March 4th – Symbaloo

Looking back to the beginning of February, I discussed URL Shorteners and there are a bunch to choose from.  Now they are great for a single URL, but what about when you have a bunch of links you want to give access to?  In comes Symbaloo as a simple graphic way of displaying links for students to click on.

March 4th – Symbaloo

Symbaloo has been a life saver in the elementary school I work at.  Our Director of Technology introduced me to it and created a robust one for all of the websites the classrooms use.

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 10.50.54 AM
My Symbaloo with former classes, popular links and current links.

Symbaloo simply makes a grid and uses the logo of the website to create tiles to fill it in – but you can also give it a separate name – in case you want your students to go to Lightbot on March 4th, you can name in March 4th and the students know the plan for the day!

This has been a great help because just like the URL shorteners, teachers everywhere are finding how difficult it can be for students of all ages to type in these loooonnnnggg URL addresses.


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.

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 9.15.03 AM
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 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.

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 12.21.08 PM URL Shortener in Chrome Store taken February 24th

February 8th – Google Tone

Bonus Day!  I really like this next tool, it just seems to “cutesy” rather than practical.  Read that as a challenge for anyone to employ it in their classroom!

February 8th – Google Tone

TinyURL,, Shoutkey and all are easy and involve the students just typing a few characters – but what if they didn’t have to type at all?  Google Tone answers that question beautifully with a tone sent from your computer that other computers (with the Google Tone extension enabled) can hear and visit that website.  Just imagine, starting a class and being able to send out a tone that all the laptops would “hear” and give students the option to visit that website – that hits all the right notes! (ugh) Play me that Tune? That’s pretty (A) sharp?  Forget it…

Google Tone taken Feb 5 for feb 8
Google Tone Chrome Extension Page taken February 5th


February 7th –

Today is the final day talking about URL shorteners (although I might have one more in store).  So far we’ve seen TinyURL which is easy to remember, which you can track students clicks, Shoutkey which is only up for a few hours but with real words and finally we come to, Google’s take on a URL shortener.

February 7th –

Once logged into your Google account, you have access to all sorts of services provided by Google. is just another cleaver one to help you out.  Once logged in, you can visit and see the same screen you’ve see with the other shorteners – paste your URL here to shorten it. keeps track of your clicks and then if you select the “Details” it will show you more information about where the clicks were coming from and what devices were being used.  The biggest setback for that and TinyURL offer? The ability to customize the URL alias, but you can get around that with linking existing words instead of just posting the http://. taken Feb 3 Home Page with My Account
Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 11.13.50 AM on the Details screen with more information if you could scroll down


In conclusion for the 4 services listed, you just have to find the one you are comfortable with and that makes sense to you.

February 6th – ShoutKey

The past two post have been about URL shorteners… get ready for a 3rd!

February 6th – Shoutkey

I love getting together with tech geeks – you learn so much.  You’ve always got your bag or tricks and someone else at the table has similar tricks with different ways of getting there.  Ironically it’s almost always a sharing of ideas and each other takes one another’s and everybody wins! is just that.

Shoutkey is another shortener but you can’t customize – instead it gives you a real life word that students can type in.  Shoutkey also expires after 24 hours so it’s quick and easy.  The unexpected benefit to Shoutkey is the word invoke conversation and inquiry into what they are sometimes – this is great as students are making connections to other things in the class. taken Feb 3
Shoutkey Home Page taken February 3rd

February 5th –

Yesterday I wrote about Tinyurl, a simple URL (uniform resource locator or web address) website that allows you to take a long url and make it smaller, even with a custom alias so it’s easy to remember.  The next 3 post are about different types of URL shorteners that all have different purposes so hopefully you’ll find the best one for you!

February 5th – is another major player in the URL shortener world.  The major benefit over is that you can sign up (for free) and track the number of clicks your gets.  This means you can collect data on what your students are selecting/interested in and that changes the game.

Create a website for your class and offer links to three different books – track the number of clicks and the students have self-selected that book based on them clicking after reading a short summary.  I use to track how many students are clicking on the presentation and the screencast I make to go along with them.  This is great data when students are constantly reviewing a video from a subject – most likely they don’t understand it and that is something that’s invaluable in the classroom. can also create custom URL’s, the problem I’ve found is the vs confusion that students have.  I usually used as a link on a page where the students are clicking on a word, rather than typing it in. taken Feb 3 Home Page taken February 3rd

February 4th –

When I first came to NYC and started teaching in an elementary school on the Upper East Side, I realized really quick that URL’s can be the bane of your existence as a teacher.  You have a really great website with activities that will help your students, but it’s got a ridiculously long URL (uniform resource locator or web address) and no way students are going to be able to type that in.  In the days before Google Classroom, we really didn’t have a choice – we had to post it OR create a Google Site (or other webpage) to post is, and then it was getting them to THAT one.  Fear not – there is an easier way.

February 4th – Tinyurl

As students struggle with the 73 character URL’s my first day, I needed a better way and quickly found  Tinyurl is a simple URL shortener so that 72 character URL turns into (not a real site… I think).

To use:
1.) Copy the URL you want to shorten
2.) Paste into the website in the “Enter a long URL to make tiny:” box
3.) Click “Make TinyURL!”
*Optional* 4.) Create a custom alias/URL.  I do this for all my classes with some sort of naming convention, like the name of the school, the class and year/semester.  I find that this is easier for students to remember.

tinyurl taken Feb 3 Home Page taken February 3rd is simple and easy – plus “tinyurl” is easier to remember than a few other services out there (that we’ll talk about in the next few days).  But stay tuned and after I’ve introduced four, pick which works best for you!