Tuesday, October 4, 2016

How to Conquer Gmail Once and For All!

This month during #TransformationTuesday I was asked to share some basic Gmail tips and tricks. These are the topics covered in our 30 minute session today. I will repeat this session on October 11 at the Freshman Academy and one last time at the high school on October 18. Next month our focus will shift to Google Calendar.

  • Search Gmail
    • Powerful search tool built into Gmail
    • Series of filters you can apply to narrow your search
    • This eliminates the need to create so many “folders”
  • Setup Priority Inbox and Divide Inbox into Read and Unread
    • Click on the Settings button in the upper right corner of Gmail.
    • Select “Settings”
    • Select Inbox tab
    • Inbox type: Select Priority
    • Inbox unread count: Select “Unread items in the first section”
    • Click “Save Changes” at the bottom of the page
  • Get to ZERO unread messages quickly and painlessly!  
    • Click the dropdown menu on the right that shows a number.
    • Select 50 which is the max
    • Check the box on the upper left. This will place a checkmark next to all of the visible emails (50 at a time).
    • Click the “Mark as Read” option.
    • Repeat this until all of your emails have been marked as “READ.” If you have more than 200 unread emails you will want to continue this process at home so we can keep moving.
Having a low unread message count makes it so much easier to see new emails arrive in your inbox. This greatly reduces the chance of missing the emails that are really important!
*Pro tip: If you open a message and cannot deal with it at that moment, you can check it then mark it as Unread. This will make it reappear in the UNREAD section of your Inbox so you don’t lose track of it.

  • Create a filter to automatically “label” emails as the enter your inbox
    • We are going to set up TWO filters. The first one will be for emails from me (bstill@geringschools.net).
      • Go to the Search box at the top of the screen in Gmail
      • In the “From” field type: bstill@geringschools.net (Don’t worry about any other fields on this page.) Click “Create filter with this search” on the lower right corner.
      • Click the dropdown menu that says “Choose label” and select the “New Label” option
      • Name the filter (something like Tech Integration)
      • You can apply to the previous messages if you wish. (This will make it super easy to find all of my emails for future reference!)
      • Then click “Create Filter”
      • It will appear on the left side of your inbox. Hover over it, click the dropdown arrow, and select a label color that will catch your attention.
      • Now when you get an email from me it will automatically have a label applied to it when it hits your inbox.
Filter Ideas: (People can have multiple labels applied to them)
  • Central Office staff (Central)
  • Your principal/assistant principal (VIP)
  • Parent Contacts 16-17
  • Your department (Social Studies, 4th grade, Math, etc)
  • Tech
  • Newsletters-set up a filter that will automatically mark them as read so you don’t have to deal with them, but you can easily find them when needed (Name after the newsletter)
*Pro tip: There are two ways to apply a label to an email that is already in your inbox. You can keep it in your read/unread sections by checking the box to the left of the message and then click the option to apply a label. Your other option is to archive an email by dragging it to a label.  

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Adding Events from Activities Calendar to Google Calendar

Over the last week I have had multiple requests from staff asking how to add events from our conference activities calendar to our Google Calendars. I made a screencast that covers these same steps. You might find it useful to play the video as you go through the steps.

1. Go to the GPS website, click the Calendars tab then select GPS activities calendar.

2. Check the boxes of the events that you wish to add to your calendar. (I have found that this works best if you divide this up into 4 or 5 different calendars such as Boys Fall Sports, Girls Fall Sports, etc.) It seems like when you add too many events to a single calendar it doesn't work.)

3. Once you have selected all of the events you want to add, click View.

4. Once the box opens, click the calendar icon in the upper right corner.

5. When the next box opens, click the Google logo in the Calendar box.

6. Copy (shortcut---CTRL+C) the URL that appears. (You can close the extra boxes that are open.)

7. Open your Google Calendar and click the upside down triangle that appears to the right of "Other Calendars."

8. Paste the link (shortcut---CTRL+V) into the box and click Add Calendar.

9. Once the calendar appears on the list you can change the name of the calendar by clicking the upside down triangle that appears to the right of the name of the calendar, selecting Calendar Settings, then changing the name in the Calendar Name box. Make sure to save!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Google Forms Quiz or Flubaroo?

