Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Making Of The Perfect Password


With the expansion of technology in every aspect of our lives, from shopping to banking, to photo sharing, it becomes more and more important to stay on top of your security game. One of the most basic things we can do to protect our digital data is to create strong passwords. 
We all know this but how many of us actually do it? 

There are a number of valid excuses including:
  • I can't remember a different password for everything I d
  • o online.
  • It's too hard to keep track of the requirements for different sites.
  • It is so time consuming to change my password all the time.
  • I don't think anyone would actually want to hack my information.
  • My passwords are strong enough.
Let's first take a look at what constitutes a strong password. 
Strong passwords are made up of Upper and Lowercase Letters, Numbers, Special Characters, Nonsense Words, and are Lengthy. 

How are we supposed to keep track of all of that?  You can create your own algorithm, or set of rules, to create strong passwords that you will always remember and NOT need to write down. (please don't write down your passwords).

Here's how it works.
1. Start with a base word. Choose any word that you like. For example, I'm going to use the word MOIST because so many people hate that word!

2. Turn your base word into a nonsense word. I will turn moist into molisat because it has my name in the middle.

3. The site that I am logging into requires at least  8 characters in the  password so I'm going to put the number 7 in front of it. I will always use one digit below the requirement. My password at this point is 7molisat.

4. Now I need to add special characters. The site that I'm logging into is a .com site. I will use $ for all .com sites. Also, it's a work related site. I'm going to add @ for everything dealing with work. I'm also going to add _ in between the characters. 

5. My final password is now 7molisat$_@

How do I know if this is a strong password? I can put it in How Secure Is My Password to test it. The site will tell you how long it will take a computer to hack your password. According to the site, it would take a computer 5 years to crack this password. I think  I can do better. By adding another 7 at the end, it now says it would take 200 years. 

You can create an algorithm that works for you. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Turn Any Presentation Into an Interactive Presentation with Nearpod


Powerpoint slide shows are frequently used in classes. Those slides are great for keeping us teachers on track during class, especially when there's a lot to do.When I have used slides, the main purpose of those slides is my own, not really for my students. 

In class, I really want the students to engage in the conversation with me. I dodn't want them to just spew historical facts back at me, I want them to think about situations, try to understand why people act the way they do, postulate what they might have done differently, and so on. But what I mostly see when I use PowerPoint is a furious dash to write down every word that is printed on the slide as if it were Gospel. And why do they do that? Somewhere along the line they learned that what was important in class would be on the next exam, and everything that was on the next exam would be written on the board or included in the slide show (and yes, I'm sure that I was complicit in that at some point).

Nearpod is a Web 2.0 tool that offers us a chance to change the game a little. If you use Nearpod, and your students download the app to their Chromebooks, you can push presentations to them so that each slide appears on the screen of their device. If they are of the type that wants to write down every word, they can actually just take screenshots and go back to engaging in the discussion in class. Not only that, though, Nearpod gives you a chance to insert polls, quizzes, and other interactive slides into your presentations. With all of the power of a student response system, you can embed formative assessment into your classroom presentations and ensure some level of universal participation. You can even have students create drawings or graphs using their track pads, and share individual drawings to the entire class.

At the risk of being accused of burying the lead, though, Nearpod also serves one other purpose for your 1:1 classroom. While I am still of the mindset that the best way to make sure that your students aren't distracted by the technology is to be engaging with your teaching, teachers who are new to the 1:1 environment often cite classroom management/device management as one of their major concerns. If you use Nearpod for classroom presentations, you can easily see which students are actively engaged in your classroom activity. There is even an "attendance" button on the top left of the teacher screen that lets you see if any of your students have navigated away from your Nearpod presentation. So, while it doesn't lock your students into one screen, it gives you clear evidence of who is engaged in the lesson, and who is not.

Here is Nearpod's short explanation of how it all works:

On the upside, Nearpod continues to offer updates that make the product better and more efficient. With a free personal account, you can present PPT presentations or presentations saved to PDF. You can also share those presentations with other teachers. Additionally, the company recently rolled out a feature that allows students to see quiz and poll results whether they are seeing a teacher led classroom session or an asynchronous session. On the downside, they would really like for you to pay for a school or district license, which really means that storage is limited in the free version. But, this is a pretty decent tool to use in a 1:1 classroom no matter which device your students are using.

