5 Very Useful Chrome Extensions

If you’re a Google Chrome user, you’re well aware of the incredible benefits of extensions. These extensions are little programs that enhance the use of the Chrome browser. There are so many available from the Chrome Web Store that your head will spin, but choosing the ones that will make your life easier on a daily basis is a little more tricky. Below are 5 extensions that I use on a regular basis and I think you should too.

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 10.21.03 AMGoogle URL Shortener – I am often copying and pasting links to share with others. In many cases, the links I’m sharing are extremely long and while pasting a long link into an email might be fine with others, I prefer to share a link that doesn’t take up two lines of the message window. That’s where Google URL Shortener comes in. Click on the extension and it will automatically create a short URL. You can copy the link easily and if you need a QR code for the URL, the extension creates one as well. (Right)

Buffer – If you share URL’s via social media, Buffer is the extension for you. While there are other extensions that can share to various social media sites, I like Buffer because you can schedule what you share. I use it almost exclusively with Twitter and instead of sharing a bunch of articles in a short period of time, I schedule the tweets so they go out every couple of hours. You can also check the results of what you’ve shared.

quickcreateGoogle Docs Quick Create – If you’re a Google Docs/Sheets/Forms/Slides user, this extension will help you create new Google Docs faster than anything else. Simply click on the extension and choose the type of Google Doc you want (right) and you’ll get be on your way. You no longer need to go to the Apps page or to docs.google.com. This extension makes creating a new Google Doc quick and easy.

TechSmith Snagit – I’m often taking screen shots and finding myself creating short screencasts. To handle these tasks, I head to the Snagit extension. You can take a screenshot of the entire screen or just a section of your choice. Use the annotation tools to add arrows or text and then download or get a link to the image. If you need to create a screencast, this is a great extension for that as well.

Tab Scissors – Do you often find yourself flipping back and forth between two tabs? Do you create two separate browser windows and resize them side by side? If so, Tab Scissors will handle this for you. When you click the extension, the tab you’re working in, and any tabs to the right will be in one window and the tabs to the left will be in another. You don’t have to do any resizing yourself, it will be done for you with this extension.

Chad’s Choices

This week, I’m sharing four articles on topics that are often being discussed. Those topics include teen social media use, school and learning, cursive writing, and student interventions. All of these articles and blog posts are really, really good and certainly worth your time. 

Social media and teens. What are the using? Is what they’re using the same as what adults are using? As and educator and someone with a teen and an almost teen, I need to stay up on how kids are connecting and sharing. This is a fascinating article on what teens are using and why. It all makes sense and it shows that kids are getting smarter when it comes to sharing.

Today, however, the newest data increasingly support the idea that young people are actually transitioning out of using what we might term broadcast social media—like Facebook and Twitter—and switching instead to using narrowcast tools—like Messenger or Snapchat. Instead of posting generic and sanitized updates for all to see, they are sharing their transient goofy selfies and blow-by-blow descriptions of class with only their closest friends.

Read the entire article here.

 ***************************************************************************************

I enjoy the posts written by George Couros. He often makes me think and reflect on education and what’s going on in schools everywhere. I came across an older post of his that compares school and learning. It’s rather interesting and really makes you think about how you might need to change what you’re doing in your classroom.

School is scheduled at certain times.  Learning can happen any time, all of the time.

School often isolates.  Learning is often social.

School is standardized.  Learning is personal.

School teaches us to obtain information from certain people.  Learning promotes that everyone is a teacher, and everyone is a learner.

School is about giving you information.  Learning is about making your own connections.

School is sequential.  Learning is random and non-linear.

Read the entire post here.

 ***************************************************************************************

I don’t think is idea is going to go away for quite some time. For the record, I don’t think kids need to be taught cursive. They will rarely use it in their daily lives. For some reason, there are others with a different view. Take a look at this blog post to see what students have to say about the idea..

A few weeks ago a Bill was introduced here in the State of Washington that would make teaching cursive writing mandatory in elementary schools. Not keyboarding….no in 2016 that should still be optional. But cursive writing…that should be mandatory in 2016.

Read the entire post here.

 ***************************************************************************************

Intervention is huge in just about every school. We are always trying to catch students up so they don’t fall farther behind.I know educators don’t have enough time to work with the students who need it most, but we do need to consider a number of factors when it comes to intervention. This post from Pernille Ripp makes several great points.

