12/18/2014

Screen recording is getting easier and easier

Ever think about making a quick introductory video to help get students hooked on a new topic at the beginning of a unit?

How about having students explain their reasoning by creating quick videos to help teach a concept to their peers? 

Or maybe you just want to record a small part of a lesson. 

Google Chrome (Internet browser) has many hidden add-ons you can install on your own; called Extensions

Screencastify, a Chrome Extension, adds the ability for anyone to create screen recordings with no additional software. Screencastify will save a video directly to Google Drive for you to keep privately for yourself, share with one or two people, or to publish on the web for everyone!

**Add the Screencastify extension to your Google Chrome by following this link:  https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/screencastify-screen-vide/mmeijimgabbpbgpdklnllpncmdofkcpn?hl=en   **

For those you like to read directions about recording, find those here: https://www.screencastify.com/ 

Want help with any of this, want to talk more about how you can leverage technology for learning, or have a project idea and want help making the technology do what you want it to do? Just let me know. 

Also, follow our Twitter feed, authored by Tony VonBank, for Princeton classroom highlights and the occasional intriguing article @innovation477

10/30/2014

Student-lead news broadcast in elementary

How do we leverage student creativity and communication in the digital world? 

At the beginning of the 2014-15 school year, students at North Elementary received a chance to expand the way the connect and communicate with one another. Tiger Pride News, created by students in grades 3-5 at North Elementary, are using 

These three 5th graders are part of a team that broadcasts live news every day through Google+ Hangouts On Air to their 3-5 elementary school building. Classrooms can tune in live, or visit the recorded news broadcasts later in the day when the schedule requires. All broadcasts are on-the-fly. They don't edit and video, simply cover what is happening around their school and community in the best way possible. The idea of create now, refine later, can explain how our students approach learning in the digital world. Students want a product to share. They want to learn what they need to engage an audience, with a tangible product that can be shared with anyone, simply by sending a link. 

Keeping their friends and family up to date on what is happening in their elementary school may be part of the motivation, but they do take their job very seriously.  Armed with a Chromebook, webcam and tripod, they also cover live events like the Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner's visit to North Elementary in Princeton, Minnesota, today. 

They occassionally have a Roving Reporter, live interviews held outside of the studio (but within range of the school's wifi or at home) from an iPad, join in on the Hangout broadcast. 


View the student-lead coverage of Commissioner, Dr. Cassellius' visit to North Elementary here. 

10/24/2014

Add-ons for Google Forms

As of 10/20/2014, Princeton students and staff have created 1,420 Google Forms online. 

Google Forms has improved a lot over the past two years.

Last year, the ability to add photos and videos right in forms.

Today we see Google Form Add-ons, many of which focus specifically on the feedback from teachers on what they need out of a form as an assessment & productivity tool.

From Google Forms , select the Add-ons menu 


For example, "The Choice Eliminator Add-on will eliminate an option from a multiple choice, list or checkbox type of question. Great for signing up for time slots or having students choose topics without doubling up."
Link to the Choice Eliminator Add-on

To create a Google Form, go to Google Drive, click Create (or New), Form.

6/25/2014

Feedback v. Evaluation to encourage creativity

At the Minnetonka Leadership Institute this morning, we are working with Doug Reeves (changeleaders.com) talking about inspiring creativity in teachers and students.

To inspiring creative ideas... clearly define the difference between feedback and evaluation. 

Do we provide feedback to our teachers on a regular basis, or only evaluation? How can we do both? 


5/07/2014

Add more fonts in Google Drive, Random top 7 list

Word on the street is that some people are stuck using Microsoft Word or PowerPoint because they like to use creative and wacky fonts. They have to save their files and email attachments to him/herself in order to work on a different computer or device. That sounds horrible.  

Did you know you can add many of those same fonts to Documents and Presentations in Google Drive ?!? 

Simply click on More fonts...


Other reasons Google Drive is better than Word and PowerPoint: 
  1. Access your files from virtually anywhere, on any device
  2. No more multiple versions or copies of files
  3. Easily share documents with your students, and back again 
  4. You'll never worry about losing your USB Thumb Drive again
  5. You don't have to worry about what format or computer you started a presentation on, it will always work
  6. Revision history - Track student learning and understand how they formulated their ideas. 
  7. Auto-saves as you type. Power outage? Who cares. 
Try Google Drive today at drive.google.com . It will save you time next week, and probably a few headaches the week after.

