Book Review: The Chromebook Classroom by John Sowash

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Are you considering rolling out Chromebooks in your school or classroom? If so, then this book is a great starting point. Chromebooks are great devices for the K-12 environment. John Sowash has done a great job putting together a sort of how-to book for implementing them. Continue reading

The Life of a Chromebook

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Ask a public school administrator about a cost effective way to try to go 1:1 in a school, and the odds are a good many of them will say to buy Chromebooks.  We had the privilege of being asked to come to a school to pioneer paperless classrooms. We were always known as those teachers who were out there, dancing around the room, doing whatever we could to keep kids engaged. We were also known as those who were always looking for new ways to engage students. To us, this sounded perfect. Continue reading

Newsela and DocentEDU, a Powerful Combination

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In the past, I have written about both, Newsela and DocentEDU. At the time, I suppose one could say my vision was still developing regarding how to best utilize each tool. I have spent some time tinkering, playing, and trying to break them. I am happy to say, that not only have I found the perfect combination of each, I have utterly failed to break either… and I’m pretty good at breaking stuff.

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Today’s Meet Teacher Tools, worth the upgrade?

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First of all, allow me to apologize for the delay in posting. School has started, and I need to figure out a workable schedule for blogging, teaching, and preparing lessons.

So, today is the day. I decided to bite the proverbial bullet. I have been using Todaysmeet.com for a while, and have loved the backchannel discussions that I was able to have. I’ve used it with students, during professional development seminars, and anywhere else I could get away with it. To be honest, I thought this tool was just about as great as sliced bread.

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A Great Pairing: Google Chrome and DocentEDU

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As you have undoubtedly figured out, Google Chrome is incredibly flexible and powerful, especially when paired with the right extensions.  The quest for going paperless appears daunting at first. Many teachers are reluctant, as they don’t know how to get good resources for their paperless classrooms. At first, it was a task to gather resources, and make it usable in a classroom setting. Not any longer. DocentEDU has made this task relatively painless, and for that, we thank them. After a brief discussion on Twitter last night with someone who has never heard of DocentEDU, I decided it was time to share the greatness of it.

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Screencasting Using Google Chrome and Snagit

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Unfortunately, we have been informed that Techsmith is retiring the Chrome extension for Snagit. They are going to keep the desktop versions alive. We will try to get that software so we can review it. (May 17, 2016)

Screencasting. Most people tend to think it’s not a terribly valuable resource. Many think they are troublesome to create. Many don’t want their voice all over the internet. After being asked how to do the exact same thing several times, I made a joke, saying I needed to record myself showing how to do it… then it hit me, I really did need to record myself showing how to do it, I needed to screencast it.

Believe it or not, my 11 year old daughter had been experimenting with screencasting. She knew all about it. She regularly watches screencasts of people doing certain tasks in Minecraft. She had mentioned wanting to make screencasts of her own, and I now saw a need to make them, so we plunged into it together.

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Easy Ways to EdTechinize a Classroom

Yes, I created that word…. EdTechinize. (well, I think I did at least) Lately, several people have made statements along the lines of how difficult it can be to bring technology into a classroom where there has never been tech before. More than a few fellow teachers have asked about easy ways to start to try bringing it in, so, VIOLA, here you go. Continue reading

Does Student Collaboration Really Matter?

You can go to just about any venue where educators come together, and hear umpteen (yes, that really is a word) strategies to use in the classroom. You will hear catchphrase after catchphrase, all claiming to be the be all end all fountain of knowledge, the bringer of prosperity to all students. Ok, that may be a wee bit extreme, but you know what I am talking about.

Teacher conventions are filled with people like those described above. People who say this ONE thing, be it strategy, app, program, or whatever, will do more for kids than any other. The fact of the matter is that no one thing does that, it is how one implements that one thing that makes a difference.

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Making Life Easier with Google Chrome Extensions

The internet is a virtual wonderland of resources. Today, it seems that there are websites and tools for just about anything, you just need to know where to find them.

Youtube is a great resource for the classroom. Everyone loves to use a clip to spur discussion, right? However, sometimes, the ads that come up before the clip can make for an uncomfortable situation in the classroom.  Certainly, there is a way to skip that thing and not have to wait 15 seconds for the students to see who knows what, right?

Let’s here it for Google Chrome extensions. If you don’t know what an extension is, it is a sort of add on to your Chrome web browser that helps it do certain tasks.

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How to make Google Search work for you

Ok, everyone knows that if you want to search the internet for something, Google has been the go to search engine for quite some time. Many people, however, do not fully understand how to use Google’s search engine to get precisely the results they want. Follow along and I will show you a few tips and tricks to make Google more… Googleable.

1- Use the right wording. Often, people search for something and get frustrated because they can’t find what they are looking for. Sometimes, the problem is in the words you choose to search for. Remember, Google is looking for the words that you put in the search box, so you have to “talk like a website”.  For example, look at the following search phrases:

-I want to learn to make enchiladas    -how to make enchiladas

Those two searches bring up different results. The ‘how to’ search will likely get you better results.

2. Quotes are  your friend- Want to make your above search even more accurate? Put it in quotes. When you have a search in quotes, Google searches for the exact phrase you type in. Without quotes, Google just looks for the words, in any order. When you know exactly what you are after, quote it. Teachers, this is also a great way to check for… umm… shall we say, authenticity of a student’s writing. Quote chunks of text and you might be amazed at what you find.

3. Use the tabs after you search- After you type in your search, you will see tabs at the top. Clicking on those tabs filter your results even further. You can also search directly inside of each of those tabs. Looking for a picture? Click the images tab. You get the idea.

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4. Use big words- Ok, not really… but you should use the important words when executing a search. Think about it, do you really want to know every result that has the word THE in it? Use the words that you know are important to your search, cut out the little guys.

5. Index- Index searches are a different beast altogether. To execute an index search, head to Google. Instead of just typing what you are looking for, we are going to get more specific. Let’s say you are looking for a certain type of file, perhaps an mp3 file that is out there. Let’s say it is a public domain recording of the reading of “Treasure Island”.  Type the following in your search bar: “Index”+”mp3″+”treasure island”  then hit enter. You end up with over 100,000 possible locations for the file. Just make sure what you are searching for is public domain, and not protected under any copyright law.

6. Plus and Minus- You may have noticed I used the + symbol in the search above. What that did was tell Google to search for results that had the “MP3” AND “INDEX” (think of it as a directory things are stored in) AND the phrase “TREASURE ISLAND”. You can also use the – symbol to tell it to exclude results with certain words. So, if you are looking for cute dogs, you could be sure to say -pug and ensure no pugs make it into your search. 🙂

7. Site specific search- Ok, the last one I will cover today. If you know you are looking for results on a specific site, you can head to Google and search for it from there. The syntax for this is just to follow up your search with the following:

site: cnn.com

That tells Google you are only interested in results from CNN, nowhere else.

There are tons of other tips and tricks Google has built into their search engine. Explore them, figure out what Google really can do. Most importantly, teach someone else how to use them. Students today need to learn to find the RIGHT information EFFICIENTLY, and Google certainly has the tools to do this, if we would just take the time to show them how.