Extension and App Overload

This past week I presented at the Anderson 5 Symposium featuring Google for Education.  One of the session I presented was 30 extensions and 15 Apps for educators.  While in one of the sessions I was asked why I was talking about one extension when they had heard about a different one that did similar things.  Ok, they did the same thing really.  I gave that teacher my honest answer – “I just like this one better.”  There are usually several Apps and Extensions that do similar or the same task, it all comes down to you – the user – and your preferences.  The purpose of my presentation, and others I have seen like it, isn’t to show you the coolest, the best, or even the newest products out there.  The purpose is to show you what, out of the millions of extensions and apps to pick from, work well and save you the time and effort in trying new ones over and over till you find one you like or that is useful.

With all that being said, it’s up to you as the user, as the individual, to make up your own mind about what makes your life and your job easier with a certain app or extension.  Now, here are the slides from my presentation, it’s free so take it for what it’s worth!!

Life lessons from a Dad/Teacher

I have a son in his freshman year of high school.  It helps that I teach freshman, so there’s not a trick he can think of that I probably haven’t seen.  That’s good for me!  However, I have to remind my wife that he’s 15 and is going to do things that 15 years do – like make mistakes.  Especailly online.  This point was driven home last week when he signed up for Amazon Prime, because it was free for 30 days and “…[he] just wouldn’t renew it after 30 days”.  So I had to explain to him how online marketing worked.  To Amazon’s credit, it was easy for him to cancel the Prime account and they kept it active for the 30 days with no automatic charge at the end for continued service.

Then I found this Google Slide presentation.

The presentation below is the crowd sourced one liners of digital citizenship that can be used anywhere. Faculty meetings, workshops, I’m going to use it in my classroom, where ever!  Add your own digital citizenship one liners if you have a good one!!

10 Reasons to Tweet in your classroom

Twitter BirdIn the classroom just keeping students on task and learning is hard enough.  Add technology to that mix and you have an incredibly difficult task to keep student engagement and learning on track.  Throw in social media and some teachers think the world might end.  But that’s not the case for thousands of classroom’s all over the world.

I get asked every so often, “what is Twitter all about”, or “how can you get away with having your students use Twitter during class”, or “I don’t get Twitter and I don’t know why I should”.  Well, my answer to all of those questions gave me this top ten list.

1. Twitter has the news.

Twitter not only has actual news sources such as NPR and The New York Times that keep an up to date Twitter feed, but also you have reporters from all over the world covering news live and Tweeting about it.  You have civilians that Tweet about things they see, and you have experts commenting on events and news articles.  This can be a much richer source of news than just a news paper or blog post.

2. Twitter has #Hashtags.

All of the above and most of anything else you or your students may be looking for is organized by these called Hashtags.  By including a hashtag in a Tweet you automatically sort your tweet into a category with other similar tweets.  You can add as many hashtags as are appropriate.  You can then easily search a hashtag or tags.  You might even find hashtags about things you wouldn’t have thought about researching based on how people hashtag their tweets.

3. Twitter allows quick and useful mass communication

As soon as I set up my classroom Twitter account, students started following me.  And then it happened… I had students asking me questions on Twitter after school hours, and as I answered that one student, the rest could see my responses.  By answering one question I effectively answered several of the same questions.  Also, I sent out tweet reminders of projects and tests, and had students ask me what they missed in class if they were out.  One of the lessons I learned in school was to learn how to communicate with students on their level to be more effective.  The students use Twitter (amongst other social media) so they are used to it, and it makes sense for them to be comfortable communicating with it.

4. Twitter lets you share the experience

Even if you aren’t the most techy of teachers, I’ll bet you use your phone to snap pictures.  Twitter lets you share out those pictures quickly and easily.  Instead of emailing or using a USB drive, you can share pictures on twitter and save you the time and hassle of individually sharing those pictures from the field trip or class project with students and parents.

5. Twitter can be simi-private

One of the biggest ‘scary’ things people think about social media is that everyone in the world will know where you are and what you are doing.  First, let me assure you that everyone in the world has better things to do than track you on the internet.  But you can require Twitter to ask you before allowing someone to follow you, and you can control just who see’s what from your account.  You can keep the boogie man out – I promise.

