Friday, October 30, 2015

Fluency Tutor for Google

Why Fluency Tutor?

Fluency Tutor for Google is free resource that provides a variety of great opportunities for students in building fluency.
  1. It creates a nice clean version of a website that makes it easier for students to read without the distractions typical websites hold
  2. Fluency Tutor will read the text aloud at an adjustable rate
  3. Integrates with Google Classroom
  4. Allows students to make a recording of the text that appears in the teacher's account 
  5. Provides a dictionary through the highlighting of words (picture or text dictionary)

Student Side

I was introduced to Fluency Tutor by Kristin Sheets at Ryan Park Elementary. It can be accessed through the Chrome App or Google Classroom. When a student access an article or website posted in Fluency Tutor, the student receives a distraction-free version, the ability to hear the text read aloud, a readily available dictionary, and the option to make a recording. In this video, Mrs. Sheets had a student demonstrate how to use Fluency Tutor. 

Teacher Side

For a teacher to use Fluency tutor, they will need to create an account, get a class code for his/her students to use to connect, and verify his/her Google Drive/Google Classroom account. For more specific directions, view my slideshow at the top of this post.

Teachers will also want to use the Share with Fluency Tutor Chrome Extension. By using this extension, the teacher can be on an Internet resource, click the extension, and push items to Google Classroom as an assignment. Then when the students click on the link provided in Google Classroom, they can instantly start to work on the resource.

Students Using Google Classroom

To turn in an assignment with Fluency Tutor, students have several options.

  1. Students can indicate that they completed the task by choosing "mark as done". This is typically good enough as the teacher will see whether or not it is completed when they access their Fluency Tutor account. Either the recording will be there or not.  
  2. Teachers could require a screen-capture to turn in as evidence by using a tool like Nimbus. Students could capture the screen indicating that they have completed the assignment, then upload it into the Google Classroom Assignment. For more detailed directions for options one and two, see the video below.
  3. The third option would be for students to download their recording as an MP3 and upload it into Google Classroom. This was a feature I missed the first few times I looked at this tool. This would allow the teacher to listen to the recording directly from Google Classroom.

Not Using Google Classroom?

If you are not using Google Classroom, have no fear. You can still assign and listen to Fluency Tutor passages through it. When the students log into Fluency Tutor, they can find any assigned passages in the "assessments" section of their dashboard. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Nimbus Screenshot and Screencast

Why Use Nimbus

Nimbus Screenshot and Screencast is a free tool available in the Chrome Web Store. There are multiple uses for Nimbus that I'll go over in a bit, but students should use it for the mere fact that it is a simple tool to use in order to demonstrate knowledge as they can capture and label anything that is on their Chromebook screen. Why have students use it? It is a fun resource that can be used for both proof of knowledge as well as a creative outlet that can supply the students with the images needed for more extensive projects. 


With Nimbus, users can capture the entire screen, selected regions, or even scroll an entire page. After the user creates a capture, they have the option to either download the image (check-mark) or go to the editor (pencil). Within the editor, the user can re-size, crop, draw, highlight, annotate, blur, and shadow over the image. The tools are very user-friendly and allow for quick expression of learning. For tablet users, the functionality is very comparable to Skitch.

Once you are finished, you can create a Nimbus account to save your work, download it directly to your device, or upload it to Google Drive. If Google Drive is your choice destination, you also have instant access to a share link so that you can copy and paste the image/access to the image in an email or another website. To improve workflow, I recommend having a Google Drive folder ready prior to uploading. A new folder option for Google Drive is not available in Nimbus.

You also have an option for a video screencast capture. It works very well with very little lag, but it saves in a webm format. It is fine if you are wanting to upload directly to Youtube or Google Drive. However, some video editors will not allow you to edit the video in this format. You may have to convert it using a file conversion tool such as Zamzar.

Student Assignments

When students use Nimbus, they could use it to capture quite a few things for the purpose of completing assignments. 
  • Scavenger hunts for information online.
  • Highlighting important details or research
  • Demonstrating reading comprehension strategies online
  • Capturing a score on a skill based website/app
  • Collecting images and annotating for a presentation, video, or digital poster
Regardless of the use of Nimbus, students need a way to turn it in. The following video demonstrates how to take a Nimbus project and turn it in using Google Classroom. The same concept applies regardless of the learning management system of your choice. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Flip Your Classroom Book Study

Interested in Flipped Learning?

On September 25th, MSD of Steuben County hosted an all day training and collaboration on the topic of using video to leverage learning at all grade levels. I left a survey for staff to indicate the level of learning that took place, and also an opportunity consider participating in a book study on Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day. The response was incredible as we had over 50 percent of the staff vote that they were interested!

