Monday, October 1, 2018

Four Google Slides Tips for Amazing Presentations

Google Slides is one of the best presentation tools that I have used. It has come a long way from when it first came out because Google continues to add updated features to it. While the collaborative features of allowing multiple editors to work on a presentation together is great, there is so much more you can do with Google Slides. The four important tips below will enable you to tap into the potential of Google Slides while also allowing you to create engaging presentations that will amaze your audience.

Tip #1: Use a Template as Your Starting Point


If you want to get your message across, you must first be able to captivate your audience. Part of that captivation is realizing that we are all visual beings; therefore, an effective presentation design is as important as the message itself. If you are stuck trying to come up with a creative look for your slideshow, then enlist the help of slide templates.  Templates can serve as your starting point or as an inspiration for what you want to create yourself. 

Tip #2: Insert Videos Directly into Your Google Slideshow

There’s a lot to be said for having videos in your slideshows. It can keep presentations interesting, offer additional learning experiences, and give your voice a break. You can insert videos into Google Slides two different ways: through YouTube or through your Google Drive.

To insert a video, make sure that you have the YouTube URL or that it is already uploaded to your Google Drive. Then navigate to the Insert menu and select Video. A box will open with separate tabs to “search” YouTube, link directly through a YouTube URL, or navigate your Google Drive files. Simply enter the URL or select the file you want to link to your slideshow, and then press Select to insert it into your slide.

To see how to enhance your presentation with more than just video, read the Fabulous Presentations with Google Slides blog.

Tip #3: Use Slides Q&A to Interact with Your Audience


While presenting, allow your audience to ask questions through Slides Q&A. Being interrupted to answer questions while you are presenting can make you, the presenter, lose your train of thought. Thankfully, Slides Q&A offers a great solution to that.

With the Slide Q&A feature, your audience can submit questions using a specific link you give them. The questions will be visible to both you and the audience. The audience can vote up questions that they are interested in, ensuring that you answer higher priority questions first. By simply submitting questions from any device, your audience will be more involved in the presentation. Furthermore, they will feel like they are getting real-time feedback.

The Q&A feature is accessible through the Presenter View. To see how to get started using this wonderful feature, read the Engage Students with Google Slides Q&A blog.


Tip #4: Present with Your Phone

Thanks to the Remote for Slides Chrome extension, you don’t have to buy a presentation clicker. In addition, you don’t have to be tethered to your laptop while you present. The extension works in collaboration with your Google Slide presentation so you can walk around the room with your phone and still advance your slides. If you included talking points in the slide notes section, you can view these on your phone as well. Another thing to note is that a timer is also available to help you keep track of time. For step-by-step instructions on how to use the Remote for Slides Chrome extension, check out the Use Your Phone as a Google Slide Presentation Remote blog.

Ready to Present?

If you have an upcoming presentation, try some of the tips mentioned above to take your presentation to the next level. Your presentations will surely catch the eye of every audience member!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Six Ways to Spice Up Back-to-School Inservice 

The beginning of the school year is fast approaching and teachers will be walking in the front door for their first back-to-school inservice. This can be one of the most important and productive professional development opportunities of the school year. But on the other hand, it can also be one of the most dreaded for teachers, who want time to work in their classrooms. So how can you spice up your inservice and ensure it isn’t a wasted meeting? Find some suggestions below.

1 - Have a Plan and Invite Your Staff to Share in It


The first “must” for a successful inservice meeting is to have a plan and an agenda in place. Agendas make it easier to stay on track and follow up with important items. When creating your agenda, remember that you want to make effective use of everyone’s time. Be sure to include a section for action items so that everyone can have an overview of what needs to be done.

It is so easy to create your agenda electronically, for example with Google Docs. There are many agenda templates that exist as well. Look at this sample agenda. Once thing you will notice is that it has a place to take collaborative notes. There’s no need to have notes or minutes being taken separately when they can be done on the agenda itself. If you share the agenda with your secretary or even some of your staff members, they can collaboratively take minutes.

