Thursday, October 31, 2013

Quick Guide to Collaborative Google Presentations

Collaborative presentations can be a great way to start using Google Drive in the classroom because “slides” act as a personal workspace for each student or group of students but with the added ability to view and even co-edit the slides of others. It’s also a great way to demonstrate the power of collaborative cloud based document creation. But remember! - Collaborative means that some decisions can affect the whole group. For instance, changing a theme impacts everyones’ slides. This is a great opportunity to discuss digital citizenship norms  and respecting the work of others. Some of the suggestions below will help you to manage a collaborative document and consider the best approach for your classroom.

Step 1 - Create a presentation

Click on the create icon from the Google Drive homepage and select Presentations. You’ll be prompted to pick a theme.

Step 2 - Create a title slide that includes directions for the activity and specifies the slide criteria

Step 3 - Make a model

I find that it’s helpful to have a slide that the teacher creates ahead of time modeling the format and content examples. You can even make a template slide and use the duplicate slide feature to provide each student with a scaffolded workspace.

Step 4 - Pre-number or Pre-name the slides (optional)
You may want to pre-create the slides and label these ahead of time to designate whose space is whose. This is handy especially for first time users.

Step 5 - Sharing

Share by email - if you have a list of every student’s email (Google Forms are great for collecting these) then you can add individual students to the presentation. Click on the blue share tab in the upper right hand corner of the presentation or right click on the file from the Google Drive homepage.

The advantage to this method is that students will have access to the document via the “shared with me” tab of their Google Drive homepage and that all changes to the presentation are tracked to the user who made them. Students who tamper with the presentation can be identified using the revision history and unwanted modifications can be reversed.

Share by weblink - if you can’t add students individual via their email address you can create a public or semi-public link that allows students to access the document anonymously.

The advantage to this method is that it does not require your students to even have a Google Account. The link can be easily shared if the teacher has a webpage or uses a service like Edmodo or Moodle. A URL shortener like or are helpful for making the links shorter in the case of teachers who do not have a classroom website. The disadvantage is that anonymous can sabotage a project if expectations are unclear and monitoring is minimal. The good news is that the revision history may allow you to restore work that was mistakenly or purposely modified.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Digital Citizenship Week

You may or may not have been aware of the fact that October 21-25th is Digital Citizenship week. Helping our students become good digital citizens is a responsibility that we all share. Displaying posters, having classroom discussions, and practicing netiquette in online educational environments is a great way to model the behaviors and attitudes we want to see reflected by our students.

One of my favorite resources for Digital Citizenship is They have a great K-12 Digital Citizenship Curriculumresources for families and parents, and even some games for teaching concepts of Digital Citizenship to students. 

Not sure where to start? I recommend reading this blog post from Common Sense Media about Digital Citizenship week and the many resources available to educators looking to integrate Digital Citizenship instruction into their classrooms.

Edmodo and Common Sense Media have also partnered up to offer several Digital Citizenship resources including a Webinar on Oct. 23rd and an Edmodo Community dedicated to supporting Digital Citizenship in classrooms.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

How to enable "Offline" access and editing in Google Drive and protect against lost work during a wifi outage

Yesterday a student came to me with a Google Drive issue due to intermittent wifi connectivity at home. Sometime during the night as she was composing her essay she lost wifi connectivity on her Chromebook and subsequently lost all of her work during that period of time.

Fortunately, there is a solution to protect against this type of data loss in Google Drive and as an added bonus have the ability to edit Google Docs, Presentations and Drawings even when there is no internet connection available.

Please note that you can only enable "offline" access and editing in Google Drive on a Chromebook or on a computer using the Chrome browser. 

