Monday, February 29, 2016

You Wanna' Rock? Rock the Hyperdoc!

Let's Rock!

Wanna rock a hyperdoc? Do you know what a hyperdoc is? (Click here if you have never created a hyperdoc.) In short, a hyperdoc merely creates an organized space for students to respond or collaborate. It works much better than sending PDF files as worksheets or putting lines in a Google Doc as spaces for students to respond. It is nothing complicated, but it makes a big impact on the communication of learning expectations.

To step things up a notch, I suggest we take advantage of the Google Drawings capability within a Google Doc. Why do this? Students need creative outlets for their learning, and they need to be able to do it collaboratively. By including a Google Drawing within a hyperdoc, students can see each other's drawings in a neat/easy to access format. Teachers could even include a separate column for students to comment/compliment on their group members' work.

Here are some ways students can get creative with Google Drawings:

  • Provide speech bubbles on an image to match the concept being taught.
  • Create Internet memes to drive a quick and funny point.
  • Find and identify important facts or parts on a topic with the arrow shape.
  • Create a mind map using the shapes and images.
  • Design a poster or advertisement.
  • Take a captioned selfie to demonstrate their level of understanding on a topic.
  • Create a collage.
  • Take a picture of physical items in the class or at home and label (scavenger hunts).
  • Take a picture of written or drawn items on paper. Caption/label the image.
  • Share handwritten math solutions on a single document using the snapshot feature.

Here's how to get started on building your rockin' hyperdoc

Google Drawings rocks!

So why not have students utilize Google Drawings as a stand alone project? You can. You can even have students work on the same Google Drawing at the same time. It is just as collaborative/live as a Google Doc. It purely depends upon the objective of your lesson. If you want students to create a single culminating project that requires text and images, a Google Drawing would be your best choice. If you are requiring multiple responses, using Drawings within a single Google Doc would be a better option. 

 Here are some advantages of having students respond with Google Drawings within a hyperdoc:

  • All student responses appear on a hyperdoc allowing for easy access/feedback/collaboration.
  • Teachers can ask more questions that require a Google Drawing response all within one document. This reduces the amount of documents that need to be opened by the teacher when providing feedback. 
  • Teachers can use it to vary the type of responses to mix up the assignment. Some could require just text. Some could require a Google Drawing. Some could require a snapshot of items handwritten. 
  • Using a hyperdoc format (table) will condense the size of the participant's drawings. This allows the viewer quickly scan through "thumbnails" and double-click to expand desired drawings. 
Want to know more about hyperdocs? Already using them and want to share your success? Please leave comments below to let me know how things are working for you! 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Simplify with Speech Recognition

Big report to type?

Speech Recognition is a great asset if you are a Google Docs user. Students can dictate their sentences and speech recognition puts the text right into your doc. There is no separate app. There is no need to copy and paste text into your document. It works right within Google Docs as an add-on. This works well in scenarios where a student is at home working on a report or off in a quiet area of the room. If whole class attempts to use Speech Recognition simultaneously, the students might get some interesting sentences popping up with all of the commotion going on in the room. 

Here is how to get started:

Foreign language application

Another practical application came about a few weeks ago as I was chatting with the French teacher at Angola High School, Deb Blaz. She wanted a tool that would type exactly what someone was saying in French. Not to shortcut the typing process, but for the purpose of pointing out when a student committed a mispronunciation. She had a group of students that didn't believe her when she would point out that they were mispronouncing a word or phrase in French. She found Speech Recognition to be helpful as it would not type the intended sentence unless the student pronounced the words correctly. It was much easier for a student to believe they were making mistakes when Speech Recognition couldn't produce the correct word or sentence! 

"A catch-22"

I think Speech Recognition is a great resource. I think it can be extremely helpful for students with all of their typing/writing needs. It is especially useful for students with physical disabilities. However,  learning how to type is an essential skill. The only way a student will learn to type is through practice so my suggestion is to use it within reason. Practice typing regularly and maybe use Speech Recognition just at home or when in a time constraint. Reserve it for those large writing projects that students already have written in their writer's notebook. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

High Tech Hangout - YouTube Video Editor

What is a High Tech Hangout?

