Friday, May 11, 2018

Adopting Google File Stream

Looking for some quick tools to save files on your computer straight to Google Drive? Then Google's File Stream solution for Google Suites for Education will get the job done. Often, we have files cluttering our hard drives, taking up space on both our computers and in our cloud storage. Before we go into how to get started with Google's File Stream, let's review why this would be worth doing. We will also cover the following questions:
  • Why switch to Google File Stream?
  • What problem does Google File Stream solve?
  • How do you get Google File Stream?
  • A final reminder

Why Switch to Google File Stream?

With new solid state drives (SSDs) becoming more affordable, you may want to get an SSD for your computer. Solid state drives lack moving mechanical parts, which means they:
  • Are more resistant to physical shock (important if you tend to drop a device from time to time)
  • Have silent operation
  • Enjoy speedier access time
  • Feature lower latency, or minimal time delay between a query and response from your drive
One of the main drawbacks of solid state drives is their expense. The larger the size of the SSD, the greater their cost. That is why many computers come with smaller SSDs. Some computers come with SSDs for the operating system (to speed up start time) and a traditional multi-terabyte hard drive (slower, but offering greater capacity) for your actual storage. On smaller, mobile devices with a smaller solid state drive, Google File Stream can be a boon. Save your data in the cloud and keep only the essential applications on your device.

Google File Stream does not save files on your local drive. Instead, it takes advantage of your always on, instant internet connection. File Stream accomplishes this by saving straight to the cloud, which is Google Drive. File Stream allows you to "See all of your files in Google Drive without using storage space on your computer." What's more, it allows you to view and open files stored in Google Team Drives, too.

Did You Know? Google Team Drives

"Google Team Drives are shared spaces where teams can easily store, search, and access their files anywhere, from any device. Unlike files in My Drive, files in Team Drive belong to the team instead of an individual. Even if members leave, the files stay exactly where they are so your team can continue to share information and get work done." (Source: Get Started with Team Drives)

What Problem Does Google File Stream Solve?

If you've ever lost files on your computer (due to a hard drive crash) or lost a USB flash drive with data on it, then Google File Stream can save you time and effort. Listen to the tale of woe of Australian edu-vlogger Florence (@TeacherTales101) upon breaking her USB drive. The experience led her to explore Google File Stream.

How Do You Get Google File Stream?

Remember, while Google Backup and Sync is intended for the consumer version of Gmail (a.k.a. "personal version"), Google File Stream works only on Google Suites for Education. To get started, login to your G Suite account. Then, open the link (this link will display a page that looks like the one below if you are logged in with G Suites for EDU/Business account).

As you can see, one of the key benefits of File Stream is that you can "See all of your files in Google Drive without using storage space on your computer."

file stream

Final Reminder

As you struggle to keep track of all the important files on your computer, remember that backing them up with Google File Stream can save you time and effort. Avoid loss of data due to equipment failure. Get started with Google File Stream on your Windows or Mac computer today.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Make History Come Alive with Alexa

Voice-controlled devices like the Amazon Echo are here to stay, so why not embrace them in the classroom to make history come alive? Studying history is important because it allows us to understand our past, which, in turn, allows us to understand our present. Now with Alexa, Amazon Echo’s virtual intelligence assistant, you can transform your classroom into an interactive learning space so students can learn history in every subject.

This Day In History

The This Day in History Alexa skill has broken into the Top Enabled categories of the Alexa Skills Marketplace. By saying “Alexa, launch This Day in History,” you can hear facts about the top historical events for that day and on any other day of the year. You can also ask Alexa for a historical event for any other day by saying “Alexa, ask This Day in History what happened on May 5th”, for example. The facts come from, which lists dozens of historical events every day.

Getting Started

To get started, make sure you have This Day in History enabled in Alexa’s skills. To do this, launch the Amazon Alexa app and access the menu. Next, select Skills from the menu and search for This Day in History. When it appears, click the Enable button.

When using Alexa, it very important to speak clearly. Many times, students will have to rephrase or repeat what they say. However, this can be great for practicing enunciation. In addition, it’s important to set expectations for using Alexa in the classroom (When can they use it? Are there questions they should not ask?) and practice, practice, practice.

