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Back to School with the Techy Coach

As many districts are rapidly approaching the start of school, it is a great time to reflect on EdTech, projects, and general tech tips. So, with that in mind, I’m passing along a list of articles to help educators start the new year!

Raise Engagement with a Hyperdoc

Start fresh with the New Google Sites

Help Your Students Learn More About You with a Teacher Trailer

Track Student Progress this Year

Broadcast Student Work with Google Cast

Brush Up on Google Forms

Try Creating A Quiz in Google Forms

Create Rubrics for Grading

Google for Assessments

Google Slides – Take Questions from your class

Google Classroom Articles

Choose your own adventure with Google Forms

Google Docs and Student Feedback

Setting Up Your GAFE Site

#edcamp918 Session Notes – Productivity with Google Forms

Today, I led a session at #edcamp918 on Productivity with Google Forms. These are the notes from that session.

Video Tutorials Available at

  • Assessments and Grading – Flubaroo -This AddOn for Google Sheets allows you to grade a spreadsheet of answers from a Google Forms Quiz.  Watch this tutorial –

  • MadLibs & Google Forms – Autocrat is a great addon for Google Sheets (using the response sheet for a google form).  This tool will merge responses from a Google Form with any Google Doc containing merge tags (<>).  This allows for a wide range of applications including MadLibs! – Watch this tutorial-

  • But seriously, you can also use Autocrat for other purposes such as enrollment forms, club information, etc… – Watch this tutorial –   

Getting Comfortable with Gmail – Preview Pane

If you are a new user to Gmail and you miss certain features of your old email client, it can be difficult.  But for the most part, Gmail has a feature for most everything, so you don’t have to worry.  

One features many of our teachers miss is the Preview Pane.  If you miss this feature, you are in luck.  You will need to click on the Gear icon at the top right and choose Settings.  Once there, go to the LABS menu.  From here, you can choose the Preview Pane lab by clicking Enable.  Make sure to Save Changes.

Once you have enabled this lab, you will see that at the top right of Gmail you will now have a “Toggle Split Pane Mode” button, allowing you to have a Vertical or Horizontal Preview Pane for your Inbox.  

You can also configure your inbox to “Pre-Sort” incoming mail into Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates, or Forums so that you can keep a handle on the flood of mail coming in.  This allows you to keep everything in its place.  

Beyond this, if you still need tips on keeping your email  under check, you can also use Labels.  Rather than assigning email into folders, Gmail allows you to apply labels to your incoming mail so it can easily be found later.  But not just one label.  Whereas with other email clients, a message can only be filed away in one folder, you can apply up to 5000 labels to one email message.  So you no longer have to worry if you have an email that applies to multiple topics.  Watch this video to learn more.

Gmail Series Part II: Organizing your Inbox

In this video segment on Gmail, we will discuss ways that you can organize and de-clutter your inbox.  Topics for this video include:

  • Configuring your Inbox
  • Labels
  • Starred Items
  • Conversation View

Have Student Response Clickers Been Replaced?

This question is actually not a new one.  Clickers have been in decline in recent years as online options have changed.  But the topic came up recently as I worked with a few teachers in setting up a classroom for use with student response clickers.  The question came up as to whether student response systems were worth the time or if mobile solutions were better.

For those of you that may or may not remember, for years, eInstruction, Renaissance Learning, and Smart Response among others, flooded the market with Student Response Systems.  These systems consisted of a computer program in which the teacher could create and deploy test and review questions that students could respond to using hand held clickers.  Of course this was not a new idea as it had been around for years.  These companies had just gotten into the business of perfecting and selling the idea, which was a good one.

Flash forward a few years, and teachers started to see the emergence of free options that allowed students to use mobile devices to respond and interact with classroom content.  Some of the following may ring a bell:

Now Google has gotten into the mix in several ways.

Google Forms – You can use Google Forms as an effective quiz or testing tool by adding on a few Scripts or AddOns.  Create a Form and instead of form or survey questions, use test questions.  As students fill in your form, responses are collected in a Google Sheet.  Add-ons such as Flubaroo and SuperQuiz can be used to grade the results.

Google Chrome Apps – The Chrome Store has a whole host of Apps that can be used for student response, including Socrative TeacherSocrative Student , Nearpod , ExitTicket, and  VirtualClicker.  While some of these require that you have a teacher account, many of them are free.

What does this mean to the classroom teacher who can’t afford to buy an expensive set of clickers?  If you are in a school that has gone 1:1, or you have a checkout lab or iPad cart, these online solutions allow you to create and deploy tests in your classroom for free.  Free is definitely good in my book.  Plus if you use Google Forms, you could create quizzes or exit ticket questions to go with videos for the Flipped Classroom.

Whatever situation you are in, we are now in an educational age where free technology is closer to our grasp than ever.  Make use of it in any way you can to further your educational goals.  Just remember that technology is the tool, not the main focus.  We need to work hard as educators to help students learn that there are several tools out there to help them achieve their goals.

Are you a runner or a rider?

One of the most outstanding presentations I have been to so far at the ISTE 2014 conference was a vendor sponsored session featuring Ron Clark (The Essential 55, Ron Clark Academy). Not only is he a great motivational speaker, but he walks the walk. When he talks about being passionate as an educator, he puts into practice the very things he asks educators to do. This is evident when he talks, but it is also evident when you watch his students, which were there for the session as well. His students preached and practiced his rules.

But this post is not about his specific tips for educators so much as the start of his message, which pointed out that there are 4 kinds of teachers in a school.

Runners – those who show up early, stay late, and never stop going. Full of ideas and always ready to jump in.

