Thursday, January 29, 2015

eLearning Days: Google Voice

With eLearning, it is important that a teacher is available to all students. Therefore, it is important that there are multiple avenues by which you can be contacted if necessary. Not all students have Internet access. Not all families know how to connect a school issued device to Wi-Fi. However, the majority do know how to make a phone call. If they do not have a phone, they can at least find a way to make a phone call.

With all that said, Google Voice is a free service that can be accessed from: However, I'm not for certain it is available on organizational accounts (school email addresses). I discussed it with my technology department, and they did not see a place to add it to our accounts. Since that is the case, I am using a personal gmail account that is also signed into Chrome. (Here is how to have both your organization account and personal account on Chrome at the same time.) The service does email you to notify you that there are voicemails/texts in your account. If using an exisiting personal gmail account is a concern, you could create a separate one for the purpose of a Google Voice account.

Here are some advantages of using Google Voice:

  • Hides your real phone number
  • One can set it to call into all your phones 
  • Have the option to deny a phone call as the caller must provide their identity
  • Can call from a computer
  • Has an app on iOS and Android 
  • Will work with home phone numbers
  • Transcribes voicemail messages
  • FREE
If you are interested, here is a guide for the setup and use of Google Voice: 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Project Image Bank for Students

One question I frequently get is how to quickly provide legal images for students really quickly. Some teachers show their students how to use Bing or Google image search and change the search settings for images that are "free to use". Depending upon the grade level and the comfort level of the teacher, this may not be a viable option for the class. Using Google Drive, a teacher can create an image bank for projects. With a shared folder, students can pick and choose images quickly without the concern of inappropriate images popping up. The teacher could even categorize the image bank into folders. For example: a folder for animals, a folder for plants, a folder for cars, etc. This video covers how to create the folder in Google Drive, share it with students, and save the images to the folder. It also demonstrates how the students can access it from an iOS device and save the images to their camera roll.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Collection of Book Reviews

Sharing within a classroom is powerful. It is powerful for the student delivering the message. It is also powerful for the classroom community to hear from their peers. This is as true today, with all the capabilities of a 1:1 technology classroom, as it was when the chalkboard was the latest technology.

To take advantage of the technology rich classrooms that exist today, Rome City first grade teachers wanted a better way for students to share book reviews so that all students can have access whenever necessary. Using Shadow Puppet and Google Drive, this became an easy reality.

I first kicked things off by motivating the students to be expressive when they are sharing! We want lots of energy and great intonation when students make a recording. To help the students grasp this, I made reference to Fred Grote (local automotive dealer) as almost every student at Rome City has witnessed one of his commercials. In fact, here is a great example:

Next step was to have the students practice their book reviews in their best "Fred Grote voice". A good portion of the students really got into it as they prepared to record!

Before digging into Shadow Puppet and creating the performance, I had students take a picture of their book cover as well as their review. Being able to take a picture within the app would be a really handy feature for primary students. Taking the extra steps to snap a photo with the camera and get into Shadow Puppet may not seem like too big of a deal, but it would help the flow of the lesson if it were just a part of the app.

After students recorded, we had them get into the Google Drive app, go to the incoming tab, and upload their book reviews to a shared folder that the teacher created. (Click here to learn how to set it up.) The students' faces started to light up as their friends book reviews started to appear on their iPad. And of course I had to give them some time to explore and listen to some of the book reviews! The class was so excited to hear what their friends had to say. What an opportunity this provided to promote literacy and work on listening/speaking skills.
Book Reviews Appearing on the iPad

Here are some of my favorite book reviews from today's lesson: 

After I had made the sample video above, I suddenly received alerts from Shadow Puppet on Twitter and Pintrest that they had noticed it. It was quite a surprise as I had forgotten that my videos from YouTube were automatically posting to Twitter. This just adds a new dimension to the experience as it demonstrates the power of social media whether a post was intended or unintended. :) The students will be excited to know about the response that was received from Shadow Puppet as they did great work today. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

eLearning and Kindergarten

eLearning has been a heavy focus of mine lately. There is quite a bit of training and planning to put into place to get my teachers and students to the point where they can fluently prepare for and accomplish an eLearning day due to severe weather circumstances.

