Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Tools to Support All Kinds of Learners

Instructional Technology tools have remarkable power to level the playing field for diverse learners! Here are a few that might provide beneficial support to students with learning disabilities, limited English proficiency, visual impairments, and more.

Learning Ally - Improve reading comprehension and boost confidence with the wide selection of human-read audiobooks from Learning Ally. Plano ISD has a subscription thanks to generous funding from the state. If you would like for your students to have access to audiobooks on any device, please contact Nancy Watson (nancy.watson@pisd.edu) for information.

Read & Write - the desktop version is available in the App Depot; use this toolbar with any material on your computer screen. The toolbar contains icons that provide word prediction, text-to-speech, screen masking, and more. There is a Read & Write extension for Chrome and an iPad app that works with the Safari browser. All icons on the Chrome extension are free to teachers; for students, the TextHelp company offers a 30-day free trial of the premium features. View free and premium features at https://www.texthelp.com/en-gb/products/read-write/premium-features/.

Kindle app for iPad - press and hold on unfamiliar words to take advantage of the Kindle's built-in dictionary. Use the translate feature to hear the text in a different language or to hear the pronunciation of a word.

Prizmo Go - an amazing iPad app! Take a picture of the page of any book. The app will convert the text to a machine-readable form and will read it aloud to you.



Reader Pen - use the pen to "highlight" the text in a book and it will read the text aloud. It frees up teachers' time and helps students be more independent learners. The district does not provide funds to purchase these devices.

Readability - a Chrome extension that removes clutter on a website and makes text easier to read.



Google Docs Voice Typing - fantastic Speech-to-Text app built right in to Google Docs. Click Tools > Voice Typing, enable the microphone, and dictate what you want to say. You can even change the language of dication!

Co:Writer - Chrome extension; word prediction tool that works in Google Docs. Recognizes and accommodates for common spelling errors/inventive spelling.

MindMeister - terrific mind mapping tool; you can create organizational charts like the one below and even insert images.


Do you have other apps or websites that you've found are helpful to your students? We'd love to know about them! Email us at pisd.hotspot@pisd.edu with any suggestions.

Have a great Thanksgiving week, everyone!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Ziteboard - Web Based, Real Time Interactive Whiteboard

Fellow Teachers,

I have a confession to make...I LOVE dry erase markers and whiteboards! This simple resource can be used in unlimited ways for my students to show what they know and practice essential problem solving skills. Not only that, but they can collaborate with their peers and have fun moving around the classroom. That being said, I get irritated for the following reasons:

  • The markers get dried out because one my sweeties didn't close the cap all the way.
  • I don't have enough working dry erase markers for everyone. (See above)
  • The erasers turn into projectiles because hey...why not?
  • The wasted time it takes for everyone to get out a board, grab a working marker, get a projectile (I mean eraser), and wait patiently for me to give the prompt.
If any of this sounds familiar, get ready to be amazed by this new to me tool called Ziteboard. Watch this video for a short introduction.


Ziteboard is a web based, real time, interactive whiteboard. If you have a device and wi-fi, then you and your students can use this remarkably easy tool.  Uses in the classroom include:
  • Annotating documents to create teacher notes that will never get lost.
  • Student group or individual work that can be turned into the teacher's Google Classroom.
  • Quickly launch whiteboards and save precious instruction time.


Most importantly...no more buying markers, erasers, or whiteboards!!!  For more information, check out their website ( https://ziteboard.com/ ) and have one of your eager instructional technology specialists help you get started.

Friday, November 3, 2017

The Cost of Freemiums

As our district rolls out 1:1 Chromebooks for students and staff, the use of web-based products will obviously increase. Many fantastic options are available but it's important to look carefully before you sign up.

Freeiums

This strategy is used to offer different pricing options. There is a free option with limited features and there are other tiers for premium pricing. The higher the tier, the more expensive it gets, the more features are available within the tool. It starts off free and gets you hooked but if you'd like to unlock the premium features, you will have to pay. From a marketing standpoint, this makes sense since their businesses are created to make money. However, it can be very difficult for classrooms with a high number of students and a limited budget.


Let's use Smore as an example. Smore is a web-based newsletter service that has become very popular with educators who rely on that form of communication to connect with parents regularly. The newsletters are easy to create and the design templates are very attractive. It uses the Freeium pricing strategy but before you sign up, take notice of what comes with the free option. There can only be 5 free newsletters and recently, Smore changed their free accounts to limit how many times a newsletter can be edited. If you'd like unlimited newsletters and unlimited editing, you have to pay. And it's not cheap - $80 a year for an educator. Yes, that is $100 less than the non-educator price, but it's still very expensive for a classroom purchase. And let's not forget how much educators already spend on other items for their classrooms.

