Tuesday, December 23, 2014

2014 at Village

Dear Village Friends,

It’s during this time of the year that I like to look back and reflect on all that has transpired over the course of the previous 12 months. It’s also the time of year that I make plans for next 365 days. While I did not have a full 12 months with you here a Village, there is so much we have accomplished together. Thank you for learning alongside me and teaching me what I didn’t know (one of my favorite sayings in my position is, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”); I have learned a lot from and with you. Here are some things we accomplished in the four short months (five, if we include the summer...and I do!) we had together in 2014:

  • summer training
  • hapara
  • gmail
  • calendars
  • forms
  • reading logs
  • databases
  • symbaloo
  • passwords
  • cloud based storage
  • creating notebooks
  • question and answer day
  • edcamp

  • unconference
  • management
  • sites
  • google maps
  • classroom visits
  • mystery hangouts
  • drafts
  • notebooks
  • big huge labs
  • back channels
  • iPads
  • blogs

Here’s what we can look forward to in 2015:

I look forward to continuing our work together in the New Year, whether it be a visit to your flex, a 1 on 1 planning meeting during prep, a weekly standing appointment, co-teaching, modeling, etc.

Thanks for making me a part of the pack!


Friday, December 19, 2014

Getting Creative with a Friday App (which is FREE!)

Paper Camera is a creative way to take pictures or video and make it look like it is a comic.  They have an assortment of filters which are applied in real-time, no waiting or delays.  This could be a nice way to have students get creative with taking a picture or filming a video.  Here is the promotional video from their website.

Here is a before and after shot of my bulletin board:

Pictures and videos are saved to the camera roll for easy accessing.

Complete ODF file format support and more for Google Docs editors

Posted: 16 Dec 2014 06:48 PM PST
With this launch, we now support importing all three major ODF (Open) file formats: .odt files for documents, .ods for spreadsheets, and .odp for presentations.

We’ve also added a few more Office-friendly improvements: 
§ Support for more complex SmartArt from older Powerpoint presentations in Slides
§ Import/export support for merged cells in Word Documents and slide numbers in Powerpoint

Release track:
Rapid release and Scheduled release

Search and content improvements for the Google Drive Android and iOS apps

Posted: 17 Dec 2014 07:11 AM PST
We’ve added some helpful new features to the Google Drive apps for Android and iOS.

On Android, you can now search for files in Drive from the Google app. For example, you could say “OK, Google — search for team meeting notes on Drive” and find files in the Drive app without having to open the app and type in your search query.

On iPhone and iPad, you can now get more of your content in Drive by uploading it from other iOS apps.

The Android update will roll out over the next week or so and the iOS update is already available on the App Store.

Release track:
Rapid release and Scheduled release

Docs, Sheets, and Slides coming to the App Launcher

Docs, Sheets, and Slides coming to the App Launcher
Posted: 17 Dec 2014 12:43 PM PST
Today we announced that we’ve added Google Docs to the App Launcher for consumers, making it easier for people to get straight to Google Docs when signed into other Google products.

For Google Apps customers, we’ll be adding all three of the Docs editors―Docs, Sheets, and Slides―to the App Launcher in early January. The editors icons will be on the first screen along with your other Google Apps products:
Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 5.00.43 PM.png
We’ll announce in early January when the Docs editors have been added. Groups and Contacts will be moved to the ‘More’ screen to make room. 

Custom status messages for Google Hangouts

Posted: 17 Dec 2014 03:45 PM PST
People using Google Hangouts on the web can now add custom status messages and see the status messages of others in the Contacts view. Status messages can be added via the settings menu:
By default, custom status messages will be displayed outside of the domain, though admins have the option to restrict them to be displayed within the domain only via Admin console at AppsGoogle Apps > Talk/Hangouts > Sharing Settings.

Note: Hangouts status messages are only visible to others using Hangouts. They are not shared to people using Google Talk. Similarly, status messages set in Google Talk will not be shared to Hangouts.

This feature is coming soon for the Hangouts Android and iOS apps.

