Hmmm... Who calls listening to a book ear-reading ? At any rate, several articles have appeared in the last couple of weeks about the use of audio books. Is it cheating? How does it help students or does it help only some students? I never listened to books as I drove myself and my children and their friends back and forth to school every day (50 minutes each way). I trained myself not to listen to anything in the car- sanity while driving middle school age children was a priority. Now I listen to books pretty much constantly- on the way to and from work, while I'm working outside, weeding, mowing, shoveling snow... I consider it reading. I read about 300 books a year, more than half are audio books.
Is listening to a book cheating? Well, are you working on decoding or comprehension? If you want your students to understand the material, let them listen to it, look at it, watch videos, etc... The only caveat I have is that videos are generally not true to the book and you lose the language, the flow that the author intended.
In the past I have used the uPAR test with students and found that the vast majority of students- something like 87%, demonstrated significantly better comprehension- up more than a grade level- when they also got to listen to the text being read. UDL works.
Both Edutopia and The New York Times have really interesting articles about this- check them out.
If you hadn't noticed, I really like FlipGrid. Since the acquisition by Microsoft, many things have changed, aside from it becoming a free resource. It seems like hardly a week goes back without something new- and it's usually good. I was so happy to see that Holly Clark is giving a FREE course, beginning this Friday to help you #Master FlipGrid! You can sign up here.
TED talks have teamed up with Brightline Initiatives to offer 21 Days of Ideas. Check it out
Live from the North Pole
Google has been tracking Santa for 15 years now. Check out what's new up at the North Pole.
There are books about chrome extensions. I just want to talk about a couple of them. I have used One Tab and Speed Dial2 for years and really like them. Recently I noticed that a similar extension Toby, has also been included in many favorites lists. I downloaded and installed it, but really haven't put it to a test. Perhaps one of you can let me know what you think.
One Tab is incredibly useful to me, especially when I am listening to a webinar and popping 20 or 30 tabs open as I listen. Not only does this suck the life out of my computer and slow it down, but it has caused Chrome to crash and then I lose all my open tabs. One Tab to the rescue. I can have a ton of tabs open, press One Tab and it scoots them all into one tab, lets me label it, share it out as a web page, etc. It supposedly works across devices- but I end up with different lists on my different devices. Here's a quick screenshot of what this looks like.
I use Speed Dial 2 as my start page. I have 3 tabs- one for sites I use at home, one for sites I use for work and one for sites I used for course work. I use this extension constantly. I have it set to be the tab that opens when I click on a new tab. Here's an example of this one.
So what does Toby do? Supposedly a little bit of both. "Toby is better than bookmarks, it's a browser extension that helps you organize your tabs on every new page." It sets itself up as the new tab page automatically. (I had to undo that in settings, since I really like SpeedDial2). It puts all the tabs you open in a list on the right and then you make collections- pulling the tabs in - so kind of like One Tab, but it's supposed to be a great way to organize. Reading through the comments on the Chrome Web Store, it sounds like it meets the needs of some folks perfectly and others wish there was an import/export and other features. The jury is still out for me, but I will try it and see if I want to add Toby to my toolbox or replace a tool with this one.
Chrome Extensions: Productivity
This week I whitelisted a few more chrome extensions for our students. As most are aware, having too many extensions up and running can really suck the life out of performance, so it is best to use something like Extensity to manage them.
The extensions I added are Save to Google Keep, Internet Abridged and Reader View.
Google Keep is becoming more and more robust, a great place to take quick notes, an easy way to collate ideas and save to Drive; it has the ability to OCR text in images, etc... I have been using it more and more of late and like to be able to right click on a web page and Save to Keep. I can add labels as I go.
I was trying out new summarizers. When looking for resources, I tend to skim through articles to weed out the fluff before settling in to actually read something closely. Summarizers can be tricky, as I am never sure of the algorithm used and so many times, they simply don't work. This one, Internet Abridged, seems to work and the summaries actually makes sense to me vs. some I have tried which seem to simply leave out 50% of the words.
