Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Horizontal Navigation on Google Site

When I set up the template for Gering I opted for the sidebar navigation. Over the last couple of weeks quite a few teachers have asked me to set up horizontal navigation instead. I have created a short video that will walk you through how to do this. When you switch to horizontal navigation you will need to change some of the colors. To access the place where you will make these changes click on the Open More Actions menu (gear on the upper right) or click g then m which is the shortcut to open this menu. Select Themes, Colors, and Fonts in the left column then select Horizontal navigation. (See image below.) Make the following changes:

  • Background -  Color- 4f7bbe   Hover color- 4f7bbe 
  • Text- Color- white  Hover color- white
  • Selected text- Text color- white  Background color-  4f7bbe 
  • Dropdown- Text-  4f7bbe  Background color- white Hover color-  4f7bbe  Hover background color- yellow

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Easily Shorten a URL

Have you ever tried to direct all of your students to a specific website but the URL is so long that half of them type it incorrectly? Some of them will get there right away while others will take 20 minutes. Meanwhile the students who are there get frustrated and by the time everyone finally gets to the right place you have a class full of disgruntled students. Google has the perfect solution! Goo.gl is a URL shortner that is so easy to use. All you need to do is copy the URL and go to goo.gl and paste the address  in the box then click the blue "Shorten URL" button on the right.

As soon as you shorten the link some cool things happen. First, a short link is generated for you. You can write this link on the board or print to give to your students or anyone who you need to share it with. As long as you are signed in the you will have a few other options. If you click on the Details button you will notice that you can track how many times someone has used the link as well as which browser they were using and which country they visited your link from. Perhaps the neatest thing of all is that a QR code is generated when you shorten the link.

What can you do with a QR code? There are lots of things!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Best of the Web for the Week of September 15, 2014

Eeek! I have fallen behind on my best of the web posts. Even though I haven't posted them I have still been collecting some awesome resources to share! I think you will find the tools on this list very valuable.

  • 17  21 Useful Web Tools for Creating Online Quizzes and Polls- If you need to create a poll or quiz this is the list for you! Obviously since we are a GAFE district I tend to favor Google Forms, but there are some other options on this list that are great options.
  • Alice Keeler is one of the brightest minds that I follow on Twitter. She shares more useful links and resources than just about anyone else I am connected to. She has written two posts that should be of interest to you. The first one is 20 Things You Can Do With Google Classroom and the other is 15 More Things You Can Do With Classroom. If you are not sure how to get going on classroom just let me know and we can schedule 45 minutes or so during your planning time.
  • Top 100 Tools for Learning in 2014 is a decent place to start to learn about different web 2.0 tools. Do not for one moment feel like you are behind if you do not know all of these tools. The goal is to learn the basics then pick up a few different tools so that your students have some options when it comes to how they want to share their learning.
  • Bringing Twitter into the Classroom- This is the story of a social experiment that changed the way an English teacher taught his classes. While the focus is on English there are more and more teachers who are using Twitter everyday to help their students become better writers and more engaged students.
  • Why Resumes Matter Less and Twitter Matters More- If you teach then you owe it to your students to watch this. It will help you understand why it is so important that you begin using tools like Twitter in your classroom. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Meet Kristy Vincent

Kristy Vincent - @BigPurpleHat
Where are you from and what do you do?
Houston, TX - Director of Digital Learning serving 1300 students of Hardin ISD.

How are you connected to Beth? Beth and I met on Twitter when I was searching for resources and help about Moodle. As time, blogs, and tweets passed, we became online colleagues and then friends. It wasn’t until January 2014 (about 4 years since we first connected) that we met face to face! Now, we are pretty inseparable even with the miles between us. 

