Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Helpful new Chrome extension saves webpages into google drive

I just came across a helpful Chrome extension thanks to an Ed Tech and Mobile Learning blog post.   Basically, when you activate the extension, it will save a webpage as a document in your google drive.  It doesn't preserve the original format, just saves the text.  When you access the saved file in google drive, you can either convert it to a google doc, or read it using their own reader called owlsee.  The owlsee reader has a nicer format, including a quick text size enlarger and background color, You can use a text reader on the text, but it's a little more cumbersome.  When I converted to a google doc, it was very easy to use the google text reader, and of course you can change the font size as you would for any google doc.

Here's the relevent section of his blog with a link to the extension in the google chrome store.  The first time out, you need to set up some permissions, but after that it activates quickly from your chrome toolbar.  I think it would definitely be worth adding to student chrome accounts!

This is an excellent Drive Chrome extension to use to save text from any webpage right to your Google Drive account. ‘The extension is a "read later" tools which work with Google Drive. You should read it with Owlsee textReader( in a comfortable way anytime anywhere.
textReader will record your recently reading process, and jump to the last reading location after opening the file again. it also support defining tags, defining bookmarks, custom font size, full text searching etc.’

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Pow! Book Creator kicks it up a notch!

Just read this blog post from Book Creator about a whole new host of comic book features in Book Creator and tried them out for myself.  Here's a page of my efforts, which I made in less than 5 mnutes:
It was very easy and intuitive to use, especially after watching the introductory video.  I discovered that you can't mix a traditional book and a comic book - you need to choose the comic book feature when you first start a new book in order to have access to all the comic features.  The Book Creator app on your iPad should have updated to the new version - if not, see me or check in with Maggie.  Let me know if and how you use these new features - I think the students will love them!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Fall Discoveries: Zing and Google voice

Can it be a month since I last posted?  School must have started!  I wanted to alert you to two recent finds from my blog reading and also our colleague Eric MacDonald:

First, Zing!  Suddenly, everyone wants to give free eBooks to teachers, first Epic! and now Zing!  (clearly they want you to know how excited they are to be doing this, hence the exclamation points after each name)  Zing! is very similar to Epic, in that it has a large collection of ebooks (some similar to the ones available in Epic!).  The site is searchable by reading level, topic, theme, and genre.  You have the capacity to mark books as your favorites, and to set up a virtual classroom and assign books to your students.  Inside the book, there are some nice functions such as a dictionary that defines and speaks the word if needed, also a highlighting pen a notepad, and a bookmark, all of which can be saved to be retrieved later if you re-access the book.  The books themselves seem to load fairly quickly and once loaded, turn pages easily.  If anyone tries it out, let me know how it goes - seems all good to me so far.

Second, Google voice-to-text.  Having tried DragonSpeak as well as other voice to text software, I was prepared to be skeptical.  But after a lunch conversation with Eric during Julie Coiro's visit, I gave it a try and was amazed by how simple it was to use, and how accurately it captured my speech!  I think the secret may be that it combines voice recognition with google docs editing functions, so what the voice recognition misses, the editor captures (more or less).  For example, I dictated something numbered. At first, it was recorded as "to" but as I continued, it autocorrected to 2.  It wasn't perfect, but it was better than anything I've used before.  It is accessible on google docs through the tools menu.  You can check out the blog Have you tried voice typing in google? by Richard Byrne for more information, including voice commands such as "period" and "new line."

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Blog Resolutions, Part 2

I just visited the blog of a Vermont kindergarten teacher that I follow, Mrs. Davison's Kindergarten.  She's got a great kick-off post on digital citizenship, a new bookshelf widget courtesy of Amazon (Put a copy of any book you are using or featuring on your bookshelf), and some photos of her students in action- check it out for inspiration!

Here's one of the dilemmas of blogging:  bloggers who don't post very often can lose their followers, but coming up with new and creative posts can be time-consuming.  If you develop some "templates" for blog posts that you use with your students, you have a starting point.  For example, "Word of the Week:"   the original post gives a word and its definition, and student comments give either synonym, antonym or context (i.e. used in a sentence).   Or how about "Five Senses Challenge:"   the original post gives a setting, say the beach or an ice cream shop (maybe with a photo) and the comments need to add a descriptive sentence using one of the 5 senses.  Or post a piece of art or a photo of a place and ask students to write about something they notice, or a question,  prediction, reaction, or connection.   Feature a link to an eBook belonging to the Benchmark library I(along with any usernmae/password info)  and ask students to write something they learned from the book.

