Monday, August 27, 2018

#DigCit Promo Videos

We on the Digital Learning Team absolutely LOVE hearing from our innovative teachers regarding what's happening on their campuses. We were especially tickled recently when we received this terrific #DigCit rap video from Mr. Orion and Mr. Tannenbaum at Frankford Middle School!

And then there is this wonderful anti-bullying video made last year by students at Otto Middle School (you may need to be signed in with your school account to view this one).

Right now you may be thinking, "Hey, that gives me an idea for something I'd like to create!" or "Hey, my students could come up with something like that, too!" At least, that's what we HOPE you're thinking! We'd love to see lots more content like this, created by our amazing educators and ESPECIALLY our awesome students!

Are you looking for more Digital Citizenship resources? Check out the curated list at And be sure to contact any member of your friendly Digital Learning Team if you want to learn more about how you can bring digital citizenship to life in your classroom.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Hidden Gems on our PISD Hotspot

Our Hotspot website is chock full of useful information - but there is a LOT there, and you might miss some of our great resources! This blog will provide a quick tour of some of the links you may have overlooked.
  • Our Digital Learning Catalog - all the ways your Digital Learning Team can support you!
  • Digital Citizenship resources - everything you need to get off to a good start (at ANY time of the year!) with digital citizenship
  • Reflection Questions: hit the refresh key, or just click the "Next Question" button at the lower right, and you will get random, generic questions appropriate for almost any lesson or activity. (Thanks to Tony Vincent for this idea.)
  • Audio and Video Editing links to the website. Free online editing tools!
  • Likewise, the PDFs bullet links to - terrific free site for converting PDFs to Word, Excel spreadsheets to PDF, extracting images from a PDF, and more. (Note: be sure you are using copyrighted materials appropriately.)
  • Pinnacle Gradebook, including a tip for fixing the annoying problem of not being able to scroll to the last student on your roster if you're on a Chromebook.
  • Creating a Google contact group so that you can share docs with your entire campus or other group
  • How to create a short URL
And SO many more! Do you have a favorite resource from our Hotspot? Is there something you'd like to see there, but can't find? Let us know in the comments section below.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Back to School: Tech for New Teachers and More

The Digital Learning Specialists at @PISDtech LOVE the opportunity to work with our new teachers every year! Yesterday we had the pleasure of meeting over 450 brand-new, new-to-PISD, and returning-to-PISD teachers. The theme for new teachers this year is "Welcome Home to Plano ISD" and I absolutely love that. The PISD crowd is definitely a family, and we're always so happy to open our arms to our new family members.

The Digital Learning Team invited several of our teacher leaders to help introduce our technology resources to the newbies yesterday. Thank you to Laura, Phoebe, Ayanna, Diana, Dora, Lilly, Kevin, Kim, and Lan for your many skills in helping orient our new family members to our Hotspot website, Webdesk, and using Chromebooks in the classroom. 

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with those resources, here's a quick recap:
  • Our popular Hotspot website is available at (the "it" is for "instructional technology," doncha know). Click Professional Learning in the blue menu bar, or go directly to to get a small glimpse of what we covered in yesterday's New Teacher sessions.
  • Webdesk (powered by Classlink) - one-click access to all your programs. If you use Webdesk already, chances are you love it. If you DON'T use it - what's keeping you from jumping in? It's amazing!
  • Chromebook tips, available on the Chromebook Academy page of our website. Tips for how to right-click, make a screenshot, and much much more!


Do you have suggestions for things you'd like to see on our Hotspot website? Let us know! Just send an email to

Your PISD Tech team wishes you a marvelous start to the 2018-19 school year!

Monday, July 23, 2018

How to Look Good on a Webcam

"I don't want to see myself on camera!"

Ok, let's get real for a minute. We've taught classes on how to record videos/screencasts using Chromebooks, PCs, and cell phones and the reoccurring responses have been "ugh!" when we see ourselves on camera. So let me cover some quick and easy tips on how to look like an easy, breezy cover girl (or guy) on camera.

Step 1: Get Over It

Your students love you. We are our worst critics. People are forgiving. Just let any insecurities go and be proud of yourself for getting techy! 

Step 2: Set Yourself up for Success

I love everything about this short video by photographer Matthew Rolston. He makes looking good on camera look EASY!

Take Aways

In the video, Mr. Rolston gives the following tips:
  • Place a lamp behind your computer. 
  • Position the computer so that the webcam is aligned with your hairline. (So that you're not looking down at the camera.)
  • Center yourself on screen. 
  • Look at the webcam while recording/talking, not at yourself.

These Plano teachers demonstrate how to prop up their Chromebooks to get a "high and tight" angle while recording a Flipgrid video for a Chromebook class at the Summer Elementary Academy #pisdsea, #pisdsea2018

Holding the Chromebook at an angle.
Propping the Chromebook up.

Give these tips a try and you'll look almost as gorgeous as this cover girl (kitty). :P

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!