Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Bring the power of digital citizenship to a school near you

This year, I took a new position, which gave me a chance to start fresh with digital citizenship. Over the course of the year, I documented our process for easy implementation at other schools.

Check out our progress and share your success, challenges, and learnings!

Check out fennovation.org for all things digital citizenship as well as Let's Get Digital: Citizenship.



Friday, May 20, 2016

The Maker Journey

This year, I started a makerspace initiative at my new school (a private school for the first time in my career). Over the year, I decided to document it for others to use who are interested in bringing maker to their school, classroom, or district.

Check out The Maker Journey and fennovation.org for all things maker!



Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Let's Get Chromified this summer! Plus, new updates!

I was saddened to read last week that support for the Snagit Chrome Extension will end this summer. That was one of my top five favorite extensions.

With that in mind, I've added a few other screen capturing tools to the Let's Get Chromified list, including:

MediaCore Capture: "You can capture anything on your screen — including your web browser, applications and desktop — or record video straight from your webcam. MediaCore Capture also makes it easy to overlay video from your webcam on a screencast recording — perfect for recording presentations, assignments and demos. "
Capture Cast: "CaptureCast Chrome is a FREE video screen capture extension with no restrictions on the length of your recordings. You can use the screencast recorder to capture your desktop screen, web camera, document camera, and microphone with seamless uploading to YouTube and Vimeo."

I've also added Alice Keeler's Drive 20, which will open up the first 20 files in Drive with one click. Of course, you can also change the 20 to another number as well.

And, I also added Drive Tunes, an app that turns your Google Drive into a media player. And, with unlimited storage in your school Drive, why not put all of those chorale tunes in there and hit play?!

You can check out all things Chrome at fennovation.org. You can also check out the Let's Get Chromified full presentation or this summer's exclusive Let's Get Chromified: Productivity Edition.


Monday, May 16, 2016

Google Classroom - my favorite uses!

It's almost time for summer break and what better time to explore some uses of Google Classroom than now?! Once school starts, the year often gets too busy to check out and integrate new uses, so why not start now?

Today, I gave my Classroom presentation a major face-lift. I also added a few updates including:


  • Wizer.me - I discovered this during #txgoo this past weekend. This site allows you to create and browse interactive classroom resources that share nicely on Google Classroom.
  • Schedule posts - if you haven't heard, you can now do this on Google Classroom
  • Guardian access - coming this fall
  • Polls - in addition to the Q&A feature on Google Slides, you can get immediate feedback on Google Classroom. Hip, hip, hooray!
  • Google Calendar - you get a Calendar for every class. You can share these calendars for anyone with the link to see and put them on your Website. This gives others access to view assignment due dates. 

Check out fennovation.org for more Googleness and check out Getting Automated with Google Classroom for 50 slides worth of ideas!



Happy Monday!


Google Apps Hacked: More updates for your summer! Scan & convert files with your phone!!

I love finding new uses for my favorite Google Apps. Recently, I discovered a few things I did not know that you could do:

  • Provide links for direct download (instead of linking to a file in your Drive that someone will have to download, link to the download link so it automatically downloads)
  • Scan documents with your phone and convert them to editable text in a Google Doc - yes, this is a real thing!
  • Save YouTube videos to your Google Drive!

(My favorite is #2)

Check out fennovation.org for more Googleness as well as the Google Apps Hacked presentation where you can find many "hacks" on your favorite apps. I challenge you to try at least one in your daily use!


Happy Monday!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

#YourEduStory: Brown-out: it's a real thing

This week's #youredustory topic: what's your biggest challenge as an educator? As a person?

I purposely wrote this topic because we often forget one another's struggles. We become observed in our own struggles. We hide our own challenges. We don't post the full picture.

So, this week is a chance to be authentic and to provide support for those in your educator community or greater community.

Last year, I read an article about brownout and I instantly connected with it. It's something many of us have or have experienced it in the past. You may even know someone who's dealt with it.

For me, the realization was embarrassing. And, I felt alone in that feeling.

I was still the same self I knew - I worked hard and I would not settle for failure. Sure, I'd fail. But, I'd never let that be my resting place. When I admitted I was suffering from brownout, I felt like I was quitting; like I wasn't giving my  best effort. And, I was embarrassed by that. I was comparing what was really happening with my views of how I should be behaving. And, that's a hard comparison to hold.

I found myself trying to compete with everyone and everything. It was less about learning and more about competing. And, after a while, that is overwhelming. I came home and continued to work. I never unplugged.

There is no one way to suffer from brownout. For me, I didn't give up my other loves. I felt more compelled than ever to continue them. In fact, I felt stressed to make sure I found time for them. If I didn't have time to paint, I felt stressed. If I didn't have time to visit my family, I felt stressed. If I had to do work when I got home, I felt stressed. I felt I couldn't escape being stressed.

Brownout can be about the job, but it's usually something larger. For me, it was a reminder that I have many ambitions that I want to pursue. And, that is my stress-er. My own drive for success has the potential to drive me to brownout.

And, it did. I can't pinpoint a particular day, but I know the time when I stopped feeling joy from the things that I did to make me happy.

