Monday, August 15, 2016

There Is Power In The Avery Label Add-on In Google Docs!

It's almost time for the annual migration of teachers back to the clean hallways of their schools. If you are like me, you make plans to be more organized in some way at the beginning of each year.  One great tool for organizing the room and saving time later in the year is the use of Avery Labels. Google Apps does a great deal for creating and sharing data and it is also the secret to making Avery Labels even more powerful.

The video below walks through the process of using a Google Sheet to hold student information and using that sheet with Google Docs to create the labels.  This is a free tool and you can use it over throughout the year.

Teachers will quickly see the utility of the Avery Label Add-on for Google Docs.  Make labels for desks, wearable name tags, class lists, Science Fair poster labels, the last-minute field trip name tags and more! 

Students also have access to this same tool. Students could create math facts in a spreadsheet and print out their own flash cards or create study cards for projects.

How do you use labels in your classroom to better organize the learning environment? Please share below in the comments.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Powerful Search Inside the Google Photos App

I love taking pictures, but that translates easily to the idea that I have a ton of photos. I'm taking advantage of my unlimited storage available in our Google Apps For Education's Google Drive and have the app setup so that my photos from my mobile device will automatically upload into my Google Drive, just to see how well this feature works.  I was headed for a big surprise!

I was working with a teacher and the subject came to braiding hair. Being the 21st Century daddy I am, I had to show off my first attempt at French Braiding my daughter's hair.  Problem: I have tons of photos on my phone and didn't know how long ago I took the picture.  Solution: I remembered I had Google Photos app on my phone.  I used it to search 'braid' and came up with:
Wow! The top two choices were Mancub2's braided hair, selected from all of my photos. It also came up with my friend's pic with her hair in a bun.  

I was intrigued, I started searching other words.  I searched 'license plate' and 'cooking' and came up with the photos below. If Google can find a braid in a picture, a license plate should be no problem. Cooking was a very successful search, but for some reason, Mancub1 and Djude triggered 'license plate'.  


Impressed, I tried to push the envelope. What about searching for something more conceptual? I search 'war' and the World War 2 and Korean War memorials in Washington DC were found.  I understand that the geotagging on the photos probably helped that result.  Also found when searching 'war' were a group of pictures of my dad. One was taken at the Veteran's Hospital and the other at a family gathering.

I was very surprised by how well the photos search works in Google Photos, on my phone as well as my laptop.  Some of it is image recognition and some of it uses geotagged clues. This is an impressive tool available to all Google accounts. 
-Howard J Martin

Monday, March 28, 2016

A Reflection on Student Presentations

I was on one of my campuses and received an invitation to watch student book reports in Ms Cole's second period class. This teacher's team uses technology regularly throughout the week and I was ready to enjoy some good presentations, most-likely slidedecks. 

Sitting in that room, it was quickly clear to me that the students were not just doing slidedecks. For starters, there was a buzz in the room with excited students ready to share. They were at their desks, ready to take notes about the book reports. The teacher began by just stepping back and letting the first student take control of the computer. The green flag was dropped and the students were off!

After only about six student presentations, I witnessed Google Slides, Prezi, MovieMaker, PowerPoint, iMovie, Videoscribe, PowToons, Scratch animations, YouTube and more. Students were citing resources from Pixabay, Wikipedia, Flickr and either making or using copyright-free music in their presentations. Final products were shared on the classroom wiki, from a YouTube link of their movie or on another web-hosted site. 

I was impressed by the products that they created, but walked away with permission to share because of what I heard in conversations. "This is fun watching everybody's presentations. You get to how everybody was creative." Students asked questions about the content and about the technical aspects of the presentation. "Does PowToons have any online tutorials?" one student asked. 

Let's put some light on Ms Cole for a second. Her conversations often included, "How did you do that?" and "I don't know what that is. Could you teach us later?" The classroom was a learning environment where students were free to evaluate and choose the technology that best helped them demonstrate their content. There was a criteria for 'must use technology', but Ms Cole let them use their experience over the year so far and their natural techno-curiosity to become engaged in their learning at an electric level.

The teacher had a large part in getting students to this point. The project requirements included a storyboard of some kind to help plan their product and were held to a firm deadline. Students were asked by their peers, "How long did that take you?" Each student was able to give a good estimate and explanation. "It took me 6 hours one weekend," said one movie maker, "because I was learning new software. Next time it will take me much less time." The teacher regularly posts assignments in her classroom wiki and students started the year by typing work into the wiki or providing links to their Google Apps content. The technology had become a natural extension to the classroom learning process.

