently there have been many blogs, articles and information on educational sites regarding "The Hour of Code" and computer science in the classroom.  Computer Science in Education week, which is from December 9-15 is attempting to recruit 10 million to try the Hour of Code.   As of right now the numbers of participants are really impressive.  According to the site, they have reached over 12 million!

Yesterday I sat down to explore what this was all about.  I am not a master of code, nor have I ever felt confident that this is something I could learn with ease.  I have played with the program "Scratch" which works much the same way that this tutorial will teach The Hour of Code, but I still did not have confidence.  However, I did it!  I did the Hour of Code (and it only took about 20 minutes!  I even got a certificate of completion!  YEA!

I highly recommend you give this experience a try with your students.  Go to Hour of Code and click "START".  Click "Go" on this tutorial.

Students are guided by tutorials led by famous people like Mark Zuckerburg of Facebook or Bill Gates of Microsoft!  Automatically an introductory video shown below will begin and students are off!

As a teacher, the week before break has always posed a challenge.  Kids are ready to be home with family, enjoy freshly fallen snow and holiday fun.  Keeping them engaged is a challenge.  By using the Hour of Code, you could set them off on an adventure that they can come back to over break and learn even more.  Additional lessons on this site could keep them entertained and learning great stuff over break.  Doesn't this look like fun?

Some additional reading on the importance of learning code, Computer Science and more can be found at the links below.  Are you up for the Hour of Code Challenge?  Are your Students?

Microsoft's 'Hour of Code' teaches students at Brownell/Holmes Elementary computer programming basics
Millions Participate in the Hour of Code

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

News for Kids - At their Level.

At the SLATE Conference this week I attended a session on Blogging and backchannels in the classroom.  While the presentation was not about literacy specifically, there were a number of resources discussed that encourage digitally literacy.  One in particular that I got excited about was Newsela because it can be used with Google Docs and encourages the use of non-fiction reading strategies while providing literacy at the student's level.  It is like the classroom trifecta!  It is collaborative, literacy based, and naturally integrates the use of technology.
Newsela is an innovative way for students to access relevant non-fiction resources from today's news. As a teacher, you register your class and this resource brings an article at various lexile levels from grade 4 to college-level.  Articles also have assessments that are aligned to common core.  Teachers can assign articles, monitor progress with assessments and track common core mastery.
The presenter shared that he has students send the article to their Google Drive, share it and then make comments on the article as they read.  Their thinking as they read is digitally highlighted, comments are recorded and kids are engaged while learning.  Such a great resource, how will you use it?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

OK Google Show Us What You've Got!

Recently Google launched a new extension that might be very useful for students.  It is called, Google Voice Search Hotword.  This extension, when downloaded, allows you to talk to Google, hands-free, no typing. Once on the Google search page, simply say, "OK Google" and then ask your question.  The extension sends your question to Google only when it hears you begin with the catch phrase: "OK Google".
For some students who are not strong spellers, a Google search is difficult.  Students with poor typing or even vision difficulties might find this is helpful as they do not need to navigate to the tiny microphone icon that appears in the Google Search Bar.  Yikes that is small! For some of us the idea of our computer just laying in wait listening until we command it is creepy but for a student who struggles, this might be a life saver!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Sumo Paint - Creativity and Usefulness!

SumoPaint is a great drawing tool with advanced features is is hard to believe that it is free.  The above graphic was created using SumoPaint in a manner of minutes!  This online resource does not require any log in, email and allows you to save your drawing in jpg or png formats.  What makes this an exciting classroom tool besides the above mentioned features, is that this tool allows you to begin a drawing with an image that you upload from your computer.  So, what if students were to upload and label a map, an image to label or something to add information learned to?  Students have so many creative elements we often do not tap into and this might be a way to reach some of them.  Could students design a class, team or personal logo?  The possibilities are endless with such a great tool.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Math Support

Sometimes you just need a little help.  Jenny Eather's Maths Dictionary and Printable Posters for kids is a great resource for kids Elementary to beginning algebra.  The dictionary contains hundreds of terms, examples, animations and colorful explanations.  All terms are laid out alphabetically in such a way as to make it useful for kids who might not be the best spellers and then dictionaries are difficult.  This site is great.  The poster site is a great place to seek out for printable posters and pages for the classroom.  The posters are colorful and helpful with examples and clear illustrations.  Why reinvent the wheel when you begin the next unit?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Peanut Gallery Silent Films

Peanut Gallery, a fun Chrome experiment lets you explore with new technology using the old fashioned media - silent films and text cards.  You launch Peanut Gallery, select a film to use, allow the use of your microphone and explore.  As you speak the actions of the film, the computer translates your speech to text and places them in the movie.  A variety of movie scenes make this a ton of fun.  When your movie is complete you can retitle the movie, and collect the URL of the movie you have created. Peanut Gallery would be a great activity for kids to use to explore characters, settings and new vocabulary.  Have a little fun with the Peanut Gallery!