Another thing you can do is share or email the agenda to all staff members in advance of the meeting. Invite them to contribute topics or ideas that they think should be added to the agenda. This will show that you value their thoughts and they will be more invested in your time together.

2 - Don’t Do All the Talking

As the principal, you don’t have to do all the talking at the inservice. Allow your staff members to shine by having them lead a part of the meeting. Giving your staff that opportunity will help develop your school leaders as well as build staff morale. You could assign teachers roles, topics, or updates that they will, in turn, share with the entire group. Your teachers will feel empowered by taking a more active part in the inservice. Remember, teachers love to teach, so utilize that when planning your inservice.

3 - Break the Ice

The start of a new school year can be nerve-wracking, not just for students, but for teachers, too. Why not incorporate a fun, getting-to-know you activity? Giving your teachers time to share special facts about themselves or share fun things they did this summer will help ease those nerves. This is also the perfect time to introduce and recognize any staff members who are new and learn a little more about them.

Icebreakers help you build relationships with your staff. Try to use icebreakers that your staff can use with students in the classroom so they can build relationships with their students, too. It never hurts to model what you want to see in the classroom. You can find a few icebreaker activities at Classroom Icebreakers for Back to School and Even More Classroom Icebreakers for Back to School. The great thing about those icebreakers is that they incorporate technology. The ISTE Standards for Administrators say that you should promote and model effective communication and collaboration among stakeholders using digital age tools (ISTE Standard 3c). Digital icebreakers will help you do that.

Click HERE to see a Two Truths and a Lie Icebreaker.
The password is Icebreaker.

4 - Try Something Different

There are so many things you need to cover at the beginning of the year inservice, such as policies and procedures. These aren’t necessarily the most exciting topics to discuss; but nevertheless, they must be covered. Therefore, why not incorporate a little fun into reviewing these less-than exciting topics by using a little variety? Instead of showing a PowerPoint, have the teachers complete a scavenger hunt or some type of game. Have them compete in a smack down or rotate around the room to have quick conversations about specific topics. You can find these ideas and more at Innovative Professional Development Models.

back-to-school inservice
Example of a speed dating professional development activity

5 - Incorporate the Three F’s

Do your best to incorporate the three F’s:
  • Food. Food can have a tremendous impact on the meeting's productivity and outcome. I always liked the saying, “To Meet Better, Eat Better.” You will especially want to provide a snack for your teachers to avoid afternoon slowdowns.
  • Freebies. It’s always a good idea to give your staff something to welcome them back. It could be something like a pen, water bottle, or coffee mug that has the school logo on it. If there aren’t any discretionary funds available for this, then you could make something for them. It’s the thought that counts.
  • Feedback. Feedback is important and we all know it. As mentioned in #1, getting input from your staff will show you value their thoughts and opinions. Make sure you provide opportunities for your staff to speak up during the inservice.

6 – Start with the End and End with the Positive

At the beginning of your inservice, make the goal or objective for coming together very clear. Ensuring that your staff knows what the expected outcomes are will make for a more efficient inservice.

Lastly and most importantly, make sure you end each day on a positive note. Let your staff know how much you appreciate them. Make these days about them and be visible and ready to help them when needed.

Have a Great Inservice

Hopefully, this has given you a few ideas on how to spice up your inservice and get off to a great start. It’s a busy time of the year, so make the first days with your staff count as much as possible.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Display Classroom Expectation Posters This School Year

Having strong classroom expectations at the beginning of the school year is so very important. So why not display them with eye-catching posters? If students forget an expectation or if you need to conduct a mini-lesson targeted toward the expectations that need attention, you can just point to the posters.

Setting Classroom Expectations

I can tell you from experience that your year will be less stressful if students know what your expectations are from day one. One of the obvious expectations you might have is how your students should enter/leave the classroom. 

Remember that your classroom expectations are what you want to happen in the room. So they should be written in a positive tone and not filled with lots of "do nots." Think about what a learning environment looks like on the best possible day and write the expectations to help everyone achieve that.

After you have come up with your expectations, then involve your students. Ask them to brainstorm ideas for their own classroom expectations. This will allow your students to take ownership over their environment and will show them you value their thoughts. Just like you, I’m sure your students have expectations as well. Together you and your students can collaborate on all classroom expectations.  It’s possible that your students will come up with the same expectations you did. Once all classroom expectations are in place, make sure you hold your students accountable to them.

Creating Classroom Expectation Posters in Google Slides

Click HERE to download
the How-To Guide.

It’s important to come up with some sort of visual display for your classroom expectations. This is where Google Slides comes in handy. It is so very easy to create classroom expectation posters with Google Slides. Refer to this Make Posters in Google Slides How-To Guide to see how simple it really is. The guide contains three steps: 1) Set Up Your Poster; 2) Design Your Poster; and 3) Print, Share, or Embed Your Poster. Google Slides will allow you to make your posters artistic and professional. Even your students can join in on creating the posters.

Once your posters are created, you have the option of printing them, sharing them with parents or via Google Classroom, or embedding them on your Google Site. 

If you want to see some sample PDF versions of posters I created, click on the links below:
  • Be Kind and Respectful to Others – PDF link
  • Listen While Others Are Speaking – PDF link
  • Raise Your Hand to Speak – PDF link

Another idea is to create a pledge that your students will sign acknowledging that they will follow all classroom expectations. Check out the pledge I created below in Google Drawings.


It’s Powerful

It’s powerful to be able to refer to a visual representation of the classroom expectations and remind students they were involved in the creation of them as well. What do you do when it comes to classroom expectations? What benefits do see for visually displaying them in the classroom and having students contribute their expectations? Share in the comments below.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Use your Phone as a Google Slide Presentation Remote 

At the recent Elementary Technology Conference, I was able to use my phone as a remote to control my Google Slide presentations. Thanks to the Remote for Slides Chrome extension, I wasn’t tethered to my laptop. I was able to walk around the room with my phone and advance my slides as I presented. When presenting, why be stuck in the front of a room when you don’t have to be?

Features of the Remote to Slides Extension

The free Remote for Slides extension (@remoteforslides) was created by Henry Lim, a Google Developer Expert in Web Technologies. Some of the features on the extension include:

  • Move Slides Forwards or Backwards: You can move your slides forward or backward by tapping a button.
  • Timer: A timer allows you to look at the time for which you have been speaking for. This is critical since you don’t want your presentation to go over its scheduled time.
  • Speaker Notes: Speaker notes allow you to refer to your notes during your presentation. This really helps you remember that important information you are trying to convey to your participants.

Installing the Remote for Slides Extension

To install the extension:
  1. Launch the Chrome browser and go to the Remote for Slides Chrome extension.
  2. Click the Add to Chrome button.
  3. Click Add extension in the confirmation box.
  4. The button changes to Checking. Then it changes to Added to Chrome when the installation is complete.

Using Remote for Slides

To begin controlling your presentations from your phone:
  1. Open your presentation in Google Slides.
  2. On the top right, click the "Present with Remote" button.
  3. Wait until the presentation is fully loaded.
  4. Click on the "Show ID & Start Remote" button to view the 6-digit code.
  5. Open on your phone and enter the code that appears on the page.
  6. Press the Connect button and you are ready to go! Your phone is now a remote, with two large buttons to move back and forth between slides.

Try It On Your Phone

The next time you have a presentation, try using your phone as the remote. It works like a charm. Also, don't forget to check out Fabulous Presentations with Google Slides to learn how to create more moving and engaging presentations.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Google-izing the 5E Lesson Model

Ready to blend Google Suites for Education tools into inquiry-based lessons? A wide variety of approaches exist, none more popular than the 5E Model. Let's see how the 5E Model combines with Google Suites for Education to make learning engaging.

Google-izing the 5E Lesson Plan Model

The 5E Lesson Plan model has five components. Those components appear below. With these, you will see specific examples of Google Suites for Education tools.

1- Engage

Boredom in schools has a dire effect on learning. Bored students perform less well on tests (Source). In one research study, over half of students defined their school experience as boring. The 5E Lesson seeks to engage students so that they will retain learning. How can you accomplish this with G Suite tools?

