Wednesday, May 27, 2015

#ISTE2015 Creating a resource center for staff & students

Part 2: Earlier this week, I shared a presentation I am working on for the EdTech Coaches Playground at ISTE 2015. It focuses on supersizing your professional development. Today, I share the Ultimate Guide to Your Resource Center. In it, you will find the tools for building your own innovation Site for students and staff.

Check out for more resources!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

#txgeg: Getting creative with Google Slides, GEG Innovation Challenge

In case you missed +Krissy Venosdale  talk about getting creative with Google Slides tonight, you can catch it all on our GEG Innovation Challenge or on our event page. She shares how to use Slides for posters, portfolios, class planners, timers, and more!

We are still looking for more presenters. So, if you're interested, be sure to fill out this form! You only need to present for 30 minutes. Topics are your choice, but should be themed in Google. You don't have to be a Google Ninja to present. Just share the things you are doing to innovate.

And, if you do watch, we encourage you to do the innovation challenge portion of the hangout. And, by that, we mean to try out the ideas present and post your successes/obstacles into the event page. The goal is to not only watch and learn, but to try and to innovate.

Those who innovate will be featured in our "spotlight educators'" section of our GEG Website. Want to learn more? Check our our Website for past hangouts and innovation challenges! You can also subscribe to our GEG Innovation Challenge Playlist. Happy innovating!

#YourEduStory: Who would be in your creative council

This week's post focuses on your creative council or, your network. There is a great article on your creative council to get you thinking first.

When I first read the topic, I immediately thought of my network. However, I think your creative council is more than that. In a classroom, it should include more than other classroom teachers that you share and gain ideas from. They should also be classroom mentors, parents, members of the community, other students, business leaders, fellow teachers, and more. These are the people who support your classroom. These are the people you AND your STUDENTS can reach out to.

I think this is a common misconception about networks. Your network should not just include other professionals. It should include others who can greatly impact your entire classroom. For a while, I thought of my network of people who can help me as opposed to people who can help my classroom or school.

It's a hard transition. Even the acronym PLN refers to something rather personal, when, perhaps, it shouldn't be. Perhaps, it should be about bringing in that extra padding. That "padding" should make you and your team/class better and stronger. Sometimes, it may be in the form of a guess speaker or a classroom mentor. Other times, it may be a parent volunteer or student aide.

If you think of your creative council as your network, you can make your network much more than a self-serving tool. I used to encourage teachers to build their network because it would make them better. And, that is true. But, what I failed to mention was making your network something not just for you, but for your classroom or team.

So, in revisiting my network or creative council, I don't just want others in the EdTech field.

I want....

  • Students...lots of them. Students are full of ideas & creativity. They are the reason we do this.
  • Teachers in all realms - not just the so-called "connected" teachers. You need a wide variety of opinions - not just those that speak your "language."
  • Parents...yes, we need them. Think about all of the wealth of knowledge they bring. You just have to be able to channel that knowledge. 
  • Community members - this is an area I want to grow. I do this virtually, but I think face-to-face is still important. Students are still going to have to apply for a job and will still need to work with others in a face-to-face environment at times. 
  • Administrators - I have mixed feelings on admin. On one hand, they have a great understanding of the system. We need that knowledge to make us all stronger. And, on the other, they can, sometimes, be very removed from the actual classroom. So, I will pick carefully.
  • Fine Arts - we need them. "What is all of this worth if we can't enjoy the arts?"

Here are the questions to ask when creating your creative council:

  • What would…think?
  • How would … approach this problem?
  • What historical precedent or example can inform us about what to do next?
  • Who would be smiling about what we are doing and why?
  • What would … say are the biggest challenges to this approach?
  • What actions would … take next?
  • What would … say we had forgotten and why?
  • Would … be proud of us?
With all of the members above, I can effectively answer most questions. When deciding upon an action, I would ask: what would parents think? What would community members think and so on? Being able to ask these questions for all groups gives a greater understanding. 

Who is on your creative council or who should be? Are you making sure your network is not only self-serving, but team-serving?

