April 19, 2017

Finding Images Right Within Google Docs and Slides

This Tech Tip is about a quick and easy way to find and use free images right from inside Google Docs and Slides.  A few months ago, I wrote about effective ways to use Google Image Search to not only find the perfect picture for your needs, but to also get pictures that are free and legal to use and/or modify.  This is important for students because it allows them to be good digital citizens and avoid plagiarism.  There is a way to do this same thing, but you can do it within Google Docs and Slides, which makes the whole process of finding and inserting images much faster and smoother.

When you are using Google Docs or Slides, click on “Insert”, and then click on “Image”.

A new window will appear, and you should click on “Search” to begin looking for images.  You are given three choices of databases to search:  Google, Life, and stock images.

Depending on your needs, you can conduct the same search in one or all three of these databases to find exactly what you want.  The images that do appear in your search will automatically be ones that are free and legal to use because of the built-in filter with the search.  If you are using a G Suite for Education account, then all of the images will be filtered with Google’s Safe Search as well.

Using this embedded image search tool within Google Docs and Slides will help keep students on task as they don’t have to leave the file they are working on to search for and get images elsewhere.  It will help them find appropriate and free pictures to use.  Finally, it will streamline the whole process to get the work done more efficiently.

April 12, 2017

Google Chrome Tips and Tricks

This Tech Tip is about five fantastic tips and tricks to make your Google Chrome use more efficient and productive.  Google offers many time-saving and effective services and apps to help us get our work done.  Its browser, Chrome, is one of those tools.  Here are five neat things you can do in Chrome to make a teacher's or student's life a little easier.

1.  Set Specific Websites to Open at Startup

If there are particular websites that you always use or want right away when you open Chrome, you can make them load automatically at startup.  Click the traffic light menu button (three vertical dots) on the upper right side of Chrome.  Click Settings.  Then, configure how Chrome starts up.  Click the blue "Set pages" to choose the websites you want.

2.  Do Math

Chrome can solve simple and complex math problems, equations, and measurement conversions.  Just type in what you want solved into the ominbox (the white box where you enter website addresses), and hit enter.  You can also click on the microphone icon in the Google Search bar to do this by voice.  Here's an example:

3.  Save Webpages as a PDF

If you want to save a webpage as a PDF so you can save it electronically to your computer or flash drive, Chrome can do that.  Click Print, and then click Change under Destination.  Finally, choose Save as PDF.  This will save a PDF copy to your computer.  Now, you can keep the webpage for offline viewing, print it, or share it with others.

4.  Zoom and Full Screen

There are two ways you can quickly and easily zoom in and out of any website.  First, press the Ctrl key and the plus (zoom in) or minus (zoom out) sign key at the same time.  Second, click the traffic light menu button (three vertical dots) on the upper right side of Chrome.  You'll see the following options for zoom in, zoom out, and full screen (the box):


5.  Open Recently Closed Tabs

Sometimes you may close a tab that you want to have back.  An easy way to do that is to press Ctrl, Shift, T at the same time, which will open the last tab you closed.  You can also right-click on a new tab to open the last closed tab.

These five tips and tricks will help you and your students be more efficient and productive while doing work with Google Chrome.

March 30, 2017

Protecting Student Privacy

This Tech Tip is about an important tool to help protect the privacy and data of students while they are online.  In the past, I have written about measures people and students can take to stay safe online with ad blockers, increased Internet security, and safe search engines.  Online privacy is a growing concern not only in our own lives, but also in our schools.  In 2016, the TRUSTe/National Cyber Security Alliance released staggering statistics about online privacy in the United States.  From 2015 to 2016, the number of people concerned about their online privacy increased by 45%.  Before I explain the tool schools can use to help protect student privacy and data, consider these five facts from the TRUSTe/NCSA study:

  1. 92% of U.S. Internet users worry about their privacy online.
  2. People are more concerned about losing their online privacy (68%) than losing their income (57%).
  3. People's top concern about online privacy is companies collecting and sharing personal information.
  4. 89% of people say they avoid companies that do not protect their privacy.
  5. 36% of people have stopped using a website due to privacy concerns.
You can learn more about the TRUSTe/National Cyber Security Alliance U.S. Consumer Privacy Index by clicking here and here.