Google's introductory video is here:

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Socrative Classroom - Student Response Easy!

Every teacher wishes they had a better handle of student understanding as they progress through a lesson they are teaching.  Teachers know there are shy students who do not raise their hands to ask questions, rarely demonstrate their knowledge around others or are simply content to let others do the participation for them.  We often have students complete Exit Slips as they leave the room to demonstrate how much we might need to reteach, or specifically which students we need to target.  But what if that feedback could be instantaneous and didn't require you to take on additional grading of papers each night?
Socrative, a digital student response system that works on computers, tablets, iPods, Chromebooks, etc. is a simple solution to this tool.  Students in a Chromebook Classroom can participate using a Chromebook but in other classrooms using the laptop carts or the BYOD open network can have students bring in those devices to be used in class purposefully.
Teachers control the questions posed to the class, watch results and monitor the feedback of the class.  Socrative will even email the teachers a summary of the class results for review and further study later.  This is a great way to gather feedback from kids in real-time while collecting data that is useful for further instruction.  A quick introductory video can be viewed here.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Comic Relief!

Comic Strip humor has always been fun for kids and as they get older and can appreciate more mature humor they become increasingly aware of comics.  One of the commonly used resources for creating comics requires the use of an app or a subscription.  While it is creative and fun, it isn't usable for all in that format.  One tool that has been around for some time is Make Beliefs Comix.  This online comic Strip creator does not require you to have an account, log in or learn a tough interface.  See the sample I created below.  Make Beliefs Comix is nice as you can easily create 2-4 pane comics, there is a good variety of characters in various poses as well as backgrounds and objects.  Once you have created your comic, you can email the comic to someone or print it out to share.  There are many ideas on the Make Beliefs Comix if you click on "for educators" at the bottom of the main page.  I think there is great value for kids to do a quick exit slip of a character explaining a topic or term, a demonstration of a foreign language, or new vocabulary in context.  This could even be used by the educator to assign homework as a character from a book being read in the class.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Scribble Maps

Scribble Maps is a great resource for those working with geographical information within the curriculum.  This tool uses Google Maps and allows you to annotate or scribble over the map to demonstrate geographical information, routes, or other information.  Below you will find the first of many tutorials on the use of Scribble Maps.  This one is the introductory video.  It covers the basic information you need to know to annotate over a map of your choice, save, return to a saved map, or share a map with others.  I can think of countless ideas on how you might incorporate Scribble Maps into the classroom.  Here are just a few:

  1. Have students keep a map of the travels of a character in a story and note the events occurring in each location.
  2. Map major events in history on a world map for a specific day in history.
  3. Follow the travels of an important event in history (Oregon Trail).
  4. Have students demonstrate on a map the travels of their family.
  5. Buddy with other classes across the country using Google Hangouts and send each class your map and password so that they can mark their location on the map.
  6. Map current events of the week/month as they are discussed in class.
  7. Scribble Maps can be embedded in a class blog allowing each student to be assigned a state or region of which to annotate and share on the class blog.
  8. Follow a famous voyage such as Christopher Columbus.
  9. Map out a race like the Iditarod.
  10. Explore the route and distance between locations.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Civics Lessons that Anyone Would Love

Sometimes engaging games for kids around subjects that are sometimes hard to find.  iCivics is a site that is anything but boring and something that students from middle to high school would love!  While this website has many different games and resources that I am sure need to be explored, I got stuck playing "Do I have a right?" for far longer than I should have.  Students do not need to log in to play but gain the chance to save a game when they do.  The game I played allowed me to manage a law firm and hire different lawyers that focus on various civics lessons.  Clients come in office and get assigned to the lawyer that specializes in their case.  Resources are available to look up information about the law as you decide which laws might apply to the case.  The individuals who "show up" to consult with the lawyer encourage the player to look at the real life possibilities surrounding the laws we have.
While the game is interesting I couldn't help but think of the fantastic discussions that would surround some of the cases in a classroom.  Great content for students.  I did not spend a lot of time in the teacher's section but from what I did see, it is full of information for teachers including lesson plans, activities and ideas surrounding many topics for all ages middle to high school.
This is certainly a resource not to be missed! To see if iCivics covers areas of your curriculum, check out their scope and sequence information here.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Art Pad - Digital Canvas or Academic Tutorial Creation

