Saturday, March 26, 2016

Chrome Apps You Can't Live Without

If you are a fan of the Chrome browser and use it every day like I do, then you’ll definitely want to check out some of the Chrome apps listed below. They will help you be more productive in your day-to-day activities and can also be used in the classroom with your students.

Chrome Apps for Recording Audio

·         Voice Recorder – Voice Recorder is a free and simple app which records sound from your microphone. After recording you can trim the sound and save it to your computer.

·         MicNote - Mic Note is a great tool that allows you to both record audio and take notes in the same time. It is perfect for brainstorming ideas, taking quick notes, and planning meetings.

Chrome Apps for Notetaking

·         Google Keep – Google Keep is one of my favorite notetaking apps. It that allows me to quickly capture what is on my mind. The app also allows you to speak a voice memo on the go and have it automatically transcribed.

·         Scribble - With Scribble, you can take notes quickly and attach reminders to them. Notes are auto-saved and can be synced across multiple computers.

Chrome Apps for Screen Capture

·         Awesome Screenshot App – The Awesome Screenshot App allows you to capture visible parts of the screen or drag and drop images in the app in order to annotate them.

·         Clipboard Image – The Clipboard Image app allows you to save clipboard images or screen captures directly to Google Drive.

Chrome Apps for Generating QR Codes

·         QRCode Monkey – QRCode Monkey allows you create all kinds of QR Codes and personalize them with logo-images and color-options.

·         The QRCode Generator – The QRCode Generator app provides a dead simple way to generate QR-Codes from URLs, text messages, phone numbers, and more.

Chrome Apps for Drawing and Sketching

·         Google Drawing – Google Drawing is another one of my favorite apps. It allows you to create shapes, diagrams, or charts that you can easily insert into your documents or lessons.

·         Sketch Toy - This app lets you draw sketches right in your browser and share or download it. You can also rotate the canvas in 3D by using the keyboard left/right arrows.

These are just a few apps. What would you recommend?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Help Your Students Become Digital Literate

Do your students have the ability to find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content using various technologies? Digital literacy is an important topic because technology is changing faster than society is. The same advances that make our work easier—those that make it possible for us to search online databases, text friends, and stream media—also present serious challenges, such as copyright violations and academic dishonesty.

As educators, don’t we all want to steer our instruction away from rote-memorization and, instead, promote higher-order thinking skills (analyzing, creating, etc.)? In addition, don’t we all want to have our students find their own learning resources and be able to analyze them in order to create a more personalized learning environment? And, aren’t our goals as educators geared towards ensuring our students have the tools and knowledge they need to be successful citizens after graduation? These are all reasons why it is important to promote digital literacy in your classroom.

Below are a few links to sites that contain activities and lesson plans designed to promote Digital Literacy in your classroom.

1.    The Go Digital – Digital Learning Day has compiled a set of digital tools, resources and lesson plans recommended by fellow educators from around the country. There’s no need to wait for Digital Learning Day, which is on February 17, 2016, to start using these resources.

2.    Google itself has a Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum that has some excellent materials on topics like:  Evaluating Content Online, Managing your Digital Footprint, and Identifying Online Scams.

3.    Edutopia’s Digital Literacy and Citizenship Round Up has collection of articles, videos, and other resources on internet safety, cyberbullying, digital responsibility, and media and digital literacy.

4.    Toward the bottom of Classroom Aid’s Resources for Teaching Digital Literacy, you will find a variety of tips for helping your students search the web as well as resources for teaching and learning digital literacy.

5.    ReadWriteThink has a variety of lesson plans on digital literacy for grades K-12.  Each lesson plan contains an overview, standards covered, resources and preparation, instructional plan, and additional related resources.

6.    We can’t forget about Cybraryman’s list of awesome resources. His Digital Literacy website contains many activities, projects, and websites to use in your classroom.

What are some ways you are helping your students become digital literate?

Saturday, March 12, 2016

4 Lesser-Known Google Tools You Should Try Today

There are many Google tools teachers are using in the classroom, such as Google Drive, Google Classroom, and Google Hangouts. However, there are quite a few Google tools that aren’t as widely used or publicized. Learn about a few below and how they can be used in your classroom today.

