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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Random Group Creator

Today I had the need to break kids into groups to play Jeopardy and I wanted a way to do it randomly so one group didn't become stronger than the other based on student's choice, or lack thereof. I found a great website called that has a whole bunch of teacher tools, one of them being Random Group Creator. You simply enter the group size, cut and paste the student names, and hit 'Submit'. It spits out the groups lickety split. Pretty nice. The other tools include a Random Student Selector, Random Pair/Group Generator, Sorter, Word Scramble Creator, and others. It might have something you could use so check it out.

Mouse Locators

A few years ago I used a great presentation tool that allowed you to darken your whole screen except for a little halo around your mouse cursor. It was called Mousepose and it was great until they started charging for it. Boo.

I have to teach a workshop today and wanted to try to find something similar that would keep the focus on where my mouse was on the screen, rather than the old way of just shaking the cursor so people could find it. What I found was:

They both work very well and have hot keys to enable/disable them. I thought Omni Dazzle was a little bit nicer because you could change the cursor highlighter to a few more designs, like a bullseye. Whereas Mouse Locator just had one greenish looking cursor.

Accessing NWEA Score

Here is information about how to log in to the NWEA Website to access your levels scores.

Login Tutorial

The passwords and logins are kinda funky so shoot me an mail for yours. You can't change your login but you CAN change your password. I suggest you make that your first task once you log in.

QuizBean - Online Assessment Tool

I'm always looking for ways to assess kids in fun and out-of-the-box ways. If assessments are necessary then I want kids to not fear them as much. One technique I learned from FreeTech4Teachers is called QuizBean. In a nutshell, it allows you to upload pictures and then add multiple choice questions below the pic that are automatically graded.

Students get immediate feedback on each question that they answer and before they move to the next question students are told if they got the previous question right or wrong. Teachers get results sent directly to their dashboard which saves a lot of time grading quizzes. The option to include pictures makes QuizBean a good platform for asking questions that include diagrams and equations. Plus, accounts are free to create. Give it a spin by signing up here.

Classroom Timers

I use timers quite often to keep my kids on task and to give them a deadline. They also keep me on task. There are a handful of good ones out there including, which has been my favorite for a long time because it's so simple. There's few others I've also used with good results but I also like Teachit Timer that I came across today. It has a few neat features like the ability to have a clock and countdown timer on the same screen, or count up and down timers together. You can also customize the sound it plays when it finishes. The clock is ticking...dial it in!

What to Delete After a Download

Many times when I see someone's Desktop it's littered with downloaded applications simply because people don't know if it's okay to delete them. If there is an application that you've downloaded usually it's in a .dmg format (which stands for disk image), a .zip file (which is a compressed or zipped file) or a .sit (Stuff-It file).

When you download something it usually ends up in one of two places, on your Desktop or in your Downloads folder. Find the file and double-click on it to open it. It will usually unpack the application and most likely open another folder or an installer, if the application is more complicated. From there you usually drag the application into your Applications folder and you're done installing. But now you're left with the downloaded file and disc image or installer on your computer. Just drag those to the Trash to get rid of them and you're done.

One final step would be to drag the icon from the Applications file into your dock if you're going to use the app frequently.

Save the World...and Learn

I've always appreciated websites like that not only help kids to learn but also help them to learn to help others by donating grains of rice for every correct answer. But it's online only and there's no iPad app for it. But a new app I just read about called Sproutster HD helps kids to learn the spellings of 3-5 letter words and also donates rice to the UN World Food Program. Here's a blurb from their app description:

All the proceeds from advertising are donated to the UN World Food Program to feed malnourished kids. In Sproutster, you’re a little sprout-dude who is running around catching falling raindrop letters. After you spell a word in your bucket, you dump it on a rice plant and the plant sprouts a word leaf. You travel the world growing rice and we donate the rice you grow to feed real kids. The more you play, the more we donate!

Collaborative Whiteboards

I like collaborative whiteboards because they are novel and haven't yet run out of steam with students, plus they have a high cool factor for middle school kids. The trick is not to give students too much time to mess around with them and make the assignments short and to-the-point. In the past I've played with Bai Board and Whiteboard Lite (there are a ton more) but a new one that's come along is pretty easy to use and does not require a login to use. Before I tell you about the app I'll tell you that the coolest part is that it was created by three teenagers.

Stoodle (not the best name, but it's free!) is a collaborative whiteboard that's as simple to use as clicking on the "Launch a Classroom" button. They you can share the URL with someone and they are in. You can add text, draw, change colors, add images, and, this is cool, you can turn on your microphone and have a chat with the other users. None of the other whiteboard sites or apps that I've looked at can do that. A good friend of mine refers to that as HNL (Hole Notha Level), hard spelling for a Language Arts teacher to swallow, but fitting. I've used collaborative whiteboards as a brainstorming tool and a collaborative drawing session where each student has a different color so I can quickly gauge their participation. But FreeTech4Teachers suggests using it as an impromptu peer tutoring tool. Give Stoodle a try and impress your friends!

