Friday, August 28, 2015

Google Geo Tools are where it's at!

If you didn't know, Google Geo Tools are one of the best things to come out of Google. Over the past year, I've tried to organize some of my favorites into one single location, a presentation.

Recently, I've added a few updates to make your Geo experience even more awesome!

  • YouTube Map Explorer - search the YouTube videos that have been uploaded in a certain radius.
  • Google Earth Voyager - this came out a few months ago on Google Earth's 10th anniversary, but it is an awesome resource!

Enjoy and share the Geo love! You can find more resources at

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Become a Google Search Ninja - updates! #googleedu #gafe #gafechat

As we start back the school year, I feel the urge to remind others how important searching is as a life skill. As educators and adults, we expect that students can search. We start research projects and we expect students to be able to find valuable and critical sources online - without any or much training. This is a travesty to me.

When they leave school each day, one of the first things they will do with electronic devices is search. Rather than figure out the answer themselves or ask someone, many will search. And with millions of search results to sort through, that task is enormous.

So, to help with that and to encourage teachers to incorporate basic search lessons into their classroom, I have compiled some of my favorite Google search resources into one presentation.

Updates include:
  • Searching graphs of various functions
  • View the text version of large numbers
You can view for information on In the meantime, enjoy and search!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

#YourEduStory - model risk-taking in the class

This week's topic: how do you model risk-taking in the classroom?

This is the first year I have had a "class" in five years. However, in those five years, I have been teaching teachers. So, while I may not have had a traditional class, I did model risk-taking to hundreds of teachers.

As learners, we take a risk every day, every second. When you open yourself up to learn, you are taking a risk. You are exposing your knowledge or lack thereof. In doing so, you are also showing courage and strength.

There are some things I find learners, especially adults, more willing to learn and, therefore, more willing to take risks. Being the designated "tech" person, it seems there is a reluctance to learn tech. Though the same skills go into learning to cook a new dish, I find more reluctance when it comes to learning a new program.

The key to risk-taking is making it not seem like that large of a risk. I still don't have the answer to why learning tech seems like a larger risk, but it does. My guess is that it has a stereotype of being a "nerd's club." Therefore, anyone who doesn't identify themselves that way, thinks the risk is too large. I don't identify myself as a math person so, when I sit in a math class to learn statistics, I have a lot of fear. My learning risk seems enormous.

Going in to any training I deliver, I try to remember this: tech has a stigma surrounding it. We need to take the edge off the risk they perceive. For me, that means giving learners small tasks - simple things they can do and feel successful at. Call it trickery if you wish. To me, it's scaffolding. For instance, in helping staff members become more efficient and productive, I've helped them switch to Google Drive. However, showing them all of Drive intimidates them. The risk is too large. So, I break it into chunks: today, we'll work on uploading your old files here so, now, you know where to find them online...tomorrow, we'll work on organizing those files. And, eventually, you'll just use these files. Finally, you'll start creating new files here.

And, that's how I get learners to take a risk and make something new. Take the edge off of the risk.

Though I take a lot of risks, I've noticed that staff members will just disregard it and say, "well, Christy is just really good at that." I find that happens to many "risk-takers." I have worked with some very innovative teachers and, historically, other teachers do not want to learn from them because they are intimidated. They see someone who is very risky and it scares them.

So, even though I model risk-taking, I don't think it's my modeling that helps build learners. In fact, it intimidates many around me. Instead, I try to highlight learners who take small to medium-sized risks. Those risks seem manageable to others and, therefore, they are more apt to try them.

Think about your students. Do they model the student who does everything right & above the bar? Or, do they model the ones they think they can follow?

Make yourself "follow-able." Take the edge off of risks as you model them. This means breaking things down. And, that also means bringing yourself to a human level. This cannot always be done, unfortunately. But, if you are "intimidating," find another "safe" person who can help those in need take risks.

Co-workers call me the Google Ninja. And, even though I love teaching all levels of Google integration, some teachers are afraid to ask me for help because they think I'm the all powerful - or a version of that. So, in those cases, I lean on my student tech team to help make those risks seem more achievable.

It's not about how I model risk-taking; it's about how I delegate risk-taking.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

#BeYouEdu: Find your hustle

Great topic, +Dr. Will Deyamport, III !

