Saturday, December 28, 2013

Quickly Search for Google Drive Files from Chrome

I love Google Drive. I have all but left MS Office in the dust. I just learned a great way to search Google Drive files from Chrome. By making a "search engine" tweak (very easy to do) you can find all your Google Drive files without having to go to your actual drive. This can be done anywhere from the search bar. Follow the directions below to set this up.

Steps to setting up the Google Drive Search from Chrome:
  1. You must first be using Google Chrome.
  2. Right click on the Chrome address bar.
  3. Choose "Edit Search Engines…" from the drop-down list. This will take you to the settings page for Search Engines in Chrome.
  4. Scroll down to the bottom of “Other search engines” and add a new search engine.
  5. Enter “Google Drive” as the name for your search engine, “Drive” as the keyword you’ll type for activating a search (you can choose any text for these) and then type the URL as below:

    Now you’re ready to search. 
    1. Enter your new keyword “drive” in your address bar.
    2. Hit the TAB key.
    3. Enter your search string
    4. Find your Google file form the list.

    Below is a quick screen shot showing how easy this is to do!

    Monday, December 9, 2013

    Discovery Education Network: Reason to be a DEN Star

    I know I have had a number of posts regarding Discovery Education. What can I say, when something is that good, one must share and post about it! Today I was reminded why I am a DEN Star and why the Discovery Education Network is such a fantastic resource. I received a text from my wife (an English teacher in another district) asking if I would get into one of her documents with her. Thinking nothing of it, I logged into the document. She was in the middle of showing her freshman class how Google Docs works. We were having a little "Google Doc" conversation and all of a sudden something magical occurred. I am not sure how she did this (my wife is pretty brilliant) but suddenly the text that appeared caused quite a stir. It was the "Oh my I can't believe I am on the same document with a DEN/Tech hero of mine!". Steve Dembo, a DEN and Tech Guru was in this document showing how collaboration works from Chicago! I would be lying if I didn't say I wasn't a little in awe (how did my lovely wife get The (yes...THE) Steve Dembo into a simple demo doc with her students?). Well, all she had to do was tweet that she would like someone to help out and the DEN responded in minutes. How cool is that?

    So all this rambling has a purpose (just hang in there!). The DEN...the example above is just one of the hundreds of examples of how other teachers and resources are available to DEN Stars. Discovery Education is so much more than just the streaming video and classroom resources. It is more than the fantastic Board Builder program and online lesson plans. It is People. Teachers. Tech knowledge. Help when needed. Real people who want to help others.

    If you are not a DEN Star teacher, click the link below and get started. It is easy to do and you will never regret it. Who know, maybe Mr. Dembo will make a virtual appearance in your classroom!

    Saturday, December 7, 2013

    Graphic Organizers: Where Your Writing Starts

    Graphic Organizers are important tools for writing. They help students plan out their writing and give direction and planning. There are many apps and web sites out there to use. Below are just 2 that I was looking at while doing the 21 Things 4 Teachers course. Check them out for yourself!


    Popplet is a great graphic organizer for story development and other writing. It is easy to use (and has an iPad app). This is a tool to help plan paragraph writing or make any graphic organizer you may need. It offers many options to make it fun and is "kid friendly" for elementary teachers/students.
    Screen Shot 2013-11-23 at 9.26.48 AM


    Gliffy is another graphic organizer. I don't like this a much as Popplet, but it is another option. It is easier to make things in specific location with the grid lines in the background.
    Screen Shot 2013-11-23 at 9.31.13 AM

    Friday, December 6, 2013

    Tagxedo: A Shapely Word Cloud

    Word Clouds are fun tools. There are a few out there (Wordle and Tagxedo are my 2 of choice). This post will focus on Taxedo.  This is a lot like Wordle, but it allows users to create shapes with the words. There are pre-set choices to pick from, and it even allows users to upload their own images. Word of warning, images should be pretty identifiable by their shape and not shading or color tone. Basic outline shapes work best. This is a great tool to take poetry and other writing to a more visual level. Below are a couple that I made from class newsletters, policies, and Tech Coach descriptors. 

    Check it out at!

    Thursday, December 5, 2013

    Wordle: More than Just a Pretty Word Cloud

    Screen Shot 2013-11-23 at 9.55.30 AM
    Word Clouds are fun tools. There are a few out there (Wordle and Tagxedo are my 2 of choice). This post will focus on Wordle. I use it every 2 weeks in my classroom when we change seats. New groups make a Wordle to show what they like and have in common and these hang above their group of desks. Another great use is writing. Before a student can submit a final draft of a writing to me, they must copy and paste it into Wordle. Then they can make sure that they have not over used any words. Wordle will make the word font larger depending on its frequency. If they have very large words in their Wordle, they go back into their document and choose better words. This is an very easy visual check to see that they have varied word choice in writing.

