Recently my colleague Jill and I worked with some teachers during a PD day on finding great Chrome apps & extensions for learning. We thought we’d kick off the time together by picking 10 of our most favorite (picking only 10 is hard!) and sharing them with teachers in 10 minutes. We wanted to quickly get teachers excited about educational apps and extensions available to their students. We might have went just a tad over 10 minutes but nonetheless we kept it brief.
Here are the 10 we covered with a quick description as well as the link to the Chrome Web Store. I am also purposely keeping this post short so it takes 10 minutes or less to read.
1. Google Dictionary – a very handy extension to use in Chrome. Students can quickly look up the definition of a word by using the extension or directly; or double-clicking any word on a web page will bring up it’s definition and a sound icon to click and hear the pronunciation.
2. Pixlr Express – this app allows you to quickly and easily do some fun editing to any photos you have saved on your computer, in Google Drive, or even captured live via webcam. This is one of many apps that integrates easily with Google Drive.
3. Scratchpad – another app that works seamlessly with Drive. This one opens a new (smaller) window to give the user a basic note-taking application. The really nice feature is that a “Scratchpad” folder is automatically created in Google Drive with each note stored inside it.
4. Lucidchart for Education – students and teachers can quickly build diagrams, flowcharts, and concept maps with this web-based diagramming tool. Again, saves and syncs straight to Google Drive for easy access from any computer or to collaborate with a classmate.
5. Readability – this is an extension that strips all the extra “stuff” off of a news article or blog post. Many times advertisements and other links can be very distracting as students try to read content on the web (for teachers too!). The Readability extension gets rid of all those extra bits so you can focus on just the content.
6. Lego Builder- What kid (or adult) doesn’t love building with Legos? With the Lego Builder app you can build all kinds of fun structures. Students that love Minecraft will also find creating content enjoyable with this app too.
7. Isle of Tune – this is a great app for the musician in all of us. Create a town on your island and each element of your town has different musical properties. Then as you send your cars driving around your newly built community your new tune will play.
8. MeeGenius – this is one of many great apps for younger grades to read and listen to online storybooks. Access a bookshelf full of the popular stories loved by many generations. Students can not only hear the book read to them but also see the words highlighted on the page as the story is read.
9. Typing Club – keyboarding skills and the necessity for students to have them are becoming more and more embedded in everything we do. Apps like Typing Club
10. Math Invaders – practicing math just got a lot more fun. Students can practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in a game-like format.
The great thing about installing apps in Chrome (whether on a Chromebook or not) is quick and easy. With everything in Chrome staying in sync to students’ Google accounts, access to these apps is easy no matter which Chromebook or computer a student is using that’s connected to the web.
These are just a sample of the great educational apps available in the Chrome Web Store. Be sure to take some time to check them out! If you have any other favorites please feel free to list them in the comments!
What is the role of the textbook in education today? What should the role of the textbook be in education today? How do you envision a textbook of the future to function? What kinds of digital resources are most appealing to students? These are several questions that I would like your thoughts on.
My memories of textbooks go back to high school and college and not much before that. Some adjectives I would use to describe them are: static, heavy, and boring. Textbooks now have the capability to be so much more; especially with the vast amount of content that now exists on the web. We aren’t confined to a physical book any longer being the summation of knowledge on a topic. We are also at a place where we can easily interact with more than just the classmates and teacher in a physical space for 45 minutes a day.
I am fortunate to have been invited by the Discovery Education team to join them for their 2nd Beyond the Textbook forum taking place March 27 and 28. The event will be at Discovery Communications global headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. Over the course of the two days I will be meeting with Discovery Education team members, as well as collaborating with about 20 very smart educators from North America on shaping the future of digital resources. I am very honored to get to be there and excited to be part of these conversations. Discovery has some incredible resources out there for teachers and students and a big hat tip goes to them for their commitment to continually make them better.
So what would you share with the team at Discovery Education? What do you want this to look like for our students? Please feel free to post comments here or use the hashtag #BeyondTextbooks on Twitter to join the conversation.
I would greatly appreciate any comments you have about the future of digital resources.
As I drink coffee and check out my Twitter stream, Google Reader, Google+ Communities, etc., which is pretty typical for me to do on an early Saturday morning, I am reminded of the abundance of learning opportunities the web gives us on any given day. I know it’s there all the time whenever we need it, but this morning I caught so many glimpses of fellow educators learning in such a short amount of time, that it made me give extra pause for reflection.