Type a Quick Note in Web Browser

Edit: I found a different web app called TXTBox that works well too. This web app that also does the same thing as I've written below, BUT it auto-saves as you type so you can grab the URL and save it, share it, send it, etc.

Here's a cool tip to be able to quickly type a note into a web browser window. A lot of times if I'm surfing around the and I want to type something down quickly I'll have to open another app to do it. A lot of times I'll just use a new email window since I usually have my email open. But by opening a new tab and cutting and pasting the following into the address/URL bar you can get a quick window to type in. Now that's cool.
data:text/html, <html contenteditable>
If you are worried about having to remember all that each time, just create a bookmark in your bookmark bar and click on it.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Increase Vocabulary with

One of my goals for this year is to increase the vocabulary use and knowledge of my students. We've focused on them in our reading, assessments, and games. One great site called has thousands and thousands of words available for students to study, take challenges on, and track their progress. It really is a fantastic site.

Students start out by answering a few questions about words that determines their level, then the site claims to learn about their word prowess and tailor challenges to meet their vocabulary needs. Then it helps them learn it and tracks their progress along the way. There are also tons of vocabulary lists and blogs that talk about words, plus they claim to have the world's fastest dictionary. It's Word Nirvana!

Sign up is free. Check out the "how it works" part of their site and be amazed at the tool.

Screenshots Expanded

Here's a pretty neat screencapture tool from Onde. I downloaded it and tried it out and the thing that separates it from your Mac's built-in screen capture tool is that it takes the snapshot and put it's into the application's window where you can manipulate it, add text, draw on it, add arrows, and a lot more. For those of us who take a lot of screenshots it's a great tool but it's only free for a short while so get it if it's still available.

Zaption - Extend YouTube

Zaption is a free service that allows you to show a video, which you can add chapters too, and also have questions pop up at those chapter markers that students must answer. I signed up easily and toured one of their videos and I liked to format and I could see it working very well in a classroom or lab environment as an assessment tool.

From EdSurge: Zaption is a web app for teachers, trainers, and content publishers to use video as an interactive experience. Add images, text, quizzes and discussions to private videos as well as those from YouTube and Vimeo to create a learning tour. Teachers also have access to analytics.

Update: I made a quick tutorial on how to clean out your cache.

Some staff has mentioned that the points system or just general web browsing has slowed down. One thing to check is the cache on your computer. Basically every time you visit a web site your web browser saves it so it will load faster next time. Here's how you can clear that out:

For Safari
For Firefox
For Chrome

Sign PDFs Digitally

It's not that I don't like paper, it's just I don't like to waste paper. Here's a way to sign PDF forms without having to print the form and sign it.

Setting a Digital Signature in OS X PreviewThis works in OS X Lion (10.7), Mountain Lion (10.8), and beyond:
  • Launch Preview, and from the Preview menu select "Preferences"
  • Click on "Signatures" and then "Create Signature"
  • Write your signature on a piece of white paper and hold it up to the camera, try to have it somewhat straight on the blue line and watch the "Signature Preview" pane until you are satisfied with the way it looks
  • Click on "Accept" to capture the digital signature
Now you can access and stamp your signature onto any PDF files opened within Preview. Technically you can store multiple signatures, so if you want to set additional ones or if your signature has changed, it's the same steps as above.
Using the Digital Signature in OS X Preview
  • Open the PDF file you want to sign in Preview (you might have to Control-click and choose Open get it to open in Preview and not Adobe Reader)
  • Click on the Tools > Annotations > Signatures
  • Now click within the document where you want the signature to appear

Cool Ways to Use Google Docs

Here's a cool visual about different ways to use Google Docs. Thanks Sarah S. for the link. It's also a cool use of the Glogster tool.

From the website:
These days a good way to capture the attention of an audience is to present information visually. For this reason, I created a glog of popular ways to use Google Docs for Learning to share with the teachers at our middle school. Just look at the glog, find something that interests you, and click on a link to see snippets of samples implemented by our teachers. Looking for more information or about any of these topics? View my Google Docs for Learning page on this blog.

Hyperlink a Specific Spot in Google Doc

I'd seen this done before but never had a reason to do it until tonight, but I love it. Let's say you have a shared Google Document and you want to send out a hyperlink to direct someone to a specific part of the document. For example, for our Tech Committee Meeting Agenda/Minutes we keep one document with all of our notes, ideas, and agenda items. For the Tech Committee I wanted to just send them to the latest agenda. Here's how I linked to a particular part of the document.

1. Place the cursor in the document where you want the link to go
2. Go to Insert > Bookmark
3. In the little box that pops up right-click on the Link text and copy the link address
4. Paste it wherever you want, in an email, on a website, on your blog

Remind is a great service that allows you to send one-way text messages to students and parents. It's free and has other abilities like scheduling a reminder to be sent in the future, which is neat. They added an update today that allows you send pictures (and they claim presentations and assignments, but they only show photos) right to your groups smartphones.