How did you get involved in educational technology?
By accident. :D While finishing my undergrad, I took a job as a long term sub at a small school district. When the district lost its superintendent, principal, and business manager almost simultaneously, we found ourselves without anyone including a tech consultant. Because I knew how to turn on a computer and wasn’t scared to figure out the rest, I was handed a key to the server room and found a password on a sticky note. I decided to join in education and received from teaching certificate. I knew I wanted to come out of the server room and work more with students and faculty. From there, I was immersed in edTech. 

How has being a networked educator impacted your life?

There is NO WAY I would be where I am now if I wasn’t connected. While working for ESC XIII in Austin, TX I first joined Twitter (and shortly “met” Beth). I learned how to seek help and ask questions. I started presenting at conferences that I found out about on Twitter and my PLN began to grow. Without hesitation I go to the Twitterverse to ask questions, find out about new research, best practices and more. I also give back to the community sharing the resources I’ve created. I would not have the job I do or walk confidently into many trainings if it wasn’t for my PLN cheering me on from online.

What is some advice you can give to teachers about how to start finding resources and building their own PLN.
Find a medium that makes sense to you even if it makes you uncomfortable. Twitter was my starting place. DON’T get caught up in the numbers game. It really doesn’t matter how many followers you have or how many someone else does. If it is helping you grow and connect, that is the right size for you right now. Participate in Twitter chats. Basically that means following a hashtag at a set time. For instance, Thursday nights at 8:00 PM Eastern Time, #DENchat takes place. At that time, go to Twitter and search for #DENchat. If you really connect with anyone or like what they say, click on their profile and follow them. Continue doing that (finding people that resonate with you and following them); you are growing your PLN! When you feel ready, interact with someone on Twitter. You will be amazed at how open people are and willing to converse with you.

What is a tool that has captured your attention at the moment? What do you like about this tool?
I’m very much in love with photo editing right now. I have a number of different apps on my phone and use a myriad of tools on my computer. For creating graphics that I use on blogs, websites, etc. my preferred tool is Canva.  Even a novice can create stunning graphics using the templates they provide. There are many customization options including importing my own images.

What is one piece of advice that you can give to educators who are just getting started with integrating technology into their classrooms?
Start small. If you make only one change, you are one step farther than you were. It is easy to get excited about trying something new but everyone loses if you burn out. Try to make one change the first time. The next time, try a little more. More than anything, don’t compare yourself to what everyone else is doing in your building and on Twitter. Remember: You get to see everyone else’s final production, not their backstage drama.

What are some things you hope to accomplish professionally in the next year or two?
Professionally, I would like to become a Discovery Education Guru and continue connecting and working with this great community. Bar none, the Discovery Educator Network (DEN) has shaped and continues to shape my professional career more than any other PLN in which I am a member. Just this summer, I learned so much about education grants and plan to write (and receive) more grants for my district because of that workshop. It is a very competitive process to become a DEN Guru with phenomenal educators applying each year. I’m equally excited about the journey to reach this summit.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Using Smore to Design Digital Posters

Smore is a tool that allows you to create beautiful digital posters. You can add images, videos, links, as well as other elements. While you can purchase a subscription to Smore, the free version has always offered more than enough options. I have created a short screencast that covers the basic features. 

Teachers can use Smore to serve as a digital newsletter. They could also use Smore to share activities with their students. For example, a government class teacher might share a link to a presidential political debate. Then they might use a text box to post links to different resources that pertain to the candidates and elections. Then they could link to a GoogleDoc that has an activity that the students will complete. This is just one example-- there are thousands of ways to use Smore in your classroom. 

Students can use Smore as well and the possibilities are just as endless. Why not have them use Smore to breathe life into assignments that are typically mundane? They can use images and videos that already exist on the web or they can produce their own content and upload it onto their own Smore. Sharing a Smore is simple.  They can be uploaded directly to a number of different sites including Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. You can also embed a Smore directly into another page using the embed code or you can share the link.

Monday, September 8, 2014


Have you ever sent an email to a parent, student or colleague and wondered if they ever got it? Sometimes people don't always check their email, but they usually check their text messages. Maybe you have always wanted to text your students or their parents, but you didn't want to share your phone number. Remind (formerly Remind101) might be just the service you are looking for.