In light of these dramatic figures and the rising risk of using online services, how do we ensure students' information is private and secure?  How do we verify the vendors of software and other online services are protecting our students' data and privacy?  We can use a tool known as the Student Privacy Pledge.

The Student Privacy Pledge was developed by The Future of Privacy Forum and The Software & Information Industry Association to "safeguard student privacy regarding the collection, maintenance, and use of student personal information."  The two organizations go on to explain that the Student Privacy Pledge is "intended to concisely detail existing federal law and regulatory guidance regarding the collection and handling of student data, and to encourage service providers to more clearly articulate these practices."

Click here to read the pledge over 325 companies, vendors, and service providers have taken.

Click here to view a list of those that have taken the pledge.

As the Technology Coordinator for my school, I vet each and every vendor of digital or electronic services to ensure they meet our high educational standards.  The Student Privacy Pledge provides me with an excellent way to verify these vendors are also protecting the personal information and privacy of our students.  According to the TRUSTe/NCSA study, only 31% of people understand how companies share their personal information.  The Student Privacy Pledge gives us much needed transparency to help make the best decisions for our schools and students.  In the 21st century, creating a safe learning environment is not only about physical security, but also digital security.

March 23, 2017

Scholastic Book Wizard is Magical

This Tech Tip is about an online literacy tool that is easy to use, powerful, and truly magical.  I'm talking about Scholastic Book Wizard.  Finding something that fits perfectly is a wonderful thing.  Just ask Goldilocks.  The same goes for books.  Instilling a love and appreciation of reading and books in children is vital.  Finding the perfect book to match a child's interest, age, and reading level helps tremendously to accomplish that important goal.  The magic of Scholastic Book Wizard makes that happen.

Scholastic Book Wizard is free for parents, children, and teachers to use to help children find the right books for them.  It offers lesson plans, author studies, videos, discussion guides, booktalks, and many other great resources.  It provides fully featured and dynamic search parameters to find good books for even the pickiest of readers.  You can search by title, author, keyword, genre, subject, age, interest, and reading level.  The ability to search by reading level is probably the most helpful out of all the search options as it helps children choose a book that will feel just right for them.  As you can see below, you can search by Guided Reading Level (Fountas & Pinnell), DRA (Development Reading Assessment), Lexile Measure, and Grade Level Equivalent.

Scholastic Book Wizard provides much detailed and useful information about any book.  You can see below the information and resources you can find when looking up a book.

There are also subpages to the left that offer pertinent information and resources depending upon who you are.

Finally, there is a free Scholastic Book Wizard mobile app available for Apple iOS and Android.  What is really cool about this app is that you can use it to scan the bar code of any book and instantly get detailed information about that book, such as reading level, age level, genre, themes, page count, similar books, etc.  Students can use this app while they are browsing in a store or library to help them find the perfect book for them to read and enjoy.

To learn more about Scholastic Book Wizard, click here.  To learn more about its mobile app, click here.

February 20, 2017

Using EDpuzzle to Create Engaging Video Lessons

This Tech Tip is about an educational technology tool to create engaging, dynamic, and customizable video lessons.  Blended learning and flipped classrooms have been implemented in school districts across the country to much success.  Part of the blended learning/flipped classroom concept is that teachers create unique online lessons that are tailored to their learning goals, and these online lessons can be completed by students at home or during a study period.  Additionally, these online lessons often contain questions, quizzes, or some type of formative assessment so that teachers can gather data and feedback to create more targeted and relevant in-class activities.

The use of blended learning or a flipped classroom empowers students to learn at their own pace since they can slow down, speed up, pause, or even "rewind" a lesson.  Teachers can assign online lessons that cover fundamental or introductory content to free up time to teach material in class that is more responsive and in-depth.  Videos are a popular medium for these kinds of lessons, which leads me to EDpuzzle - a free tool for teachers to create interactive instructional videos.

First, go to EDpuzzle and create your free teacher account.  Once you create your account, EDpuzzle will walk you through an interactive tutorial on how to edit, customize, and assign a video.  Whenever you log in, you will see this page:

From here, you can browse the many great channels on the left, or you can search for a particular video in the search bar.  Also, you can copy and paste the link to a video you want to use into the search bar to begin customizing it.  Let's take a look at the steps to create an EDpuzzle video.