Joggers – think they are runners, have a few great ideas that they do every year, and are always passionate about those things.

Walkers – feel as if they are dragged along and usually do so while complaining.

Riders – those who sit by and complain, usually about how the system affects them.

Now, I wouldn’t want to guess which one of these I am, and wouldn’t begin to label others as being one or the other, but what I took away from this session is that no matter where you fall, you can be a Runner. Yes, we all see these people in our buildings and we get a little tired of seeing them, hearing them, and if we really want to admit it, may be a little jealous of them, but we all can be a Runner. Part of the reason Runners bother some teachers is that on some level they are worried that Runners (and their administrators) will expect them to do the same things they are doing. Ron pointed out that it doesn’t have to be that way. He doesn’t expect teachers at his school to rap or stand on the desks and dance (although he did all of this in his presentation). He just wants them to be passionate and happy about what they do.

So what is the point of this article, and what is his point in his presentation. Ron points out that when students in his school are asked, they say they want teachers who are happy about what they do, genuine in really wanting to know about the students, and are pleasant to be around. Teachers who are willing to try new things, but be OK with making mistakes.

After hearing Ron talk today, there are three things that I would like all of our faculty members to take away:

1. I have always been one of those people that likes to try new things, but usually when there is limited room for risk. But as I have grown as an educator, I have found that the only way to get out of my comfort zone is to realize that there will be mistakes and there will be risk. So don’t worry about failure – just get out and try. Even the most successful people are fearful of change, but they try.

2. Be happy about what you do – and if you’re not, fake it until you make it! Kids can pick up on negativity and it creates a negative response. You will get more out of your kids if you show respect first and a firm hand in your expectations. If you put forth a pleasant atmosphere and respectful attitude, your kids will respond. Trust me!

3. Embrace change. This one may be the hardest for some people. But think of it this way. You know the old question, “You’re on a desert island. If you could eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?” If you’ve ever answered this question, or posed it to someone else, you know that the catch is that no matter how much you love that food, it will quickly get old and you will get tired of it and welcome a little change. That is the important thing to remember. Students get tired of the same old thing. This analogy doesn’t mean that you constantly have to change how you present your content. But what I am getting to is that we as a society have been teaching kids the same way for nearly 100 years. But all the while, society and technology have changed around us, while we have changed very little. It is time for us to embrace the tools that are around us. Students crave the ability to use in the classroom, the tools they use every day.

All that being said, I don’t want anyone to read this and take it as a criticism, but more as a self assessment. Where do you fall on the scale? Are you a runner or rider? Do you embrace change, or fear change? Do you dread coming to work, or look forward to it? Think on that for a moment as you enjoy your summer and plan for next year. How will the next school year be different for you?

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

The Teacher and the One iPad Classroom

Recently I ran across an article in twitter that discussed tips on teaching in the one iPad classroom. The article share several great tips and I thought I would continue the discussion by providing some of what I have learned along the way myself.

Splashtop – this app was mentioned in the above article and have to agree it is great. Available in the app store for $2.99 this app allows the teacher to utilize wifi to control their teacher desktop from anywhere in the room. While it requires a bit of installation to get started, you basically stream across the network to your computer and you can see your desktop (PC or MAC) on your iPad. Sort of like using the iPad as a slate.

Socrative– who needs clickers when students can respond to your questions on their own devices via this free app. Teachers download the socrative teacher app to their iPad to create and deploy questions. Student’s download the socrative student app to access your questions via a code given by you. What better way to employ #BYOD!

HDMI or VGA Out cable – Depending on which type (HD or VGA) LCD projector you have in your classroom, you can purchase a cable for $40 or less to connect and mirror content from your iPad onto your projected screen. This is great if you are teaching from keynote, trying to demo an app, or simply teaching from the web. The only caveat is that you are wired to your projector. If you don’t like that, you can go wireless by connecting Apple TV to your projector and using AirPlay.

Flipping with videos- planning on flipping your classroom this Fall? Try one of these apps (educreations, screenchomp, or explain everything) to record your lessons and offer them up as short bits of lecture/homework for your students.

Thanks to Think-Share-Teach for the inspiration for this entry! Enjoy the new school year!
– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Flipping in Time

Coming home from the ISTE national conference in San Diego, I found on our doorstep, a copy of Time Magazine for the week of July 9th. As I flipped through the latest I found the following article (,9171,2118298,00.html) on Sal Khan called “Reboot the School”. It seems that in reading the article, the idea of the flipped classroom has reached Time Magazine. However, as I read further, I found the usual story of how Salman Khan went from Hedge fund manager to online tutor/teacher. As I read further, I discovered what the magazine describes as the flipped classroom, but refers to it as Khan’s Way.

Now I am a big fan of Khan, and while I am happy to see the idea of the flipped classroom reach such a wide audience, I was disappointed to see that other names such as Bergmann and Sams were left out of the discussion; or to also see that no mention was made of the success that is occurring in schools across the country where teachers have made their own videos through their own efforts.

While Khan Academy is a great solution for students who need additional help, and it provides a solution for teachers who are starting out on their own in a flipped model, nothing replaces the familiarity of a student being able to see and hear their own teacher in a video lesson as homework, and being able to relate the information back the next day in a hands on activity.

I would encourage anyone who reads this article and is interested in flipping the classroom to do the research. There are many examples of how flipping can be successful. I would also recommend that for teachers who are just starting out, Khan is a great starting point, but nothing can replace the teacher students are familiar with. So when you get the nerve and get over seeing or hearing yourself on video, start with a few simple tools such as Camtasia, Explain Everything, or Educreations, and make your own videos to begin flipping the classroom.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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