February 29th – Doceri

Chalk it up to poor planning, but of course the year I decide to write a blog post a day is a leap year.  However, this tool is so great maybe we squeezed an extra day into the year just to do it (or maybe it actually takes 365.24 days to orbit the sun and after a four year cycle it amounts to an entire day).

February 29th – Doceri

An old adage for new teachers used to imply that you should make friends with the custodians first, because they will help in keeping your room tiding – I completely agree, and maybe not for room tidiness but to be a decent human being.  But if you are making friends for your own gains – 1b should be the technology staff or the IT guy.  With a lot of programs you can find online and don’t need any installation, but when you do they can be backed up.  No matter your level, remember the multiple levels the technology department is working with on a daily basis and be kind in your needs and demands.  Doceri is a program which you’ll need to have installed on a laptop so grab a box of pastries and take a coffee order to get this useful tool installed on your laptop to open up your entire classroom.

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Doceri Home Page taken February 29th

Doceri is a simple connections between an iPad and your laptop.  An app runs on the computer and iPad and they talk to each other and the iPad mirrors the laptop and you can control.  Seems simple but now this tool allows you to walk around and work the room (constantly changing the “zones” students are in with less distance from you and off-task behavior) and even have the students interact with a board that might not be a SMARTBoard or have writing capabilities. Doceri can also  record your screen, has a dozen options to write on it and project to the board and even solves the issues of incompatible software on one device to the next – just control the original!

In my previous school everyone wanted Interactive boards but didn’t want to give up the wall space for a SMARTBoard, we purchased a brand that used a bluetooth pen, but it became a pain to connect and re-connect and some teachers just struggled with the concept.  iPad’s can be such a great tool for the classroom and I started trainings on productive uses, but also included the Doceri software on the teachers desktop/laptop and the teachers loved it.  There is a 30 day free trial, so check it out today!

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February 28th – Google Docs Voice Record

Since Google Apps for Education are online, they can be and are updated constantly.  This is a great help to tech departments across the world as updates happen and you don’t *really* need to re-image machines all the time (I put *really* because that’s a much bigger conservation AND philosophical ideal).  When Microsoft Word comes out with an update, you used to have to purchase a CD, now you can download but you get an annoying alert every time.  With Google Docs, you get a simple message highlighting the new feature, then a window with “Got It” as an option and then it goes away.  Google Docs has new features all the time, and the latest is a way to “voice typing” that just came this week.

February 28th – Google Docs Voice Typing

Much like other Google products (search and their SmartPhone app) Google Docs now allows you to record you speaking into the computer and it will write it down for you.  These speech to text programs (like Dragon) have existed for years, but the technology is now becoming cheaper, better and more accessible.  As years go by, they have figured out things like punctuation and now formatting to the point where you can have your computer dictate a letter for you while your hands are busy!

To use this great new feature, just open Google Docs and you’ll notice the notification of a new feature (see box below).

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Voice Typing New Feature Alert Window

Then click on Menu Bar > Tools > Voice Typing and then click on the microphone icon to get started!

Voice Typing Testing
Voice Typing demo

In the demo I “voice typed” the line, said “New line” for the return key and was able to say “Select All” to highlight everything and then “Bold” to make it bold.  After playing around for a paragraph or two, you’ll realize how easy it is and have another option to use when you’re hands are full!

February 27th – Kahoot

As the number of personal and portable devices increase in the classroom, a number of websites and teachers are taking advantage of the educational possibilities.  As the debate of “should cell phones belong in the classroom” rages on, a few smart educators are getting ahead of the curve and using interactive websites and polls to engage students.  On February 11th I spoke about Poll Everywhere and how you just need a cell phone and the ability to text.  Well today’s phones can do a lot more than text and Kahoot is a great way to get your students interacting with the presentation.

February 27th –  Kahoot

Kahoot is an interactive online game which the creator makes a series of questions and gives 4 possible answers for each – then the user uses a a device – either smartphone or laptop – to answer them, the trick?  It’s timed for point values.  This “gamification” of a multiple choice quiz can be very effective for students to focus on a goal.

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Kahoot Page to sign up for an account
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Page to participate in a Kahoot

The creator (teacher) also has access to the students answers and can create a spreadsheet based on the username that answered the Kahoot.

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Kahoot is a great resource and I’ve only scratched the surface of what it can do – but once you try in a class, the kids will be hooked!

February 26th – ISTE

In Tech Ed there are a lot of great organizations trying (and succeeding) in doing good stuff.  I’ve highlighted a few and will continue to talk about more in the future, but the biggest player in Educational Technology is the International Society for Technology in Education – or much more commonly known as ISTE.