Have you used Nearpod with your class? Or do you have another classroom presentation / classroom management tool that you use? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Teaching The 4C's With Applied Digital Skills


Special thanks for contributions from @MrAguina

Open-Source Image from Shutterstock.com

Since next week is Computer Science Education Week (also known as Hour of Code Week), I thought it would be the perfect time to discuss one of the elephants in the room when it comes to technology.

We all know that our students are skilled Snapchat users but where will that skill get them later in life? According to a Pearson LearnEd article, 65% of today's 12-year-olds will have jobs that don't yet exist.  I know that for several years the idea of "digital natives" (them) vs. "digital immigrants" (us) was something that was widely talked about and understood. After all, for my entire childhood if I took a picture I had to wait for the film to get developed to find out if it was any good. My own children have not experienced a pay phone or wondering what time the taxi will actually show up.

However, just because they grow up with this stuff does not mean they intuitively know how to use it in ways that will prepare them for the job market of the future. 

So at this point, you are probably thinking- But I'm not an expert in using digital tools for the future job market! There's a good chance many of us are not experts in using digital tools for even the current job market.  We also know that it's not really about the technology tools. Those tools are going to change and evolve over time. The focus is now on the 4C's: Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, and Critical Thinking. So the question is- how can we prepare our students for the future?

No need to panic, Google has come up with a new curriculum called Applied Digital Skills. It is a technology curriculum for practical problem solving with digital tools. It is completely free and it is designed to be an in-person, blended learning environment where students practice life skills while they solve problems and build projects together using Google apps.  Applied Digital Skills was created for middle school, high school, college, and adult learners.
Here is a 1:30 minute video explaining what it's all about.

The problem-solving format of the units keeps the information engaging and relevant. The blended learning platform includes video content, peer mentoring and collaboration, and teacher facilitation and support. Good digital citizenship and ethics gets woven into the curriculum as opposed to a stand-alone lesson which helps students understand these concepts in a very real way. 

Even though Applied Digital Skills is a comprehensive curriculum, teachers can pick and choose what they want to use and when they want to use it. You can find units that already fit nicely into your existing curriculum and work it in. Each unit lists the skills that are being worked on, the number of activities, and about how long it should take to complete. Some of the units for high school include: If-Then Adventure Stories, Research and Develop a Topic, Technology, Ethics, and Security, Plan an Event, and Pick The Next Box Office Hit. There are about 15 units to choose from for the high school level.  Here is what the first unit overview looks like:

Getting started is easy! You just go to AppliedDigitalSkills.withGoogle.com and use your school credentials to sign up. Once you have created a class, you can give the class code to your students. You will have access to their data so you can keep track of their progress. Google has even created rubrics for you to assess your students. Everything is built in and easy to access. The curriculum has earned the "Seal of Alignment" from ISTE (the International Society for Technology in Education) which means it has been vetted as a tool that is not just fluff, it actually will help move students to a place where they are able to navigate the skills they will need, both digital and non-digital, to be collaborative problem-solvers. 

Here is a sneak peek at one of the unit's introduction videos. This unit is called Using Programming To Automate Tasks. It gives students a taste of what it's like to program in order to automate something that is useful to them.

I definitely encourage you to check out the curriculum. While it might not seem like your particular area of discipline fits in with Applied Digital Skills, I think you will be pleasantly surprised. There are practical applications that can be utilized across many areas and the more we all can work together, the more connections our students will be able to make.  

There is lots of help built in but if you want to work on this curriculum together, or you just want to take a look at it, feel free to contact me!

Are you already using Applied Digital Skills? Feel free to comment below and let me know how you are incorporating it into your everyday curriculum. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Picture Credit Jzmiyarch (Talk | contribs) from Knowledge
Network by and for Educators
Technology Enhanced Formative Assessment


Early in my career, I was having a conversation with the best Division Head I've ever had (It isn't a secret - her name is Elaine Steele, and she was Div Head for World Language/Social Studies/ELL/Health). I was excited about a lesson I had just taught, and I told her that the students had really seemed to grasp the concepts I was discussing. She said, "So, how do you KNOW that they got it?" I was going to talk about the answers that I got from some of the kids in the class or the fact that so many were nodding their heads in agreement, but she had me. I didn't KNOW. I certainly didn't know that they ALL had it. That one question from Elaine changed my practice.

