Friday, April 25, 2014

Making Tutorials Easier One Screenshot at a Time

As I create documents, video tutorials and even simple how-to's emailed to teachers, one of my most often used tools is a screenshot.  While I can take an easy screenshot with keyboard functions on my Mac, annotation of the screenshot requires me to load that image into another program.  Having a quick extension that not only grabs the screenshot, but allows me to add notes, arrows, text, etc, is a great resource.  Today I came across an extension that seems to fit that description.  Explain and Send Screenshots is an extension that even allows you to create a link to your screenshot for easy sharing through email which to me, is a time saver as I find I often need to just share where a menu is located in a program or how to navigate to a location of a page on the web.
I tested the process and was able to create this first try:
While I might change some things, like make the red text easier to see by taking a larger screenshot, I found the process to be really simple.  *See note about the branding added to the screenshot below.
It works like this:

  1. Click on the extension in the Extension listing next to the OmniBar.
  2. Select which type of screenshot you want to take.
  3. After taking the screenshot, an editor window opens that looks like the one below.
  4. Once you have finished you will be given options on how to share or save on the active page.
*** Note: this extension does add branding to each screenshot.  For some that might be a deal killer.  You can contribute to the app to have that removed.  I wondered if you were to change the size of the original screenshot, would that branding be "less in the way" of the image.  This was my modification:

I am still not sure I like the way the branding of the extension appears and clutters the screenshot.  I was only able to get a little more space and it is less imposing.  For a quick screenshot that does not need to have a polished look, this might be a helpful extension.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

NoteOn Extension for Chrome

(A SMARTER Balanced Testing Toolkit Post!)

I have been looking around for a good extension that could be added to student accounts ahead of SMARTER Balanced or research projects that would allow students better practice in the process of taking notes digitally with a mini-window while viewing content on another window.  This is a task students will see more and more with testing and in digital work.
Practicing the concept of taking notes, capturing the main idea, collecting data and information from various text, graphs, and online sources is an incredibly difficult but useful skill kids need to learn. In my search for a good app or extension, I have come across many different resources, although NoteOn seems to be the best one thus far.  What I like about the NoteOn extension is that the extension icon (as shown):
 is obviously a note app.    Students can title the note, carry the note from different pages, and they can organize the saved notes by color scheme.  Best of all: it auto saves!

Just a few great uses for NoteOn in the classroom might include:
  • A research tool for organizing notes as students navigate around the web.
  • A place to store citations, websites, etc. on a different topic as students explore a specific topic.
  • Using the colors assigned to notes, help students assign a color scheme to the types of notes (dates, main idea, famous people, etc.) and/or areas of research within a larger topic.

Monday, April 14, 2014

10 Productivity and Practice Ideas with Tab Glue and Scissors

(A SMARTER Balanced Testing Toolkit Post!)
Helping students be more productive using technology tools is a great thing.  What's even better is when that same tool supports learning as well.  What is beyond better (epic?) is when a tool also support students in preparing for activities they will be asked to do on state testing, in Wisconsin the SMARTER Balanced Assessment.  Tab Scissors and Tab Glue are two Google Chrome Web Store Extensions that I have used all year as a productivity tool, but one that I recommend teachers work with students to use in the classroom.
Tab Glue and Tab Scissors are extensions so they will sit in the space to the left of the OmniBox of your browser (the URL address bar).  When you add them, through the Chrome Web Store, they will look like this:
As we are not working within Google Apps for Education so much of our work including preparation of presentations, work processing, etc. happens in a browser between many tabs. Sometimes you find yourself frequently switching between tabs.  While it would be convenient if we all had a second monitor to place one window on each monitor while we work, that is often not the case.   Tab Scissors allows you to split your browser window into two separated windows  at the tabs you indicate.  Simply click the tab of which you want Tab Scissors to split the browser window, click on the Tab Scissor icon, and your page will refresh as two perfectly split pages allowing you to see both tabs simultaneously.  Tab Glue, when clicked, will paste these tabs back together as one.  

See the image for an example:
Working between two tabs
Using Tab Scissors to split the window:
Split window notes
So what does this mean in the classroom and how can it help my students? 
As our students are becoming more and more proficient with taking notes, identifying important information, paraphrasing content, and talking in multiple visual cues, we need to find ways to incorporate those skills into everyday teaching.  The SMARTER Balanced Assessment had students working with a split screen throughout the entire testing situation.  The content on wither side of the window can change, but if they are not practiced at attending and using both windows, they will struggle there and in other areas of digital literacy.  Why not practice this concepts with our current content so it does not seem so foreign as we go into testing situations?  Here a few suggestions for learning experiences that might help our students become proficient in using side-by-side windows.

  1. Note taking - As shown above a website on one side, notes or a presentation on the other.
  2. Video Notes - While there are some tools for video note taking, this might also be a way to have students view a video and take notes. (Students could even be doing this collaboratively!)
  3. Graphics - Interpretation of a graphic or map 
  4. Question sets - Create a Google Form with questions to match the media on the other side of the split screens.
  5. Resources - provide students with an important resource on the left such as a multiplication table or other reference material as they work.
  6. Direction or Steps - Use one screen as a reminder tool for those that need to see directions or steps while they work.
  7. Maps - Allow students to have a map as a resource while they watch a video or read resources about a new area of the country.
  8. Vocabulary - Provide a vocabulary key or have students develop a vocabulary list as they deal with difficult literature.
  9. Review - Have students take a practice test or pretest for a unit of study and capture notes on what they need to study additionally.
  10. Back-channel - Have students in small groups collaborate on a shared Google Doc as a Back-channel discussion while working with digital content.  