Adding Images to Google Forms

I love Google Forms and use them all the time. I gather information from staff and students and also use them to make my life simpler. One example is my students use a virtual bathroom signout instead of a clipboard. They just go to a website, put in their name, and the form records their name and the time they are leaving, so I have a record of whoever leaves my classroom. Today I found out that you can now add images to Google Forms. It's pretty simple to do and it will be a nice touch to make them look better. When you create your form there's a new drop-down box on the bottom left that lets you put in an image. Very simple.

Password Protect a Document

Got a file you don't want prying eyes to see? You can password protect a Pages or Word document (and Excel, Numbers, etc) pretty easily. In Pages open up the Inspector and on the document tab, on the bottom, you'll see 'Require password to open'. Click the little check box and you're set. Pretty simple. In Microsoft Word go to Tools > Protect document and enter your password there. Just as easy.

Messages on Your Mac

Note: In order to run Messages you have to be running Lion 10.7.3 on your Mac. Click on the Apple and About This Mac on the top left to see which version you are running.
One of the new features of Mountain Lion (Apple's new operating system that's coming out soon) is called Messages. If you already have an iOS device you might have already used an app called iMessages (note the added 'i' meaning it's on an iOS device). You'll probably see many of the iOS features migrating over to the Mac as the two operating systems begin to become one.
One of the best features of iMessages is that it allows you to send text messages and photos without using your allotment from your cell provider as long as it's going to someone else on an iOS device (iPad, iPhone, iPod touch). But now...drumroll please...Apple is making a beta (test) version of Messages available for your Mac. What does this mean? Here's what Apple had to say on their site:
Download Messages Beta and get a taste of what’s coming in OS X Mountain Lion. When you install Messages, it replaces iChat. But iChat services will continue to work. And Messages brings iMessage to the Mac — just like on iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch running iOS 5. Here are the cool features you can expect with Messages:
  • Send unlimited iMessages to any Mac, iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch.
  • Start an iMessage conversation on your Mac and continue it on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch.
  • Send photos, videos, attachments, contacts, locations, and more.
  • Launch a FaceTime video call and bring the conversation face-to-face.
  • Messages supports iMessage, AIM, Yahoo!, Google Talk, and Jabber accounts.
Grab it and give it a shot. It will be good for instant communication with other teachers, it will help out with troubleshooting and tech help, and it's just cool.

Tame the Email

Sometimes you get so many emails you don't know what to do with them all. One idea that I just got turned on to is email threading. I've known it was a feature in Apple Mail for a long time but never understood it enough to want to try it. Now that I have I really like it. Basically what it does is it takes all of the email messages that are about the same topic and puts them in their own thread so you can keep your emails organized better.

For example, all of the Tech Request emails that I get only show up as a group in my email box with a little arrow next to them that I can press which will then show me all of the messages. I have the option to see them all or to have them grouped. I don't need to know I have a bunch of Tech emails but rather that there are some that I need to respond to.

The way to turn on threading is pretty simple, go to View > Organize by Thread. If you have any mail messages that have something in common you should see your Inbox look a little different. You can always turn it off if you don't like it.

Zamzar for File Conversions

Update: Zamzar also has a web browser button that sits inside your web browser that allows you to convert files from a website at the click of a button. Or if you are on a website like YouTube and you want to save a video then Zamzar will help you do just that.

I unabashedly stole this one from Ron.

Zamzar is a website that allows you to convert a file to a different format (PDF to Doc, anyone?) and also allows you to download videos and save them to your computer. Need a YouTube video at school but don't want to rely on streaming it over the Internet? Let Zamzar download it for you and show it from your Desktop. Too cool for school, unless you're a geeky middle school teacher.

The neat thing about Zamzar is you can save your documents or videos into multiple formats. And when I say multiple formats I mean a TON of formats. There are 30 document formats available and 15 image formats. I didn't even know that many existed. 19 video formats too for iPad, iPod, etc.

What Zamzar does is take your file (or a file from a URL) and converts it for you, then sends you an email with a link (I think to avoid robots, yes robots, submitting a whole bunch of files automatically). You click on the link and it takes you back to Zamzar to download your file.

One note: after using Zamzar to convert a PDF to a Doc I noticed the file size went from 2.5Mb to 10Mb. Ouch. But Zamzar also has a free service that let's you email files up to 100Mb. So if you need to email something that might be the way to go. In our district if you're emailing something bigger than 2Mb you're pushing the limits.

Check out Zamzar here

Quick Keyboard Safety Tips

Most times that I move away from my computer at my desk I wonder about the prying eyes of my students. Here is a quick tip to keep them at bay. Put your computer to sleep instantly by pressing Option + Apple (Command) + Eject. When you get back press any key to wake it up.