A couple of weeks ago, I started work at a new school - a private school. It's my first time working in a private school. After completing my 10th year in public school, it's already seeming so very different. The one thing that has resonated with me in these first weeks is the idea of a 360 teacher. It was evident in my interview process and it's even more apparent as a tech integrator.

So, in finding your hustle, keep in mind the idea of a 360 educator. Your hustle should not be limited to education. In fact, that is detrimental. It can lead to burn-out/brown-out and a less fulfilling impact. We are 360 educators and we teach 360 students. That's an aspect I often forgot. To our students, they are not two dimensional. They are not just students. They are artists. They are musicians. They are skaters. They are athletes. They are gamers. They are brothers & sisters. They are 360. So, don't hide your "360" from them. When talking about your hustle, don't limit it just to education. You are not two dimensional.

When I first thought of this topic, I thought of finding my hustle as it relates to education. But, that's assuming I am two dimensional. So much of what contributes to me as an educator has to do with who I am outside of school.

Take time to reflect on your 360. That's where you will find your hustle. What gets you out of bed? How would you spend your perfect day? In there, you will find your hustle.

So, what gets me out of bed? What is my perfect day? Creating of all types is one of my favorite things to do. I love giving things "makeovers." It's part of the reason I am a secret cleaning star. My family jokes that I actually like doing renovations, cleaning out refrigerators, and doing any cleaning overhaul. But, I like it because I can see change. I can see what it was before and what it is now. I am creating. I am creating a new space and a new look. Creating is essential for me.

I also have to have the outdoors in every day. This includes windows - a lot of them. I need my own space. I love to collaborate, but I need quiet outdoor space to be productive. I need to move. Sitting is one of the least motivating things I can do. It's tiring and draining and uninspiring. The only time sitting is great is after a hard work-out, a long day, or outside. No exceptions.

Why is all of this important? It's what makes me a 360 person. Each aspect impacts my own "hustle." It impacts my motivation.

It's now not a secret why I make a ton of presentations. I love to create. It's not a secret anymore why I moved into technology - I love to move and create.

As a high school English teacher, I found myself constantly finding new ways to innovate my classroom - not tools - but ideas. I was excited to try them all out, but I didn't have the time in the year to do it all. So, I needed to move to a larger scale - an arena where I could share out many ideas and help create change. That's what moved me into the edtech spectrum. I wanted to create large scale change. It's change that drives me. It's the ability to create that drives me.

My love for the outdoors has moved me into the makerspace arena. I never saw myself as one working with Arduinos, robotics, Raspberry Pis, Makey Makeys and the likes. However, I found it because of my love for tinkering, moving, and being outside. It combines tech with art, nature. It is 360.

My hustle is creating. It is not just related to education, but to me as a whole person. Your hustle extends beyond just tools and cool new devices. It is a way of life. What makes you tick? What are the constant themes in your life?

I will always be a creator, an inventor. It's who I am. It is my hustle. What's your hustle?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

New #google secrets!

I can't seem to stop finding more awesome - free - Google tools that are great for the classroom! Check out the latest additions to the Secrets of a Google Ninja. More updates to come on the Secrets...Directory.

Know of others? Do share!

You can check out the full directory on

Monday, August 17, 2015

#YourEduStory: Proud to be a teacher

This week's topic: What are the things that make you proud to be a teacher

I've had to think about this one for a while. The question is usually phrased: what are the things that make you proud of your students? I am trained to think about learners I serve and what makes me proud of them.

Many of my fellow teacher friends had family members who were also in education. But, I did not. In fact, my mom is one of 100 cousins and none of them are in education. So, during my first year of teaching, I learned quickly that teaching was different than the other jobs - the jobs I was surrounded around when I grew up. My dad was an investor and my mom was a purchaser. They were business people.

In the business world, you shop, you bargain, you return, and you find the best. This where education is vastly different. In the business world, you can return parts if they don't meet code or standard. In education, we cannot. No matter what a student's circumstances are, we must educate all and we cannot return any "parts." We are individual parts that are all necessary for the wheel to spin.

On our best days, educators are passionate. We are excited to help others learn. We want to make a difference. We are creative. We are renegades. We swear. We don't follow a set of rules. We are cheerful. We are learners. We love our jobs. At the best, we set the world on fire. We watch the world glow.