My dilemma is that I can't provide enough books for everyone at MSDSC to participate. I only have 20 books at the moment and have the hopes to be able to have more opportunities to run this book study again in the future. So please only indicate that you want to participate if you are going to read the entire book and participate in the discussion.

So if you are in the midst of a flipped model or are contemplating it, this book study is for you. For teachers that have students that are not taking devices home, this book study would still be beneficial if you really want to utilize video in the classroom. Either way, I'm excited for the opportunity to run this book study. What is especially exciting is that author, Jonathan Bergmann, has agreed to participate in a Skype/Google Hangout session with my MSDSC staff. I will be arranging that date in the near future!

The Plan

I will be using my blog for this book study. All posts in relation to Flip Your Classroom will be labeled as such. You just need to click on the image of the book on the right side of my blog. The book is linked to all posts labeled according to the book title. This will aggregate the conversation into one page.

Find the Conversation!

Once a week I will post a question or two in reference to the chapters read. To respond, you leave your answer in the comments box below the post. If there are no comments, you will click on "no comments." If you do not want to make an initial comment, you could also reply to someone else's comment.

Where to Comment

If you are not an MSDSC employee and you still want to participate, please feel free! I'd love to have more input from friends outside of my school district. However, I will not be able to provide you with a book. You can purchase a new or used copy from Amazon for a reasonable price.

The Form

If you want to participate, please fill out the form below. I look forward to collaborating with you. We will begin the book study by reading the first three chapters during the week of November 15-21. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Push to Students with the Share to Classroom Chrome Extension

Share to Classroom Chrome Extension

Why Push to Students?

Google Classroom already provided an awesome opportunity for teachers to share content with students and students to share work. However, much of it still required quite a bit of clicking. With the Share to Classroom Chrome Extension the teacher can have a website instantly pop up on the entire fleet of Chromebooks. It requires no clicking on the part of the students and very little time at all for the teacher. Here is the push feature in the Share to Classroom Chrome extension:

Please keep in mind that the students must have the chrome extension for the push feature to work. It also only works on a Chromebook, PC, or Mac running Google Chrome. 

Classroom Application

Students also have the ability to push items to the teacher's device. It doesn't pop up automatically on the teacher's screen, but goes into a queue within the teacher's Share to Classroom extension. The teacher can open the queue, view the titles of web resources pushed, and who pushed them. The teacher could then click on those links and push them out to the entire class. I envision this to be a great way to have students collect resources on a topic for the teacher to review. In a sense, the students could do all the resource searching for the teacher, and the teacher can look at those items and decide if it is worthy of the class' time. 

Other Features

If you have never used the Share to Classroom extension, you also have the ability to share a resource directly to an announcement or an assignment. Using the extension can save you time as you quickly have a drop-down menu to input the information for the assignment or announcement. After you finish posting, you also have a convenient "view" button so that you can quickly access your classroom page. 



Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Bulk Renamer for Google Drive

If you have students that have a lot of image or video files that they need to rename, this tool is for you. I recently had a teacher contact me about the issue of working on the school yearbook. She has a ton of image files in a folder and needed to quickly rename these items so that she could better organize them into folders and better scan through her files. By using the Bulk Renamer for Google Drive, you can choose a part of a file's name and replace it with your own custom text.

There is a basic and advanced feature. I just used the basic function to replace portions of file names. You can get much more detailed with your bulk renaming with the advanced features, but this video should at least get you started.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Skitch for iPad

Skitch has been around for quite awhile. In fact, I blogged about using it on an iPod Touch several years ago when I had Kindergarten and first grade students using them instead of iPads. I was extremely focused on tools that functioned well on both devices. However, Skitch is one of those apps that changes so frequently, any videos or explanations you create pretty much become obsolete as soon as you make them. Just about like buying any new technology. 

I absolutely love apps that can be applied to almost any learning experience. Skitch is one of those apps. Students use it to describe objects, go on scavenger hunts in the school or class, label items, build authentic slideshows for a presentation, and the list can go on and on. Either way, it is an excellent tool for students to get started expressing their learning through a creative outlet that takes very little time at all. What measures the true value of Skitch is that by combining it with other apps (app smashing), the student products move to a different level. 

Fortunately for me, I didn't have to make a video using Skitch. One of my first grade teachers, Christina Minick,  made one while teaching her class how to use it. Here, she demonstrates to her class how to use the app by labeling books from a book-fair flyer they might be interested in, the genre, or any other classification a teacher would want. I thought it was a great practical application of Skitch in how students can communicate their knowledge of fiction vs. non-fiction texts just by looking at the cover, title, and author.  

