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 AliceKeeler.com. 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. 

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. Classdojo.com 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.