4/30/2014

Use Google Docs & Sheets without internet - new apps for iOS (iPad)

While I don't often share links to new apps, some of you may have a need for the new Google Docs and Sheets apps. 

Basically, it's the exact same thing as the Google Drive app everyone already has, but you can create and edit documents and spreadsheets on your iPad (iPhone, etc) without the internet! Google Docs & Spreadsheets, on the go. 

As soon as you connect back to the Internet again and open the app once, anything you made on your iPad offline is saved to your Google Account and can be accessed on your computer through Google Drive. Who's excited? I know I am.  

Basic screencast I made that walks through getting into the app (1:55)  

Links to download apps: 

4/01/2014

Africa unit project - interactive map building


I visited Mr. Clifton's 8th grade geography class for the end of 3rd hour and beginning of 4th today. They are beginning their final assessment for their Africa unit. Mr. Clifton was willing to do something different with the unit project and offered to develop and new project starting with the rubric from his previous project for this unit. 


Students are to create a dream Africa trip, stopping in at least 10 places during the trip. Me. Clifton wanted students to be able to add multimedia and written responses for each of the 10 locations. Google Map Engine came across as a great way for students to create the maps, as his students have access to a chromebook cart for checkout. It's basically a Google map that you can collaborate and build many different digital contents into each map point such as photos, YouTube videos and student writing. Students did not have any hesitations getting started with the online map tool. 

Students were logged into Chromebooks during the initial explanation of the project, as Mr. Clifton linked the rubric and planning Google doc to his webpage - not to say that this project couldn't be done if you don't have a webpage! 

I am excited to see some of the maps as students get more into building some of the content!





30 second "tech tips" to share with staff:
Reopen closed tab on chrome.
Shrinking menus at bottom to make more things show up on screen.
Zooming in/out when showing students media/documents. 

2/04/2014

Classroom Communication

Below is a short analysis of the basics around using Blogger.com as a platform for classroom communication. 

If you are looking for a simple, easy yet meaningful, get-off-the-ground-today tool to connect your classroom to the outside world, post at least one photo to Instagram  everyday from a mobile device. 

Classroom Communication with Blogger 

Classroom communication has changed shaped over the last few years. Newsletters and weekly folders were daunting administrative tasks that many teachers took on to connect their students to the learning in their classroom. Today, there are many shapes and sizes of social media that are adapted to be used in classroom settings. Using digital tools, mainly cell phones or tablets available at teacher’s fingertips, are the easiest methods of sharing student learning from classrooms to family and beyond.

While I explored the idea of using Instagram and Facebook as the tool for classroom communication based on their ease of posting content, the tool I believe to be the best tool for communication in my classroom is Blogger.com. Blogger is a part of Google Apps for Education suite of collaboration tools available to schools, and is easy to set up and get off the ground without any technical experience. While I could spend time creating a blog on a large number of other free blogging platforms, I believe Blogger’s integration with Google Apps to be very beneficial in the long run. Some of the first pieces of content to share through my classroom communication tool are photos of students and staff in action in school. Blogger has apps for almost all mobile devices and can easily upload photos on the fly during discussions or learning activities. Blogger provides a clean and simple platform for a teacher to reflect and share what they are doing in their classroom without worrying about the design of the site and color of the menus. You can change themes in Blogger, and even get more advanced personalization for those who really want to make their blog look like no one else’s, but for a majority of people, the design of Blogger helps me focus more on the content I am writing or posting to share.

