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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Favorite Tech Tools of 2017

As I reflect on 2017, I wanted to share the top 30 technology tools I've used, trained on, or recommended to teachers this year. 

  1. Answer Garden: quickly gather data in the form of a word cloud
  2. Canva: create images, posters, and presentations
  3. Classroom Screen: all your must-have tools are located in one place online
  4. Go Noodle: free brain breaks all in one spot
  5. Google Chrome and its extensions: log in to save all your bookmarks and preferences (click here to see a list of my favorite extensions)
  6. Google Custom Search: create a custom internet search with pre-approved websites
  7. Google Drive and all its components: I cannot say enough good things about Docs, Slides, Sheets, and Forms...the possibilities are endless!
  8. Google Earth Voyages: fantastic for virtual field trips or to just add a little extra "oomph" to your lesson
  9. Google Hangouts: Conduct meetings even when you're not in the same room! I love the "share my screen" feature, which allows me to let teachers see what my screen looks like as I walk them through a project
  10. Google Voice: gives you an extra phone number that connects to your existing mobile number. Great for making parent phone calls or texts without revealing your personal phone number. 
  11. Instant Classroom: upload your class roster and generate seating charts, groups, and more. 
  12. Kerem Erkan QR Code Generator: there is no shortage of QR code generators online, but this one is my favorite because you can create codes to plain text, maps, text messages, and more. 
  13. Online Stopwatch: counts up or down, includes fun animations (if you want to use them), and gives your students a visual as to how much time is left 
  14. Padlet: virtual corkboard that can be used for exit tickets, question parking lots, backchannel tool, and more. The addition of a column layout was HUGE this year
  15. Pic Collagecreate posters, collages, and other projects by layering images and text
  16. Plickers: a digital assessment tool that only requires one device (the teacher's!)
  17. Poll Everywhere: use the "clickable image" feature to assess very young students or those that struggle with reading 
  18. Popplet: create online brainstorm webs that include pictures, drawings, and text
  19. Quizizz: a fun game that provides practice for students and assessment data for teachers
  20. Reflector Teacher: mirror your mobile device on your computer screen, record movements on your mobile device, and all students to project as well
  21. Remind: communicate with a large group via text or email without revealing your personal information. I regularly recommend this just for the scheduling feature
  22. crop YouTube videos while filtering ads and video recommendations
  23. Screencast-o-Matic: create videos of your computer screen
  24. Seesaw: ePortfolio tool geared toward young learners. The Activities feature has been a game-changer this year
  25. Shadow Puppet Edu: create slideshows with music or narration 
  26. Sign Up Genius: I used this when I taught Science Lab to gather volunteers for stations during Science Night. Since then, I've seen it used for potluck lunches, field trip volunteers, and mystery reading guest sign-ups. 
  27. Socrative: a digital assignment tool where any amount of planning will work
  28. Symbaloo: Out of all the ways to share links with students, this one is probably the easiest and most universal. 
  29. TweetDeck: schedule your tweets in advance and keep up with Twitter chats more easily
  30. Wifi Mouse: an iOS app that works over Wifi to connect to your computer and act as a mouse, letting you control your computer screen from anywhere in the room

Are there any tools you'd add to my list? 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Duplicate vs. Extended Mode

When you plug your laptop into a Promethean {or other} display, the laptop should automatically switch to Duplicate Mode, which allows you to see the exact same screen on your laptop as you do on the Promethean board.

Most teachers like to operate on Duplicate Mode. If that's you and you ever happen to plug your laptop into the Promethean and only see a blank screen or your laptop's background image, try pressing the FN + F8 keys on your laptop simultaneously and choosing the "Duplicate Mode" option. 

However, there are times when I think Extended Mode is pretty handy! 

What is Extended Mode?
Think of those fancy-pants technology gurus who have more than one computer monitor, like the one setup shown below:

The reason this display is so handy is because it gives you more screen space. For instance, I can work on this blog post on the monitor on the left and search for a suitable image for the post on the monitor on the right. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but I promise: it's borderline life-changing if you do a lot of computer work!  

Extended Mode basically turns your Promethean {or other display} into a second computer monitor. Yes, it's a tiny bit clunky to operate, since one of your screens is laptop-size and the other is ginormous...but it's still pretty rad. 

