October 16, 2017

Developing Digital Citizens

Although the Internet as we know it has been around for over 25 years, it will always be a brave, new world to the latest generation of children.  The younger generations are labeled as “digital natives”, having grown up with computers and the World Wide Web at their fingertips.  Yet, we must not assume they are native digital citizens.  The digital world has its own rules, expectations, and customs that can only be acquired and mastered through the guidance of those who know how the digital world works.  That’s us – teachers, guidance counselors, parents.  We must welcome these new, young citizens to our digital land, and help them to safely and successfully navigate its strange terrain.

Since this week is Digital Citizenship Week (October 16-20), it is the perfect time to begin the journey to help students become respectful and responsible digital citizens.  We do not have to go this journey alone as there are excellent resources to help us teach digital citizenship.  Since many K-12 schools already use G Suite for Education, I will focus on Google’s Digital Citizenship resources since they are easy to use and integrate.

Google wants students to Be Internet Awesome.

The core principles that shape the lessons and activities of the Be Internet Awesome program are:

Be Internet Smart – Share with Care
Good (and bad) news travels fast online, and without some forethought, kids can find themselves in tricky situations that have lasting consequences. The solve? Learning how to share with those they know and those they don’t.

Be Internet Alert – Don’t Fall for Fake
It’s important to help kids become aware that people and situations online aren’t always as they seem. Discerning between what’s real and what’s fake is a very real lesson in online safety.

Be Internet Strong – Secure Your Secrets
Personal privacy and security are just as important online as they are offline. Safeguarding valuable information helps kids avoid damaging their devices, reputations, and relationships.

Be Internet Kind – It’s Cool to be Kind
The Internet is a powerful amplifier that can be used to spread positivity or negativity. Kids can take the high road by applying the concept of “treat others as you would like to be treated” to their actions online, creating positive impact for others and disempowering bullying behavior.

Be Internet Brave – When in Doubt, Talk It Out
One lesson that applies to any and all encounters of the digital kind: When kids come across something questionable, they should feel comfortable talking to a trusted adult. Adults can support this behavior by fostering open communication at home and in the classroom.

The Be Internet Awesome program offers a free, ISTE-aligned curriculum with well-designed and detailed lessons and activities.  There is also a very fun and engaging game that reinforces the lessons.

Here are some other great resources for Be Internet Awesome:

Finally, Google offers a free Digital Citizenship and Safety Course for teachers to help them better educate their students on staying safe and secure online.  This course takes approximately 75 minutes to complete.

The Internet is a brave, new world for our children.  It is paramount that we take the time to teach them how to respectfully, responsibly, and safely explore this world that is becoming a bigger part of our lives each day.  The Internet is a community like any other, and the better citizens we can be in our community the better we all will be for it.

September 12, 2017

Bringing History to Life

Finding interesting ways to bring history to life and make it relevant for students can engage and intrigue almost any learner.  One of the more exciting ways to do this is through the use of primary resources, such as documents, photos, videos, and maps.  The National Archives has a fantastic online resource that provides digital copies of these first-hand resources as well as pre-made activities you can use with your students.

DocsTeach is a service provided by The National Archives that curates, organizes, and supplies digital primary resources and activities to teachers and students for free.  Once teachers register for a DocsTeach account, they can find, modify, and save pre-made activities as well as create their own from the thousands of primary resources available.  The National Archives adds new resources all the time.  The resources, documents, and activities range from lower elementary to high school.

Documents and resources are organized and grouped by historical eras, which are the ones included in the National History Standards.  When searching, you can browse by era, media type, or search with keywords.

DocsTeach also provides seven tools that are designed to strengthen particular critical thinking skills.

  1. Finding a Sequence:  Putting documents/resources in chronological order
  2. Focusing on Details:  Doing a close reading and analyzing details
  3. Making Connections:  Exploring the relationship between events and the concept of cause-and-effect
  4. Mapping History:  Gaining a geographical context of history   
  5. Seeing the Big Picture:  Matching resources that are related to one another in a concentration style game
  6. Weighing the Evidence:  Evaluating the strength of resources in proving a point
  7. Interpreting Data:  Assessing the source of a document

With DocsTeach, teachers and students can explore history and geography by bringing it all to life with interesting and interactive primary resources and activities.  Here are some helpful guides from DocsTeach:

May 31, 2017

Booktrack Classroom Hits the Right Note

Sound may be one of the more captivating, moving, and dynamic stimuli.  A certain song can instantly bring you back to a special moment in your life.  A specific sound can make you calm or alert.  A soundtrack can heighten the emotions and ambience of a film.  I’m a big fan of the composer Hans Zimmer, who has scored many movies.  When listening to his scores, I can create a crystal clear mental picture of the movie scenes while also experiencing the mystery or suspense of those sequences.  I discovered an online service that uses the power of sound and music to create an immersive, engaging, and creative reading and writing experience.  It’s called Booktrack Classroom.

