Monday, August 31, 2015

Flipboard to Move Beyond the Textbook

While a textbook can be a good resource, it no longer has to be our only resource.  Curation tools, like Flipboard, can help you to put together resources to help your students learn.  There are many resources out there are that are more up to date than a textbook or more engaging.  We can find resources that help all levels of readers in our classroom while also using resources that are more interactive and responsive to students.  We can even collaborate using the curation tool to work with another teacher to maximize our time.

Flipboard is one of the best curation tools out there in terms of aesthetics and ease of use.  Using a Chrome extension ( you can quickly add any website to your magazine (except for Google docs, sheets, slides, drawings).  Students can access the Flipboard magazine using the link or by following your magazine with their own account.  The magazines look great, both online and using a dedicated smartphone or tablet app.  You could create magazines for each section, unit, term, or whichever way you want.

The following are all Flipboards that I have created or collaborated on.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Tech Tips Newsletter #201

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Today we are starting the biweekly newsletters back up so you can get some tech tips in email form every two weeks.  You will be able to find all of the newsletters and other useful information on our site and new tech tips will be posted to my Blogger page at  (the tech tips on that blog page are automatically updated to the front of my Google Site).
  1. Updates to Google Classroom
  2. Synergyse for Google Apps Help
  3. Use to take notes on videos in Google Drive or YouTube
  4. Updated Comparison of Backchannel and Informal Assessment Tools
  5. 10 Awesome Tips for Teachers Using YouTube in the Classroom
  6. Copyright and Creative Commons Explained
Remember that if you have something you are trying out in your classroom that you want to share with others, we do have a teacher share page at  There are a lot of great uses of technology to improve learning in our classrooms and sharing them out can help each other out greatly.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Create Animated Gifs Using Snagit

Animated GIFs are great tools to show students/teachers/others how to do something without having to create a full video to host online. You can quickly create animated GIFs using Snagit for Chrome,,  by doing a quick screencast and then converting it into an animated GIFs. There are other extensions, like MakeGif (, that allow you to capture part of online videos, like YouTube, to convert part of it into an animated GIF.  Snagit allows you to do a screen capture video and convert that into an animated GIF.

If you want to put the animated GIF onto your Google Site, you need to use the link to the file, but for other uses you can just download and insert it.  I use animated GIFs all the time for my presentations so I do not have to leave the presentation to show them how to do something.  You can easily use this with students as part of instructions or when you are trying to help someone else learn how to do something quickly.

Watch the video below to see how you can do this easily.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Synergyse for Google Apps

We have a great new resource available to us in regards to learning how to use Google Apps in the classroom.  Synergyse is a tool designed to help people learn about the various Google Apps.  By installing the Chrome extension,, you will have Synergyse available whenever you are using a Google Apps product.

You will see the Synergyse logo at the top right of the page and will have quick access to resources centered around that one, specific app.

This tool is available to all staff and students.  It will already be installed on the Chromebooks at the MS and can be installed using the Chrome extension on all other laptops.

Watch the following video to see how to get started with Synergyse.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Swivl Tips and Tricks

The Swivl is a great device to help a teacher, or other educator, record video of the many things that we do during the day. You can easily put in a tablet or phone and the Swivl will track your motion using the microphone that you wear so you do not need an assistant, it is your assistant. The Swivl has a small footprint and easily blends into the background once you start using it, although I love seeing people's reactions when they first watch it rotate to follow your motion.  The app that you need to install on your device is free and connects you to their cloud storage which is a great place to store and share the videos that you make.  We have used this to record teachers teaching, record students giving presentations, and record any presentation that we want to give.  I have also worked with teachers to set them up so they can record experiments or any other events that they want to share out with students, or other educators.

Getting Started
  • Set up account at
  • Install the Swivl app on your iPad or other mobile device.
  • Log into your Swivl Cloud account on the Swivl App.
  • Change Video Settings to medium sized video if you do not have enough storage for a high quality video. 
  • Turn on and connect to the iPad.
  • Upload your video to your Swivl Cloud account, you can even set it to automatically do this after you record.
  • (one issue that has popped up occasionally involved some interference with the microphone causing it to not record, if you turn off the wifi on your tablet or phone then you can usually avoid this issue)
Watch the videos below to get started with your Swivl.
Getting Started With Your Swivl

Uploading From Swivl to Swivl Cloud

Tips When Using Your Swivl

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Add To Google Classroom Chrome Extension

Over the summer Google introduced new ways to connect Classroom with other sites and tools.  While it will take some time for other sites and tools to integrate with Classroom, you can now easily add resources to your Google Classroom using a simple Chrome extension.  All you have to do is be on the site you want to share and click the Chrome extension.  You can decide if the resource is going to be part of an "Announcement" or "Assignment".  You can even set it as a Draft so you can share it later when you want to.

Just go to to get the extension.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Newsela - Nonfiction Leveled Readings

Newsela is a great resource for any classroom.  It is a site that has a collection of nonfiction articles and stories, including current events articles, that allow you to select the reading level you need to understand the text.  There are usually 5 levels available for students so they can select the level that best suites them, or work on a level that is within their zone of proximal development so that they can continue to learn and improve.  There is even a feature, not available for all articles but for many, that gives you a chance to take a quiz that will assess how well you understood the article.  