    Check out the fun at

    Monday, November 25, 2013

    Photo Backup in Google+

    When Google+ was first released I was sure it would take down the evil Facebook. All right, now there have been 3 times in my life I was wrong. Google+ is not the smash hit I expected it to be (although don't discount its networking ability!), but it does offer a lot more goodies than other social media sites do. One of the greatest is free photo storage and sharing. Google has long been one of the pioneers in free online photo storage with Picasa, but Google+ makes this even easier. Below is a quick "How-To" video on how to enable Auto Backup to automatically upload and store all those precious memories from your web enabled phones and devices. 

    Steps to Upload Pictures:

    • Step 1: You will need to have your Google+ account active. If you have not done this, just be logged into your Google account and click the Google+ icon in your Apps and set up.
    • Step 2: Download the Google+ app on your phone/tablet. 
    • Step 3: Tap the 3 bar icon and then the gear (settings) icon.
    • Step 4: Tap on “Camera and Photos”.
    • Step 5: Tap “Auto Backup”.
    • Step 6: For FREE online storage make sure “Full Size Backups” is off. Then make sure back up is set to only over Wi-Fi (save data plan).
    • Step 7: Take lots of pictures and sit back and let them upload and be stored for FREE!

    One tip: my suggestion is to turn off Full Size backup as it will eat away at your Google account space. If you turn off Full Size Backups you will enjoy unlimited photo storage! Check out the video for steps on how to do this!

    Saturday, November 23, 2013

    QR Codes: More Than Just Web Links

    Tech Blog QR CodeQR Codes are one of the best "shortcut" tools available. Our district has a lot of iPads, so these work well (you need a device with a camera to scan the codes). Most teachers use them for links to web sites, but I use them to link kids to other files. You can upload files into your Google Drive and the QR code opens them (see my screencast below). I have set up QR codes on student writing that takes the scanning device to an audio file of the student reading or explaining their writing. This is great for Art teachers to put codes on a piece of work and have the creator tell about it. I showed our Spanish teacher how to use them for vocabulary review where students scan QR Codes and they take students to an image or a term (see Tech Chat below). QR codes are fantastic in any classroom with devices that can scan them. Yeah...I dig QR codes!

    Share Audio Files in Google Drive with QR Codes

    Access Images in Google Drive with QR Codes

    Saturday, November 16, 2013

    Discovery Education: Sounds and Songs

    As much as use Discovery Education, there are always things I need to be reminded about. I had completely forgotten about the sounds and songs media! This is yet another great resource for classroom teachers and students. There are tons of downloadable sounds to use. Check them out!

    Need a sound for a presentation/project?

    Log into Discovery Education and click on the "Search" box.

    Type in your search and click "Media Types".

    Scroll down to "Listen" and choose the type of sound you want to search for and click the "Search" button.

    Click on the clip you want to hear and listen to it. If you want to use it, click the "Download" button.

    Wednesday, November 13, 2013

    Teacher Board Builder in Discovery Education

    Let's face it...Discovery Education is a fantastic program for classrooms. New this Fall was the release of Student Boards. These are easy to use online posters that can have media embedded right into them. Students can now create rich presentations/posters/online projects with all the available Discovery Education content (as well as their own). If you are using DE make sure to set up student accounts and utilize Student Board Builder! The big news is now Teacher Board Builder has been released. Teachers can now set up projects, assignments  and presentations and share them with their classes. Log in to your Discovery Education account and get "Building"!

    Here is a quick video on how to start.

    Tuesday, November 12, 2013

    Creating Classes and Uploading Students into Discover Education

    Discovery Education is such a great resource for classroom teachers. There is so much more to it than just "United Streaming" videos. There are assessments, assignments, projects, lesson plans, and Board Builders. If your school district is a Discovery Education district I hope you use it to it fullest. Start by creating classes in your account and giving each of your students their own log-ins. This will allow them access to all the tools you have access to as a teacher. If you are fortunate to have your students already enrolled into Discovery Ed on a building roster, it is extremely easy to enroll them into your class. If you do not have an uploaded roster, just look at the last few seconds of the clip to see how to manually upload students. 

    Check out the video below for help.

