Friday, May 20, 2016

Have You Checked MyLearningPlan?

Are you looking to accumulate some professional development hours this summer? Our department has entered several learning opportunities into MyLearningPlan for Plano ISD staff members. Some options are:

  • Techno-Phobic to Techno-Fabulous
  • Google Tools and Apps (Drive, Docs, Sheets, Classroom)
  • Social Media in Your Classroom
  • Green Screen
  • Paperless Classroom
  • Recording Screencasts
  • Student Engagement Tools
  • And so much more!

Here you will find a detailed list of the courses, dates, times, and descriptions. If you are interested in signing up, just log in to your MyLearningPlan account and search for the class. We hope to see you this summer!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Awesomeness of the Autocrat Google Add-On

My favorite add-on right now is Autocrat for Google Sheets. I learned about it from Amy Mayer +friEdTechnology  at TCEA 2015 and Kim Estes +mamaestes at TCEA 2016. What's great about it is that it allows you to take information from a Google Sheet and merge it into a Google Doc to create a custom certificate that can be automatically emailed to participants! It's a beautiful thing to see Google Forms + Google Sheets + Autocrat + Google Docs = Awesomeness! Here's how it works.


Imagine that you want to send everyone a certificate of completion for attending a training.

Step 1

Create the certificate in a Google Doc.

Amy Mayer's example - certificate of achievement
Wesley Fryer's example - EdCampOKC certificate

Step 2

Create a simple Google Form to gather the attendees' names, email addresses, and session details, like these:

Tx Goo Certificate - Google Drive for Beginners
EdCampOKC Form

Step 3

Once your attendees have completed the form, open the Google Sheet of responses and open Autocrat. First, you'll need to add it. From the menu bar at the top, click Add-Ons, then Get Add-Ons.

Search for Autocrat and click "Free" to add it to Google Sheets.

Once it's added, you can launch Autocrat.

Watch Amy Mayer's 7-min. video to see how it works!

Awesome Autocrat Resources

Google Forms: Automated Awesomeness - Kim Estes' presentation from TCEA 2016. Excellent examples and templates to get you goo-ing.

How to Use Autocrat (7 min.) - Amy Mayer's how-to video

For more ideas on how to use Autocrat, visit Top 5 Ways to Use Autocrat in Education for easy, step-by-step directions.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Combat "Summer Slide"!

All teachers are probably familiar with the loss of students' skills over the summer months, often referred to as the "summer slide." To help students maintain the skills you've worked so hard to help them achieve in the past several months, take a look at these ideas.

Librarian Becky Calzada suggests talking to your students about the research behind the summer slide. "Having conversations with students provides an opportunity for us to educate them and allows students to consider proactive steps to help themselves."

Getting books into kids' hands is an important way to ensure that they continue reading over the summer monhts. Hosting book swap before the end of school allows your students to get access to books without spending a dime; Reading Rockets offers some tips on setting one up.

PlanoRichardson, and Dallas libraries all have summer reading programs that are the best price: FREE. Encourage your students to visit their local libraries. You could set up a Google form for your students to submit each time they read a book. It could look like this (thank you to McKinney ISD's Media Resource Specialist Cindi Bolton for sharing this example at TCEA back in February). Be sure to let someone from your Instructional Technology Team know if you need any help setting up the Google form!

Technology can provide lots of other ways to help you stay connected to your students, too. If your kids can't make it to a physical library, they still have an opportunity to enjoy books on their home computer or even a smart phone. Every elementary schoolmiddle school, and  high school student in Plano ISD has access to ebooks! Ask your school librarian about how your students can access these terrific resources.

If you have a Google Classroom, continue to check in on your students throughout the summer! Encourage them to read. Discuss with them what they're reading, and encourage them to discuss their books with each other. Promote the programs that are happening at your local library.

Does your school have a Twitter account? Encourage your students to submit pictures of themselves reading, and tweet those pictures out! Parents could also tweet the pictures of their students reading, and include a special school hashtag. And don't limit selfie production to just the students - they would love to see your Teacher-Book Selfies tweeted from your classroom account, too!

Many thanks to librarians Cindi Bolton and Brenda Ross for sharing their "No More Summer Slide" presentation at TCEA last February, and provided not only the inspiration for this post, but also most of the suggestions! Also check out the #summerslide hashtag on Twitter.