Teachers have been using Google Forms for quite some time to create quizzes. Then they would use an addon called Flubaroo to grade them. For people who were just getting their feet wet with using technology this process could get a little confusing. Over the summer Google built a new feature into Forms that will allow you to create a very basic quiz. Eric Curts wrote a post that outlines exactly what Flubaroo and Forms Quiz can and can't do.

My good friend Richard Byrne made a video that walk you through how to use the new Forms Quiz. This should help get you going!

Also, always make sure that when you use Google Forms to create a quiz you set the form to automatically collect user names. This will save a lot of frustration!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Part 1: Back In the Trenches

I have been a K-12 Innovative Teaching and Learning Specialist for two years. Prior to that I was a social studies teacher for ten years. Back in May I was told there was a very good chance that I would be asked to teach a couple sections of 9th grade Social Studies (World Geography). I have a sneaky suspicion that my administrators were a little worried that I would not be open to the idea, but I was ECSTATIC! The truth is I absolutely love my job, but I miss working with kids. I didn't realize how much I missed working with them until I was presented with this opportunity. This arrangement will work for everyone involved. The school gets a teacher and I get to actually do all of the fun and crazy things I talk (preach?) about!

I hope teachers and administrators stop in every single day to see what my students are up to. They are going to do some pretty terrific things! I'm going to push them and challenge them to do things they never thought possible. They are going to connect to the world via their blogs and they are going to manage all of their projects through a classroom website. Everything they do they will be tied to the Nebraska Geography Standards. I have a vision for how this is going to work and it is going to ROCK!

This is the first in a series of posts where I will share what I am doing. There isn't anything that cannot be replicated for different subjects and grade levels. Most of the things we will be doing are things I've had students do for years, so I already know it is possible.

The first thing I did when I found out I was teaching 9th grade Geography was get a copy of the book and the pacing guide. While my class will be very different from the traditional way this class has been taught, I still needed to come up with a schedule to make sure we explore the same topics that are stated in the official course description. I set aside roughly five weeks for each unit.  This will allow us some flexibility with our schedule just in case we need to move some things around.

I spent some time today setting up this doc to make sure we get to all of the standards.  I still need to spend some time figuring out which ones we should focus on for each unit. I'm also working on building a rubric to help students (and me!) know how they are doing when it comes to mastery of our standards. This document is not even close to complete, but it is a good start.

My next step is to divide up the standards to provide students with areas on which they can focus while they are working on their projects. I'm so excited to see where this goes!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Preparing for the Worst Case Scenario

It has been three years since my husband wrote this powerful post. During the last few years, he has worked with a several schools and businesses in our region to make sure they are prepared in case the unthinkable happens. I wish we didn't have to talk about active shooters, but the fact remains that they pose a very real threat. If you are not already talking about this in your school, I hope this post will be something you can use to initiate a conversation. _________________________________________________________

My name is Kristofor Still (@kris_still). As you have probably guessed by now, I am married to Beth Still, who is the author of this blog. Before I dive too deep into this guest blog that Beth has asked me to write, I feel you need to know who I am and the level of experience I possess in my fields of expertise.

I have been in Law Enforcement now for almost 19 years; the last 13 years have been with the Scotts Bluff County Sheriff’s Department in Nebraska. I have been a SWAT team member for the last 11 years and a SWAT sniper for the last 6 years. I am also one of the department’s two firearms instructors. In May of 2012, I was given a great opportunity as I was one a select few from across the state who were able to gain a certification as an Active Shooter Response Instructor. I teach a two day class to area Law Enforcement Officers along with Chief Deputy Troy Brown.