At the time, I felt alone in my struggles. As an active sharer and participant on Google + and Twitter, I was sucked into the "echo chamber." I only saw the great things everyone else was doing or trying to do. I wanted to do it all as well, but yet, struggled to find the joy I found on their social media faces. I found that, while we are great at sharing ideas, we struggle in sharing our struggles.

It wasn't until I read a blog from The Nerdy Teacher, who opened up about his depression, that I realized other successful educators have struggles. It wasn't until I opened up about my own frustrations that I found others - many others - who shared in my journey.

We ask students to reflect on their online self vs. their real self, but, as educators, we do not always do this. I looked at my online self and realized others would never know I struggled with brownout. So, here I am - sharing and hoping others will too.

I also recognize that my personality is prone to brownout. I'm ambitions. I'm competitive. I want to learn more. I want to do more. I want to be more. But, at the end of the day, that can be stressing. It can also be taking work home and letting it consume your time. And, this is the number one factor leading to brownout. For me, I have to continuously check myself. It will never be as simple as "don't do too much." But, it is possible. And I also recognize that many highly successful people have these same qualities. It's what drives you and burns you.

So, I challenge you to take a moment to reflect on your online self. Who are you? Do you represent the real you? Do you find yourself competing with others online? Do you want to try everything?

While these qualities make use better, they also can lead us to brownout.

Think...do you (from "Are You Suffering From Brownout":


  • Work long hours, but without any real interest in your job? Is work a dull slog and does it lack intellectual challenge or stimulation.
  • Feel as if you never really finish tasks? There’s always more to do.
  • No longer know where your career is going?
  • Pour cold water on other people’s ideas?
  • Use any excuse not to show up? A headache becomes a migraine and a cold is always flu.
  • Check emails when you get up in the morning and in bed before you to sleep? Glued to your Smartphone? 
  • Feel out of shape, eat junk food, lack sleep?
  • Feel you’ve lost your sense of humor and tend towards passive aggressiveness and surliness. 
  • Come home late to watch TV and show little interest in your spouse and children? Friendships have withered on the vine and outside interests have been forgotten.
  • Feel you're boss is moody and unpredictable (though you don't hate your boss)? You never know whether they’ll like or hate a given piece of work.

When I answered these questions, I found myself answering "yes" to many. I felt like I never finished any tasks. In many ways, I still do. So, this year, I've made a goal to finish what I started - this includes all of the crafts, cleaning, etc. And, you know what? I feel accomplished in that. I finished a quilt I started four years earlier. Not only did I feel accomplished, but I spent time doing an activity I enjoyed. A win-win.

If you found yourself answering "yes" to any of the questions or if you feel exhausted right now (let's face it - who doesn't?) My advice to you:


  1. Be a full person online. You don't have to share every personal struggle. However, you should represent both sides to your story. For instance, if you share that you did an awesome maker unit, share where that unit fits into the larger picture. What challenges did you face along the way? What challenges do you still face? I know I'm guilty of this as well - especially in my personal life. We see the highlights. 
  2. Don't compare yourself to others online. Remember - you  see the highlights so don't live the highlight reel. Use what you see and read as inspiration but remember that you are only seeing a slice of their story. Keep yourself grounded in those around you.
  3. Remember what you value and don't lose sight of it. At the end of a hard day, it can be exhausting and difficult to be positive to those around you. And, that's okay. But, don't forget what you value. Make time for it. Schedule it if you need to, but don't miss out. And, if finding time for it is stressing you, reevaluate your tasks and priorities. What are you doing that you can drop?
  4. Leave your Smartphone and devices behind. This one is very challenging for me. I'm in the edtech industry (or whatever we want to call it now)! But, the phone becomes a clutch. I find myself checking my emails when I first wake up and before I close my eyes at night. I find myself feeling anxiety over notifications. I find myself using it to avoid awkward social situations - to get out of having to have a real conversation. It gets more attention than some I love the most. Don't love your Smartphone. Use it as a tool to spend more time with those you love. It's that distinction that makes all the difference. 
  5. Exercise. Those who know me probably think this is easy for me to say because I do workout excessively. I know this. But, I love it. The more difficult the workout, the happier I am. You don't have to be a workout nut like me to exercise. The point is you should make time for it each day. This is not only because it is essential to health, but because it is rejuvenating. I started taking short walks outside periodically throughout the day and, gradually, it made me look forward to each day a little more (especially when I find myself dreading the coming days).
I spend a lot of time teaching digital citizenship to tweens and teens, but not enough to my peers. We need to support one another - especially in the area of showing our authentic selves. 

Be authentic. Be you. Be okay with you. 


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

More secrets of a Google Ninja

Today's blog post brings you two new secrets of a Google Ninja!
  • Google Save: I had noticed this for a bit, but hadn't paid much attention to it until I read Eric Curts' blog post on the tool. This will allow you to save images and websites virtually without downloading!
  • Chrome Music Lab: This is for music-lovers of all ages!  You can now explore the way music works and, since it is open to all developers, develop your own music experiment. 
Explore these handy tools and more at the full Secrets of a Google Ninja presentation or on fennovation.org (where there is an Awesome Table directory).

I will be sharing all of these tools - yes, all - at the Techs4Tex Texas Summit on Saturday, May 14 in Frisco, Texas. Tickets are still available if you're near the area!