For further security you can add a password to wake your computer from Sleep mode. Go to System Preferences and Security. Look for the 'Require Password' box and check it. The password should be your computer's admin password (ask your TRT if you don't know what it is).

Here's a few other shortcuts:

Quick Logut = Apple (Command) + Option + Shift + Q
Quick Shut Down = Control + Option + Apple (Comand) + Eject
Quick Restart = Control + Apple (Command) + Eject

Moving the Dock Out of the Way

Sometimes you have to move the Dock out of the way. Maybe you're sick of staring at it or maybe you've got a window down there that you just can't quite pull up. Here's a quick way to hide or un-hide your dock. Press Option + Command + D.

Remind Adds Voice Messages

Update: Remind just introduced short codes, which means that EVERY teacher will only have one phone number, 81010.  So to sign up parents and students will text the class code to that number (for any teacher).  Consequently, all messages will come from that number too.  It's much easier than the current ten number system and they claim messages will be delivered faster too.

Remind is a great service (formerly called Remind101) that allows you to send one way text messages to a group (parents, students, colleagues) along with a document or photo too.  In today's cell phone, texting age it's the best way to keep a group informed.  One of the best features is the ability to schedule a text message in the future and have it delivered right when you want.

Today they introduced the ability on their iOS app to add voice messages.  You can recored a 15-second message to give a little personal flair to your communication.  I highly recommend this service.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Using Apple Mail and Contacts

As we start the year there have bee a lot of questions about Apple Mail and the Contacts app. Here are some links to some good tutorials that the district has put together to help. They include:

1. Setting up your address book to access district emails
2. Composing new emails
3. Configuring your new email account
4. Creating groups in your address book
5. Sending an email to a group of people
6. Sending a group to another person, and adding that group to your address book
7. Sending pictures and movies with Mail
8. Using Mail and Contacts together

Alarm Clock App

Last year we did away with bells for most of the day and the same thing is happening this year. Last year I created iCal calendars to remind people of when class was ending and it was time to do points but it wasn't as effective as the suggestion by Valerie Russell. She recommended a little piece of software called Alarm Clock 2 that allows you to set multiple alarms for multiple days and even choose whatever song you want to play.

Imagine the scenario where five minutes before the period is supposed to end an alarm goes off and Elvis' "A Little Less Conversation, A Little More Action" starts playing to remind your kids that it's time to wrap things up and get ready for points. Well that reality can all be yours.

Here's the app itself (apparently it's not longer being supported anymore). Unzip it and drag it to your Applications folder

Read the tutorial here (handout) & video screencast

Converting PDFs to Docs

** Update: Check out this blog post about Zamzar for converting PDFs to Docs. **

A colleague asked me if I knew a good program that would accurately convert a PDF document to a Word doc so she could upload it for collaboration to Google Docs. I tried a few applications but most of them either had a trial version that only did part of the document or left a watermark on the pages. The best one cost $118 so I kept searching for a better option.

After some Google-ing and stumbling around the Internet I came across a post that suggested this website. I uploaded the somewhat complex PDF and in about 30 seconds it spit out a link that I could use to download my Word doc. Very slick. It's in a zip file (just double-click to open it) and the original PDF that was 180kb was increased to 2.4mb and saved as an rtf (rich-text format). But resaving it as a doc reduced it to 800kb, much more manageable.

Add 2-Step Verification to your Google Account

Adding 2-step verification to your Google account will help to thwart hackers who might get a hold of your password. Basically, what it does is creates a second level of security for your Google account by requiring you to enter a verification code that is texted to you when you log into your Google account. You don't have to do this every time though, just once on your first login as long as you're on your laptop. So if you're not on a trusted computer, like in an Internet cafe on the French Riviera, you won't have to worry about someone stealing your password and getting into your Google account.

Check out the deets here - takes all of about 45 seconds to set up
And here Dave Matthews doing the song Two Step from the album Crash. That's all I could think about while writing this.

The ability to have a student click on a link to automatically send you an email is a great tool, especially if you're putting that link on your classroom blog, website, or Moodle.  Here is a great website that helps you complete that task.

Use Spotlight to Find Files

Can't find a file on your computer? Apple has a built in search feature called Spotlight. In the upper right-hand corner is a little magnifying class. Click on it (or just press Apple + Shift) and type in what you're looking for, like a file name or program, and Spotlight will show you all of the instances of that name on your computer. Search through them and find the one you're looking for.

Saving Passwords

Update: The newest version of Keychain allows you to put videos and other files into it to secure them. Just drag and drop them in.

This is probably the most asked question I get and rightly so. There are many logins that require many passwords and having one password for everything might not be the best thing. There are some ways to store your passwords, which I wrote about here. You can even password protect a document, which you can find more information on here.