6. Twitter breaks down barriers

Twitter can break down the perceived barrier between your students and experts from around the world.  If someone is on Twitter, they usually look at 120 characters as an insignificant expenditure of time.  It is not uncommon at all for students who post questions on Twitter to have those questions answered by many people, including industry leaders, famous people, and experts in a field.  Twitter even helps us to sort out the real verified twitterpeople of the Rif-RAF by letting us know who is verified and who is not.  So just because someone chose Adam Savage as their user name, doesn’t mean that is who it is unless you see the Verified icon Twitter uses to denote the real person named Adam Savage (or whoever it is).  It’s not there for all people, but for prominent people Twitter is good about verifying those.

7. Twitter can Connect YOU!

Twitter can (and will if you try it) connect you to other educators and allow you to see what others are doing in your content or school type area.  It’s full of educators that share ideas, assignments, tips and tricks, heck – even this blog post to twitter.  Setting up your PLN (Personal Learning Network) should include Twitter along with RSS feeds of blogs, Linked In, perhaps Facebook (but not so much for me), and even Instagram so that you can connect with more than just the teachers and staff in your school and district but with the world and bring great ideas to your classroom and school.  Eventually you can become one of the people that other educators look to for great ideas and keep the circle of life long learning going.  Be sure to follow the ‘big’ hashtags like #edchat and #ntchat (new teacher chat).

8. Twitter can expand the walls of your classroom

Students can communicate with other students from around the country or around the world even.  This allows your students to learn how other students think, live, what they learn about, and what matters to them.  No matter what subject or level you teach, getting students to connect with other students can only enhance the learning experience and environment in your room.

9. Twitter can help you Flip your Classroom

If you have a Flipped Classroom (and I highly recommend you try it if you have never) Twitter can help you remember, keep on track, or enhance the Flip.  One of the things about a Flipped Classroom is that you are not present when the students are getting the material.  Twitter can lessen the ‘scariness’ of that experience because you can be there in a limited way.  Plus, you know how when you create a lesson, about 10 minutes after the students leave you find this really awesome resource (happens to me all the time).  Twitter allows you to share that even after the students are home from school.

10. Twitter Tip more than use

Finally here’s a great tip more so than a “what twitter can do for you” – get a Twitter account and play with it.  Seriously, once you get into Twitter you’ll have ideas on how to integrate it into your lessons.  But always remember that Twitter, or any social media, should enhance and add to your lesson not be your lesson.  And don’t forget to follow me and this blog @MrLeeTeaches

Google Classroom Cheat Sheet

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I thought it might be nice to be able to refer my students (and other teachers) to a quick Cheat Sheet for Google Classroom.  I’m sure I’ll leave out something, but here is what I think are the important things to understand about how Google Classroom works.

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When a student “Turns In” an assignment two things happen.  First, you have a great indicator of who has and has not completed the assignment at a glance.  However, and maybe more importantly, the ownership of the document changes from the student to the teacher.  The student can no longer edit the document unless they “Unsubmit” it.  This keeps students from being able to just click “Turn In” and then continue working after a due date has passed.

I’m currently the only teacher on my team (and maybe the school) using Google Classroom right now, but if my students have multiple teachers using it, they can access a list of assignments from all their teachers via the menu in the top left.  This is a handy feature that in theory replaces the old agenda for assignments as it automatically populates for the students and they can see what is due and when at a glance.

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There are two ways a student can access an assignment to continue working on it.  Once they start an assignment, they can go back to the original assignment and click on it to open their work in progress.  But they can also go into their Google Drive and find the file itself in the automatically generated folder called “Classroom” and all of their classes and assignments are organized there as well.

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There can be both public and private comments made from the student to the teacher and back for each assignment.  This is helpful if there is a technical issue with an assignment – publicly discussing the issue can help the whole class at once, while private questions encourage the shy student to speak up.

Finally, you can have the students create content and upload it back to Google Classroom.  This is very useful when assigning projects or group work.  The student can create their video, presentation, poster, ect. and upload the file or link to the assignment.  This is a wonderful feature if you are lucky enough to have Chromebooks or laptops in the classroom where it is easy for the students to create content and not just consume it and edit it.

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Finally, don’t forget that there’s an App for that!  There is a Google Classroom App so that you can interact with your classroom on the go, or students who forget their 1:1 device that day can still access the lesson and work for the day.  The App is very complete, and works just like the Browser interface.

