Tuesday, March 31, 2015

GEG Innovation Challenge #txgeg

I get to work with an awesome bunch of Google innovators through my work as a GEG leader. A few months back, +Kasey Bell shared an idea to revamp Hangouts on Air with an Innovation Challenge. The twist: once a month, educators share out an awesome idea they are implementing in 30 minutes or less. And...after the Hangout, viewers must share ways they have taken the strategy and implemented it. The goal is that more ideas will be generated and innovation will spread.

Tonight we featured, +Alicia Brooks, an awesome educator and fellow Texan, who spoke of using DocAppender as a text response tool. In case you missed it, you can watch the event here. And, don't skip the challenge at the end.

I challenge you to try out Alicia's suggestions and share out how you have been able to use DocAppender.

You can find all of our Innovation Challenges on our Website. In the meantime, get to learning!

Follow GEG CENTX & NORTX & #txgeg for more updates.

Monday, March 30, 2015

#beyouedu: Taking Ownership

A week or two ago, Dr. Will posted a challenge on YouTube  for educators to join the #beyouedu movement. The Beyouedu movement is about bring back authenticity to the edu movement. It's about taking ownership of your social identity. It's about taking pride in who you are as an educator. And, it's about being you and being okay with being you.

I'm familiar with my teaching saying "I'm not Susan. I'm not techie so I can't do that." My response to that was always: "No, you're not. But what can YOU do?" The first step is always taking ownership in what you do, what you can do, and what you will do.

I see the same comments, though, in the Edu scene. We compare ourselves to others and find failure in that, rather than taking in ownership in what we do, can do, and will do. Seek out others for inspiration, not for assessment or status checkers. It's important to be real as well. You are not just an educator. Be human. Be You. Don't be on the race to the top. Enjoy the learning process. Show your human side. You are your business. Own You incorporated.

Ownership of information is different than ownership of learning. We often confuse the two. We forget that we own our own learning while we are trying to own some piece of information or knowledge. Knowledge is not something we can own. It belongs to everyone. It is shared. It's communal. When it is owned, learning stops.

You do, however, own You Incorporated and, you own your own learning. You decide what you will learn, what you can learn, and what you want to learn. Don't try to own knowledge. Do own your own learning, though. Be proud of what you know and what you offer.

I, too, get lost in the sea of greatness and feel like I am not doing enough. So, I like to ask myself these questions to make sure I am in charge of ME.

1. What do I do/learn?

2. What can I do/learn?

3. What will I do/learn?

Always keep these questions in mind whether you're a classroom teacher seeking to innovate or a "pro," wanting to do more. With ownership comes responsibility - a responsibility to share knowledge and to continue defining YOU.

What do you own? Do you own your learning and your path or do you own a set of knowledge?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Your weekend boost of Chrome: Chrome - this and that

Chrome - This and That
Who can’t use a weekend boost of Chrome? If you aren’t using these apps/extensions, you should try them. Some new, some old, but all are geared toward the educator and productivity-seeking user.

Google + Help:

Easily share Google + posts to a variety of social media and quickly reply directly to author.
Google Apps Training:

This is an interactive training system for Google Apps™ that allows you to learn and take actions at the same time. Great for students and teachers!
Google Hangouts:

Yep. It’s that simple. Click a button and you can start a hangout!
Gmail Management:

This one is great for users who work with many file types. With the attachment icon, you can quickly know what files are in you email.
Google Sheets:

Create sticky notes from a Google Spreadsheet and quickly print. Pre-designed post-it layout presents your data in an easy to scan content first manner. Simply select a column to fill each form field and Printable does the rest. (Note: this one is having issues, but you can still create sticky notes in Google Sheets through formatting)
Literacy & Evaluation:

Find trustworthy websites and help make the web more trustworthy. Web of Trust (WOT) is a website reputation and review service that helps you make informed decisions about whether to trust a website or not when you are searching, shopping or surfing online.

Want more great Chrome? Check out Let’s Get Chromified on Fennovation.org for great productivity and educational apps and extensions.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Set your data loose with infographics - classroom edition

I love infographics, but oftentimes, they are misused. When we try to change the standard "PowerPoint" presentation into an infographic, we miss the point of infographics. I'm a supporter of steering away from the standard "PowerPoint" presentation that throws all of the information onto the slide. This is especially true for students. 

As a former high school English teacher, I have been subject to many regurgitated presentations; presentations that are so text and information-heavy that students get lost in their words. That's where infographics come in - they should be short and sweet. They should challenge students to get to the point. That's not only a hard thing for students, but a challenging one for professionals. 

The tools below are excellent platforms for the creation of infographics. However, without instruction of the point of infographics, they too can miss their meaning and become text and information-heavy. 

So, do it - challenge your peers, your students, and yourself to get to the point and share infographics. 