(By the way, a free alternative for web-based newsletters would be to create a free Google Site using your PISD credentials. You'd still have clean, attractive designs with all the same information in the Smore, except you'd save $80 a year. Contact the Instructional Technology team and we can help you learn how to use Google Sites!)

Classroom purchases add up quickly so it's important to be aware of what you will and will not get with your free account.

District / Campus Licenses

School districts and sometimes individual campuses can purchase a license to give all staff and/or students access to a paid version of web-based products.

Let's use Nearpod as an example. PISD purchased Nearpod licenses for all staff. Nearpod allows teachers to create impactful, interactive lessons which students can view on their own Chromebook or other device. Teachers don't need to pay for an account. Signing in with PISD credentials will give them access to the premium features to embed in the Nearpod lessons they create. (There are free pre-created lessons but some pre-created lessons still come at a cost.)

Depending on the product and its cost, it could potentially be something purchased for staff.

COPPA

As mentioned earlier, companies use the freeium strategy to make a profit. They also make a profit by selling the data you enter to sign up for an account such as your email address, age, sex/gender, or other identifying information. Companies can and do sell your data to others including marketing and advertising companies.

However, companies cannot profit off the data of children under the age of 13 because of a law called COPPA (Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.) COPPA was created by the Federal Trade Commission in 1998 and protects the sensitive information and other data belonging to children under 13.

It is crucial to read the privacy policies and terms of use for a site before you sign up. If a site is prohibited for children under age 13, please don't allow them to sign up or create an account.


We hope you are enjoying the Chromebooks in a safe, effective way. Please contact Instructional Technology if you have questions about websites or web-based classroom tools.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Digital Citizenship Week!

Digital Citizenship week will be celebrated October 15-21 this year. Although #digcit is something every teacher should address every day, this next week will put a special emphasis on the importance of growing great digital citizens. Below are some of the activities planned and how you can participate.

October 15: We kick off our fall book study and Digital Citizenship Week with a Tweet & Talk of Jennifer Casa-Todd's book Social LEADia on EduMatch, hosted by Sarah Thomas (@sarahdateechur). Tweet & Talk is a Twitter chat paired with a livestream video.  Participants can either tweet using the #EduMatch hashtag, watch the video on YouTube Live and comment as they watch (podcasts.edumatch.org/tweettalk), or both. The Social LEADia Tweet & Talk will be followed up with a three-week slow chat featuring questions from Jennifer's book. For more information about creating digital leaders, check out this blog on the EduMatch https://edumatch4education.com/2015/07/16/guest-post-moving-from-digital-citizenship-to-digital-leadership-via-jcasatodd/


October 16:  Webinar with Dr. Kristen Mattson & Jamie Lewsadder. 2pm PT/ 4pm CT/ 5pm ET, moderated by Nancy Watson. Register at http://iste.adobeconnect.com/eazcubukwqy7/event/event_info.html

October 19: Not one but TWO Twitter chats! #ISTEChat's topic will be on Digital Citizenship and will be led by Marialice Curran (@mbfxc) - 5pm PT/ 7pm CT/ 8pm ET. Immediately following #ISTEchat, tune in for the monthly #digcit chat; the topic will be The Role of Ed Tech Coaches in the Development of Digital Citizenship and will be co-hosted by members of @DigCitPLN and @EdTechCoaches. (Shoutout to Greg Gilmore of the #etcoaches network for the collaboration!) Questions are here:






Are you doing anything special to celebrate Digital Citizenship Week? Be sure to tag @pisdtech when you share! Read more about Digital Citizenship Week at Common Sense Media: https://www.commonsense.org/education/digital-citizenship-week

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Interactive Assessments with Formative

Good news PISD educators!

You now have a premium account to Formative. This tool provides the ability to give real time intervention during assessments, save time by assigning assessments through Google Classroom, and automatically track your student's progress. 


Here is an example of the "grid" where you can observe your student's responses to questions, give feedback, and identify potential intervention opportunities in real time. 


What Else Can You Do?


Quickly Inform Your Teaching
  • Adjust your teaching approach based on student progress
  • Effectively pace lessons
  • Group students on the fly
Give Every Student Immediate Feedback
  • Give instant written feedback that furthers student learning
  • Set an answer key for auto-scoring and give scores back instantly!

Make Sure Every Voice is Heard
  • Project live responses with or without names
  • Generate rich class discussions based on student work (exemplars, strategies, misconceptions)
  • Engage students! Let them explain their work or the work of a peer!

Improve Your Instructional Planning
  • Determine what standards you need to re-teach/focus on in small group instruction
  • Determine what each student needs support with
  • Inform collaborative planning (grade teams, co-teachers, IEPs)

If you would like to learn more about how to create a Formative and the power you could unleash in your classroom, please check out our current webinar series or contact your Instructional Technology Specialists for on site training. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

How to Install Software at School. It's Easy with the App Depot, Chrome Web Store, and more.