First, find and select the video you want to use.  I got mine from TED-Ed on YouTube, and you can see the video I created at the bottom of this post.  Then, you will be given the option to crop the video.  You can choose when to begin and end the video to make it the perfect length for your lesson.  Just drag the red crop bars along the time track to trim the video to any length you wish.

Next, you'll have the option to record an audio track or audio note.  Audio tracks can be used to layer your own lecture or explanation over the existing video.  Audio notes are short clips of information you want to include at certain points.

Finally, you can add questions at any point during the video.  Click on the green question mark below the time track to open the question menu on the right.  You can choose from a short answer, multiple choice, or comment.  You can also add a link or picture to the question.

Now, you are ready to assign it to your students.  If you use Google Classroom, this part is really cool.  You can assign the video to any of your classes in Google Classroom directly from EDpuzzle.  Also, you can set a due date.  The neatest feature may be the option to prevent students from skipping content.  Click send, and it'll be sent to your classes.

In EDpuzzle, you can also see how your students are doing on your videos.  You can see how many students completed the video, their scores, your gradebook, and more helpful information to guide your instruction.

Here is an EDpuzzle video I created and assigned to a test class in my Google Classroom:

As we continue to innovate our educational practices with technology, tools like EDpuzzle will help tremendously to engage, empower, and enlighten students while making learning more individualized and interesting.  To learn more about EDpuzzle, check out these videos.

February 8, 2017

Safe Search Engines for Kids

This Tech Tip is about providing students with safety and accuracy whenever they search for something on the Internet.  In previous posts, I wrote about Internet safety and how to get better results from Google Search and Google Image Search.  Nevertheless, there are still malicious, inappropriate, and inaccurate search results from which students must be protected.  Below are three excellent search engines for younger students that offer safety, accuracy, and bonus educational information.

Kiddle combines Google Safe Search results as well as results that have been thoroughly reviewed and curated by Kiddle’s editors.  According to Kiddle, search results 1 through 3 are “[s]afe sites and pages written specifically for kids.  Handpicked and checked by Kiddle editors.”  Search results between 4 and 7 are “[s]afe, trusted sites that are not specifically written for kids, but have content written in a simple way, easy for kids to understand.  Handpicked and checked by Kiddle editors.”  Search results 8 and beyond are “[s]afe famous sites that are written for adults, providing expert content, but are harder for kids to understand.  Filtered by Google safe search.”  Kiddle uses picture thumbnails beside each search result and large Arial font to improve visual comprehension and readability.  Finally, Kiddle protects users’ privacy:  “[W]e don’t collect any personally identifiable information, and our logs are deleted every 24 hours.”

Safe Search Kids also utilizes Google Safe Search filters to provide students with appropriate search results for websites, images, and videos.  Additionally, Safe Search Kids’ homepage offers a plethora of information and articles on digital citizenship, cyberbullying, and many other related topics.  It is an effective one-stop-shop to educate students on Internet safety and responsibility.

Junior Safe Search uses a combination of Google Safe Search and its own unique filters to provide suitable content for students.  It also offers three interesting daily bits of information:  Word of the Day, Quote of the Day, and This Day in History.  Junior Safe Search could be a great start page for a browser that students use.

Along with teaching students effective search strategies, these search engines should help them find exactly what they’re looking for while avoiding anything inappropriate.

January 25, 2017

21st Century Worksheets

This Tech Tip is about a new educational service that transforms a traditional classroom fixture to an engaging 21st century tool.

The worksheet - the old, but reliable, teaching material that we all know and love.  The worksheet has been maligned in recent years as we transform our classrooms into differentiated and dynamic student-centered learning spaces for the 21st century.  The paper-and-pencil and one-size-fits-all paradigms of worksheets are outdated.  However, the underlying concept of worksheets is still valid.  We just need to adapt it to our modern world, which leads me to Wizer - an educational service that enables teachers to create and share interactive and dynamic digital worksheets.  Let me give you a rundown of its features.

First, the service is free for teachers.  Although there are premium levels a teacher or school can purchase to gain access to additional features, the free version is still very powerful.  Teachers can create and share digital worksheets in which they can embed video, audio, images, links to websites, and much more.  Additionally, Wizer has a gigantic gallery of worksheets that other teachers have created.  You can search these by grade and subject.  They are all free to use.

