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Monday, December 21, 2015

Windows Problem Steps Recorder

CISD computers are automatically equipped with the "Problem Steps Recorder" program.

The Problem Steps Recorder is a pretty powerful tool that not only records your mouse, clicks, and keyboard strokes -- it also types your actions in a step-by-step list. All of this is placed into a step-by-step tutorial in pictures and in words. {This is slightly different than a screencast because it doesn't produce a video file.}

How to Use It

1. If you're on a CISD device, just click the start button and search for "steps."

2. Mine pops up under the "Control Panel" heading, as shown below. Click the program to open it. 

3. You should get the pop-up bar shown below. Move it wherever you want on the screen, as it will be visible during your recording (i.e. move it somewhere where it won't block essential information in your tutorial). 

4. Press "Start Record."

5. Do whatever you need to do during this time. {So if you're teaching students how to navigate to a certain website, complete those steps as you normally would.} The Problem Steps Recorder will work while you continue with the regularly scheduled programming. 

6. When finished, click "Stop Record." 

7. A pop-up box will appear and prompt you to save your recording. Choose the name and location, and save the tutorial. 

8. The file will appear as a zipped folder wherever you saved it. You can send the file like this if you want -- the recipient will have to unzip the file him- or herself before viewing the tutorial. {This is ideal when your instructions are quite long and/or you have a restriction on how large of file attachments you can send.} If you want to preview the file before you send it, you'll need to unzip the file yourself first. Refer to step 2 in this blog post if you need a refresher on how to unzip files on your computer

9. Once you open the file, you'll see a step-by-step tutorial via pictures, a step-by-step in text, and special links that allow you to review the recorded steps as a slide show {that shows each picture one by one and automatically advanced to the next picture, much like an automated PowerPoint presentation}. 

My screenshots look funny because I'm working on dual monitors at the moment. You can see me annotating over a screenshot in Skitch on the left side of the screen and writing this blog post on the right! Your computer screenshots obviously won't look like this unless you have dual monitors, too. :) 

Ideas for Use
  • Show students or parents how to access a particular program or website.
  • Show students how to use a program. 
  • Show the technicians and/or your friendly campus Instructional Technology Specialist {wink, wink} exactly what you're doing when a problem occurs on your computer -- upload your recorded video and instructions to your work order.
  • Show your mom how to work her computer {just ya, mom!}.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Winter Tech Tools

During the craziness of this last week of school before winter break, consider trying one of these winter-themed tech tools to get in the holiday spirit:

1. Virtual Fireplace -- here or here
This heatless fireplace is the perfect way to make your classroom calm and cozy.

Photo source

2. Winter Magnetic Poetry (by Kasey Bell of Shake Up Learning)
Kasey created a free winter poetry activity for you in Google Slides. To use, just go to her web page and click "Get Your FREE Copy of the Winter Magnetic Poetry Template." Then click the blue "make a copy" button of the webpage that pops up. A copy of the item will automatically be added to your Google Drive. From there, your students can drag and drop the words on the snowy background to create whatever poem or story they choose. 

3. Quizizz snow-themed quiz template 
The company released this template last week -- just in time for winter class quizzes! Click here to see it live.

4. Winter Around the World Project
While it's too late to collaborate on the project this year (entries were due on December 7), your class could always take a look at this year's entries and think of ways to contribute next year!  

5. Advent Calendars - Polar Express and Christmas Around the World
No matter the age or subject you teach, try incorporating one of those advent calendars into the first five minutes of your day. One is based on the Polar Express book, while the other tests your knowledge on how Christmas is celebrated around the world.


6. Holiday Card Project (Special thanks to Heather for this idea!)
Jen, of Projects By Jen, hosts a holiday card project each year. While this year's is over, you (and students) could always browse the archivessign up for Jen's Remind group to get reminders to upcoming projects, and start preparing for next year's gingerbread-themed holiday card project.  

