Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Apps To Help You Accomplish that Summer Goal!

Photo by Cathryn Lavery on Unsplash

How many things are you going to finally take care of this summer? Me, I have at least 10 items on my would-be-nice-to-do list but only three on my will-definitely-do list. I'm confident I'm totally going to accomplish my definitlely-will-do list because, heck, I have TWO WHOLE MONTHS to do it!

But then I take a week off right after school is over to relax and clear my mind. Plus, I have that vacation coming up and a couple of day trips. And.....

You can see where this is going and perhaps you have been on this path of good intentions yourself. I earn frequent flyer miles on this particular path. I've been in education too long to fool myself into believing I can be really productive during the off season so this year I decided to get some help in the form of an accountability app. 

I figured there had to be apps out there that would act like a mom and nag me encourage me to be the best me and a quick search revealed YES! There are many! Here are two lists I found particularly helpful.

5 of the Best Goal Setting Apps 

6 Accountability Apps That Will Skyrocket Your Success


  Goal Setting Apps I'm Using Right Now

One goal I have for the summer is breaking my sugar habit. I've been struggling with that one for a while now! I'm actually using two apps to help me.

Go(explitive)DoIt;  This is on the web, not a phone app. It really just sets up an agreement between me and a friend who has agreed to be my "supervisor." If I don't meet the goal I have identified, I have to pay $50. That gives me some accountability.

coach.me: I also need something to help me be mindful of my goal so I don't accidentally shovel cookies into my mouth, which happens with frightening regularity. For reminders and encouragment, I am using the free version of coach.me. I like it because I can customize the reminders to pop up during the dangerous hours like 9 pm. The app requires that I keep track of my progress toward my goal and I find just knowing that I get to record "no sugar today" pretty motivating. I also love the charts that show my amazing progress.

With some things, will power and good intentions are just not enough. Sometimes we just need a bit of extra support (That's a familiar phrase for educators, isn't it?) and that's normal. Thankfully, there's an app for that!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

How to Share Google Creations with the Outside World

Have you ever created something using a Google app that you wanted to share with parents or someone outside our BBRSD world? Have you also noticed that if you try to just share it with them by clicking the blue share button and entering their email address, they won't be able to open it? Sharing a Google product outside our "district" can be a frustrating experience. Thankfully, getting your stuff into the wider world is not only possible, it's easy!

There are a couple ways to do it, depending on how you want your recipient to interact with the product.
  • Publish to the web if you only want your recipients to VIEW your creation
  • Determine Share settings if you  want your recipients to ADD TO, EDIT, or COMMENT on your creation

Publish to the web


My students use this when sharing a slide deck or Google drawing with their parents. I also use this to deliver presentations to students when I don't want them to edit whatever I give them. The How the Internet Works unit the 5th graders just worked on was presented as a Google slide deck published to the web. Check out what it looks like - you'd never guess it's a slide presentation!

Publishing your doc on the web and then sharing the link with whomever you need to is a great way to give viewing rights. Here's how to do it. 
  1. Open your doc (Doc, Slides, Drawings, Sheets, etc). 
  2. Click on File
  3. About 3/4 of the way down you'll find Publish to the web. Click on it
  4. If you are publishing a slide deck, you'll need to choose how quickly you want the slides to advance and a few other things.
  5. You will probably want to stick with the default setting, Link. Choose Embed if you want to have your doc appear on a website or in a blog
  6. Click Publish and give your okay when the confirmation pops up at the top of the page
  7. Once published, you will be presented with a link to your now publicly online doc that you can share 

If you need to grab that link again at some point in the future, you will need to repeat steps 1 - 4. Don't try to use the blue Share button. You can stop publishing by repeating steps 1 - 4  and clicking on the gray Stop Publishing button.

Some people might have some reservations about putting a personal document on the web. I don't share that concern, however, because while publishing to the web does make an artifact publicly available online, it is very, very unlikely anyone will accidentally come across it. There are billions of web pages and these kinds of documents will be on page 1000 (if at all) on a search results list. 


Let's say you used Google Sheets to create a parent/teacher signup sheet and you want to have parents use it to schedule time with you. Here's how you can share a Google doc with editing rights. 
  1. Open your doc
  2. Click on the blue share button at the top right
  3. In the pop up, click on the tiny word, Advanced, at the bottom right
  4. Next to where it says Private - Only you can access, click the blue word change
  5. Choose either On-Public on the web (this is the same as publishing on the web) or On-Anyone with the link. (I do not think there is much difference between the two because it is extremely unlikely someone will come across your document accidentally but if you err on the side of caution, choose Anyone with the link 
  6. Look toward the bottom of the popup and find the word Access
  7. Change Can view to Can edit
  8. Click Save
  9. Click Done
  10. The next popup window will show the link you need highlighted in blue. Use Ctrl C to copy it or right click, copy


Hopefully,  being able to share your Google creations with the outside world will make your educator life easier. I know it does for me!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

4 Ways to Add Visual Impact to Slides

I don't know about you, but I use Google Slides more than any other Google product. I even use it for my lesson plans since it doubles as way to present the day's lesson objectives and agenda to students. And speaking of students, even first graders love Slides!