The very interventions that are meant to help end up harming their love of reading.  The very skills we try to teach end up taking precedent above everything else, leaving us with a child that perhaps can read better but will never do so on their own.

Read the entire post here.

Chad’s Choices

I’m not going to say summer vacation is almost over because that will make me start thinking about school. However, it is August and naturally that brings a sense of excitement for the upcoming year. I haven’t formally posted here in a while, but figured it’s time to share a few more articles and blog posts I’ve come across that made me think, wonder, and learn. If you haven’t seen these, I’ve included a snippet from the article to pique your interest.

I think becoming connected is essential to growing and developing as a teacher. For me, it’s been the best ongoing professional development available. Having the opportunity to reach out to others for questions, answers, or anything I need is great. I wish others had the same support system I do. The post below shares a simple 10 step program to being connected.

Too often people are told, sign up to Twitter and get connected. Not only does being connected not simply equal signing up to a platform, but it misses why we might do it in the first place. In part, my initial reason was wondering what impact sharing and being open might have for learning. Although being open is still at the heart of my reason why, I would argue that now it is less about wonder and more about action, that is, how might we use the possibilities enabled through networked learning to build ‘smart rooms’ that consciously make possible new ideas and beginnings.

Read the entire article here.

 ***************************************************************************************

There has been a lot of information going around related to learning spaces. This is the time of year when teachers are thinking about setting up their classrooms and in my district, there’s a big focus on UDL (Universal Design for Learning). The article linked below shared 20 classroom setups that promote thinking. I think some of these are very practical and should be implemented if possible. The article notes that these are ideas and that many may not be feasible for a variety of reasons, but nonetheless, the ideas are very interesting.

Learning is an ecology. Classroom design impacts classroom management impacts curriculum needs impacts lesson and unit design impacts teacher personality impacts technology needs impacts literacy strategies and teaching strategies, and so on. Each one of these possibilities will only work as well as you are able to adapt the way you plan instruction and design learning experiences.

Read the entire article here.

 ***************************************************************************************

If you’re a veteran teacher, do you get as excited as the newer teachers? Do you try to share advice with them? Have you ever thought about what you could learn from them? This post by Pernille Ripp shares 6 things new teachers remind her to do.

The joy that comes with teaching your very first year is one we should chase after every year.  We should love teaching, not take it for granted, not get caught up in the misery of all of the outside things that make teaching difficult.

Read the entire article here.

 ***************************************************************************************

The article above shares ideas veteran teachers can get from new teachers. The article below is pretty much the opposite. It shares 10 things experienced teachers want to share with new teachers. Below is one piece of great advice.

You will need people to bounce ideas off of and to engage in meaningful discussion about pedagogy and classroom management with like-minded people in your situation. It has a few effects: a. It lets you know you are not alone, b. others can see what you cannot, c. collaboration is stimulating and d. someone else might pay for beer.

Read the entire article here.

Chad’s Choices

Sure April is here and that means Spring weather, right? It’s also a time to share a few more articles and blog posts I’ve come across that made me think, wonder, and learn. If you haven’t seen these, I’ve included a snippet from the article to pique your interest.

Today’s classrooms should not be like the classrooms we experienced 10-20-30 years ago, but many still do. Besides more technology, what should be different? My friend George Couros, a Division Principal for Parkland School Division in Canada, recently shared 8 things to look for in today’s classroom. I like these ideas, but do wonder how to fit all of them in with everyone else that needs to get done. With that said, take a look and let me know what you think.

In the “factory model” of education, students were meant to be compliant and basically do “as they were told.”  This is not something that sticks with a child only, but goes into adulthood as well and it creates “yes” people who tend to lose all originality.

Read the entire article here.

 ***************************************************************************************

Do we know the strengths of our students? Sometimes, these strengths are not easy to discover or aren’t seen as “school strengths.” However, those strengths are important to the kids and should be utilized. This interesting article looks at 10 ways to determine the strengths of our students.

An important activity is for students to understand that each and every one of them has strengths.  These can come in the form of activities (ex. dance, hockey, math, etc) and in the form of character strengths. It is also important to share what these strengths could look like in each student; strengths are not something that a student needs to be the best at but more about personal skills, qualities, traits and virtues that students have developed.

Read the entire article here.

 ***************************************************************************************

School librarians of today are very different from those 10 or more years ago. Their role, and my role, is very different yet there are still many teachers and administrators who don’t realize the benefit school librarians have on students. Unfortunately, districts are cutting this position more and more and the impact won’t be seen immediately. Many voices need to keep spreading the word at the value a good school librarian can bring to the table.