A few years ago, I began hosting Google Hangout sessions where we discuss a specific techie tool over a video conference. I called it, "PD in PJ's." I thought it was a catchy title. It is so catchy that I've been noticing it popping up on the "Interwebz" quite a bit. Therefore, I decided to change the name of my online sessions. The whole point of using Hangouts was I wanted to provide a convenient manner for professional development. 

Attending after school sessions is tough. People have things to do and places to go. A Google Hangout provides the convenience of learning from your own living room. For my MSD of Steuben County staff, Friday, February 19th was a perfect opportunity as the teachers were at home while the students completing their schoolwork virtually. This is the first Google Hangout on Air that has been run with staff at MSD of Steuben. For many of the attendees, it was the first Google Hangout period. 


I'm adding this section of the post for those interested in creating a Hangout on Air so that you can train, collaborate, and record the session. (Go ahead and skip it if you aren't interested in starting your own Hangout on Air.)

To launch this Hangout on Air, I went through YouTube and went to the Live Streaming section in the Creator Studio. A quick way to get to this point is to visit Once you schedule your event, you can come back to this page and start your Hangout. 

Once in the Hangout, I sent invitations to all those that indicated that they wanted to attend. It sent them an email invitation so that they only had to click on the link to participate. I gave 15 minutes advance notice in case any downloading was necessary on their device. The technical issues are usually the biggest problem with a Google Hangout. I encourage staff members to utilize a Chromebook because there are typically fewer technical issues with Hangouts and Chromebooks. A PC or Mac will work, but additional installations may be necessary. To help with the process, I gave teachers forewarning of message boxes that may appear when attempting to access the session. 

YouTube Video Editor

Friday's session was all about utilizing the YouTube Editor to trim video, add audio, and post annotations. The MSD of Steuben County staff has received quite a bit of training (and more to come) in regard to utilizing Screencastify to create video lessons. The whole purpose is to use video to give opportunities to personalize learning using the blended learning model. Sometimes the teachers want to be able to edit their videos. There is nothing more frustrating than making mistakes during your lesson that cause the teacher to completely start over. Fortunately, teachers can upload their videos from Screencastify straight to YouTube. This allows the teacher to trim off the parts where they made mistakes. In the long run, this can alleviate some of the frustrations a teacher may experience when attempting to create video lessons. 

Overall the session was a lot of fun. We had a few technical hiccups here and there, but I was able to cover the topic within an hour. I look forward to more opportunities to hold these sessions. So be looking out for alerts about future High Tech hangout sessions! 

For your convenience, I edited the entire session and cut it into seven different parts. I hope you find it helpful so you can skip directly to the parts you need when editing a video with YouTube. However, if you want to view the session in it entirety, you can click here to view it. Please note that I put the edited versions in a playlist. So you need to click on the  to view the entire list of videos. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Bam! Radio Network

The commute

I have a little commute on my way to work each day. It takes me roughly 30 minutes to get to work depending on where I start my day at MSD of Steuben County. Many teachers have a similar scenario as I. Just like most commuters, I listen to the radio to pass the time. It makes driving much more palatable. As of late, I've been contemplating the time that I travel. Am I making the most of it? 

The most common complaint from educators is the issue of time. I hear a lot of comments regarding the amount of time it takes to learn new technology, the time to grade papers, the time to expand your PLN through social media, etc. We've all heard and shared in the groaning, and I'm just as guilty as everyone else. In an attempt to make the most of my time, I decided to substitute my music listening to educational podcasts through the BAM! Radio Network. There is a great variety of topics ranging from technology integration to educational best practices.

This change in lifestyle occurred when I came to the realization that I have almost an entire hour of professional development I can do while driving. Driving isn't the only scenario. What about while I clean the house? What about while washing pots and pans. What about while making dinner? We all have tasks that we accomplish at home where we can make the most of our time as educators. The BAM! Radio Network provides just that. It creates an atmosphere of reflection on my practice as a technology integration coordinator and  a teacher. It gives me the opportunity to refine my practice without a huge time commitment. 

How do I get started?