A final word:  looks like KidBlog has gone commercial - you may use the site free for 30 days, but then there is a charge of $30 per teacher, which is not horribly unreasonable - just that it's more than nothing.    So I guess it's up to you whether you would like to use some of your class money for this purpose, or switch over to Blogger, which is free and part of the google world.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Mindfulness Blog

For those of you who would like a little refresher in mindfulness, I just discovered a blog on Modern Mindfulness that I thought you might enjoy.  I'm passing along a link to one particular post on What's taught in classrooms that resonated particularly with me.  Here's an excerpt:

I have visited many classrooms to teach mindfulness in schools. I have paid close attention (paying attention is my specialty, after all) to what the teachers tell the students. I’ve noticed a pattern, something generally true in all the classes I’ve joined. By and large, teachers teach the same two points most often. They ask the students to focus, and they ask the students to relax. They teach these two subjects more often than any others.
“Focus” is voiced with the phrases,“Pay attention,” “Let’s begin,” “Eyes on me,” among others, and also simply by saying a certain student’s name who isn’t concentrating.
“Relax” is voiced with the phrases, “Settle down,” “Calm down,” “It’s okay,” among others, and also simply by saying a certain student’s name who isn’t calm.
I was very happy to find that mindfulness is already the most-taught subject in public education.
But tellin’ ain’t teachin’.
Teachers rarely teach their students how to focus and relax. No teacher would merely tell their students to understand math. Mindfulness, the basic skills required for learning, must be taught like other subjects, with careful instruction and time for practice.
Explicit instruction - that's nothing new to us, but I liked the framework of strategies for focus and strategies for relaxing - how many times have I heard myself use some of the phrases he quoted!   What are your thoughts on mindfulness for this new school year?

P.S. If you do go to their blog, there's a place where you can sign up for emailed updates.  Also, do think about leaving a comment on their blog (click on an individual post to get to the comment section) - I know from experience that it's an encouragement to those of us who blog!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

De-constructing YouTube: Channels, subscriptions, and playlists

As a New York City suburbanite of the '70's, I grew up with 7 channels on my TV - three were the major networks of ABC, NBC, and CBS, three were local  channels that carried sports (go Mets!) or syndicated reruns (my extensive knowledge of Hogan's Heroes came in handy just this month!), and one was the PBS channel where I faithfully watched Mr. Roger's Neighborhood every afternoon.

The current count of YouTube channels?  505,000,000, according to a 2012 Wired article, and I'm sure that number has increased exponentially.  Check out By the Numbers: 120 amazing YouTube statistics for more jaw-dropping stats.  Here's just one - percentage of internet users age 14-17 that use YouTube - 81.9%  So it's comprehensive, overwhelming, and not going away anytime soon - may as well learn a little bit more about it and make it work for you!

One of my strategies for "working" YouTube is to find channels that I can subscribe to.  Just like TV channels that feature sports or music or history, YouTube channels often have a particular focus and style.  Once I subscribe to the channel, I can go back to it and see what new videos they have posted - I can even get them to email me alerts.
Here are a couple you might like to check out - I'll show you in the tech session how to subscribe and follow a channel.
All Things Animals
Aerial America
Smart Girls  (I particularly liked the Smart Girls of the World series)
Joyce Ostertag
Benchmark School  (Yes, both Benchmark and I have channels!
Image result for ted ed

Another strategy for mastering YouTube is to create playlists.  A playlist is basically a file folder that holds the links to whatever videos you want to associate with that playlist.   I create playlists for most subjects I teach, for example, my insect playlist or my recently created grammar playlist or my tech for teachers playlist.  I'll show you how to create and add to playlists on YouTube as well, so you don't lose track of those great videos you discover.

Of course, there's a dark side to YouTube - it's not specifically for kids, and some material is definitely not appropriate.  So we'll also talk about how to use YouTube material in a way that minimizes these problems.

So I hope to see you there at the session!  In the meantime, any other channels to recommend?

P.S.  Or you can catch up on Hogan's Heroes - YouTube has all the episodes!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

New School Year Blogging Resolutions

Many of you have started a blog with previous classes, and are probably thinking about starting a blog again this year.  Let's see if we can gather our collective wisdom and learn from each others' successes and failures!  Here are my first two tips - look for more to follow!

1.  One class blog or many?  I originally thought that each student in a class would have their own blog, but have realized that a better first step is to start a class blog where students can contribute comments as well as be occasional posts.  It's much more manageable and also more interactive and collaborative.

2.  Build a community of followers:  I would love to see parents as well as other Benchmark classes become regular visitors of a classroom blog.  I just recently read a post on 5 Posts to Jumpstart Your Classroom Blog by Richard Byrne, and he suggested that early posts should have high parent interest.  One idea of his that I really liked was "Tasty and healthy snacks to send in with your child"  I think that both parents and kids would comment on that post!  I think another postcould be something like "Favorite iPad apps for school" in which you could make some suggestions about apps that parents could add to an iPad.
I'm always on the hunt for healthy snacks

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Thanks to YouTube, history becomes a little cooler!