From that point on I really spent some time studying formative assessment in the classroom. I believe strongly in Assessment for Learning, or "the process of seeking and interpreting evidence for use by learners and their teachers to decide where the learners are in their learning, where they need to go and how best to get there" (Assessment Reform Group, 2002). Back in the day, that was something I did on paper. The process is so much simpler and can be so much more valuable now that we have Chromebooks and other networked devices to help us.

We recently had a PD session at DHS based on some research around Technology Enhanced Assessment for Learning. The researchers, Beatty & Gerace (2009), basically suggest some of our best teaching happens not when we instruct and then ask questions, but rather ask questions and use those as a context for sense-making and guided instruction.

The PD session looked at a variety of tools for quizzing, polling, ideation, direct classroom instruction, and facilitating discussion. Most of the tools have been written about by Lisa or myself at some point in the last couple of years, but many of the tools have been improved to make function better in the classroom. For instance:
  • Google Forms were updated last year to make quizzing easier. They keep getting better and now allow for the inclusion of open-ended questions as well as objective questions.
  • Poll Everywhere has not only added new output features (simple graphs, word clouds, etc) but has also upgraded to include a feature which allows teachers to collect screen names and moderate posts.
  • Padlet has an entirely new platform that makes it easier to build, modify, and share projects.
The presentation below includes some of the discussion around formative assessment and a huge list of digital tools to use in the classroom. Each one of the tools includes a link to the tool itself and a link to instructions and examples. On slide 8, the "About" link will take you to the tool and the official documentation for the product. The "How To" link will take you to instructions. In many cases, the instructions come from featured articles in this Blog, but we've linked to videos or other teacher sites if there is new information out there.

How are you using Formative Assessment in the classroom? Are there some additional tools we should include? If so, please tell us about them in the comment box below.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Google Calendar Gets A Redesign

Google Calendar is a G-Suite app that was unveiled in beta back in 2006 and became officially out of beta in 2009. Given the speed at which technology moves, it's definitely time for an upgrade. The good news is that Google calendar is efficient and easy to use for time management and scheduling and this redesign does not drastically change the functionality. The interface is just a little more user-friendly and there are some nice additions that I'm excited to tell you about. 

If you have been using the Google Calendar mobile app, the new look with be very familiar to you. The first thing you will notice is that the colors are brighter and events are easier to read. 

Here's what is new in Google Calendar:

1. Event Details At A Glance

Click one time on an event and you will be able to see the details of the event including the list of invitees including who has rsvp'd, attachments, video call links, rooms, and locations. 
If you right click on the event, you can quickly change the color, quickly join a meeting, or delete it.

2. Quick-Add Events

Click on an empty space on the calendar to quickly add the name, time, and calendar that the event belongs to.

3. New View Options

You can now see events by invitation status. Events that you have accepted will show up in a solid color, if you responded "maybe" there will be diagonal lines across it, and events that you have not yet replied to will show up with an outline. If you declined the event, you will see an outline and there will be a line through it.
You can also decide how you want to see your calendar. There are options to view by schedule, day, week, month, year, and 5 days. You can choose to have weekends hidden too. 

4. New Settings Page For All Calendars

You can now adjust the settings for all of your calendars in one place. Click on the gear and then click "settings". There, you can make all calendar adjustments. Click on individual calendars to adjust notifications, sharing permissions, and more. 

5. Add formatted notes, attachments and links to events. 

All of your notes and details will be visible when you click once on the event and the quick detail view pops up.

6. Other tips and tricks to know!

  • You can now see side by side calendars in "day" view! Find a time to meet easily.
  • You can email all attendees right from calendar. Click to view the event and then click the envelope icon to email.
  • You can view and restore deleted items in one spot. click on the gear and go to "trash"

7. Extra Credit Bonus Fun-

Type in  "Thanksgiving Dinner" and then click on the saved event and see what happens!

Remember! This is a web-based calendar tool. There is very little you can do to actually mess it up. Don't be afraid to click and see what happens.

Remember: menus are hidden behind 3 dots. 
Are you already using the new Google Calendar for your personal use? Let us know your favorite features. 
As always, I'm happy to help!


