Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Jazz Up Those Slides


Have you noticed that the templates in Google Slides are pretty boring (or even "ugly" as one of our esteemed leaders has commented)? PowerPoint has a much better selection of templates, but let's face it, even those are getting pretty tired by now.

Here's the solution to the boring slide deck rut: SLIDE CARNIVAL!!


Simply find a template you want. Download it (or make a copy if using Google). Customize it. Then wait for your audience to be grateful they don't have to endure another boring looking presentation! 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Difference Between Google, Chrome, & Chrome Profiles

Do you ever find Google - the Googleverse, I mean - confusing? There's Google, Chrome, profiles, apps, themes, extensions, accounts, web store....Yikes! What is all this stuff?

Well, there's a lot to unpack when it comes to Google and it will take awhile to get to it all, but for starters....


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Find Your Stuff on Drive




If you're like me, you have at least a million files on your Google Drive...

...and a lot trouble finding the exact one you need because you can't remember where you put it exactly or what the file is named. Most of my stuff is organized into folders, which looks tidy, but doesn't help much when I KNOW I have that one file but DON'T REMEMBER what folder it's in. 

Here's an easy way to fix the issue: Type a keyword into the SEARCH box at the top of your Drive

Google will pull up all the files of any type that contain the keyword as a filename or even if the keyword is embedded inside a document, slide, or sheet. Google will also pull up files associated with the keyword so if your keyword is mountain, Google will also list images that contain mountains. 

For example, if I wanted to find a file that I know had to do with avatars, I could type the word avatar in the search box, hit ENTER, and all the files that contained that word somewhere would be listed. For example:


My avatar search resulted in lesson plans, an image, a slide deck, and several other things that have the word avatar in them. Very handy!

I learned this trick from a Teacher"s Tech video, which you can view here. FYI - this video  part of a longer video that discusses seven Drive tips so I have the link beginning in the middle of the video. 

Happy (and easy) searching!


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Google Apps Training Customized for YOU

The end of the school year is quickly approaching, which means you will finally have time to really learn how to use some of those Google apps everyone is always raving about.

Stop laughing.

Seriously, summer is a great time to get down some of those skills, such as using Google Classroom or interactive Google maps, that will make you feel more confident and inspired as an educator in today's digital world.

The best part is, YOU CHOOSE what you want to learn and when you want to learn it....for FREE! Here's the deal:

Google for Education offers free online training. It's very well organized, very thorough, very customizable to meet your specific needs. You can go for a certification, but you don't have to. There are two levels of training: Fundamentals and Advanced.


Each level is broken down into units that cover a host of skills and some light online pedagogy.  In each unit you are told exactly

  • what you will learn,
  • the Google products involved, 
  • what skills you will need. Here the training links to resources to help you learn the skill if you need it. For example, if you need to know how to use filters on a Google search, you will be linked to articles or videos showing you how to do that. 
There are plenty of knowledge checks to help you know whether or not you are getting it. 

Some of the things you can learn:
  • What apps (products) are available in G Suite for Education, which is the collection of apps Google puts together for schools 
  • How to use all of the apps
  • How to choose the right app for you objective and your available resources
  • Where to find other how-to and inspiration resources 
You'll also probably get pretty excited about all the cool things you can do, especially with your students!

Click on the image to go to the Google Training Center and get started

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Organizing Gmail Using Labels

Is your inbox out of control? Do you need a  refresher course in math in order to read that number in parentheses next to your inbox? Or, would you just appreciate an easy way to declutter and organize your Gmail? Yes? This post is just for you, friend.

No one has time for lengthy how-to vids or blog posts so I broke the process of organizing your inbox down into two parts. Part 1 is a 4.26 minute video that explains what labels are and why they are awesome. Part 2 is a 4.0 video demonstrating how to actually use labels.

Part I: What are Gmail Labels and Why Use Them?



Here is the transcript of the Part I video if you prefer to read it. 

Part II: How to Actually Use Labels in Gmail



Monday, May 1, 2017

Why Do I Care if my Online Activity is Tracked?

This month, the 5th graders are learning how to craft a safe online identity and be a great digital citizen. In the process we have come across several videos that explain just how our online activity is tracked, collected, and brokered. I want to share with you one particular video (2.29 minutes) because it does a great job answering a question many of us raise ....

WHY DO I CARE IF MY ONLINE ACTIVITY IS TRACKED?

video
Video: Digital Trail Animation by Common Sense Media

In class we talked about the  pros and cons of a tailored web experience and agreed that it is nice to not be peppered with ads for Pampers, but the info bubble it creates certainly makes it difficult to cultivate a broad perspective. 

What do you think?




Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Let me introduce you to my new best friend...Google Drawings!


I've been in love with Google Drawings lately because it's such a versatile tool. It's also easy to use since is has the same tool bar as Docs and Slides.  It actually lives alongside all the other Google apps we use all the time like Docs in Google Drive.






Here's why I think you should jump on my Drawings bandwagon:
  • Drawings is actually a PUBLISHING TOOL, which means you can create flyers, brochures, infographics, postcards - just about anything with it. Size-wise it is completely customizable. 
  • Drawings is also an IMAGE EDITING TOOL (like a low-end Photoshop). Upload your pic and then crop, recolor, add overlays, add text, shapes...You can actually do some pretty sophisticated stuff and there are plenty of videos out there to help you figure it out. 
  • Drawings is also a DIAGRAMMING/GRAPHIC ORGANIZER TOOL that can be used to create visual representations of more-abstract concepts such as life-cycles, fractions, and travel over distances. I had third graders create concept maps about people they interviewed. 
  • Drawing offers a way for students to create VISUAL ANSWERS on assessments, even when using a Google Forms assessment. Here's how to do that.
Take 10 minutes to check out this Google Drawings 101 video and see if you don't think Drawings is the best thing since April vacation as well. 

