Monday, June 11, 2018

Make Classroom Screen your New Home Page!

Are you on Twitter? I love it for all the valuable (and often random) tips and tricks I learn there. I happened upon a terrific resource on Twitter the other day and wanted to share.

It's called Classroom Screen ( and has some terrific features all built in to a selection of beautiful background screens. Want a random name generator? You got it. Quick Exit Poll? Check. A timer and a clock? Yes and yes. Here's how it works.

Go to At the bottom of the screen, you'll see a series of icons:

Let's take a look at each one so you don't miss anything!

The first icon allows you to select the language (over 50 available!) that will be displayed on each of the icons. For bilingual and foreign language classes, this makes displaying a snap, since the language selected here ONLY applies to the items on this web page. 

When you click the background icon, you have many beautiful backgrounds to choose from (as well as some solid colors), and these will randomize for you when you log in each day. Don't miss the fact that you can upload your own photo, AND that you can use your computer's camera to display your class on the screen!

The third icon allows you to type in or upload students' names for an instant random name generator. Note that there is also the option to roll one, two, or three digital dice on this icon!

Fourth on the list is the sound level icon. Follow the directions to enable the microphone and voila! Your students get a quick visual as to whether they're too loud or not.

If you are QR code user, you'll love the ease of display that the next icon provides. Simply launch the icon and type or paste the website address you want your students to access. You can click and drag the crosshairs symbol at the top right to drag the QR code where you would like it to appear on your screen. 

The next icon is the drawing tool - here is an easy-access whiteboard! Don't miss the different "paper" options (i.e. lined paper, graph paper, etc.) that you can select at the bottom left of the screen. And if you click "no paper" (the square with the red diagonal line) - ta-da! You can use the mouse to draw on that cool background you selected earlier. For a smaller whiteboard option, just click the second drawing icon. Use the Text icon to write a bell ringer or other message to your students.

The work symbols icon will allow you to choose a symbol indicating whether your students are to be working silently, whispering, with a partner or in groups. Turn the traffic light red, yellow, or green to indicate whether students should be working or wrapping things up.

The timer and clock are the final two icons on the toolbar. EASIEST TIMER EVER! Use the + symbols at the top of each column to adjust the time. Don't miss the option to repeat your timer, or to change the timer from an hourglass to a stopwatch. And on the clock icon, notice that there is a calendar feature, too, visible when you click the small calendar icon in the lower right corner of the clock screen. 

For any of these icons, don't miss that you can click the "+1" when it's activated to add a second instance of that icon. Use the "-1" to delete one instance of the icon or the red X on an icon to dismiss it entirely. There is a hamburger (3 lines) menu at the top left of the screen - be sure to read the "Tips & Tricks" link for some additional ideas on using Classroom Screen.

We are excited to tell you about this great tool and hope to be using it in some of our summer PD sessions. We'd love to know what you think about it, and how you might be using it, so please add a comment below if you find something that you love about Classroom Screen.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Never Miss a Notification in Google Classroom/Docs/Slide with this Cool Trick!

Are you having trouble being notified when a student makes a comment or asks a question in Google Classroom? Have you opened a shared Google Doc and then see that someone posted a comment several days ago? Here are some solutions for you!

Google Classroom

  1. Check to see that your notifications are turned on. 
    • Click on the hamburger menu on the top left (three horizontal lines)
    • Scroll down to Settings
    • Toggle on Email notifications and anything else that you'd like to receive notifications about. 
      Google Classroom Settings
  2. Notify your students to start a comment with the plus sign and your name. This ensures that you will receive an email directly to your inbox notifying you of the comment. 
Entering a plus sign and the email address ensures that the recipient will receive an email with your comment.

Google Doc/Slide

Same as #2 above! If you enter a comment on a Google Doc or Google Slide, start it with the plus sign and the user's email address to make sure they receive an email with your comment. It's that easy!
By entering the plus sign and the email address, Nancy will receive an email directly to her inbox with my comment.

Google Certified Educators

Your trusty Digital Learning Team, Clara, Fern, Leah, and Nancy, are all Google Certified Educators Level 1 and 2. Beyond that, Nancy and Clara are Google Certified Trainers AND Nancy is a Google for Education Certified Innovator! So please let us know if/when you have questions regarding Googly stuff (and beyond!). Do you want to be a Google Certified Educator? Learn all about it by clicking the link below or just ask us how to get started!

Friday, May 25, 2018

You Can Do WHAT With GSuite Tools?

     One of the highest requests that we get as the Digital Learning Team is to show people new tips and tricks when using GSuite tools. We have assembled our top ten list of some pretty cool features, resources, and organizational tips that can be somewhat hidden if you don't have time for a deep dive. Let's begin!