How to enable "offline" access and editing in Google Drive
  1. Open the Google Drive menu (Inbox)
  2. Click on the "more" tab on the left hand side menu 
  3. Click on "offline" 
  4. Syncing should begin immediately for Chromebook users
  5. If you are using the Chrome browser on a computer you will need to click on "enable offline
Be patient when switching between offline and online mode. It can sometimes take a few seconds for changes to be updated when syncing between modes.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Universal Design for Learning tip: Audio recorded reading accommodations using is the simplest free audio recording tool I know of. It's not perfect (no editing and no permanent storage) but it works well and it works fast. It also has simple tools for downloading, linking, and creating QR codes for the audio you've recorded. This makes Vocaroo great for quickly adding audio supports to any instructional resource.

Unlike verbal reading accommodations, I've noticed that students are more engaged by audio recordings and tend to pause and review the recordings more than they would ask me to repeat myself. The recordings also provide students greater autonomy over the pace of the reading. 

In my old school we even started providing screencast and audio recordings as an option for all students. It became a universal support, destigmatized the accomodation, and became an embedded practice for supporting all instruction, not just assessments.

Universal Design for Learning tip: How to screencast reading accommodations and scaffold reading strategies with screencast-o-matic

Screencasting is a great way to make test reading accommodations more visual and engaging. Screencasting can also be an effective way of scaffolding a reading assignment by previewing the text, demonstrating a reading strategy, and modeling how good readers attack a challenging text. 

My favorite free tool for screencasting is With just a few clicks you'll be recording your voice, your cursor movements, and all the action on your computer screen. 

Unlike verbal reading accommodations, I've noticed that students are more engaged by the screencast recordings and tend to pause and review the recordings more than they would ask me to repeat myself. The recordings also provide students greater autonomy over the pace of the reading. 

In my old school we even started providing screencast and audio recordings as an option for all students. It became a universal support, destigmatized the accomodation, and became an embedded practice for supporting all instruction, not just assessments.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Quick Tip: How to spell check in Moodle 2.5 in Chrome or on a Chromebook - #mpsedtech

I had a little surprise a few weeks back when I discovered that  Moodle 2.5 changed how you can activate spell check. In the past, you were able to right click on a word that was misspelled to activate and view a spell check menu. Now you must do one additional step by holding the "ctrl" key while you right click. This is definitely a quick tip you will want to share with your students if you are using newer versions of Moodle. 

And just a quick reminder that the right click option on a Chromebook is activated using a soft double finger tap.

Video Link

Jackson ISD's Must Have K-5 iPad Apps

Must have iPad app lists are a dime a dozen these days, but sometimes you encounter a list that is compiled by trusted individuals who put care and time into the curation of their list. I would like to recommend the Must-Have Elementary Apps page from the great edtech folks at Jackson ISD as one worth checking out. 
cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by Kaity Hemgesberg: 

I also have a couple of Elementary apps lists that you may want to look at if you are in the browsing mood.

An Interactive Menu for Student Project Technology Tools

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo by Dean (leu)  .:
Today I'd like to share a resource to support digital student projects in your classroom. The premise behind this menu is to provide "voice and choice" (an essential component of Universal Design for Learning) vs. a one size fits all product of learning. Not every tool listed in this menu will be appropriate to the task you've assigned your students but many offer flexible formats for organizing and representing learning.  The key here is to have a clear set of learning targets, aligned to standards that avoid strict formatting criteria like "12 point Times New Roman font" or "10 slides with 3 facts" and instead focus on content specific criteria like "demonstrates a thorough understanding of the main character's motivations based on evidence from the text" or "draws relevant connections between the historical event and a current event impacting society today". 

As teachers, we can't expect to learn every digital tool out there but our students are often capable and motivated to learn and teach each other (and us) given the chance. Some of the guides, video tutorials, and student examples that I've located are better than others. Some of the resources may be better suited to older or younger students. For that reason you may also want to look at other menu type resources out on the web that are directed toward a specific grade level as well.

This menu can be presented to students in full or can be modified by cutting and pasting a smaller selection together if limiting certain choices is needed. If you would like to contribute to this Student Project Technology Tools Menu or have a tool that you'd like to see added to the list please feel free to contact me with your request. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

4 new resources for Elementary Math instruction

Over the past two weeks I've bookmarked four new resources for Elementary Math instruction that I believe are worth sharing. Two of these are more focussed on instructional practices and CCSS are not strictly technology resources but are in my opinion well suited to a technology enhanced classroom. 