Don't let download restrictions stop you! Use the App Depot and Chrome Web Store to get what you want.


Can I Install Software at School? 

In Plano ISD, we keep a very secure network. One way we do this is by restricting the ability for users to install software on our network computers that could potentially pose as a security threat to our network.

What's the work around? You know there's always a work around! Below is the procedure to follow to find/acquire software for you and your students.

Scenario

Your lesson calls for students to present what they learned using a tool of their choice. A student asks you if he can record his computer screen. "Of course you can!", you exclaim. You tell him to go to the App Depot to search for and install Screencast-o-matic.

Side notes: Or you can advise him to install the Screencastify Chrome Extension via the Chrome Web Store; perfect for Chromebooks. Teachers can get ideas from our Hotspot website's Suggested Apps & Websites page under the "Presentations that Pop" list of tools.

Solutions

App Depot

Check to see if we already have the program you're looking for in the App Depot. Search the name of it in the search field. Click on the program to install it.

app depot icon

Hotspot

On PISD Instructional Technology's Hotspot website, click on the Suggested Apps & Websites page to peruse the plethora of tools suggested for you and your students! In this case, scroll down to "Presentations that Pop" for tools that your students can use to present their learning.

Hopefully, one of these ways will help you locate a tool for your students to use based on your situation. 

Request Software Testing & Packaging

It's not as tedious as it sounds! If you would like software that is not found in the App Depot, follow this step:

  1. Talk with your curriculum coordinator about what your options are. 
    • At that point, he/she will either answer your question or contact Instructional Technology to brainstorm solutions and request that the software be tested on our network. 
    • When it comes to us, we can install it, test it, approve/deny it, and send it to our engineers to have it packaged and placed in either the App Depot or a PISD Apps folder. 
    • Within days you'll have it ready for you to install in the App Depot or it'll be pushed to your PISD Apps folder. 

Can I Install Software on a Chromebook?

Not a thing. But what IS a thing is using the Chrome Web Store to add Apps and Extensions. Check out some of our favorites here: tinyurl.com/pisdchromify Click on "Suggested Extensions" or "Suggested Apps" on the top right of the screen.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Chromebooks a-Coming!

Plano ISD is in the midst of rolling out Chromebooks to its students and teachers! Currently there are 18 elementary campuses that have Chromebooks in all their classrooms, with the goal of 100% district-wide Chromebook integration within the next few years. All classroom teachers and librarians will soon be receiving a Chromebook to check out and use for the duration of their employment with PISD.

While at first glance a Chromebook looks like a "mini laptop," the Chromebook environment is actually very different from that of a traditional laptop. One major difference is that no software is ever installed on a Chromebook, so if you use specialized software that does not have a web-based component, you wouldn't be able to use that on a Chromebook. However, since most applications that most teachers use are now Internet-based, the Chromebook is a great tool for its portability and versatility.

Some advantages of Chromebooks are:

  • speed - boots up and connects to Internet within seconds
  • battery life - up to 7 hours without recharging
  • weight - lightweight and portable
  • access to email & H drive via Webdesk
When you log in to your Chromebook, you will also be automatically logged in to Webdesk. If you're not already a Webdesk user, you will soon become one! Webdesk offers one-click access to all the programs you use every day, such as your gradebook, TEAMS, and all the programs that are assigned to you. You can also create additional tiles to easily personalize your page and gain quick access to the sites you visit the most.

Your Instructional Technology Team has been hard at work for many weeks creating and curating the resources you will need for Chromebook success! Click the links below to learn more about making the most of your Chromebooks, both for personal use and for your students' learning.

Plano ISD Chromebook Academy Website

Plano ISD Chromebook YouTube Channel (check back often, as more videos are being added on a regular basis)

Plano ISD Webdesk | Webdesk Quick Start Guide



After you've reviewed the materials above, test your Chromebook knowledge by playing our fun Chromebook game. Just log in with your PISD Google account! (Want to know how we made this cool game? Contact us! )

Do you have feedback on our Chromebook Academy site? Suggestions for things we should include? Let us know!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Transitioning from Atomic Learning to Hoonuit

You have personalized Professional Development at your fingertips with Hoonuit–formerly known as Atomic Learning. If you had the opportunity to use Atomic Learning before, you know that this online tool provides you with personalized PD.

As an educator looking to grow your digital literacy and technology skills, you can choose from hundreds of online courses that YOU want to learn about. Hoonuit can be accessed from school or at home with your PISD credentials.

With Hoonuit's outcome-based learning model, applying what your learn to your classroom is a breeze. Also, Hoonuit can be access by students -at home or at school- with their PISD credentials.