Monday, October 19, 2015

Tiny Techies

Last week was exciting as I had the opportunity to participate and present in the Indiana Connected Educators conference. I did two presentations: Tiny Techies and An App Smashing Good Time. These two presentations really sum up the last four and a half years of my career in education as it has been focused upon elementary students utilizing technology in a meaningful manner that empowers learning. Students should be creating content and building their knowledge and understanding through creative outlets. Technology is only a means to provide more opportunities for students to do just that. This most certainly includes primary students.

Tech Fluency 

When a kindergarten student first comes to school, there are a lot of basic skills (cutting with scissors, holding writing utensils, gluing and pasting, etc.) students need to know in order to start learning academic skills? Why...because students can demonstrate their learning through the use of various tools. I participated in a "makerspace" session at ICE. Why was it the most memorable part of my day? I was building. I was creating. There was a connection between what was said in the session and the application of participating in the learning. I was also collaborating with my peers about the tasks.

So what does this have to do with tech fluency? In order for students to build and create, they have to build fluency with the tool. They have to know it well so that when they are ready to utilize it to express their learning; the tool doesn't get in the way of the actual learning. By building tech fluency, the technology can speed up the process and learning experience. Just like in the "makerspace" session, my background knowledge with using a Snap Circuits set allowed me to quickly build and help others efficiently and effectively accomplish tasks. Those that had never used them, needed to follow the written instructions more carefully and closely.

A video posted by Lance Yoder (@edgaged) on

Culture and Choice

Primary students desire choice in their learning. It is the essence of a workshop model. Choice is what drives learning centers. Michelle Yoder, my wife and primary teacher, had a cycle with digital tools. She would introduce a tool and have the students use it for multiple purposes. After the initial shock of a new tool, the students become very fluent with the app. As the students build fluency, choice can come into play as they can then decide which digital tool would best suit the task before them. Choice is a great motivator in learning.

When students utilize digital tools in a creative manner, the true value of the device becomes instilled. Students begin to understand what they miss out on if they break or misuse their device. However, students denied the opportunity will push boundaries as they tire of skill and drill apps/websites. The value of the device has nothing to do with the amount of money it cost. The value is purely the opportunities it has to offer. How students value the device is mostly up to the culture the teacher creates around it.

Prior to my days as a technology coach I taught fourth grade. Early in my career, I couldn't figure out how my partner teacher's students were performing so much better than mine in reading. Finally, she put it plain and simple to me. She told me, "You don't love to teach reading. So your students don't love to read." It cut me deep, but that deep cut created change. She was right because I was trying to fool my students. Students see right through an act. After that, I read The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. Very quickly did the culture and perception of literacy change in my classroom.

Empower Learning

All individuals desire to build and create. They also desire to chose how they do just that. The most difficult is having the money and materials available to make that all possible. Amazing things are happening now with the makerspace movement. However, students can create great representations of their learning with digital tools at an extremely fast rate. Whenever I hear that technology takes too much time, I'm reminded of when I first started teaching. For students to use digital devices, we had to pack everyone into a crowded computer lab, turn on old Windows 98 machines and do anything at all. With digital tools such as the iPad or Chromebook that start up in seconds, the amount of learning time lost is insignificant. 

Students can take and edit/annotate images, create video projects, and even use coding applications/websites to create their own animations or videos. When dealing with primary grade levels, a great place to start is to take advantage of the power of the camera. It is the main reason I'm a firm believer in the use of mobile devices for primary students. Students can use it to capture materials for their digital projects, but also of physical material creations. Have them take pictures/video of all their projects where they need to utilize crayons, glue, and scissors. Where the camera becomes powerful is the ability to share those images/videos with their teacher, classmates, or even with parents with applications such as SeeSaw or on a teacher's Google Site/Blog.

The big question is how you make this happen in your classroom? How do you create a classroom where students are able to utilize digital tools of their choice in order to express their learning and use it to communicate and collaborate about learning? It starts with a mindset from you. I referred earlier to the mindset change I had to experience in my reading instruction. I had to love teaching reading to build a class culture of readers. So start with you. Do you love utilizing technology to express your learning and teaching? 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Annotate the Internet with Diigo

When I taught fourth grade, one of my favorite activities to do when teaching reading was to make use of sticky notes. (We are talking about the days when integrating technology was making use of the four to five desktop computers in the back of the classroom.) Whatever reading strategy we were using or story/text element we were discussing was marked in the students' books with sticky notes. If it was a copy of an article that was shared with the class, we would bust out the highlighters and write all over it to share our thinking. Now there's Diigo.

