Sunday, May 31, 2015

More secrets of a Google Ninja #gafechat

After Google's recent announcements, I had to update my secrets of a Google Ninja presentation. There were too many AWESOME projects to keep a secret. You can catch all of the secrets I have been collecting on the newly updated Secrets of a Google Ninja presentation or on

Check out these updates!


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?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Chromium Creativity - Chrome Apps for Creativity (K-5 Edition)

I'm gearing up for a presentation on Chrome Apps for Creativity in K-5 students so I have started a presentation of my favorite apps for creation. Please share any ideas you have for using these apps in the K-5 classroom and I'll credit you. And, feel free to share out! Want more Chrome fun, check out

Enjoy and create!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Strategies to send #antibullying messages to students #YourEduStory

This week's topic: What strategies does your school use to send an anti-bullying message to students?

This is the most difficult #YourEduStory topic I've had thus far. Perhaps the problem is that I don't fully know the answer. We should. 

As an ITS, in some ways I am rather removed from the campus even though that is where I report every day; it's where my office is. However, since I don't know much about our anti-bullying efforts, I can say that they must not be effective.

When I had my own classroom, I used to show portions of The Bully Project (the movie) and Lady Gaga's Born this Way Foundation, among others. Both of these provide outlets for students. It's not just about giving an anti-bullying message. It's also about providing a safe place for those who are victims of bullying. 

Currently, the Bully Project is creating a mural to enlighten students about bullying. Adobe has partnered with the Bully Project to give educators materials to take a "creative stance against bullying." 

Digital citizenship and literacy are just one part of preventing bullying. Unfortunately, both are not an integrated portion of our curriculum. They are separate things that are not always taught. Or, they are "someone else's responsibility" to teach. As a result, the anti-bullying message is not as strong as it should be. 

With my tech stars, I had them engage in digital citizenship conversations via Google Hangouts with schools around the globe. This was a great opportunity, but it was not part of the daily classroom life. 

Last year, our district did a one book initiative. As a district, all read "Wonder," which has a great link to bullying. During that year, libraries and teachers created lessons to correspond with topics in the book. And, as a result, we had more awareness. I was more aware last year. This year, we did not do a one-book, one-district project and the awareness has diminished. The one-book project was one of the most effective strategies I've been a part of. 

This post is more of a realization that we are NOT doing enough to send an anti-bullying message. As I struggle to think of the items we have done to prevent it, I know that is evidence we are not doing enough. So, I throw the question back at you - what are you doing?

And, if you can't answer that question well - like me - what will you start doing? How will you start doing that?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

#beyouedu finding your niche

About two years ago, I had a discussion with a friend about  narrowing our focus. At the time, we were both excited about every education topic imaginable. Whether it was Google, Apple, Edmodo, 1:1 initiatives, Design Thinking, makerspaces, or another topic under the sun, we had our hands in it. It was exciting for a few months. Everything was awesome. Everything and everyone needed our input. Or, so we thought. However, that started to diminish when those became more than just exciting topics and morphed into real discussions. Discussions involve time and commitment. And, after a certain point, you start to lose the ability to stay current in all topics. You just don't have time for all topics as exciting as they may be and as passionate about them as you may be.

This was a hard reality for me. For a while, I though it was just a few of us "crazies" who struggled with this, but I realized I was not alone in this. So many of my teachers and students struggle with this. In some ways, finding your niche means letting go of control on other topics of interest. Sadly, you cannot be an expert in all things.

That's where your network comes into play. You can stay connected to all of those topics that interest you - to the people who have found that as their niche. You need to use your network. This is something I am still learning.

After that conversation my friend and I had two years ago, I hit near burn-out levels. I was overwhelmed. I wanted to be involved in everything and I couldn't maintain it.

Ladies and gentleman, I had FOMO, otherwise known as "fear of missing out." And, I was not alone. I was in a cohort of fellow FOMO-sufferers. I think many passionate educators deal with this at some point in their careers. Sadly, though, FOMO makes you miss out on the day-to-day things that you need to enjoy. I can't say I'm FOMO-free, but I'm working on it. It's a start.

So, when Dr. Will suggested "finding your niche" as the next topic, I had to jump on it.

As I move along my career, my niche becomes more defined. Sometimes, it even changes. When I first entered teaching, my passion was the oral tradition. What is that? It's storytelling. It's language. After I started teaching, that shifted into digital storytelling and eventually morphed into Google.

I think a niche is important, but it is also okay for it to change. It's about finding your passion. And, it's important to know that it's okay to change. And, it's okay to not know what your passion is right now.

My niche is a product of all of my experiences. Though my staff and students call me a Google Ninja or "ninja chick," my focus has always been on teachers and students. They are my niche. Throughout it all, those two variables have remained constant. So, when I get overwhelmed with FOMO, I focus on the two variables that matter to me: teachers and students. Some days, I get side-tracked into the edu-fame and plethora of ideas on social networks. On those days, I try to remember by goal, my niche: teachers and students.

Whether you're an educator or not, in order to "be you," you must find your niche and be okay with that niche changing. You also need to remember that you cannot be or know everyone/everything. Building a network is the key to success. It's the key to your sanity. Avoid the FOMO plague. You will always miss out on something. Don't let that something be the thing that matters. If I could give any piece of advice, it would be that: don't miss out on the important things in life; the teachable moments.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Introducing a Global Lesson Plan in Sept. 2015! #gafechat #googleedu #googleeduonair

Though I just added some updates to my Secrets of a Google Ninja presentation, I found out another one during Day 1 of Google's Education On Air conference. It's sponsored by the United Nations and TES. And, it's goals are to build lessons that create a set of goals for the world that aim to make our planet fair, healthy and sustainable by 2030. The concept is noble and the ideas are grand - more the reason you should register to be part of this new experience.

