VICKI DAVIS presented an excellent webinar this afternoon called 15 Best Tools for G Suite for Education. I was late, but she went over a couple tools that I hadn't heard of/tried before. She also shared a great PDF with her tool list! One tool, a Google Doc add-on that I am planning to try, is Pro Writing Aid, which "... is a Google Doc add-on that assists students by checking their writing for consistency, grammar mistakes, cliches, acronyms, and more. " I've tried Grammarly and although I know that many, many teachers and students love it, it kind of drove me crazy and I felt like it was in my way. But, please try it! Everyone likes different things.
I also didn't know that Easybib now does a web site credibility check. I still like the SAS Writing Navigator Tool from SAS Curriculum Pathways to help students organize their writing, even if it didn't make the top 15 list. It's a chrome app as well as being a Google Docs add-on. She also shared some really cool math tools, some basic teacher tools and one last one I want to mention- the educational templates in Lucid Charts. Need a graphic organizer- they've got 'em and they are pretty cool. Read more from Vicki, and don't forget to check out the extra goodies from this webinar- The Hemingway App. Thanks, Vicki!
Improved Voice Typing in Docs
Google also recently announced yet more changes in Voice Typing in Docs. It is the best speech to text I have seen, especially for young voices. And... it's free! Here's the list of commands. If you haven't tried it.. super easy, but the commands will take a bit of getting used to. Here's a quick video as a refresher or an intro.
TextHelp continues to add more functionality to Read & Write for Google Chrome with a new Read-Aloud feature. Remember this is free for everyone in our domain- all staff, faculty and students. It's a pretty robust tool. I got an email from them the other day as they are looking for teachers to help develop a new writing assessment tool. It sounds really cool and if you help them out, you may get the tool free- forever! Check it out here.
LAST, but not LEast...
I spent the day at #EdCampAccessNY on Saturday. Among the many resources shared, were a couple that I plan to check out in the coming weeks. One for Early Readers got glowing reviews from a NY teacher who is using it. She claimed it was better that RAZ kids. Now, that's going some. Check out Reading Eggs and let me know what you think. The other web site is Literably, a site to help assess reading fluency and comprehension. Check it out and see if it can help you.
Google Cast for Education
I've been playing around with Google Cast for Education on and off for the last week or so. Sometimes it works perfectly, other times I can't get it to locate other devices. Mr. Duffy has added it to the domain, so everyone, both teachers and students, should have access. It is a chrome app- so it will show up in your apps and extensions when you are using the chrome browser/chromebook and it will also show up under the 3 lines at the top right of your chrome browser as "Cast". Note* this is NOT the chromecast dongle! You must be logged in to your school account; it requires no additional hardware. It has great potential to help students share their work when using the chromebooks- without getting up and trying to connect to the projector, or you can share your screen to your entire google classroom class, quickly and easily- no projector needed, all students can see and be actively engaged. Here's the quick promo video to tell you more about it as well as a slightly longer one to help you try it out on your own. I'm very curious to see your results, so please add them to the comments section. Did it work for you? What uses do you see for it in the classroom? If you are using Google Classroom, was it useful?
Just a followup to last week's post. I came across this great image that Sylvia Duckworth created for an Alice Keeler blog post- "I am not a techie!" It simply reiterates the main difference between those who use tech and those who are not comfortable using it... Just click!
And finally, the election resources...I started to compile a list of sites that teachers across all grades could use and then a list from CSISD Tech- Listly popped into my mailbox. I added one more to it and here you go... If you have others, please add them to the list.
O.K... it's impossible.
No one keeps up with all the changes, however we can try to stay on top of the changes that affect what we do and how we do it. One of the nice changes I saw recently was a training push by Texthelp... the good folks who created Read & Write for Google Chrome, They have created a training portal on their site to help you walk through how to get the most out of Read & Write for you and your students. This fundamentals course covers use of R & W in Google Docs, in the web toolbar and in PDFs and ePubs. They have also updated their quick reference guide- downloadable here.
Explore - New functionality across Google Docs, Sheets and Slides
This just came out last week. You can read more about it here. Essentially the goal is to make you work more productively. However, there is already a hue and cry in the edtech edu sector because the research tool in Google Docs has "disappeared". The explore button does some of what the Research Tool did, but you cannot search easily for dictionary meanings or quotes. The ability to search for images by license is missing. However it does return images which seem to be copyright-free, but it also sticks the attribution right under the image instead of in the footnote. It looks like you will need to use Easybib or Noodle Tools, etc. to build the bibliography as that is also missing from the explore button. So, either they will respond the numerous complaints they are getting online, or we can get used to a different, "improved" version.
The functionality improvements in Sheets look pretty cool. It looks like they are continuing to try to make working with data easier and more intuitive, allowing questions in more natural language. You can read more about them here. John Sowash created a quick overview of the Explore button in sheets. Richard Byrne also created a little video about the changes in Google Slides.
As many of you know, I come from "The Land of No Testing"... actually my former school did do a couple days of ERBs and I think it was 7th grade that had to take the Otis-Lennon to be eligible for the Johns Hopkins G & T programs. Needless to say, the amount of time devoted to testing and preparing for the tests in public schools, not just my current school, amazes me.
I am not against accountability, not against using some sort of measure to see if kids are learning what we are teaching and helping teachers reach more students. The data we collect from the tests must be useful, must be timely and actionable. I spent a lot of time recently collecting data about assistive technology use in our district. Dealing with the data itself, making some sense of it and then wondering if anything will come of the data can be a frustrating process and this did not cost any money, just time.
The data collected from MCAS, from MAP testing, etc, etc... what is it used for? No, I don't mean how it is used to rate schools or teachers- but how is it used to help kids? How is it actually used to inform instruction? As learners, we all need feedback in order to make progress. Feedback months later is not always useful.
This weekend I was catching up on some blog posts from EdSurge and noticed an article about KIPP schools in the Bay area who use the MAP test scores to inform their math instruction by correlating the MAP data with Khan academy videos. NWEA has info on their site about this. I also contacted the author of the article and he sent me a link to a lot of material, including examples of how they are using this data.
While I am on a math tangent, last spring I attended an edcamp at Worcester Academy. I learned about Jo Boaler and her site youcubed, the WIM (week of inspirational math) and her book, Mathematical Mindsets (I have a copy if you'd like to borrow it). Last week I saw a post from Alice Keeler, referencing this book that really resonated with me, a certified math phobe. Check out the WIM activities- K-12.