Another extension added this week is Reader View. For many who regularly use iPads you are used to seeing those little lines that indicate a web page can be viewed in Reader View- cleaned up, minus all the distractions. Now, you and your students can do the same thing in Google Chrome. Try it!
Some of the other extensions I recommend include: OneTab, SpeedDial2, and Mercury Reader, along with AdBlock and TextHelp's Read and Write for Google Chrome. . Honestly, I do have at least 150 extensions, but I regularly use a very small percentage and leave the rest off until I need them.
Science Games That Give You Superpowers
H/T to Fred Delventhal for sharing Larry Ferlazzo's post on this science games site. It does appear that Legends of Learning is really free.
"Over 1000 curriculum aligned science games for elementary and middle school students within the Legends of Learning adventure. Legends of Learning is always free for teachers and students in school." Here's a review of the site.
Fake News- again...
Here's another resource, new to me, Mind over Media, from the Media Education Lab. I first met Renee Hobbs years ago at Educon in Philly. She is an internationally-recognized authority on digital and media literacy education. Ten years ago we all thought that the CRAP test would be all the students needed to help them verify web sources. Needless to say, times have changed as evidenced by Alec Couros' recent article for EdCanNetwork: How do we teach students to identify fake news? In a world where it is increasingly dangerous to simply trust what we read and see...
This is just a very small sampling of some of the PD that is available. I subscribe to blogs to stay up to date- FreeTech4Teachers, CrtlAltAchieve, and many more. I am no longer on Twitter 24/7, but check in on a few edu chats that I learn from. I try to attend every Classroom 2.0 Live session that I can, on Saturdays at noon, but if I have to miss it, I know that I can catch the recording and check out Peggy George's famous livebinders with amazing resources for the topic. Vicki Davis creates a 10 minute podcast, just for busy teachers. Matt Miller and Kasey Bell put together an excellent podcast, the Google Teacher Tribe. I follow folks on Twitter, on Facebook, etc- to learn from. Teachers all over the world are willing to share their expertise and make connections. There is no "one-size" fits all PD, but there are so many choices, you can be sure to find something that works for you. Try a podcast, try an edcamp, subscribe to a blog or a facebook group like Breakoutedu, Hyperdocs or GlobalEdCollaborators. Make connections, forge your own pathways. Show your students how to be a learner, by example.
Read & Write for Google Chrome- Texthelp
As I mentioned at an HES staff meeting, we have a district-wide subscription to Read& Write for Chrome. This is not just a tool for special education, but an excellent UDL tool for all. Students will not naturally "just know" how to use this extension. They will need to be shown, or at least pointed to either the self-paced course or the playlist for older students.
I saw this article the other day, and since information literacy is such an important topic, clicked through to see what this bootcamp entailed. I had been to KQED Teach before, but the offerings have been expanded dramatically. Well worth checking out.
You may have checked out Coursera in the past, but once again- courses change and I love the course I am "enrolled" in. It's called Tinkering Fundamentals: Motion and Mechanisms, by the good folks at Exploratorium. I pop in and out, not taking it for credit, but learning a lot as I go. There are courses for whatever you would like to learn. Exploratorium is a favorite of mine, with 3 different courses offered.
MassCue offers all it's active members a free subscription to Hoonuit, formerly Atomic Learning. This is an excellent resource, especially for teachers, with resources like Integrating the 4 Cs into Your Classroom, Flipping the Classroom Training or Tech for Students with Dyslexia. If you are a new Massachusetts teacher this year, you can even get the membership to MassCue for free for a year! Check it out here.
Simple K12 can offer one stop shopping for quick shots of PD with a short video, or you can spend an entire day listening to various experts- other teachers- talk about how they are using tools or strategies in the classroom. It's a subscription site, but they continually offer free one day PD deals. This coming Saturday, 12/9/2017, brings an online Google Event called The Ultimate Guide to Google Basics: Using Google Tools in the Classroom.