Monday, April 7, 2014

TextHelp Highlighting Tools - SMARTER Balanced Assessment and Classroom Practice

                                     (A SMARTER Balanced Testing Toolkit Post!)
This past few weeks I have been in many classrooms that are piloting the SMARTER Balanced Assessment.  While I am not a fan of practicing for a test, I do not have any problem with using quality techniques to teach  that will help our students to practice a processes.  Especially if that process includes a solid use of technology integration that will be used in their future as a learner. As I watched students taking the SMARTER Balanced Assessment pilots, I found that I frequently thought to myself, "Wow, I don't think our kids learn in regular classroom processes in that way" or " I bet our students would do better at this is they had some experience taking in information in this way."  Then I got to thinking about how I could provide resources, lessons and or opportunities for teachers to give our students practice in instructional strategies.  This is the first of a series of blog posts to share ideas of how teachers might practice the process that students will encounter in the SMARTER Balanced Assessment.  They are intended to be used with regular curricular activities so that when students encounter them in a testing situation, they don't seem foreign and unusual.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Get Voice!

Edudemic, a blog I read frequently posted recently on How to Use Google Voice in Education.  As a Google Voice user, I read and enjoyed the article.  I think I even Tweeted out this well-written post.  I found it was one of those posts that I just kept thinking more and more about.  Not because I disagreed with it, but it made me realize that the idea of using Voice in the classroom had only really been touched on.  As I thought about the post, I realized that there were so many other ideas and I kept considering different classroom teachers I knew that I couldn't wait to share the ideas with. As I mentioned, the post is really complete and explains the basics pretty well.  While I will give a quick summary follow the links and get an idea and then read on for my thoughts...

Google Voice seems intimidating, but really it's not too complicated.  It is a phone number that you clim through the use of your Google account that allows you to send and receive calls through your computer and other phones you have.  You can actually set up Google voice to ring other phone lines that you have and interestingly, you can set that up based on the time of day.  Google voice can also be set up to ring no phones but only to notify you on your computer of a call.  I have a Google voice number on both my personal and work Google accounts.  As I travel throughout the day to different buildings, it helps for people to be able to connect with me wherever I happen to be.  I have it set so that my computer will alert me to a call and if I do not answer the call, I receive an alert that I have a message and the message is transcribed to text for me to read.  If I am in a meeting, teaching or otherwise unable to talk, I can still be made aware of the contents of the call without disrupting others.  I have been walking through a hallway and received and answered a call on my computer from Google Voice.  Setting it up is simple and accessed through  

What does this all look like in a classroom setting?  Here a just a few ideas I had:

  1. Communication - This seems like an easy one.  This number offered to parents with boundaries could be a means of communication for families.  By boundaries I mean I will not pick up calls between the hours of 9-3 (or whatever you are willing to offer) but I do value the communication, so please leave me a message and I will return the call.  
  2. Texting - While there are texting services out there that are fantastic,, Google voice does have a text feature that would allow you to text a student and with Voice, a student could text you back.   Students could text a response to you as an exit slip response before leaving class.  You have a digital record on your computer that could be saved of the text.
  3. For Assessment - I have students working in the Innovation Center each week that are a part of an online foreign language class.  These kids have to send recordings to their teacher of verbal responses in Spanish to assignments given by the teacher.  Another teacher in my district records using iPods in the hallways.  With Google Voice, students could call in their work to the Google voice number.  The teacher would have recordings in the Google Voice Message center that are also date and time stamped.  The message left can be downloaded and saved.
  4. For projects - While there are other tools out there that allow students to record voice, it is another tool that could be used to record a student's voice for projects in class as you can then save each recording.
  5. Transcripts - In collecting student work verbally, you have a transcript of the message that is left that is editable and also save-able. If Google does not transcribe properly, you can edit so that it is correct, and then save it.  
  6. Portfolio - As I have used this with my children I sometimes smile as I listen to an older message from my children.  As younger children work on fluency in the classroom, a teacher could be calling their own Voice number and recording the student reading aloud several times a year and saving the recordings as a portfolio sample of fluency.  How precious for parents to also have these files!
  7. Accountability - Teachers are always working with students to at least let them know if there is something that they are unable to complete for class rather than to show up and claim they didn't understand something.  Have students leave you a Google Voice message if they are confused with an assignment or homework.  You have a record of the date and time the call came in as well as recording of their issue.  For some kids it is hard to put into an email why they are struggling but being able to tell you in a call might make the difference.
  8. Assistive Technology - We all now that there are times when you have a student with a disability, injury or need that requires them to be able to submit work differently.  If they can read something to you, leave a response, text the answer, Google Voice might just be the answer for them.  A vision impaired student might really benefit from the ability to leave a voice response.
I am excited to explore even more ideas for this tool in classrooms.  I would love to hear other ideas for Google Voice.