In about a ten minute span of time, I observed the following:
1. Administrators and teachers participating in #satchat, which was happening live from the #NASSP13 conference.
2. A tweet from Steve Dembo sharing a great blog post and video titled, “Learning Through the Eyes of a Third Grader”.
3. Teachers gearing up for a day of face to face, free, relevant learning at #edcampSEMO.
4. Live streams being shared of speakers at various other conferences happening.
This is, of course, just a small sample of how the web now affords us with countless learning opportunities. We aren’t leveraging these more in school with students why? We aren’t counting this as just-in-time, relevant professional development why?
I have always liked Google’s tag line at the end of their videos: “The web is what you make of it.” It’s exciting to see so many teachers making it something worthwhile on a Saturday morning…and every other day of the week too.
This post is cross-posted at the Smart Blog on Education.
My thoughts around this post started with this retweet:
— Kyle Pace (@kylepace) January 20, 2013
While that entire post from Bill was great (all of Bill’s posts are and if you don’t follow his blog you should), it was probably this bit towards the end that led me to add my two cents at the beginning of that retweet:
It’s OUR job to help kids to realize how to leverage technology for something more than keeping themselves entertained.
Yes of course I want students (including my own two children) to realize technology’s potential for their lives beyond the entertainment value. For some time now I have said that students are much better at consuming via technology than creating via technology. We want the output to equal or exceed the input yes? But is it enough to have our students creating with technology just for a grade? Is that where we want their creativity to stop? A ”one and done” style project that they never give a second glance to again?
Our students have the affordances to not only create, but also to contribute. Is it enough for students to create a presentation or to post to a blog or produce a video? What about having students make things (technology related or not) that contribute to the betterment of another human being? To their fellow students, or their community, or even the world? It’s happened before. Not that it’s always purposeful, but just think how things might not have changed had Martha not published her writing for a global audience. Or if a filmmaker named Nirvan hadn’t decided to introduce the world to Caine.
Not only does this make for a more challenging learning experience for our students, but also makes for a more challenging teaching experience for us teachers too. It means we have to look beyond having students make something for a grade. We have to look beyond the test. We have to change how we teach. Helping students become positive contributors, through whatever the medium, can give our students (and teachers) a much richer learning experience and much richer life experiences (in my opinion). Lifelong experiences that will carry into future grade levels, schools, communities, relationships, workplaces, etc.
While the following quote has been used many times in education circles, I feel it an appropriate reminder to all of us:
You must be the change you wish to see in the world. ~Mahatma Ghandi
There are so many places in our world we want to see change. Educators have the power to properly equip those that can. Shouldn’t we start with the people who will be taking us into the future?
Google Chrome has quickly become my browser of choice over the last year or so. It’s huge list of features and overall reliability speak for themselves. If you and your students are using Google Apps for Education and its accompanying Google products, you quickly find that everything just works better in Chrome.
As our team helps teachers this school year with Chromebook implementation, we have come across many apps and extension to share with staff. It seems to be one of the most popular features with teachers about the Chrome browser.
When I share with teachers about Chrome extensions, I tell teachers to think of them as enhancements to their web browsing. They put information at your finger tips quickly, help keep students more productive, and assist with information curation.
Here are some of my favorite Chrome extensions that are great for students:
To Do List is a simple, yet effective way to have a running to do list right in your browser. This is great for students that need to keep track of upcoming assignments and other school events. There is a number badge displayed directly on the extension telling you how many items you have on your list. It’s easily to reorder the items on the to do list by dragging and dropping, highlight more important items by adding the pound sign (#) at the front, and switch between a few different color schemes to choose the look of your list.
There are a lot of extensions created by Googlers in the Chrome Web Store, but Google Dictionary has become a fast favorite for many teachers. Students often will need to be reminded of the definition of a word as soon as they read it while looking up information on the web. This extension is a great help. Students can click the extension, type in the word they need to look up, press enter and they’ve instantly got it without leaving the page they’re on. The feature I like the most about this extension though is the ability to double-click on any word in a piece of text and immediately see a pop up bubble with that word’s definition. Not only that, but students are also given an audio icon to click on to hear the word pronounced for them.
We all have seen articles and other online resources that are very cluttered with ads and other pieces of information that are irrelevant to the content we’re trying to focus on. The Readability extension greatly helps with this. I always use a CNN article as an example when I’m sharing this one with teachers. As soon as the article loads, click the Readability extension and you are presented with three options: Read Now, Read Later, and Send to Kindle. Students can click Read Now and Readability will convert the article by stripping off all of the extra information that is not needed and presents only the article and specific images associated with the article. This makes for a much more focused, eye appealing reading experience. If students want to take the extra step of creating a Readability account they can click Read Later to have the article saved to their account for easy access at a later time. If a student reads a lot of Kindle content, they can link up Readability to their Kindle for access later from another device.