EdWeb offers a series of webinars on topics of interest to educators across all disciplines, preK- higher ed. I love the variety of topics and speakers and the fact that these are recorded to view at my leisure. You can earn PD certificates by attending live or by watching the recorded session and taking a quiz. They also have online PLC groups that you can join. Check out the amazing schedule here. Below is just a screenshot of the webinars coming up- this week and next.
Making Learning Visible
Once again- FlipGrid is front and center. I watched another webinar on using FlipGrid in the classroom- across all ages and disciplines to make learning visible, to share learning. This came after spending part of my afternoon with 4th graders who were introducing themselves, via FlipGrid to students around the world, as they prepare to work on projects with students in Mexico, Canada and Australia.
Here's the recording of tonight's webinar. If you haven't made time to check out this tool- it is easy to use and a great way for your students to make their learning visible.
#Global Maker Day 2017
Interested in makerspaces? Today was #globalmakerday. I was too busy all day, but plan to catch up with some of the challenges and videos later in the week. Lots of info from various vendors as well as the challenges are on the landing page.
Before I forget- again- Rushton Hurley ran a cool little project this past week- a 5 day challenge to become a better teacher. Along with ideas you can use to present or discuss materials in the classroom, he also has ideas about feedback. You can still learn more about it here and grab a couple of colleagues and give it a shot.
A couple of tools that I have been playing around with lately that you may want to check out include CheckMark and Talk and Comment
Talk and Comment is a Google Chrome extension that allows you to put voice notes and comments anywhere. "This free extension lets you record and send voice notes on all sites (Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Github, Gmail, Google+, Wordpress, ...), in a easy way. Voice notes can be played even if you don't have the extension installed." Here's the quick overview:
CheckMark is a new feedback extension for Google Docs, put out by EdTechTeam. You can find in the chrome web store. Like others of its ilk, it allows you to insert pre-set comments quickly and easily. The user interface is clean and easy to use. And I think, like other users, that the ability to customize the pre-set comments would be a welcome addition. Here's a couple quick videos for you to check it out yourself.
Loom- add videos anywhere
Another way to give feedback is to pop a quick video onto an email or a Google Doc. Loom gives you a super quick and easy way to do that. And.. it's integrated with Gmail and Google Docs as well as lots of other applications and platforms. Here's a quick overview. Try it- you may like it.
One of the questions about chromebooks in the classroom that I often hear is "How do I create/edit video on a chromebook?" The answer varies. Are you trying to edit a video that you created elsewhere? Or are you trying to create a video? Or are you trying to add audio to a slide show? Or? Or?...
One tool that is often overlooked is the creator tool on YouTube. The C4L blog (a student led support site) recently posted about using these tools. You can check out their work here. Of course you can do a quick search on youtube and find tons of videos to show you how to edit video on youtube. Below is just one example. Remember you can edit a creative commons video, upload and edit your own, upload images and add a sound track and so much more.
There are lots of tools out there to create videos on chromebooks. Richard Byrne recently published a blog post featuring 12 ways to create videos on chromebooks! My absolute favorite for ease of use is Adobe Spark. For those of you who are Adobe fans, you know that Adobe had 3 separate tools which are now kind of one suite. Adobe Spark can help you create quick and easy videos, Adobe Page can give you a quick and easy web page and Adobe Post is a quick and easy way to create beautiful images for social media. In schools- the students need to be 13+ to create accounts. I really wish they would add some sort of teacher dashboard, even if you had to pay a small annual fee. Spark is easy to use and I have seen it used successfully and independently by grade 1 students to give beautiful results.