I do not consider myself to be much of an artist.  Creativity is not my strongpoint as evidence by my example, but those of you that are might really enjoy Art Pad, a digital canvas that creates a video of your creation as it was digitally created.  This might be a great SMART board activity in which you use the ease of writing on the SMART board to create your masterpiece the share out the creation through the link as I have below.
Academic value might be added for teachers or students to create a demonstration of a mathematical process and submit it for another person to explain or narrate.  Anything in the creation process that is undone by the artist is not seen in the finished product.  However, a nice feature is that once someone sends you a completed canvas you have the option to add to that canvas.  The great thing about this is that a student could submit work, a teacher could watch it and add corrections or changes and email it back!  Great teaching tool that we can make great use of through email as our communication.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Collaborative Whiteboard

The idea of a flexible workspace for students and adults online is exciting.  Add the ability to collaborate with others while sharing and demonstrating learning, makes it all even better.  Two new tools, each with their own advantages and limitations might suite the needs of your classroom.

A Web Whiteboard is an app that allows you to use your device to draw sketches, add text and collaborate with others while you show your ideas.  AWW is great for students as it does not require an account and allows kids a simple interface without too many options.  However, in many circumstances, that is limiting.
AWW allows you to freehand draw with many great colors and sizes of pen.  It allows you to add simple text, but not to reposition the text on the page which can be frustrating.  There are no shape tools nor are you able to import an image or drawing to the canvas.
AWW's collaboration feature makes working with others super easy.  Click on "Invite" and you are given a URL to share with others so that they can draw and share along with you.  Once you are done having others share with you, if you click "share" again you can stop sharing with others.  Kind of a nice feature to revoke the ability for collaboration.
When the Whiteboard is complete if you click "Post" you are taken to a screen where you can see the board full size and then can grab the URL to share.
A Web Whiteboard is an interesting tool for the classroom that I think kids might really enjoy.  There is great potential here and it is clear this is a tool ripe for further development.

**At the bottom of the homepage A Web Whiteboard asks "Are you a Teacher?"  If you click on this link you are taken to a page where you can sign up for their soon-to-come features as indicated and shared: "Using A Web Whiteboard in classes?  Soon, we're adding ability to store and reuse your boards, duplicate them and invite view-only participants to the board."

Another example of a collaborative board with some more options is RealTimeBoard.  This is similar in that it is an online collaborative Whiteboard but has many more features. RealTime, however, does require each user to sign in.  You can sign in through your Google account for the Free access.  Free means you have three boards however at this site, you can sign up for a free Education upgrade which would give you unlimited private boards to use.  There is Google Apps for Education and Google Drive integration which could be huge.  There is even an Chrome Extension that can be added.  I am not sure that this would be a tool that I would use for kids, but this would be great for a group of teachers or for a unique teaching tool.
RealTimeBoard offers a great introductory video that will give you an idea of the possibilities of this tool.

Teachers are Always Learning

I have been seeing a lot of hype this week about the new courses put out by Google in Education and have finally had a moment to sit down and take a look myself.  These courses are meant for learners at all levels.  While a Google account is required to track your progress through the course, there is no fee. Courses are based on videos, toolkits and reflection questions to build skills.  Courses are available in the following subjects:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Using KHANACADEMY for Practice - Guest Post

The following is a guest post by the talented Nancy Dohr. She and several other teachers at Bay Lane have been using this tool and I was so impressed with their use, I had her do a guest post. If you or a team of fabulous Muskego-Norway School educators are interested in sharing a tool, resource or strategy, let me know we would love to share your technology use directly from the classroom here! Thanks Nancy!

Need more targeted skill practice for your math students? Look no further as the KhanAcademy for math is now available. Use khanacademy not only for video tutorial support but now for skill practice that students can work through at their own pace! using their school gmail accounts, a teacher can create a class for students to join. This allows you as a teacher to see the following things about your individual student: Time spent practicing, Topics struggling with, and Topics Mastered. In addition it allows you to make recommendations to specific students on the tasks they should be working on or need more practice. This is currently being used by several Bay Lane teachers.

In addition to managing individual students, you can get an overview of how your class is doing by looking at the skill progress  on the coach page (if you have a class). Simply click on the different colored bar to get a more detailed look for groupings of students.