But what if you just can't remember a password for a website or something on your computer like Apple Mail. Well, there's a way to figure them out but you'll need to know the Admin password for your computer. Your TRT can help you figure that out. Here are the steps:

1. Open your Utilities folder (it's in your Applications folder on the bottom).
2. Double-click on Keychain Access and you should see all of the places on your computer that have a password, including your Mail and websites.
3. Go to the search bar in the upper right-hand corner of Keychain Access and type in a word to help you narrow down your list of choices. For example, to find your Apple Mail password type in 'mail.wenatcheeschools' and it should narrow things down to 2 or 3 options.
4. Double-click on the one that you want to get the password for and another box will open up.
5. Look for the little 'Show Password' box on the bottom left and put a check in it. The computer will then ask for you Admin password and also ask if you always want to allow access or just this one time. Just allow this one time, for safety's sake.
6. Type in your Admin password and your password will be displayed.

Quick Dock Tips

Here's a coupla quick tips. Ever want to make your dock icons smaller or larger? Here's how. On the right side of the dock you'll see a vertical line. Click on that line and move your mouse up and down or left and right to adjust the size to your liking.

Here's a quick way to hide your dock and make it reappear. Hold down Option + Apple + D. You'll either see your dock appear if it's been hidden or disappear if it's not hidden. This can be helpful when things get cluttered.

Don't want an item on your dock? Just drag it off the dock and POOF! it will disappear. The application still lives in your Applications folder but there's no longer a shortcut on the dock.

Amazing Google Tools

Google does some amazing things with it's "spare time". Besides hosting our email and doing a bajillion searches for us the also provide us with free apps for education and...oh...they are attempting to map the whole world. One of their neatest ventures is Street View, which allows you to view many of the major cities around the world at street level (even some streets in Wenatchee). Their latest trip is down the Amazon River to map out the ever-shrinking rainforest in an attempt to raise awareness and conservation.

Here is a snippet from
Now, (Google) plans to send its street-view cameras on tricycles down dirt trails, and even mount them on boats to capture on-the-ground pictures.
Google also will rely on the aid of local people to add details that only they would know, such as well-traveled paths or far-flung villages. The tech giant plans to work with Amazonas Sustainable Foundation, a non-profit organization backed by the Brazilian government that works to conserve the forest and improve the livelihood of communities who live there.

65 Minecraft Activities

Minecraft has a place in the hearts of middle schoolers and also in the classroom. Strike while the iron's hot! Here are 65 Minecraft activities to use in the classroom.

Poll Everywhere - iOS App

I've written about Poll Everywhere before and today they came out with an iOS app.  If you haven't tried a quick poll like PE provides then I would check it out.  It's a great way to engage a classroom or a room full of adult learners. You can also make clickable image polls using pictures you snapped with your phone.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Flubaroo - Grade Assessments in Google Docs

Most times I just like technology but today I love technology. My latest goto source for tips is FreeTech4Teachers and today's tip is awesome. A while back I wrote about grading quizzes within a Google Spreadsheet and it looked like a cool idea, although a bit cumbersome to set up. But today I learned about a script you can install in your Google Docs that will grade the assessments for you without all of the cumbersome setup! Awesome. You don't have to write any formulas, just create your form, gather your data, and run the script. I haven't poked around at Google Scripts before but I sure will be now. Oh, and it's free.

It supposed to work in any web browser, but you might have issues with Firefox. I used Google Chrome and it worked flawlessly. Make sure you follow all of the directions here to download the script and test spreadsheet.

Here is the link at FreeTech4Teachers. And here is the link on Flubaroo's site that gives you the directions.

Check out the hook while the DJ revolves it (or just watch the video below)

Emailing Pages Files

Note: If you don't have the current version of Pages '09 you can get a copy by contacting your TRT.

Often I'm working in a Microsoft Word document or a iWork '09 Pages document and I want to share it with my colleagues but don't want to save it, open my email program, open a new email, dig out the attachment, and send it. Here's a quick way to email it. In Word go to File > Send to... > Mail Recipient (as attachment). Word will open up your email program (Mail or Entourage) and the email will pop up with the attachment ready to send. Enter your recipients and send away.

If you are using Pages '09 you have even more options. To send a document go to Share > Send via Mail and then choose Pages, Word, or PDF. Even if you are using Pages you can send your document as a Microsoft Word document or a PDF. Pretty slick.

If you are using Pages '08 you can go to File > Export and save it in the format you want, then email it the old-fashioned way.

Adding a Printer

The question of how do I add a printer comes up once in a while. Here's how I do it.

1. The first step is to get the IP address for the printer you want to add. You can ask your TRT or a colleague. It can be found in System Preferences > Print & Fax > Click on the printer > Options & Supplies. It will look something like and say URL by it.