Another way to create video on chromebooks is with WeVideo. WeVideo has been around for quite a while and is a pretty robust platform for a web based editor. Below is the quick intro, but they have a whole library of video tutorials on YouTube. Depending on your bandwidth, the upload can be a little laggy and can be problematic when you have a class of students trying to finish up, upload and go on the next class at the same time.
Screenshots and Screencasting
One other video/screen sharing question I get is how do I (1) take a screenshot, (2) make a screencast. The answer to #1... Use the ctrl key and the split window key to save a full screenshot to your files. Use Ctrl+Shift+the split window key to save a partial screenshot. Remember that files saved to your downloads folder are not permanent and especially on school chromebooks may disappear. If you need the file, save it to your own Google Drive. You can also use Awesome Screenshot extension which offers additional annotation, blurring, etc.
Screencasts can be accomplished in quite a few different ways. To be honest, I use camtasia and snagit on my home computer. TechSmith had a snagit extension which has been discontinued. The best screencast capturing extensions are Nimbus and Capture, Explain, Send. Nimbus is a robust extension, easy to use and does just about anything you's like. Jason Savard's Capture claims to be the simplest- with no crazy permissions. I used to use screencastify, which also has a lot of features, but is a bit more complicated to get started with.
So, what do you need a video for? To record your screen, to teach a lesson or to get quick feedback? Don't forget about recap- a great way to collect individual videos from students for quick feedback and more.
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.
How do you learn to use new tech tools? If you were a typical student- Just Google It! Google knows all. Actually, I think YouTube may be a better choice for many. All kidding aside- many times, I will just google it, knowing that I may have to sift through the results. But when I need to learn how to use a tech tool, aside from the youtube videos, there are some great training resources out there.
The Google Training Center offers courses, training, and certification at various levels- from Educator Level 1 all the way to Certified Innovator. These are self-paced, and of course- free! There are quizzes, etc... and perhaps we can talk to admin about getting some pdps, etc. for completing these courses- unless badges and the relentless pursuit of knowledge is enough to drive you.
If you want to learn more about how to use any particular Google tool- just try out some of their basic tool resources. The image is from their Training resources and offers discrete lessons that you can go through to learn more, and ideas from other educators about how they use these tools in the classroom.
One of the icons you may notice on the image to the right is for Synergyse. This is currently a chrome extension. Google acquired the company last spring. The way it works is pretty cool. It is "just in time" learning. If you enable the extension, and are working in docs, and have a question about how to do something- simply click the button and it can walk you through it. Here's a one minute video to show you a bit more about it.
Quick Go-To Experts
*Depending on what I need, I will check out:
* Richard Byrne's FreeTech4Teachers site (I get a daily update). Richard is a former social studies teacher in Maine. He keeps his site current, stays on top of new developments, posts useful videos, comparisons of tools and guides.
* EdTechTeacher- for innovative ideas for iPads in the classroom, as well as other stuff, or try Ctrl-Alt-Achieve- for more Google Chrome ideas.
Eric Curts' Ctrl Alt Achieve is my go-to site for all things chrome. He has excellent resources, recorded webinars and more. But if you just need chrome extensions? Try Kasey Bell's Chrome extension database. Google or chromebooks for special needs? Cannot go wrong with Mike Marotta's ChromeAT site.
Looking for more on specific topics?
By far, the most extensive online community and PD offerings for educators- aside from Google + groups, has to be edweb. There are communities for just about anything you can think of and free webinars practically every day. These are always recorded. You get a certificate for attending live and can earn one by watching a recorded webinar and taking a very short quiz. I just wish they still did google calendars.
Check out edweb.net!
As Promised- What's new in GAFE?
I spent a great day on Saturday at #edcampWorcester. It was a relatively small edcamp, but had some very dynamic educators and lots of good conversations. One thing that came up was which Chrome extensions folks found useful. As more and more schools are moving to GAFE and chromebooks, we are seeing more extensions being created and it can be hard to find something useful in the myriad of choices on the chrome web store.