As most of you probably know by now, today was one of the most horrific days in the history of the United States. A killer walked into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and killed 20 children and 6 adults. Of those killed, a majority of were kindergarteners.

When something like this happens and innocent children are killed, it tears at the hearts of a nation. Destroying what we as parents hold dearest to our hearts shock us to the core. It makes us realize how fragile life really is and how one crazed, sick person can take it away in the blink of an eye.

As I mentioned above, I am one of three instructors in our county that teach active shooter response to our area Law Enforcement Officers. Because of this, my wife knows that I am passionate about making sure that our officers are prepared both mentally and physically to go in and meet this evil head on and terminate it as quickly as possible in order to stop the killing.

Like most parents across our nation today, we talked at great length when Beth arrived home from school about what we can do as Law Enforcement Officers and Educators to stop this from happening. Beth came to me because she knows that I have also in the past gone to two of our area schools and provided them in-put on ways the school and teachers can protect themselves and the children. The sad thing about all of this is that my advice fell on deaf ears. I know that neither school followed through with any of the recommendations provided to them. I believe the reason that nothing was done was two fold. First of all, too many administrators fall into a comfort zone and genuinely believe that this kind of evil will never happen here. The second reason is because of the all mighty dollar. In both schools that I went to, I talked about purchasing certain items that could be used to aid teachers in protecting and or keeping intruders out of their rooms in the case that they were unable to escape. I felt that in both cases, I lost them once it came down to spending money.

I am often asked by people and teachers what they need to do in the case of active shooter in the building or school in which they are located. I start off by telling them to follow the acronym A.D.D. This stands for AVOID, DENY, DEFEND. I tell teachers, administrators, law enforcement officers, and citizens the same thing.

AVOID: Escape the scene as quickly as possible. If you are able to run, do so until you are sure you are in a safe place.

DENY (entry): If you unable to get out, barricade yourself in a room. Pile all of the furniture and heavy items in front of the door as possible and then quietly hide in the room in an area that would provide cover and concealment from an active shooter who wants to try to shoot into the room. Remember that an active shooters main goal is to kill as many people as possible to provide the greatest shock factor to his or her audience. They do not like to get hung up on a closed and locked door. This will slow them down too much for them to effectively accomplish their mission or goal. Most likely, they will move on.

DEFEND: If you are unable to escape or secure yourself in a safe room, you need to fight for your life. Find any items that you can use as a weapon. These are items of convenience such as a fire extinguisher, coat rack, trash can, chair, etc. If you are able to, find others in your same position that are of the sound mind and body to assist you in fighting for your life as well as the other innocent people who could fall victim to the senseless killing that is happening.

Another major problem that I am seeing in our schools is that our teachers are given a policy or a flip chart to follow in times of an emergency. This may work if you are talking about a fire drill or tornado drill, but teachers need leeway in their decision making when they are dealing with an active shooter. Most teachers are by nature known to be rule followers. This creates problems as they tend to fall back on a flip chart or policy and ignore that sixth sense about what they should do. The way I describe this to our new law enforcement recruits is by telling them that if something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. Learn to follow your sixth sense and do what you feel is right.

Early on in this post, I spoke about certain in-expensive items that I recommended these schools purchase for each teacher or each room. Below is a list of these items that I recommended to them and am now recommending to you.

1) Tactical door wedges. These can be found on-line and typically cost between $15 and $20 a piece. These secure the door to the floor from inside the room, so the door can be permanently locked. If done properly, the only way you can open the door is to tear it down with an axe or chainsaw.

2) A claw hammer with a long handle. These can be used as both a weapon to fight with or a tool to break and rake windows to aid in escape if your room has exterior windows.

3) Medical kit to include a tunicate and a clotting agent. Remember that the first responders that are entering the building are not there to provide medical attention to those that are injured. They by-pass the injured and going straight to the threat so they can stop the killing as quickly as possible.