Libraries and librarians are at the forefront and often the hub of the school. They are a community resource, a public face, a service profession, a helping hand, relationship builders, collaborators, and educational technology leaders. Librarians of 2015 are not the same librarians you remember from 1985. They still order books and teach research skills, but it is very rare to hear them shushing students, or hiding meekly behind the stacks. Librarians wear a number of hats and information literacy is closely tied to educational technology.

Read the entire article here.

 ***************************************************************************************

It’s testing season all over the place and there are articles everywhere about too much testing, the opt-out issue, and more. However, I’ve never read anything like the article below that tackles standardized testing from a very different angle. Take a look at the quote below – have you ever heard anything like it? Me neither. This is a very interesting article that will make you think.

“Removing the requirement for annual testing would be a devastating step backward, for it is very hard to make sure our education system is serving every child well when we don’t have reliable, comparable achievement data on every child every year,” Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, said in recent testimony before the Senate education panel.

Read the entire article here.

Stop Motion Fun

stopmotionstudioThis week, state testing has consumed the library and computer lab. As a result, I’ve had to hold my classes in regular classrooms. This is actually kind of fun for me, but I wouldn’t want to do it on a regular basis. It’s nice to be in a different space once in a while and to see the learning environments set up in various classrooms. When I hold my classes elsewhere, I have to use different devices, since I can’t really move the desktop computers from the lab. This week, I grabbed the iPads and headed into the classrooms with the goal of having the students show their creativity by making stop motion videos.

We used the free Stop Motion Studio app, which is super simple to use and allows quite a bit of flexibility. For the project, I had the students use their name as the animation. Each student wrote one letter of their name on a small paper square and after a demonstration from me, went to work. I was super pleased with the work of the students. The students did a great job, created some exciting animations, and had a lot of fun in the process. Below are a few of animations.

Lila

 IMG_1779Frequently, I run into problems getting the saved projects students create into a place where I can access them easily and share them out. The students also access to the saved work for their own use. Often, the saved work is on each device and you have to jump through a bunch of hoops to put it all together. Sometimes that means having students log into Google Drive on each device and upload the project or emailing it. It could mean uploading the work to a shared DropBox or Box folder. This was not a problem with Stop Motion Studio.

In addition to the normal save to Camera Roll or YouTube, there is an option to Save to DropBox. I created a DropBox account for the school library and had the students log into DropBox when using this option. A folder was automatically created for this app and all of the student work was saved to one location, where I, or a student, could access the projects easily. The only hiccup was that the projects all had the same file name because I learned after the fact, how to rename the default file name for each movie in the app.

IMG_1778When saving/exporting the movies, there are a lot of great options and sizes available, but one stuck out to me. You can save the movie as an animated gif. I found this to be very cool option and the first example above was saved that way. The file size of this project is much smaller than the video, which we downloaded as a “large, non HD” video. I would think students could have more flexibility using the gif in a future project compared to a video file. Images are generally easier to use, manipulate, and add to projects compared to videos. Whether or not that’s true, I don’t know, but I really like the fact that this option exists.

Chad’s Choices

It’s the middle of March and a time to share a few more articles and blog posts I’ve come across that made me think, wonder, and learn. If you haven’t seen these, I’ve included a snippet from the article to pique your interest.

Homework. Should it exist? How much is too much? My two kids attend different schools – a public school and a private school. One is a middle schooler and one in high school. The amount of homework differs drastically. I have many thoughts about homework – from a parent perspective and a teacher perspective, but agree that in many cases, that homework should probably look different for most kids. Below is another interesting article about homework.

Our culture essentially holds kids hostage from early morning until late afternoon, to a great extent neglecting their need for true socialization, physical activity, play, quality time with parents, and for daydreaming and other creative pursuits. And these days, because academic achievement is held in such high esteem, our culture is intruding further and further onto the little time children once had for that “other stuff.” Because, heaven forbid, children should have no time when they’re not “learning,” kids (in some cases, even those in preschool) are being assigned more homework than ever – expected to continue their academic pursuits even after the school day has ended.

Read the entire article here.

 ***************************************************************************************

Reading ability is one of the biggest factors in student achievement. The better readers often get the better grades. I’m sure not I agree with the assessment section, which is listed as of the anchors in this article about using technology to teach reading, but much of the information is pretty solid.