Chrome extensions, apps, add-ons...
So, what are these things, what are the differences between them and why should you care?
A chrome extension adds functionality. An example of this is screencastify- it allows you record audio and video online. Accounts managed by Hadley Schools have some restrictions by "organizational unit". The teachers should be able to access just about anything, however student accounts are restricted to those extensions that have been whitelisted by IT.
A chrome app is simply a link to a website. This can be useful for older students who can set up their own accounts on sites, but we do not use a lot of these at the elementary level as the accounts are centrally managed. An example of this goanimate. The app is simply a link to the site. The students at HES have accounts set up on the managed goanimate for schools site- not this general site.
Add Ons are a little bit different- not restricted to the chrome browser, but associated with various Google applications. It gets confusing because some add ons are also listed as extensions. An example of an add on for Google Docs is Easy Accents- which helps you put the correct diacritical marks on words in various languages. An example of an add on in Google Sheets might be Flubaroo or Save as Doc. Forms have their own add ons...
Why should you care? These tools can make your life easier- or at least more productive.
Finding the Most Useful Extensions
Our current list of whitelisted extensions can be found here. We are in the process of setting up a dedicated Hadley chrome web storefront for students. The students will be able click on a link like the one on the image to the left and see the approved apps and extensions, rather than randomly trying to find the whitelisted ones.
However, our current list is ever changing and isn't really set up for educators to use. I did not put additional information or categories on this list- which would be really helpful. But- there are many other lists you, as teachers, can access to see what you would like to use. If you find an extension that you wish to be accessible for students- please send the chrome web store url to both Mike and I. I know that our current list of 90+ may seem like a lot, but wait til you look at other lists...
Here is an excellent presentation from Kelly Fitzgerald- with twice as many apps- and she has them in categories... She has an excellent website with lists of favorite chrome extensions every week.
Lists and More Lists
Texthelp has come out with an update for Read & Write for Google Chrome-with the addition of both Word Prediction and Speech Input. Check it out below: there are also a few other changes that you can read about on their blog... but speech input is a big one. This means that students who are using Read & Write to access assignments on pdfs can now use their voice to fill in their answers in addition to the typewriter tool (which now also supports word prediction)
Remember, we subscribe to this service. It is free for all staff, faculty, and all of our students as subscribers. If you have not tried it out, try it. If you have students who struggle-perhaps one or two of you have some students who need some support?... show this to them. It's a chrome add on- you have to be logged into your school Google account and have to be using/signed into the chrome browser. You need 2 extensions- the basic Read &Write as well as their new screenshot reader (which helps access inaccessible text)
Google announced last week that they finally have an app for Google Keep. I have yet to see anything about actually integrating this tool with the calendar, but having an app will help.
texthelp- the creators of Read & Write for Google as well as several other great tools announced several changes last week. The first one, which I think will impact teachers and students at Hadley Schools are some additions to the functionality of Read & Write.for Google Chrome. I should mention, they have changed the name of this product slightly, as they now have differentiated products for Windows, Macs and iPads. The version we have the subscription to is Google Read & Write for Chrome. This simply means that we must use the chrome browser, regardless of platform.
There are 3 changes that you may find helpful:
1. There is now a VoiceNotes tool on the R & W toolbar in Google Docs. Essentially this means that teachers or students can leave voice comments.
2. You can now use word prediction on the web tool bar interface to fill out forms, etc.
3. You can have features turned on/off. This is helpful as an accommodation for testing. This is a chrome extension that has to be run, initially by the google admin, who then adds the teachers who need it.
Download the Revised Guide to Read & Write for Google Chrome
The other news from texthelp was about changes in the Google Fluency Tutor. This is a great tool for struggling readers and English language learners. Students can now turn any web page into a fluency passage, and of course teachers can also create and assign passages that they create from any web page. Fluency tutor is now integrated into Google Classroom. Check out the video below to learn more.