    Sunday, November 10, 2013

    Importing Student Contacts into Gmail

    Google mail is one of the greatest classroom tools. It allows students to collaborate and communicate. The only issue may be sharing with others. Unless students know each other's actual Gmail address. This is where creating a contact list comes in handy. By sharing this list with students, they will all have the same contact list and just have to type in a collaborator's name and the email address will self populate. Follow these steps to accomplish this.

    1. Create a CSV file within Google Contacts with your teacher account as the first contact.
    2. Download this to your computer.
    3. Enter in each student's full name, first name, last name, and email address in the correct columns on the CSV file.
    4. Share this file with your class.
    5. Import this file into your contact list.
    All these steps are shown in the How-To video below. Give it a shot and start collaborating!

    Wednesday, October 30, 2013

    Tech Chat Episode 3: QR Codes

    Here is the third episode of "Tech Chat". This will be a series of short videos showcasing Gull Lake Community Schools teachers showing how they use technology with students in their classrooms. This one is about our Spanish teacher, Mrs. French, showing how she uses QR Codes to reinforce Spanish vocabulary.

    Check it out!

    Friday, October 25, 2013

    Text and Voice Comments in Google Drive

    One of the best attributes of Google Drive is the collaboration that can take place. Sharing and editing of work makes student work even better. This allows new editors to help the author. Within documents in Google Drive there is a great tool for commenting. When allowed, readers (or teachers) can send the author comments about the piece of writing. This can be a note of encouragement, suggestions for improvement, or general comments. From a teacher stand point  this is where we would grab the red pen and scribe to the student on their printed paper. Now, the student sees the comments and can edit/change the actual publication to improve it. This is easy to do with the built in comments feature, but there is also an add-on that kicks it up a notch. Now voice comments can be added. What does this mean? Instead of just typing text in for comments, teachers (or collaborators) can leave voice messages attached to sections of the document! This is incredibly easy and very productive. Check out my video and Google Presentation below and give it a shot!

    Tuesday, October 22, 2013

    Google Hangout: Make Phone Calls with Your iPad

    I love Google Hangout. It is a great tool to communicate with others whether 1-on-1 or whole class/group. It is Apple's Facetime with more options. Now, with the latest iPad app update there is a new option that is, well, fun and convenient! If you open the Hangout app on your iPad you are now able to make phone calls though your iPad! If you are a current Google Voice subscriber, Hangout uses your Voice number as the caller ID. No fear for those not subscribed to Google Voice. Your caller ID will come up on the receivers phone as "unknown". This is just another great Google tool. Head to the iTunes Store and download the Google Hangout app and give it a shot! 

    Below is the Google write up from the Google Voice Blog for more information:

    Call a phone from Hangouts

    You can place calls to landline and mobile phones from Hangouts in Gmail, Google+, and the Chrome extension. Calls made to the US and Canada are free and other calls can be made at our low rates.
    Here’s how to place a call:
    1. If you’re using the Hangouts Chrome extension or Hangouts in Google+, click menu  at the top of your Hangouts list and select Call a phone. In Gmail simply click the phone button  at the top right of the search box.
    2. To find a contact’s phone number, simply type the person’s name or phone number into the search box or scroll through your Hangouts list. If you’re placing an international call, you can select the applicable country code by clicking the flag drop down or by typing it directly into the search box (i.e. +55 for Brazil).
    3. When you’ve found the person you wish to call, simply click on their phone number.
    4. An audio-only Hangout window will open and Hangouts will dial the phone number you selected.
    5. Dial an extension: If you are calling a phone number that has an extension, click the dial pad button, and use the dial pad that appears to enter the extension.
    When you’ve finished the call, simply click Hang up or close the Hangout window.

    Caller ID for calls placed with Call Phones

    The Caller ID display for calls placed through Call Phones will show as "unknown" and cannot be used to receive phone calls. Of course, if you are using Call Phones with a full Google Voice account (US only), your Google Voice number will display when you place calls.

    Your Hangouts list

    If you’re in someone’s Google+ circles and the person has chosen to make his or her phone number visible, it will appear in your Hangouts list. The person will also appear if you’ve saved his or her contact information in Google Contacts.

    For More Google Hangout Help & Tips Go To:

    Saturday, October 19, 2013

    Quizlet: A Great Student and Teacher Vocabulary Tool

    Quizlet is an online tool designed to study key vocabulary terms and other concepts. It allows teachers to create flash cards and have students practice online. Teachers can make their own, or choose from millions of flash cards sets created by others. But that's just the beginning - once you've got flashcards, you can use several study modes including multiple choice tests and study games. You can add images and listen to audio, and even study on the go with Quizlet mobile apps. This is a great tool for classroom quiz/test preparation.

    What are the benefits of Quizlet?

    For Teachers: This is a very easy site to upload terms and create study tools. It is free and offers many great tools to make studying vocabulary fun. There are millions of already made vocabulary flash card decks already made and ready to share. Often times the perfect card deck is already created and ready to go! All a teacher needs to do is create a list of terms and definitions. If these are already created in Excel they can be copied right into the web site and auto-create study cards. Each term card can be individually created as well. After the terms are entered they can be shared by a web link with students to study.

    For Students:  This is an easy tool to use. Quizlet will help students study terms with a few entertaining methods to help vocabulary retention. Best of all, no student account is needed. All a student needs is a link from the teacher and a computer with Internet access. Perhaps the best part of Quizlet, and what sets it above many others, is the options offered for studying. There are 5 different study formats to work with (Cards, Learn, Test, Speller, Scatter, and Space Race). These offer different ways to practice and learn the same terms, and best of all the teacher doesn’t need to set them up. They are part of Quizlet...all for FREE!

    Here are of some of the Quizlet activities.

    Types of Activities

    Flash Cards



    Space Race

    Visit to get started!

    Monday, October 14, 2013

    Tech Chat Episode 2: Kidblog

    Here is the second episode of "Tech Chat". This will be a series of short videos showcasing Gull Lake Community Schools teachers showing how they use technology with students in their classrooms. This one is about a third grade teacher, Mr. English, discussing how he uses Kidblog to encourage writing and peer comments.

    Sunday, October 13, 2013

    Socrative 2.0

    I love Socrative. It is an easy and quick way to assess students. You can create surveys, quizzes, test, and exit tickets. It is an easy program to use and has an iPad app for both student and teacher. I have used it for over a year and they just came out with a fantastic update. It offers some great improvements, but at the moment it is still in beta. Give the new version or the original version a shot! 

    Thursday, October 10, 2013

    Charts in Google Spreadsheet

    I love Google Drive (let's face it, who doesn't?). It has pretty much replaced my use of Microsoft Office. Google Drive may not be as powerful and have all the toys Office does, but it is fast, easy, convenient and accessible anywhere (not to mention the best aspect of collaboration with others). I was asked recently if charts could be made in Google Spreadsheets. I was pleased to be able to say, "Yes!" and be able to show how to do it. Here is a quick screencast of how to add a chart into your Google Spreadsheet to display data. There are many different styles of charts/graphs available so play around and choose the chart style that works best to display your data.

    How to Add Charts to Google Spreadsheet

    Saturday, October 5, 2013

    Students' Sharing Google Files: The EASY Way!

    Google Drive is an absolute must in any classroom. It allows student file storage, is easy to use, and  allows student/teacher collaboration. The only issue I have had in the past is when students don't share a document with me correctly and I do not have access to edit or to view a file. Remembering to type in a long email address or granting proper rights  can be problematic for younger students. There is an easy way to avoid all this. Instead of sharing each file individually, students can create a folder in their Google Drive and share that folder with teachers. Then, any file they drag/create within that folder is automatically shared with those who have access to it, and all rights granted follow all files. Easy! Below is a short video on how to do this. Check it out!

    How to create and share folders to share files in Google Drive.

    Thursday, October 3, 2013

    Digital Passport from Common Sense

    Digital Citizenship is at the forefront of every tech discussion these days. Teaching our youth to be digitally responsible is not an easy task. I wish I could remember where I hear this phrase, but it changed the way I look at what I once called my digital footprint. I now look at it as a “Digital Tattoo”. Footprints wash away with rain, wind and time. Tattoos are around forever. We must begin teaching our students that everything they do from posting Tweets and Facebook Updates, to SnapChat images, and blog posts is saved somewhere in the mysterious cloud of cyber space. This is a lot of responsibility; way more than we had growing up. How are you preparing your students for this heavy burden?

    What is Digital Passport?
    There are lots of sites and resources to help kids learn about their Digital Tattoo. My favorite for elementary students is Digital Passport from Common Sense Media. This is a free site where teachers can create classes and enroll their students. They can then track each student's progress as they view video clips and play interactive games to learn about safe and responsible digital citizenship.

    How to Use Digital Passport?
    There are differing levels of time investment that a teacher could choose:
    1. Basic (just letting the students progress through the games and activities at their own pace.
    2. Do a 15-minute lesson before each session (5 total) and a review after students complete the activities.
    3. Full integration with pre-made lesson plans and documents (all available on the site) and whole class discussions.

    5 Main Activities:

    It is free. Sign up and give it a try!

