Monday, October 15, 2018


Try Interacting Instead With Peardeck

I am so fortunate that in my job I get to see many different teachers teach many different students. I love it! You can feel the vibe of a class just by hanging out for a few minutes. Teachers still seem to primarily rely on lecture/presentation style teaching when doing whole class instruction. The overhead projectors are gone and in their place are powerpoint and Google slides presentations. As a student, I often struggled with this type of teaching because I just couldn't sustain attention for long unless I was very interested in the topic. If there was a way for the teacher to have us do something, besides taking notes, that would often help redirect my focus and increase my learning.

There is a fantastic tool, called PearDeck, that works with Google slides, that allows you to input interactive activities within your presentation. I used PearDeck with my class today. They loved it! They said that it would work especially well for social studies, in their opinion. I tried about 4 different question types and was very pleased with the students' level of interaction. I also really liked how simple it was to use for both me and my students. 

Here's how it works:
When you create a Google slides presentation, go ahead and add the PearDeck add on. Once you do that, a sidebar will open up with options for interaction. For example, there is a whole deck dedicated to critical thinking. There are also options for beginning class, during class, or ending class such as bell ringers and exit tickets. Once you create your presentation, including the PearDeck slides, you can click to present in PearDeck. The students will see the access code that you project on the screen and then they can see what you are presenting. You control the presentation, both being projected on the room and on your students' individual screens. When you get to one of the interactive slides, the students can go ahead and type, draw, or whatever you set up for them to do. You can see all of their responses on the teacher dashboard. You can choose to present the responses or just keep them on your laptop screen. 

The simple, 3-step process is:

*Images from

1. Open PearDeck through the Add Ons menu in Google slides. If you don't already have it, you can click Get Add Ons and search for Pear Deck. You will be prompted to allow PearDeck to run

2. Add interactive slides from the PearDeck library and customize the questions to make them your own. 

3. Click Present With PearDeck to open the interactive lesson. 

You also have the option of adding a question that you can create yourself:

Do you want to give PearDeck and try but aren't sure how to get started? You can check out the PearDeck website. Or, give me a call. I'm happy to work with you on this. Do you have other tools or tricks that you love for getting kids engaged during direct instruction? Post in the comments below.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

10/9 Keyboard Shortcuts

A Few Keyboard Shortcuts that'll save you time and your sanity!

  @MrKimDHS/ @LisaBerghoff

I'm currently typing this blog on an immense, mechanical keyboard with RGB lights pulsing with, you guessed it, Halloween colors. If you've ever asked yourself before if you need LED lights under each key that responds to your touch, first of all the answer is yes, and second - please do yourself a favor and go out and buy an RGB keyboard. With Microsoft reporting that the average American worker spends 6.5 to 7 hours a day on a computer, your fingers will thank you for the added luxury. 

Until then, try some of these keyboard shortcuts that will save you precious time, as you work on your computer day after week after month after year. 

Recovering accidentally closed windows/tabs on your internet browser.

Ctrl + Shift + T (Windows)
Shift + Cmd + T (Mac)

If you're like me, at the end of the day you will anywhere between 10 and 20 tabs open on your internet browser. Ever accidentally close the wrong tab? Or close a window and realize too late that you still need it? To recover press the "control" and "shift" button at the same time. Then press "T" as many times as you need to recover your closed tabs. It will recover them in the order that you closed them. On Chrome, this will also work after a full restart of your computer. Ctrl + Shift + T will open all of your tabs before you restarted your computer!

Extending your desktop through a projector

Windows + P (Windows)
...No shortcut for Mac

Showing a movie in class using your laptop, but still want to be able do something on your own screen? Pressing the Windows button and "P" gives you the option of having two screens: one on your laptop, and another on the projector. After extending your screen, click and drag over the window you wish to be shown to the class.

Copy/Pasting without formatting

Control + Shift + V (Windows)
Cmd + Shift + V (Mac)

Ever copy and paste text, only to find that the text you've copied over is a different font, color, size than what you're working on? Copy your text the normal way by pressing "Control + C" or right click to copy. But when you go to past, hold down the "Shift" button and it'll paste the information with the same formatting as your destination text. 

Quickly minimizing your windows

Windows + D (Windows)
Cmd + H (Mac)

As educators, we are privy to sometimes sensitive information on our computers. We have to be careful with e-mails and student grades. If you have something up on the projector, or a student comes up near your laptop, Windows + D will quickly minimize all windows on your screen and will take you to your wallpaper. If you press Windows + D again soon enough, all of your windows will come back up. 

You do not have to memorize all of these shortcuts at once! Write your favorite shortcuts on a sticky note and post it on your desk, and after a few weeks, it'll be like second nature. Have any other awesome keyboard shortcuts to share? Or need any RBG mechanical keyboard suggestions? Post below!

Monday, October 1, 2018

Maximize Engagement With Slido


How do you know when your students are engaged?  This is a question that I often ask teachers and I get a wide variety of answers. Engagement is a little bit of a unicorn. You know when it's there but it's hard to pin down. Often, compliance gets confused with engagement. If the students are quiet, looking at you, and following directions, you might assume they are engaged. Look up engagement in the dictionary (or the digital equivalent: and you will find many definitions. When it comes to learning, the following seems most appropriate.