A shout out to Amy Mayer's FriED TECHnology YouTube channel.  When I was watching a google classroom video she made, her "history" playlist caught my eye. When I clicked on it, two amazing history music videos produced by Soomo Learning showed up - I know - history music videos?  You have to see them for yourself!

To Late to Apologize: A Declaration  Image result for too late to apologize soomo publishing

Bad Romance: Women's Suffrage
Image result for bad romance soomo publishing

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Oh those dreaded cord tangles!

Just a quick post with some clever ideas I spotted recently for storing multiple devices in the classroom - just in case you're getting frustrated with your old system and want to try something new this year!

From Colombia magazine (found through Pinterest), here's a nice all-in-one solution.  Note how they have tied on the power strip and then woven the cords through the wires so that it's clearer which cord goes to which ipad.

And here's a brilliantly simple idea for managing the cords along the back of the table from Pinterest (had trouble accessing the original site).  Much better idea than the stick-on clips I bought a couple years ago.

Use clips to organize chargers or cords for Smartboard station.

Any other tips you want to pass on?  Or fails?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

How to Learn Anything

A couple years ago, I was prepping for a friend's wedding when I noticed  the groom and his groomsmen clustered around a smartphone.  Can you guess why?  They had realized that no one in the group knew how to tie a bowtie, and were watching an instructional video on YouTube.  Yesterday I got an email from Noah B. wanting to know how to use the 1980's rock polisher he found at a garage sale (he helpfully attached a picture). Guess what I did!  Searched on YouTube, found a relevant Mr. Wizard episode, and sent the link to Noah.  Not to take away from the benefits of a live teacher, but these days almost anything worth learning has already been videotaped and posted online somewhere...and that includes many helpful videos for teachers!  Although you can't ask the video questions, you can stop and rewind the video as many times as you like without feeling self-conscious,  And if you want to be uber-geeky about it, you can watch the video on one device while trying it out on another device.  My favorite blogger Richard Byrne recently posted his YouTube playlist of google tutorials - all 57 of them!  I've culled through them and found three that you might find helpful, somewhat in order of complexity.

How to Create a Contact Group for Gmail - every teacher should set a parent contact group at the beginning of the year  - it makes it so easy and quick to sent out announcements and attachments to your parents.  You may have done this, but if you only do it once a year, it's nice to get a refresher!

How to use Docx (i.e. Word) files in Google Drive - documents that you (or someone else) has created in Word can easily be converted into a google doc.

How to add files and folders to a google site - You can create a page on your teacher website that contains the files you might want parents and/or students to access  - for example your class list contact info, your back-to-school night packet, or a reading response form.

Group Reading with Google Docs  You can share a google doc with students (a news article that you've copied and pasted, a text, a writing model, a piece of student writing) and invite them to add comments on the article as they read it.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Good summer reads, available on Learning Ally - and in the library too!

Summer is my time to read up on children's books, and I've found some good ones already!

Under the Egg (Benchmark library orange section, Learning Ally VoiceText):  I loved  From the Mixed up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler as a kid, and this book brought it to mind - a New York City setting, an art mystery, and a spunky heroine.  Lots of fun twists and clever history tie-ins.

Image result for under the egg        Image result for escape from mr. lemoncello's library         Image result for moxy maxwell does not love stuart little
Speaking of twists and tie-ins, Trina and students inspired me to read Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library.  (Benchmark library orange section, Learning Ally VoiceText) Mr. Lemoncello is a very Willy Wonka-esque character, but who loves books and board games instead of candy.  I appreciated the inside jokes about children's books, but I also found myself caught up in rooting for Kyle and team as they tried to win the game of escaping from the library.

Finally Moxy Maxwell does not love Stuart Little (Benchmark library brown section, Learning Ally Classic Audio) is a hilarious study of the last day of summer vacation as procrastinator Moxy does everything she can to avoid reading her assigned summer reading book, Stuart Little.  Author Peggy Gifford creates such a vivid and familiar character in Moxy that I found myself wondering if Gifford had spent time at Benchmark interviewing some of our students in preparation for writing this book!

So what good children's books have you run across?  I definitely added Moxy Maxwell to my book order for the 2015-16 school year.  I'd love your thoughts on ordering Under the Egg - I enjoyed it, but at 250 pages, is it too long for a curriculum book?  Would the Learning Ally support help students move along more quickly?  Lemoncello weighs in at 350 pages, so probably too long for an assigned reading, even with learning ally support.