This is a great accessibility extension for students that need a little extra help with their writing. Once this extension has been installed, the only place it can be used is when a Google Doc is open for editing. The extension adds a purple tab at the top of the document that says Read & Write. The extension allows for students to instantly have read to them anything that they have typed on their document. Sometimes all students need is to hear what their piece of writing sounds like when read aloud to help with edits. There are also other features like a built-in dictionary, picture dictionary, and other study tools.
The developer of the extension has a nice video tutorial that demonstrates all the features. It’s about 6 minutes so definitely check it out:
If your students are already using Google Apps for Education, this new extension from Google will allow them to quickly and easily capture content from the web and save it directly to their Google Drive. Students are able to save a screen capture of the existing page being viewed, or specific items on that page (links, images, sound bytes) can be saved to Google Drive by right clicking on them and choosing the Save to Google Drive option. Another handy extension for students to help them curate content on the web.
We all know that links on the web can get really long and not very neat looking. The Shorten Me extension helps with that if you need to email a link, post a link in a discussion or in a piece of writing or a presentation. When clicked, the Shorten Me extension automatically creates a shortened link of the web page currently being viewed using the http://goo.gl link shortener. Once it link is created it is automatically copied to your computer’s clipboard so it can be quickly pasted into an email or document. There is also an option with this extension to also have a QR code automatically generated for the link that can also be used to quickly get others to the link via their smart phone or tablet.
While I know there is no shortage of other great Chrome extensions for students these just happen to be a handful of my favorites. I always enjoy sharing these with teachers so they can share them with their students. They help us all to be a bit more productive and enhance our learning on the web.
What does it mean to be infectious? I used my handy Google Dictionary extension for Chrome and this definition relates best to this post:
Likely to spread or influence others in a rapid manner.
My friend Adam Bellow uses the phrase “be infectious” often in his keynotes and other workshops. I did give Adam a heads up that I’d be using this in a post. While Adam doesn’t have the phrase “be infectious” trademarked, I still wanted him to know. Thanks Adam!
Have you ever been around someone who is infectious? Someone who has an energy about them, who is ready to do whatever it takes for students, and is always willing to try to something new? It might be a new way of teaching the same old content, trying a new learning technology, or exploring a new style of professional development. They’re excited about it, and they want to share it with you; via whatever medium might be most comfortable for them.
But how did this person develop this infectious attitude towards teaching? What was the catalyst or inspiring moment that sent them on their way? I can think of lots of “infectious” teachers I’d like to pose these questions to. I’ve got some ideas about this and I wanted to share with you what I think is necessary to breed an infectious attitude.
If we have leadership that’s infectious, it’s going to spread to teachers. It makes me think of the book Multipliers. If you’re an infectious leader, you strive to spread the excitement for learning; to spread the genius in your own people. This looks like a leader that’s excited about what they do, eager to try new things, and giving teachers the professional freedom to try new things. Which in turn builds more leaders among your staff. The cycle is an infectious one!
Check out this resource from NASSP called Practical Suggestions for Developing Leadership Capacity in Others.
We must be learners first, and teachers second. I’m not saying we should skirt our duty to our students because we’re supposed to be a learner first. It doesn’t mean be out of your classroom all the time either at this workshop or that workshop. It means simply to let your students and fellow teachers see you as a learner first. Have you ever taken the time to learn along side your students? To let them see that you don’t have all the answers? There’s power there. George Couros says it well in this post:
To be an effective teacher, you need to be passionate and active in your own learning first.
Which I believe leads to being an infectious teacher!
There has been much discussion about the importance of failing. Of course no one wants to fail, but a little bit of failure isn’t all bad. It helps us re-evaluate, refine, and redo our practices. We become better. It’s a notion we often don’t instill in our students either. Too frequently the mentality is, “Well I bombed that the first time out of the gate so there’s nothing more to do.” We can’t do this to ourselves as teachers and we certainly cannot let our students think this way.
Having failures and being better because of them and still succeeding despite them leads to being infectious.
This made me think about this recent post from Josh Stumpenhorst, Learning from Failure.