  • Upload your own images
  • Download as an image file
  • Share via Google + and Twitter
  • Search from a gallery of icons and templates

2.  Easel.ly

  • Upload your own images
  • Download as an image file or PDF
  • Share with a link or embed code
  • Search from a gallery of vhemes, objects, shapes, and backgrounds

  • Add media
  • Share with a link, embed code, and Twitter
  • Edit and customize pre-existing items

4. Canva

  • Upload your own images
  • Download as an image or PDF
  • Share with a link or Twitter
  • Edit and customize pre-existing items with a huge gallery selection!

  • Upload your own images
  • Share via Google + or Twitter
  • Edit and customize pre-existing items with a huge gallery selection!
  • A large gallery of pictograms and graphs to integrate with data

  • Upload your own images
  • Download as an image or PDF
  • Share with Twitter
  • Build-your-own infographic set up
  • No pre-set templates

  • Upload your own resume
  • Download as an image or PDF
  • Share with a link, embed code, Google + or Twitter
  • Edit and customize pre-existing items with a huge gallery selection!
  • Partners with Venngage

  • Browse a variety of templates
  • Download as an image (PNG, JPEG) or PDF
  • Share with a link, embed code, Google + or Twitter
  • Collaborate with others simultaneously
  • Easily embed in other products (especially Google)

  • Contains many teaching materials and tutorials
  • Classroom teacher lessons & vetted
  • FREE!

  • 20 tips on how to avoid typography mistakes
  • FREE!
  • Easy to use & clear for student instruction

For more fun tools & integration/innovation tips, check out Fennovation.org

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Breaks in school? #YourEduStory

This week's topic: You're either in, just past or about to get to spring break. What are your thoughts on breaks - is there really a "slide"? how long is too long? how short is just right?

I still have many nightmares of all of the math workbooks and fake stock markets I had to do in the summers growing up. My dad was and still is a firm believer in keeping students educated at all times, to prevent the "slide." So, the first day of every summer, we'd hit up the local book store and library to check out books and get workbooks. He'd also give us simulations. For instance, one year, we had to invest with fake money in the stock market, track our stocks, and see who (my brother or myself) had profited the most. Yes, I was well aware of the stock market and its inner-workings by the age of 12. 

Do I resent my dad for all of this education? No. Did I enjoy it at the time? No.

I think about my days as a classroom teacher and my present job as a teacher of teachers. Under our ten-month schooling system, there is a definite end and beginning to the year. If you've been in the classroom, you know how behavioral incidents spike in the spring. You also know all of the nerves that come at the beginning of the year. These exist because there is a definite start and there is a definite end. Can we say all students progress at the same rate? No.

So, their learning progress may or may not match that of the typical school year. I don't think short breaks are inherently bad. How do you feel after a short break? I feel a little refreshed and a little more ready to power through. The brain is a muscle. And, like other muscles, they can benefit from short, active rest. However, long, passive rest can lead to deterioration. This is rather simple. We need short breaks in education, If we don't have enough, those breaks become passive because we are too worn out to be active. However, if we have too many, our bodies do not know how to keep going. 

This lends itself to year-round schooling with short, active breaks. However, this is also a two-part change. The grade-level restrictions that we currently use in schools also need to be revised. If we adjust our school schedule so that learning is optimal, we must also adjust our definitions of learning progress. 

I can recall numerous students (including my brother) who learned at a different pace. There was nothing wrong with their pace, but the school schedule caused it to be a problem. 

In my classroom (during my last year of classroom teaching), I moved to objectives-mastery. No longer did I grade based upon a one-time attempt. Instead, I gave my students objective sheets at the beginning of each unit. They had to master each of those objectives - even if it carried on longer. Was this hard to manage in a traditional school? Yes. But, I did see students who had struggled or given up (and never even started) begin to make progress.

Do we need breaks in school? Yes. We also need to restructure our school schedule and our definition of grade levels. 

What do you think about breaks in school? Mine took a tangent into grade-level definitions, but I feel the two are interconnected. 

A little fun with Chrome Apps & Extensions

Sometimes, it’s fun to just have a little...fun...with Chrome Apps and Extensions. As if they weren’t cool enough already, these apps and extensions are just enough to push you past your spring slump and into spring joy.


  1. Cornify
You can never have enough unicorns on one screen. With a simple click, add as many unicorns as your heart desires!
2. Nothing

Sometimes, it’s great to do...nothing. And, this extension does exactly that: nothing.
3. No Cyrus

Tired of seeing stuff about Miley Cyrus? You can fix that with one simple click.

4. Jailbreak the Patriarchy

Genderswap your view of the Web. Change out pronouns and gender words. Cool!

5. Libdoge

You can never have enough “doge” on your page. Add more!

6. New Mustachio

Add mustaches to everyone and everything!

7. Ncage

And, you can certainly never have enough Nicolas Cage! Change all images to Nicolas Cage.

Want more great Chrome? Check out Let’s Get Chromified on Fennovation.org for great productivity and educational apps and extensions.