It is as simple as visiting On their site, you can listen to a wide variety of educational podcasts. You can create an account, save podcasts in a playlist and listen to multiple episodes in a row. This is a great way to get started and explore various channels that might be of interest to you. 

On a mobile device?

For the iPhone users, you're probably already aware of the Podcast app that is built into your device. This one works perfectly fine. You can download other available apps, but this is a good place to start if you are unfamiliar with listening to podcasts. 

I happen to be an Android user and my favorite app is Podbean. The app is available on iPhone as well. Honestly, I haven't tried a wide variety of podcast apps, but I liked the user-experience on Podbean and stuck with it. Quite a few free podcast apps have in-app advertisements. Podbean appears to be ad-free as users can actually host their own podcast through the site. The amount of free storage is pretty limited, but it would provide you with a good place to start if you are interested in creating your own Internet radio show. 

Favorite podcasts

I have several podcast channels listed just as recommendations. There are plenty of other noteworthy educational podcast stations, but this is just a starter list of some of my favorites. What I really like is that they are typically around the 10-minute mark. This allows me to listen in my spare time or when I'm working on a task that doesn't require a lot of focus. 

Every Classroom Matters by Vicki Davis is probably my favorite podcast. Vicki covers a wide range of educational topics that is both challenging and appealing to everyone. She brings in educators that will push your thinking and address some of the tough questions that we want answered.
Here are some of my favorite recent podcasts from Every Classroom Matters:

Tales from the Flip Side is from the author of Flip Your Classroom, Jon Bergmann. Here he chats with various educators to discuss methodologies and the effectiveness of the "flipped model." If you are flipping or using a form of blended learning, this channel is worth your while.
Here are some favorites of mine:

#EdChat Radio is hosted by Tom Whitby (Founder of the #EdChat Twitter chat). I am not a regular #EdChat participant, but I tend to look back at the discussions and contribute casually. However, I am a big fan of his Podcast because he brings in lead participants to discuss the dialogue that took place during the chat. Educators share their viewpoints and go more in depth on the educational issues the chat addressed. 

Connected educators?

I'm very proud to say that I'm working with a group of teachers that started their on book study on What Connected Educators Do Differently. The book is really about how we contribute our passion for teaching to others in our school district and beyond. It is about how we glean great ideas from other educators and provide support for teachers around the world. Listening to educational podcasts is a great way to keep connected. Listen and learn. If you find a good one, pass it on to your teacher friends in your building or on social media. Being "connected" keeps us sharp. Being challenged helps us refine our teaching craft. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Soundtrap Podcasts

So you want to make a Podcast on a Chromebook?

Podcasting has been a popular activity in the educational technology realm for quite some time. Typically people using a Mac would use Garageband since it is part of the suite of productivity tools included on the device. A lot of PC users would utilize Audacity since it is free and simple to use. Where does that leave the Chromebook? Can students create their own Internet radio show from the web? Yes, with

Mr. Birkenbuel/Ms. Naus' AP Literature Class

The topic of podcasting came about through Mr. Birkenbuel's student teacher, Haley Naus. She wanted to utilize Audacity because she had researched about various podcasting activities students have completed using this free resource. Unfortunately, I had to break it to her that it wouldn't work on a Chromebook. So I did a little digging through my PLN and found that the most popular resource on the subject of podcasting on a Chromebook was Soundtrap.

In this podcast sample, the students created an interview using a selection from The Picture of Dorian Gray. Podcasts work great because it forces the student to think about how they can utilize their voice to communicate their learning. When all you have is audio to work with, it leaves the students with no other choice.

Want to try Soundtrap?

I attempted to make a quick tutorial on how to get started, but Soundtrap contains a lot of options. Users can upload their own audio files, record from the site, trim and edit clips, and even work collaboratively with other users. These types of projects can require a lot of time depending upon how much time the student(s) want to spend perfecting it. The tutorial below only briefly covers how to get started making a podcast. I certainly need more practice using it so that I can be more productive with Soundtrap.

Note: Soundtrap's privacy policy clearly states that only users over the age of 13 can utilize this tool. Users between the ages of 13 and 18 need parent permission. Soundtrap is on my school district's list of acceptable sites that parents grant permission to use. Soundtrap does have a premium education version that is COPPA compliant. It is not free, but it would be worth looking into if you need to mix music or podcasts regularly. 