Common Core Standard: Third Grade Math Strategies - The first resource is from Edutopia, a great resource for every educator and well worth a look. In this article the author looks at one of the 3rd Grade CCSS for math and shares how an inquiry based, student-centered exploration of patterns and relationships between addition, multiplication and division can not only foster critical thinking and a deeper understanding but also collaboration skills.

Ready to use fact family iPad station - This post by Mrs. Wideen outlines precisely how she sets up and structures a math iPad station that promotes student application of fact family strategies. It's a great example of how to utilize a limited number of iPads, monitor student work, and develop a bank of student created "think alouds". One tool I might suggest in  lieu of the Draw n' Tell app which is $2.99 would be the free Educreations app and to use a generic classroom account for collecting student work.

Maths Frame - 170+ Free Math Games - Richard Byrne who blogs over at Free Technology for Teachers shared a good resource for Smart Board and Interactive Whiteboards or for the computer lab. There you can find tons of interactive math practice games geared to the K-5 classroom. - Math playground is another smorgasbord of math practice games but has a couple very nice iPad apps the mirror their web based tools. In particular, I recommend taking a look at the Thinking Blocks activities for modeling word problem strategies using addition, subtraction, multiplication, and subtraction.  

Friday, October 4, 2013

QR Code Make n' Take Professional Development Workshop #mpsedtech

This week I offered two face-to-face PD workshops focussed on using QR Codes in the Classroom. One of my main goals was to ensure that everyone left the session with a QR code that could be used immediately with students to help meet a learning outcome in their classroom. 

Here are the learning targets I set for this workshop.

  1. Know and understand what a QR code is, how to scan a QR code, and how QR codes are being used in education.
  2. Evaluate examples of how QR codes are being used in education to determine a classroom use specific to your classroom and record this as a goal.
  3. Create a QR Code that targets a specific classroom outcome and implement with students.

And here is a link to the Agenda and support resources I used.

Moodle 2.5 Group Enrollment Process (One course, multiple sections) #mpsedtech

Moodle 2.5 Group enrollment process

If you are using Moodle to create a blended or online course but teach multiple sections of the same course throughout the year, you will probably want to set up separate groups for each section (or class hour) to facilitate group specific forum discussions, assignments, and for querying grades and user reports by class hour. The video tutorial and step-by-step guide below will help you set up your groups and group enrollment codes. Note: This process should be completed prior to enrolling students. A separate process is needed for manually sorting students into groups who were enrolled manually or through course self enrollment.

Watch the Video here -


1.   In the Administration block choose to Edit settings
2.   In the Groups section, select Separate groups
3.   Set Force group mode to Yes and then Save your changes


Step 1: Go to Administration Tab and locate “users” under Course Administration

Step 2: Click on Users and then Enrollment Methods

Step 3: Enable “Self-Enrollment by clicking on the open eye icon

Step 4: Click on the setting gear icon for Student Self Enrollment

Step 5: Create an enrollment key. This should be different from the enrollment key(s) you will give to students. You will not tell this enrollment key to others.

Step 6: Check “use group enrollment keys” as yes and scroll to bottom to click save changes

Step 7: Go to Administration Tab and locate “groups” under Course Administration

Step 8: Click “Create Group”. In the Group editor give the group a name and an enrollment key specific to the group (ex. am1 or mrhard1). Click Save.

Step 9: Repeat step 8 for each group or class section you need giving each group a unique enrollment key.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Did you know? Test reading accommodations using the Chrome Browser or Chromebook

In this video demonstration I show how students can use either the Chrome Speak app or the iSpeech Select and Speak extensions to have questions read aloud in either a Moodle or Edmodo quiz.

Both the text-to-speech tools are available for the Chrome browser and Chromebook.

Video Link