Sunday, March 29, 2015

Creating Kid Friendly Avatars

Who doesn't love coming across someone's spot-on avatar? While I LOVE using Hello Kitty as my profile pic, I was very pleased with myself for designing a Traitr in ToonDoo that was my perfect likeness. Our district's move to Google Apps is a perfect opportunity for staff and students (sort of) to express themselves. My husband, Steve Isaacs, and I are leading a PD where we had the participants create an avatar as the icebreaker. It seems like they had a lot of fun with the activity. Here are some of the options we suggested, plus a few more that kids of any age would like!

ToonDoo- Create a Traitr
Face Your Manga
Create your Athlete Superhero
Make a Mii
Lego Me
Create Your Wild Self

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Creating Appointment Slots on your Google Calendar

One of the best things about Google Apps for Education is the ability to create appointment slots on your Google Calendar. I use appointment slots for lab sign ups and tracking Chromebook cart usage, and could see classroom teachers using it to conference with students, set up office hours, extra help or even as passes/entry tickets to open lab time. What could you use appointment slots for?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Leaving a Google Slides Do Now for your Sub

Last week, I had the privilege of attending the annual #NJECC conference at Montclair State University. Among the presenters I had the opportunity to meet was Alice Keeler. Alice has completely embraced Google Drive and Classroom as her "go to" productivity/instructional tool. She does EVERYTHING with Google Drive, and blogs about it at Attending her sessions has inspired me to up my Google Drive game, though I admit I still do love Office, and I know I'll have a hard time completely letting go.

I had to get a sub in order to go to the conference. In addition to leaving written sub plans, I like to leave a set of Do Nows (Smart Starts) for the sub. This involves preparing a Powerpoint for the classes that are coming in that day, and saving it to the guest login desktop on my computer. Hopefully leaving the Do Now is helpful to the sub, and provides some consistency for the kids. The only downside is that the PPT needs to be done before I leave for the day, sometimes the tech does not cooperate, things take longer than I anticipate (i.e. website migration- argh), and it just cannot be completed the way I hoped.

What can you do? Let go, yes, but let's face it, if you're like me, you need things to be a certain way, and it's not okay to just let it go. So for last week, to my chagrin, I did have to let it go. Of course the rest of the night, I kept thinking, "I just want to change this one thing..."

Here's what I came up with, post-conference:

Create a Google Slides and give it a name (Substitute Do Now)
Change the Sharing settings so Anyone with the link can view
Copy the link
Create a shortcut on your desktop (whichever computer connects to the projector, and make sure you are logged in with the guest account- I DO NOT give my log in credentials out, EVER!)

  • PC- Right click, New, Shortcut, Paste the link to the shared slides, Next, Name the Shortcut, Finish. A shortcut to your default browser will appear on the desktop
  • Mac- Paste shared link (make sure this is the shared link, and not the editing link) into a new tab, highlight the entire url, and drag the entire url to the desktop- Shortcut voila!
Now you have a link to your Sub Do Now. Google Slides lets you update from wherever you are, and the link/content is always current. Ba-bam! (that's not really my thing, but I feel like I need a thing here to celebrate). Leaving written sub plans in the same way might be next.

What else does this do? It avoids having to keep your computer, or more importantly, your account, logged in overnight, or in some cases, all the time, just in case you need a sub. Be proactive in keeping your accounts (professional and personal) secure!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