Here's how to sign in:


  • Username for Staff: firstname.lastname (example: sue.smith)
  • Username for Students: firstname.lastname.# (example: alex.levine.2)

  • Password: PISD network password

Learn anywhere, anytime, about things that interest you in an easy and convenient way. Check out some of the many online tutorials here.

If you're looking for some videos to check out first, try some of these:

Note: these links only work after you have logged in at Hoonuit

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Making It Real for All Students

Tech Inspiration--Making It Real For All Students

This week’s guest blog post is by Diana Thornbrugh, Bilingual Teacher at Sigler Elementary School

Yay! #B2S is around the corner! With that in mind, I would like to share with you one of the projects that my second grade students enjoyed the most last Spring. Please keep in mind that a lot of the project evolves around student choice. Before reading, please take a moment to connect with me and other wonderful educators using Twitter: @MrsTfollow. Let’s grow our PLN to share ideas for future collaboration. I look forward to connecting with you and your students during the coming school year!

Photo credit: Flinn Scientific

The Toy Company

The students were learning about Force and Motion in Science. They worked in teams for this project and researched how toys move while connecting their learning of gravity, motion, and magnetism.

Research Tools

The students used their Plano ISD Webdesk Apps to accomplish this task.
  • Articles from Discovery Education
  • Images from Google Scholar
  • Videos from EdPuzzle (preloaded a couple by teacher)
  • WeVideo (recorded sales pitch in iPads)
  • Google Suite for the creation of slides/diagrams (Google Slides) and notes/scripts (Google Docs)

Fostering Collaboration

Each company, or group, had to choose their own name and each member had an specific role in the company. They used Google Slides and Google Drawings to make a prototype of their toy, including a diagram showing us how it works.

Communication Is Key

The students used specific language in their projects, both orally and written. Each one was unique, and showcased their own writing voice. A Google Doc was created to write each sales pitch.The expectation was that they had to clearly explain with examples, in complete sentences, how their toy was the best at showcasing force and motion. They practiced with each other before the talk show was recorded.

Science Talk Show: On Air!

Each company member presented their sales pitch in our newly created “Science Talk Show”. Television inspired, directed and recorded by students using WeVideo with iPad cameras. The videos were edited on Chromebooks, to later be posted in our Google Classroom.

As you can see, the opportunities for students using technology while learning are endless! Have you tried a similar project? How would you change it to fit your students’ needs? Want to chat with me about how something like this might work for your classroom? Leave a comment, let me know what you think. Have a successful school year!

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!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Quizlet in the Foreign Language Classroom and More!

This week's guest blog post is by Lorena Meneses, Spanish Teacher at Clark HS.


Give your students the opportunity to engage in a classroom and have fun with this interactive and efficient tool! 

 

You can create a free account which includes the basics of the service and you’ll still be able to incorporate it the lessons in a way that is meaningful and fun.

 

It is especially useful if you are teaching a class that requires memorization and connecting ideas with concepts. For example, I teach Spanish, and because we merge the “Natural Approach” in our lessons, new vocabulary is taught in context within the curriculum. Quizlet has shown to be very effective in helping students analyze the content and retain the information.

 

Your free Quizlet account will allow you to search, save, and create as many study sets as you want and match them with the lessons you are presenting in the classroom.


Once you have the study set, you will have several options to engage students in their learning (flash cards, matching, tests) but certainly one of our favorites is Quizlet Live which is a very fun interactive game.



The site also offer ongoing support and new ideas periodically. Have fun!



Sunday, April 9, 2017

EquatIO - Making Math Digital

Sometimes it feels like the educational technology revolution has left out a subject that needs the most engaging tech tools possible...MATH! Almost every time a great new tool has been developed to engage students and encourage higher order thinking or computational skills, it's nearly impossible to easily write mathematical expressions or equations. How crazy is that?

(g)Math is a Google add on that was developed to help teachers and students write equations and insert into Docs, Sheets, and Forms. When I first used this tool, I was ecstatic over how easy it was to create step-by-step tutorials for my students and for them to show their work digitally and hand it back into me. Before you go running out to use this tool, I will tell you that the company who bought the rights to (g)Math will be retiring that program and have introduced an even better replacement called EquatIO.  Here is a quick video introduction:



Let's discuss radical equations for a little bit. How can students quickly write a radical equation in a Google Doc, show how to solve step-by-step, and then turn it into the teacher? Use EquatIO!  Here is a video I made showing how quick and easy it is to write radical equations in a Google Doc:


EquatIO is a Chrome extension that you can install for free from the Chrome Web Store. Keep in mind that you will have access to the premium features for 30 days and then you will always be able to keep the free features. Here is a chart explaining free vs. premium:


The free version contains the speech input as well as the ability to resize images and that's really all you need to create mathematical equations. 

If you choose to use this tool, please let us know you and your students' experience.  We want feedback and welcome partnering with you on effective ways to integrate technology in your classroom.