There were hindrances. The classroom is not a one-to-one class and has some of the oldest hardware at the school. Students didn't have training on their online tools and had to problem-solve things. (For example, Google Slides won't let you play a song throughout the presentation, so the student played the song in one tab before starting the presentation in a different tab!) Often seen as a huge disadvantage is that she was working with 4th grade students who had to learn to access the district servers and Google products without email or on-campus technology support. Yes, these were 4th graders

The students had become content creators with the encouragement from the teacher. She admits to the students that she is just as much a learner as they are and that the classroom community must learn together and help each other. Ms Cole doesn't claim to be the biggest technology guru in the state, but her students are benefitting from her willingness to try new things and allowing her students the creative opportunities that keep them coming to school enthusiastic about learning. I very much enjoyed these presentations and the student enthusiasm in the room.

What could your next step be to transform your classroom into a more student-centered learning environment? Are you already there? What could you share with peers that could help them in their next steps? 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Are you a Chrome Tab-aholic? Consider using OneTab.

Do you frequently have so many tabs open  in Chrome that you are unable to tell what is loaded in each one? 
Are you a user who just can't close a tab because it may be useful later? 
Do you frequent see, Mr "Ah, Snap!"?

You, my friend, have a Chrome tab issue!
There's a solution for you, but the first step to getting the help you need is admitting you have a problem.

I don't have a tab problem!
One of the reasons for a visit from Mr "Ah, Snap!" is running out of enough memory (RAM) to keep up with all tabs open in the browser. Each open tab in Chrome consumes memory. After just a ten tabs (I am trying to cut down), I am already using about 1.2 GB of RAM. When doing research, I frequently have well over 20 tabs open. This leaves few resources for other processes the computer needs to do.

Why does this happen?
Chrome trades memory usage for stability. Each open tab, extension and plug-in is run as a separate process. When a tab or plug-in locks up, users rarely have to restart the entire browser. In most cases, just close the tab and try again. This is especially welcome when one has several tabs open.  The downside to this stability is the possibility of using up all the available RAM on tabs leaving little for running other applications.  Suddenly you are in "click and wait" territory.

Is there anything I can do (without changing my browsing habits)?
OneTab is a FREE browser extension for Chrome that can help you manage the tab monkey on your back.
OneTab allows users to convert open tabs to single tab with a list of links that can be restored individually or all at once.  

After clicking the OneTab icon, my ten tabs were condensed into one tab of links. I am now using under 330 MB.  Below shows my one tab, my 5 extensions and my browser itself.

 I can quickly relaunch any or all of the tabs I was using, and my computer has more RAM available to run other programs I need. OneTab even allows the import, export and sharing of tab links.

If you find yourself with a slow computer when you have many tabs open, give OneTab a try.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Formative Assessment Tool Reviews

We've been talking about Kahoot in the district for a couple of years now.  As always happens, one company's success leads others to new innovations.  This review will look briefly at three great alternatives for collecting data from students in the classroom.

First off, let's cover the similarities of all three.  All three are free websites that are designed with teachers in mind.  They all utilize gamification to engage students in giving feedback in a fun and competitive environment. The teachers can create their quizzes online, save them and reuse them as needed.  All three also have a searchable database of free quizzes you can use with your own students.   The ease of working with all three on any computer or mobile device makes all three an attractive choice. Lastly, all of them will let you collect, view online and save student answer data. 
Kahoot has been the trend setter.  The students just see the four answer icons on their screen when a teacher presents the quiz from her computer. All questions are timed and students must read the answer choices from the teacher's projected screen.   Some teachers like Kahoot because of the simplicity of quiz setup and that spontaneous quizzes can be setup very quickly. and
Unlike Kahoot, Quizizz and Quizalize both provide the question and answer choices on the student device.  Students can work at their own pace, question order randomized and the timer turned off.  A huge bonus of both is the ability to present the quiz as homework.  Students can take the quiz code home with them and complete it one or more times anytime during the quiz's assigned window.

In addition, Quizalize provides the teacher with more text space for longer questions and answers, a math equation editor, the possibility of student logins and class groups.  The teacher also has the ability to type an answer explanation for when the student chooses unwisely.

A teacher really can't go wrong with any one of the three sites. Students enjoy the interactivity and game time and teachers get data to help refine instructional time.

Leave a comment below about your favorite.  Do you have a favorite quiz you could share below with other teachers?