Here are some examples of what other's have done in Drawings. How do you see yourself using Drawings in the classroom?

Image result for google drawings   Image result for google drawings   Image result for google drawings

Image result for google drawings    Image result for google drawings


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

3 Great Tools that Make Writing Fun

Here are three (free) writing tools that are proven winners with the Kinder - Grade 5 crowd. I like how these tools ignite creativity in even reluctant writers, can be used to reinforce learning in any subject, and how they allow for several different publishing options such as printing or getting a link.

Writing Digitally by Jennifer Rowe BBRSD  

StoryMaker on ABCYA.com is the free form option that lets younger students create a picture and then write about it using a lined paper template to reinforce those early writing skills. Kids can either print or save their creations. Potential use: Have kids describe the science or math lesson they just had. 

Mystorymaker from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh guides kids through the process of creating a short story while also letting them act out the story using characters, actions, moods, settings, and objects. Stories can be saved and accessed via a link. Potential use: Have kids reenact an event they just learned about in history or social studies. 

Storybird uses beautiful artwork to inspire creative writing in the form of poetry, long stories, or picture books with captions. Sign in is required but students can use their Google accounts so the process is simple and because Storybird is an educational tool, student won't be spammed later with promotional emails. Potential use: Have kids keep a weekly journal using the chapter book format. Kids can select images that match their emotional profile for the week  and write about it (good way to reinforce social/ behavioral awareness too!). 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Get to Your Google Apps From Anywhere


Sometimes when I am forced to use a foreign computer I have trouble getting to my trusty Google apps like Gmail or Drive because I can't find the apps launcher or any bookmarks. This can happen if I am using a browser like Firefox or Safari. It can also happen if I am on someone else's Chrome profile  that has a fancy theme. Sooo irritating! 

If you ever find yourself in this unhappy situation, here's a way out: use Google's back door. 

Simply type the name of the app you want, like mail, into the url address bar followed by dot google dot com. Like this: mail.google.com.  This will take you right to your app although you might have to sign into Google first. It works will all of Google's apps, too. 

Sometimes, it's helpful to see a video demonstration. 




Do you know of any other way to access Google apps?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Paper Keyboarding for Littles

This post was inspired by first grade teacher, Amy Gaucher, who  saw something similar on Teachers Pay Teachers. Thanks for sharing, Amy!

Download your own blank paper keyboard here.

Spelling by Jennifer Rowe BBRSD

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Big Deal About Privacy

Private "Eyes" by Kalie Mashaney

When it comes to online privacy, are you a believer, a realist, or a shrugger? Don't know? Take this short quiz to help you find out then check out The Privacy Paradox to learn just how vulnerable and valuable your data is.

Through the Privacy Paradox I learned much about the mysterious and often surprising ways in which our data is harvested and used. For instance, did you know some apps access the microphone for listening purposes and others access your location for no apparent reason other than to collect and sell that information?

I also learned fairly easy ways I can carve out a little more privacy for myself such as by manually selecting which apps can access my microphone and location.

Here's the lowdown on what I'm talking about:
  • The Privacy Paradox  is a series of  5 newsletters that contain a short podcast (you can listen online or download them), tips for safeguarding your data and metadata, and a challenge toward that end. 
  • The newsletters are delivered to your inbox one day at a time. I saved mine and binge listened one Sunday afternoon.
  • The Privacy Paradox is produced by Note to Self, a podcast from WNYC that focuses on the human side of technology
  • The Privacy Paradox is not alarmist or conspiracy theoryish (two qualities I avoid like an AM radio talk show) but it does present a reality grounded in facts that is pretty surprising.
  • I started out as a realist when it comes to digital data, but now I lean more toward the believer end
Looking both ways before crossing a street, avoiding strangers offering candy, and protecting our digital identity - that's life in the digital age!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

14 Keyboard Shortcuts that will Change Your Life

Keyboard shortcuts are special combinations of keys that let you perform the same tasks you would normally have to use clicks on a tool bar or menu to do. They are super easy and once you get used to them, you'll never go back to clicking!

This short video demonstrates how to use the Ctrl key to perform common tasks such as copying, pasting, undo/redo, and inserting links. Download the cheatsheet below and keep it handy until you get used to using the shortcuts!


Ctrl Cheatsheet
Click on the cheatsheet image to view and download it. 


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Blog Intro & Scholastic Story Starter



This week's feature:


Scholastic Story Spinner



APPROPRIATE FOR
  • Kinder - Grade 5 although some kinders will need help reading the prompt and some students in grade 5 might think this is a bit childish, especially toward the end of the year. 
  • Desktops, laptops, iPads (through the browser, not an app)
FRIENDLINESS 
  • Very friendly for both teachers and students. It's just a website so it's easy to reach. Once there, the directions are very clear. 

WHY IT'S GREAT
  • No sign-up. Just go to the site and start spinning.
  • Broken down by grade levels so it's easy to get the right fit for each student's reading/writing level (even early readers)
  • Offers students choice without being overwhelming
  • Kids can save or print what they've written
  • Offers several writing formats, from post card to news article
  • Students can add a drawing to illustrate their writing
WHAT'S NOT SO GREAT
  • It plays a machine sound that can be loud and annoying after a while. Luckily you can turn it off. 
  • There is no limit to the spinning to cobble together different story starters, which means that kids can spend all their time generating funny starters and no time actually writing. 
I used this with grades 1 - 4 and most of the kids loved it. I had to put a limit on the spins for the fourth graders and coax the first graders to not spend all period on the drawing. 

How can you envision using this app?