4) Rope or fire escape ladders. To aid in escape through an outer window if you are on the second or third floor of a school or structure.

5) Emergency blankets. These can be used to help comfort the wounded or to throw over the broken glass in a window pane prior to escape.

6) Cell phones or emergency radios for each classroom. Communication is key to any law enforcement officers or tactical teams arriving on scene. If you are able to provide pertinent information to police dispatch, you can aid in response time by providing the locations of the shooter(s) inside the structure.

7) A box, tote, or five gallon bucket to hold all of these items as they are stored in a safe place inside the classroom.

As you can see above, these are not high priced items. Push your administrator to purchase these for each classroom and tell him or her why you feel it is important. If they refuse to help your school, find ways to make this happen on your own. Some of the items above may be lying around your house or garage and could easily be transported to your school. The rest that needs to be purchased could easily be justified as inexpensive life insurance policy.

As an educator you are responsible for protecting your students if at all possible. Too many times in these cases of school shootings, there were red flags that many noticed, but failed to report until after the unthinkable happened. If you see or hear something that you consider to be red flag with a student, report it. Start by telling an administrator or counselor. If this fails and you believe they pose a true threat, talk to one of your trusted law enforcement officers.

In closing, I want you to ask yourself this; could you live with yourself if you failed to prepare, act, or report a possible future threat that resulted in the death of a student, wife, husband, son, daughter, grandparent or co-worker. You owe it to yourself and your students to be their first line of defense by educating yourself and making good sound decisions!

Below are images of a tactical wedge and a tactical strap. Both can be purchased from Botachtactical.

TAC-Wedge Door Jammer Operational Model BLACK

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Google Innovation Academy

This time last year I was in Austin, TX for the Google Teacher Academy. I had applied for years and I FINALLY made it in! I knew it would be an incredible experience....and it was. Everyone who had a hand in organizing our academy did a fantastic job. Our lead learners were beyond amazing! For two wonderful days I got to learn with and from some of the most talented educators on the planet.

Many of us still stay in contact either in our Google+ community, Voxer group or Twitter. I think I can speak for our entire cohort when I say that some of the friendships that formed during our academy will most certainly last a lifetime.

I'm telling you all of this because applications open TODAY for the Google Certified Innovator. I am so excited that I cannot stand it and I can't even apply! (But I would LOVE to help with the selection process!)

If you visit the Google Training Center you can find out the details of what you need to do to apply. The best advice I can give you is to follow the directions to the letter and don't be afraid to share your passion and enthusiasm for teaching, learning, and sharing. If you applied in the past but weren't accepted I hope you apply again. I was rejected over and over, but I eventually made it in. Each time I didn't make it into an academy, I reflected on what I could have done differently or what areas I could focus on to improve. I knew that the competition was fierce, but I did not let that deter me.

Any moment now the details of the Innovation Academy will be announced. It will be a fantastic opportunity for 50 or so educators to spend a couple of days with truly amazing people while developing an innovation plan that is designed to change education. Will you be one of them?

Follow the hashtag #GoogleEI. I cannot wait to see the next cohort of Google Innovators!

Thank you N.C. :)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Flippity: Create Flashcards Using a Google Sheet

There are times when flashcards can be a good learning tool. Whether it is elementary students learning how to read the time on a clock or high school students trying to match famous paintings with the artist that painted them, flashcards can help. Flippity allows you to turn a simple Google Sheet into flashcards and so much more! The playlist below walks you through the process.

Flippity makes the process so simple. You can build the spreadsheet yourself, have students collaborate to build a shared set of cards, or have students build their own spreadsheet. If you want students to incorporate a nonlinguistic representation of an idea or word it would be best for them to create their own spreadsheet. They can even draw a representation on paper, take a picture of it, then save that image to their spreadsheet. The only limit with what you and your students can do with this is your imagination!