Diigo has actually been around since 2006. So we are not talking about anything new. However, one thing that has greatly changed is the access to it. In the Chrome Web Store, there is a Diigo Web Collector that allows you to quickly launch the service. Users can then highlight and post sticky-notes on any website. What is also really incredible is the ability to share a link to a users annotated page so that others can view your annotations. Also, there is a lot more to it than what I'm covering. This is just a quick overview of how to get started and take advantage of the basic features.

Diigo Installation

If installing a Chrome extension is something you are already familiar with, then you can skip this part. More than likely, you just want a quick link to the Chrome Web Store so that you don't even have to go searching for this one

Annotate a Website

Want to get started annotating. Here's how it is done! It is simple to highlight and add sticky notes to a page. You can even use various colors to help categorize and organize your thoughts. The great part is, your Diigo annotations are automatically saved. So even if you close out of Chrome, all marks will be saved in your account's "My Library".

Share Your Annotations

What is especially cool is the ability to share your annotated links. This is really powerful for a teacher to highlight and leave sticky-notes all over an online article and then share it with his/her students. This would be great if you were modeling a reading/comprehension strategy and shared your link to the students through a QR Code, Google Classroom, or other learning management system. Teachers could even record the lesson using Screencastify so that students could revisit the reading strategy when necessary. Students could also share their annotated inks with the teacher. Either way, sharing is the most powerful part of Diigo. 

Organizing Annotated Links

If you start using Diigo for the purpose of research, tagging your links will help you sort through all your Diigo annotated links. This video covers how to find your library of links as well as tag them so that they can be better organized. 

If you happen to try Diigo and want to share some cool annotated links with me, or have a blogpost/website with your kids using it,  drop them/it in the comments below this post. I'd love to hear from you. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

MSDSC "Nerd Herd"


Whether or not we as teachers like to admit it, it is nice to be recognized for working hard and finding success in new things. A lot of times, those ideas or tools we are implementing stay within the walls of our collaboration meetings with grade level partners. I got the idea of doing a MSDSC "Nerd Herd" from Amy Neal at DeKalb Central. She has a different name for it, but she has her teaching staff recognize each other for the accomplishments of being innovative with technology or even just "stepping out of your comfort zone" by trying something new with technology integration. I liked this idea because often times I do not know about the exciting things happening in classrooms. By having peers nominate each other for the MSDSC Nerd Herd, all staff can benefit. A teacher at Angola High School may be trying some things that an Angola Middle School teacher would want to know about. Using the Nerd Herd nomination can get those conversations going. 

How to Participate

Who to Nominate

Nominations are not reserved for those teachers and staff that are considered "techie". If a teacher is attempting to use a digital tool and finds success, please nominate them. It will only take a few moments of your time. Who knows, you might just make someone's day! 

Screencastify Changes

Screencastify Update

New Update

Screencastify recently went through an update. If your Google Chrome has not updated the app, you can do so by right-clicking on the Chrome extension, removing it from Chrome, and reinstalling it from the Chrome Web Store. This post is not so much about the use of Screencastify so much, but merely the changes that took place. So if you need a quick overview on those changes, here you go.

Previous Tutorials

If you have never used Screencastify, my old tutorials are available as well. Those are listed below. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Orange Slice Rubrics

Orange Slice: Teacher Rubric is a Google Docs Add-on created by Matt Buchanan, Teacher at Angola High School. It is a tool that actually inserts a rubric within a student's document. The teacher can select various preset or customizable categories, grade it, and give instant feedback to the student. This tool also works well with Google Classroom as the title of the student's document changes with the grade inserted into it. This allows the teacher to quickly see the results of the entire class without opening each document separately. Below is a quick tutorial on how to use Orange Slice: Teacher Rubric.

I recently contacted Matt to just ask, what caused him to develop this Google Add-on. Here he goes into great detail as to why he created the teacher rubric as well as his newest release of the student rubric. It is clear that creating easy tools for teachers to increase communication is a passion.. Matt also reveals that he has plans to develop a third Google Docs Add-on with a focus on Vocabulary. We will look forward to that release in the near future. Here is what Matt had to say: 
There were several reasons for developing OrangeSlice: Teacher Rubric and the reasons were centered around the teacher-student-rubric relationship. How to make this relationship synergistic, direct in action and simple. Other solutions required the user to create a rubric in another doc. This felt like it complicated the whole experience and hindered the student's relationship with the rubric.  I felt it was important for the student to have the rubric front and center.  If a student had to go elsewhere to find the rubric, then I felt it would lower the probability the student would review the rubric before beginning the assignment. This would be a disadvantage to a student's academic success. The rubric is contained within the assignment with Teacher Rubric. Hence, the student has constant ease of access to the rubric and its performance criteria.
In other solutions, the teacher-rubric relationship was not as smooth as I'd like. The extension approach has its advantages, but I do not like having my vertical screen size reduced to view a student's work. I want to be able to scan vertically as far up and down as possible so I can spend more time evaluating and less time scrolling.  The add-on approach creates a side-bar that minimizes the screen horizontally. I feel this is not a significant compromise since most screens are wide in landscape perspective.