7. Mystery Skype (Special thanks to Heather for this idea!)
If you sign up for the Holiday Card Project with Jen, you can choose to be included in the "Ho-Ho-Holiday Mystery Skype" with several other classes. If you'd just like to find classes on your own to Skype with, browse the Skype for Education website. You could ask other classes to share their holiday customs, or try to guess where in the world a class is, just based on holiday traditions or geographical clues.

8. Interactive Websites
There are tons of holiday, snow, and winter-themed websites! Any of the links below will take you to a list of themed activities:

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The One All About Kindle Books

I'm a big fan of Kindle books {and Friends, as you can tell from the title of this post ;)}. Here's why:

  • They don't take up physical space and won't create any stacks or clutter.
  • They're easy to move when you have to change rooms or houses.
  • You can read them on your Promethean in front of all your students {just go to the Kindle cloud reader on your laptop, which should be connected to your Promethean}.
  • They're much easier to search through and find what you're looking for. {The Kindle Cloud Reader gives you the ability to search your library, view the covers, sort your books in whichever way you choose, etc.} 

Like everything else, I have a personal account and a school account. My school Amazon account intentionally has no credit card attached to it so that I can feel okay about handing my iPad to a kid without fearing that he/she will be purchasing Amazon goods on my behalf. :) 

Although our district officially adopted iPads, there is a Kindle iOS app you can utilize. I only loaded my school Kindle account on my teacher iPad, so I encourage you to review Amazon's policies if you're considering putting it on student iPads {click here to go to the Amazon Support page}. 

How to Display Kindle Books on the Promethean {or Other Projector}

1. Go to and sign in with your school Kindle account. 

2. Choose to enable offline reading if you want.

3. You should see the following on your laptop screen, which would, of course, be displayed on your Promethean if it's hooked up properly:

  • Yellow arrow: toggle the view of your books between list view {the one on the right} and grid view {the one on the left and the view you see above}
  • Orange arrow: sort the view by the most recently added, author's name, or title of the book
  • Green arrow: refresh the view, adjust settings/get help, and search {which will be your BFF once you've accumulated a decent amount of books}
  • Blue arrow: toggle the view of all books you've ever put into your Kindle cloud or just the books you've downloaded to that device
  • Purple arrow: click on any of the books to open it up and start reading
  • Pink arrow: increase or decrease how many books are shown on the screen by making your search results smaller or larger

How to Get Discounted or Free Kindle eBooks 

When I taught K-4 Science Lab, I would browse for free science eBooks every day while I ate my lunch. Really, once you browse the entire list one day, it doesn't take that long to look for newly added books on days after that. And it's totally worth it to get free books!
  1. Amazon has a list of free books here
  2. Amazon features daily deals where prices are reduced.
  3. TCEA members can sign up for updates each day about free and on sale Kindle books and iOS apps; a daily digest is e-mailed to you each morning.
  4. Book Bub will send you a list of free and reduced-priced eBooks each day.
  5. Some places -- like Blogging for Books or Net Galley -- offer teachers librarians, and bloggers the opportunity to get books for free in exchange for a review. If you're a blogger, the review is obviously supposed to be posted on your blog, but teachers and librarians are just required to submit a review to the publisher. If you sign up to review kids' books, you've just gotten free books for the price of a little of your time! Bonus: sometimes those books haven't been released to the public yet and/or haven't been fully edited...wouldn't it be great editing practice to have your students edit pages from an actual book?

How to Give a Kindle eBook as a Gift

The most obvious reason why you might want to do this is if you're giving a Kindle eBook to someone, but I actually use it to "gift" books to my school account {the one with no credit card attached, so I couldn't purchase anything on it} from my personal account, too. 

1. To gift a Kindle book, just head over to the book's Amazon page. {Here's the homepage of Kindle books, in case you want a quick-link.} You should see this menu on the right:

2. Click the "give as a gift" button. You'll see this screen:

Notice that you can enter the e-mail address of the recipient or choose to have the gift e-mailed to you so you can forward it to the recipient later. You can also delay the delivery of the Kindle book to the date of your choice, much like an Amazon gift card. 