Second, there is a nice variety of question types to use:  open response, multiple choice, fill in the blank, fill in the image, matching, completing a table, etc.

Third, there are many creative themes and backgrounds to choose from to make a visually appealing and fun digital worksheet.

Finally, Wizer offers automatic grading of worksheets, and it integrates with LMS, including Google Classroom.  You can create a worksheet, and then send it to your students in Google Classroom in only a few clicks.

The premium versions offer more features, such as text-to-speech, differentiation, school repositories for all teachers to collaborate, administrative controls, analytics and reports, and intervention alerts.

To learn more about this great tool, check out these links:

About Wizer

Wizer FAQ

Wizer Blog

Wizer Video Tutorials

January 12, 2017

How to Create and Use Gmail Groups

This Tech Tip is about a quick and easy way to organize your Gmail contacts into groups and email multiple people at once.  In a school or business, there are always certain groups of people we email on a regular basis.  Typing in each recipient in the To field (and even remembering all the people you want to include) can be tiring and time-consuming.  Having a ready-made email group makes the sending and organizing of emails faster and easier.

I created email groups for each grade level in my school, so we could have organized and targeted conversations about technology.  I also created an email group for our Technology Committee to keep those messages together.  Email groups can be handy for teachers as they can create groups for parents, committees, courses, extracurricular activities, etc.  Below are screenshots and instructions on how to do this yourself in Gmail.

First, click the down arrow next to "Mail", and then click on "Contacts".

Next, click on "New Group...", and then name the group.

Now, you can add people to the group.  Click the button with the plus sign, and then type in the email addresses of the people you want in the group.  When you've included all of them, click "Add".

On the Contacts page, you can select a group to email.  Or you can return to the Mail page (click the arrow next to Contacts), compose a new email, and type the name of the group in the To field.

Hopefully, this makes all your emailing faster, easier, and more organized!

January 6, 2017

How to Use Google Image Search

This Tech Tip is not only about how to better find images in Google Search, but it is also about how to find images you can legally use or modify.  Finding the right image can work wonders for a presentation, document, or website.  Using Google Search to find the right one can leave you with thousands to choose from, which can be overwhelming and time-consuming.  Just like with using Google Search to find websites or publications, there are filtering tools you can use to fine tune your search and quickly find the right image.

Click on Tools, and several filter drop-down menus appear.  The first lets you filter by the size or dimensions of an image.  You can even specify a particular size by clicking on "Exactly...".

The next one filters by color.  For example, I could filter by yellow if I wanted to find yellow foliage.  The transparent option is very handy because these images have no background, so you can seamlessly integrate it into anything you want.  Images with no background look slick when you add them to something.

The Type filter allows you to narrow your search by the following attributes in this screenshot:

The next filter gives you the ability to find images from a certain period of time.  You can even set a custom range if you know of an exact time-span from which you want images.

The next one might be the most important since it identifies if you can legally reuse and/or modify an image.  This filter is especially important to students who must maintain standards of digital citizenship and avoid plagiarism.  The first two filters apply to commercial use.  You can reuse without modifying the image, or you can reuse and modify the image.  The last two filters apply to noncommercial use.

Now, you can find the right image without worrying about being sued!

December 20, 2016

Better Bookmarks

This Tech Tip is about a better way of organizing your Internet bookmarks.  The Internet abounds with great resources and materials for teachers.  Thus, bookmarks have become a teacher's very close, if not best, friend.  However, teachers end up having lots and lots of these friends, and they can only fit so many on the always-visible bookmarks bar that runs under the URL bar in the browser.  Once that bookmarks bar fills up, anything you subsequently bookmark will be added to a drop-down menu at the end of the bar.  People have come to me asking where their new bookmarks went.  Here is where you need to look:

Click on that double arrow to bring up the list of bookmarks.  That's where new bookmarks will go when the bar is full.  You can drag and drop them into the bookmarks bar.  Also, you can drag and drop the ones already in your bookmarks bar to rearrange them.  Still, this doesn't solve the problem of running out of room for bookmarks in the bar.  Here is a solution.