On the older laser printers we have at FMS you can do this:
- Go to the printer you want to add and press the button on the top that says 'Menu' once to the right until the screen says 'Information Menu'.
- Next press the 'Item' button twice to the right until it says 'Print Configuration'.
- Finally press the 'Select' button. It will print out two sheet with a bunch of diagnostic information on it.
- Look for the part that lists the IP address of the printer. It will look something like

2. Now go back to your computer and go to System Preferences and click on 'Print & Fax'.
3. When this box opens look for the '+' sign toward the bottom left to add a printer. Click on it and another box will open up where you can add some options.
4. You want to look for 'Protocol' and make sure it says 'Internet Printing Protocol'.
5. Under 'Address' type in the IP address from the sheets you printer.
6. In the 'Name' section give the printer a name that you want, like 'Staff Room'.
7. Click 'Add' and you might have to confirm one more screen, but that's it.
8. Print a test page to see if things look right and you're set!

Google Chrome for Browsing

One of the best things about using Google Chrome is that all of my settings carry across to multiple devices. If I create a bookmark on my iPad it will also show up on my laptop and phone. Now Chrome has taken things one step further by offering multiple user accounts within the browser. Just like you can have multiple accounts on your computer for different users, now you can have multiple accounts in Chrome. What that means is that you can have a personal account and a school account and access bookmarks, apps, extensions, themes, and settings depending on which account you're in. Plus, you get to choose a different icon for each account, and who doesn't love a personalized icon! Setting it up and using it is very simple and I'm going to let Google do the explaining from here.

Do you share a computer with your family or friends on a regular basis? Do you want to keep your bookmarks, themes, and settings separate from everyone else’s? You can add new users to Chrome to let everyone have their own personalized copies of Chrome on the same computer.

Timeline Creation Tools

Update: There is another timeline tool available as an iOS app from Read Write Think called RWT Timeline. It's pretty sweet, allowing you to add text and photos to a timeline and then move them around as necessary.

Chronozoom is a fantastic tool that allows you to view and create timelines. The applications for this in Social Studies are obvious but I think there are definite pathways into other areas like mapping out a character's life from a book or the historical events in Science. When you first get to Chronozoom you can search premade timelines or signup (for free using your Google account) and create your own. It took me a few minutes to understand that events on the timeline are called Exhibits, but after I figured that out adding events and media is pretty simple.

I viewed it on my iPad and it worked fine as did creating and adding to a timeline. Pretty sweet tool from Microsoft.

Here are a few more from

Timeline JS is an open source timeline creation tool. Timeline JS supports inclusion of image and videos in the events on the timelines that you create. To create a timeline through Timeline JS you first create a Google Spreadsheet with this template. After creating the spreadsheet you publish it to the web and insert its URL into the Timeline JS generator. The last step is grabbing the embed code from Timeline JS and embedding your timeline into your blog or website. Watch the video here to learn more. 

myHistro is a timeline builder and map creation tool rolled into one nice package. On myHistro you can build a personal timeline or build a timeline about a theme or event in history. Each event that you place on your timeline can be geolocated using Google Maps. myHistro timelines can be created online or you can use the free myHistro iPad app to create events on your timeline. 

TimeGlider offers some nice layout options. The layout option that I like best in TimeGlider is the ability to stagger or indent events below each other in a sequence. TimeGlider also makes it easy to display the relative importance of an event by increasing its size in comparison to other events on the timeline. TimeGlider accepts dates in A.D./B.C. format. 

Dipity is a great timeline creation tool that allows users to incorporate text, images, and videos into each entry on their timeline. Like most good web tools, Dipity has a collaboration option and has multiple options for sharing your timelines publicly or privately. Each entry to a Dipity timeline can include multiple types of media which allows users to add more detail and information than can be included in a traditional timeline. If you want to import Tweets and other social media messages, you can do that too on Dipity. Dipity will work on your iPad. Dipity went offline for a few days earlier this fall and then reappeared without explanation. If it wasn't for that hiccup, I would have put it at the top of this list. 

Share Presentations Online is a service that allows you upload a PDF or PowerPoint and then share a link with anyone and they can view that presentation as you flip through it. It would be very useful as a tool for teachers to get kids to follow along with a presentation in a 1:1 classroom or a lab setting. It would also be great when presenting to a larger audience so they can stay in tune.

To create an account is free and then you simply upload a PDF or PPT. The site generates the slides for you and gives you a link that you can distribute in any way you need to (email, website, blog, tweet). When your viewers click on that link they see your presentation and see you moving through it in realtime. There are extended features if you sign up for the pro version, like the ability to control your presentation from your mobile device, but it seems like the free version would be enough for someone to use and be pretty happy. Give it a spin.

Extend Your Battery Life

Here's a tip to extend the life of the battery in your laptop. Once a month let your battery run all the way down (you can use your laptop while you're doing this) until you get the warning that pops up that tells you to plug in or else you will lose any unsaved changes.

When you see that warning go ahead and plug your laptop back in and you're all set until another month passes. The Apple website says that this "Standard Maintenance" allows the electrons to keep flowing within the battery. Sounds techie, huh? They go even go as far as mentioning you can set an iCal reminder for yourself so you have a reminder.

