Friday, September 29, 2017

You are now...all the "Wizer"!

The ability to create, assign, and review digital worksheets is a function that can save time, energy...and paper. But, in plenty of cases it seems to be much more practical to go the traditional route of using a paper-based option. Whether it involved too much time to create the worksheet, involved too many steps for the students to access and answer questions, or the functionality just didn’t meet the needs of the teacher or students, many times it was just easier to stick with paper.

I have come across a tool that looks to eliminate a good deal of those obstacles and drawbacks. The product is called Teachers can create amazing online interactive worksheets with variety of question types and multimedia resources. Some of the types of questions that can be created include: open questions, matching, drawing, multiple choice and fill in the blanks, just to name a few. Some of the most valuable features in my opinion are the ability to create those interactive question types like matching, drawing, and the labeling of images. But, what I like best is with the open question, students can also orally record their answer. Giving students that ability to explain themselves simply by talking can sometimes make all the difference in the world. In addition to the ease with which these questions can be created, the visual presentation of the worksheets is fantastic and just as easy to create.

Once you have created your engaging worksheet, assigning it to students is a simple process as well because it is integrated with Google Classroom. Click the assign link tab and a small button appears allowing you to choose Classroom, and in a couple presses of a button you can choose and assign it to any of your Google Classrooms. Students receive the link to the assignment in their Stream, can proceed directly to the worksheet, sign in with Google and they are off and running. Once students have completed the worksheet, the teacher has the ability to go to their dashboard and view all student responses for any particular assignment.

A feature that is always good to see is an active community of educators that utilize the tool. Any user can go to their dashboard and click on “Community” to be able to search, view, and use any worksheet already created by teachers around the world. Worksheets can be searched by grade level and topic. Once you find a worksheet that you like, a quick click will copy that worksheet to your own dashboard where you can assign it just the way it is or edit it to suit your needs.

Here is a video that you can view to see all that has to offer.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Beauty of Chrome Bookmarks

One benefit of using the Chrome browser is the ability to have your bookmarks synced across any device. Wherever and whenever you use chrome you can have direct and quick access to those sites and documents that you bookmarked and use most.

To begin with, you always want to make sure that you are signed into chrome. If you are using a chromebook this is automatic. When using a PC or Mac, after opening Chrome, go to the chrome menu button (3 vertical dots at top right) and choose to sign into chrome.
Once signed in, make sure that within the same menu, Show Bookmarks bar is checked off from within the Bookmarks menu.

Once the settings above are taken care of you will be able to easily create, organize and see all of your bookmarks. In order to create a bookmark of any page or document, simply click the star icon at the far right of the omnibox. You will be presented with options to name this particular bookmark, add it to the bookmarks bar or an existing bookmark folder, or create a new bookmark folder to place it into. Remember, even Google docs, sheets, slides, etc. are able to be bookmarked in this fashion. Try this tool out now. Here is a great document to bookmark.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Watching Videos Does Not Have to be a Passive Activity (TurboNote)

For this post I wanted to switch things up a little bit and focus on a specific tool. In an effort to get posts to come out a little more frequently I hope to sprinkle in more tool and resource specific posts/tips with my more traditional posts that relate a passion of mine, fishing, with my other passion, educational technology. I hope that you enjoy and can use these tools in your practice.

The use of videos in class is nothing new to teachers or students. But, watching a video shouldn’t be a passive activity. There are different tools and resources out there that take the viewing of videos to the next level. I have talked with my teachers about using EdPuzzle or playposit (fka eduCanon) to insert questions, comments and other interactives to any given video. This practice allowed the teachers to gain some insight into what they students were getting out of the videos and through the data collection process had easy checks for understanding. Another tool that students can use in conjunction with their viewing of videos is something called TurboNote. If you were a user of, (currently the site is down), you will recognize the function and features of this resource.

TurboNote enables the user to save notes in a virtual note pad or sticky’s that are timestamped according to the moment in the video you are currently watching. There are many video sites that are supported including, YouTube, Vimeo, Netflix, Khan Academy and many others. In addition to the recording of notes into the notepad the ability exists to be able to share your notes with anyone else. Those that receive shared notes can see the timestamped entries along with the video. This is a great tool for students to use to help them study and even for teachers to use to gauge students comprehension of content within any video. This quick demo of TurboNote highlights its use.

Monday, March 6, 2017

To Plan or Not to Plan...It’s Not Even a Question

Tournament fisherman have many things to do before they actually make their first cast after the sound of the gun. A week of pre-fishing the lake and developing a game plan, various boat preparations, and checking and re-checking your tackle. There is a lot of hard work that goes into being a successful tournament fisherman. All of this planning before a tournament is not necessarily the fun stuff, but it is a requirement in order to have success.
Probably the most important piece to winning a fishing tournament is to have an effective pre fishing routine. During this time of pre fishing, an angler must learn everything they can about the lake or river system. This includes where different structure is, water color and depths of various areas and especially how the river or lake reacts to sudden changes in weather or water conditions.
Now, I’m no tournament fisherman (know of any openings?),  I am an educator that focuses on the integration of technology into curricula. In order to help teachers integrate various technology I have to be comfortable and knowledgeable about the latest trends and practices in educational technology. In addition, there is a need to effectively plan for the future in an area that is always evolving. I have spent quite a bit of time looking at things like the new Digital Learning and Computer Science Standards, research on 1:1 programs, as well as other bigger picture items. I always have to tell myself and be reminded that while this may not be the exciting and fun part of the job it is actually the necessary piece that allows me to have those invigorating and exciting experiences with teachers and students in the classroom.