…the teaching profession is one of innovation, and teachers are ceaselessly experimenting with ways to use innovative practice to help kids learn how to read. Recently, I’ve learned that some teachers are even using games to teach reading, arguing that these interactive video games provide the same skills that students need to be able to read.

Read the entire article here.

 ***************************************************************************************

Finland isn’t going to teach subjects anymore. Say what? This country is often seen as having one of the best educational systems in the world and they are making a big change. I love this idea because it’s so easy to bring in a variety of subjects into a lesson, something many elementary teachers do on a regular basis. For high school teachers, this is a much bigger change. It’s one I think secondary teachers in the United States would have a very difficult time dealing with.

Subject-specific lessons – an hour of history in the morning, an hour of geography in the afternoon – are already being phased out for 16-year-olds in the city’s upper schools. They are being replaced by what the Finns call “phenomenon” teaching – or teaching by topic. For instance, a teenager studying a vocational course might take “cafeteria services” lessons, which would include elements of maths, languages (to help serve foreign customers), writing skills and communication skills.

Read the entire article here.

 ***************************************************************************************

Digital Learning Day was a couple of weeks ago and one of the ideas behind this is to highlight examples of how great teaching, combined with effective technology, are positively impacting America’s schools.happening in schools. I’d argue this should be occurring every day of the year, not just on Digital Learning Day. A blog post by Steve Anderson shared that being digital isn’t just about the technology. He shares several great thoughts.

But I believe being Digital or using Digital Tools is more than just giving devices to kids or even providing professional development for teachers. For me it’s really less about technology and more about relationships and attitudes.

Read the entire article here.

Using a Green Screen

Here’s a recap of some of the stuff that we’ve done at school using a green screen. It’s really been a lot of fun and I hope students and teachers think of this as ONE way students can share their learning with the world. Using a green screen can be as simple as using the Green Screen by DoInk iOS app or more complicated using iMovie or WeVideo. I think the possibilities are endless and it provides students a fun opportunity to show their creativity.

 
https://www.smore.com/e7539-green-screen-activities?embed=1

Fun with a Green Screen

I’ve used a green screen a little myself in the past, but overall, I don’t have a ton of experience with it, especially with students. The bright green cloth that was sitting around my house needed a new home. I brought it to school, figuring I could use it with the students to create something fun, share their learning, and give students a new way to express themselves. I have all sorts of ideas for ways to use the green screen, but the first step was to  get it set up. I had to figure out where to put it – a place where the lighting would be good and there wouldn’t be shadows. I found a wall in my school library and stapled it to the wall. We were all set.

Thanks to Conni Mulligan and others, my knowledge of using a green screen has grown quite a bit over the years. I figured I’d use the Green Screen by Do Ink iOS app because it’s simple and the kids could probably create things by themselves. My kindergarten students were reading The Pigeon books and I thought it would be a great idea to make our own little video using the green screen. I showed the students a video of Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and told them we’d be making our own video. They were excited, but weren’t really sure what that meant. I grabbed my iPad and lined the kids up near the green screen. Student after student, they stood in front of the bright green material and repeated lines from the book. Knowing the app is more or less a one take video type app, I knew I’d have to put everything together using iMovie. I took pictures of the pages of the book and began editing everything together. I’m really pleased with the final result, shown below. I did the same thing with another class and am in the process of editing that video. I’ll be sure to share it when it’s ready.

 

B-s1Zp2WoAAeJqZThe students have seen the green screen in the library and have been asking about it. Most have an idea what it is, but have never done anything with it themselves. That’s going to change. In fact, the 4th graders are just wrapping up their unit on immigration and one student wanted to use the green screen for part of his project. He wrote a rap song about his topic and recorded it. He wanted to use an image of Ellis Island in the background so we found one we had permission to use, and loaded it into the app. I let the kids take over from there and surprisingly, the students pulled it off in just one take. They thought it was really cool and I can’t wait for kids to think about other ways they can use it.

There are already plans in place with other grades to use the green screen. First graders are current writing book reviews and are going to record themselves telling others about their books. We’ll add the book cover as the background image and record the students in front using the green screen. Third graders are studying countries and there have been discussions on how we can use the green screen to share their learning as well.

My next  goal, is to improve our green screen studio and see if we can paint a big section of a wall to serve as our backdrop. This will work out much better than our small cloth backdrop and will allow groups of students to work together and create some amazing stuff. Is the green screen the be all, end all? No, but what’s it’s doing right now is giving students a new way to express themselves, share their learning and expertise in ways they haven’t before, and have fun in the process. And those are all good reasons to jump in!

