Tuesday, February 21, 2017

#TCEA17 Favorite Finds

Now that I'm back from TCEA 2017 and have had a little time to process what I've learned, it's time to share my favorite finds. {If you attended the conference, I'd love to know about your "favorite finds!"}

Here are my favorite finds from #TCEA17:

1. Create Cartoons/Avatars in Google Drawings or Microsoft PowerPoint -- Kristy Edgar is a middle school teacher who creates cartoon videos to spice up her American History lessons (here's an example called "American Revolution, ep. 2: Allies are Friends"). She creates characters using basic, 2D geometric shapes and then uploads her final products to her YouTube channel. Not only could this be a fun addition to your instruction, but it could also be nice for students to make their own characters to review geometric shapes and show their learning in a creative, "techy" way. Click here for her full presentation.

2. Symbaloo Lesson Plans -- This hidden feature of Symbaloo allows teachers to find structured, media-rich lesson plans in the marketplace or create their own. The resulting plan looks similar to a board game with text instructions, web pages, search bars, web articles, videos, math formulas, and/or embedded content sprinkled inside. Teachers can even customize the board so it forces learners to go on a specific path based on their answers. (Click here to see an example lesson plan about the solar system.)

Teachers need a free Symbaloo account (or upgrade to the Edu version for free) in order to create or assign lessons, but students don't have to log in at all, which makes this tool perfect for everyone -- including young learners without an e-mail address. When students start a Symbaloo assignment, it prompts them to enter their name and the assignment number. Then the teacher can easily track data -- including results, when assignments were started, how long they took to complete and/or how far each student was able to progress in the assignment, questions answers correctly vs. incorrectly, and more.

Click here for the Symbaloo Lesson Plan Manual, or click here for a quick YouTube video overview.

3. Photos for Class -- Part of practicing good digital citizenship is making sure we use only images we have permission to use online and in presentations. Teachers and students can always conduct advanced Google Image searches to filter pictures based on rights...or we can use websites that make the process a little easier. For instance, Tony Vincent tweeted about PhotosForClass.com, which allows users to search for copyright-friendly photos that are already watermarked with a citation when downloaded:

To access over 500 TCEA session handouts, click here. You can also follow along on Twitter by searching for #TCEA17 to read everyone's tweets. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

iOS Keyboard Shortcuts

Do you find yourself typing the same long word or phrase into your iPhone or iPad over and over (ex: your e-mail address)? If so, it might be time to create some keyboard shortcuts! Click here to watch a 6-second video that illustrates how iOS keyboard shortcuts can save you time or watch the clip below:
Pretty handy, huh? 
You can create keyboard shortcuts for anything you want, but it's obviously most helpful to create shortcuts for things you type fairly often. 

On personal devices, that might mean you create shortcuts for various e-mail addresses you have, a long word or phrase you use often, your full name {to be used as a signature or when filling out forms}, etc. 

On student devices, it might look a little different. For instance, if you use utilize Read Naturally, you may have noticed that the latest update doesn't save the 8-digit access code students have to use to get in the program. If you're okay with students seeing {and potentially memorizing} that number and you want to save a little time during the login process, you may consider creating a keyboard shortcut for that 8-digit access code. Or if, for instance, your very young learners {who tend to take several minutes to type one word} all have the same password, maybe you want to create a keyboard shortcut for that password. 

{Note: I don't recommend using keyboard shortcuts for passwords for anyone other than very young learners. Even then, it is purely in the interest of time so that you regain as many instructional minutes as possible!}

If you're interested in setting up your own shortcuts on iOS devices, follow the directions in the screenshots below:

The previously-existing shortcuts on that device will be listed on this screen in alphabetical order. You can see that, on my school iPad, I have 3 keyboard shortcuts already entered. If I wanted to edit any of them, I could just tap the entry I want to edit on this screen. 

After you click "save" in the upper right corner, you'll be free to use your iOS keyboard shortcut.

To test it, go into the "Notes" app and type the shortcut you specified earlier. The phrase should automatically pop up, as it did in my example video. 

Happy typing! 

Note: iOS keyboard shortcuts work in almost any app and in almost any web form, but please be aware that there are a select few applications the shortcuts are not compatible with.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Google Voice: an Extra {Free} Phone Number

I've written before about Google Voice, but updates from Google and a new school year means I probably need to write a new post! 

What is Google Voice?
In a nutshell, Google Voice allows you to call and/or text anyone from an extra, specially-designated phone number from Google...all the while, concealing your actual phone number from the recipient.

Here are some more handy features of Google Voice:
  • Call/text anyone through a browser on your computer
  • Call/text anyone through a mobile device connected to the Internet {without revealing your "real" phone number}
  • Call contacts that are already entered into your regular cell phone's address book {no need to enter information twice!}
  • Automatically transcribes voicemails and puts them in your Google Voice inbox
  • Listen to voicemails as they're being left
  • Screen calls if the need arises
  • Option to set "do not disturb" time {think of it like setting office hours}
  • Block specific callers
  • Ability to change the number 1 time {for a $10 fee} if the number gets into the wrong hands

Why would I use Google Voice?
You may be wondering why you even need an extra phone number. Think about those moments when you need to call a student's parent(s). Sometimes that parent's phone number is in a different area code, and you may not have the ability to make long-distance phone calls from your district desk phone. ...Or sometimes you have a lot of parent phone calls you need to make {like at the beginning of the school year when you make contact with each guardian to introduce yourself and say how excited you are about teaching their student this year}, but you don't necessarily want to be at school until 6 or 7 pm making phone calls. 

Google Voice gives you the ability to contact parents via call or text message right from your own cell phone, so you can contact anyone you want from the comfort of your own home -- without the risk of revealing your personal information to parents. {I know some teachers have no problem giving their personal cell phone number to parents, but I am a pretty private person, so revealing my cell number is outside my personal comfort zone.}

I'm interested. How do I start?
I created a fairly in-depth Google Doc with directions that can take you through all things Google Voice related. {It even has a Table of Contents where you can click the subject you're interested in learning about and jump directly to that section!} Click here to view the document.