The biggest benefit of using Blogger as a communication tool is the ability to have a safe and secure environment to post snapshots of learning. Students should be posting content and sharing what they are doing at school. Using Blogger and Google Apps for Education with all teachers and staff, students are able to write and submit their own posts to the classroom blog. Blogger has a wonderful workflow that simply allows the teacher to approve or deny a student’s post. If you are using the internet as the main form of communication from school, it is important that you have oversight on the content written in blog posts. A blog in Blogger can be shared in a variety of ways, one of which would be to share it only with people who have the link. Parents, grandparents, family members will all be able to share and forward the link to our classroom blog, but Internet search engines will not be able to find it. Student-authored posts can be a large or small project, allowing one or many students to post content to a blog every week. Students can be encouraged to submit blog posts whenever they encounter certain understandings or thoughts out on their own, and Blogger allows students to simply submit a post day or night.
Screenshot of Blogger content editor

Sharing the blog encourages families and other classrooms to participate in online discussions and share their opinion about other people’s ideas. Blogger’s ability to allow the teacher to approve or deny blog comments is also crucial to an online form of communication. It is easy to find negative comments on the internet, mainly because people are allowed to post under a username much more anonymously than they could in person. Moderating comments on blogs puts the teacher and students in charge of how a blog is used to communicate to helps prevent one or few negative comments becoming large topics of discussion and promote useful feedback.

Finally, Blogger is a communication tool that is easy for parents and other classrooms to follow. Along with providing simple RSS feeds, Blogger allows you to invite people to read or comment on your blog via email. As other social media tools emerge and become easier to post content from, such as Instagram mentioned earlier, Blogger will be able to embed that content right in the class blog. There are many methods of automating this process as well, such as sharing every Facebook post to a Blogger post to connect all your online sharing in one place. By inviting everyone via email and sharing a link to the blog with everyone else, Blogger becomes a very private place for students to have open conversations and share authentic and candid feedback on their learning.

PS. If you want to get more involved with an Instagram.com or Blogger.com project but don't have access to any tools, buy the cheapest web-enabled smart phone on Ebay.com or craigslist.org for less than $20. 

1/21/2014

9 Links on EdTech and Rethinking Strategy


  1. Slidedeck from George Couros’ presentation on Engaging Parents in the Process of Learning. http://www.slideshare.net/gcouros/involving-parents-in-the-process-of-learning-ties13  George Couros was at the TIES conference this year to talk about how he views the role of being a principal. He wasn’t a keynote speaker, so you had to seek him out. He talks about supporting teachers, interacting with students and parents in a very straight forward format. His ideas seem simple and convincing, so I thought I would share his slidedeck of his presentation.
  2. Ed Tech Integration Is a Low Bar. http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teaching_ahead/2012/02/integration_is_a_low_bar_support_teachers_to_redefine_their_clasrooms.html?override=web this is an older blog post from Chicago Public School’s Jennie Magiera on 2/2012 that talks about setting a bar for “Technology Integration” across a district. Her article brings up some very valid points about adding technology to a teacher’s instructional plate as just another checkbox. Being almost two years old, I found the article to be short, to the point, and interesting to look at the ways our current district’s are trying to integrate technology.  
  3. Ed Tech Frameworks: Why I Don’t Use TPACK or SAMR with my Teachers. http://www.edtechcoaching.org/2013/11/ed-tech-frameworks-why-i-dont-use-tpack.html from fellow midwesterner Krista Moroder over by Milwaukee. Many schools spend a lot of time working with SAMR and TPACK models, or fighting over which one is better. Krista wrote this post last October about her approach to EdTech in the classroom, and how the idea of using technology to make you more efficient or effective could be a better way to start than a prescribed framework for EdTech integration.
  4. Digital badges bust out of school-defined learing http://www.educationnews.org/technology/julia-steiny-digital-badges-bust-out-of-school-defined-learning/ A longer article, discusses the idea of verifying someone’s skills through an online course or test in order to teach or obtain a certain position. I thought this article fit very well with our current course, and at least provides a little overview of the ideals and thoughts behind, “Digital badges” along with what that really means to the real world like us.
  5. 5 Things to Rethink http://jakes.editme.com/rethink by David Jakes. A former director of technology in a large Chicago suburb, David Jakes spends time designing innovative workspaces, and apparently speaking on them at the Midwest Google Summit this past fall. His entire focus is on the design of a learning space, which ultimately translates into changing the design of a few teaching strategies. This article gives a five different topics for all teachers to think about ways to redesign in their school system. Most of which are not too far fetched.
  6. Technology is not a magic bullet.  http://cevans5095.blogspot.com/2013/11/technology-is-not-magic-bullet.html While not a new idea, this quick article is another reminder for anyone caught up in a converstation where you are trying to decide what device to buy your 20,000 (or maybe just 3,000) students and it seems like you might be missing the basics. Are teachers or learning ideals leading the drive, or just the technology? I often think it’s good to have little reminders to keep everyone from getting caught up in the flash, not to sound like a broken record all the time.  
  7. http://everyfield.com/ A website that set out to map every sports field in the world. Yes, a web tool made the list as an example of using the internet for good, in very simple ways. How does this relate to you, you might ask? I bet your local fields have not yet been drawn or added to the map. Future class project. A local project with real world, online implications? Sounds fantastic!, you might say. If you can amp up student excitement that this website and mapping project really means something in the end, I think it could work. The 5-12 social studies license in me had to mention this site as I can’t help but investigate projects like this when I see them online.
  8. Google+ Guide for Educators  https://docs.google.com/document/d/13LQkWSH104pwgjWvIXpXf6O8wi23zPG4hzcJ9I32in0/edit  Thinking about using Google+ with your teaching team or students? Here is a quick guide to help them get started and off the ground, without ever using anything like Skype or a video camera before.  
  9. Lucidchart.com (webtool, App, Google Drive Add-on). Graphic organizer that harnesses the sharing and collaboration power of Google Drive. Auto-saves to Drive or no account needed to use it. Import photos, create collaborative graphic organizers in small or large groups. Develop mind-maps interactively between multiple devices with your class. You could even create a flow chart of YouTube videos.  Any questions?