The proper research and planning that goes into a 1:1 program or development of a makerspace for example, can be the difference between success and seamless integration and complete breakdown and failure. To properly embark on a new journey, especially in the area of educational technology, one must gather and utilize all available resources. This includes various documentation, research, and personnel.  Use all of the information that can be acquired to develop a detailed plan and finally execute and assess that plan. Without taking the time to properly research and plan what happens is you end up taking one step forward and two steps back.
So, make sure you know what your plan is for that sudden hail storm in August, the bass get finicky and the wireless network may get a little testy.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Slow Down to Go Fast

By now you have probably heard about more than just a handful of different teaching practices utilizing technology, technology tools, digital resources, etc. For sure it can seem intimidating, especially with the educational technology landscape evolving at such a fast pace. There are things that can be done to make it a little less scary and menacing. I wouldn’t say go ahead and ignore some of the great things you hear and read about, but simply put items on a list to remember to go back to (I use Google Keep). For the short term though choose one to three new tools, resources, or instructional practices to incorporate into your daily routine. This consistent use will allow you and your students to fully understand the benefits of the chosen resource, etc. This regular use may also lead to questions and concerns, which is also a good thing.  Sometimes the best thing that we can do to keep up with this train is to, “Slow down to go fast.”

Monday, November 21, 2016

Students as Creators

How many of you have looked up the typical weather patterns in a geographical area during a specific time of year before you booked a vacation there? What about reading a review of a restaurant on yelp, movie reviews on fandango or rotten tomatoes or a resort on trip advisor? I’m sure all of you have done at least one of those things before.

Fisherman are no different. For years, my brother in law and our families spend a couple of weeks in Maine around the 4th of July. Time after time we look up how the striper fishing is going in the Kennebec River only to find out it just isn’t the right time of year for that fishery in that location. But, our options are limited and we go anyway. Sure enough, an early wake up call and hours on the water later we only have a few small fish to show for our efforts. The last handful of years we decided we have suffered enough and have heeded the advice of different fishing reports and sought out closer bodies of water that hold my favorite game fish, the largemouth bass.

The point that I am trying to make in all this surrounds the fishing reports that I pore over or more importantly those reports I wish were available but I just can't find any evidence of. Without the knowledge that can be gained from reading reports and reviews, fishing on a new lake or even finding one becomes a much more difficult endeavor. The time that fisherman put into writing a fishing report can help countless others as well as themselves. The act of putting down on paper all the details of that fishing trip; water temp & color, weather, time, species, bait used, etc. allows the author and other readers to make the most informed fishing decisions before their trip. Without these fisherman creating these reports, it may take a lot longer to figure out the hotspots on the local lake.

Students also must be encouraged to be creators. Creators of information and not just consumers. The internet offers a global platform for users to put their thoughts and creativity on display. The same social networks that students use on a daily, if not hourly basis can be a vehicle for learning as well as for teaching others, sometimes without even knowing it. The ability to take some existing prior knowledge and apply it to producing something new and informative is an important and valuable skill to have. Being a creator is not always an easy thing to do. For me, simply writing this blog sometimes feels extremely daunting as the writing process is not an easy one for me. We must all do our part in encouraging our students to not be intimidated or afraid to represent their thoughts and ideas and present them to others.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Back to the Well

wacky senko.jpgEvery fisherman has his or her“go to” lure. This lure is one that will produce fish in almost any environment regardless of the conditions. The “go to” may not catch the biggest fish in the lake but it will most certainly lead to fish in the boat. For me, this little lure is a wacky rigged Senko. It may not be the fanciest presentation out there, but I’ll hook into something every time out there. As you can see in the picture, the basic presentation of this lure shows the hook being held in place by a rubber band around the worm. This little tweak improved upon the original presentation of actually hooking the worm straight through the worm body. The hooking of the actual worm instead of using the rubber band would result in the hook pulling straight through the worm and losing that worm on almost every hookup or even on missed hits.  That small adjustment to the presentation of using that rubber band has made the presentation of this bait even more effective.

Every educator should have their “go to” tool just the same. This should be a tool that produce results each and every time.  Not only is it effective in its most basic form, but with small adjustments and enhancements it can take on a whole new life.  For me, a tool I suggest to take this role of the “go to”  is Google Slides. Students, as well as teachers can utilize this tool in many different capacities. As a simple presentation tool it is very easy for most students to use. Many students have begun using this is a resource starting in early elementary grades. Just like the little rubber band on the wacky rig, we can add small components to make Slides even more advantageous. The just released Explore button helps you design your presentation with ease based upon the content you put in each slide. You can mask images and make them take on a variety of shapes. Adding transitions and animations can give your presentation an almost movie like feel. These are just a few of the ways to step up educators and students use of Google Slides.

I wanted to go into more detail about one of my favorite ways to make your use of Slides a little different and more exciting. I refer to it as making your presentation interactive. Having  worked with classes on developing things like an “Interactive Renaissance Museum” and an “Interactive Art Gallery” there is much potential in implementing this type of activity across the curriculum. My next project using this type of interactive presentation development will be with teachers and students making a “choose your own adventure” story. The students really enjoy these projects and both students and teachers are pleased with the end product. Providing opportunities for students to be creators of information is such a big focus when thinking about technology integration and this type of activity is such a great vehicle for students to show off their creativity.

Here are two (Renaissance Museum, Virtual Museum) of the examples I put together when explaining this concept to teachers and students. Below you will find a video tutorial explaining the development of the Virtual Museum.