Hopefully, this quick Cheat Sheet will help to convince you that Google Classroom has a ton of features that will make the teacher’s life easier and allows educators to focus more on the student interaction and content rather than the paperwork side of the profession.  Now just use Flubaroo to grade your quizzes/tests  and you’ll have more time than you ever thought possible!!!

Best Screen Capture extension in Chrome

Screenshot 2015-03-04 at 9.22.11 AMWorking in a digital classroom (or even a traditional classroom), the need constantly arises where you need to capture images, graphs, documentation, ect… from your screen to incorporate into your lessons.

Traditionally you can do a Print  Screen or on a Chromebook Ctrl+chromeos_page_flipper to activate the screen capture.  But you don’t always want the whole screen, especially if you have multiple monitors with split screens.

Welcome to Nimbus Screenshot!  I’ve been using and loving this extension for months now.  It gives you several options when you need a screenshot.  You can take the whole screen, a defined area of the screen (my favorite), or just the visible part of the screen.  nimbus

Then, once you take the screenshot, you can chose to edit it or just save it, or even redo it if it’s not what you were wanting exactly.  You can edit the screenshot (add arrows or circles for example) right in your browser before saving the picture.  You can even save it to a cloud service with Nimbus if you register your account (free and paid accounts available).

edit nimbus


I love Camtaisa and SnagIt, but the Nimbus extension goes with you on any browser anywhere (which can’t be said for other products) and offers great professional screenshot and editing options.  Give it a try and see if  your Print Screen button starts to collect dust!!

Make Your Forms “Smarter” with Add-ons

Until recently, if you wanted your Google Form to do anything special you had to write (or find a prewritten one) a script.  Which was more coding than most people would want to tackle for a simple Google Form.  Google Released several Add-on’s for Forms not too long ago and it has made Forms so much more dynamic.  Choice Eliminator is one of the coolest ones released so far.  It allows you to eliminate choices on your form after they have been selected a set number of times.  So for example, if you are wanting to schedule conferences at set times, once that time has been chosen, it is no longer available for the next  person to choose.  Or if you only have 15 seats in the meeting hall, you can eliminate the option after 15 people select it.


Once you install it, you will have the option to limit each question to a certain number of responses.  This allows you to “set it and forget it” to steal a phrase.  The Form will now “think” for you and stop people without you having to have multiple Forms, and turn them on and off if you are trying to schedule things.

I am currently using this add-on to schedule after school make-up sessions.  Once all my seats are full, the form turns off that day in the Form.  So I have one form for all the days I offer after school tutoring and I’m sure I will not have too many students signing up.

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I can think of many other uses for this add-on.  Leave some comments as to how you use it below.

Also check out Form Limiter, this add-on will shut down your Form at a specific number of responses or a certain date and time.  Both handy things to use with certain Forms.

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If technology is constantly changing, why bother trying to keep up?


I recently had a teacher ask me that exact question.  They were complaining about not being able to keep up in the training sessions and then they weren’t sure what to do in the classroom.  The teacher went so far as to say, “5 years ago I was on top of everything, and now I constantly feel lost”.

This is not all that uncommon of a feeling, along with “how can we keep up with the kids, they know about and are using things weeks before I even know they exist?”

Both are valid questions, and important things to consider in today’s educational environment.  Our students today were born the internet.  Most of our students had their baby pictures taken with a phone, and posted on Facebook within minutes of birth.  In a sense, we started this ball rolling – and we would be naive to think that these kids wouldn’t take that ball and run with it.  I don’t see that as a “we have to keep up” secairo as much as I see it as an “I get to let them teach me to keep up” one.

However, there is plenty of oportunity for you to learn from other adults too!

1. You can develop a Professional Learning Network.

Following people and organizations on Twitter is a great way to pick up tips and tricks in 120 characters or less.  Follow people who give useful tips on tech integration.  When people find cool things to use in class, they typically like to Tweet about it.  Don’t be scared to unfollow people who you don’t find useful too.  You will stop using Twitter if you have to sort through random tweets, pictures of what Joe had for lunch, and the fact that Sally hates Mondays.  I’m always following new people and unfollowing people who no longer offer useful Tweets.  Here are a few of the people I follow that offer great tips and tricks:


2. In today’s “everything’s on the internet” life, “everything” includes online tutorials.  One of the best ways to learn how to use the myriad of tools out there is with online tutorials geared towards education.  SimpleK12 is a great one and while most of their content is subscription based, they are constantly doing weekend promotions for free.  There are many others out there, just Google search them out!

