Friday, August 28, 2015

Blogger


It is no secret the Blogger makes for a great communication tool. In fact, I've posted quite a bit about using Blogger as a teacher website over the last couple years. I'm revisiting it for a few reasons. One being my videos I made to get started with Blogger were incredibly too long. :) I decided to revamp them so that they didn't take up as much time. The second reason is because I'm working with a brand new staff that may or may not be utilizing Google Sites for parent communication. So I am proposing that Blogger be an alternative to Google Sites.

Blogger meets a different set of needs than a traditional website. The purpose of using Blogger is for regularly updated information. Much more like a continuous newsletter than a static website. So as a teacher, Blogger can be used to update the community or any passerby about a class event, field trip, exciting lessons, projects, or even just random images of what happened in the middle of the school day. It doesn't have to be formal by any means. It just needs to be regular and relevant. Posts do not have to be long (like mine). It can be as simple as a video/picture and a short paragraph. If you can accomplish this, parents will look forward to keeping up with your classroom happenings.

Getting Started

First you need to create your blog. By visiting www.blogger.com, you'll be able to use your Google Account to create your first blog. (You can create multiple blogs.)


Template Settings

After you get your blog created, you'll want to adjust your template settings. This will fine-tune and adjust the appearance of your blog. These are settings you probably will not adjust very often as keeping your blog with a consistent appearance will cause less confusion for frequent followers. As a teacher, it may even be fun to change your blog appearance for each school year. 


Layout and Gadgets

Adjusting the layout to your blog decides where you want various pieces that you add to your blog. These pieces are "gadgets". Gadgets are extra tools you can activate to enhance your blog. For example, you could install a search gadget so that your visitors can search your entire blog if they missed something important and they quickly need to find it. I do not cover all gadgets in my tutorial, but I demonstrated a few that teachers may want to utilize. 



Settings

There are just a few settings that a teacher will want to glance through before using Blogger. Users will want to especially specify how they want comments to roll into their blog. I personally require that all my comments to my blog posts require approval. I mainly do that because there are bots that scan the Internet and post advertisements and spam on blogs. That way I eliminate any embarrassment from inappropriate comments being posted to my audience. 


Posts

Posts are what teachers will use almost every time they go to their Blogger account from this point on. It is where the teacher will keep their audience informed about upcoming/past events, projects in class, exciting learning experiences, or just thoughts/resources for student's education. My tip is to post regularly to keep an ongoing record of what is happening throughout the school year. The posts ultimately become your digital portfolio where you can hold all learning experiences from year to year. 






Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Chromebook Orientation 2015


School for MSD of Steuben County started last week and since then I've been getting students quickly oriented with their Chromebooks for the first time. It has been great meeting many teachers and students throughout the district. The students are excited for the opportunity to dig into their new device and try things out. 


To get students to understand the purpose of the orientation, I make the comparison to learning to pound a nail into a board with a hammer. Most students identify with the fact that pounding a nail with a hammer is actually a difficult thing if you've had little experience using one. You bend a lot of nails, have nails fly right off the board, or even miss the nail altogether and smash your thumb! The point is, we need practice. In order to efficiently and effectively use a Chromebook, the students need to know how to utilize it in a manner that is going to help them be as independent as possible. 

To get the kiddos rolling here are some basics of the Chromebook I like to cover with students:

Status Bar and WiFi

The bottom-right corner of Chrome OS contains a lot of information regarding the status of the Chromebook. It informs users of their battery life, WiFi signal, settings, and the user that is signed in. One issue we are facing frequently at MSD of Steuben County is that the devices may not connect to the Internet. If this happens, simply turning the WiFi on and off seems to fix the issue...for now.


Launcher and Chrome Webstore

Students will also want to know how to access the tools that make a Chromebook awesome in a school setting. This video covers how to access the launcher to perform a search and also access apps existing in their account. It also demonstrates how to use the Chrome Web Store to add apps into their launcher. 

The Shelf

There are some Chrome apps that students will want to access very quickly. For those items, students should use the "shelf" so that they are just a click away from starting their work. Here is how to "pin" items to your shelf.


Bookmarks Bar

For items that students cannot find in the Chrome Web Store, teachers can have students go directly to the webtool from their Chrome browser. Through the Chrome browser, the students can "bookmark" items. There are lots of ways to go about accomplishing this task, but this video covers how to get your bookmark bar going and how to drag links directly onto it. 