Student Views:
This is the student homepage. It gives students topics to practice in order. If you recommend a topic it automatically goes to the top of that list. Students get instant feedback by trying to get the mission progress on the right of their screen to be all dark blue.

This is the view as if you are walking through a lesson. It allows for support at the child’s need. It has a hint and video option to help the child complete the task if they need it. It also sets a goal for the student to get 5 in a row.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Google Story Builder

Google Story Builder could be a great way to make creative videos.  It will create a video of what it might look like if several people were editing a document at one time.  you can do fun things like creative names for individuals to personalized or add interest.  It could be used to demonstrate an idea, introduce a topic, show a side of a character that might not otherwise be seen, etc.  Some ideas for students might be:

Using Google Story Builder:
  • create a conversation between a modern day character or persona and a historical figure
  • create a conversation between two characters in a story you are reading
  • create a conversation between two characters in two different stories
  • demonstrate a made up or real interview a famous person or character 
  • demonstrate proper behavior by showing a conversation in the lunch room, classroom, bus or other common school location
  • demonstrate or explain a scientific or mathematical process to another individual through speech
  • create a conversation in another language you are studying
  • explain or define in the conversations a topic from content in any class
Story builder is a great tool that can easily be incorporated into any classroom to add some interest. Here is a great tutorial on Google Story Builder using Charlotte's Web.

Help! My Big Black Bar is Gone!

While the title is an exaggeration, I have heard as many comments about this as I have cheers for the tool's disappearance over the last week or so. So here's the scoop:

The infamous Big Black bar that has supported us in our navigation though the Google Apps has been replaced.  If not for you yet, it will be as we roll through updates in the district it will be soon.  It was replaced by what I have heard referred to as the 3x3 grid or the white bar.  Not sure what Google is calling it but it looks like this in the top corner of a Google screen:

So, what does one do instead?  There are several options, besides just getting used to the new system.  One option I have read great reviews about is an extension called Black Menu.  Black Menu can be added through the above link or by searching Black Menu in the Google Chrome Store.  Make sure you look to the extension section for it and click the Blue Free button to add it to Chrome.  It will add an icon next to the address bar of Google Chrome that appears like this: 
Once you set it up by giving permissions and following the directions, you will find it becomes a great tool and even introduces you to some tools you might not be using.  I like that i can quickly mouse over the news section and see quick headlines or glance at email or calendar items.

I also frequently hear from people that without the apps icons or black bar to navigate, people do not know how to get to certain tools.  While we have provided links on the district website for gMail access, each of these tools has a website address.  Some of those you might use often are listed below. Remember the icons are really only links to these URLs.

Google Calendar:
Google Drive:
Google Sites:

Friday, November 1, 2013

Grammar Checking and Spelling Tool

Another great app, easily added to the Chrome Apps options or as an extension, is the Spell and Grammar Checker by Ginger.  This is a great tool for improving word choice, sentence structure and grammar as well as an added spell checker.  Like many apps there is a paid version of the tool that would add voice and speech capabilities to the tool, it seems as if the free version might be worth looking at.
Simply copy and past text into the text box after launching the app and watch it work.  For the text and spelling options I tested it with, it worked great.
The extension is more advanced as it works within the documents that you use in Chrome to check the text you enter as you type.  This might be something that is far too distracting for students learning to type and making frequent errors, but it also might be something that would help them better monitor text as it is entered rather than watching fingers on the keyboard.  Only way to know is to give it a try. A video is inserted below that demonstrates the extension.  Give this one a try.  Please share your opinion as to how it works in the classroom setting.

Fraction Strips Made Easy - Digitally!

Teaching fractions can be such a difficult concept for kids.  Memories of creating fraction strips with 30 students and trying very hard to get them to fold them into thirds, or fifth, or ninths still makes me break out in hives.  You can imagine my excitement when I found Fraction Wall a digital fraction strip creator!
The fraction wall will help students learn equivalent fractions.  Students click on the parts of the whole to indicate different fractions.  This app also has boxes, which can be hidden, that show the value of the fraction selected.  Least common multiple can also be calculated with this app making adding, subtracting, or comparing fractions visual for students.  

An image of the app's dashboard is shown below.  This might be a great app to automatically add to the student accounts!

The video tutorial is below!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Background Music for Projects

About a month ago YouTube launched a great resource for educators.  They added a music library from which you can preview and download background music for movies, projects and general use.  The policies for this library of music allow you to use them for creative purposes as they are Royalty Free.  From the Google Blog:

Any YouTube creator now has access to more than 150 royalty-free instrumental tracks you can use for free, forever, for any creative purpose (not just YouTube videos). You’ll find a link to the library in your video manager and you can browse the tracks by mood, genre, instrument and duration. The tracks can be downloaded as 320 Kbps MP3 files."  

