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.