There are a number of sources for hosting podcasts. Most of them have a limited amount of storage and require premium subscriptions (PodcastOmatic, PodBean, Podcast Machine). One could even use Soundcloud. A simple solution would be to share a Google Drive folder with a podcast lineup set with view only access. This is really simple if you are utilizing Google Sites. Inserting a Google Drive folder in your Google Site is not only easy, but it gives a clean appearance. Organizing is up to you as you can create folders for individual projects inside your podcast folder.

Final thoughts

I recently heard back from Ms. Naus about the project. She mentioned that her students loved this project. In fact, they are requesting to create more podcasts for other projects in class. If you are looking for a great list of ideas of how to use podcasts in the classroom, ReadWriteThink has one along with links to examples. I highly recommend checking it out 

Friday, February 12, 2016


What is CaptureCast?

Cattura CaptureCast is another great screencasting tool that is available in the Chrome Web Store. You can create a video recording of your screen or even from a webcam/document camera. Want students to record audio only? The user can select just the microphone without the display or webcam to only record the audio portion. All captures are able to be uploaded straight from the Chrome extension. Files that you want to be stored in the cloud (Google Drive, One Drive, Dropbox, etc.) can be downloaded to your device and uploaded by visiting your destinations site. 

Video Editing

The video format for CaptureCast is the .webm format. This is significant for those that want to edit their videos. The format is not always friendly to video editors (Camtasia). To edit your videos, you'll have to convert the video file to another version. If you want to do this for free, uploading your videos to Youtube and downloading them will put them in the .MP4 format. 

Why CaptureCast?

What differentiates CaptureCast from other similar tools like Snagit or Screencastify? One benefit over Screencastify is that it does not have a watermark or a limit on record time. Essentially, you are only limited by the amount of space you have available on your device. The advantage of CaptureCast over SnagIt is the ability to record offline. The video saves directly within the app. The user then decides if they want to upload it to Vimeo or Youtube. Another option is to download the video and upload it to the cloud service of your choice or to an external storage device.

Want to know how to get started?

Below I have a playlist of three videos. It covers how to get started (grant access), the basics of using CaptureCast, and how to download and upload your videos to Google Drive. 

Student Application

CaptureCast provides a great option for students that need to make a recording with the offline capabilities. They can record over a presentation or a document they wrote. How creative you want to them to be is up to you as the teacher. Matt Miller has an awesome top-ten list on ways you can use Google Slides on his Ditch That Textbook blog.

With the students in my district utilizing Chromebooks, Sheets, Slides, Docs, and Drawings are automatically available offline. If students are making a book from Google Slides or a comic in Google Drawings, they can add a recording regardless of their Internet access. This is especially handy for when the Internet goes down at school or students participate in a virtual learning day from home where Internet access might be questionable. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Hyperdocs with Mrs. Knox

Hyperdoc...what's that?

A hyperdoc, simply put, is an organized workspace for individuals or collaborative groups. Have you ever tried to give students a response sheet in Google Docs that looked like this? 

What always happens? Students tend to move, delete, and destroy any ounce of organization within your document. Ever share one of these documents with a group of students so that they can work on it collaboratively? Any shred of organization is out the window, and frustrations between students begin to rise. 

A simple solution to the "sloppy doc" issue is to put your existing documents in a hyperdoc format. Making a hyperdoc is not rocket science. It also doesn't take that much time. All you need to do is make use of the table feature within Google Docs. Once you do that, you are well on your way to creating an organized space for digital learning.

(Please keep in mind that students can still change information in the cells you create in a table. It merely clearly defines where students are to input information and keeps it better organized.)

Hyperdocs with Mrs. Knox

A couple weeks ago I stopped by Bev Knox's sixth-grade class. Her students were working in groups on a book study. In each group, a student was a recorder for the group so that one copy would be turned into Mrs. Knox. Having the students collaborate on the same document via Google Docs would have been a huge mess. Questions would have been moved around the document. Students would have been trying to fight for position. 

