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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.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Let's Recap

Have you heard about Recap? It's a relatively new tool that has some great features! In a nutshell, Recap is a completely free assessment resource {available on the web or through an iPad app} that lets students respond to the teachers' questions or prompts via video.

Website | iPad App

With recap, teachers can...
  • create questions that are typed or voice-recorded 
  • choose how students will sign in: 7-digit alphabetical PIN or e-mail address/password
  • add up to 10 questions in a single assignment {and, as of the newest update on April 12, teachers can now give more than one assignment to students at a time}
  • give an assignment to the whole class or only certain students
  • set a max response time to make grading faster and students' answers more precise
  • set a due date for assignments
  • add a poll at the end of an assignment that asks students how well they think they understood the material
  • view individual student information or the entire class's responses as a whole
  • grab the link to an individual video to share with others (e.g. parents, admin, your co-teacher, and/or social media)
  • leave written feedback/commentary on student videos 

The view is super-simple from the students' side. Learners indicate that they are a student on the login screen:

Students can sign in with a class PIN or an e-mail address {whichever option the teacher enabled when he/she set up the class}:

If signing in with a PIN, the child must then select his/her name from the class list before seeing any assignments:

The student dashboard allows learners to see previously submitted assignments as well as those that have not yet been completed. The dashboard is also where students can view feedback from their teacher on submitted assignments. {Note that students cannot see other students' assignments or answers.} Here's an example of what the dashboard might look like for your students:

Don't you love that confused look on my face in the screenshot? haha! 

This video -- filmed by EdTechTeacher's Greg Kuloweic -- shows you Recap in action from both the teacher and the student side {but keep in mind that a couple of features have been added since this video was released}:


I already use Seesaw...should I still consider Recap?

While there are similarities between Seesaw and Recap, it's important to recognize that these are two completely different resources. Recap is strictly for assessing students via video (and follow-up poll if the teacher enables it), while Seesaw is more of an ePortfolio tool that happens to have a video feature, too. If you are a Seesaw user, you may still consider incorporating Recap for the opportunity to differentiate questions and/or allow students to turn in video responses confidentially. 

To integrate Recap with Seesaw on iPads, first make sure the Recap app is on all student devices. Then push a note in Seesaw to the entire class with the login information (e.g. 7-digit PIN if students are without e-mail addresses), as shown below.

Seesaw user tip: create a folder just for login information

While students cannot copy the PIN from the Seesaw note directly into the Recap app, this at least provides a consistent place for students to find login information independently. 


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

How to Create a Custom Google Search for Students

It's scary to even consider asking a child to conduct a normal Google search because you never know what will pop up! And although it's important to teach students how to use the library's search engines, sometimes those databases don't have everything your students need. So what's a teacher to do? 

Answer: create a Google Custom Search.

What Is a Google Custom Search?
Users who are logged in to their Google account can go to this webpage and create a search engine that looks like a regular Google search, but it really only allows visitors to search websites of your choice. 

So, for instance, you could set up a Custom Search that allows students to only access kid-friendly websites. Once you give them that search link, you can rest assured that only appropriate content will appear.

How to Create a Custom Google Search:
1. Log in to your Google account. {If you don't already have a Google account, go to this webpage and create one. You don't even have to use a Gmail address -- you could use an e-mail that you already have and link that to your new Google account, if you want!} 

3. Click "Add" on the top, left of the page (under "Edit search engines"). 

4. The only portion you really have to fill out is the "sites to search" box. As you click in the blank box under "sites to search," a new text box will automatically appear underneath the first one, which allows you to add as many kid-friendly sites as you want to this Custom Search. The name of your search engine is automatically populated, but you can change it if you want. Add advanced options if you wish, although it's not necessary. When finished, click the blue "create" button at the bottom of the page.

5. After you click "create," you'll see a page that looks like this:

Click "Public URL." A new window will open on your browser, and it should have the name of your Custom Search at the top. Keep in mind that although it looks like a regular Google search, it's the custom one you just created. :) Mine looks like this {click the picture to view the page in your browser...or click here}:

When students search, they should type their words into the text box underneath the title {notice how it says "Google Custom Search" in that box}. 

The search results will only come from the website(s) you specified when you created the Custom Search. So, for instance, if you conduct a search in my Kid-Friendly Custom Google Web Search, you'll only get results from these websites:

As the creator, I can edit or delete this Custom Search at any time. 

Teachers can AirDrop this to newer student iPads and have students save the website to the home screen for quick access all year long. {Read about 8 ways to quickly share links with students if you have older iPads without AirDrop or teach in a BYOD class.} 

Monday, February 1, 2016

3D Map Tours with Apple Maps

With today's academic and scheduling demands, actual field trips aren't always possible. Luckily for today's teacher, virtual field trip opportunities are abundant! A quick and easy "go to" tool is typically Google Earth, as you can zoom in, "stand" on the roads, and turn in a complete circle to see everything around you. 