#1 – Google Keep
Google Keep is a note taking application that allows you to create lists, color code notes, set note reminders, and share notes with others. You can even create voice recordings, which are then automatically transcribed into a note. If you are a fan of to-do-lists like I am, Google Keep allows you to convert text notes into checklists. You can access Google Keep online or by installing the app for iOS and Android.

In the classroom -
  • Students can quickly save what’s on their mind, write down homework, take brief notes, record their ideas, or take pictures of information.
  • Students can color code homework notes by subject area, for example, all blue notes could indicate math homework.
  • Students can set up reminders about their notes in order to get instant notifications about homework or projects.
  • Students could listen to voice notes that you create in order to practice pronouncing words or just study vocabulary.

#2 – Google Sky
Google Sky is a part of Google Earth that allows you to explore space and star systems.
It allows you to view a collaboration of some of the best images from NASA satellites, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, and the Hubble Telescope. Google Sky is a great way to view the planets, constellations, birth of galaxies, and other items in the universe.

In the classroom -
  • Students can write poems about the stars.
  • Students can discuss objects in the solar system and depict differences between them.
  • Students can create stories about the night sky.
  • Students can build presentations about the history of the planets.
  • Students can discuss the atmosphere of the Earth and how it protects life on Earth.
  • Students can create videos about the importance of the sun or climate change.

#3 – Google Art Project
Google Art Project is an online platform in which you can access and browse high-resolution images of artworks from over 400 of the world’s greatest art museums. Some of the museums include the Tate Gallery in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the Uffizi in Florence.

In the classroom -
  • Students can take virtual gallery tours with audio and video guidance.
  • Students can zoom in on individual artwork masterpieces and discuss them in groups.
  • Students can create their own virtual collections or view collections you have created that support their instruction for the day.
  • Students can write about images that you choose as writing prompts.

 #4 – Build LEGO With Chrome
Google has partnered with LEGO so you can build with Lego bricks using Google Maps as your baseplate in Chrome.
A Google team in Australia first developed this application as an experiment in 2012 and now Google has now opened it up to everybody.

In the classroom -
  • Students can build their own Lego cities, highlighting data they have collected about their city.
  • Students can build Lego versions of historical landmarks and write an essay about them.
  • Students can view what others have built and discuss the various structures.
  • Students can screen capture their creations to include in a digital story or video.
  • Students can review digital citizenship and copyright by reading the site’s House Rules.

So, how many of these did you know about? If you knew about them and are currently using them, I’d love to hear from you.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


Are you interested in making your class more engaging for students? Why not gamify your class?

As you know, gamification is the use of gaming principles to get students involved, engaged, and excited about learning. It consists of adding game elements to a non-game situation. It introduces concepts like badges, levels, achievements, and game points to the classroom. Students are rewarded with these concepts when they succeed. By introducing a system of rewards without harsh penalties, students are not afraid to step outside of their comfort zone and fail. By removing their fear of failure, we encourage them to learn.

Gamification Resources

·         Brainscape - Brainscape is a web-based platform that is designed to help students study smart. The program creates flashcards and changes the pattern based on what students know and what they seem to be struggling with.  Site:

·         Breakout EDU - Breakout EDU creates engaging learning games for people of all ages. Games (Breakouts) teach teamwork, problem solving, critical thinking, and troubleshooting by presenting participants with challenges that ignite their natural drive to problem solve. You create the perfect breakout for your students! Site:

·         Class Craft - Class Craft is a free online, education role-playing game that teachers and students play together in the classroom. Student can level up, work in teams, and earn powers that have real-world consequences. It provides a layer around any exisiting curriculum in order to transform the way students learn. Site:

·         Class Dojo - Class Dojo turns your class into a game of rewards and instant feedback. Class Dojo is a classroom management tool to help teachers improve behavior in their classrooms quickly and easily. It improves specific student behaviors and helps engagement by issuing awards and recording real-time feedback.Site:

·         Class XP - Class XP is a grade tracking dashboard for students that integrated game mechanics. Students earn points (grades), gain levels (grades), and in a way, have leaderboards. There are class valedictorians and student are essentially ranked based on points. Site:

·         DuoLingo - DuoLingo is a massive online web platform designed to help student learn a given language online. Beginners start out with basic, simple sentences from the web, while advanced users receive more complex sentences. As a student  progresses, so does the complexity of the sentences they are asked to translate. Skill points are earned as students progress through lessons. Site:

·         Ribbon Hero - Ribbon Hero is an add-in game, available as a free Microsoft download, to help educate users of Office 2007 and 2010 on how to use the tools available in the new ribbon interface. Once installed, the game can easily be initiated form any of the key Office programs, such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Once in the game, the user is presented with challenges which can yield points if completed. Site:

·         3D Game Lab - 3D Game Lab is a gamified content creation and student tracking platform where teachers can design and share quests and badges to create personalized learning for their students. Students "level up" through the curriculum, choose quests they want to play, and earn experience points, badges, and awards. Site:

Ideas to Gamify Your Classroom

·         Foster collaboration - Present the classroom syllabus as a form of a game and have students create classroom goals and rules with you.

·         Provide instant feedback - In a game setting, feedback is essential for students to know how they are doing in the game. If a student makes a choice in a game, it is usually known immediately if that choice was the right one.

·         Make progress visible - Progress bars and levels in games allow students to set goals for themselves and celebrate success once achieving them.

·         Create challenges instead of homework - In games, students are constantly required to meet challenges, such as identify patterns or break codes. The same element can be applied to homework and projects in a fun, yet challenging way.

·         Give students choice and a voice - Games often give students various choices. Instead of simply issuing a test, you can allow student to take different paths to demonstrate their understanding of the material.

·         Offer badges and rewards - Badges or other rewards are a good way of recognizing student achievement and for giving students an incentive to continue reaching their goals.

·         Allow for second chances - When a challenge is failed in a game, students are able to learn from their mistakes and try again.
Try using one of the resources and ideas above to enhance the overall learning experience of your students.

Monday, March 7, 2016

In-Class Flipping with Google Apps

I often hear from teachers, “I’ve tried flipping my class and it just didn’t go very well.” While the reasons varied as to why the flipped approach didn’t work for these teachers, the main thing I kept hearing was “the at-home learning just didn’t happen.”

In-Class Flipping
This brings me to think about the in-class flip model. If you are not familiar with in-class flipping, it keeps all parts of the flipped model at school. Teachers pre-record direct instruction and that recording becomes a station in class that small groups of students could rotate through. While students are at their stations, the teacher could work one-to-one with some students, while others students spend time doing independent activities or group work. Watch this video to learn more about in-class flipping.

Ways to Use Google Tools for In-Class Flipping
If you are looking to try out the in-class flip model, Google Apps for Education can help you along the way. Below are a few Google tools you can use:

  • MovenoteWith Movenote, you can create a picture-in-picture screencast with you and files from your Google Drive. If you have a lesson you uploaded to your drive or have a lesson you created with Google Slides, it is easy to add video and audio to that lesson with Movenote. Students can then watch you while also seeing the lesson you are teaching.
  • YouTubeWith YouTube, you can do everything from finding instructional videos for your classes to recording your own. If you want to create your own video, apps such as YouTube Capture make it easy to record your lesson straight from your mobile device. You can then take advantage of editing your video with YouTube’s Editor as well as add annotations to your video.
  • VideoNot.esWith the Google Drive app, students can take notes while they watch your video lesson. Their notes are synced with the video and when they click on a line in their notes, it will jump to that portion of the video. This is a great way for students to make notes about portions of the lesson they didn’t understand so they can go back and watch it again.
  • ScreencastifyWith the Screencastify Chrome extension, you can easily create a screencast for your lesson. The extension will record all screen activity and includes audio as well. All you have to do is press record and the content on your screen will be recorded. Recorded videos can be saved or uploaded to YouTube or Google Drive with a single click.
  • Google FormsWith Google Forms, you can easily upload your video lesson and add questions about the lesson. All you have to do is create the form and share the link with your students. Check out this Election Lesson created with a Google Form.

These are just a few Google tools to help you get started. There are many more, such as Google Sites, Google Classroom, and of course, there are a lot more Chrome apps and extensions for screencasting.

So, if you tried flipping and it didn’t work, don’t give up just yet. Try in-class flipping.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

10 Tips for Getting Started with BYOD in the Classroom

Has your school implemented BYOD, but you are thinking OMG? Don't panic. We all feel nervous when it comes to starting something new. You’re not quite sure what to expect. Will you embarrass yourself in front of your students? Will you not be able to do it? What will others think of you? It's the anxiety of facing something unknown.