Monday, May 25, 2015

Prepping for ISTE - supercharging your PD

I'm sharing out my favorite PD ideas and topics to the EdTech Coaches playground at ISTE this year. In preparation for it, I've put together some of my favorite PD sources and ideas for implementation. In the nature of sharing (since these ideas came to me from others), feel free to share out! Check out for more ideas as well as the Supercharge your PD presentation.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Lets get #chromified updates including Tone & Chirp! #gafechat

Who can’t use a boost of Chrome? If you aren’t using these apps/extensions, you should try them. I recently added some additions below to make your Chrome experience even better. All are geared toward the educator and productivity-seeking user. Check out more great Chrome tips and Chrome Apps/Extensions on Let’s Get Chromified from

  • Gmail Snooze: Snooze emails to reappear in your inbox at more convenient times
  • Awesome Drive for Google Drive: Open Office files in Google Drive
  • Flashcards for Chrome Tabs: Open a deck of cards in each new tab
  • Earthview for Chrome Tabs: Open a satellite image from Google Earth in new tabs
  • Doodling App updates in Chromium Creativity presentation below
  • Chrome URLS: manage your Chrome settings in chrome://chrome-urls
  • Shield for Chrome: Keep yourself safe from malware & spyware in the Web Store
  • Converting Audio Files App: Convert audio files while online in Drive!
  • Chrip: Send URLs through a single tone
  • Google Tone: Send URLs to others through a single tone
  • Hidden Gems: Find the hidden gems in the Chrome Web Store

Chromium Creativity - creative apps for K-5 students:

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Google Ninja #search tips & more including how to find your phone

Just when you thought Google search could not get any more awesome, it does! Below are some of the recent tips to aid in Google searching. These are all part of a series in Becoming a Google Search Ninja on


Find your phone

FindMyPhone_1024x512 (1).gif

Send directions to your phone


The History of Search Engines

Check out Bryan Clark’s article.

  • Archie (1990): first search engine
  • Excite (1993): search engine with statistical analysis
  • (1994): Search engine boom
  • Google (1998): Starts citation notation theory

If you want more search tips, check out Becoming a Search Ninja, available on

Monday, May 18, 2015

#YourEduStory: Getting students engaged in reading class

As a former high school English teacher, I can vouch that getting or keeping students engaged in reading is not the easiest of tasks. Though, in most high schools - like in the one I taught - reading is not its own class anymore. Instead, it's lumped all into the all-encompassing English class. And, in English class, the reading is not centered around reading engagement, but on analytical and critical thinking. This is one problem. English class is not reading class, but reading is a critical skill in it. Reading is essential in all classes.

Problem 1: There is not enough time devoted to reading skills in high school. It becomes an expectation of the English classroom, but English texts are aimed at producing critical thinkers. The engagement factor can be low.

Problem 2: There are many tools available to help students access a text or make it easier to comprehend. However, there are not many aimed at increasing student engagement. At the end of the day, engagement is more of a human issue.

Problem 3: Time. It's always difficult to allocate additional time to promote engagement.

Though, problems 1 and 3 are deeply ingrained in our school system, there are several tools that can help increase student engagement. Remember, though, problems 1 and 3 can sometimes outweigh the solutions to problem 2. Despite all of the tools in the world, if a student needs more time and support, a tool will not improve engagement. The other elements must be fixed first.

Tools that help students find articles or material for their reading level are great at not only improving comprehension, but engagement. Think about it: are you very engaged in reading a car manual? No - it's boring. It speaks different than you do. If you set that same car manual to a comic book, you'd probably be more like to read it or at least be more engaged in it. Reading level is a big factor. Curriculet and Newsela both have features for finding texts based upon reading level. Currently, Google Search does as well. However, there are rumors it is going away.

Summaries help as well. I use the Chrome extension, TLDR, often to scan an article and see what it is about. Your engagement is low when you are having to sift through information to get to the gist.

Parental support is critical. I've taught many students whose parents were not readers. They either could not read or were not engagement readers. This impacted students. Edutopia has a great article on tools to help with vocabulary. Vocabulary is often a barrier in engagement.

Teach Thought also has a list of 20 apps for the iPad to teach reading. Again, these are targeted at comprehension, but improving comprehension can also help with engagement. Likewise, Scholastic has a decent list of apps for teaching reading to kids (young).

And, just as critical is choice. Students need some choice in order to keep up engagement. This often goes back to problem #1, though. English classes have required reading because they usually do not teach reading. Students need to be able to access reading that is at their level.

Austin Kleon has a great post with 33 thoughts on reading that all students and teachers should read! Those are the key to reading engagement.

What are your suggestions for improving reading engagement?