The downside of Slides, however, is that they just don't offer a lot in the way of visual pizzaz. The built in themes are limited and the background options are not much better. In September I wrote about using slide templates from slidescarnival and now I want to show you another way (4 ways, actually) to add visual impact to presentations. 

It all starts with add-ons. Add-ons are little tools that add features. They are simple to get and use. 

To browse or search for a specific add-on, just click on Add-ons and then click on Get add-ons. This opens the add-on store where you can find descriptions, reviews, and everything else you need. 


The four add-ons I think are worth your time to check out if you want to not have boring slides are Paletti, Unsplash, Insert Icon, and Magic Rainbow Unicorn. Check them out on your own or take a look at this really cool slide deck I took a considerable amout of time to create for you to give you a quick demo of each one. I published this deck on the web so it will open in a browser window but you can advance the slides as you normally would. 



Wednesday, May 23, 2018

2 Ways to Recover from Major Mistakes in Google

Does this sound familiar: Oh no! My work got deleted!!! ? How about, Oh no! What did I just do?! ?

If you or your students have ever accidentally deleted major chunks of work or clicked something that completely messed up the formatting of your document, you know what a terrifying and frustrating experience it can be trying to get everything back to normal. Fortunately, there are ways to recover from major mishaps in Google.

Way #1: The Magic Undo

You are probably familiar with this one but if not, prepare to be ecstatic. Just about every Google product has an undo button alongside the other tools in the editor toolbar. It's an arrow curving to the left.
Image result for undo google 
You can also type Ctrl Z (first press the Ctrl button and keep it pressed down while you hit the Z) to undo a mistake. 

Undo will erase whatever you just did. If you made several mistakes in a row, you can just keep hitting undo until you get your document back into a pre-messup state. 

Undo works great for minor and easily identifable mistakes. For example. I frequently give students a template to work from, such as a Google doc that contains a table they need to fill in. Invariably, someone will do something to reformat the table. They will somehow move cells around, add cells within cells - all kinds of crazy things. The easiest way to fix something like that is to keep hitting undo until the table is back the way it should be. 

Way #2: Restore Version 

Sometimes undo is just not enough. If too many mistakes are made or you just can't tell what went wrong and undo does not seem to do the trick, you have to break out the big gun-Restore Version. 

Restore version is like a time machine: You can reinstate a pre-messup version of whatever you are working on. This is thanks to the fact that Google is constantly saving your work. 

Here's how to access and restore versions of a doc:
  1. Click File
  2. Click Version History
  3. Click  See version history. This will open a list of saved versions in  a panel to the right
  4. Peruse the different versions to find one that works for you.
  5. When you find a version you want to restore, click on it
  6. At the top and toward the left of the doc, a big blue Restore This Version will pop up. Click it. A new (old) version of your doc will appear. 

Version History Bonus

Version history is also a handy way to check who did what on a collaborative document or verify content. I once had to go into version history in order to determine which student wrote an inappropriate comment on a collaborative document. The version history shows everyone who was on the doc and what they wrote or did at any given time. I have also used it to verify that student A did in fact do what she was supposed to do before student B deleted her work. 

Accidents happen. Frequently. Thankfully, we have the tools to put things right.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Get Organized! 4 Ways to Declutter Google Drive

We teachers are known for our superb organizational skills. We have a dazzling array of folders, envelops, bins, boxes, cabinets, and cubbies. And, yes,  they are all clearly labled. But what about your Google Drive?

What is a Google Drive?

Wait a sec, what exactly is a Google Drive? Glad you asked becuase it's a pretty important part of our Googleverse!
Google Drive is like a closet that holds every single Google thing you make or is shared with you (except email and calendar). It is where all your Docs, Slides, Sheets, Drawings, etc. live.

Every time you create a Google Doc or anything else, it is automatically  stored in your Drive.

So wheneverr you  need to find something you've created, just go to your Drive. It'll be there. You can get into Drive a couple of ways. I usually type drive.google.com  in the address bar at the top.

You can also click on the little black grid that hangs out near your profile circle. That's your apps launcher and you can get to many of your Google apps from there.

Organizing Your Google Drive 

If you simply throw everything into a closet without organizing it in any way, you'll quickly have a mess on your hands. It's the same with Drive. If you don't take steps to organize all those files, they will just pile up into a painful-to-look-at list of files and icons. Thankfully, it's easy to create organization.

Step 1: Create Folders 

You can use digital folders in the same way you use regular folders. Here are the folders I have created in my Google Drive. As you can see, I'm into folders. 

Creating a folder in Drive is very easy. Just click on the blue NEW button at the top left of your screen. Select the first choice, Folder. Then name your folder. This gif shows you how. 