Take a moment to stop and think about the last time you heard about something awesome happening at your school. It can even be something you heard about at another school via a blog post, Twitter, or at a conference or an edcamp. The point is, you heard about it because someone shared it. Sharing the great things happening with learning and teaching and professional development and general work to make learning better for students is so very important. We must share and share often. Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn once in a while. Blog about it, tweet about it, tell your administrator about it, tell parents about it, lead a conversation at an edcamp about it. The point is that you share. Not only are you going to be infectious with your excitement about what you’re sharing, but you might also discover ways to make it even better the next time. More infectious attitude back on you! Double bonus!
I always encourage teachers I’m working with to share; even if it’s just writing down a paragraph of thoughts for me about something they were really successful with trying in their classroom. I had a teacher do this for me recently about the great things happening in her middle school language arts classroom with Google Apps for Education and Chromebooks. She emailed me so excited and her spirit was so infectious! I became so happy and excited for her and I can’t wait to hear about what she tries next.
I came across this recent interview with Ewan Mcintosh, whom I had the great pleasure of getting to hang out with a bit at ISTE last summer, and in it Ewan was asked the question, “What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?”. Here’s what Ewan said:
More sharing of what worked by every teacher who feels they’ve got something to share, and more reading of what worked by every teacher regardless of how good they think they are today.
This should remind all of us that sharing the great things happening leads to an infectious spirit which can lead to sustainable change for the better.
If you have any other ways we can create an infectious spirit in education, please share in the comments. So let’s spread all this awesome around, and let it effect all of us in a rapid manner. Be infectious!
As my district makes the push forward with Google Apps for Education this school year, the instructional technology support that our team offers to teachers is critical to its success. We start with professional development and continual support for district level leadership, then building level leadership, then to teachers, which we hope all trickles down to increased use with and by students. Gmail and Google Docs are our students two primary tools for communication, collaboration, and productivity; so increasing comfort level among all staff is crucial. Since our elementary students are 100% Google Docs for productivity, we knew it was imperative to reach all 19 of our elementary schools first. This began with professional development for our elementary principals and assistant principals back in the summer before teachers reported back to work. We started with the basics of Google Docs. After principals had a strong understanding and new comfort level with Google Docs, they then began to contact our department for Google Docs PD for their teachers. I have always liked how our team does such a great job of offering varying learning opportunities for our staff. As principals invited us out this happened a few different ways:
-A faculty meeting either before or after school to address the entire faculty at one
-A day long rotation schedule to meet with teams of teachers during their plan time
-On a district professional development day
During these sessions, not only did we cover the ins and outs of how Google Docs works and its benefits, but we also provided several concrete examples of how Google Docs can be used for student projects and best practices for maximizing their workflow as well as student workflow. So, to this point in the school year, the 4 of us that make up our team, we’ve already reached all 19 of our elementary schools. This is awesome! However, what’s important now is that we continue to offer support to all of our teachers so they can effectively support their students. We have had many teachers contact us for additional learning on some of the other Google Apps for Education products such as Calendar, Sites, and Blogger since meeting with the staff initially about Google Docs. This can look like one-on-one appointments and some have also been collaborative meetings during PLC time. This continued support that we offer is vital to maintain teacher comfort level which leads to effective use at the student level. Our department has also produced online resources for our teachers and administrators to access as well. This is another level of support that’s important to have in place when a phone call, email, or face to face option isn’t immediately available. Here are some examples of our online resources:
We have also begun providing video tutorials such as this one:
While that example is a simple one, it can be the “just in time” help a student or teacher needs. Implementing something big in your district like Google Apps for Education requires not only the proper infrastructure to handle the usage, but it also requires continual support that’s offered in multiple formats. For myself, I know I like having options of how to learn something; we should offer nothing less to our administrators, teachers, and students.
All of these ways I have shared about how we support teachers don’t have to happen right away. They probably shouldn’t. Choose how you’re going to support your teachers and get really good at one way before adding on another. What matters most is that the support is there, it’s happening often, and it’s always building on what was learned previously.
“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.”
John C. Dana
Learning isn’t analog any more
When I think of analog learning, I think of something static. I think of content that doesn’t change and is quickly outdated. I think of a textbook that I can’t interact with. Would you agree? If so, what do you think our students think? Is this normal to them? Do we want it to be normal to them? Do they have a say?
Learning opportunities that exist today are far from analog. The evidence of content is in abundance. That doesn’t mean we just send our students freely to the web without important conversations about things like proper digital behavior and critical consumption. This cannot be treated as a skill that we have students pick up in 8th grade from a particular course. How to deal with the flood of information and tools available to our students must become a literacy. We have a responsibility to our students. If we claim to be doing what’s best for students, yet we keep our resources and methods in the 20th century, our students are losing out.