At our worst. we are burdened by tests. We are buried in paperwork. We drink too much coffee. We gossip. We are burdened by the incessant demands rules place on us. We are downtrodden. We are broken. At our worst, we leave education behind.

I'm sure many will say it's the students who make us proud to be educators. It is them, of course. But, it's so much more than that. It's also about who we are as people that make me proud. When we focus entirely on the students, we lose the uniqueness that brings us to the classroom. Focusing entirely on the students ("I do this for the kids") can lead to burn-out. Though it sounds counter-intuitive to say "I do this for the kids," but I don't, it's the truth. It's what makes me proud.

I'm proud to be in an industry where I can be creative. Where I can be a renegade. Where I can break rules. If I focus all of my energy on students, I lose what students enjoy most: passion, creativity, care.

I'm proud to be a teacher. I'm proud to be a learner. I'm proud to be surrounded by constant growth.

So, while I don't do it just for the kids. I benefit greatly from them. I prefer to say: I'm proud to be surrounded by kids." Even in high school, there is optimism in students. Though they may come to class and put their head down, there is still optimism. They still have their future ahead of them (and if they don't see it, it's my job to guide them to that place) and there is optimism in knowing they have time to become what they want to be. They are always learning. I taught Huck Finn for five years and every year, I still learned something knew. I'm proud to be surrounded by people who challenge me.

I didn't get into teaching because of the kids. I got into teaching because I knew students would help me. And, in turn, I would pass along the favor. Perhaps it is selfish. But, it's what has kept me in education (now my 10th year!). It's what makes me continually challenge education. And, it's what makes me become better.

As the students come back over the next couple of weeks, I remember that I do this as a learner.

I am not only proud to be a teacher; I am proud to be a learner.

I'm proud to be among learners.

Can Google Sites become beautiful? Why, yes, they can!

After finding a tutorial on how to use to turn a Google Doc into a Website (courtesy of the Google Gooru), I decided I had to try it. And, though, it is only a free trial, but available for Apps Domains through the Marketplace, its simplicity has a huge benefit! You can always adjust the page settings of a Google Doc or publish to the Web if you would like the Website appearance and don't want to use a third party program.

Check out for updates to Google Sites 1 and Google Sites 2 presentations! Enjoy!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Creativity in Chrome #gafe #chromebook #gafechat

I realized I never updated my Chrome App/Extension inventory to include some of the awesome resources Chrome has to offer in regards to creativity. So, check out the updates on sketch tools, building tools, photo editors, movie makers, audio tools, and more!

You can check out the complete Let's Get Chromified Presentation and the complete Chromium Creativity Presentation on

Curious how I made the inventory? Check out my Awesome Tables tutorial for more information! Enjoy!

Friday, August 14, 2015

#YourEduStory: My School Legacy #educelebrity #sxswedu

This week's topic: What do you want your legacy to be at your school? How do you go about making that happen?

I have a battle with the word "legacy." There is a trend in education now that I call the "me movement." Though it started for noble reasons, it is now no longer something purely positive.

In the connected educators movement and the teacher-preneurs phenomenon, educators have been encouraged to reach outside of their classroom, school, district, community, state, and country. This is awesome! There are now opportunities for classroom teachers to have voices larger than their classroom. But, let me repeat: classroom teachers can have voices larger than that of their classroom.

This is not always positive. I catch myself falling into this as it's an easy pit to fall into. We are encouraged to share and share a lot. But, in the process of sharing, it can become a means to make a name for ourselves. Though there is nothing wrong in making a name for yourself, it can become negative when your voice overshadows other voices...when it becomes just about your voice.

Again, I love the benefits social media brings, but it can also become an echo-chamber, a place where similar voices repeat the same things and only some voices get shared (aka - retweeted). I watch as edu-celebrities emerge. I don't think that's what anyone set out to do, but it is an unfortunate consequence. We are all celebrities to someone. We need to share more than the voices who already have names. We need to fight the urge to become echo chambers. We need to make it about others' voices - not our own.

A true legacy is one where you can be removed from the equation and growth continues. If it is about your voice, you are not leaving a lasting legacy. Rather, your voice is just louder, not necessarily stronger. A former boss once told me that true change is when, after you leave, progress continues to happen. Think about your classroom: you know everything is working when you can leave and the students continue to grow and learn. That's a job well done.