Establish a meaningful contact or connection with. 

How do we know if our students are establishing meaningful contact or connections with what they are learning? One way is by having them do something. Ask them a question that goes beyond recall, have them analyze, discuss, debate, create, and explore. This becomes more complex depending on the course content, the number of sections you are teaching, and the level of involvement you want the students to have. This is where tools come in. There are lots of ways to incorporate various tools to establish or assess levels of engagement. One of my new favorites is called is an "audience interaction" tool that involves both polling and Q&A features. It's easy to set up, the basic version is free, and it allows for all of your students to interact in a much less risky way than raising a hand.

Here's how it works:
1. Go to and set up your account. You can use your school Google account. 
2. Click on Create Event, name your event, choose the start and end dates and times,  and then click Create Event in the box.
Image from Gyazo

3. You then have 3 options. You can crowdsource questions from the class, you can create a poll, or you can browse how others are using to get some inspiration. The polling feature is my favorite. I love that I can ask a question, have my students respond, and then puts their responses into a word cloud which I can use later.

4. Once you have set up what you want to do, you have your students go to and give them the code that is associated with your event. When you are presenting, the code is displayed in large font to make it easier for your students to join. They can use any device, and their responses will show up on your end. You can choose to display your poll or questions in present mode so everyone can see.

I asked my peer mentoring students to think of someone who inspires them and then write down the qualities of that person. Here's what they came up with.

5. After you are done, you can click on the analytics tab to see how many students were engaged and in what ways.

It's great to try using new tools to keep things novel. is a simple way to encourage engagement and move beyond compliance in the classroom.
What tools do you love to maximize engagement?
Post in the comments section below.
Want some help setting up for the first time? Just ask! I'm happy to walk you through it.

Monday, September 24, 2018

GIF makers

GIF or Jif?

Image result for jif gif@LisaBerghoff/@MrKimDHS

Steve Wilhite, an American Computer Scientist at CompuServe, was probably not aware that on June 15th, 1987, his invention would ignite the “Great Schism of the 21st Century” as it were, by creating an image format called the Graphics Interchange Format, otherwise known as a GIF. Of the many random things that I am passionate about, I am a fervent supporter of pronouncing GIF with a soft 'G,' and no amount of references to the hard 'G' in graphics will change my mind. Regardless of how you pronounce GIFs, we can all agree that the simple, 8-bit image format has greatly improved the way we communicate and instruct online. While I have enjoyed many GIFs of cats doing funny things over the years, I have found GIFs to be an invaluable teaching tool to show a process instead of just describing one. GIFs have carved out a niche in between text and video and can be found on most how-to guides.

There are dozens of free GIF makers out there, but I found that the simplest one for educational use is called GifCam. It’s lightweight at a shocking 700 kb, making it smaller than most JPEG image files. So let’s get down to the brass tacks, how do you use it to create GIFs? Let’s start by creating a simple GIF of adding a link to Schoology.

Step 1: Demarcation

To create the boundaries of what you want to capture, simply manipulate the GifCam window itself around the area.(I am fully aware of the Inception-esque feel of creating a GIF, of myself creating a GIF)

Step 2: Setup Recording

Click on the little arrow to the right of the “Rec” button. 10 FPS is typically enough for our intents and purposes. Here you can also enable “Capture Cursor” to show your mouse arrow.

Step 3: Record

Click the “Rec” button to begin. Do what you need to do to complete your GIF and hit the “Stop” button to end the GIF.

Step 4: Save and Export

Now that your GIF is recorded, press the “Save” button on the side. Rename your precious GIF into your folder and you’re all set! (depending on the length of the GIF it may take a few minutes)

One more for the road - Steve Wilhite famously said in 2013:
"The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations. They are wrong. It is a soft 'G,' pronounced 'jif.' End of Story." Boo-yah

You can use GifCam on your browser, desktop, Microsoft product, and other programs. Have another GIF program or another recording tool? Share below!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Dualless: For Those Of Us Who Don't Have Dual Monitors

screenshot from Dualless website


Can you believe it's the middle of September? We are up and running and really in a groove.   As you continue  to adjust to your students using their devices, you will no doubt have an occasion where you will want them to have many tabs open.  For example, you may ask them to have a website open while they also have a notes page open.  When having multiple tabs open becomes commonplace your students will probably wish that they had dual monitors because clicking back and forth can be cumbersome and opening multiple windows becomes tricky on a chromebook  because you can never get the window in just the right spot or find ratio that you're looking for.

Screenshot of ratio options
Dualless is a "poor man's dual monitor" solution.  It splits your browser windows into two by just 2 clicks.  The ratio can be adjusted according to your needs.  This extension simulates the environment of a dual monitor. Also, there is a new bookmark feature that lets you relaunch your favorite site in a new tab and windows will be split in the recorded ratio. For example, you can have Dualless set to always open a class notes page in one window and another window is open for research.

Dualless is an extension that is found in the chrome web store.  Since it is an extension, the little icon can be found in the far right corner of the box where web addresses go (that's called the omnibox for those of you who like to learn new terminology).