1/14/2014

If I were the district technology leader, I would ____

I am currently in a educational leadership course and we were all asked to respond to the following question,

"If I were the district technology leader, I would ___."

This question really made me think a little deeper into my peer's responses because everyone in the course are classroom teachers. Teachers don't often have a place to provide candid and private feedback about how they would change someone in their administration.

Here are the answers that stuck out to me the most:

  • Hone in on a few tools, not the flavor of the week.  
  • Provide more staff development around implementing tools, not simply . 
  • Equitable access to technology for teachers and classrooms, even teachers who come off as apprehensive to technology. 
  • Only supporting the high-flying technology teachers isn't helpful for student learning in the other classrooms. 
  • Get rid of all the "blocks" on the internet. Trust your teachers and students more. 
  • At some point, a decision needs to be made. More devices and learning management systems will come out, but we have a need to fill today. 
  • Give more opportunities to teachers to extend themselves through technology.
While this could have been a chance for teachers to talk down their district's technology, all the teachers had meaningful and helpful feedback for how a technology team could better support teaching and learning. Reading through their responses a second time, a few of the ideas are realistic changes that could have a huge impact on instruction. With that, it reinforces the idea that as a district leader you have a lot of constituents. Talk to your teachers more often, in real life. Find out what they are excited about and frustrated with. What are their goals? If you can, talk to them on a level playing field.   

How would you respond to the question,  If I were the district technology leader, I would ___ ?

Comment below. 

1/09/2014

Borrowing sugar

Today, our technology support staff were trying to resolve a problem that they couldn't find an answer to. They had gone through all the normal steps of technology troubleshooting, and even  a few internet searches. No updates, restarts or reinstalls would fix the problem.

Then they asked me, "What do you want us to do next?" The first response that popped into my head was that we should tweet, email or call a few of the many neighboring school districts that happen to have a couple thousand of the device in question to find out if they have run into the problem before. It turns out that school districts and people that I consider to be neighbors might not be considered very close or neighborly to other people, and I think connecting with educators through Twitter and Google+ are the cause of that.

I'm not too young to never have borrowed sugar from a neighbor (or apparently to use it as a metaphor). Consider connecting and learning from someone who works with the same content or ideas as you, as borrowing sugar. You're borrowing some knowledge (sugar), with that idea that you will later give back some different knowledge by posting or sharing your work. By connecting with other professionals through social media or other forums, you can use the internet for good. While you might not share a backyard with someone else you tweet at, it may still start to feel a little neighborly when they can relate to an entire project you are working on. Using the internet for good seems to make wild ideas such as Wikipedia.org succeed.

Remember when Wikipedia.org was banned to use as a citation? Now it's where most people start their research.