Bookmarks Organization

Using the bookmarks bar, users can also create folders to essentially make drop-down lists of bookmarks. This would be extremely handy for teachers to have students break their bookmarks down by subject, or use a folder to organize sites for a research project. 



Feel free to use any of these materials with your students to get your class up and running with their Chromebooks. These resources should get them to the point where they can get organized an feeling fluent in their basic use of the device. Device fluency is essential to the flow of your lessons and class environment. 


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Explain Everything for Chrome

Taken from: http://explaineverything.com/news/explain-everything-chromebooks/


Explain Everything has been a popular iPad app for several years now. Students and teachers love it because of the flexibility of the tool. You can import pictures, videos, and websites all while recording your voice and drawing/typing over these items. Users can also pause, create another slide, and then continue their recording. Explain Everything gives students a lot of opportunity to express their learning in a fun and creative manner.

Recently Explain Everything was added to the Chrome Webstore. Students in school districts with Chromebook initiatives can now take advantage of the recording power within this tool. Right now it is free. How long that will last I do not know as the iPad app does cost money.

The video below features how to create a video using Explain Everything. I do not cover every tool that is available for the sake of time. However, it should give you and your students enough information to get started. There is a bit of a learning curve with this tool. I recommend having students just test it out to see what all the functions are within this tool.



I envision students being able to use Explain Everything in a variety of ways:
  • Students could use it to create animations. They could import images of characters from the internet or even drawn. They could then grab the images and record their voice. 
  • Students could also use this for full presentations. If they made the slides with a photo editor (Pic Monkey) or Google Slides, they could use images on each page within Explain Everything. Then finish by recording their voice over the slides. These videos could be shared with the whole class instead of having all students go to the front of the class to present. This would save valuable time in the long run if you treat it more like a gallery of presentations instead of sitting through each presentation separately. 
  • Students could import maps or other various images to explain a specific event or series of events in history. In a sense, it could be a digital timeline. 
  • Use Explain Everything to screencast the whole problem solving process in math. Post an image of the problem and work it out while speaking aloud. Students could also share these videos out to help support learning with their classmates. 
  • Digital storytelling is popular among elementary students. Students could take pictures of the pages of books and record themselves reading the text aloud. This would encourage students to focus on their intonation and fluency. I'm sure there are some primary elementary teachers that would love for older grade levels to share these videos with their young students. 
I'm anxious for students to try out this tool. If you are a teacher at MSDSC, please send a few samples my way. I'd love to see the results! 

Update:
I went back to the description of Explain Everything. As it turns out, the download is for a 30-day free trial. Here is the description:



Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Google Keep

Teachers are always looking for good ways to "keep" students organized. Google Keep provides a platform by which students can do just that. Looking for a place to take quick notes? Need to import images and jot related ideas? Try Google Keep for those quick notes and checklists.

A couple years ago when Keep was first launched, I enjoyed using it to keep track of lists of tasks. It worked great as it synced directly from my Android phone to my Chrome browser. I also frequently used it for taking notes during a meeting. These notes typically weren't items I was going to keep in the long term. Otherwise I would have just used a regular Google Doc. I really enjoyed the simplicity of Keep since I was already a user of more robust note taking tools (Evernote and OneNote).

Google continues to add to and improve features, but not to the point of the more feature-rich note taking applications out there. Since it has first launched, they have added the ability to add collaborators on notes. This is exciting as collaborative notes are just as live as Google Docs. This would be a fun way for teachers to communicate a list of tasks that need to be communicated on the fly. They could include typed text and images in these notes, and teachers could even set a remind time so that when students need to start working on their list, it pops up automatically in their Chrome browser.

Labels have also been added to help organize notes and lists. When I first started using keep, the only way to organize was to use the color coding system. The problem I always had was that I couldn't remember what color I had assigned for which category. Categorizing colors would be a nice feature for Google to add though (hint, hint). By using labels, users can see all notes related to a specific topic. So as students or teachers are organizing resources for research, labels could be used to keep all the notes related to that specific topic organized.