Until recently, I didn't know that the default Apple Maps app has virtual field trip opportunities, as well -- in the form of "tours." 

Although there is not a tour for every city [yet, anyway!], the tours that are offered provide plenty of classroom fun.

How to access city tours in Apple Maps:

1. Launch the default Maps app, whose icon looks like this:

2. Navigate the map to a large city of your choice by sliding your finger across the screen. {In honor of being in Austin, Texas this week for the TCEA conference, the examples in this post are all about Austin!} 

Any city that has a little black and white bubble next to it that says "3D" has a tour available. For instance, when I look at Texas, I see the "3D" bubble next to Austin, Houston, and San Antonio. If you tap a bubble that says "3D," you should see the name of the city on the right and a blue box that says "Tour" on the left, as shown below:

As soon as you click "Tour," the map zooms in to the city, and you start an up-close flyover. Captions at the bottom show you what you're looking at. The tours I saw took you through the city and showed off local landmarks. Here are a few screenshots from my Austin, Texas tour {click any of the pictures to enlarge them}:



  • Free.
  • The app comes pre-downloaded onto iPhones and iPads, so you're ready to tour right out of the box. 
  • If you mirror your device to your laptop, you can then display the tour on your Promethean board for all students to see.
  • The tours take just a minute or two, so students get a good look at the city without taking up lots of precious instructional time.

  • The flyover goes fairly quickly, so it's easy to miss things if you're not watching carefully every second!
  • The only way I could figure out to pause the tour is just to tap the screen {which can be annoying for long periods of time}. I couldn't find a way to rewind or fast-forward at all. 
  • Tours aren't available for every city.

Assuming a 3D tour is available for the particular location you need, I could see this feature being used during reading {to help students understand the setting of the book}, social studies {to make geography come to life}, and science {to show land forms and examples of scientific concepts}. 

If you're interested in more virtual field trip opportunities, consider visiting this Pinterest board:

       Follow Candice's board Virtual Field Trips on Pinterest.    

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Epic Reading

Have you heard of Epic? In a nutshell, it's like Netflix for [children's] books, and it's free if you're an educator!

Here's a little more detail:

  • Access on the web and via mobile app {iOS / Android}
  • 100% free for teachers and school librarians{Parents get 1 month free then pay $5/month}
  • Access over 10,000 books for kids age 12 and under
  • Register up to 36 students under your name
  • Track reading progress of each student, including which books students read and how long they read
  • Students can read the book independently or have it read to them
  • Students can read an unlimited number of books each month
  • Students earn badges to encourage more reading
  • No ads or in-app purchases
  • Pinch your fingers on any book to zoom in


The first time I logged in to the app, I was immediately directed toward a "Guest" profile {after I logged in as a teacher}, which I suppose is technically a student. Exploring this student profile, here's what I found:

Hold your device in portrait mode to see one page of the book at a time:

Holding the device in landscape mode allows the reader to see a two-page spread:

Regardless of the view, readers can always see how many pages they have left in the book by viewing the count in the bottom, center of the screen.

Need to leave the app but haven't finished the book yet? No problem. Just stick a virtual bookmark in your spot:


You can even bookmark multiple pages, as seen on the top of the screen below with the multiple red dots:

If the child swipes through the book too quickly, he/she gets a notification saying s/he needs to read a little longer. I was worried at first about what this would do for really fast readers, but I swiped through in probably less than a minute when I received the screen on the bottom left... Waiting just an extra minute or so allowed me to move on to the screen on the bottom right and press "finish book!"


When the student marks the book as "officially" complete, there's a time stamp of how long it took for the student to read it cover to cover {this information also appears in each child's reading log so the teacher can view it at a later time}.

After finishing the book, the student earn points toward his/her current level and sees suggestions for his/her next read:

Reading also earns the student rewards, such as new avatars {seen below}. The student can choose to add the book to his/her favorites, share the book with others, or rate the book on a 5-star system.

Students also see the total time it took to read the book cover to cover {this information is also displayed on each child's reading log for teachers to review at a later time}.

Finishing books allows the reader to "level up" and work toward earning more badges.