    Thursday, September 26, 2013

    Adding Audio and QR Codes to Projects using Google Drive

    They are everywhere. They're on purchased products, magazine ads, posters, store signs, and even your morning cereal box. Those pesky black speckled squares! Those mysterious QR codes! But what are they really used for? What do you do with them and why are they so important? They are an easy and quick way to access a web link, file, document, or a million other things online. Wouldn't it be great if you could have your smartphone or tablet scan a QR Code and play your students' voice describing a project? You can! Here is an easy way to have students create an audio file and attach it to a project. This can be a writing sample they made, an art project they created, or a poster they designed. Putting a student's voice on their work helps explain details and gives even more ownership to their work...and it is really easy! Here are 7 easy steps to do this. All you need is an audio recording, Google account, and internet access!

    7 steps to Adding Audio to Student Projects

    • Step 1: You will need to get an audio recording of the student describing, reading, or retelling their story/project. This can be done with apps for tablets or a computer program like Audacity or Garage Band. Best output is WAV file (plays better with Google Drive).
    • Step 2: Once you have the recording on a computer, the student will need to upload this audio file to their Google Drive. I suggest creating a folder for Audio Files. 
    • Step 3: Share the audio file. I recommend making the file viewable to anyone with the link.
    • Step 4: Copy the link and paste it into a QR code making site. I use because it is easy and free. This will generate the QR code image. Save this to your desktop.
    • Step 5: Attach this image to your project. You may have to print this out or insert it as an image in your document.
    • Step 7: Sit back and look like a Tech Ninja!

    Here is a screencast showing how to do all 7 steps. Watch it and get QR'ing!

    Saturday, September 21, 2013

    Fall Conference Schedule

    Here is a PDF and video to help Gull Lake staff edit last year's Conference Schedule to work for this year. All that needs to be done is to change the dates to match this year's calendar. Below is a link to the PDF for full instructions if you need them.

    How to Change the Dates:

    Step-By-Step "How-To" Set it All Up

    Friday, September 20, 2013

    Tech Chat Episode 1: Moodle in a 4th Grade Classroom

    Here is my first attempt at "Tech Chat". I hope to make a series of short videos showcasing Gull Lake Community Schools teachers showing how they use technology with students in their classrooms. This one is about a fourth grade teacher, Mr. Fuehr, discussing how he uses Moodle to assess students.

    Thursday, September 19, 2013

    Twitter Hashtags Every Teacher Should Know About

    Twitter chats are a great way to stay informed of current educational trends. By following the right people and hashtags you can learn great teaching methods, techniques, resources, tools, programs, and almost anything else that relates to the classroom. Most Twitter chats are held weekly at a set time.  They are a good opportunity to chat online with like-minded educators, sharing ideas that work for you, and continue to add/gain from an endless PLC community.  Below is a collection of Twitter chats that are great for all kinds of educators.

    These Twitter chats cover anything and everything in education, and represent a great jumping off point for those just getting started in Twitter education chats.

    • #edchat – Talk to a variety of educators around the world through #edchat, Tuesdays at noon and 7 p.m. EST.
    • #lrnchat – Every Thursday night from 8:30-10 p.m. EST, you can connect with other educators and discuss learning.
    • #edbkchat – On Wednesdays at 4 p.m. EST, you can discuss educational books and topics in learning and pedagogy.
    • #spnchat – Find out about successful practices in education and education reform through #spnchat Tuesdays at 9 p.m.
    • #ptchat – Wednesdays at 9 p.m. EST, parents and educators around the world can open the lines of communication on #ptchat.
    • #urbaned – This Twitter chat for educators discusses topics relevant to urban education and beyond, every first and third Sunday of the month at 9 p.m. EST.
    • #teachchat – Connect with other teachers and find out what they’re doing in their classrooms on #teachchat Wednesdays at 9 p.m. EST.
    • #teaching2030 – Discuss big picture education issues, strategies, and reform through the #teaching2030 chat, every third Thursday at 8:30 p.m.
    • #smedu – Wednesdays at noon and 9 p.m. EST social media professionals, students, educators, and more can discuss using social media in education in this chat.
    • #ntchat – New teachers can learn more about their profession with ideas, collaboration, and more for getting starting through #ntchat on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. EST.
    • #educoach – Wednesdays at 10 p.m. EST, you can find instructional coaching for improving education.
    • #gtchat – Fridays at noon and 7 p.m. EST, gifted and talented educators, administrators, parents, and students can discuss new developments in developing gifted and talented programs around the world.
    • #spedchat – Follow this weekly discussion on issues for students and teachers in special education Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. EST.