Monday, July 10, 2017

How Google Classroom Changed The Way I Teach


This week's guest blog post is by Priya Subramanian, Gifted Specialist/PACE at Andrews Elementary School. 



Get Rid of So. Much. Paper:
I now organize all assignments and lesson plans in folders in Google Drive (My Drive) by grade level and edit them as needed every year. Since they are Google Docs, it is pretty easy to track the changes I made. One could, if they saw benefit, even make notes of the purpose behind the edits. This renders most of my hard copy homes, binders, and folders, redundant. I haven’t really gotten rid of them yet. They are simply buried in that deep, dark section of the cabinet where only spiders fearlessly inhabit. 😊



Assignments and Feedback:

Assignments are digitally ‘handed out’ and ‘turned in’ saving time and paper. I did the digital feedback through Google Classroom the last couple of years and hand-wrote them this year. I must say I think this year worked better – I don’t think they quite got how to check comments and I was never sure if they saw the comments. Also, with the hard copy, I remembered to provide feedback more often and when I did forget, the students reminded me. We were not that diligent when I did it online. I am sure there are ways to work around this to eliminate even that bit of paper, but for now I think I will stay with paper feedback.

Also, for those who need to grade papers ( I don’t 😊) do check out Goobric and Doctopus – they are Google Add-ons and work with Google Classroom so you can attach the grade and the rubric to the assignment. Pretty cool feature which I used the first year.


Sharing Links is a Breeze
Whether it is a link to a Google Doc or a website or YouTube link or pretty much anything in the cyber world that I need them to access, I just send it to Google Classroom with the handy Share to Classroom extension. It is an extension that is already installed in Google Chrome - just check the upper right corner of your Chrome window and look for the small Google Classroom icon that looks like a little chalkboard. I haven’t heard the dreaded whine, "the link doesn’t work for me" for a while now. "I miss that whine"… said no teacher ever!


Communicating with Parents:
My goal next year is to open up Google Classroom for parents, too. A cool feature that was added this year is called Guardian Summaries. It allows parents to receive an email summary of the postings in Google Classroom. However, I never used it because I have flexibility with assignment deadlines which is kind of hard to explain to parents. But I am making some changes for next year where I wouldn’t mind help from parents.


The One Drawback:
The little ones (1st and 2nd graders especially) had a lot of issues remembering/ saving their Google accounts. But, thanks to WebDesk, even point is now moot. So yeah, if you were looking for that ‘catch’, there is none! Also, here's a handout explaining how to use WebDesk. 


I know there are so many more advantages to using Classroom and I am going to kick myself for not remembering them sooner. For now, these are the ones that really stand out in my it’s-summer-mode brain. Bottom line, if you haven’t started using Classroom yet, then there is no better time to start than now!  Also, you can watch free online tutorials of how to setup and use Google Classroom in Atomic Learning. Here's a handout explaining how to log in at Atomic Learning.

Thank you to our phenomenal tech support team for their trendy, innovative solutions. They are the best!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Last Week...Treat Yo Self!


It's the last week of school. Time for packing it up, wrapping it up, and preparing yourself to be refreshed for a few precious weeks this summer. For secondary teachers, that means you're on finals schedule and giving countless pep talks for your kids to take it to the next level. For elementary teachers, it's difficult to let go of your babies that have grown up so very much over the last year. This week brings a whole host of emotions that we are not always equipped to deal with, but you can look back on this year with pride knowing you have made a difference in the life of a child.

What does this have to do with technology?  Nothing. We wanted to take the time to express how amazed we are at the level of educators in this district. Our group has logged about 800 hours of professional learning opportunities this school year and have interacted with every campus in this district. Your talent, drive, and ingenuity are what makes this district world class and our community thrive.

Summer learning is bigger and better this year! Here is a link to our summer catalog with enrollment instructions located on the last page. Times and dates are filling up very quickly, so don't miss out on some wonderful learning opportunities. Our district is committed to educating future ready students which means we support our future ready educators.

Have a fun, safe, and relaxing summer!

Your Instructional Technology Team,
Clara, Nancy, Leah, and Fern

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Create Animated Videos in Minutes with Biteable!