We need to remember the same thing now. It's challenging. We want to be connected, but we need to stay grounded. We need to boost up the voices around us; not our own. I fight this urge everyday. It's exciting when something you say is shared multiple times. It's this feeling that creates the edu-celebrity phenomenon. We start to make it about our career and  boosting ourselves up. Or, we decide to share only the voices of those who've "made it."

I challenge you to look at the voices you've shared recently. Who are they? Are they the same ones others have shared? Do you promote those around you? Do you promote those whose voices aren't as loud? The next time you share, share a voice who goes un-noticed: a voice that we need to promote so change can continue without us. And, don't worry - I'm not perfect at this either. This is a goal I have for myself each day: remembering my legacy will not be about me. In fact, they don't even need to know who I am.

It is the change that will continue after I'm gone - that's the legacy I hope to leave. 

What is your legacy?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Lets get #chromified updates & more! #gafe

Today, I finally updated Let's Get Chromified with some important summer updates to apps and favorite being the Add to Classroom extension. This extension overrides the Share to Classroom button that some sites are adding. With this, you have the option to Share to Google Classroom on ANY Website. Cool, right?!

Check out a searchable directory of all of the apps and extensions on that I have reviewed. If you are curious about how I made this directory, check out my Awesome Tables tutorial. It's a game-changer for Google Sites!

Oh, and if you are keen on searching the presentation, use Ctrl + F or Cmd + F for easier searching.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

#YourEduStory: Connecting with your students

This week's topic: In what ways do you connect with your students?

This is one - if not the most - important topics in this #youredustory journey. Connecting with students is at the backbone of education. We learn through connections. Connections are essential.

I no longer have my own classroom of students so my connections are different. However, on that note - regardless of whether or not you have your own classroom, you should be connecting with students. It is one of the largest shortcomings in educational administration. There are many reasons administration don't have direct contact with students - from incessant meetings to loads of paperwork. But, to make the largest impact in education, we need to restructure our days so we have time to make connections with students and staff.

Five years ago, I left the classroom to become a district technology coordinator. After two years in that position, I knew I needed a changed. I had to be around students and teachers again in a learning role. So, I took the plunge and become an instructional technology specialist. However, after two months of limited student connections, I still knew I needed a change. So, I started some student tech clubs. Since creating the clubs, I feel I've improved as an educator. I am more aware of student needs. And, I've started to let them lead the show. In fact, the more I've stepped back and given them the instructional control, the more praise I get.

I have to do the same thing with staff now. As I start a new school and a new school year, I'll start it all over again. For me, I cannot get buy-in for trainings and innovation if I have not made connections. So, I'll spend this first year just making connections with students and staff.  I plan on, once again, starting several student tech programs, running a student advisory, attending department meetings, and listening to the needs of students and staff. In fact, I've found the best way to build connections is to simply listen. Listening allows you to find others' needs. Listening allows you to observe. When you observe you can begin to connect with others.

So, how to I build connections? I try to listen. I'm not always perfect, but everyday is a new try. I provide spaces for others to lead. I create an environment and then, step back.

How do you build connections?

Monday, August 3, 2015

How my #googlesite just got more awesome: Awesome Tables tutorial

A few months ago, I discovered Awesome Tables, an add-on/gadget for Google Sites and I was immediately obsessed. However, after initially trying to tinker with it, I realized I needed some guidance on how to customize it.

Last week, I helped organize GooCamp, an event our our GEG CENTX members. And, +Christopher Evans showed up, prepared to teach Awesome Tables. After 45 minutes and multiple questions and idea swaps later, I was ready to start! This time, I started immediately that night and finished a 110 app/extension directory by the next day. I say this only to show that it is not a time-consuming process. And, it's important - like anything - to "tinker" with it right after you learn about it. If not, you will lose it.

So, are you ready for the tutorial yet?!

Awesome Tables Tutorial (cards view) with text & video:

Before I begin, you need to review the Awesome Tables Website. Figure out which view/style you want. This tutorial is for the Cards View Awesome Tables. Once you know your style, you need to figure out your purpose. I settled on using the Cards View to display the over 100 apps and extensions I have in my current Let's Get Chromified presentation. This layout allows me to assign categories & focus. And, it allows for text searching as well. This is its best asset in my opinion. After you have found a style and a purpose you can begin.