The library can be found that this site.  I listened to a few of the tracks found and could instantly think of some great classroom connections.  There is no doubt that some of the best videos are made even better because of the music track beneath the video.  YouTube explores just that in their blog post about this new resource.  I am wondering what creative educators and their students making use of these soundtracks might be able to use.

Discovery Virtual Conference

Discovery Education is a great resource to the district for many reasons.  I think that teachers have been really enjoying the media access they have but what about all the others things? This past weekend Discovery ran the Discovery Virtual Conference.  This conference is all online streamed through the Internet.  You attend virtually or by meeting others and logging in together.  While we have held virtual conference meetings in the district in the past, this year it was not possible.  If you were fortunate enough to attend from the comfort of your home, good for you!  If you didn't attend or are just reading about it here, you can still participate! Each of the amazing sessions were recorded and have bee archived at this site.  Some amazing experts and Discovery speakers shared on Saturday and these are not to be missed.  Check them out!  Discovery Virtual Conference Archives

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Search and Find - Google Search Tips

I have been seeing a lot of great posts that offer Google search tips for for efficient searching.  Some are lists, others a little more.  I often find myself filtering as I read with the education lens.  Would a teacher use this?  What teacher would find this helpful?  Could you teach this to kids?  How would kids remember this?  As a result I decided to write this post. Google search tips pulled together with the educator in mind.

  1. Keep it Simple - with a Google search less is more.  You will get a broader result from a query that is a few words versus a sentence.  So if you find yourself searching using a phrase, try shortening it to one or two words and see how your results change.
  2. Use Quotes - If you are searching for an exact match in your results search using quotation marks in you search.  For example searching "I have a dream" will bring over 17 million results that are the exact wording as you searched.  However, if you search simply I have a dream without quotation marks, you have a broader search that also includes the speech itself, but  other resources bringing the resource list over 222 million hits.
  3. Case  - Search is NOT case sensitive.  It will make no difference if you search New York City or new york city.  Although that pains us as educators, it might make things more efficient for a student who is not so proficient with the shift key.
  4. Search a site - If you know something is found on a specific website but cannot locate the information, Google Search the site!  After your search terms include site: and the name of the website.  for example to find the educator effectiveness section on the WI DPI site you would search educator effectiveness site:
  5. Don't Punctuate - Search will ignore punctuation in your search query.  If you search best coffee house muskego?, you will get the same results as best coffee house muskego.
  6. Find Related Pages - If you have a great page but would like to find another source to check reliability, search for related sites but entering the word related: followed by the website of the address you are looking to find a related site for.
  7. Definitions - Search will find definitions for you!  Search define: and the word you are looking to find a definition for.
  8. Calculate - You might not want to share this one, but if you type any equation into the search bar, Google search will calculate the problem and offer the answer.
  9. Shake it up! - If you teach about earthquakes, each day you share the earthquake activity by getting the US Geological Survey data on recent earthquake activity by typing earthquake in the search bar.
  10. Speak up - Search using the microphone!  In the Google search bar there is a microphone which will allow you to speak your search terms instead of typing the words.  For some students this might be very helpful.  Chromebooks all have microphones built in!
  11. File Type Search - Do a search for a specific file type like a Powerpoint.  Search like this:  your search topic filetype:ppt 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Google Doc - Drawing App

A tool readily available and likely under used for it's potential in the classroom is Google's Drawing tool.  This app, found in the same place as Docs, Presentation, Spreadsheet, and Forms, is a canvas on which you can create a drawing, mind map or poster to name a few ideas, for use in the classroom or easily within any of the other Google Apps.  What I really like about Google Drawing is that it follows the same sharing format as the other apps within Google, allowing you to set share settings.  This tool would be invaluable in creating math assessments and maps or diagrams as you can insert an image to the canvas and then work from that image.  A basic "how to " follows, but consider possibilities as you create with Google Drawing App.

  1. From your Google Drive click "Create"
  2. Select Drawing from the drop down menu.
    Following the steps below and the image above, work with your drawing to create a great image.
  3. Name your drawing for sharing and storage in Google Drive.
  4. The checkered canvas is your work space and although checkered, this does not show when the image is saved.  This is your work space.  You can click the image icon and bring in resources from your computer here.
  5. Use the drawing and shape tools to point out important area or to create the image you want to display.
  6. Use text boxes to give directions, Label items or add text features.  In the Insert drop down menu you will find Word Art and tables that might be helpful within your image.
  7. When you are done creating your image share as you would any other Google Doc using the Share button.
  8. You can also download your image to your computer under the file menu if you would like to use the image in another area.  Download options include saving as a jpeg or pdf.  