One approach involves creating virtual field trips. Rather than giving students a textbook map, have them make one. Students can use Google Tour Builder to create an interactive journey. See this example for language learning combined with history.
Another approach may involve having students craft their own infographics. View this social studies infographic that captures the essence of infographics in schools. You can see many more examples of Tony Vincent's #classygraphics online.

2- Explore

Once you engage students in learning, make time for independent and group exploration of the topic. This allows them to develop and pursue interests grounded in the topic. Explore topics in such a way that students must figure things out without all the details being filled in for them. In PBL, this is known as presenting students with an ill-structured problem.
When using G Suites for Education tools, use the new Google Sites to create a digital breakout. Why does this approach work? It challenges students to pay close attention to details that lead them to create their own gestalt of the topic. The mind, psychologists say, has "an innate disposition to perceive patterns." Not sure how to create your own digital breakout with Google tools? See this list of resources.

Get the editable version of this via David McGeary

Another way to use G Suites is to create a digital choice board or multimedia text set (MMTS). Find ample examples of both online.

3- Explain

Students have had the chance to be engaged. They have explored the topic in detail, so now you can start to share your expertise with them. One way to scaffold student learning has them creating a T-chart to help them examine two aspects of an object, situation, or event. This allows them to compare diverse ideas.

Image Source: Frazier Statue

You can create T-charts in Google Slides, Google Docs, or Google Drawings. Find other chart templates here.

4- Elaborate

Learners may often need to revisit a topic from a different angle. Using differentiation techniques, you can empower students to dig deeper. The purpose of the focused hyperdoc is to allow students to explore a topic from various angles. For example, elaboration may involve enriching or extending a lesson. For other students, revisiting an activity at a slower pace with more teacher support may be needed.

One simple approach involves a focused hyperdoc. You can create a hyperdoc that either extends, enriches, or scaffolds student learning. Rather than create a detailed hyperdoc, use one of the simpler templates available in Google Docs.

5- Evaluate

Ready to assess? Have students use G Suites tools to create visual representations of their ideas. These creations can take many forms, whether Google Sheets graphs of data or something more creative. For example, students can design digital ebooks with Google Slides or Google Docs and then export them to ePub ebook format.

Putting It All Together

It's easy to imagine any one approach as the only one to use. Blend them to create engaging lessons that showcase student learning.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Alexa Blueprints Empowers Teachers and Students

With the new Alexa Blueprints program, Amazon is making it possible for anyone, including educators, to create their own Alexa skills easy-to-use templates. You don't even need to know how to code or program. Teachers can create quizzes in minutes by filling in just a couple of blanks.

Getting Started with Alexa Blueprints

To get started, go to this website. Log in with whatever Amazon account you use for Alexa. Once you log in, you’ll see a list of possible skills you can customize. To create your quiz, follow the three easy steps below:

Step 1: Pick the Quiz Template

Under the Learning & Knowledge section, select Quiz. Then select the Make Your Own button.

alexa quiz

Step 2: Fill on the Blanks

Enter your questions and correct answers in the template. Note that you can include follow-up facts if you would like. With this in mind, you can enter more details about the question to increase student learning. After entering your questions, select the Next: Experience button.

alexa quiz

Now you can customize the Alexa experience in the following ways:
  • Add you own individualized introduction.
  • Select a unique sound that will play along with your introduction.
  • Customize the quiz responses in order to provide personalized feedback when correct or incorrect answers are selected.
  • Add custom sounds, like crowds cheering, when a correct answer is selected in order to heighten student engagement.
alexa quiz

Lastly, select the Next: Name button.

alexa quiz

Step 3: Use It

Enter the name of your quiz. However, be aware that Alexa is still learning first and last names. For best results, use common words. Now, select the Next: Create Skill button. Wait a few minutes and begin using your quiz with your students.

What’s Next?

To sum up, teachers who have access to the Amazon Echo technology should be creating tons of quizzes with this easy-to-use template. It’s a great way to create an interactive formative assessment and promote student learning through engagement. In addition, some other templates include flash cards and storytelling tools that let you create your own interactive and personalized stories. Give them a try.

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!