Release track:
Rapid release and Scheduled release

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sharing Drive files as attachments in Gmail

Posted: 15 Dec 2014 09:43 PM PST
Currently, when composing an email in Gmail, people have the option to share Google documents and other files stored in Drive via links by clicking on the ‘Insert files using Drive’ button.

With this launch, we’ll enable the option to share files in Drive as attachments, allowing the file owner to remove the source file from Drive if so desired, without needing to worry about also removing access to the file from recipients.

When clicking on ‘Insert files using Drive,’ you’ll now see the buttons below in the lower right corner of the insert window. Clicking the Attachment button will add your selected file as an attachment. Inserting files as Drive links will be the default option:

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 2.23.47 PM.png

§ This feature only applies to files that weren't created in Drive (so Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc will not work)
§ Gmail attachments have a 25MB limit

Release track:
Rapid release, with Scheduled release coming in early January 2015

New versions of the Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides Android apps

Posted: 15 Dec 2014 09:58 PM PST
New versions of the Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides apps for Android are now available on Google Play.

The Docs app now has line spacing controls that let you choose single, double or fractional line spacing, the Sheets app has new scrollbars for faster navigation, and the Slides app now supports inserting, moving, resizing, and rotating text boxes, shapes, and lines.

All three apps are now even friendlier with Office files with easier file creation and other updates, and we’ve added better accessibility options.

Release track:
Rapid release and Scheduled release

For more information:
Get the Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides apps on Google Play

Friday, December 12, 2014

Another Fun Free Friday 'App'etizer

In the past I have shared two great (at the time) apps: ChatterPix Kids and YAKiT Kids.  Both had you take a picture of anything, draw on a mouth, and have 30 seconds of record time.  Today, I have discovered an even better app for digitizing talking photos, iFunFace.

iFunFace will turn any photo into a talking bobblehead.  I haven't found a time limit for recording!  The app allows you to have more than one talking head in the picture.  You can also add accessories or change the style of your voice.  In the end go ahead and save to the camera roll.

Here is an example of an actual bobblehead becoming a digital bobblehead:

There is no end to how students could create with this app.  Math- multiple step problems: line up a set of objects, each object tells a step in the process.  Language Arts- retell a story: take a picture of the cover of their book, have the main character retell the story.  Science- solids vs. liquids: have two states of matter side by side debating which is better ("I don't need to take the shape of a container" "Well I can't be snapped in two")  Social Studies- learn about the community: get a photo of someone from the community (i.e. police, firefighter, etc.) describe their role.  Learn about a musical instrument, describe an art project, do a pitch for a new book...

The app does offer some in-app upgrades which you can dismiss and has an ad bar across the top.  Now go create your own, I know your students will get a kick out of it!

(CMS/GMS) Update for Week of 12/8/14

Hello Everyone,

Google Classroom
Google has been developing a learning management system that allows teachers to create, distribute, and grade student assignments within Google Drive called Google Classroom.  Like most Google products, it is constantly being improved upon and updated as users (like us!) provide feedback.

This feature is not yet turned on for our WWPRSD domain. This week, the technology resource team tried out Google Classroom. After exploring it, we thought it is at a point where it is ready to be used by teachers and students; it has many features similar to Hapara's Teacher Dashboard and some other ones as well. We would like to see a few teachers try it out with their students so that we can get some more feedback.

We are looking for a small number of volunteers who are interested in piloting the use of Google Classroom, in grades 6, 7, and 8 (team or off team).

Please let us know if you are interested before the winter break as we are hoping to begin piloting Google Classroom when we come back in January. We will, of course, provide you with support and training in using this system as well as help you however you might need in implementing it in your classroom.

Here's a link with more information about Classroom: https://www.google.com/edu/products/productivity-tools/classroom/

Lunch and Learns
After winter break, we will be offering group training sessions (discussions, demo lessons, or share outs) on a variety of technology related topics during lunch periods. These sessions will be open to all teachers, so keep an eye out for the dates and topics which will be posted soon. 

