Sunday, June 9, 2013

Five Must Use Google Tools That Will Transform Your Life, Professionally, Personally or Both!

I am in the process of completing a PD course that covered all things Google. Despite my impression that I was pretty proficient when it came to all things Google, I was happy to learn a few more tricks and tips to add to my growing knowledge of these fantastic tools.

Google Calendar is a must for anyone that has any desire to stay organized. Whether you are single, or have a family, follow sports, work, attend meetings, or do anything besides sit on the couch, this tool is for you! Google Calendar lets you create appointments simply by clicking on a day, and entering the details. That's it! First step to getting organized, done! You can create recurring appointments, share your calendar, and subscribe to calendars of your favorite teams, cultural holidays, even browse interesting calendars. But wait, there's more! You can set up a calendar for each member of your family, and color code them to view all at once. I even have a calendar for the house that includes garbage and recycling pickup, house cleaning, landscaping, and even visits to the vet. If your district is using Google Apps, you can even use Google Calendar to create appointment slots, which is great for signing up for the lab, teacher edit appointments, or office hour appointments. Oh, and have I mentioned that you can sync your calendar (and everyone else's) to your smartphone? GENIUS!!!

Screenshot from the MacBook Air (Command+Shift+3--> I learned that today!)

Would also love to share a screenshot from the iPad/iPhone, but can't figure out how to upload to Google+/Picasa w/o making a post. Hmmm... I'll figure it out at some point and post in the near future.

Got it! Screenshot from iPad

Google Drive/Docs is Google's productivity suite, all available online. It has the capability not only to create documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and even drawings, but you can use the space as cloud storage. Use Google Docs to create forms to use as quizzes for your students, or just to collect information from volunteers. You can also collaborate with others easily.

Let's talk about Picasa, Google's image organizer and viewer, now integrated with Google+. I have always had a need for an image organizer, and have tried many different products. Picasa can work as a standalone product, or what makes it really great is that your albums can be synced online. My biggest gripe with Picasa (the standalone), is that every time you open it, it scans all your images, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but EVERY time? C'mon! Of course, now that I'm thinking about it, I am going to have it scan every folder on my tablet PC (since I'm using the very AWESOME MacBook Air- thanks, G!). Picasa lets you choose which albums to sync to the web, which now are connected to Google+ (which we didn't go over in class, but I'm going to take a leap and talk about it anyway, as it relates to web albums). If I haven't already mentioned it, you should know that I love web 2.0 tools that can also be used on a mobile device. While there is not iPad/iPhone app for Picasa, there is one for Google+, and it's a pretty snazzy one, I should add.

Another great feature of Google+ is that it has unlimited uploads. It can also automatically back up every photo you take from your mobile device. When I first heard of this feature, I was a little leery, because I wasn't sure I wanted every photo on Google+. But now that I pretty much exclusively use my iPhone as my camera, and I have almost 40GB of photos and videos, I had a change of heart. As we speak, I am uploading 3085 items to Google+, and I am scanning my portable drive. 

p.s.- Just make sure you don't hit Cancel backup while it is in progress. What has already taken hours, seems to have started from scratch. Here's hoping I don't have double of all my pictures on Google+.

p.s.s.- Looks like Google+ knows which photos have been backed up. Whew.

BTW- All the pictures I'm using in this post are from my Picasa/Google+ account. For anyone that has created a webpage, you know that it's arduous to upload and find the picture to use in the webpage. This process is streamlined when using Blogger. Blogger is another Google tool for, you've got it, blogging. Blogging can be your class website, a personal journal, your students' writing portfolio, or just your daily/weekly adventures. Available on the web, and as an app for iOS.

... a view of what I'm working on from the iPad :)

So, if you're writing a blog, surely you're reading some blogs. How do you keep track of all those new blog posts? Google Reader allows you to subscribe to your favorites and read them all in one place! Unfortunately, Google Reader is saying good bye on July 1, 2013, so you'll have to find an alternative. Luckily, a friend suggested Feedly. Feedly uses your current Google Reader RSS subscriptions, and using it has been a joy. It is easy to organize your feeds, and beautiful to read, both online and on a device. 