February 26th – ISTE

ISTE was founded in 1979 as a non-profit to support and promote the use of Technology in Education.  Obviously technology has changed drastically since then but their mission stays the same, technology (whatever it is) in todays classrooms.  The “I” in ISTE stands for International and they are in 91 countries (as of 2014) and over 20,000 members (again that number has probably grown significantly. ISTE’s website has a great interactive report and talks about growth in social networks, the break down of subjects and what the members of ISTE professions are – but really it’s more about a professional network to support you.

ISTE Standards are from 2011 and being rewritten, but they are smart and applicable to what  educators are trying to do everyday.  They make it accessible and with the resources and additional people online – its a great organization to visit often and work their philosophy into daily routines.

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ISTE Home Page taken February 26th

In addition to the network of support, ISTE also offers a large conference every year at the end of June where people can attend and present what they are doing in schools.  This year it’s June 26-29th in Denver, CO.  Super-early bird pricing ends March 1st, so get your tickets now!

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ISTE Conference Home Page taken February 26th

February 25th – Google Docs Formatting Paintbrush

“A Week With…” Google Docs went by in January and today I realized I forgot to talk about one of my favorite features!

February 25th – Google Docs Formatting Paintbrush

Without explanation, one day a rolling paintbrush showed up in the menu bar next to the Print, Undo and Redo buttons – just to the left of the 100%.

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Just look at the little guy
I never paid much attention because I never Print and typically use all of my keyboard shortcuts for the printing  (Cmmd + P on Mac) and undo (Cmmd + Z) and even redo (Cmmd + Y).  One day I started to experiment and it changed my world.

I quickly found that simply highlighting a format you like, pressing the button and highlighting some other bit of text instantly formats it – amazing!  A huge time saver for me when dealing with tricky formatting options.

Formatting Paintbrush
Instant Formatting Help!

February 24th – QR Codes

After a few days of computer science/coding related post, we’ll go to the “front end” and look at a very smart application of those programming possibilities.  In my January 11th post I discussed how trends are always a few months behind in education as teachers find way to use the hippest and hottest tech out there (apparently my lingo is also a bit behind), QR (Quick Response) Codes are a great example of taking a while in the education world, but I would argue that they still haven’t completely had there day in the “regular world” either.

February 24th –  QR Codes

For those of you who are unfamiliar, QR Codes are those perfect square boxes with the random black and white squares that sometime have a logo in the middle.  You’ll have to download an app on your SmartPhone to scan them and it’ll take you directly to a URL (website) and thats a great and easy way to save paper.  QR Codes are terribly handy and should be more available, the problem is you have to download software to access them (come on Apple, get it together!)

QR Codes work through a type of binary system with either the combination of black squares filled in and then the scanning software recognizes it and goes to the appropriate page.  There are dozens of explanations online, here is one of my favorites.

For an educational use, think about saving student work into a Google Drive folder then creating a QR Code from that long shared Folder URL that you get.  Simply visit a QR Code Creator (QR Code Generator is great) and paste the long URL to get the QR Code, save the JPG and print, then paste on a bulletin board for everyone to scan and see student work.  Another great way to use them is a student scavenger hunt that gives clues around the school to get to know areas or what certain rooms are used for.

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QR Code Generator Home Page taken February 22nd – just one of dozens available.

There is also a great Chrome Extension that can create a link and QR for you – it’s called Goo.gl URL Shortener (pretty spot on) and available in the Google Chrome Store.  AND the Google shortener also provides a QR code when you shorten anything – really there is no excuse not to use it.

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goo.gl URL Shortener in Chrome Store taken February 24th

February 23rd – If This Then That

After yesterday’s Computer Science flavor with CodeSchool, I thought I’d keep it going and talk about a great website called “If This Then That” or IFTTT for short (and their website address).

February 23rd – If This Then That (IFTTT)

If This Then That is kind of an introduction to Computer Science without calling it Computer Science.  The If Statement is a fundamental part of CS which helps make decisions on what should happen based on an outcome. IFTTT takes advantage of that and puts it into plain language (or pseudocode) for people to understand.  Some example on the website (once you’ve signed up for free) are “If the forecast calls for rain then email me“.  A simple condition being met – rain is true – and then an email will appear.  The IFTTT platform connects to a dozen other apps like Google Drive (your new best friend after the past 8 days) and Instagram, as well as some lesser known apps like BloomSky and the WeMo series of Home Appliances.  It needs some toying with but the examples (or “recipes”) they give are great and will help you along your way.  Sign up (it’s free) and toy around with it – after a little while you’ll be walking around and think, I wish there was a way to post my Instagram pics to my Flickr account… spoiler alert – IFTTT can do that!

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If This Then That Home Page taken February 22nd