If you want any help working with Google Drawing, let your Technology Integrators know and we would be happy to work with you!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Photo Editing for All!

Photo editing is all the rage.  Taking a good photo has become easier as we all carry devices capable of capturing an image quickly and easily.  It is rare to find a resource that allows kids to manipulate images easily, see results and does not require them to give an email or create an account.  With the use of Chromebooks in our schools, that type of resource is really valuable.
Enter iPiccy!
iPiccy,  found here, begins with the simple steps of uploading rather than logging in.  Perfect for students that need to adjust, resize, brighten, or give a simple effect to an image without creating an account or personal information.  Using iPiccy is simple:

  1. From the website, click Start Editing.
  2. Click the Upload Photo button.
  3. Use the tabs across the top or along the sides of the image to change the image as you need.  
  4. Once you have altered the image you then re-save the image and have the option of changing it to a few formats and size ranges.

This is a simple tool with fantastic results that is one to keep on the list.  If you want help with some of the great photo effects or need a quick tutorial, let your Tech Integrators know!

Be a Connected Educator!

October is Connected Educator month!  Beginning in 2012 the U.S. Department of Education held the first ever Connected Educator Month.  Based on the success of this first event, educators requested a second event to be help this month.  The emphasis for the 2013 event will be, "helping districts promote and integrate online social learning in their formal professional development" ( With goals and themes surrounding personalized learning, Innovating Literacy, "connecting"educators, and supporting collaboration and innovation in professional development, I immediately saw a correlation to the work being done in the Muskego-Norway Schools.
In the many resources found on the Connected Educator Month site, there are a few that are worth pointing out.  Depending on your level of interest, time, and comfort there is certainly something for everything among these resources:

  • Sign up!  Fill out the form at this link and begin to get regular updates of the events including webinars, forums, collaborative projects, contests and information about what is going on.
  • Download the Connected Educator Month Starter Kit - This PDF is full of a 31-day plan to becoming a more connected educator.  Filled with embedded videos, great ideas and resources to try each day, this interactive document might be something worth downloading and looking over.  Even if you just try a few of the ideas, it is very well done with the help of respected educators from all areas of the country.
  • Launch the EdConnectr and create an account to find other educators across the country with similar interests with which you can build a Professional Learning Network.  This tool will ask you professional questions search the database of other educators and make suggestions for others that you might want to form connections with.  
  • Calendar of events - A full calendar of events and activities are available each day.  These events are organized based on various strands, audiences and topics.  They range from personalized learning, Google Apps, Flipped Classrooms, pedagogical discussions and much more.  Check it out and dive into some great opportunities!
Finally, from the main page you will find a very diverse blog called. "Innovation Exchange" that you might find to be useful and informative.  This blog features a unique collection of authors and a very broad variety of topics that are sure to offer something for everyone in education.  I hope you find some of the resources on this site to be of interest and have a HAPPY CONNECTED EDUCATOR month!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Templates Galore

Google Template Gallery is an amazing resource for teachers and students to explore.  It is something we have included in the Google in the Classroom Resource Site for teachers, but also something worth reviewing here.  Much like you add an app or extension, the Google Template Gallery can be added as an addition that shows up in the menu of your Google Drive.  To add it follow these steps:

  1. Open your Google Drive.
    Step #2
  2. Click Create and look to the bottom of the menu that appears to find "Connect More Apps as shown in the image on the right labeled Step #2
  3. Click on "Connect more apps" and in the box that appears search using "Template Gallery".  You want to "connect" the one that looks like the image below by selecting "Connect".
  4. Once you do this you will be asked permission, click "OK".  Now when you click "Create" from your Google Drive, you should notice the Google Template Gallery is an option.  
  5. Choose "From Template" and a new window will open that allows you to select from some Muskego-Norway templates or from the public templates.  Explore!
In the Categories area select Students & Teachers and you will be amazed at all the templates you can find, view and use.  Some that might be really great are certificates, Cornell Notes, Parent Conference forms, reading logs, etc.