Check out more secrets of a Google Ninja on

Sunday, May 10, 2015

I hate "technology"

Oftentimes, I'm asked to help teachers integrate "technology" into their curriculum and, the older I get, the more it makes me cringe.

  1. First, I ask: What do you call "technology?" Are you referring to anything electronic? New technology? What is technology to you?
  2. Why do they need to integrate the so-called "technology?"
  3. And, what purpose will the "technology" serve?
  4. What impact will the technology have?

I've been asked this question so many times by administrators and those who are excited to create change that it begins to repel the very teachers we want to change. They begin to see it for what the question is - adding something to the classroom for the sake of adding something.

So, I've started something called the "windmill" answer. I choose windmills because they seem absurd, but they get the point across. When windmills were first invented, they were new technology. However, it would sound ridiculous to ask a teacher to figure out how to integrate this windmill into their classroom. We did not force windmills into each classroom, but we did bring in the thought and the science behind windmills into classrooms and workplaces.

I hate "technology" when we call it the tool - when we call it the windmill. What we need to integrate into classrooms is the thought behind the technology tools. And, we must remember, that everything was a "technology at one time." Technology - as I call it - are the ideas behind tools, not the tools themselves. We must distinguish. Bringing in one device for every student will certainly help some matters, but it will not revolutionize schools. The ideas behind those devices - the ability to collaborate, communicate globally, create, and think critically - will. It's the soft skills we want. It's the soft skills that will revolutionize the world.

And, why do they need to integrate "technology?" Well, I'd argue that teachers do not need to focus on integrating technology when it is tool. However, the way many systems ask teachers to integrate technology infuriates the very teachers we want to change. We continue to drill that teachers must integrate technology, but we don't clarify what technology is. Perhaps, that is because the idea of integrating technology is still a blurry concept.

When pencils and paper first were put into use, we did not ask users to integrate them. Rather, they began to use them because they served a purpose. They were tools and we used the tools because they were more efficient. Likewise, what we call technology today should also be used because of efficiency or productivity. If it is not being used, we need to question why. Is it because it is not as efficient or because we have not shown users its efficiency?

Teachers need to implement the ideas that revolutionize. The tools will come as they become more efficient. Our push should not necessarily be on getting more devices in the classroom (though, it certainly needs to happen), but on changing thought. The devices will come.

We must ask what purpose technology (as a tool) will serve. If we can't define the purpose, it needs to be questioned. When I first started teaching, I had a SmartBoard. I loved the SmartBoard. However, a few years later when I was a tech director, I was asked to help train on Promethean boards - the same concept - and I struggled to answer "why." At that time, there were other tools - more efficient tools - that the district was already using. It became a tool that I had to sell. I don't sell tools. I share ideas. Be sure you don't find yourself selling a tool. If you do, let the tool rest.

We need to also ask what impact technology will have. I have a debate with my parents oftentimes about what skills still need to be taught in schools. At one time, we needed to know how to make fires from scratch. We need to know how to hunt; to gather. Though, you could argue that those are always essential skills, they are not a requirement of schools anymore. Instead, we know efficient ways to complete those skills and then, make advancements. We invented the freezer so now, we can hunt and gather less frequently.

There is fear of many - I find myself there at times too - to let go of teaching some knowledge in the fear that it will somehow tarnish a memory or generational tie. It will change us. That is for sure. However, it can also advance us. If a student knows how to find an answer quicker than someone can recall it, is that a bad thing? What can we do to challenge this student to invent the freezer, to take that skill further? When thinking of knowledge, think of the freezer - think of what can be done to innovate with it.

Yes, I am an instructional technology specialist and I hate technology but I love innovation. I love the ideas behind technology. I enjoy technology as a consumer, but as a producer, I want to create. I want to innovate. I want to learn the ideas behind technology so I can be a producer and a maker too.

Let's become makers and not just consumers.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

#googleeduonair wrap-up of setting your sights on #googlesites

It's hard to do, but I did my best job to show how you can make Google Sites more attractive in 45 minutes. If you missed it or need the resources from today's session, you can check out this document where you will find the agenda and links to the presentation.

Top tips:

  • Remove that header - it will free you to use Gifs, slides, videos and more.
  • Use the ColorPick Eyedropper Chrome extension to match colors
  • Awesome tables really are awesome
  •  Insert your Twitter feed
  • Don't underestimate the power of a Google Drive folder
  • Use Google Drawings in your Sites - they make the  best image maps!!!
  • Set your site to adjust to mobile dimensions
  • Create page templates
  • Use SiteMaestro to push out templates for electronic portfolios to students or staff

Have more questions? Contact me @christyfenne or +christyfennewaldGCT. You will find all links and resources at

Friday, May 8, 2015

More #infographic resources!

I love infographics. Who doesn’t?! However, with so many resources out there to create infographics, it’s hard to sift through them as a classroom teachers. So, I’ve started a running presentation of the infographic tools my teachers use and my students recommend. To find out more, check out this information on or the Set your data loose presentation.

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


  • 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

  • Contains over 20 graphic organizer templates
  • Make a copy & it is yours to edit and share!
  • FREE!

  • Share with a link, Google + or Twitter
  • Edit and customize pre-existing items with a huge gallery selection!
  • Presents in a presentation mode
  • Offers many premium features
  • Limited free features, but can upload existing presentations & edit
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