450 Fonts Added to Google Drive

The ever-changing (and improving) world of Google Docs. They just added 450+ fonts (not a typo). To access the new fonts, and turn them on for future use, go to the bottom of the Font Drop-Down menu and click on Add Fonts. Put a check next to the ones you want. Impress your friends. Be a hit at parties. Geek out to fonts!

Draw on Google Maps

Here's a cool tool called GmapGIS that allows you to draw on maps (shapes, lines, drop pins) and then save them. This seems like a great application for Social Studies or mapping out a character's path from a book, or dozens of other uses. Give it a shot. Once nice thing about it is you can use Google Maps without having to use or create an account. When you're done the program gives you a link to share of the map that you created.

DropBox Extension for Chrome other posts...wipe drool.

Here's a Google Chrome Extension for DropBox to view and open DropBox files right from your Chrome web browser.

And this is a spectacular way to add the ability to right-click on a file and drop it into DropBox. Take the two files from the zipped file below (they are Automator services, if you must know) and drop them into your "username > Library > Services". Next time you right-click (control + click) on a file you'll have the option to move or copy a file to your DropBox public folder.

If you don't have a Services folder go ahead and create one in your Home Library.D

ClassDojo - Track Behavior

I love apps that are specifically built for teachers and education because many of them "get it" and know what teachers need. ClassDojo is one of those apps. It allows teachers to track students good and bad behavior and then run reports to see who is doing what well or not so well. I won't go into a lot of detail about it but trust me, it's a great service and it's available as an iOS app. The reason I'm writing is to share their update that just came out today that allows teachers to direct or bulk message parents with behavior and general announcements. This is very similar to other opt-in services like Remind101.

Plus, the kids get to choose cute little monsters as their avatars.

60 Educational Apps in 60 Minutes

Not only is this a great presentation about apps that can be used in the classroom but it's a wonderful use of the presentation tool Prezi, which I've written about a few times. I just spent an hour looking at all of the apps and probably grabbed ten of them to show my kids.

Password Protect Google Sheet

This is a feature I've wanted for a long time, the ability to lock certain cells in a spreadsheet so others who may be collaborating with you cannot change the contents. Basically, highlight the cells you want to lock, choose Data > Name and Protect Range and follow the options in the box to protect those cells. It even brings up another box with all of the collaborators that allows you to further pinpoint who can or cannot work inside protected cells.

Open Websites Automatically

How about coming in and having your computer open up your favorite web sites for you (Skyward? fmspoints?). Here's how to do it:

1. Go to the website you want to open and look just left of the URL address (the http: thingy). There should be a little icon there.
2. Drag that to your Desktop and drop it there and you'll have a file for your website.
3. Now open iCal and create a new event (File > New Event).
4. Give it a name and make sure the 'All Day' box is checked.
5. Set the repeat for 'Every Day' or customize it to only open on weekdays by pressing 'Custom...'
6. Make the end of the repeat 'Never'.
7. Set the alarm to 'Open File' and navigate to the file you saved on your Desktop.
8. Set the time of the alarm for the time you want the website to open and you're done.

What are Podcasts?

Any why should I care about them?

A podcast is a digital file that is released periodically that you can listen to on your computer, iPod, or mp3 player. There are podcasts on just about any subject you could imagine and they're really easy to download and listen to. For example, I like to listen to Mac Tech Tips so I subscribe to The The Mac Observer's Mac Geek podcast. Every week they release about an hour-long show that details a lot of great information about Macs.

I also like NPR's Live Concerts and also Wait, Wait, Do't Tell Me so I subsribe to them , download them, and listen to them whenever I want. They are great for long car rides.

The easiest way to subscribe to them is through iTunes. Open iTunes and click on the iTunes Store. Look for the tab or link for Podcasts within the iTunes store window and click on it. From here you can either search in the search bar up on the top right or just browse through all the offerings to find what you want. After you find something click on it and find the 'Subscribe' button. Once you subscribe not only do you get all of the future episodes but you can go back and download any of the old podcasts that are available.

Click on the iTunes link on the sidebar of iTunes and you'll see all of your podcasts along with the option to download as many as your heart desires. Plus, you too can make your own podcast and get it put on the iTunes page. Your kids will love making podcasts in Garage Band and making them available to the world!

Send Large Files

Awhile back I blogged about Droplr, a great service for sharing larger files. Simply drag and drop the file onto their website, it uploads, and gives you a link to send to whomever. Today while using the service I noticed they now have an application you can download that sits in your task bar. When you come across an image, file, or link you want to share simply drag it up to the task bar, drop it in and the link is automatically dropped into your computer's clipboard, ready for pasting. Slick. Check it out. I had to register for a free account but that only took a minute. And when you get a free account your interface changes, showing you all of your recent uploads.