10. Insert slides from Google Slides into Google Docs
9.   Use the NEW Hangouts Chat to communicate with your PLN or other groups
8.   Guides and Rulers for Google Slides!
7.   Emoji Random Writing Prompt Generator
6.   Using Keep For Grading Comments in Docs
5.   9 Awesome Add-ons for Google Slides
4.   Google Drawings Magnetic Poetry Template
3.   Stop Motion Animation with Google Slides
2.   Force a Docs and Slides Copy With Preloaded Comments to Help Your Students
1.   Copy Comments to Google Classroom Docs and Slides

Have fun learning and if you want to learn more, consider attaining Google Certified Educator.  You will not regret it!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Clean Up the Web Clutter!

You have found the perfect article to complement your lesson and you send the URL to your students who then proceed to click on the ads, links on the side, home page, and basically anything to get them off the perfect article you sent them. Your sweet students who have visual or reading accommodations might get very distracted by the blinking pictures, videos, and clickbait that is waiting for them on each website.

We got you! 

The following is a top five list (in no particular order) of decluttering website Chrome extensions that you and your students can install on your Chromebooks and/or Chrome desktop. None of the extensions listed below gathers your information, so three cheers for privacy! Click on the title of each Extension tool to bring you to the install page on the Chrome Web Store. If you need instructions on how to install Chrome Extensions, please refer to our PISD hotspot.

Source Article
I will be using the same website article for each of the extensions so that you have a control to compare features. You can find the article here: How a Black Spy Infiltrated the Confederate White House

1. Mercury Reader - The headline, article, links, and pictures are the only items retained when using this tool. The user has the ability to change the text size, font, and background color (black). One nifty feature is the ability to link this to your Kindle account and be able to send articles directly to your device.

2. Just Read - As you can see below, this tool removes all the distractions and you are left with a clean article. If you click on the paintbrush icon in the upper right corner, you have the ability to change font size and color as well as column size.

3. Easy Reader - This tool is a little more involved than just pressing a button to transform the pages. You can only transform a section at a time, but you are able to customize the font size/color and the line height. 

4. Purify - Not only does this tool clean up the webpage, but you end up scrolling horizontally instead of vertically. Yes, you can change the font size and make it full page. 

5. Announcify - This tool cleans up the webpage AND it reads the article to you. This would be quite useful for students (and teachers) who have reading difficulties. One paragraph is read at a time and the other text is blurred out. You can also control the pace and voice type using the options menu.

Hopefully, you will be able to use one or all of these tools to help your students focus on what they are reading and not be so distracted by the pretty blinking lights on the webpage. Happy reading!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Summer Learning 2018

The Digital Learning Team is ready for summer learning! There are 51 sessions in MyLearningPlan open for registration and some are being taught by PISD Teachers.

Each year we get feedback from teachers and their input determines which classes to offer. Some of the classes being offered this summer are:
  • Chromebook 1: Introduction to Chromebooks
  • Chromebook 2: One2Web Classroom
  • Chromebooks in the Secondary Classroom
  • Creating Videos on a Chromebook
  • Nearpod
  • Webdesk
  • Blended Learning in the Elementary Classroom
  • Using Tech Tools to Grow Language
  • Multiple Google Suite Tools
Calendars with the locations and class descriptions can be found 🌟HERE!🌟 All the sessions are Flex eligible (with Principal approval) for the 2018-19 school year. 

Come hang with these nerds and let's get geeky this summer!

Monday, April 30, 2018

R.I.P. Today's Meet

Today there are four super sad faces are here amongst the Digital Learning team, as we found out this weekend that Today's Meet is shutting down as of June 16, 2018. Today's Meet has been a staple of the "backchannel" chat in professional learning and among students for a number of years; its ease of use and versatility have always made it one of our favorite go-to resources. I know teachers who have used Today's Meet for keeping in touch with students when they're away or as a non-threatening way for students to ask and answer each other's questions. So, what to do now that this great tool will soon not be available? Here are three alternatives.

Google Slides Q&A. This is a hidden gem that you might not have seen before!

Tricider. No login is necessary, even for the teacher, but you'll want to log in with Google when you create new Triciders so you can see your history and edit your questions if necessary. Students never need to create an account.

Mentimeter. In the free version, you can have 2 questions and 5 quiz questions per topic, with an unlimited number of participants. There are different question types, which makes this tool a little different from the two above. Sign in with Google so you won't have to remember another password.

Remember that using a backchannel is a great way to mentor your students in great digital citizenship - but you have to set them up for success by talking about your rules and expectations ahead of time! Getting your students to come up with the rules and norms for class discussions, as well as consequences for infractions, will likely head off some of the negative behavior. If you need additional suggestions on using backchannels successfully in your classroom, contact any member of your Digital Learning team - Clara, Leah, Fern, or Nancy!