In the Classroom

Aside from learning important history facts, there are other ways to incorporate and expand on the This Day in History skill in the classroom. Below are a few suggestions:
  • Writing prompts
  • Bell ringer activities
  • Study famous scientists, mathematicians, poets, etc.
  • Create classroom timelines that highlight the events and connect them to other historic periods
  • Reinforce routines by using it daily
  • Learn another language by switching Alexa to another language

The Future

Voice-controlled devices are popping up everywhere. In the future, our students will buy homes or rent apartments that already have these devices built in. The cars they will drive will have them, too. Therefore, why not incorporate them into the classroom and start with something that is incredibly important . . . history.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Restorative Discipline

“One of our students wrote some unflattering things about another student,” said the principal. “Since this is happening on student-owned devices, we don’t have much control over it. They are using something called YikYak.” John, a sixth grader at Generations Middle School in West Central ISD in Texas, avoided the protections the Technology Department had put in place. While some technicians supported geo-fencing, the superintendent decided to try a new approach he had heard another large urban middle school relied on. 

Restorative Justice (a.k.a. Restorative Discipline)

Restorative justice is a theory that empowers students to resolve conflicts on their own and/or in small groups. It's a growing practice at schools around the country. Ideally, the idea is to bring students together in small groups with their peers to talk, ask questions, and air their grievances.

Restorative discipline requires students to talk out problems and seek their resolution. This most often involves them sitting in a circle with everyone involved. The end goal is a campus culture that fosters relationships that can head off conflict. The main target of these approaches has been middle schools. The reason why is that students are considered to be in their roughest developmental period. As a result, middle school students tend to act out more. (Source: San Antonio Teachers Warm to New Approach)

The Goals of Restorative Justice

Restorative justice’s three main goals, according to the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, are: 
  1. Accountability. Restorative justice strategies provide opportunities for wrongdoers to be accountable to those they have harmed, and enable them to repair the harm they caused to the extent possible.
  2. Community safety. Restorative justice recognizes the need to keep the community safe through strategies that build relationships and empower the community to take responsibility for the well-being of its members.
  3. Competency development. Restorative justice seeks to increase the pro-social skills of those who have harmed others, address underlying factors that lead youth to engage in delinquent behavior, and build on strengths in each young person.
    (Source: Implementing Restorative Justice

Identifying Your Campus’ Need for Restorative Justice

Does your school need restorative justice? If digital citizenship is once a year practice, your campus may be due for a rise in inappropriate actions due to the ubiquity of smartphones and other WiFi enabled devices that bypass school content filtering.

Here is a quick checklist to determine if you have a need to implement restorative discipline approach in your school: 
  1. You realize that zero tolerance approach has been ineffective in your school. Suspensions, expulsions, and arrests have risen and your efforts have been unsuccessful in controlling them.
  2. Your school community (e.g. students, parents, teachers, others) are unhappy with your school’s approach to discipline.
  3. You realize that your current staff is unable to handle the load.
  4. All staff express a general lack of knowledge on how to deal with issues as they arise. 

Dealing with Dastardly Digital Deeds

School districts, like Ed White Middle School in Northside ISD in San Antonio, Texas, are already relying on restorative discipline to address dastardly digital deeds (Read evaluation of the approach at White MS). The main approaches for restorative justice include (Source):
  1. Engage with all stakeholders to explain the benefits of restorative justice.
  2. Provide professional learning opportunities on restorative discipline to all stakeholders.
  3. Deal with conflicts using the “Ignore and walk away” approach.
  4. Form a circle to deal with inappropriate actions to talk it out.
  5. Prepare to allocate time to accommodate circle discussions. These can take a few minutes or up to an hour.
  6. Be consistent in the application and use of restorative discipline strategies and circles.
  7. Assist students in learning how to facilitate classroom circles.
  8. Practice restorative justice coaching conversations and classroom circles often with everyone.
  9. Hire a restorative justice coordinator. This position would be in addition to your school counselor (or not depending on your needs). 


A final point to consider: Restorative discipline has been around for a few years. You can now find Professional Learning networks (PLNs) on social media outlets such as Twitter. These educators are having active conversations via Twitterchats. To learn more about restorative discipline, try joining the conversation.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Go Lite with Android Apps for BYOD

Go lite with Android apps that are small and fast. Space you save on these apps will make room on student BYOD devices for more important, creative apps.
As more schools transition to the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) model of technology use, teachers may be seeing students try to use their own inexpensive Android phones that don’t pack quite as much punch as might be needed. They may be unable to run the latest, most powerful apps, which could cause problems in the classroom. The answer to this dilemma is to “go lite” with some brand new, lite versions of Google tools that have just launched.