Much like with icons on your computer desktop, smartphone, or tablet, you really don't need the text next to a bookmark to know what it is.  Almost every website uses favicons (a portmanteau of favorite and icon), which are the icons you see in the bookmarks bar.  Most are instantaneously recognizable, such as the one I'll use for an example:  IXL.  You can edit the bookmark to delete the text, so all you have is only the favicon.  This will allow you to store many more bookmarks in the readily accessible bar.  Here's how to do it.

1.  Right click on the bookmark.

2.  Click "Edit..."

3.  Delete the text in the "Name" box.

4.  Click "Save" at the bottom of that window.  This is what IXL will look like without text next to it.  QwertyTown would just have the QT favicon if you did the same for that one.

Voila!  Now, you can keep more of your bookmark buddies right where they're easy to see and access!

December 13, 2016

Sharing is Caring with the Google Classroom Extension

This Tech Tip is about streamlining the sharing of content on the Internet with students in the classroom.  Almost any teacher understands the struggle of trying to get all the students in a class onto a specific website or other Internet resource at the same time.  Students may type the website address incorrectly.  They may accidentally close it and don't know how to get back to it.  They may just not even go to it in the first place.  We have high speed Internet now, but trying to share Internet content with students in the classroom in real time can take a long time.  Alas, there is a better way!

Meet the Share to Google Classroom Chrome Extension.  With this extension, you can push (send) something on the Internet to each of your students' screens instantly.  If you want them to see a specific website or video on the Internet, then simply use this extension to push it to their screen.  No hassle, no struggle, no time wasted.  Here's what it looks like:

Once the extension is installed in Chrome, click on its icon (looks like Google Classroom logo).  The above will appear, and you can push whatever website you're currently on to your students.  That website will open in a new window on their computers.  There are also other options available under the extension you can explore.  Students should have this extension installed on their computers as well.  Students can also push Internet content to the teacher too.

Here's how to install it in Chrome:
1.  Open Chrome and click this link.
2.  Click the blue "Add to Chrome" button in the upper right.
3.  The extension will install, and you'll be good to go!

Now, you can instantly share anything on the Internet with your students in real time without any hassle because, as we all know, sharing is caring!

December 5, 2016

Customizing YouTube Videos

This Tech Tip is about how to clean up and customize YouTube videos to reduce disruptions, save class time, and focus the lesson.  Having your students watch and interact (note-taking, annotating, researching, analyzing, etc.) with YouTube videos is a great instructional tool to add a dynamic and engaging layer to any lesson.  Some students learn better with visuals, and all students can enjoy the ability to pause and/or playback certain parts to help them understand the content.  However, YouTube has its faults when used in a classroom.  Almost any teacher has experienced the following things on YouTube that are inappropriate, distracting, and disruptive:

  • Inappropriate suggested video thumbnails after the video ends
  • Distracting "Up next" videos on the right side of the screen
  • Crazy comments below the video
  • Not being able to automatically start and end a video at a certain time
Here comes ViewPure to the rescue!  ViewPure is a free website that will solve all those problems and more.  It will remove the suggested videos after the YouTube video.  It will hide the "Up next" videos on the right side of the screen.  It vanishes the comments.  And it allows you to set a custom start and end time for the video, so you don't have to worry about wasting any class time to show the relevant ten minutes out of the hour-long video.  After using ViewPure, you get a ViewPure web link to the video you want to show.  Going to that link shows the video and only the video - no video thumbnails, no comments, no distraction.

Here's how to use it:

1.  Copy the web address of the YouTube video you want to show.

2.  Go to viewpure.com.  Click the gear icon.  This is what you'll see.

3.  Paste the web address of the YouTube video in the "Enter YouTube URL" box.

4.  ViewPure will create a custom link for the video automatically once you click "Purify".  However, you can create your own custom link in the "Enter custom URL" box if you want.  To make the link easy to remember, you can name it viewpure.com/hailstorm if it's a video about hail storms.  This step isn't required.

5.  You can create a password for the video, so only those who have the password can watch it.  This step isn't required.

6.  If you want, set a start and/or end time to show the specific portion that is relevant.  This step isn't required.

7.  Finally, click "Purify".  You'll be redirected to a webpage with the video.  Copy the web address for that page, and then use it for your class.  The web address will be live until it has fewer than ten views in a six-month period.