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Working More Efficiently with Clipboard History 2


I know that you usually turn to this blog for deeply profound ideas that bring innovation and revolution to your classroom. Well, not today. Today's blog post is all about solving a common technical problem that adds many frustrating seconds of mind-numbing work to some of my tasks. 

It's the WORST. I select the text of a long message I'm going to send to someone, right click and copy. Then I copy the email address of the person I'm sending the message to. The problem, and it is real, is all the text I just copied is gone! Then I have to reopen the document, reselect the text, right-click, and recopy. That's at least 4 clicks!

If you go to the Chrome Webstore and download Clipboard History, this first world problem will no longer be yours. Now every time I copy something to my clipboard in Chrome, it is saved and easy to retrieve. Now there is a clipboard icon in the list of extensions on my browser that stores all of the text I've copied recently. 

Honestly, I will frequently compose email messages, or direction sheets, with information from several different webpages or product reviews. I no longer have to worry about having all of those pages open while I compose the message. Once I copy the text, it is saved and ready for me at any time.

Click on the Clipboard icon, select the text you want to copy, and paste into your document. You can mark items as favorites and use them frequently (regular opening to an email or response to a question) or save certain clips to the cloud for long term use. 

OK, this might not be revolutionary. But it is a pretty cool little extension. And I use it a lot.
Do you have a time saver Chrome Extension? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Get Everyone On The Same Page: Share To Classroom


More and more teachers have been using Google Classroom because it serves as one place for students to access what they need for our classes, it is easy to use, and allows us to communicate with our students without the need for email. With our 1:1 devices, teachers are finding new ways to make sure our students are engaged and interacting with information. Learners are able to access information quickly and then use critical thinking skills to solve problems with their new knowledge. As teachers, we often get excited when we find new sites or tools to use in the classroom. One issue, however, is how to get all of our students to open the webpage when we need them to. Gone are the days where you need to write an entire URL on the board and have the students copy it down and enter it, exactly, in order to get everyone on the same site at the same time. That never seems to go well. If you are a Google Classroom user, you will no doubt find the Share To Classroom extension to be very helpful. This extension will enable you to send a webpage to your students and have it open up on their chromebooks right before your eyes. It also allows you to post announcements, assignments, or save webpages to be pushed out at a later time. Students can also share webpages with their teacher using this extension. 

Quick Lesson: Application vs. Extension vs. Add-On 

We use these terms a lot and it is important to understand what they do and where to find them.

Application (App): 

Web apps are basically websites. They have functionality within your browser and run without the need to download software. Gmail and Google maps are examples of web apps. In the chrome web store, you can choose web apps that are websites and chrome apps. Chrome apps are basically software programs that often can run even if you are not online. There is a gmail chrome app that you can get from the chrome web store that will allow you to access your email offline (limited functionality). Your apps that you have added from the chrome web store can be found in your apps doc in the upper left corner of your screen.


Extensions function while you are using an app or a website. They enhance the functionality of the tool you are using. The Share To Classroom extension allows you to access your Google classroom while you are on another webpage. The extensions show up as little icons to the right of the URL bar. Fun fact: The URL bar is called the omnibox.


Add-ons are similar to extensions, but they are scripts that only work within certain applications. For example, there is an add-on that will allow you to send emails from a Google spreadsheet. It enhances the functionality of the app but it only works in sheets. 

Ok, back to Share To Classroom...

Step 1: Go to the chrome web store and add the Share To Classroom extension. When you add it, you will see the little green icon pop up on the upper right of your screen. 
Step 2: Have all of your students also add the Share To Classroom extension. It will NOT work unless everyone has it.
Step 3: When you are on a webpage that you want to send, click the little green icon for the extension. The extension will show up as long as you are signed in to your district chrome account.
Step 4: Choose a class and then click "push"

That's it! 
Below is a screenshot of me pushing the Yellowstone National Park website to my biology students.

There are lots of practical uses for this extension. What I like most about it is that with technology we often miss the step of how to get the information to our students and that is when we lose instructional time. There is no need to spend time trying to make sure your students are all on the webpage that you want, just open it for them using Share To Classroom.

Here is a short video from The Gooru, showing how it's done...

Are you using this extension? Do you have other extensions that are working great for you? Feel free to post in the comments section below.