The Lite Movement

When Facebook came out with lite versions of their Facebook and Messenger apps on Android, I found myself wondering, “How much better will they work?” Microsoft joined in with Skype Lite, built for Android phones in India. Microsoft describes their Skype Lite in this way:
It is small, fast, and capable. It lets you send free text messages and make voice & video calls even under limited network conditions.
Small. Fast. Capable. Those three words define the lite experience. After spending some time with each, I find they are less clunky than the full app. Indeed, they are faster. This makes them perfect for any Android phone or tablet, such as Samsung and Amazon Fire, that may need apps with less of a footprint. While lite apps are available, you may also see web-based versions (such as Twitter Lite) that streamline their interface for speed.

How to Get Lite Apps

Now that you’ve decided to shed a few apps, you may need to get your phone ready. If you’re running the Android Oreo operating system, you won’t encounter too many problems (approve app each time). For any operating system before that, take these three steps to allow app installations from outside the Google Play Store:
  1. Go to the Settings app.
  2. Select Security.
  3. Toggle Unknown sources to On.
That’s it! You are now able to access popular apps. That includes Google tools like YouTube GoFiles GoAndroid Go, and, just announced, Gmail Go. In this blog entry, we’ll discuss three of the Go family.
Note: If you or your students get the “No eligible devices” message, you may need to first install a no-cost virtual private network (VPN) like OperaVPN. Then, change your location to an eligible country before visiting the Google Play Store. And don’t worry; the process is easier than you may think.

Google Tool #1 – YouTube Go

Although launched for India first, YouTube Go has now became eligible for use in 130 more countries. Watch the short video below for an overview:
The app does the following:
  • Lets you preview videos prior to viewing.
  • Gets videos to watch when not connected.
  • Selects your video resolution.
  • Adjusts data consumption.
  • Shares several videos with others nearby.
This lightweight app may be just what you and your students’ devices need.

Google Tool #2 – Files Go

The way Files Go works on your Android device is similar to having a personal assistant tidy things up. Files Go cleans up space on your Android device, keeping you organized.
According to Google Play, Files Go “recommends rarely-used apps to remove,” “recognizes and helps you get rid of spam & duplicate images,” “helps you find your important photos, videos, and documents faster,” and “makes it easy to share your files offline — quickly and securely”. Source:
Ready to get your personal assistant to clean your Android phone? Use Files Go.

Google Tool #3 – Gmail Go

Like everyone else, I have a love/hate relationship with email. It is incessant, requires repeat visits, and attracts junk. Gmail Go brings together some popular features, such as these points Google uses to describe it:
  • Gmail Go blocks spam before it hits your inbox.
  • Gmail Go offers multiple account support (Gmail,, Yahoo Mail, or other IMAP/POP email)
There are many other apps that allow you or your students to go lite. Keep your eyes open for them since they can make room for more important, creative apps your students need to participate in class.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Creating Dynamic Digital Poetry Books

April is National Poetry Month. Celebrate by having your students create dynamic digital poetry books using Google Slides.
April is National Poetry Month and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate poetry than with student-created digital poetry books made with Google Slides. National Poetry Month was introduced in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets as a way to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States. Each year in April, tens of millions of students, teachers, and librarians rejoice in poetry’s important place in our lives.

Writing Poems with Google Slides

In the blog entry, Slide into the New Year with Student eBooks, I outlined four quick and easy steps on how to create an ebook in Google Slides. Your students will follow this same simple process for creating their digital book of poems.

The Poetry Marathon

In order for students to create a book a poems, they will obviously need to write more than one poem. Using a Poetry Marathon format to create a series of short poems around a common theme would work perfectly for this task. The goal of the marathon is to write one poem every hour, for twenty-four hours straight. The reward would be that you would have a collection of poems produced in one day. Of course, that might not realistically work in your classroom. Therefore, you would need to come up with your own rules for your marathon.

Types of Short Poems

Short poems are crucial for this kind of project as Google Slides will lend itself well to fewer words on a slide. This way, images can also be included to add visual representations of the poems.  A few short poems you can explore are cinquains, shape poems, nonsense verse, acrostics, couplets, and haikus. Take a look at these few that I included in my very own book, The One-of-a-Kind Daisy Mae.

Cinquain Poem

Click here to open the digital book.
A cinquain poem is a verse of five lines that do not rhyme. The cinquain poem was created by Adelaide Crapsey.

Acrostic Poem

An acrostic poem is where the first, last, or other letters in a line spell out a particular word or phrase. The most common and simple form of an acrostic poem is where the first letters of each line spell out the word or phrase.