Newsela is free, although there are some paid options, and allows you to easily create teacher and student accounts using your Google Apps log-in.  The Pro account gives you more of the LMS features that many would like but that are not needed for most applications of this tool.  In the free account you can assign articles to students and they can take the quizzes after certain articles, however the teacher will not be able to see their results.  

Newsela provides some great supports for teachers, including a handy sheet telling you how to easily get students registeredand a quick start guide for teachers for the overall process of using it.  Newsela is used by a good amount of teachers at our school and they have the following to say about it;
  • It is nice to use to read to the class for Read Alouds, but it is also nice to give to kid at different lexile levels.  That way they can all read the same article, but with varying degrees of difficulty.
  • I created an account and had freshman look through, find a story, read it, then summarize it and give their opinion on it. It was really nice because they could chose their lexile for the passage and as they were reading if it was too hard they could decrease the lexile until they understood it. And it is relevant information on all subjects. It did a better job at giving students access to non-fiction articles at their reading level then I ever could do on my own.
  • I use it every week for my AI students. Sometimes I keep the lexile high for a Think Aloud, but other times I lower it based on their individual lexile range. It's great!
Watch the video below to get started.

Actively Learn - Add Notes/Questions/Resources to Text

Actively Learn is a digital tool that allows you to easily add notes/questions/resources to digital texts, ones provided for you or ones that you upload yourself.  You can easily create a class, add students, add the text and resources; all in a very short time.  Students then can use the notes/questions/resources you provide to help them make sense of the reading and improve as readers.  There are a lot of free options that you will find useful for your students and some of the premium options even make it worth buying, if you have the funds.  

(They even have resources from Project Gutenberg such as The Great Gatsby.)

Watch the video to see the basics of Actively Learn and then start thinking about how you can use it to help your students as they read.

Adding Audio Comments using Goobric and Doctopus

I am a big proponent of using digital tools to provide better feedback for students as part of their learning.  Too often we may give "feedback" that consists of a score or a grade, which does not help the student continue in their learning in an effective way.  It is like expecting a blind person to know how to drive by just shouting out directions, we need to do more to help them become better in their learning.  Kaizena is my standard tool for adding audio comments to Google Docs but if you are already using Goobric and Doctopus, then you can now easily add in audio comments to give further feedback for the student.

(If you are worried about the time it takes to give better feedback, think of the time you will get back because the better feedback will make it more likely they learn and will need less help than if you give them poor feedback.)

You can find out more about Doctopus and Goobric at and you can watch the video below to see how to leave audio comments using Goobric.

Chalkup to Annotate Google Docs

Chalkup is a useful tool in many ways, as an LMS (lesson management software) or even just as a way to annotate Google Docs for students.  Chalkup has the usual features of being able to create classes, have students join using their Google accounts and a classroom key code, discussion posts, creating assignments, and all of the other features you expect from a type of LMS.  

The one feature that really helps it stand out from others is that you have the ability to annotate Google Docs in many ways, such as leaving comments or even drawing on the document.  The annotations are only found when logged into the Chalkup site and you will not be able to see them on the original Google Doc, only the copy in the assignment submission.  There are a lot of people who want this feature and this is one of the few easy ways I have found to be able to do this.

(sidenote: There are a lot of ways that we can leave effective feedback for students, we should look for new ways that allow us to leave better feedback that helps our students as learners so make sure that any feedback you give to students is effective, not just quick.)

Chalkup is  easy to setup and join, thanks to using your Google account, so you can easily create a class and start trying it out.  Watch the video below to see how to get started.  Richard Byrne has also written some great posts about Chalkup, including about their rubric features, at

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Google Classroom Updated April 21, 2015

Google updated Classroom with some key features today.  You now have the ability to add co-teachers, who can do everything but delete the class, by going to the About page and clicking the Invite button.
You can also save Announcements or Assignments posts until later.  Create it now as a draft and then submit it when you want to.  This allows you to easily plan ahead without students being able to see it ahead of time or work on it.  Just click on the down arrow next to Post.
You can also apparently save grades without returning the documents and email notifications were improved.  You can find more about the updates by going to Google's own post about them,

Now to wait for Calendar integration, last big feature I know a lot of people want that seems feasible.  

gMath for Google Forms Update

gMath is an Add-on for Google Forms (and Docs, Sheets) that allows you to easily create, and insert, mathematical equations and graphs.  It uses the LaTeX equation editor to allow you to quickly use buttons, or write it all out yourself, to insert the equations or graphs into a Google Form.  With the recent update, you can quickly allow students to use gMath to submit their own answers using the equation, graph, or handwriting editor.  This Add-on makes it very easy to create graphs and equations as well as allowing students the ability to do the same.  More gMath info can be found at

UPDATED 4-23-15: Handwriting entries now are inserted directly into the document, you do not need to convert them into written text.  