We. Need. A. Plan.
Getting our students to a place of digital literacy begins with us. It’s a matter of modeling what we expect. It’s a matter of teaching the way we would want to be taught today if we were students in our classrooms. We must make this literacy a priority for teachers before we can expect to get our students there. Teachers: this isn’t meant to be seen as “one more thing”. Your students want you to go with them on this journey. Let them help. Let them teach you. Grow together. Leaders: it’s not a matter of finding the time for your teachers to learn; it’s a matter of making the time.
This is why a plan is important when beginning to venture into these new horizons of literacy. We have national standards for administrators, teachers, and students to help guide us in our journey to increase our digital literacy. Be sure to check out the Essential Conditions too. All are great places to start.
Does every teacher, student, and administrator need to have X, Y, and Z mastered straight away or even by the end of one school year? I don’t think so. What we expose our students to; learning that fosters creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking provides them continual experiences for them to build on year after year.
For example, In my district, our department is working closely with our Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Instruction to plan out a year-long professional development plan to our elementary principals. Using the NETS-A as a guide, we’ve created learning opportunities that allow administrators to experience new tools, ideas, and resources they can take back and use with their teachers (modeling), which will (hopefully) have a trickle down effect. Teachers will become interested and want to learn more, which leads to teachers using said ideas and resources with students which leads to students being exposed to new tools and resources to foster the “C’s” mentioned earlier. Teaching and learning is happening in new and different ways. It’s an exciting plan to be part of and our team can’t wait to see what happens next.
Making a move from the “analog” is an important step. One that’s hard to make by oneself. Planning and support is essential. Stick with it and don’t look back. You can only get better.
Thanks for reading.
Cross posted at the SMARTBlog on Education.
What’s been your most valuable PD experience? Come on, there’s got to be one! I want you to think about what made it meaningful for you. The time where you left feeling excited to try something new and jump in feet first. You felt like you were ready to conquer the world and couldn’t hardly wait to impart this new practice/knowledge to your students.
Was it one thing? A combination of things? Was it the facilitator? Another attendee you connected with?
While I haven’t been facilitating PD for teachers for very long (coming up on 9 years), I believe there are some factors that make professional development work well and help teachers leave feeling successful. I’ve encapsulated them within three things, in no particular order.
Everybody likes choices right? Aren’t we keeping to a pretty narrow-minded view of learning if it’s only presented in a “one means to an end” fashion? Teachers need choices about what they’re interested in, passionate about, and what matches their readiness level.
These choices can be given as a traditional model of professional development, in which teachers attend a class/workshop on a specified date and time and have to physically be in attendance, or choices could be given in the form of online learning via screencasts, live webinars, or social media. The point is to offer choice and in turn allow whatever choice teachers make to be credited as a viable means of professional development.
What types of learning illicit value? Fill in this blank: Learning is valuable to me when _____. If teachers are going to invest time in professional learning, whether it be face to face or online, voluntary or involuntary, we all want to finish feeling it was valuable. When I facilitate PD, do I have a set agenda and plan in place? Of course I do. Do I ever intentionally or unintentionally deviate from the plan? Always. I am sure to let teachers know that this is their learning and I want them to feel our time together was valuable. If that means detours are taken and even some things are repeated so be it. We should want all students, regardless of age, to feel the value in what they’re learning.
Sometimes discovering the value in our learning experiences can lead to taking a self-directed deeper dive into a topic as well. Do you remember the last time that happened?
My response to the fill in the blank above? Learning is valuable to me when I understand the ‘why’ before the ‘how’.
We’ve offered choices, come to understand the value, and are ready to accept the charge laid before us. Or are we? What if something doesn’t go according to plan (this never happens with technology)? If I’m in need of help where do I turn?
Teachers need multiple lifelines of support. This is a critical component of teacher professional development. Let’s say it’s the end of your face to face workshop. We need to make sure our teachers are aware of whom to contact, where to look, what to Google, etc. before they leave us. It can be an email address, the link to a backchannel, a Google Group, an Edmodo group, etc. Sure, teachers in my district know how to contact me, but I still remind them to please contact me whatever outlet I choose to provide. It can be a one way communication to you or a tweet on a hashtag. It can be both. Learn about the teachers you serve, just like we learn about the students we serve. We all need to know that support is there if we need it.
Are these the only components to making teacher professional development have meaning? No, but I think they’re three of the most important. What matters to you in making your professional development worthwhile? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts!
“You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives.“ ~Clay P. Bedford