A couplet is a pair of successive lines of meter in a poem. A couplet usually consists of two successive lines that rhyme.

Dynamic Digital Poetry Books Are a Win-Win!

The end result of creating this kind of digital book is a win-win.  Not only are students engaged in writing poetry in various forms, but they are also using technology to publish a digital book of their original writing.  I hope this National Poetry Month activity will inspire you to keep celebrating poetry digitally all year long!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Enhance Reading with Online News

Looking for some quick tools to enhance reading in your classroom? Look no further than current event sources and online non-fiction. Before we review the list of online news sources, let's remember why it's important.

News in the Classroom

  • Students who use the newspaper in school read more sections of the newspaper and show significantly greater interest in local government, neighborhood events, current issues and foreign affairs.
  • In a three-year study of NIE in Volusia County, Florida, students in NIE groups showed significantly superior gains in spelling and vocabulary in their classes than did nonreaders.
  • Research by Dr. Dan Sullivan of the University of Minnesota examined programs in 22 cities across the country. The study compared test scores of students who had used the newspaper in class with those who had not. In all 22 cases, those student who used the newspaper scored better on standardized reading test than did those who did not. Minority students and those who were not native English speakers showed the greatest achievement. (2002, NAA Foundation.) (Source)
Non-fiction reading has gone online. Video and audio sources deepen engagement. Combine the news sources I've provided below with tools such as:
These tools help students better identify and process online information.You can use them with various online news sources.

Five Online News Sources

Let's take a closer look at the news sources available to you and your students.
  1. Dogo News - This site serves as a leading source of news and information and includes current events, news, and non-fictional content. You can find content relevant to Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies. You may also want to visit companion Dogo sites focusing on books and movies, as well as one for teachers.
  2. Newsela - This site covers many subjects. Content appears at five different Lexile levels. This enables students to read the same material as their classmates at the appropriate level.
  3. Newseum - The goal of this source is to promote, explain, and defend free expression.
  4. Science News for Students - This site focuses on STEM-related research and events. They offer several types of articles, blog posts, and weekly features. Topics such as space, life and evolution, and math and technology prevail.
  5. Tween Tribune - Get daily access to Associated Press news articles, many of which come with self-scoring quizzes. Lexile levels are K-12 appropriate. You can also find Spanish AP articles, lesson plans, and videos. "Monday Morning Ready" newsletter content appears as well.

Deepening Learning

Ready to deepen learning in your classroom? Take advantage of these tools and news sources to enhance your students' reading.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Enhance Your Skills with Chromebook Bingo

Are you looking for a fun way to enhance your Chromebook skills? If so, try Chromebook Bingo with a template to customize for your own classroom.
This past February, I offered a workshop at the TCEA 2018 Convention on how to enhance your Chromebook skills. The first part of the workshop focused on getting to know your Chromebook. To make things more exciting, I decided to gamify this part of the session by allowing the participants to play bingo because who doesn’t like the thrill of finding the last item on their bingo card, jumping out their chairs, and shouting “Bingo!”

Chromebook Bingo Steps

The steps of the bingo game were as follows:
Step 1: Each participant accessed a copy of the digital bingo card. They could work alone or in groups. They were to complete each task on the card until a bingo was made.
Step 2: After the first bingo, they continued to play until someone made a blackout.
Step 3: After the blackout, they came up with another skill not already on their card and asked someone in their group or their neighbor if they could demonstrate the skill they came up with.

Create Your Own Bingo Card

Bingo is an incredibly fun game to play and can be used to learn anything from vocabulary to math to even learning more about your Chromebook. And best of all, you can create your own, customized Bingo cards in only a short amount of time.
I used Google Drawings to create the Chromebook Skills Bingo Card. Get your own copy here and see if you can make a blackout. You can even customize the card to gamify your next lesson. What you put on the card is, of course, only limited by your imagination. Don’t forget to give the winner a prize, a small treat, a trophy, a “No Homework” pass … or you can even give out a badge.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Be More Productive with Google Drive in 2018

None of us seem to have as much time as we need. Get back a little time and be more productive with Google Drive in 2018 by using these handy tips.
If you are looking to be more productive with Google Drive in 2018, then you’ll definitely want to use some of the tips listed below. I use Google Drive every day, which means that I am always looking for ways to do things faster and easier. Google Drive has some features that are not as apparent as some of its core functionalities. I have listed five of the handiest Google Drive tips that you should take advantage of, if you don’t already.