3. Speaking of Google Searching…  I Google things constantly all day long.  If I glance over a shoulder and see something I don’t know about, I Google it.  If my kids talk about something I don’t know, I Google it.  If I want to do something and don’t know how, I Google it.  Are you starting to see a pattern?

4. Ask a nerd!  Yes, I’m a nerd and proud of it.  The old stigma of being a nerd is basically gone now.  Even students see the value in being knowledgeable and especially about tech stuff.  The best part is that us nerds are typically super easy to find on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, blogs, and the list goes on and on.

5. Finally, have your students do the work for you.  I have told many a teacher this great advice: have your students find apps/websites that work for what you want and have them show you how to use them.  If your students are the ones that you are trying to keep up with, have them teach you what you want to know.  Yes, I know that’s scary giving that much control to them and admitting that they may know more than you (well scary to some), but it works!  Once they tell you about something, Google it!  Learn for yourself about it and then run with it.

Technology is part of every job and everyday life for everyone now and it will stay that way.  If we are preparing our students for success we have to recognize this and embrace it.  How can you teach 21st century learners (and people in a lot of cases now) if you are stuck back in the 20th.  The name of the game in life now is to be that life long learner, but have fun with it.  Technology is there to make our lives easier – use it to make your life easier!!

5 Reasons I love the new Inbox (beta) by Google

While I have been a loyal Gmail user ever since I got my beta tester invite more than a decade ago, I have found a new love in Gmail’s new sibling – Inbox.  Here are the top 5 reasons I’m taking the Inbox plunge and leaving the old Gmail in the app drawer.

1. You can pin emails.

You get that important email and don’t want to have to search to find it when you need it.  You can now pin emails so they stay front and center when you open the app.  You can be back into that important email in seconds until you are done and unpin it.

2. Preview attachments.

I have always hated having to open an email to see what the attachment was.  Now Inbox gives you a preview in the main inbox view.  So now I can open attachments without having to open the email itself.  It works with any attachment – pictures, videos, pdf, excel… you name it!
Inbox app

3. Bundling your emails will set you free

Inbox automatically sorts your email into premade categories, or categories that you create.  So when you plan your vacation you can have all the emails associated with it automatically sorted into a bundle together.

4. Clearing your Inbox with a sweep

You can ‘sweep’ an email with a swipe or a bundle all at once to archive the email.  This makes my life so much easier by not having 50 unread emails clogging my inbox.  I just sweep the un-needed ones into my archives.

5. You can now snooze emails

When I went to a conference a few weeks back, I snoozed the confirmation email with my registration code and my flight emails so that when I needed them, they popped back up to the top of my Inbox.  Also, it notified me that I should check those emails.  Now you can get the email you need when you need it and not have to keep track of it.

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There are more things to love about Inbox, but you should check out Inbox for yourself. Just find someone with it and get a beta invite, or you can ask Google directly for a beta invite (but that takes a week or more typically).

Ginger – the extension that proof’s everything

So we have all been typing along and with 15 things on our minds, we miss a typo or 3 before we hit send, submit, save, ect… Sometimes the app or program we are using has a built in spell checker or maybe even a grammar check.  Google has a pretty decent one that works in some applications, but then there are those times that there is nothing, or you have to click through several steps to activate the spell check.  That’s where Ginger shines!  Ginger is the extension that grammar and spell checks everything you type within your browser window.  You don’t need to do anything other than mouse over the highlighted text and chose to accept the suggestions (which so far have been 100% on target).  20150217_132227


Lazarus is the other awesome behind the scenes extension I’m falling in love with.  Lazarus saves what you are typing in a temporary file.  It is set up so that as you finish the 100th blank on that form you’re filling out and the internet drops out, you haven’t lost everything.  Get back online and Lazarus allows you to one click replace all of your lost work.  It works on all kinds of forms and online typing.  Even this blog post is being saved by Lazarus incase something happens and I lose it all, I can one click it back into existence.

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