Organize your feeds as easily as click, hold and drag

Read your feeds on the computer or on a mobile device

Ready to try everything? Go for it! You'll wonder how you didn't find these tools sooner!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Class Dojo for Classroom Management

I came across Class Dojo last week (don't ask me where, I'm lucky I can remember where I live at this point). Let me just say that I am SO excited for the school year just to finally have a system to track behavior - both good and bad. is a free service which lets you acknowledge positive behavior in real time. A demo class is provided for you to explore the features right away.

Each student appears in the class with a little monster avatar
Behaviors (good and bad) can be assigned by clicking student, selecting the behavior, and the points accumulated by each student are prominently displayed.
Inputting each class (every student for me) can be a chore. We haven't been provided with class lists yet, so it seems daunting for me at this point. I hope copy and paste will be a good friend to me in ClassDojo.

You can also give students access to their individual accounts so they can track their points at home. I'll be testing that out before doing so. Also, a rewards section looks like is in the works.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Journal of Course Experiences- KidPix 4

Today I am completing my work for the KidPix course- hooray! I gained a greater appreciation for what was possible through completing this course and look forward to using the creative tools with my students. KidPix can be used at all grade levels in the elementary setting, and across subjects. It is a great introduction to graphics for K-5 students!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Using Google Docs in the Classroom

I just came across a great blog post by a teacher using Google Docs in a college setting. Good tips for all levels of students.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Journal of Course Experiences, KidPix Deluxe 4

Now that I have completed my Web 2.0 Collaborative Instruction course, and the holidays are over, I am continuing my quest to complete my MA+30 to advance on the salary guide. The current assignment in the course is to select an activity from the KP Lesson Anthology. I have selected the Butterfly activity, but modified it, so instead of illustrating the life cycle of a butterfly, I illustrated an insect and labeled all of its parts. To differentiate the activity, I would suggest to "fast finishers" to illustrate the life cycle of an insect and include it in an insect slide show.

Next up is my personal project (x2 since I am going for the A grade). I'm a little stuck on a lesson plan for teachers, so I'm going to save that for last.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Voicethread is very similar to Fotobabble, yet I am far more intrigued than I was with Fotobabble. I wonder why this is the case...I’ll have to reinvestigate Fotobabble at some point. The free version of Voicethread looks pretty awesome. With a free account, you are entitled to three voicethreads at a time (up to 50 slides each), 3 minutes of comment by telephone, unlimited voice and text comments, and a webcam commenting up to 30 minutes! The voice annotation of the pictures were appealing, plus the ability to comment by several means, phone, typing, audio, or video kept me engaged. Voicethread could be used for a Westward Expansion journal, Explorer’s diary, field trip summary/highlights, or even as an alternative to whitebooks. I also love that you can draw on the videos!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Five education practices that should be replicated nationally

eSchool News recently polled their readers on what education practice they believed should be replicated nationwide. The top five practices were (Late Night style):

5. Monitoring networks to gauge application usage
Not exactly in the style of Big Brother, but more so to see what applications teachers and students are using most to make future purchasing decisions.

4. An extra day for teachers to plan and collaborate
Students would be on a four day schedule and teachers on a five day, with the fifth day dedicated to planning and collaborating with colleagues. I think there is a district in NJ that has something similar in place. It might be a half day once or twice a month for professional development. I'm wondering out loud if a four day week would be viable. Assuming an 180 day school year, a four day week for students would extend the school year through the summer (10 additional weeks to make up for the one day a week for collaboration). There were be less learning loss due to summer vacation, and the time to get back into learning mode/classroom systems would be decreased as well. Maybe a half day every week would accomplish the same.

3. SEED Math Program (Special Elementary Education for the Disadvantaged)

2. Reading as a high school graduation requirement
I would add effective communication skills to the graduation requirement

and the number one education practice that should be replicated nationwide...

1. Tablet computers and electronic interactive textbooks for students
Technology would certainly help districts go green, and would absolutely engage the students, but would it save money in the long run as proposed in the article? Obsolescence is always an issue when dealing with technology, whether it is purchased or leased. Cost of maintenance another. Would students bring their own technology? Would bringing their own create a digital divide? Can the district's infrastructure handle the number of users that result? Hmmm...