Once you find a template you like, you can view the document, and if you decide to use it click "use this template".  It will be placed in your Google Drive with a title of "copy of" and the original title. You can then edit the template title and document.  What a great tool.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Relevant Education Technology Integration Resources

The goal of integration of technology is to use tech so that those using it no longer think of its use, but simply go about learning in an enhanced way because of it.  Providing teachers with "relevant" technology application is very important as that helps us to be on our way to a seamless use of the technology in the classroom and ultimately for learning. The Web 2.0 Guru blog is packed full of resources and the page of this resource is titled "Web 2.0 Resources for Relevant Education Technology Integration".  Cheryl Capozzoli is very knowledge and keeps a very complete and organized list of tools that would be great in classrooms that have a 1:1 environment.  Categories are very helpful in determining ways you can add a digital element but the list is concise and, well, relevant!

Take some time to consider some of the resources you see here.  Celebrate how many you are already using as I certainly found many!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Comic Strips with Google Presentations

Every so often you find a bank of information out on the web and a really creative, knowledgeable person who shares their work openly for the benefit of others and ultimately our students.  I recently ran across a resource that Eric Curts from North Canton County Schools created to support teachers in learning how to use Google Presentations to build Comic Strips.
He has a nice example of a strip that teaches osmosis here.

His learning page was created for a presentation he must have done and can be found here.  His tutorial presentation has a lot of great ideas and suggestions and can be found here.

He does a fantastic job at explaining images, backgrounds and the settings within Presentations.  I think this would be a great idea to model out to kids and perhaps allow kids to work to emulate as a way of learning how to use Presentations. I find kids are much more creative than I and would love to see what they come up with.  If you do decide to tray this out, let me know as I would love to help in the process!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Google Search

Google is just really good at searching!  Ever wonder how they do it?  The following YouTube video from Google explains how the search is done using the running speed of a cheetah.  Great resource to show kids and help them to be a little better at searching.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Great Chrome Shortcuts

In our move to a 1:1 environment using Google Apps for Education, the teachers are all being encouraged to make the switch from other browsers like Internet Explorer or Firefox to Google Chrome.  Saving tome and being efficient are always at the top of my list so I have created a collection of keyboard shortcuts or trick that you might want to try out.  I'd love your feedback on these or others you find yourself using.

Press Shift and click a link. - Will open a link on a page in a new window
Drag a link to a tab. - Will open a link in the tab that you have dragged it to
Drag a link to a blank area on the tab strip. - Will open the link in a new tab
Ctrl+Shift+T - This open the last tab that you have opened.  Actually Chrome remembers your last 10 tabs!
Ctrl+1 through Ctrl+8 - Opens the tab in the spot of the tab strip of the corresponding number you use
Ctrl+Enter - Adds www. and .com to your input in the address bar and open the resulting URL.
Ctrl+F - opens a search/find bar for the page
Ctrl+D - Saves your current webpage as a bookmark.
Ctrl and +, or press Ctrl and scroll your mousewheel up. - Zooms or enlarges everything on the screen
Ctrl and -, or press Ctrl and scroll your mousewheel down. - Zooms out on everything on the screen
Ctrl+0 - Returns everything on the page to normal size

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

WatchDoc Extension for Drive

Today marks the third Google workshops offered to the staff this summer to learn the Google Apps for Education Essentials.  I have done the first three of the series with the help of the Tech Team  and really enjoyed working with people and seeing the excitement that is coming from all of the "ah-ha" moments.  I have tried to share unique ideas at each of these events and then to be sure they are on the Google+ feed and or blogged about.
Extensions in Google are like little additions to the Chrome Browser that allow Chrome to do something special that it couldn't otherwise do as easily.  We have looked at VideoNotes Extension in a previous post. A new one I just read about that might be really helpful for teachers is called WatchDoc. This extension will keep an eye on the docs in your Google Drive and alert you to any changes in the document that someone else makes.  The extension loads an icon in the toolbar area of Chrome and then when there is a change to a document a small red number appears indicating how many changes to your shared documents have been made.  Click on the icon and a small popup window appears showing you the document title, person who changed the document and when the change was made.  This would be a super time saver if you are collaborating or keeping an eye on progress.  Clicking on the icon clears the notifications.  How easy!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Video Notes App for Google Drive

This is a super exciting tool to use with Google Apps for Education accounts! is an app that is added to your Google Drive.  Once you add this app to Drive it allows you to launch the extension, add a video link and take notes while watching the video.  The notes are linked to the spot in the video that you found the information or comment you are taking notes about.  
From what I hear about the test samples on the Smarter Balanced Assessments, this tool becomes a great resource for experiencing some of the similar test questions that were seen on those that piloted the test.  Let's take a closer look.

To Add this App:
  1. Add the app by either going to the link here and clicking Connect to Google Drive. Another way to add it is to click the RED Create button in your Google Drive, Click "Connect More Apps" at the bottom of the window and search for in the search bar of the apps for Google Drive menu.  
  2. Once you have added the app, when you click Create you will notice that becomes on of the Create options within Google Drives' menu.  To explore, click Create then VideoNotes in that menu list.
  3. When you open the Video Notes app the screen will appear like the one shown.  Simply enter the video's URL in the space indicated and click Load Video.
     4.  I tried this to see how it worked and it was awesome.  I loaded the sample video to test it and see how it worked.  It was perfect.  The notes link to the video so that if I click on any note I take, the video is automatically advanced to the place in the video where I took that note.  All the notes are saved in Google Drive and it prompted me to use the app to open the notes.  Like all Google Drive files, it is share-able and therefore a collaborative document or file.  

Think about how this might change the video experience! This is an amazing tool to make a static individualized learning experience of watching a video a truly interactive learning opportunity!   When we start looking at the SAMR Model Technology Integration this app would be one that would be in the highest level of Redefinition or doing a task previously not possible because of the technology.  This would fall into the highest level not because of the ability to note-take but because you can share the notes, replay them and the tool advances or rewinds the video to the place in which the notes were taken.   Give this tool a try!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Google Plus Find

Today I spent some time on hold waiting for a tech support at Google and decided to multi-task.  I paged through the recent resources on Google+  I found the link : Google Apps and Training Resources.  While it is not a specific resource but a list of many links, I think they are some that might really be helpful.  Some of the m I will be adding to our district Google in the Classroom site but for anyone just looking to build bookmarks of information on Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education, these are fantastic!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Research Made Easier

The slogan "Say more with fewer links" is the slogan for FatURL.  This service, would be great for teachers who want students to access only certain resources and would be a fantastic way to ensure safety online and keep kids from doing the "random Google search". This services allows the user to share multiple (up to 3 dozen) websites or URLs by sharing only one URL.  What is great for teachers is that this service allows you to edit and add to the URLs that are shared with your link.
When I think of the classroom connection of this service, it would be a great resource for a teacher to use in many situations:

  1. Research -If you beginning a new unit or a research project.  A teacher would be able to share one link with the students and that link would lead kids to the teacher approved sites that the students can use to learn from.  
  2. Skills Practice - Another idea would be to collect websites that students could be using for math or spelling practice.  As students complete work in class they would always know that they can find an educationally supported game or skill practice site.
  3. Web Tools - FatURL might be a great way to share presentation tools that you have approved for student use in your classroom.
There is a little tour here.  Consider this for next school year!

eQuizshow Online Tool

We all love a good free tool.  The online tool, is a fantastic tool for making quiz how style games to review content.  However,  it is made even better because it was created by a student.  Seriously!  Henry Wilson a New York City high school junior created this site over his winter break.  How cool is that?

This tool is SUPER easy to use.  Give you quiz a title, and password protect your information with a password so that others can not edit the content.  Select your categories or proceed onto the template.  You then enter in the information you want to quiz students about.  You can edit or add categories.  Tips appear that will help you through more advanced things like adding images.  This would be a great bookmark and a fun end of the year game to review all the content that you have covered!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Additional Ideas for Creating Presentations

We are always looking for new ideas and resources to use with our students and the great thing about technology is that it is always changing an evolving.  One of the things teachers are always seeking is a way to either create more engaging presentations for our classes or for the students to have access to presentation tools that fit the task of the assignments.  A great Blog post came across my feed last week that identifies 40 different sites and Apps for Creating Presentations.  For all those teachers that stop me int he hall and say, "Any ideas Rachel?  I am SO sick of Prezi!" This one is for you!

Check out this post!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Chrome Tips Blog

I am a member of a few circles on Google+ and check there often to see what friends from around the county are sharing.  Sometimes it is great and sometimes it is just "brain candy".  Today I found some awesome resources and all of them came from the site Chrome Story .  On this site there is some really great stuff.  Today they launched a free How to Use the Chromebook FREE eBook.  Yes, FREE!  The book appears to have been written in true Google fashion, collaboratively.  Love that!
Also on this site is a section called 100 Chrome Tips that is worth looking through.  This is a fantastic list organized by topics.  Some things get a little technical but it was great to see some things that reinforce what we have been working with in our district.
Finally, the site includes a page called 75 Chromebook Tips.  All of the things on the site encourage you to spend a little time and look a little deeper.  Hope this resource is one you can make good use of!