ALSO - You can go from handwritting into LaTex using

Watch the video below to see how it works.

Digital Tools To Support Collaboration

Something that may be difficult for many people to do well, is to work with others in a truly collaborative way.  Too often we end up working in a group that is inefficient and detracts from our intended goal.  This is true for teachers and students alike.  There are some ways that we can improve how we work together as a team in a collaborative way using technology.  The following are just some suggestions and if you have any others, please let me know.

  • Shared Google Drive Folder - Make it easy to share files back and forth by having folder that is shared with everyone in the team.  This will make it easier than having to email it back and forth, and you will be able to share things by just moving them to the folder.  The sharing permissions for the folder are carried over to any file that is placed into the folder, although you could still modify the sharing settings of the individual files as needed.  Just make sure that everyone with editing rights to that folder knows that if you remove it from the folder, the others will not be able to see it or access it unless they were the owner.  (You could always make a copy if you needed that file elsewhere but then the others would not be able to see any edits or make their own edits in the copy.)
  • Shared Google Calendar - Make it easier to keep track of important dates by simply creating a Google Calendar and adding the other people as editors of the Calendar.  Just create the calendar by clicking the down arrow next to "My calendars" and selecting "Create new calendar".  Add the other team members in the "Share with specific people" section and make sure they can "Make changes AND manage sharing" so they can add to the calendar, edit entries, and share it out with other people.  Remember that you can also access your Google Calendars on any smarthphone or tablet, meaning you always have access to it.

  • Shared Curation Tool - Often times teams will be sharing resources back and forth using email or some other way that is just not quick or efficient.  You should not have to search through an email chain to find that resource that was shared with you.  Instead, use a curation tool and share that with the team so each person can add to it.  Some great options would be Padlet, Flipboard, Scoop-it, an Evernote notebook, or Pocket.  Padlet is an easy one to use since, like others, it has a Chrome extension so you can quickly add to the Padlet with the click of a button.  Make sure that whatever tool that you use is easily shared with each person and allows for quick addition of future resources.  You could even create a separate Padlet wall for each of the main units or topics.
  • Google+ Community - You can easily create a closed Google+ Community and only have the members of your team as people who can see or post in the community.  This means you can easily share resources, carry out conversations, or ask questions in a safe and easy to use space.  Since it is part of the Google Apps, you can easily share files from your Google Drive or images that are in your Google+ space (or Drive when that changes).  This is another tool that is easy to use and can be quickly accessed using a smartphone so you can always be able to collaborate.
  • Voxer - If you want to be able to communicate quickly with your team members, Voxer can allow you to do this easily.  It is a free app that can be installed on Android or iOS phones and allows you to leave voice or text messages for the others to hear/read.  You can have a conversation happen over a period of time and easily go back to what was said/shared.  This could be a really useful tool when you are dealing with something where you need to quickly explain something or share something with your group, where text would not be the easiest way.
While those are the main ideas that you can easily implement, there are some other ideas that may not work for everyone, but can make some aspect of collaborating together easier.
  • Use Google Classroom to share resources and carry out digital conversations.
  • Use a hashtag on social media to share resources and ideas with other members.
  • Use Movenote to share ideas and explain resources or documents.
  • Use Google Hangouts to have a video chat with other members if you can't be at the same place at the same time, you could even record these for later use.
  • Add team members as editors on Google Forms you use in your classroom so they can see the student data to make conversations more focused on students.
What other ways can we use technology to better help our teams work more effectively and efficiently.  Remember though, that if the team does not work in a collaborative way, technology will not improve things one bit.  You need to make sure that your team has a clear focus and understands what it takes to work as a team instead of just a group of people.

Tackk to Create, Share, Collaborate

Tackk is a great tool that you can use to let students create, share, and collaboration.  It is very simple to get started and easy to use.  You can use your Google+ account to log-in and can share out using any of the many built-in options.  Tackk has connections to many other tools to easily allow you to pull in other creations or media, such as YouTube, Thinglink, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, .......  This makes it a great tool to create your own work or to pull in work from others in order to answer a question or solve a problem.  Tackk also has some chat tools built-in that make it easy to have conversations or to allow students to collaborate.  You can turn off the anonymous comment feature and make this as private as you want, but the ability to share out would be diminished if you do not share.

Give Tackk a look and I am sure you will find ways it can be a useful resource for students, at least give it to them as an option the next time you ask them to create, share, or collaborate.

Vialogues to Have Video Dialogues

Vialogues is another tool that you can easily use to add some interactivity or functionality to videos.  There are a ton of videos out there that can be used in the classroom and you can even create your own videos to use with your students.  Vialogues allows you to easily add questions or comments to a video so that you can check for understanding or promote thought while students watch a video.  Students could also leave their own comments on the video so you could have a running conversation about what the video is saying or have the students accomplish a task related to the video, such as connecting it their previous learning or using it to practice the application of a foreign language.

Vialogues is free and easy to use, give it a look by watching the video below and then create your own to see how you can use it with your students.

Below is an example of one that I made, please note that this was made just to test it out so the questions/comments are not to the quality you would want to use with students.