  • Go to the Awesome Tables Website. Click on Demos to see the various formats/styles available with this add-on. 
  • Search through the various formats/styles and click on the one you want (remember: this tutorial is for the Cards View only). For this tutorial, click on Cards View.
  • On the Cards View page, you will find four links: Live Demo, View Spreadsheet, View Awesome Table Settings, CEVA Apps Store. The Live Demo just shows you what it will look like on your Site. The only two links I used were the View Spreadsheet and the View Awesome Table Settings. 
  • Click on the View Spreadsheet link. It will open up the Spreadsheet. Choose File --> Make a Copy. Then, give it a name that will indicate this is the data for your Awesome Tables. I called mine: Chrome Apps & Extensions Awesome Table. You can also close the original spreadsheet now.
  • Now, it's time to look at your spreadsheet. You will see columns for:
    • Title: This is where I entered the title of the App/Extension.
    • Description: This is where I entered the information about the app/extension and/or my own review.
    • IMG: I went to the Chrome Web Store and opened up the product. Then, I right-clicked on the product image and choose: copy URL. I pasted that URL here.
    • Link: I went to the Chrome Web Store and opened up the product. I copied the URL in the address bar and pasted that URL here.
    • Domain: I changed this heading name to Category. This is where I chose a category for the app/extension like screenshot, note-taking, Chrome management, etc.
    • Vendor: I changed this heading name to App/Ext. I simply wrote App or Extension depending on its classification.
    • Compatible Device: I changed this to Classroom Focus. For classroom specific apps/extensions, I wrote the subject it best fit. For others, I wrote: all subjects.
    • View: I left this empty and alone.
    • Text Search: I left this empty and alone.
Original view:

My view:
  • If you look across the bottom of your spreadsheet, you will see that you have two tabs. You have been working on the Apps tab. You will also see that there is a Template tab. Click on it. 
  • I left this part completely alone. However, this is what makes everything work. Note that if you tamper with this, be sure you take a screenshot of it before so, if anything does not work, you can put it back together again.
  • Now, open up your Google Site. Go to the page where you want this to appear. 
  • When you are on that page, click on your edit pencil button in the top right. 
  • Then, go to the Toolbar and choose Insert -->More Gadgets.
  • Do a search for "Awesome Table" and then, click on it to select it when it appears.
  • Then, when the app view appears, click on the blue select box.
  • Now, it's time to enter in your settings. If you recall the Awesome Tables Website, there was the blue link that said "View Awesome Table Settings." Return to that page to get the settings to duplicate into your Google Site. You will simply follow what they say. 
  • You should have both your Google Site (the gadget preferences screen) and the Awesome Table Settings tabs open right now. The first screen to set up your gadget is on the "sheet" link. Again, follow their settings and paste them into the boxes. For the spreadsheet URL, you will need to return to your Google Sheet you made (make sure it is shared how you want it), copy the URL, and paste it in the box. Then, click on the check box next to public spreadsheet. The other items you can duplicate exactly as they have it. On your set up, you will notice the display area. You can leave the width at 100% and the height at 600. I changed my width to 80%. Whatever you do - do NOT use pixels for width. ONLY use PERCENTAGE! Here's a screenshot of my settings:
  • From Sheet in your settings, click on View. Also, click on View on their Awesome Table Settings so you can duplicate their settings. Duplicate exactly as they have done. I changed the minimum pixel width to 100px because I am only working with 80% of my width. Here is a screenshot of my settings:
  • From View in your settings, click on Format. Again, duplicate exactly as they have done. For this particular setting, I did not have to do anything. Just leave it alone unless you feel the need to get technical.
  • From Format in your settings, click on Advanced Parameters. Again, duplicate exactly as they have done. The only thing you should have to do is enter the templates range. Be sure you copy & paste this from their settings. I did not and I kept getting errors because I had typed it wrong. Learn from me. Here is a screenshot of my settings:
  • Just click the OK button. Then, click on the Save button on your Google Site. 
  • You should now see your items appear in your Website. 
Some extra tips:
  • I chose to finish entering all of my data in my spreadsheet before I set up the gadget on my Site.
  • This was done on a personal site - not an Apps EDU domain site. It should work the same, but there is always the chance it won't. 
  • Don't choose large images. 
  • Don't enter a long description.
  • Have fun! 
Video tutorial:
Here is a brief tutorial of how I complete this (only showing it for one App/Ext.