Have you ever wanted to create a video, but weren't sure how to get started or what tool to use? Animated videos work great as explainers, topic introductions, presentations, and more. If the phrase "create an animated video" seems like a daunting task, you need to give Biteable a try. Biteable bills itself as "The World's Simplest Video Maker," and it truly is super easy to learn and use. In just a few minutes, you can create and publish some very engaging and professional-looking animations.

To get started, go to https://biteable.com/ and click the "Sign Up - Free" button at the top right. Signing up with your PISD Google account is a great way to go because it's one less password for you to remember. I created this "Meta-Biteable" - a Biteable on how to make a Biteable - in 5-6 minutes, and it took about 10 minutes to be rendered. (You can walk away from your computer at this point - or enjoy the fun scrolling messages you'll see while the video "cooks.")



Click the graphic below to see how the video turned out, and to get a quick run-through of how to make your own:



The next time you think about putting a video together, try Biteable!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Create and Share Voice Recordings Easily

Check out this FREE and easy feedback tool!

Imagine grading your student's work online and wishing you could provide your feedback verbally rather than typing it. Let's say, for example, you're reading a student paper typed in a Google Doc. You can add written comments in the margin, right? With the help of SpeakPipe, you can also record your voice explaining your feedback and paste the URL to your voice recording directly into the Google Doc comment box!



Why not just use a voice recorder app that's on your mobile phone or on your computer? SpeakPipe lets you save to their server so all you have to deal with is a URL rather than an audio file. What that means is NO uploading/downloading files for you or your recipients.

Follow these simple steps:


  • Go to https://www.speakpipe.com/voicerecorder
  • Click "Start Recording"
  • Click "Save on Server" 
  • Name your recording (optional) and Save it
  • Copy the link to your recording and paste it where you'd like
It's that easy!



Copy the link to the recording. 

Ideas

This English teacher was looking for a way for her students to record their voice. 

We recommended SpeakPipe, of course! Here are Michelle's students using SpeakPipe.



Here are more ideas:



What can YOU do with SpeakPipe in your classroom/campus? Please share in the comments!

Monday, May 8, 2017

#AlwaysLearning: Your Hashtag for the Summer

Ah, summer. It's just around the corner, and you are probably dreaming of getting caught up on your reading, spending lazy days by the pool, ...and of course, learning some new technology skills! As teachers, we are first and foremost learners, and we should be modeling those lifelong learning habits for our students. Learning about new technology and how it can be used in your classroom to enhance your students' learning will be time well spent, and we've got some great deals for you!

Your Instructional Technology team has planned quite a lineup of classes for you to choose from this summer, and many of them are filling up quickly. Maybe you have been wanting to learn more about that Swivl and how to make the best use of it in your situation - there's a class for that! Or maybe you've wondered about the Google Certification process. That class won't certify you, but you can get answers to all of your questions about the process.  Or perhaps you consider yourself "tech timid" (or know someone who is...) and you need a friendly face to help walk you through some basics. Yep, there are classes for that, too!

Additional classes we are offering include:
  • Google Classroom
  • Google Docs & Drive for Beginners
  • Geeking Out with Green Screen
  • Presentations that Pop
  • and many more
Check this brochure for details on all our classes, and then check MyLearningPlan for availability and to enroll.

http://tinyurl.com/pisdsummer2017
Additionally, the popular Ed Tech Success Initiative (ETSI) is back for its 4th year. Our enrollment process is a little different this year, and you can self-enroll for this valuable introduction to appropriate technology integration. You'll get two full days of amazing tech integration, plus 12 hours of PD credit. Secondary ETSI will be held Monday and Tuesday, July 31st & August st1, and Elementary ETSI will be on Wednesday and Thursday, August 2nd & 3rd. ETSI is only for professional staff members, but Edcamp ETSI is open to ALL PISD employees and will be on August 4th.

More information about ETSI can be found at http://tinyurl.com/planoetsi

We hope you'll use at least part of your summer to take advantage of the great learning opportunities we've been planning for you! As always, if you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Host a Silent Auction Using 32 Auctions

A few weeks ago, I got a call from Anne Quaintance-Howard who is the fabulous art teacher at Schimelpfenig Middle School. Her students created some beautiful bowls and their chapter of the National Junior Art Honor Society were wanting to host a silent auction featuring the bowls in order to donate the money to the Food Pantry of Plano. After I composed myself from crying happy tears, Anne asked me if there was a tech tool that could help them organize this silent auction and have it available for relatives around the world to be able to place bids while keeping it private. Not a tall order at all! (Ha!) Determined to find something for these selfless students and their teacher, I came across a tool called 32 Auctions. What a gem!