1. Save Images and Web Pages Directly to Google Drive

There are times when I need to share images or entire pages with my colleagues via Google Drive. In the past, I would save the image and then upload it to Drive. This can be a very tedious process. However, thanks to the Save to Google Drive Chrome Extension, you can now simply right-click on an image and then click “Save Image to Google Drive”. If you want to save a web page, simply go to the web page you want to save and click on the Save to Google Drive extension, located in the upper right-hand corner of your Chrome browser.

2. Quickly Access your Files in Google Drive

This is one of the newest features added to Google Drive. It lets you quickly access the files that you have recently worked on. Once you turn it on, you’ll find a line of your recent files right in front of you on the top of the Folders section just like the image below.
To turn it on, open your Google Drive Settings by clicking on the Gear icon in the top right-hand corner.  Scroll to Settings and find the Suggestions section. Next, click the box for “Make relevant files handy when you need them.” Refresh your page in order to see the changes. Now you can quickly access your recently modified files.

3. Filter Your Searches

If you want to quickly find a file in your Google Drive, you can always search your Drive. But did you know that you can filter your search results by clicking on the not-so-visible drop-down button on the right edge of the Search box? Once you click the arrow, you will see a panel of search options. You can filter by file type, date modified, and owner. If you need to find shared files, you can filter the same by looking for the name of the person you’ve share the file with.

4. Take Advantage of Google Drive Templates

Google Drive templates are an underused feature that has the potential to make your life much easier. There is no use recreating the wheel if you don’t have to. Google has a gallery of templates you can use. There is also a Chrome app for the Drive Template Gallery that you can install. You can even create your own templates and/or access templates created by others within your domain. If you are unable to access the templates, then your G Suite Admin must enable access to public templates.

5. Attach Google Drive Files Quickly in Gmail

This is one of the simplest Google Drive tips that I often take advantage of, but many people don’t know about. If you need to quickly email a document from your Google Drive, don’t download the file and send it as an attachment. Simply look at the bottom of your Gmail’s compose window. There you will find a little Google Drive icon. When you click on it, your Google Drive files will appear. Find the document you want to send and insert it. You can insert it as either an attachment or as a link contained within the email. It’s so simple and easy!

It’s clear that there are a number of ways to be more productive with Google Drive in 2018. These are just a few tips that have helped me be more efficient. I encourage you to try one (or all of them). If you have some other tips you would like to add to this list, drop them in the comment below and let me know.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Enhance Accessibility with Chromebooks

In this first in a series of blog entries on ensuring learning accessibility for all students, we explore Chromebook add-ons and extensions.
Are  you struggling to enhance accessibility with Chromebooks in your classroom? In this blog entry, you will find  a few accessibility add-ons and extensions for Chromebooks.

Make Learning Accessible on Chromebooks

Find a list of Chrome apps and extensions for special needs grouped by topic. Special thanks to Eric Curts for sharing his wonderful ideas.


  • Picto4Me – Allows you to create, edit, download, and play pictographic communication boards.


  • Simple Blocker – This tool helps students to stay focused on their work by blocking distracting websites. The user can choose the sites to block, how long to block them, and include optional password protection.
  • uBlock Origin – A simple but powerful ad-blocking extension that removes distracting ads from websites.
  • Move It – This extension can be set to periodically stop students working and have them do something physical. Research supports movement during study to improve retention.


  • OpenDyslexic – This extension overrides all fonts on web pages with the OpenDyslexic font and formats pages to be more easily readable.
  • High Contrast – This tool can make webpages easier to read by changing the colors to increase contrast, invert the colors, or switch to grayscale.
  • Readline – Although designed as a speed reading tool, you can adjust the speed to the lowest setting and use this extension to easily read text one word at a time.
  • Visor– This screen overlay tool darkens the page except for a horizontal band you can move up and down as you read, helping the student focus.
  • Color Enhancer – For people who are partially color-blind, this tool can help adjust and improve webpage colors.

Reading Comprehension

  • SummarizeThis – Copy and paste any text into the app to get a summarized version of the most important information.
  • sentiSum – Get a summarized version of any web page.
  • Google Dictionary – Double-click any word on a web page to get a pop-up with the definition and audible pronunciation.
  • Books That Grow – Books That Grow is a leveled reading app that contains eBooks that are set for each user’s reading ability.
This list is just a few of the many Chrome add-ons that can enhance accessibility in your classroom. Be sure to see another list of helpful add-ons that enhance readability and reading comprehension. If you discover other apps and extensions that work with the Chrome browser to help students with accessibility, please share in the Comments section.