As I looked at the packet, I realized that I could "Googlify" this document and make it a manageable workspace for students to collaborate. So Mrs. Knox sent a copy my way, and I transformed it into a hyperdoc. I colored the locations to input answers in light green, and colored chapter questions with an outlying table in a specific color to keep them organized (yellow = chapter 4 in the example below). It helped define specifically what needed to be completed. It also offered clearly defined spaces so that all students could participate at the same time without a constant battle for position.

The hyperdoc example I did for Mrs. Knox was specifically focused on providing a collaborative space. Hyperdocs do not have to be collaborative. A great example of one that is for individual work can be found here. (This example was not created by me.) 

Collaborative Hyperdocs and Google Classroom

Want to create these collaborative workspaces in Google Classroom? What you'll need to do is...

How can you get started?

You don't have to reinvent the wheel to make a hyperdoc. Utilize existing docs or activities completed on a regular basis. Try changing one of your existing documents by adding tables where the students can respond. Also, think about your question types. If the students can Google the answer, is it a good question? Is it merely replacing a worksheet, or are you asking questions that cause the student to reflect on their learning? Start small with a 2 x 2 table. Choose which cell you want to have color or have two separate colors. Maybe even include an image in your question box? Regardless, creating a definitive workspace for your students will help them focus on the specific task at hand.

Final Reflections

After the creation of Mrs. Knox's book study hyperdoc, I spent quite a bit of time with her discussing the creation, implementation, and purpose of organizing docs with tables to create collaborative spaces. I also had the chance to see her students in action. It was great to see Mrs. Knox's excitement as she clearly witnessed that this was a great way to get students collaborating and discussing the text. As students were responding on the document, conversations started building as they read each others' responses. The true test came when Mrs. Knox stopped the class for a moment to ask for their opinions of the learning experience. The students mentioned that they most appreciated being able to all participate at the same time. Seeing each other's responses created conversation. Each person had a fair share of the group work and discussion. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Drive Ya Nuts!

Game Time!

Ever play the game pictured above (Drive Ya Nuts)? My grandmother had this game. I recall hours of playing Drive Ya Nuts whenever I visited. I don't know if I ever solved it. I remember the game living up to its name! It was one of those things that I had found memories of regardless of how frustrating it was. When my grandparents both passed, it was one of the things I wanted most. At first, it was one of my classroom games. When I took on the role as a technology integration coordinator, it went on a shelf in my house for my kids to enjoy. (The real key is figuring out which nut needs to be in the middle. It is smooth sailing from there.) 

Screencastify, Google Drive, and Youtube...Oh, My!

Regardless of how frustrating something can be, knowing that we are making the right choice for the students is enough to pull a teacher, though. When our heads start to spin and we come out victorious, that's a great feeling. I know my iPad teachers are feeling this way right now in regards to providing video lessons for when students take their devices home. Since we have a population of students that do not have the Internet at home, we are attempting to utilize Google Drive for the iPad to provide offline learning experiences on the iPad. As it turns out, videos from Screencastify (as of 2/4/2016) are crashing Google Drive when the Internet is turned off or no longer available. 

I'm not fully certain what is causing all of the issues for my kindergarten through second-grade teachers/students. It might be the age of our iPads (iPad 2). I could be the format of a Screencastify video (WebM) and the Google Drive app don't get along. It could also be that the size of a Screencastify video is a larger format that is causing the crash. Regardless of the issue, it is frustrating for a teacher to spend the time creating a video lesson and not be able to use it.

To resolve this issue, I am suggesting the teachers convert their Screencastify videos (WebM) to a more "Google Drive iPad app friendly" format (MP4). The other thing I'm trying to do is to convert these files for free. There are a ton of free video file converters out there. I like using Zamzar or Cloud Convert. Those products work, but if your video is too large or you have several videos that you need to convert, they start to charge for their services. So what can we use?  Youtube.

Screencastify to Youtube

Sending videos from Screencastify to Youtube is a piece of cake. After you finish your video, you can send it to Youtube, go straight to your video, and download it from the video manager. Just like that, you've converted your Screencastify video to an MP4 format video. The teacher can then upload it into Google Drive to store for safe keeping or go ahead and share it with his/her students. 