But, wait, there's more!  You can use the Purify button bookmark on the ViewPure website to purify any YouTube video in one click.  Go to viewpure.com, and look for this:

Click and drag the orange Purify button to your bookmarks bar.  Then, when you're on a YouTube video you want to purify, just click that Purify button in your bookmarks bar, and you'll be brought to the webpage with the purified video.  Use this only if you don't want to do any of the customization in the above steps.

Now, you and your students can watch YouTube videos in peace!

November 28, 2016

Super Shortcuts for Chromebooks

This Tech Tip is about using shortcuts to be more effective.  I'm not talking about cutting corners or taking the easy way out.  This is a blog about technology after all.  I'm talking about keyboard shortcuts.  And since this blog is geared toward technology in education, I'll be explaining keyboard shortcuts for Chromebooks, which are being increasingly used by teachers and students every year.

Allow me to digress for a moment to offer some interesting statistics about Chromebook usage in American classrooms.  According to a 2016 survey conducted by Front Row Education of over 2,500 teachers and administrators in the United States, over 60% of classrooms have access to Chromebooks, which is up 15% from the previous year.  Even 54% of Kindergarten through Grade 2 classrooms use Chromebooks.  Finally, 67% of teachers on the West Coast have access to Chromebooks while 62% of East Coast teachers have access to them.

Using keyboard shortcuts is an easy way to be more productive and efficient.  I created a PDF with the top ten keyboard shortcuts for Chromebooks, which you can download below.  Or you can use the Save to Google Drive Chrome Extension I wrote about earlier to save it directly to your Drive.

In the PDF, you'll find the classics of copy, cut, and paste.  You'll also find some other interesting shortcuts you may not have known.  To search for a word, phrase, or any other text, press Ctrl and f to open the find bar in the upper right.  From there, you can quickly find what you're looking for, which is very helpful when researching something.  If something you find on the Internet is too small or too large to comfortably see, press Ctrl + or Ctrl - to zoom in and out.  The percentage of the zoom will appear in the upper right when you do so.

You can quickly open a new tab without having to use the mouse by pressing Ctrl and t.  If you accidentally close a tab you still want, press Ctrl, Shift, and t to reopen the last closed tab.  Taking screenshots has many great uses from creating instructions to presentations.  To take a whole screenshot, press Ctrl and the screenshot key.  To take a screenshot of only a particular area of the screen, press Ctrl, Shift, and the screenshot key.  The screenshot key looks like this:

Here is the PDF with the top ten keyboard shortcuts for Chromebooks.  With these, you and your students will be productivity pros in no time!

November 21, 2016

An Extension to Extend Vocabulary

This Tech Tip is about learning words.  Learning and understanding words are essential life skills that help both children and adults.  In the past, if we came across words we didn't understand, we had to interrupt our reading flow by finding a dictionary, looking up the word, reading the definition, figuring out how to pronounce it, checking synonyms to gain context, and then go back to whatever we were reading.  Now, there is a tool that doesn't interrupt reading flow and provides comprehensive information about a word instantaneously.

Meet the Google Dictionary Chrome Extension.  Once it is installed, if you double-click on any word while browsing in Chrome, a bubble appears above the word with its definition and an audio file with its proper pronunciation.  If you click the "More" link in that bubble, a new tab in Chrome opens with more information about the word, including part of speech, other forms, alternate definitions, and more.

Finally, you can store words to your own personal dictionary to study later by clicking the Google Dictionary extension icon (a red book) in the upper right of Chrome.  Click "Options", and then check the box next to "Store words I look up, including definitions."  You can return to this "Options" screen to download a history of your stored words.  This is an effective tool to help both children and adults learn and understand any word they come across in Chrome as it makes almost anything they read accessible.  Here's how to install it in Chrome:

1.  Open Chrome and click this link.
2.  Click the blue "Add to Chrome" button in the upper right.
3.  The extension will install, and you'll be good to go!

Now, you'll be able to understand this sentence:  In a few days, I can't wait to be absolutely farctate!  Thank goodness for Thanksgiving!


November 14, 2016

How to Get Better Google Search Results

This Tech Tip is about finding exactly what you're searching for.  Google Search has become so ubiquitous that it generated a new verb:  Google.  Don't know something?  Google it!