 Step 2: Drag Your Files into A Folder

After you have created a couple of folders, you simply drag your files into the appropriate folder. This is very easy as the gif below shows, but if you have many, many files in your Drive, it can take some time to organize them in a way that makes sense to you. 


When I have to create a doc or slide deck or anything, I usually start out in the folder where I want my doc to live. To create a new doc, I just click the blue NEW button or right click inside the folder. This saves me from having to go back to my Drive later and dragging the new file into the appropriate folder. 

(Optional) Step 3: Boost Organization by Coloring Folders

Do you notice how some of my Drive folders have a little color on them? I do that to the folders I use frequently to help me find them quickly. It's totally simple. Just right click the folder, choose change color, and select the color you want. 

(Optional) Step 4: Get Fancy and Fun by Adding Emoji to Folders

If you find yourself with a few extra minutes on your hands (and really, what teacher doesn't have time to spare? hahahahaha) you might want to add emoji to your Drive folders. I like to use emoji to highlight important folders and just to add a little flair and frivolity. Here's how. 
  • Go to http://getemoji.com/ 
  • Find the perfect emoji
  • Click and drag across the emoji to highlight it
  • Right click and choose copy (or use Ctrl Cto copy)
  • Go back to your Drive 
  • Right click on the folder you want to add the emoji to
  • Click rename
  • Use the keys Ctrl and V (hold down the Ctrl key and press v at the same time) to paste the emoji in the name.


There are more ways we can add organizational value to Drive, but we'll save that for a later date. This post is already too long.

Like any other storage space, a well-organized Drive is quite satisfying! It can also save you from spending loads of time and energy searching for that one cool thing you created last year and want to use again. And if you're not a regular Drive user, hopefully you will be inspired to check out this wonderful app! As always, I'm here to help!



Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A Quiz Kids LOVE: Kahoot!

This post is dedicated to Sarah Whitehouse (BMS) who turned me on to Kahoot and took time to show me how she uses it with her first graders. 

Would you believe my students beg me to quiz them on boring and technical topics such as circuits, binary data, and computer hardware? I'm not exaggerating. They do...but only if we are using

Image result for kahoot


Kahoot! is an online quizzing tool that turns formative assessment into an exciting and challenging game for students. Kids love it because it is exciting, competitive, and they get to choose their own game name (a huge deal for these guys). I love it because it allows me to quickly gauge how well my students are mastering learning objectives. I think my kids also like to see how well they are learning the content, especially compared to their peers.

If you are new to Kahoot! Here is a video of it in action in a second grade classroom (not ours)


Did you notice the suspense-building music?

Here's how it works:

  • First, log in to Kahoot.com and create a quiz. You can choose how many questions to have, whether to show images or even a video, and how long students have to respond
  • When your class is ready to play, project your computer screen onto a whiteboard 
  • Click Play. The game will load and show a game pin
  • Students go to Kahoot.it, enter the game pin, and enter a nickname 
  • Once all students have joined, click start and you are off to the races
  • The question and answer choices will be displayed on the smartboard
  • Students will see colored rectangles that correspond to answer choices. They click on or touch the rectangle that matches their answer choice
  • Each question will show the top three responses based on time and correctness. That means that students can move up and down the leaderboard throughout the game. This is very exciting.
  • At the end of the game, the leaderboard shows the top 5 players based on response time and correctness. 

Kahoot! is free and you can sign up with your Google account so you don't need to create a new username and password. It's also easy to use for you and students.

Another bonus: students don't need to sign up to play a Kahoot! quiz. They just enter a game pin, a nickname, and play. Plus, students can use Chromebooks, iPads, smartphones, laptops, or desktops.

Several of our teachers (including me) use Kahoot! with kids as young as first grade. The kids sit in front of the whiteboard with iPads. I plan on using it with Kindergarteners soon too! I'll use images rather than words.

One caveat I have to mention: There have been times when some of my younger kids have felt pretty upset about not doing as well as their peers or stressed out by the competition. I let kids who are not comfortable playing Kahoot partner with another student or just play in their head. I don't see the point in stressing out kids in an activity that is supposed to be fun.

Give Kahoot! a try! I guarantee you and your students will have a great time and learning will be had by all.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Classroom Management Tools at Your Fingertips

Need a timer for an activity? How about a noise level indicator so kids know when they are getting too loud? How about a random name picker or dice roll? You can find all these and more handy classroom tools all in one place at classroomscreen.com


Simply project classroom screen onto your whiteboard and you'll have a host of tools literally at your fingertips. A few of my favs:

Work Symbols

Time & Stopwatch

Sound Level Indicator - helps kids be mindful of their noise level


Text (note pad)


There's even an exit poll feature!

These are just some of the useful tools Classroom Screen has to offer. For a more in-depth look, check out this tutorial

Or, go to classroomscreen.com and have fun exploring!