Having the rubric not contained within the document not only draws the student away from the assignment, it removes the rubric further from the teacher.  Why does the rubric have to be outside of the document? I wanted my focus to be placed square within the assignment. It has my full attention. I didn't want to think about an outside factor. I too wanted direct access to the rubric as I created the assignment. It is important that I ensure my categories are the exact ones necessary for my students to achieve the learning goals I've established. So many times, I've created a rubric then started creating the assignment only to realize another category would be more effective than the one I'd planned. Or, I wanted to adjust the performance criteria just slightly to best achieve the academic goals I had planned for my students. Having the rubric within the doc allows the teacher to organically create an assignment with an effective rubric.  Also, before sending an assignment out, I want to verify that last year's rubric for the assignment has been updated.  I can get instant visual feedback on the rubric I've selected. I felt this teacher-rubric interaction was important to my effectiveness as a teacher.
I felt having a pleasing user interface was important to me. This is purely a personal preference. I wanted a software product that was visually pleasing. I spend a bunch of time grading rubrics and it's nice to work with one that is easy on the eyes. There are many options to select and I wanted one that would show me just what I was working on, remove it when I was done and introduce the next category for me to evaluate. Teacher Rubric supports this approach as it allows the teacher to spend more time with a maximized screen and with a user interface that reflects my current category focus. I wanted the software to work for me and present to me what I needed to see next.
Back to the students, I really value peer-to-peer work and there wasn't a solution available for students to review, provide feedback and score a peer's rubric. Research has shown the value of peer interaction while learning.  Hence, I have just released OrangeSlice: Student Rubric.  This is a stripped down Teacher Rubric where students have a dedicated space to write feedback, score the rubric and arrive at a holistic grade for their peer. I didn't want students to be able to assign a grade, like 75%, but I did provide a means of qualifying an overall performance grade. Student Rubric concludes with a holistic grade that reflects how the peer evaluated and concluded their peer's work.  This begins the synergistic relationship with Teacher Rubric by documenting a student's historical progress through an assignment. The peer's feedback and review is not lost but saved while the teacher uses Teacher Rubric. Student Rubric scores the rubric in green where Teacher rubric scores the rubric in orange. In addition, the peer's written feedback is maintained. The synergy culminates with a completed assignment that can be used to constructively provide a student feedback. The teacher can sit one-on-one with the student and the historical record captured by the OrangeSlice rubrics begins the discussion on how the student can improve. The teacher and student have specific examples and a collection of feedback that can be the starting point of constructive instruction and dialog.
Lastly, there is vocabulary. It is so important for students to utilize new and larger vocabulary in their work. I'm in the process of developing a third add-on: OrangeSlice: Vocabulary. Manufacturing has demonstrated that over a long duration, visual inspection is only 80% accurate. I felt this experience hunting and counting the number of vocabulary words my students have used in assignments. Many times I've missed words they've used effectively. I needed a tool that would find them for me. Just like Teacher Rubric and Student Rubric, I needed a tool that would do work for me by presenting information at just the right moment and in the right format. Hence, I can spend more of my time, energy and focus effectively grading my students' work.
Matt also has made several videos of his own going into the details of using his tools. These videos can be found on his Google+ page. I suggest you check it out.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Google Classroom and Dochub Update

In August, I posted about using Dochub with Google Classroom. With it, students on Chromebooks can type, write, and highlight over the top of a PDF document. This is especially handy if you have a document you want students to write on, but not change the original integrity of it.

Since then, updates have been made to classroom and the workflow is slightly different than it was previously. I created a couple videos for the purpose of launching Dochub in an elementary classroom. With these videos, you can see how to install the add-on in Google Drive as well as use it to manipulate a document from Google Classroom. 

Download Dochub

Dochub and Google Classroom

Classroom Implementation Thought

One issue that teachers have is if it is a document that students will utilize over a period of time beyond a day. Documents save automatically in Dochub. If a student needs to access and manipulate a document again, they do not need to access the document from classroom a second time. They actually can access it from the Dochub app from their Chrome apps and continue working. Once it is completed, they can submit it to Google Classroom.