Dualless is not flashy or complicated. It does exactly what it says it does and it helps add to the functionality of the chromebooks.  By allowing students to work with two windows at once, it should make it easier for them to focus, rather than clicking back and forth between tabs.

What other functionality tools do you use in your classes? Please share with us below in the comments section.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Everyone is Flipping For Flipgrid!


This is a repost from August 2017.

I can hold it in no longer! My plan was to slowly roll out tools this fall so we could ease ourselves in to trying some new things. Here it is, week #4 and there is nothing slow about this. The truth is, teachers around the world are going nuts for Flipgrid and I just could not stand the idea that our staff is missing out.

There are always teachers who are looking for simple ways for students to express themselves via video. Teachers want to have students share and give each other feedback in a safe way that doesn't take up a ton of time. There are a few tools out there but many are clunky or require accounts to be created.

If you are one of those teachers, Flipgrid is the answer to your prayers. 

Here's what you need to know about Flipgrid

  • The grid is extremely simple to set up. You put in a topic, students record their thoughts. You as the teacher can moderate the content, you can give feedback to individual students, you can even share videos with parents privately so they will only see their students' work.
  • Flipgrid is FREE
  • This tool is designed for maximum student engagement. Everyone adds a video, not just the two or three students who always raise their hand in your class. Students can also add files or links to their videos. There are also drawing and custom sticker features. 
  • Flipgrid has a free app for ios and android phones. It also works great with chromebooks! #noexcuses
  • BONUS! Flipgrid integrates nicely with Schoology. You can embed your grid so the students have no need to log out, in, etc. 
Find out what all the fuss is about from other teachers. On Twitter, check out #flipgridfever
(If you're not on Twitter, I would LOVE to help you get started!)

Ready to give Flipgrid a try? You don't have to go it alone. I'm happy to help you and your students get started. Have you used other video tools for student engagement and feedback? Post in the comments section below and let me know your favorites. 

Monday, September 3, 2018

Image from: Wikimedia Commons

Let's Think About What We're Doing: The SAMR Model


When I first embarked on the new position of Director of Instructional Technology, 3 years ago, several friends and family members who are not educators asked me to explain my job to them. Was I going to fix computers? No. Was I going to hook up projectors? No. Was I going to show teachers where to click to access their files? Sometimes. Eventually my younger son, who was 8 at the time, explained it best. He said "She's going to teach teachers how to use chromebooks in ways that aren't stupid". That explanation still comes to mind when I think about my goals in how I work with teachers. We all agree that we don't want our kids staring at screens all day. We know that interpersonal, face to face communication skills are extremely important to be successful in today's world. However, technology also plays an important role in learning as we can now re-imagine tasks and kids can do things that were inconceivable before.

As we take a deep dive into the school year with our 1:1 chromebooks, our new LMS- Schoology, and our use of the TI Inspire CS CAX calculators, I believe this is the perfect time to take a deep breath, take a step back, and look at the WHY. When we plan lessons, activities, and assessments, what is our purpose? When it comes to, one of the most widely used models to examine purpose is the SAMR model. This framework was created by Dr. Ruben Puentedura and it categorizes 4 different degrees of classroom technology integration.  One thing to keep in mind is that although there are 4 levels of technology integration and it appears to be a hierarchy, not all lessons should be striving for the redefinition level. At times, substitution is the most appropriate use of technology for a particular lesson. Therefore, there is no need for judgement here, let's just be aware of what we're doing, understand why we're doing it, and be mindful that every lesson is not at the same level. The SAMR model is a simple way to take a look at our use of technology in the classroom and can help give us some direction as we move forward. 

Here is the SAMR model explained in 120 seconds by Candice Marcotte:

Still not sure how the SAMR model works?
Here are some examples that I came up with that are NOT classroom related.
Maybe some of these will resonate with you.


I used to have a paper calendar/planner book that I took with me everywhere. I loved that book! I loved looking at my whole week at a glance. Now, I use the calendar app on my phone to mark down appointments and events. This is pretty much just a substitute for the paper calendar that I used to use. 


I can share my digital calendar with my husband. This way, if he is making plans, he can look and see what we already have planned without needing to call and ask or look at a paper calendar that would be located at home. Sharing calendars digitally makes it easier for us to coordinate plans in a timely manner. 


My digital calendar can now alert me when I need to leave to go to an appointment. Using traffic information and gps technology, the calendar app on my phone sends me an alert in enough time for me to get there on time. This has changed the way I manage my time because I no longer need to look up travel times or distances and try to plan my day around that information. 


If I can't make it to an appointment in person, my Google calendar app will generate a link to a Google Meet/Hangout so I can join the meeting over my computer or phone. I can use the webcam and microphone so the meeting participants can still see and hear me and I can participate remotely. 
This feature has enabled me to participate in meetings with people who are in different states, timezones, even different countries! I have participated in online professional conferences in real time but without needing to travel. This could not happen without technology and we couldn't even imagine it several years ago. 

Have you been using SAMR to think about your own classroom lessons and activities? Post in the comments section below.