Your credit/gift card is charged for the book, and the recipient gets an e-mail that looks like this:

I'm so private online that I rarely put anything but my initials when signing up for a website, which is why it says my name is "CK." :)

The recipient has to click the yellow "get your gift now" button, and he/she will be taken to the Amazon page for that eBook.
The blacked out portion is blocking my school e-mail address, which is where I sent this Kingle book to myself.

From there, the recipient only needs to click the yellow "accept Kindle gift" button to put the book in their cloud account.

You, the giver, also receive an e-mail saying the gift was accepted and applied to the recipient's account so you know they actually got it.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

How to Save Money Shopping Online

This time of year brings lots of shopping for most people, so I thought I'd write a post about how I save money shopping online. While you could always apply these tricks to classroom purchases such as school supplies or furniture, this obviously isn't my typical educational technology content...if this isn't your jam, feel free to skip this post and re-visit the blog later for the regularly scheduled programming. :)

I personally use all of these tools and can attest that they are legit and worth your time!

Use Coupons/Promo Codes


  • How it works: eBates partnered with almost 2,000 major retailers {click here to see the full list} to offer you cash back when you shop from those stores online. Each store offers a different percentage of cash back. I've found that the more popular a store is, the lower the percentage of cash back they offer. So, for instance, Walmart is typically 1-2% while Snapfish is typically 10% {I've found that these percentages jump during the holidays, though, which is an even bigger incentive for using eBates for holiday shopping!}. When you shop online, you simply activate your eBates before you check out. After you check out, you'll receive an e-mail telling you how much cash back you got for that particular purchase. eBates will send you cash back once a quarter -- either in the form of a mailed check or cash in your PayPal account. 
  • What you do: Once you sign up for a free account {click the link to sign up with my referral code, and I will love you forever! :)}, simply activate your eBates before purchasing something online. Watch this video tutorial to see it in action. And: Here's the link to Snapfish, that photo website I use and mentioned in the video, if you want it. :)
  • Bonus: There's an eBates app that sometimes offers double percentage cash back. Download the app and allow notifications on your phone. When you get a notification about double cash back from a place you needed to buy from anyway, I like to do the shopping on my laptop because it's easier to navigate, see the details of an item, etc. I always fill my shopping cart from a computer. Then I just launch my app from my iPhone, activate my eBates shopping trip to the store of my choice, and check out with what's already in my shopping cart. :) 

Honey Extension for Chrome
  • How it works: When in a shopping cart online, Honey scours the web for all the coupons and promo codes floating the WWW for that store. Honey applies each one and, in the event that multiple codes work, it automatically applies the coupon that saves you the most money. 
  • What you do: In the Chrome browser, add the Honey extension. Then just shop! If a pop-up does not appear on the right side of your browser when you're in an online shopping cart, that typically means there are no coupons available for that retailer. When the pop-up does appear, however, just click the gold "try codes" button, sit back, and watch it work! Watch this video tutorial to see it in action. 

Price match

  • How it works: Slice tracks packages for you based on receipts sent to your e-mail inbox. It also tracks the price of things you've purchased and will alert you if the price of anything you purchased drops within a specified time. If you purchased something that dropped in price, the Slice app will compose an e-mail to customer service with the order number, original price, and new price, requesting a price match, and all you have to do is press "send!" 
  • What you do: Sign up for a free account at, and download the free app {available in The App Store and the Google Play Store}.  In your settings, go to "linked inboxes/accounts" in the upper, right corner. Select an e-mail inbox to give Slice permission to scour your inbox for receipts. 

Internet Alerts

  • How it works: CamelCamelCamel only works with Amazon items. If you have anything on Amazon that you'd like to buy {individual items or even an entire Amazon Wish List}, you can put the URL into your CamelCamelCamel account and set an ideal price. CCC will e-mail you when the item dips to your ideal price. 
  • What you do: Create a free CamelCamelCamel account. Either paste in the URL or search for a particular keyword in the search box at the top of the home page. From there, set your price and ask CamelCamelCamel to start tracking.  Watch this video tutorial to see it in action.