One goal to improve upon is the quality of instruction that is being given during an eLearning day. One thing we want to avoid is just providing busy work for the students to complete. If severe weather comes along, we need to provide actual instruction during this day. (Hence the need for my post about Snagit and Google Drive.)

This week I'm working with Kindergarten students at Wayne Center to help prepare them for eLearning. Accomplishing this task required a lot of prep:
  1. Sign each student into their Google Drive account. (Kindergarten students accurately typing an email address would be quite the challenge.)
  2. Create a document with all the students' email addresses with comma's and spaces separating them so that I can quickly share folders and documents with them in the future. 
  3. Create a shared folder and set it to "view only" (View Google Drive Basics here.) 
  4. Create a video using Snagit from Techsmith giving them instructions.
  5. Share the video directly to the Google Drive folder that is shared with the Kindergarten class. 

I, by no means, am claiming that the video above is quality instruction. However, the purpose was to give Kindergarten students the experience of accessing an instructional video on Google Drive, setting the video for offline use, watching it again if necessary, and following the directions given on the video. I will be practicing this with students for the next weeks so that if an eLearning day is necessary, the teachers can successfully prepare their students for the experience. (Next week, I promise to have a better quality video.)

Based upon the sample below, some of the students got it. However, I had one student that made his entire background black and claim he was finished making a picture of something that started with the letter B. He found his work to be quite amusing:

Many teachers are uncomfortable with the experience of creating videos. Especially with the amount of time it takes to make a screencast as the teacher will often have to restart a video whenever a mistake is made. That purely depends upon the software/app used as Snagit permits trimming after the video is made. One suggestion I had for teachers in this boat is to have a few students record a lesson being taught. Here are some tips to go along with that thought:
  • Have students record a lesson that will need frequent revisiting. 
  • Have a couple students record so that you can select the best quality video.
  • If you are good with video editing, you can combine bits and pieces from both videos.
  • If students use their iPads, they can easily create a folder in Google Drive and share the video with you for easy downloading.
A final suggestion I have that may work better than screen-casting is to use a document camera and record everything on paper. Pull up your presenter software and record the box using Snagit. This may provide an outlet for teachers that are more comfortable with a traditional approach as it combines both physical materials and technology. This was a method I used frequently several years ago before the iPad was launched. It provided a great way to create homework help videos to post on my teacher website. This was long before the simplicity of using Snag-It to send directly to a Google Drive account. (I believe Google Drive was blocked on our network back in those days.) 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Family Tech Night

"Family Tech Night" came to mind  with the vision of families connecting with their children and experiencing the exciting opportunities a 1:1 technology initiative has to offer. My goal is to have family members leaving realizing the value of technology in education.

Holding family meetings is not something new to my schools. Previous to this school year, the meetings I've held have been strictly informational and mostly covered digital citizenship topics. Though the informational meetings are important, I often left those meeting feeling like the parents did not benefit a whole lot from the experience.

To start off the evening, I give a five-minute ordeal about digital footprint. This part is essential as we talk about how permanent our behavior is online. When I ask for a show of hands of people that were aware that everything they do online is traceable, less than half of the audience responds. So that begs me to question: how can we expect our children to behave online if it isn't reinforced at home? That that the topic of digital citizenship is ignored, but that it just isn't known. To assist with this issue, I also post Common Sense Media content on the schools' websites along with family tech night.
Here is a great video I like to use on Family Tech Night:

My primary focus of Family Tech Night is to have fun demonstrating the creative power of the student device. One of my favorite apps to use is Shadow Puppet Edu as it follows a simple progression of selecting photos and voice recording. For my most recent event, I used images of poems and posted them in a public Google Drive folder. I also used to shorten the address so that students could easily type in the address to access it using Safari on their iPad. As students get settled, I quickly review how to download the photos into the camera roll of their iPad. (Make sure students tap on the poem to make it full screen so that the image saved is not a thumbnail.) After the students save their images, I give a quick overview of how to use Shadow Puppet as many of the parents have never used it before. Then the fun begins as parents and students work together to create their recordings of the poems read aloud. As the students email their Shadow Puppets to me and I download them, I dump them into a folder in the same location as the poems so that families can view the results. (If you have never used Shadow Puppet, here is an overview of how to use it.) 

In the last 20 minutes, we play a fun game of Kahoot. Parents bust out their smart phones and their personal tablets for this one as they try to match their wits in this fun game of Brain Teasers. This one ends up being more of a competition between parents and teachers, but everyone has fun as they attempt to answer as quickly and correctly as possible. 

It is wonderfully rewarding as parents are leaving and expressing their appreciation and enjoyment of the event. The kids have smiles on their faces as they had a chance to demonstrate what they can do with their iPad. However, my favorite part is when the teachers attending the event walk away asking about, Shadow Puppet, Google Drive, and Kahoot with a desire to implement them in their classroom. The very next day, I received another Shadow Puppet sample from some students that were not able to participate in Family Tech Night. Family Tech Night runs deeper than just those that attend as teachers and parents utilize their digital tools to express their learning creatively. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

QR codes provide a fun way for students to interact with their learning. They have been around for quite awhile, and I've done quite a few activities with them.

Mrs. Huelsenbeck, media specialist at Rome City, has been QR code crazy the last few weeks. She has been doing QR activities with all of the Rome City technology classes grades K-6.

Since next week is Martin Luther King Jr. day, she asked about QR activities specifically on that topic. We decided to start having students create their own QR codes. To help her out, I created a quick video on how to use that she can show the students. They will then do a little research and create QR codes over their fun facts.

If you are interested in making your own QR Code activities, the video I created might be of help to you. Have fun!

Extra Information:

Thursday, January 15, 2015

eLearning Days: Snag-It and Google Drive

I'm pretty excited about this post as I get to chat about two tools that I use on a daily basis. Snag-It is a powerful resource as it allows the user to capture images or video on their screen. It also includes some nifty photo editing and annotating tools and a basic video clipper so that it can meet all your eLearning needs. Then finally, it has a direct upload to your Google Drive. So if you get the alert that we may have an eLearning day due to some upcoming weather alerts, you really just need Snag-It and Google Drive to quickly capture and distribute that content efficiently and effectively.

If you are interested in using Snag-It, there is a free trial download. If you are one of my colleagues, please contact me first as East Noble already has a site license for Snag-It and is available to download to your school computer at no cost to you.

(Google Drive works well for eLearning in an elementary environment as students using iOS devices, Chromebooks, or laptop computers can access content quickly for offline use.)

Techsmith actually provides their own tutorials for Snag-It. If you would rather look through those materials, feel free as they are located here:
I will be sharing just a few quick tutorials as they apply directly to eLearning and quickly sharing through Google Drive.

Capturing Content

Quickly distributing the content for offline use is the "name of the game" when it comes to eLearning. Capturing text for reading or other content areas just got a whole lot easier as you can capture anything that resides on your computer screen. If you have a paper version of your lesson materials, grab a document camera, iPad, or digital camera to capture into Snag-It.

Video Capture and Record a Reading of Text

Teachers also have the option of capturing a selection of text and recording themselves reading aloud. This would greatly benefit the struggling readers in your class as content areas are sometimes too difficult for all students to comprehend. At, a recording of the text already exists. So I capture the text and played the audio file instead of record my own voice. Then I shared it to Google Drive for my students to use for offline use.  

Here is a sample from Wonderopolis:

Capture Video Content Online

Often times, you have a video that already works well for what you want your students to accomplish. The video capture tool allows you to provide the content for offline use through Google Drive. 

Screencast Your Own Lessons

More often then not, an online video doesn't quite meet what you want to accomplish. Maybe it would take less time to make your own video than to dig and search for one that matches your objectives for the lesson? By using Snag-It, Word, and Google Drive, the teacher can quickly distribute their own screencast to students for eLearning. 

As a side note, try to shoot for under that five-minute mark. Students tend to lose interest in your video if you go too far beyond five minutes. In math, you don't have to do multiple problems as examples. Try only doing one problem because the students can replay the video if they do not understand the concept.

Remember to have fun with Snag-It. The teachers I've trained to use it have really enjoyed the capabilities it possesses. I'd also love to see more students utilizing this tool as it provides much potential for students producing authentic and creative work.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

eLearning Days: Assignment Turn-In

Managing eLearning can be very stressful. Last week, I posted about how teachers can utilize Google Drive to streamline the process of distributing content to students. You can also use Google Drive to have students turn in content to you. In this post, I'll cover how to setup a turn-in folder/assignment dropbox, how students submit images and documents, and how to submit from Type on PDF. 

Create the Dropbox/Submission Folder

One tidbit I didn't include very well in this video is the naming of the folders for the students. Since this folder will actually be shared with the student in their drive, you are going to want to be specific about the intent of the folder along with the student's identification. (Example: elearning dropbox 1/13 username.) The username would really need to be last as that piece of information is really intended for you more than the student. If you ever intend to use Google Drive for students to submit other items of content, this is a very important step. In fact, you could essentially use Google Drive for the submission of all assignments. That's another topic for another day.

How to Use the Student Turn-In Folder in Google Drive on the iPad

Using the photo upload feature allows students to use a wide variety of apps that include the manipulation/creation of photos and videos. Students could use Hello Crayon, Pic Wall, Shadow Puppet, 30 Hands, or Crayola Photo Mix & Mash to name a few. They just need to save the items to their camera roll, go to Google Drive, and upload them into the folder.

Typing Responses in Google Drive

The easiest way to have the students participate in eLearning is by having them type a response in Google Docs. The students can create a new document right in the folder that you have already setup for them. Include their prompt in the directions and have them create their own document within the turn-in folder. The teacher may want to include that they need to open the turn-in/dropbox folder first before creating the document. This is ensure that the assignment is not just floating around in the student's Google Drive.

Use Type on PDF in Google Drive

Type on PDF was the "bread and butter" of every teacher when East Noble started a 1:1 technology initiative. Sure it is mostly used to fill out a digital worksheet. Worksheets still have their time and place in the classroom. They just shouldn't be overused. Not only that, but it is an important technology skill to know how to handle a PDF file. (Warning: This feature will not work unless the student has included your shared folder as part of "My Drive" as instructed in the first video of this post.)

eLearning is by no means coming to a close. I plan next on covering different ways to screencast and collect content for your students. Of course, I will include tools that work really well with Google Drive. :) 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

eLearning Days: The Basics

During the 2013-2014 school year, many days were missed due to dangerous road conditions during the numerous blasts of snow we had in Noble County, Indiana. An advantage of being a 1:1 technology school district is that the state allows for eLearning days where teachers can assign materials for students to study throughout the day. This works great and all, but one of the issues we frequently have is having offline access to the content for our students without Internet access.

One solution (that is free) is to use Google Drive. In this blog post, I'm organizing materials specifically for East Noble School corporation teachers so that they can use Drive to more efficiently distribute eLearning content (videos, pictures, or documents) and allow for offline use. This is just the basics for the distribution and access of those items for eLearning as there are many other ways that Google Drive can be of great use to every teacher.

Before we get too far into the business of setting up Google Drive folders for eLearning, students first need to know how to log into Google Drive. Here are directions for both the iPad app and Google Chrome on a Windows 8.1 PC:

Now you need to know how to setup a folder in Google Drive and share it with students so that they can access the content quickly. As you share this folder, it would be wise to set it to "view only" so that students do not actually remove or manipulate the documents within it. They can still download the content for their own use without compromising the existing files. (Click here if you are not certain how to access your organization's Google account.)

After you distribute your eLearning content into a Google Drive folder, your students are going to need to know how to access it. In the following video, students will learn how to find their files in the "incoming" tab, locate the content, and "keep on device" for offline use on an iOS device. 

For students using a PC or Mac computer, Google Drive can streamline the process as well. One problem teachers frequently have is by emailing content or using a LMS (learning management system), the students have to make sure that each piece of content has been downloaded. This can be an issue if students have multiple eLearning days to complete and have quite a few items to download to their device. We frequently have students that have missed a file here and there. Google Drive streamlines the process because the students can download the entire folder in one download.

The last bit of concern in regards to eLearning basics would be communication with parents. Here are directions that you can send home with students so that parents know where to find the content on an iPad and online. Feel free to download and manipulate the content to meet your needs:

iPad eLearning Material Directions