TechSmith Jing and SnagIt

My intent for the past few years has been to create a video resource library of all the awesome things you can do with technology. However, I am a victim of perfection, and need to think things through (to an excess) before I can get anything done. I REALLY need to adapt the mantra, "progress not perfection" rather than driving myself crazy over getting it right the first time out. Learn from failure, and iterate, right Steve Isaacs? Which is strange because I love problem solving. Anyway... Fifth grade usually does an Animoto project around this time of year. I really wanted to use the opportunity to explore other methods of delivering the instruction this year, especially with the influx of Chromebooks at our school. I decided to create a series of videos for each step of the process. Of course it took me FOREVER to get it done because of the perfection thing. Accept progress, girl! This is what I learned (deep breaths)... - I used Jing by TechSmith to record screencasts of the process of gathering, organizing and downloading images to Google Drive. - I broke down the lesson into many mini lessons. Free Jing has a 5 minute limit on video length, and if you make a mistake in a "no pause" session, you need to start recording your video from the beginning. Jing does have a restart feature if you pause, but it is hard to remember how far back to restart if you want to re-record further back than what you just finished. - Downloading images and saving to Google Drive is different on the Chromebook than it is on the computer, so I wanted to screen capture for the Chromebook as well. I recorded a near perfect screencast with TechSmith's SnagIt, but discovered that it doesn't record right clicks, or new screens coming up. You see the mouse moving, but that's it. Loved the learning experience. Love adding to my dream (#sonerdy) video resource library. Still struggling with letting go of perfection. Grateful for the experience. Thanks to Steve, Grace and Leila for changing our morning routine for me to get this done. Now to figure out where to post/store these .swf files :)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Create Elegant and Engaging Videos with Animoto

Fifth grade is just about ready to complete their Call to Action unit with Animoto. In updating our student accounts, I realized that I've been using Animoto for four years! What?

Animoto lets you create beautiful, engaging videos in three simple steps: Upload your pictures, add text, choose music and a theme. Done!

I created this video on the #Chromebox to intro the activity/project to the students.

Anyway, it is definitely a favorite of mine and is available on iPad, iOS, and Android so you can create videos on the go as well!

Friday, November 21, 2014


Okay, we LOVE NitroType! Such a fun (and FREE) typing reinforcement game. LOVE challenging students, and I LOVE hearing that they are challenging each other at home.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Puffin- A Flash Enabled Browser for iOS

A few months ago, teachers from a neighboring district visited to observe how a new math curriculum had been adopted by our school. Part of their visit involved meeting with me regarding the technology logistics. When I mentioned my love affair with the iPad despite Apple and Adobe's refusal to play nice, the visiting tech specialist suggested download Puffin Browser for the iPad, and I've been (mostly) in seventh heaven since.

Puffin Browser is available on the App Store and Google Play and even proclaims to be "Wicked Fast" on its homepage. Before discovering Puffin Browser, I had been dreaming up alternate ways to run Flash while on the go; bring the Surface, buy a Chromebook, drag my tablet PC everywhere (imagine that! Remember when having alaptop was conventient!), I even considered purchasing another MacBook Air (but then why have mobile devices?) #firstworldproblems 

While I personally do not experience wicked speed on my iPad 2 64Gb (51.3 G used, plus it takes FOREVER to calculate the number of apps- last check was 200+), I was thrilled to see Flash based websites running in Puffin, namely my major discovery, Coaster Crafter! Consider me a satisfied customer, for the time being...

Now that I've begun to rely on Puffin Browser more (and have dropped the idea of carrying multiple devices for complete mobile functionality), I am realizing some features that are missing. 

I am taking an Intro to Scratch course through the University of Northern Iowa. Puffin can run Scratch projects beautifully, and you can drag and drop command blocks without issues. However, if you want to change a variable in any of the Scratch blocks, Puffin does not recognize those areas as ones that you would need the keyboard for. Plus, I can't figure out how to exit full screen mode to access my other tabs.

I also preview many web tools for use in the elementary classroom. Recently I was looking at Wideo for students to create book jackets. Wideo would be great (except for its closing credit) in terms of ease of use, on the computer, but in Puffin, once again, I was unable to edit text fields, because it could not detect that I needed a keyboard.

Please comment and share your experiences with Puffin browser. I would really like to love it!

P.S.- since mentioning less than wicked speed, Puffin seems to be running faster on my loaded up iPad.