Chad’s Choices

It’s been way too long since I’ve shared a few great articles. With that being said, below are four articles and blog posts I’ve come across that made me think, wonder, and learn. If you haven’t seen these, I’ve included a snippet from the article to pique your interest.

My district talks a lot about Universal Design for Learning (UDL). We’re in the middle of a book study on the topic and have had plenty of discussions about how this can make a positive impact on student learning. In the discussion, there’s usually talk about the learning environment and how we no longer should have rows of desks and the old school classroom set up. The article below shares some great tips on how to transform your learning space.

Million-dollar learning spaces are often not a reality for most schools. However, that is no reason to abandon the concept of transformation. Here are four suggestions from librarians and educators who have transformed their learning spaces — even without a budget.

Read the entire article here.

 ***************************************************************************************

School culture is so important in the success of a school. My friend George Couros recently wrote a blog post about school culture and mental health and shares some very simple ideas that can help students and improve the culture of your school. He’s not saying create anything big and new, but just to change a few simple things that will have huge benefits.

…we have to be really weary of creating another initiative that eventually causes more work and anxiety for teachers, but to think about how to do things differently.  It is not about doing more, but doing things different and better.

Read the entire article here.

 ***************************************************************************************

Are you the best version of yourself when you’re in the classroom? Are you a different person outside of school? The blog post below by Chris Lehmann shares a story for educators to keep in mind. Be yourself.

We bring who we are to the classroom every day. Our teacher-selves has to be a recognizable version of who we are in all our moments outside the classroom. The trick is to be intentional as we learn how who we are as people impacts the style and structure of how we teach, and to make sure that our personality works in service of pedagogy, so that we bring the best of who we are to help the kids every day.

Read the entire article here.

 ***************************************************************************************

I’m a huge fan of Twitter and I think it’s bring so much value to my professional life. I’ve made so many great connections with educators from all over the place who have become good friends and have helped me and my students. I’ve often wondered why more teachers aren’t using Twitter because I know of so many people who rave about the benefits of being connected. The blog post below by Tom Whitby, really explains why Twitter won’t connect every educator.

If there is one thing I truly understand about educators it is that they are slow to change. It might be from decades of people jumping in with the “latest and greatest” answer to a better way to do things in education, or some legislative mandate to fix it all through legislation, only to find it to fizzle out and fall way short when actually implemented.

Read the entire article here.

Chad’s Choices

It’s time for another edition of Chad’s Choices! Below are a few articles and blog posts I’ve come across recently that made me think, wonder, and learn. If you haven’t seen these, I’ve included a snippet from the article to pique your interest.

 

 

This post shares the 10 most popular teaching tools of 2014. Obviously, this list is an opinion, but I do think it’s a pretty good one. I’m using many of these on a daily basis, do?

Last year, Edudemic published a list of the most essential and popular educational tools used in modern classrooms across the globe. While many of 2013′s contenders retain top spots for 2014, there are a few new and noteworthy tools that made it onto this year’s list, and some of last year’s mentions have shifted in the rankings.

Read the entire article here.

 ***************************************************************************************

When new teachers come to your school, do you think they’re prepared for today’s learners? Do you think you learned what you needed in your preservice classes? Jeff Utecht shares some great thoughts in this article.

This is going to come as a shock I know…but pre-service education programs are not preparing teachers for a technology rich classroom teaching experience. Or to put that another way the classrooms of today.

Read the entire article here.

 ***************************************************************************************

Most teachers are using social media of some sort, whether it’s Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. Many, however, are not using it professionally or in the classroom. This should change and the article below shares 5 ways social media can be used in the classroom.

Social media in the classroom reminds me of the saying, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” Instead of perceiving it as a distraction or a hindrance to learning, we must embrace opportunities for social media to expand capacity and facilitate education.

Read the entire article here.

 ***************************************************************************************

If your children or students are anything like mine, they are constantly on a device. Is this good or bad? I believe there are arguments for both sides, but one thing is for sure, technology isn’t going away. This article shares some reasons why kids won’t quit technology – whether we want them to or not.

They just can’t get enough; one 2013 study found that college students check their digital devices for non-class purposes 11 times per day on average, and 80 percent of them admitted that the technology was distracting them from class

Read the entire article here.