Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Rainbow Connections

Want a fun way to get kids at any grade level to interact with text?

Using a Google Doc and a little rainbow magic add on called Magic Rainbow Unicorns (silly name, super tool) you and your students can easily create rainbow text. The short video below shows you exactly how to do it and explains what add ons are, in case you are wondering.

How could a first grader use this?
Project a Google doc with some kind of text on it onto the whiteboard and have kids rainbowify sight words they recognize. 

How could a third grader use this?
Have students rainbowify main ideas in a paragraph. You can project a doc or give each student their own copy of a doc through Classroom or through Make a Copy

How could a fifth grader use this?
Students can rainbowify opinion statements and leave fact statements black. 

How could you use rainbow text to engage your students?

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Letting Talkers Have Their Say with Flipgrid

Picture the students you work with. Do you have any that are good talkers? I know you do because I have those kids too and I can picture them pretty clearly! These kids just seem to be able to find the right words and string them together in a way that lets them articulate exactly what they are thinking.

Do you also have some who find writing or even typing challenging? Of course you do. I wonder how much these kids don't share because they find the written word so frustrating to deal with.

I'd like to tell you about a great tool that benefits both the great talkers and the reluctant writers...

Instead of having kids demonstrate comprehension or creativity in writing, why not let them do it using a skill we know they have mastered? In short, Flipgrid lets you record a question, talking point, or instructions and lets the students record their responses.

Here's a Flipgrid that I did last year with the Kinders using an iPad. I had one iPad set up in a quietish corner of my room and the kids who wanted to tell me about their favorite book orally instead of in writing came up one-by-one to create a response. They figured out how to do it without my help. 

Here's why I think you should give Flipgrid a try:
  • Works on Chromebook, laptop, PC, iPad, iPhone, and Android devices. I use my phone to record questions pretty often. 
  • Students can record responses very easily using their Chromebooks or on an iPad
  • Students do not have to create an account to create a response. They simply go to the website and enter the topic code. 
  • Flipgrid is free. You get one grid (which is something like a virtual classroom) but you have unlimed topics, which means you can create as many questions as you like.
  • Flipgrid is very intuitive and easy to use for both teachers and students
  • Flipgrid is a lot of fun for students, who enjoy the stickers in particular
  • You can create a Flipgrid topic and get it to your students in about 5 minutes
If you want to see how easy it is to get started with Flipgrid, watch this video by Jamie Keet of Teacher's Tech.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Dyn-O-Mite Learning!

This week I am borrowing a really fantastic post on Dynamic Learning by Kasey Bell who writes the Shake Up Learning blog. Her Dynamic Learning vs. Static Learning infographic below is handy way to quickly get the gist of what dynamic learning is and how you can put it into practice with your students. Just click on the image to dig deeper.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Differentiate Learning in Google Classrooms

It's difficult to tailor assignments to meet the unique learning needs of each student. I teach about 400 students so I get it. I can usually figure out HOW to modify assignments. It's the creating multiple materials that is the hard part. I also don't want to call attention to the the fact that some students' work looks different from the rest of the class. Here's my secrete weapon in the differentiate discreetly game: GOOGLE CLASSROOM.
--Special Public Annoucement--

Kinder - Grade 3 teachers, before you close this window and delete the email know that your students are either already in Google Classrooms or will be by February. Grades 2 & 3 use Classroom with me now. Grade 1 will be onboard in November and Kinder will be in by February. And you can use Google Classroom on an iPad. 

--Back to our original programming--

How I quickly modify assignments using a Google product
To modify an assignment I have created on a Doc or Slide, for example, I will start with my original document then
  • Make a copy of it  
    • Click on File at top left 
    • Click on Make a copy
  • Change the title to something that makes sense 
  • Make the modifications

How to discreetly get the modified assignment into the hands of my students

  • In Classroom create or reuse and assignment/question/announcement
  • In the popup, deselect All Students and then select only the students you wish to have the assignment.

Your Stream will show all of the work you have assigned collectively so if you assigned three different versions of one particular thing, your Stream will show all three assignments. Your students, however, will only see the version assigned to them. 

The ability to quickly copy and modify documents and then assign different documents, videos, etc. to different students has been a game changer in my classes and all of us (even me!) are enjoying more success. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Insert Special Characters into a Google Doc

Here's a neat and relatively recent update to Google docs: Special Character Tool. No, using this tool won't make you or your students behave in a more principled and virtuous way, but it does allow you to insert many, many characters that are not found on the regular keyboard. And unlike regular images, these are always appropriately sized and will not create formatting horrors. I, of course, favor the emoji selection ✌.

Yes, I know this image is too big for the space 😉

In your document click insert then special characters and then choose your character from the various menus. That's it!

Have fun!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Let Me Just Remind You...

Can you relate to this?

If so, you might suffer from sticky-syndrome (a.k.a. my-post-it notes-are-out-of-control condition). Sticky notes are convenient, but they're unreliable. They loose their stick after a while and disappear, or worse, they fall to the floor so a helpful student can find them, pick them up, and remark loudly, "Looks like someone needs to buy toilet paper today!" I also hate how the edges curl up after a day or so and how the writing rubs off if I use pencil.

Thankfully (and thanks to Anna Amaral for the inspiration), there's a better way to remind yourself. It's called RemindMe and it will live right on your computer. And it will be just in your face enough to get your attention, but not so much that it causes a disruption. And it's awesome!

Here's how to get it and set it up:
RemindMe is a Windows app so you get it from the Windows app store.

You can get into the Windows app store several ways, depending on your computer (see the image above):
  1. Click on the start menu. That's the window icon at the very bottom left on your computer screen. Then, get to the S section and click on Store. If you don't see a list of apps appear, click on all apps first. -or-
  2. Click on the start menu (window icon at bottom left of your screen). You might have the Store icon hanging out with all the other app icons to the right. -or-
  3. You might have the Store icon pinned to your taskbar, which is the black strip that runs along the bottom of your computer screen. 
Once in the Store, search for RemindMe. It will pop up as RemindMe for Windows. 
This is the icon

Click the blue GET button and follow the install/download instructions. Once installed, start reminding yourself!

I attempted to make a gif of a notification. The sound didn't make it, but you get the idea. 

I hope you remember to try out RemindMe!

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 ....


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 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:  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

  • 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)
  • 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. 

  • 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
  • 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?