Use the "switch profile" option to switch to another student profile or the teacher's {the teacher profile can only be accessed if the teacher enters his/her password again}. View a student profile to get more information on the child's reading habits and time in Epic. Here's a student profile page:


From the app, the teacher can click on each individual student to quickly see how much total time each student has spent reading {and narrow that reading log down to a specific week, month, or year}, as well as which books s/he read along the way:


...or the teacher can view all information from the teacher dashboard on the web:

Clicking on a student's profile from the web gives more details about the time spent reading and the number of pages finished:

Finally, Epic provides free teacher resources, which include postcards, ready-made parent flyers, and an introduction video as well as a robust FAQ section that will answer all remaining Epic questions.

Do you use Epic with your students? If so, tell me what details I missed sharing! What do you like or dislike about the tool?

Monday, January 25, 2016

Chrome Extension for the Extension Junkie

Now that you've learned about all kinds of great Chrome extensions, you've probably installed several. In fact, you may have installed so many that your browser is starting to run slowly {because there is such a thing as too many extensions. Strange, I know. It's kind-of like the concept of "too much ice cream"}. Fortunately, there's an extension for that.
I know it seems counter-intuitive to install an extension to control your extensions, but can you expect anything less from a Chrome extension junkie? {How many times can I say "extension" in one sentence? Also: read this article if you're a browser tabaholic.

With Extensity, you can disable extensions {instead of uninstalling them completely} until you're ready to use them. I find it much faster to enable an extension than to go to the Google web store, remember the name of/search for the extension I want, and install it!

Install the Extension
Click here to view the Extensity Chrome extension page. To install it, click the blue "add to Chrome" button in the top, right corner of the pop-up box.

To Use
Click the Extensity icon to reveal all the extensions you currently have installed:

The ones that appear grayed out are ones that I disabled. I can enable or disable an extension by clicking on its name in the drop-down list. I can also turn all my enabled extensions off by clicking the light bulb at the very top of the drop down menu.

That's really all there is to it!

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Chrome Extensions: Browser Tabaholics Unite

I'm a big fan of browser tabs because they allow me to run multiple websites simultaneously without having to click back and forth between windows. 

What's a Browser Tab?
This picture shows two tabs I have open {my Twitter page and this blog}:

How to Open a New Tab
Make sure you're in a web browser {I prefer Chrome}. Up by where you type in a web address, find and click the small square on the very right, as shown below:

You'll see "New Tab" to the right, like this:

From there, you can type in any web address or go to any bookmarked link you'd like. It's just like having multiple windows open, but it's easier to click back and forth between multiple pages now. 

How to Deal with Multiple Tabs
Once you know the trick for creating multiple browser tabs, you'll probably use it all the time. And then you'll become a tabaholic like I am, and your web browser will look like this on a normal day: 

Having that many tabs open at a time is bound to slow your computer down a bit, but there are a couple tricks you can use to help. 

This thing is awesome. After you install it, you'll see a funnel-like icon appear with the rest of your extensions:
Whenever you find yourself with too many tabs open, just click the OneTab funnel icon. Every tab you have open will be condensed into one, like this:

Click any of the titles of the webpages to open them again, or click "restore all" at the top of the page to open them all back up again. Rename the collection of tabs for convenience; you can see that I named the one above "Winter Blog Post" because it was a collection of resources for this post

Notice there is a menu under the time stamp. One of the options in that menu is the ability to share share all the links in a collection as a web page -- this is really handy for sharing several links with students if you didn't want to use, say, Symbaloo for that. Clicking "share as web page" generates a QR code that anyone can scan from a mobile device. Try it:
In that menu of options is the word "more." Click on it to reveal...well, more options. :) 

I can name the tab group this way {this is how I titled mine "Winter Blog Post"}, lock or star the tab group, and get to the OneTab help section this way. The help section goes into more detail about what each of these options does, but here's a synopsis:
  • Naming a tab group helps with organization and productivity -- it also allows you to send specific open tabs directly to that group without collecting all open links at once. 
  • Locking a collection helps eliminate the possibility to accidentally deleting it. It also allows you to restore any link and still keep the link in your tab group. 
  • Starring a tab group makes that collection always appear at the top of your list {similar to pinning a tweet on Twitter}. 

Maybe you're the type that opens articles or blog posts with the intention of reviewing them...and then you get caught up in other things and delay browsing those pages for a few days. If so, you can at least suspend those pages -- i.e. let your computer run faster -- until you get a chance to deal with them. 

After you install the extension, you should see a tab like this:

You don't have to do anything else, but I like to customize the extension just a bit. Click here {after you install the extension} to customize. Here's a peek at the options and what I use:

Once a tab suspends, it looks like this:

All you have to do to see the actual page content is click anywhere in the blue portion of the screen. {You can also whitelist that particular website by clicking the link at the very top of the screen, which means that it will no longer suspend automatically.} 

While not mandatory, extensions like these can help make your computer run a little faster if you're addicted to browser tabs.