First and foremost, this tools is FREE to use if you have 20 items or less to auction off! If you do have more items, the cost is $30 for up to 100 items. This is completely doable in most circumstances, but you do have the option of getting together with your teacher buddies and each creating an account to keep this a free endeavor.

Set up is very easy and just moderately time consuming on the front end. You will end up saving an enormous amount of time during maintenance and closing the auction due to the autonomous nature of this program. Features included with every auction (excerpt from 32 Auction website):


  1. List up to 20 items in your auction ($ to increase # of items).
  2. Display 1 image per item ($ for additional images).
  3. Set a custom auction link for easy access and sharing with participants, posting on social media sites, or linking from websites.
  4. Support for exact bids, proxy bids, and Buy Now purchases.
  5. Instant outbid and watch notifications keep participants engaged in the items they care about. Participants love that the notifications contain a link to the item, allowing them to quickly enter a bid and take back the lead. Bidding wars!
  6. Prevent auction sniping by enabling extended bidding.
  7. Display a fundraising goal meter on the main auction page to help drive bidding and exceed your goal.
  8. Flexible privacy settings allow you to open the auction up to anyone, limit access by email domain, or approve each participant individually. Running an auction at your school? Restrict the participants to only those who have a school email address (e.g. @pisd.edu).
  9. View all auction items, current selling prices, and leading bidder information on the consolidated sales summary view, making real-time bid tracking a breeze!
  10. There are many more features available, including custom item categories, a handy bidding amount calculator, featured items, multiple currencies, and copying items between auctions. There are simply too many to list!
Anne was able to utilize this tool and became quite the expert. She let us know that 32 Auctions was easy to use and saved her a lot of headache and time. The best part is that the kids went past their goal and more money went to help our local families in need!

If you want to give this a try, we are more than happy to help you get started. Feel free to contact your instructional technology team.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Nerdy Gifts for the Techie Teacher

Next week is Teacher Appreciation Week! We celebrate and appreciate teachers every day of the year but next week is a special time to do a little something extra. We have a few suggestions for your favorite teacher ranging in price from free to $8.

Free
Create a free account at Canva and design a cool e-card for your favorite teachers! (If you're under the age of 13, please create an account with your parents/guardians.) There are free layouts, free images, nice fonts, and an easy-to-use format. All your designs can be downloaded as a .png, .jpg, or .pdf and you can tweet them, email them, print them, or find any way to deliver your kind message to the teacher. You can check out Canva for some free tutorials, too!

$2.99 
For about 3 dollars, you can get one of these handy tablet/phone stands at Ikea. It comes in two colors and holds a phone or tablet in portrait or landscape mode. One end of the stand holds the device upright while the other end holds it at a slight tilt. A perfect gift for a techie teacher!
Photo credit: Ikea

$6.99
For a techie teacher who regularly needs to recharge a device, a portable charger is a great idea. The chargers are slim and portable and will keep those devices fully charged all day. Portable chargers range in price and some are as low as $6.99. They can be found in pharmacies, department stores, and even grocery stores. Just make sure you read the label and buy the right kind of charger for your teacher's device.
Photo credit: Best Buy

$7.99
Working on a laptop or computer with good lighting is important and this cute USB Astronaut is an affordable way to keep things bright. It has a handy clamp so moving it around is easy. It plugs into a device via USB so there are no batteries or need to be near an electrical outlet. Also, the LED light is long-lasting and did we say it's cute?!
Photo credit: Amazon

Apps!
Yes, there are many wonderful apps that are free, but there are some paid apps well worth their price. Here are a couple of apps that techie teachers would love! Of course, that means you'd have to get a Google Play and/or Apple Store gift card but you could recommend these:

DoInk $4.99
This is a green screen app and is Apple only. No green screen? No problem! A piece of green butcher paper does the trick and your teacher can make green screen magic happen!

Explain Everything $7.99
This is an app for Android or Apple devices as well as Chrome or Windows. It is an interactive board that can have videos, images, and other content in various formats. Users have the ability to write on the content on the screen and build slide shows. It's available in multiple languages and has multiple rave reviews.

Now get out there and celebrate the amazing things teachers do every day for the students they love. But maybe celebrate in a geeky way! Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!