Here is a quick overview on all the features within Google Keep from your Chrome browser:



I also made a video on how to use Google Keep on Android. The ease by which you can take a picture with your mobile device is the real advantage over the web-based version. In some ways, I feel that Keep is better organized on the Android version. All the features are the same, but some of the functions are in different locations. Here is Keep for Android:


How do you envision students using Google Keep? Feel free to post some comments about your ideas.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Google Classroom: Annotate a PDF with DocHub


Today, as I was training teachers on various tech tools available on Chromebook, several questions started to popup about Google Classroom. (My best ideas for training come from random conversations such as these.) For many teachers at MSD of Steuben, this will be their first experience with Google Classroom and Chromebooks. The question arose about how students can annotate a PDF in Google Classroom. The solution I explored is DocHub which is a Google Drive add on. So while everyone was in a training for various webtools, I did a little screencast so that I could post about using DocHub in conjunction with Google Classroom on my blog. 

When a student clicks on a PDF document assigned to them in Google Classroom, it will pull up the PDF viewer in Google Drive. At the top of the screen, the user has the option to choose "open with" and a drop-down menu appears. Here, the students can add DocHub to their options by clicking on the Chrome Web Store icon. 


Using Doc Hub, the student can insert text boxes, draw, highlight, and place stamps on the document. After they are finished, it can be uploaded to Google Drive again. The student would then return to Google Classroom and turn in their newly annotated document for the teacher to review.

For specific details on the process, please watch my video:

Friday, August 7, 2015

Google Photos


The separation of Google Photos and Google+ happened awhile ago, but I have found it to be extremely useful to the point that I think it is a necessity for teachers. Google Photos is now clean and very user friendly. Not being mixed in with Google Plus will help me as a technology integration coordinator provide a location for teachers to house images and share with community members. There is no better way to communicate what is happening in your classroom than through images and videos.

Google Photos also has applications available for Android as well as iOS. The apps are easy to use and have some features that the web-version doesn't have. For example, users can create slideshows with their images and put them into a movie format. This was already possible with tools such as Youtube, but the clean interface streamlines the whole process as the videos can later be exported to your Youtube account.

Uploading Photos from Your Mobile Device and Sharing


Create a Movie with Your Mobile Device



If you do not have an iPad, iPhone, or Android device available to you, Google Photos is still extremely usable. Users can still plug in their digital cameras or flash drives to upload photos and create albums/collections. The images and videos placed in Google Photos is extremely simple to share as users can select which images/videos they want and create a shareable link. To access the web version, visit http://photos.google.com.

Upload Photos from the Web



Sharing Images to Social Media and Your Teacher Website




Google Photos doesn't even have to be limited to sharing images with community members. It could also be used to share images with students. Start by making a collection of photos for a project for students to access. Then the students can quickly utilize the images collected there in their work. 


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Hangouts Chrome Extension


Google Hangouts is Google's messaging and video conferencing tool that is available for free to anyone that has a gmail account. It has been around for a few years and there are many cool things you can do with it. A few years ago, I did a Hangout with a few of my friends and we shared Youtube videos with each other while sitting in the comfort of our own living rooms. Regardless of the numerous uses for Hangouts, I want to focus specifically on the Hangouts extension for Chrome. 

With using the Hangouts Extension, a user stays logged into Hangouts while using their Chrome browser. There is no need to be on gmail or Google+. As long as Chrome is open, users can send messages to one another as well as video conference. Users can also add multiple people to a conversation just by searching their email address. How to install the extension and strike up a conversation can all be found in the following video. 



Now that I'm a part of MSD of Steuben County, I envision Hangouts as a great place for teachers to collaborate when time is convenient. Let's face it, it is difficult to schedule times to meet together on a face-to-face basis when your kids have soccer games and dance practices to attend after school. During my time at East Noble, teachers even used Hangouts to collaborate during school closing due to weather. The teachers were still working as the students were participating in an eLearning day, but this allowed the teachers to make the most of their time and fit those conversations in when distance and weather kept them apart. I also plan on running some Hangouts for training purposes in the evenings as not all teachers can make it to training times after school. 

As this is my first official post as part of MSD of Steuben County, I hope my readers find it of value and helpful as they pursue ideas of how to enhance the learning experience using technology and also better ways to be efficient educators. Let's use Hangouts this year to do just that. Go Hornets!