From Google Drive to Youtube and Back

Teachers love to be organized! This is a good thing. As soon as they make a video and it goes into their Screencastify folder in Google Drive, their desire is to move it out and organize it in a folder. However, if you have moved your videos out of your Screencastify folder in Google Drive before you had a chance to send it to Youtube...they won't be in the Screencastify Chrome App like I demonstrated in the video above. I've made a second video demonstrating how to get your videos "from Google Drive to YouTube and back." 

Don't Give Up!

So if your head is spinning and Screencastify is starting to "Drive Ya Nuts," don't give up. I'm confident that the teachers of MSDSC will persevere and keep striving to provide a great learning experience virtually. I know they will because they do it each day in their classroom. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Virtual Learning Chromebook Edition

Teacher Training Time!

Earlier in the month of January, much time was dedicated to training MSD of Steuben County's kindergarten through second-grade teachers on how to provide quality virtual learning experiences for students using iOS devices. Last week, I had the pleasure of working with third through fifth-grade teachers on their Chromebooks. Much of this training was due to this being the first year these teachers have had these devices (iPads or Chromebooks). With the extra time spent and energy focused on this group, I'm confident that MSD of Steuben will provide virtual learning days that are of great quality and meaningful.

All my resources are posted in the slideshow presentation below. Here I go into detail and provide links to video resources on how to utilize Screencastify, make items available offline on a Chromebook from Google Classroom, and utilizing "hyperdocs" to organize lessons. Overall, these training days were a great success as staff walked away with everyday technology integration ideas as well. 

Virtual Learning Lesson

After training staff, I had the opportunity to visit a few classrooms to prepare them for a virtual learning day. In these lessons, I showed students how to access their content from Google Classroom and find it in their "files app" on their Chromebook. These items can then be set as "available offline" so no Internet is required for them when they take their device home. Then as they watch videos and type responses on Google Docs (sheets, drawings, or slides), the students can just click on the "turn in" button in Google Classroom upon returning to school. 

Below, I have a playlist of three videos. You can see what videos are available by clicking on the three lines on the top left of the video box. The first video is my lesson with students on how to set learning materials for offline use on the Chromebook. The second is the actual lesson that they tried on comparing fractions. The third video covers when the students return to school and turn in their items in Google Classroom. If you would like a copy of the Slides the students worked on, download it here

Student Offline Access

If you want video directions on how students need to enable the "available offline" option on the Chromebook, feel free to use the video below. It goes through the steps of opening the videos or PDF files from Google Classroom, visiting the "files app" on the Chromebook and making them available offline. 

Monday, February 1, 2016


Using Youtube?

Youtube is probably one of the most valuable educational resources on the planet. You can find videos on any topic one can think of. I don't know how many times this unhandy man has been bailed out because I was able to fix something through a video found on Youtube. This is not groundbreaking, earth-shattering news. Just reiterating a commonly known truth. 

Can You Trim a Youtube Video?

I recently was asked if it was possible to trim a Youtube video. A teacher only needed a small portion of a very long video. Using Safeshare.TV, a teacher can easily select a portion of a Youtube video and have a shareable link to send to students via Seesaw or Google Classroom (insert your learning management system here.) By doing so, you have a trimmed version of the Youtube video, and you have eliminated all suggested videos after the video or off to the right side of the screen. This gives you and your students a nice embarrassment-free version of the content. 

Another nice feature is the "Dim Lights" option when you are showing the video. It will darken the entire screen so that all buttons become hidden and the glaring white background is removed. It simply makes the video easier on the eyes. 

Want to get started with Safeshare.TV? See the slideshow below. 

A Funny Story about Youtube...

This may or may not have anything to do with this post, but since this is a blog...I can share whatever thoughts. I had a funny scenario that I believed involved Youtube. I had a couple teachers in a panic because students were changing their grades on our electronic grade book. The initial thought was that they were hacking into our grade system. After asking a few questions, I realized the students were merely changing the HTML code to appear differently only on their Chromebook. They felt much better after I explained that the grades would appear normal after refreshing the screen. I'm pretty sure that Youtube videos like this one are the culprit. 

So if your students are changing their grades...refresh the screen! :)