Times When Using Extended Mode is Handy
1. When a kid asks you a question during whole-group instruction that you need to Google. There's no shame in Googling -- I did it all the time as a classroom teacher! But I also know that whatever comes up in the search results may not necessarily be appropriate for my kids to view. I'd use Extended Mode to quickly switch the display so I could Google without showing the results on the Promethean. 

2. When you want to monitor student iPad work. When I was in the classroom, I used AirServer to allow students to display their iPad screen on the Promethean board to show peers their work. I also used that trick when students were working independently or with a partner on their iPads -- by asking students to display their device on the Promethean -- to help make sure everyone stayed on task. Switching to Extended Mode allowed me to display instructions on the Promethean board for everyone to see and then monitor iPad usage on my laptop screen. {Full disclosure: the more iPad screens you display at once, the smaller they become. I "only" had 12 iPads. So yes, the screens were small when all displayed on my laptop at once, but I could easily tell if someone was off-task by playing the "one of these things is not like the other..." game!}

3. When you need to use your laptop for another purpose while simultaneously displaying something for the entire class. I'd never advocate for, say, inputting grades or looking at student attendance in a place where students can see over your shoulder. However, during my last gig as classroom teacher, I had a little friend who preferred to work in his own spot and hated to write. Since I was in Science Lab, I had some leeway in being able to use technology to let him record Science Lab findings. If we ever encountered an issue where he needed to use an actual computer {as opposed to an iPad}, I just put my laptop on Extended Mode, opened a recording program for him, and let him type away. I really feel like this helped avoid several potential meltdowns while still keeping him engaged and learning. Obviously, you can also use this trick if you need to access other information, as well -- what about an online stopwatch on your laptop while directions are displayed on the Promethean?

4. When you need to get attention quickly. If your kids are too busy looking at what's on the screen to pay attention to your words, you can use Extended View to quickly eliminate the distraction, make your announcement, and then switch back over to whatever you were viewing before. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Sites to Practice Typing

My mom was (and still is) a super-fast typist. She's an accountant, and I remember being amazed that she could type numbers into her computer programs without even looking at the keyboard. My dad was a teacher at the time, and she would type his exams sometimes; I remember thinking that the keyboard was going to go up in flames due to how fast she was! 

As I watched my mom type, I began to see the computer as more than just a gaming system -- it was a way to be more efficient and professional. Even at a young age, I could see that typed work always looked more "put together" than hand-written work. Further, my mom could type faster than anyone could write, so I started to see the computer as a tool to save time. 

The more I thought about it, the more I decided I needed to learn to type fast like I started practicing. Rest assured that I spent plenty of time playing outside as a kid, but the summer between 2nd and 3rd grade was when I took random books off the shelf, placed them in my lap, and just typed what was inside.

I'll go ahead and put this here, since I know you're thinking it....
As I've gotten older, I've learned to embrace my nerdiness.

I have no idea what possessed me to type books (why didn't I make up my own things to type?), but it ended up being great practice since I got to type all kinds of symbols, too. 

In 3rd grade, my teacher assigned everyone the task of researching an animal of our choice. (To this day, I still do not know why I chose the Palomino horse...) I used my newfound typing skills to finish and submit my paper super-early (those of you that know me can see that my personality has pretty much remained consistent since elementary school!). I don't recall the sequence of events that led to the next step -- I just remember that, somehow, I ended up typing all of my classmates' animal research papers on the little computer in the corner of our classroom that all the other kids only used to play Oregon Trail. 

My typing skills have only gotten better and faster since then, and they have served me well throughout the years. I fully understand that today's children are growing up with different devices and different needs, but I still think typing is a valuable skill -- and one that our kids should be practicing at least every once in a while. 

If you subscribe to the same school of thought, here are some free resources you can use to let your students practice typing:
A lot of these games require Flash, which means that you won't be able to play them on an iPad unless you pay for a fancy app that allows Flash websites. However, if you do want to practice typing on an iPad, you may want to invest in an iPad keyboard. Personally, I prefer iPad keyboard cases that allow you to type while the device is both vertical and horizontal. Here are favorites: