Monday, October 16, 2017

Annotate, Highlight, and Mark Up PDF's With Kami


One of the most common tasks that teachers and students look to do when dealing with digital text is to be able to annotate, highlight, and mark-up a document. I personally like to highlight and annotate on paper, it is how I learned to annotate when I was in school.  However, I also really like having my documents available without needing to carry folders or binders with me. It is empowering to be able to access my documents from any device that has internet capabilities. While I like to say we should use less paper instead of being paper-less, there are times when we need our students to interact with text in ways that can be tricky online. For students who struggle with fine motor skills, keeping track of their books, or who benefit from the text to speech features that work with chromebooks, there is a tool that works beautifully.

One of the most popular chrome pdf apps is Kami, which means paper in Japanese. It supports pdfs, documents, and images. The list of tools is vast and includes a PDF and document viewer, highlighter, ability to add notes, underline, and more. Work that is done in Kami can easily be shared with others.   For teachers, Kami is helpful when looking at online resources like e-books and publisher-supplied PDFs. This is a freemium app that has a "teacher plan" with more features.


Instead of printing or copying worksheets, give Kami a try. To get started, get Kami from the chrome web store.  There is also an OCR tool. OCR stands for optical character recognition and it basically takes the text from PDFs and images and the tool converts the text into an editable format. When the app is open, you can drag and drop the file into the OCR tool and then it is ready to be read and annotated online.

Are you using Kami for PDFs online? Post in the comments section and let me know how it's going!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Google Drive
Two Tools: File Creation and File Storage 


Most people know that Google Drive is the online tool that allows your students to make collaborative documents, slideshows, and spreadsheets on their Chromebooks. I think many of us have also been using the tool frequently too when we want to collaborate with colleagues or survey students using Google Forms. But, it is really important to remember that Google Drive was designed to be two things, a place to create Docs, Sheets, and Forms, and a place to store ANY file. You do not have to convert files to store them on Google Drive. Literally any digital file can safely be stored in Google's Cloud and since we use Google Apps for Education, we have unlimited Google Drive Storage. Everything you've ever created on your computer can be stored in your school Drive Account and accessed by you from any computer.

Files that are stored in Google Drive do NOT have to be opened using Google Apps. I store Illustrator files in Drive, but I don't open them with Google Docs. I open them in Illustrator to edit them.

Google Drive is just a fancy way of saying Cloud Computing, but for those of us that don't live in the computer world, Cloud computing can be a scary and confusing topic. Last year, I wrote another blog entry here that summed up Cloud Computing pretty well:

There are many things that I get nostalgic about when I think about the 80's and 90's. Floppy disks, however, are not in that category. Today we have many options for cloud storage. The latest and greatest of those is Google Drive. Here is a 2-minute video that explains the cloud. So many of you have asked and it's a great question. 

Why Would I Store Files in Drive?

The basic answer to this is that you have unlimited storage and you can access your files from any device that you own. Unlike with the old File Share option, you don't need anything special set up on your computer. You simply need to log into your Google Apps account from any device. When I go to visit my parents in Florida, I no longer take my computer with me. I don't need it. If I'm in a jam and need to access one of my files from school, I can log into Drive on my Phone and get what I need.

The biggest objection I hear to storing files in Google Drive is that some people don't want to change formats. Well, you don't have to change formats - not even from Word to Docs. In your Drive Settings, simply uncheck the box the box next to "Convert uploads," and your files will stay in their original format.

Both Deerfield and HPHS will be offering more training on Google Drive in the next few weeks. And you can always contact Lisa Berghoff if you have questions. But, the good news is you don't have to wait. There are literally thousands of help videos online that can answer help you answer any question you may have or provide you with a tutorial on getting started with file storage in Google Drive.

Here's an example Published by Anson Alexander from

Some of you have been using the Google Drive App on your computer so that you don't even have to go through the Web to access your files. That process is getting even better with Drive File Stream. Look for an update on that very soon!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Don't Just Watch, 

Engage, With EdPuzzle

@Lisa Berghoff/ @Joe_EdTech

I am definitely dating myself here, but I grew up watching Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. I used to love watching the beginning of the show, after he changed out of his suit jacket and into his sweater and after he changed into his sneakers, he would talk about what he was up to that day. He would look right into the camera and ask us questions like: Do you ever wonder how pencils are made? or, Have you ever planted a seed? He would pause for a moment, giving us kids a chance to think about the answer. Sometimes my sister and I would even be compelled to answer out loud. Watching Mr. Rogers was more than just a passive exercise in consumption of content. He was a master at getting us to pause, reflect, and even respond. 

Since we have become a 1:1 chromebook school, with each student having their own device, teachers are utilizing more and more video in their lessons. As our students are watching videos, we want them to interact with the content. We want them to reflect, be thoughtful, and make connections. In short, we want to turn a video into a lesson.

EdPuzzle is a platform where you can turn any YouTube (or other) video into your next lesson. It is super simple to set up, the analytics tell you if your students are interacting with the video, and it is easy to share lessons with colleagues. Also, I should mention that it is FREE! Another bonus is that it works seamlessly with Google Classroom. 

According to EdPuzzle, more than 84% of students use YouTube to help them with homework. The nice thing about videos is that they allow students to learn at their own pace. They can pause or re-watch videos, which they cannot do during your class. Using video in this way allows students to have some control over their learning. 

Here is how EdPuzzle works.
Step 1:  Upload or choose a video. Built into the EdPuzzle platform is a whole list of places to find great educational videos including YouTube, Khan Academy, National Geographic, TED, etc. You then have the opportunity to crop the video. If you have a long video, you can easily crop it so your students will only see a portion of it. 

Step 2: You can add an audio track to the video. If there is something that you want to explain in your own words, you can record it right in EdPuzzle.

Step 3: Now you have an opportunity to add audio notes. For example, you can add an introductory comment that will show up before the video begins. 

Step 4: At this point you can add questions to the video. As your students watch the video, it will pause and your questions will pop up. You have the option of adding open-ended questions, multiple choice questions-if you choose this option you can make an answer key and it will auto-grade for you, or just insert a comment which can have a link, an image, an equation, or text. 

Step 5: Once you have your video lesson set up, you can assign it to your class. It will automatically assign in Google Classroom or you can give your students a link directly to the video. You can assign it with a due date and you can also check a box that will prevent students from skipping ahead in the video. When you assign it to a class, you can track student answers, see who viewed the video and how many times they viewed it.

Are you using video in your classroom? What tools are you using? Go ahead and post in the comments section and share what is working for you. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

One Tech Tool That Solved Two Problems:
cloudHQ Gmail Label and Email Sharing


I've always been a fan of serendipity. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Over the summer, a friend of mine said that she really needed to share a folder of emails (in Gmail, it is called a Label) with a colleague. She wanted to be able to do that without opening each email individually and forwarding it. I did a quick search and found cloudHQ, a Chrome extension with great reviews that purported to do just that. So, I installed it - then I found out it was even better than advertised.

Once installed and activated (it may ask you to sign in and authorize it multiple times) you'll see a new button at the top of your Gmail inbox.

It is pretty simple to use. Once you have authorized the extension and click the button, you'll get a pop-up box prompting you for the name of the label you want to share and the email addresses of the people with whom you want to share. 

If that were the end of the story, it would be good enough. But it gets better. When you install the extension and open an email message, you'll see an entirely new set of menu options:

In addition to the usual choices, you have the option to change the name of the email (the pencil icon), share a link to the email (the chain link icon), or SNOOZE the email (the alarm clock icon). I personally don't have any use for the first two, but I've been looking for a good option to snooze emails for a long time. If I get an email in my inbox that requires some action on my behalf, but the action isn't required for a significant amount of time I can click the snooze icon and hide the email until it is important. 

You can choose from a list of preselected Snooze times, or you can select an exact date and time. The email will be hidden until that time and will then appear at the top of your inbox. 

cloudHQ is a "freemium" service, but I only use the free stuff. If you run your own business or have run an organization outside of school, it might be useful to look into the paid services for syncing and backing up emails. I would love to tell you that I researched this tool and knew all of this in advance of sending it to my friend. But I didn't. It was just serendipity.

If you've found a better way to share labels or snooze emails, tell us about it below.

Monday, September 18, 2017

If This Then That... Do More With Your Apps And Devices

Do you ever wish you could clone yourself?

I spend a lot of my time thinking about how to streamline, be more efficient, make better use of my time, and get more done without adding hours to the day. It seems impossible. There are always emails to respond to, Twitter feeds to check, weather reports to look at, photos to catalog. Now that I have found IFTTT, I almost feel like there are two of me:)

IFTTT stands for If This Then That and it is a free platform, launched in beta back in 2010,  that helps you do more with your apps and devices. It uses a formula called an "applet" that connects a service (everything from email, Twitter, Facebook, Time Magazine, Fitbit, etc.) to a "trigger" or a condition and then another service. I know it's tricky to understand at first but this service has amazing possibilities. I worked with a teacher who was teaching an outdoor adventure-type of physical education class. He wanted a collection of his students' photos on their camping trip and he wanted a way for them to comment and share. He had them post to Instagram using a specific hashtag he created. He used IFTTT to automatically upload the photos with that hashtag to his class blog. AMAZING!

Here are 5 examples of applets that already exist that you might find interesting.

1. If you get an email with an attachment, then it will save to your Google drive. This applet can be
helpful when you are trying to organize attachments that you get via email. This applet will automatically save those attachments for you. Once the applet is active, you don't need to do anything except enjoy your great new organization system!

2.  Sometimes the best information comes not from the conference, but from the tweets sent out using the conference hashtag. But who has time in the day to load, 
look at, and read all of those tweets. They come fast and furious once the conference gets going. This applet will automatically load tweets with a specific hashtag to a Google spreadsheet. You can look at them when you have time or just save the spreadsheet for future reference. 

3. I happen to love quotes! I use them in my classes with students and I share them with friends and colleagues. I don't always have time to look at or save the quote of the day from BrainyQuote. This applet automatically archives quotes for you in a Google spreadsheet which is automatically saved in your Google drive.

4. Not sure what to do with all of those photos on your camera roll? They are taking up space on your phone. This applet will automatically upload your camera roll to your Google drive. Automatic storage solution! I also happen to take a lot of screenshots on my phone. There is another applet (bonus) that will save those screenshots into their own folder. 

5. This is one of my favorites. Every day at 6pm, or whatever time you specify, the weather report will be automatically added to your calendar. Never get stuck without your umbrella again!

Ok, hopefully you get the idea here. These are just a very few of the many, many applets that IFTTT has to offer. If you don't see what you are looking for you can easily create your own. IFTTT walks you through how to make your own applet by connecting your services and devices by a trigger. If you are someone who uses any social media, there are many applets to help you streamline those posts. There are applets for voice assistants like Alexa or OK Google. I highly suggest that you take a look at the applet collections by clicking here. 

Are you using IFTTT? Post in the comments below and let me know what applets you have activated.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Newsela Helps Make Reading the Most Powerful Learning Tool. 

Reading is one of the most powerful learning tools we have. It is also one of the greatest barriers when it comes to our students who struggle. Students who have difficulty reading often cannot access the curriculum they need in order to learn. Newsela is one of those magical tools that makes it possible for struggling students to hang in there with the class in a way that empowers them, instead of belittling them. I can remember being in elementary school and we had reading groups. It was very clear who were the great readers (the barracuda group) and who were the not so great readers (the minnows). I'm glad to see that those days are over but teachers still struggle with how to get content to our students in a way that they will understand.

Newsela  is a website that has a huge collection of current events articles from real sources like the Associated Press and Washington Post. Each article can be adjusted to 5 different reading levels. The students can select the level, or language, that is most comfortable for them. The content is the same.The articles come with eye catching photos and it shows you how many times the article has been assigned. The article also has grade level information and the word count. Students are able to adjust the reading level right their on  their own  screen. There is also an easy print option. 

Newsela is free and works seamlessly with Google Classroom. They also offer professional development webinars on literacy in addition to supports and resources for teachers. In addition to the latest news, you can search the Newsela library for content-specific articles. The students are in control of the reading level and the content doesn't change so even your minnows will be able to chime in during class discussions and activities.

When you sign up as a teacher, you can either create a class or import from Google Classroom. Newsela also allows you to create text sets or choose from the ones that are already created. This way, you can offer your students a whole group of articles to choose from. This will help you get some instructional time back if you were planning on having students search  on their own. There are even activities included where you can have students write by responding to a prompt, or take a short quiz.

Do you  already use Newsela? Write in the comments feature below and let me know how you have been using it!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Google Forms Turned Up A Notch! 

Password Protect and 4 Other Amazing Google Forms Tricks

Google forms are arguably the most transformative edtech tool in use today. They can be used for so many purposes. From submitting assignments, formative and summative assessments, and good old fashioned surveys,  to taking attendance at club meetings and opinion polls, Google forms are widely used by both teachers and students. It's no wonder, they are simple and fast to create and user friendly for the responders. The team at Google has been making a few adjustments to Google forms that you might not know about.  Some features are still being rolled out. 

 Sit tight because these 5 tips might make your head explode!

1. Password Protect Your Form With Response Validation

Don't want just anyone to be able to access and complete your form? No problem, you can create a "password" by using response validation.  This one isn't really so new but many people don't know about it. 
Here's a pictorial of the 3 steps to follow:
1.Just click the three dots next to the Required tab and click response validation. Make sure you are in short answer mode. Don't forget to make the question required. 
2. Here is where you can set the parameters. 
3. For a password, set it to "Text" "Contains" and then enter the password EXACTLY how it must be entered to use.  Where it says "Custom Error Text"  write in something like- wrong password, try again. 

2.  New Question Type: The Checkbox Grid

This new type of question option allows your respondents to choose from multiple options in a table. This is really helpful for things like finding meeting times. You set the rows. The example here shows the days of the week. You then set the columns. The image here shows one with class periods on it. 

Here is what the checkbox grid looks like to the respondent. I could see this being used in many ways for multiple disciplines. I'm thinking characters and traits, equations and properties, figures in history and events. I know you will put this one to good use! 

3. File Upload Capabilities:

Finally! Our suggestions have been heard and Google has added the ability for respondents to upload a file into the form. When you add a question, just choose "file upload". You will see the options below. Everything from an image, PDF, video, audio file and more. You can have them add multiple files and set the maximum size allowed.

4. Give Feedback In Quiz Mode:

Of course you know that Google forms now has quiz mode where you can assign points and even give an answer key. The form will grade itself! If you set the grades to be released manually, the email addresses will automatically be collected AND you can give feedback within the quiz. When your students get their grades, they will see the feedback you left for them within the questions. 
Here is what the quiz settings look like:  

5. Set Preferences that will apply for ALL of your forms!

Are you sick and tired of marking every question as required? Well now you can set preferences for your forms. You can automatically collect respondent's email addresses, mark all questions required, and even preset point values for quiz questions. Once you set your preferences, that will be the default setting for all of your forms. Click the three dots in the upper righthand section of your screen and open Preferences. 

Here is what the preferences options look like: 

Coming Soon! Look for Intelligent Response Validation.

How are you using Google forms? 
Go ahead and post in the comments below.
Want to work on these together? I'm happy to work with you and show you how to use these features in a way that makes sense for you and your classroom.