Remind allows you to set up classes and share a code with anyone who you want to put in that class. This might be students, parents, or other educators. People can sign up using their phones by sending a text with the code you share with them to your Remind number which is set up when you join. Alternatively, they can sign up online visiting a link that you share with them and enter the code there.

Once people join your class you can begin sending messages. You can include an attachment with your message as well. Your message can be a text or a voice recording. You can send messages from any device using the online version or the handy Remind app. You can schedule messages to be send in advance or you can send them at the moment you want them delivered. Keep in mind that people cannot reply to your message.

There are so many uses for Remind. I work with teachers in seven different buildings. I use Remind to push out messages about 30 minutes in advance to let them know when I will be in their building. Administrators can use Remind to communicate with their teachers regarding meetings. Teachers can use it to remind students about important things such as when projects are due. Teachers can use Remind to alert parents about important things happening at school. Remind is a and incredibly useful and versatile tool and it is FREE!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Meet George Couros

George with just a handful of the people he has impacted over the years. 

Where are you from and what do you do?
I am currently the Division Principal of Innovative Teaching and Learning for Parkland School Division in Alberta, but also consult and work with schools around the world.

How are you connected to Beth?
I met Beth through Twitter in 2010 and she gave me a great opportunity to be the “ISTE Newbie” which exposed me to opportunities that I could not imagine.

How did you get involved in educational technology?
I don’t know if I would even say I really ever got involved in “EdTech”, but I have always been interested in using technology in the classroom.  I don’t really think that qualifies me as an “ed tech” person, no more than someone who uses a pencil would be considered a “writing” teacher.  My role is to look at how to improve teaching and learning, and using technology is one way, but connecting through technology and getting ideas is the biggest thing that I have been interested in for the last few years.

How has being a networked educator impacted your life?
It has been absolutely amazing to connect with thoughtful and passionate people.  That passion is contagious and honestly added years to my career in the sense that I had thought about opportunities outside of education.  The sharing of ideas and the passion for what educators do has been infectious.  More importantly though, I have met some of my best friends in the world through the use of social media.  If I quit using Twitter today, it would still have had an impact on me for years beyond what I could imagine.

What is some advice you can give to teachers about how to start finding resources and building their own PLN.
A lot of people suggest other people to follow on Twitter.  I try to stay away from that.  Following a hashtag can connect you with some people that are interested in the same topic that you are.  Just because you follow a “math teacher” doesn’t mean they are going to share ideas about math.  But following #mathchat will connect you with ideas and then ultimately people that are wanting to improve their craft.  The connections will come through the shared interest in any topic.

What is a tool that has captured your attention at the moment? What do you like about this tool?
I think that I am really starting to think a lot more about things such as Instagram and Vine because of the ability to share short snippets of video.  Visuals are great, but telling a story through constricted amounts of time can actually lead to some really innovative ideas.  I am wanting to get more into “visual” sharing this year.

What is one piece of advice that you can give to educators who are just getting started with integrating technology into their classrooms?
Focus on getting to know kids first, seeing what they like, and then work from there.  Don’t force a tool on a kid that might hate it just because you think it is cool.  If a kid is into pictures, see how Instagram will work for them.  If a kid hates writing, maybe starting podcasts for them to share ideas is helpful.  Get to know the kids first, not the tool.

What are some things you hope to accomplish professionally in the next year or two?
We are working on implementing digital portfolios that students from K-12 will maintain and use throughout their entire time in our schools and hopefully after.  This is a big endeavour and we are getting closer to full buy-in, but it takes time.  I am hoping that every kid will have their own space to share their thoughts and learning while also creating a digital footprint that will hopefully leverage opportunities for them both during and after their time in school.  I believe that schools should help kids create things that are meaningful to them after they are in school, not just stuff for school.  This is one of those things in my opinion.