Booktrack Classroom is an online service for teachers and students.  It provides a library of e-books that contains soundtracks and sound effects to amplify the reading experience.  As you read, the score, ambient sounds, and sound effects perfectly complement what is happening on the page.  I found it absolutely immersive as the sound sparked my imagination to better visualize and experience the story.  Booktrack has smart technology that automatically adjusts the score and sound effects to adapt to your reading pace, but you can also manually increase or decrease the reading speed to ensure the sound seamlessly matches the story.  Additionally, you can adjust the volume, pause it, and start the audio back up again by double-clicking on a word if you want to re-read it or if you lose your place.

Teachers can get a full-version account for free, but it’s only available for a limited time.  I checked today, and this offer is still valid.  Once teachers have an account, they can create specific classes within Booktrack Classroom, add students to it, assign individualized books to each of their students, monitor and track their progress, and much more.  These classes also integrate with Google Classroom, so teachers can send anything in their Booktrack Class to their Google Classroom.  Booktrack Classroom also keeps track of books you or your students want to read, are reading, or have read in “My Bookshelf”.  According to Evidence-based Educational Outcomes in Literacy by the University of Auckland and NYU, contextual soundtracks helped students increase comprehension by 17%.  This study also found students read for 30% longer and reported 35% higher satisfaction when reading with a Booktrack.  Now, here comes the coolest part of Booktrack Classroom.

Students and teachers can create their own Booktracks for any book in the Booktrack Classroom library.  For example, teachers can have students create their own Booktracks for a chapter out of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  It gets even better.  Students can create their very own e-books on Booktrack Classroom.  They can write their own stories and choose from hundreds of professionally made music tracks, ambient noises, and sound effects to match the mood and setting of their stories.  Additionally, they can create a book cover and then publish it for others to read and enjoy.  There is much potential here for the four Cs (critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication).

I encourage you to read a book on Booktrack Classroom yourself because the experience gave me a huge “Wow” moment.  When my eyes came to the part in A Christmas Carol when the bell in Ebenezer’s bedroom mysteriously rings, and then the sound of a bell rang while eerie music played in the background, I was as shocked as Scrooge but in a good way.

Booktrack Classroom works on any computer, and it has an app for Android and iOS.  You can learn more about it with these videos:

May 23, 2017

A Super Citation Tool

If academia had a scarlet letter, it would be P.  Those who dare to claim somebody else’s work as their own or even leave sources uncited would be branded with a gasp-inducing red P.  If you haven’t guessed it, I’m talking about plagiarism.  All kidding aside, people have lost jobs, students have been expelled, and publications have lost credibility because of plagiarism.

In my day, we had to pore over citation manuals or just memorize how to cite common sources in the most popular styles to write our research papers and works cited pages.  Only for the styles to change the next year!  Now, there are a few tools out there that will do all this work for you…and do it flawlessly.  The tool I’m going to focus on is one I think does it the best and offers additional useful features.

If you’ve heard of or used RefME before, then you should know that it has changed its name and all its services to Cite This for Me.  You can create your free account on its website.  The first neat thing about Cite This for Me is that all your references, citations, work cited pages, and notes are stored in the cloud, so you can access them from any computer, tablet, or smartphone once you sign in to your account.

Cite This for Me has a great Google Chrome extension that allows you to cite, quote, and save any reference you access online through Chrome to your account.  You can get this extension by clicking here.  Once you have the citation information, click “Add to bibliography”, and you’re done.  Here’s what that looks like:

Cite This for Me can do citations in MLA, APA, Chicago, and Harvard styles.  You can see all of its features for creating a works cited page below:

Cite This for Me provides many other great features, such as topic ideas, a plagiarism checker, and a spelling/grammar checker.  Also, it has an add-on for Microsoft Word, so you can seamlessly import citations and works cited pages from Cite This for Me directly into Word.

Now, you can go forth and live an academically sinless life!

April 19, 2017

Finding Images Right Within 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 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

Google provides many time-saving and effective services and apps to help us get our work done faster and better.  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

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

There is an online literacy tool that is simple, 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

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 online lessons that are tailored to their learning goals, and these lessons can be completed by students at home or during a study period.  Additionally, these online lessons 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

Providing students with safety and accuracy whenever they search for something on the Internet is crucial.  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

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, and all of them are 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

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

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

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 bookmarks right where they're easy to see and access!

December 13, 2016

Sharing is Caring with the Google Classroom Extension

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

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!