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.