We will continue to be available for team and/or department meetings as well as one-to-one sessions.  Don't hesitate to reach out to us with any of your ideas. 

General Survey
Thank you to everyone who filled out the general survey.  If you haven't filled out the survey yet, please do. This information will help shape future district, building, and department level professional development:

Have a great weekend!

~Allan and Melissa

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

New sparkline options in Google Sheets

Posted: 09 Dec 2014 09:20 AM PST
The SPARKLINE function in Google Sheets creates a miniature chart contained within a single cell, providing a quick visual depiction of data trends. With this launch, we’re adding two new types of sparklines - column and winloss - joining the existing line graph and bar chart options:
Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 10.35.23 PM.png

See the Help Center for details on using the SPARKLINE function.

Release track:
Rapid release and Scheduled release

Monday, December 8, 2014

Join us on Twitter!

Twitter is a fabulous resource for both personal and professional development. Sign onto Twitter today and give it a try! Click on the photo below to take you to a two page document that will explain and support you as you get started on the road to global collaboration. 
Hope to see you Tweeting soon!

New versions of the Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides iOS apps

Posted: 08 Dec 2014 12:42 PM PST
New versions of the Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides apps for iOS are now available in the App Store. New features include:
§ Support for viewing and editing text in tables in the Docs app
§ Ability to insert, move, resize and rotate text boxes, shapes and lines in the Slides app
§ Enhanced support for iPhone 6/6+ (all apps)
§ General fixes and performance improvements (all apps)

Release track:
Rapid release and Scheduled release

For more information:
G+ post
Get the Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides apps in the App Store

Google Form to Promote Good Student Choices

What are my students doing on their Chromebooks 
(or other devices)?

When a student has free choice time in class, we know that there are many wonderful things he or she can do with a Chromebook (or any connected device). Students and teachers may not always see eye to eye about what is an appropriate use of the technology in the classroom, so we want to help our students learn to make good choices about what to do during unstructured time.  It is also helpful for us to better understand why they make the choices that they do.

A simple accountability can be used as a formative assessment measure for when students have free choice during class --  to remind them that what they are doing on their Chromebooks during unstructured time is important and should be academic. Teachers can have students fill out the form at the completion of the free choice time, when transitioning back to lesson activities or at the end of the class period.

The following is a sample form that can be linked or embedded in a teacher's webpage or shared with students to add to their bookmarks.  Forms can be customized to include choices given in individual classes and collect information that is meaningful to each individual teacher.

What do I do with the data I collect?

The information filled out in the form will be collected in a Google Spreadsheet.  From there, teachers can track and trend student choices as well as read their explanations for why the students are making those choices. This information can become the foundation for future whole group, small group, or individual lessons in class.  It can also lead to meaningful conversations about what kinds of activities students should be choosing in class.

Forms can also be shared across teams or grade levels to compare student choice activities in different classes. Teachers may encourage students to try different activities when they have the choice, or may learn of new sites, apps, and extensions through what the students share in the form.

If you would like help creating a form like the one above or implementing this into your classroom routine, please let us know.

If you use already use a Google Form for a reason similar to the one in this post, please share your experiences in the comments section below.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Free Friday 'App'etizer

Last year, one of our Free Friday Apps was Math Duel.  An app that allowed two players to go head-to-head in a tiered competition based on ability.  Now they have released Geography Duel.
This app allows an individual or pair on one iPad to review states, capitals, or countries.  From within settings you can change the way your map looks (Google Earth view, political map, colored areas, or a 2-tone effect).  This app was released recently and is listed as $2.99 but was downloaded to the district's wwp2 account and is available for download.

(CMS/GMS Update for the week of 12/1/14)

Dear teachers,

New Google Updates
You will notice a new tab on our blog for Google App Updates (Alerts)!

We receive these updates periodically (usually every week or so). They contain information and explanations about upgrades to Google apps and other services.  We feel like this information is helpful to you, so we are including these updates here on the blog.

Be sure to subscribe to the blog by email to receive all of these updates.

Good news!

The Kaizena Add-on is now fully functioning in district.  This add-on allows teachers to leave feedback for students through voice comments in Google Docs.  Some benefits of this add-on include:

  • leaving more detailed and personalized feedback for each student
  • leaving more feedback in less time

For more details on how you can use this with your own classes, please reach out to one of us.

6th grade TC Workshop
This week, the 6th grade IRLA teachers had an all-day workshop with our TC staff developer, Emily.  At the workshop, we also shared various tools and techniques to support student learning in a 1:1 environment. Those resources are available in the Language Arts folder in the shared Resources folder in Google Drive.

Please be sure to save this folder to your own drive so that you have access to all of the shared resources.

Keep Your Eyes Out for an Upcoming Survey
Next week, you will all be receiving a short (but very important) survey regarding the February in-service day and building level Lunch 'n Learns.  The survey is for ALL faculty.  Please be sure to take this survey so that your needs and interests will be reflected during upcoming professional development.

Have a great weekend!

~Allan and Melissa

A Third Grade Heritage Project

Since mid October, I have been working with some third grade classes on their Heritage Project.  As part of their Social Studies curriculum, the students are going to interview their families using various questionnaires to gain a better understanding on the history of their name, where their families emigrated from, and their customs and traditions.  Linked below are the questionnaires:

What's in a Name?

Family Customs & Traditions

Immigration Questionnaire

We used the information gathered and various iPad apps to create a showcase of their heritage.  For their name history and their families customs & traditions we used Voice Recorder Pro 7.  We created a video using Tellagami and Green Screen to tell how their family immigrated to the United States if they answered Part A of the Questionnaire.  If they answered Part B, they created a Pic Collage then did a screencast describing their answers using ScreenChomp.  We also used Maps and Safari to get images of their native country and flag then used LayerPic HD to superimpose the images.  In some classes, students designed a logo to represent themselves using Logo Maker. Then they recorded a screencast describing their logo using ScreenChomp.  Once all the pieces were created and saved to a class Dropbox account where each student had their own folder; we were able to put the puzzle together.  Students were sent home with a permission form for the teachers to create a ThingLink account.  Here are some examples from students:

Student 1:

Student 2:

Student 3:

Student 4:

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Posted: 02 Dec 2014 01:53 PM PST
We know some of you work with Office files regularly, so we’re adding conversion support in Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides for 15 new Office file formats.

New formats supported include:

  • dot, dotx, dotm*, docm* conversions to Google Docs
  • xlt, xltx, xltm*, xlsm* conversions to Google Sheets
  • pot, potx, potm*, pptm*, pps, ppsx, ppsm* conversions to Google Slides

We’ve been listening to your feedback and along with the ability to bring in these new formats, we’ve also added better conversion support for charts, SmartArt, and merged table cells in your Office documents.

After the conversion, you can edit, collaborate on, and share your file online. When you convert a file, the original file will remain intact and accessible from Google Drive.

*Note: Macros will be removed from macro file formats upon conversion

Release track:
Rapid release and Scheduled release

Make Your Blog or Website Interactive

I read a post on the Free Technology for Teachers blog by Richard Byrne, titled 50 Interactive Activities to Embed Into Elementary School Blogs.  Just as the title suggests, Gynzy.com is a site which has a subscription service for other content, but offers 50 activities you could operate on a SMARTBoard or embed on a blog or website.  Here is the link to Gynzy's free stuff.  These free activities are not enough to build an entire lesson around, but they are great for supplemental engagement.  Try out a couple of my favorites below.

Social Studies:


Language Arts:


They are embedded using the HTML code under each activity on the website.  At first, when pasting the code and previewing, you will see an image which looks like:
But don't worry, when the webpage or blog is published it will show the activity instead.
Need help with this, reach out to one of your friendly neighborhood teacher resource specialists for technology or technology facilitators (located on the right side of this page [please note the location of each person]).

What activity do you like most out of the fifty?

Table cell merging in Google Docs

Posted: 01 Dec 2014 01:41 PM PST
This launch adds the ability to merge the cells of a table in Google Docs. Merged table cells can span more than one row and/or column.

To merge table cells, highlight the cells to be merged in your table and select Merge cells from the Table menu (or right click and select Merge cells).

Merged table cells in Word documents can now be imported as well.

Release track:
Rapid release, with Scheduled release coming in two weeks

Adjust image color and filters in Google Docs

Posted: 01 Dec 2014 01:33 PM PST
As recently launched for Google Slides, people working with images in Google Docs on the web will now have the ability to adjust their color, transparency, brightness, and contrast.

To use this feature, select an image in Google Docs and click the Image options button in the toolbar (you can also right click on the image, or use the Format menu, and select Image options). Under "Recolor," you can change the color of your image to match your presentation. Under "Adjustments," you can change the transparency, brightness, and contrast of the image:
Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 9.15.53 AM.png

Release track:
Rapid release and Scheduled release

Slide numbers in Google Slides

Posted: 01 Dec 2014 01:41 PM PST
People using Google Slides can now add slide numbers to their presentations, providing a reference guide for both presenters and audiences. To add slide numbers, go to Insert > Slide numbers from the toolbar. You can then choose to apply slide numbers to all slides or selected slides. You can also choose to skip title slides:

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 11.34.23 AM.png

Release track:
Rapid release, with Scheduled release coming in two weeks

Tech Tuesday (December 2nd)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

We're Back from Camp! (EdcampNJ, that is!)

Hi Everyone,
We're back from camp!

On Saturday, we attended EdcampNJ at Linwood Middle School with well over 400 other educators.

Educators gathered together at Linwood Middle School for the 2014 EdcampNJ Smackdown.
LAURA (@lagnella)
This saturday was Laura's first Edcamp!  She started out the day participating in the live Twitter #satchat.

After #satchat, Laura chose to attend the session about connecting students to the world through mystery location calls using either Skype or Hangouts. She found a lot of great ideas here for using Google hangouts in the classroom including creating live shows to broadcast and connecting with other teachers and students around the world.  She also attended a session on Google Docs and PARCC which shared some ideas for getting the students ready for the upcoming assessments. For her final session, Laura chose to attend a discussion focusing on how to make technology integration more meaningful in the 1:1 classroom setting.

STACEY (@iruntech)
Stacey, a four-time veteran Edcamp-er, volunteered to help manage the session board.  Not yet ready to present in front of a group of complete stranger,  she and a team of other educators started out with a completely blank board and helped find spaces and resources for all of the educators interested in presenting throughout the day.

Stacey helping educators build the session board.
After helping to create the board, Stacey was quick (maybe a little too quick) to make topic selections for the for the first two sessions. Up first was a session with Google Certified Teacher Chris Aviles (@techedupteacher). The room was packed with educators ready to learn about Amazing Things to Do with GAFE. Session highlights  included: tips and tricks for Google presentations (eg split screen slides and jumping to slides), tagging items in Google Drive for easier searching (think-using tags to label standards), using Kaizena to leave written and audio feedback (look for a post from Stacey, coming soon). For all of the other great information Chris shared, check out his Google slides and the back channel doc with participants' notes!

Stacey's second session covered the hot topic...STEAM. Here, Sandra Wozniak (@sanwoz) answered lots of participant questions about Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. G&T teachers and teachers from STEAM academies shared ideas about problem based learning, rubrics and project planning. Sandra shared myriad resources via her live journal.

Stacey's second half of the day centered around social media savviness (keeping your private life private in the very public world of social media)  and content creation v. curating. Stacey visited with Superintendent, Jay Eitner (@iSuperEit), during session three to learn how to safe-guard against the many pitfalls of having a social media account (twitter, facebook, instagram, etc) as a teacher. Her favorite quote from the session was tweeted out: "The internet is like toothpaste, once it's out, it's out!" Jay shared anecdotal accounts of social media gone wrong in public education. For more information on how to lock down your accounts check out Jay's presentation and the back channel for more information! You can also check out the back channel to his first session, The Dirty 30: Thirty Apps for Your Classrooms, Schools and Districts.