Google's search engine is arguably the best; yet, we sometimes get less-than-the-best search results.  Or we can't even find what we're searching for altogether!  There are some tips and tricks to using Google Search to refine the results and find exactly what you want.

Here is a PDF that you and your students can use to become a Google super searcher:  https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxCFzzS4E07-WEhZZlBuUC1mSm8/view?usp=sharing

Just use the modifiers in this PDF when you search for something in Google, and the results will be much better.  You could also print this PDF and post it in your classroom, so your students can use these Google search tips anytime.

If you're like me, your Google Drive is filled with documents, PDFs, spreadsheets, presentations, and a plethora of other things I know I have, but can't always find.  As with Google Search, there are some tricks you can use to help find what you want in Drive.  Check out this great infographic on Google Drive search tips.

Now, we can finally find what we're searching for!  I just wish it worked for finding my earbuds!

November 7, 2016

Keep It Simple

This Tech Tip is about making complex information simple.  Isaac Newton wisely said, "Truth is ever to be found in simplicity."  Quite right, Mr. Newton.  With Internet access at our fingertips, we now have the collective knowledge of the history of the world on demand.  Although we have access to all that information, it isn't always accessible - especially for students.  Wikipedia isn't perfect; yet, it really is an excellent source of information.  However, it's not always simple.  Here's a quick and easy way to simplify any Wikipedia article, so it is more understandable and accessible.

Let's say you want your students to read about volcanoes.  Here is the Wikipedia article about volcanoes.  As you can see, even the introduction is complex:

Yet, we can make a change to its URL address to simplify it.  In that long, white box at the top of the browser where the website's address is (the URL), you will see "en." before "wikipedia".  Take these steps to simplify this and any other Wikipedia article:

1.  Highlight the "en" in the address.
2.  Type "simple" in its place.  The address will now be https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volcano.
3.  Press enter or return.  And that's it!  It's been simplified!

Here's what the simple version looks like:

To make this even simpler, just go to https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page to search for any topic.  Everything you search for there will automatically be in simple form.

Enjoy the simple things in life - including this Tech Tip!

October 31, 2016

Safe and Secure

This Tech Tip is about Internet safety and security.  We should have a unique, strong, and different password for all our accounts, especially for our computers since they are the gateway to many other accounts.  A strong password should be at least twelve characters with a mixture of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.  Here are two effective ways to create strong, unique, and memorable passwords:

1.  Choose three characters in each of the following four groups:  symbol, uppercase letter, lowercase letter, and number.  For example, %>}QCPzbw762.  Now, you really only have to remember four sets.  Also, the letters and numbers could have special meaning to you to make them easier to remember.

2.  Choose a phrase or sentence with nine words.  For example, the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.  Abbreviate it to the following with alternating uppercase and lowercase letters:  TqBfJoTld.  Finally, include two numbers and one symbol or one number and two symbols to get the final password:  TqBfJoTlD#&3.

Check out this great article for other ways to create a strong and secure password.

Downloading or installing something on your computer can put your electronic safety at risk.  Here are three fundamental ways to prevent yourself from downloading or installing something malicious on your computer, which could also end up damaging the entire network it is on.  First, never open an email or an email attachment from a sender you don't recognize or trust.  Just delete it.  Second, never download or install anything from a suspicious website.  If something just doesn't seem right about it, don't do it.  Third, always check to see if the website is running a secure protocol.  Look for this in the URL bar:


The "s" in "https" means it is secure.  If the "s" isn't there, don't download!  To automatically make every website you visit use HTTPS, install the HTTPS Everywhere Chrome Extension.  It's simply one more action you can take to keep yourself safe on the Internet.  To learn more about https, what it does, and how it works, click here.

Finally, although your password may be strong, once you're logged in to your computer, anyone can walk up to it and do anything they wish.  Here's a quick and easy way to secure your computer whenever you need to step away from it, so that it's not open for anyone to use.

If you need to leave your computer, press the Windows key (looks like a four-pane window next to the Alt key) and the L key at the same time.  This will lock your computer and require your password to unlock it.  To unlock it, press Ctrl, Alt, and Del at the same time as you normally would to log in, and then enter your password.

Now, when you have to step away from your computer, it will be protected against intrusion or just pranksters who, in the spirit of Halloween, want to change your background to this: