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.