Well, it is possible to get the most from your BYOD environment without going crazy. Try these few tips to help you get started with BYOD in your classroom.

Tips for Getting Started with BYOD

1. You are the teacher in the classroom: keep control of student use and when you or anyone is addressing the class, make sure devices are not in use (on the table with screen down, knees toward me, close the lid) and remember to allow use only when the lesson requires it.

2. Ask three before you ask me: have students support each other as you will not be able to support all devices in the room. 

3. Keep your management plan in place: there should be consistent consequences in your room for any off task behavior.

4. Bring it out only when it is needed: every lesson might not require the use of a device.

5. You do not need to know how to use each and every device, but you should know what it can do: students should be able to use their own device no matter what the lesson is. 

6. Start small: when using technology in the classroom, it is always wise to start with something small.  Millions of apps and websites exist and it can be overwhelming. Choose one or two to start with.

7. Walk around: just like you always do as this helps with on-task behavior and support.

8. Always have a “Plan B”: sometimes tech has issues, make sure you have other ways to support the lesson or a back-up lesson. 

9. Communicate appropriate use: if you are going to let students use devices when they are done with work, make sure you are clear on what they can do with devices, such as: read, work on other classwork, etc.

10. Don’t give up: if your first BYOD lesson doesn’t go as planned, try and try again. Patience produces a great runner, so be happy with small gains. Remember, you’re just beginning but before you know it, you’ll be leading the race.

Friday, March 4, 2016

4 Tips for Keeping Your Data Secure in the Cloud

While presenting on Social Media in the Classroom, I ran into a former colleague. She mentioned a fantastic presentation she attended on Cyber Security in the Classroom. Our conversation soon drifted to a discussion about passwords and how secure our passwords really are, especially with the amount of data we are storing in the cloud.

When you think about it, the amount of information we are storing in the cloud is growing every day. Most of us no longer use USB flash drives to carry our docs because it so easy just to store our information in the cloud. However, we hear about data breaches happening all the time, so how can we be sure our information is safe and secure out there?

Below are a few tips to put into practice to help secure your data in the cloud.
1. Get serious about your passwords
Strong passwords are a critical component of good security. Passwords should be unique and complex to ensure that others can’t guess them or reuse them to access your other accounts. If you set up your password the
Snowden way, you will “shift your thinking from passwords to passphrases.” A strong passphrase could include anywhere from 20-30 characters long and includes a combination of numbers, symbols, and capital letters. An example of this type of password would be, “I enjoyed learning at Edcamp 2016” which would equate to “!enj0yedLearning@Edc&mp2o!6.” In addition, don’t forget to change your passphrase regularly and don’t use the same passphrase for all your accounts.
On the other hand, you might find that some of your cloud services use two-step verification on top of your login credentials as an added layer of security. In the case for Google Apps for Education, the administrator of your console can enable two-step verification so that a verification code can be sent to your mobile phone on top of just your password. President Obama recently weighed in about password security being so bad.

2. Encrypt your data
Encryption is one of the most effective ways to secure your data. Encryption works as follow: You have a file you want to store in the cloud, you use certain software which will allow you to create a password for that file, you move the password-protected file to the cloud and no one is ever able to see the content of the file without knowing the password.”

By encrypting data you are adding an extra layer of protection and ensuring that your information is readable only by intended parties.
Some ways to encrypt your data include using tools like Secret Space Encryptor (SSE) and/or the Chrome app MiniLock.

3. Read the small print
Aside of storing your data, some cloud services allow you to share your data through them with others. Some cloud service providers don’t advertise that they might have the right to use the content you share on the cloud. Make sure to read the provider’s terms and conditions. There’s no doubt that it isn’t the most exciting thing to read but it may contain crucial information you need to know.

4. Think before you click
Sometimes, the security of your cloud data depends on what you do online and what you click on. When using a public computer, do not save your password, and ensure that you logged out of your account after you are done. And always avoid clicking on email links and attachments from people you don't know.

Be sure to keep these few tips in mind when choosing the best way to protect your data. Always remember, your information is valuable, therefore, you need to protect it.