For the final session of the day, Stacey visited podcaster, Chris Nesi (@mrnesi). During his session Chris held an informal discussion (very Edcamp) about moving from content curation (retweeting, pinning, blog reading, etc) to creation (podcasting and blogging). Chris's message was loud and clear, share your message with the world! He offered practical advice on where to start and offered himself as a resource and guide. I recommend you check out his website and podcast, The House of #Edtech. I will be writing a review of that podcast soon.

The day concluded with a Smackdown where participants shared their favorite apps and web content.

DAN (@Gallagher_Tech) & MELISSA (@mmorriswrite)
Dan and Melissa, also Edcamp veterans, both led sessions.

Dan's session was about using ThingLink in the classroom.  Teachers attending got a basic overview of ThingLink and saw many clever examples of how students are making multi-media projects and presentations.  After the demonstrations, everyone had the opportunity to get started creating their own ThingLinks!

Dan's session "Let's Talk ThingLink" up on the packed session board.

Dan also attended a session titled 'Velcro: Making $@!* Stick' which discussed methods on how to engage students.  Two examples shared, one British Literature high school teacher raps on characters from major works.  A health teacher has students get up and act out the digestive system.  If you've read to this point, you need a "brain break" (http://teachtrainlove.com/20-brain-break-clips-fight-the-fidgeting/) Dan also attended Melissa's inspiring session on...

Melissa's session was a discussion about innovative thinking and practices. Attendees were pushed outside of their comfort zones and challenged to use vocabulary that fosters innovation. Educators shared their reasons for wanting to be more innovative and ways that innovative thinking will help their instruction and professional growth. An example of the magic of innovative thinking was when we were able to turn a paperclip into an umbrella.

Melissa also attended a session about how leadership, mentorships, and professional development are connected. The session was led by Art Laflamme who calls himself an "Army guy, parent, educator but not teacher, asker of questions, driver of fast cars." While most of those in attendance were K-12 educators and administrators, Arts perspectives and experiences -- as well as those from a few in other fields -- fostered a lively discussion. Ideas were shared about helping all involved see the value of these processes and become truly invested.
Later in the day, Melissa attended a session on defining our own professional development realities with school administrators Brad Currie (@bradmcurrie), Stephen P. Santilli (@SPSantilli), and Spike C. Cook (@DrSpikeCook).  

A highlight of the day for Melissa was attending a session led by one of her teammates. Dan's amazing session on ThingLink got participants talking about existing projects and new ones that would allow their students to design and develop multi-media, interactive projects and presentations.  It was exciting to see educators from all grade levels discussing how ThingLink and Dan's examples could work for their individual students.  

Educators getting together on a Saturday morning to share ideas and practices that will strengthen leadership, mentorships, and professional development. 

We had a great time.  We all connected with educators from many different states and districts, including Paula Naugle (@plnaugle) who came to EdcampNJ all the way from Louisiana!

For a complete list of topics and back channels, check out the schedule for the day. We hope you will join us next time!

The fun EdcampNJ photo booth! 

~Technology Resource Team

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

TED-Ed in the classroom

We have all seen great TED talks either on TV or during school PD. We know that they are meant to be inspirational and often use them to spark great discussions about education. TED-Ed is a free educational website for teachers and learners where you can find videos to enhance instruction or facilitate discussions. You can:

  • Put a video on your class blog or on Edmodo and ask a question to which students can respond to prepare for the next day's lesson.  
  • Use the videos in class and then take the lesson a step further by using the TED-Ed discussion questions or create your own.  
  • You can also find you own video on YouTube and create a lesson with questions to go with it right on the TED-Ed site.

Watch this video for an introduction.

When you visit the TED-Ed website and choose the "lessons" section of the site, you can search for videos by subject, or grade level. Each video is usually under ten minutes and already has a set of quiz questions and discussion questions ready to go. If you want to create your own lesson, just choose, "Customize this lesson."

Some of the videos that could work with the 4th and 5th grade curriculum might include: How Levers Work

This is a great resource! Enjoy it and let me know if you need or want support with this site. :)