Close the Lid - Keep Laptop Awake

If you have an external monitor or stream stuff to an Apple TV (which are slowly making their way into the classroom) you might not like having your laptop open when you're streaming stuff or plugged into your other monitor. I know I don't like having the same content I'm watching staring back at me while I watch it on a TV or big screen. If you are using Mac's Mountain Lion operating system you may already know you can wirelessly stream your content to your Apple TV. The No Sleep Extension is a little program that runs in your task bar that allows to simply toggle on/off the ability to close your laptop screen and still maintain a video out (this is also called clamshell mode). I tried it tonight and it works great.


Okay. I'm in love with DropBox. I wrote about it here and finally started using it this last week and it is great. My kids have been turning in assignments using DropItToMe and it couldn't be simpler or as effective. One example is I needed a hotel reservation to take on a trip and I had it on my computer. I didn't want to print it but wanted it to be readily available. I simply Dropped it into DropBox and BOOM it's on my phone. Sweetness!

So then I got to thinking of different ways you can add files to your DropBox and thought it'd be cool if you could email a file and add it to your box. Well, a few Google clicks later and I found Send to Dropbox. Sign up and you get a unique email address. Add that to your Address Book and whenever you have a file that you want to add to your DropBox just make sure you send it to that email address too. Makes me think, "What else is out there?"

Answering my question above: I found a site called JotForm that allows you to add a piece of javascript code to iWeb to embed your own DropItToMe on your web page so students don't have to use a password. It's probably going to get spammed and I've sent three documents but none of them have made it to my DropBox yet. Waiting...waiting...

Another cool little app (for those that just can't wait the extra two seconds for a folder to open...that's me) is called DropLink. It's an app that allows you to simply drop a file onto its icon in the doc and it puts it in your DropBox. I'm not one that likes a cluttered dock so we'll see how long this one lasts, but it's a cool idea.
  • For those that use the Dashboard here is a DropBox widget
  • Want to synchronize your GoogleDocs and DropBox? Try CloudHQ. (15-day free
  • FileStork is actually pretty cool. It's similar to but it allows you to create a customizable email that gets sent to a bunch of people requesting them to send you their files via FileStork's website.

Text Students Safely

I've been following a great blog called Free Tech 4 Teachers by Richard Byrne. His latest entry is all about services that allow you to send text messages to parents and students. All of these are one way and protect either party from seeing the other parties phone number, so they're very safe to use.

I've used Remind and I love it because I know that the kids are getting my messages because they're glued to their phones. I wrote about it here. If you try one of these out and it works well for you drop me an email and let me know. One that looks intriguing is called Send Hub, which allows you to share groups with other teachers. Changes that you make are made automatically with those you shared it with.

Scholastic Reading Timer

Here's another app I'm excited to use with my 5 year old, who is just starting to love to read. It's called Scholastic Reading Timer and it's basic goal is to promote daily reading practice by giving kids weekly reading goals and also using a timer so they can time their reading sessions. Here are some of the features:

This feature operates just like a real stopwatch, so kids can start/stop, pause to take a break, and watch their reading minutes add up! Once they’re finished reading for the day, they can enter their minutes into a personal weekly log. Parents can track kids' daily reading activity and see how many total minutes they have logged.

During the summer months (May 6 to September 6), the Scholastic Reading Timer app will be tied into the Scholastic Summer Challenge, where kids can win virtual rewards when they log their reading minutes. Once they have reached their reading goal for the week, kids who are registered for the Scholastic Summer Challenge can spin the wheel of prizes. Prizes include downloadable virtual badges of beloved storybook characters like Captain Underpants and Geronimo Stilton! Kids can download their virtual badges and store them in their personal prize center.

If kids are registered for the Scholastic Summer Challenge, their reading minutes count toward the total minutes read for their school. Kids can browse school rankings to see which schools have logged the most minutes right on their mobile device. As part of the Scholastic Summer Challenge, schools are helping to Read for the World Record and break last year’s record of 95,859,491 total minutes read! The 20 schools that log the most minutes will be recognized in the 2014 Scholastic Book of World Records and will receive a congratulatory plaque. Plus, the school with the most minutes read will win a school visit from Captain Underpants author Dav Pilkey!

Support growing readers by reading daily tips, interesting articles, and age-appropriate booklists designed to help parents choose the right books for their kids, build a successful home library, engage their reluctant readers, and more!

Toss URL into Mail

I don't like to waste time. It's part of my nature so I'm always looking for keyboard shortcuts and here's a neat one. If you are browsing the web using Chrome or Safari and come across a web site that you want to share just press Commannd + Shift + I (the letter eye) and it will open up Mail, toss the link in there, throw in a subject, and place the cursor in the To line. "Excellent, Smithers. Release the hounds!"

I'm tacking another one on here I just found. Sometimes when you try to maximize a window by pressing the green circle on the top left it will only maximize it for part of the window. Annoying! I didn't press the 'maximize it a little bit' button. But if you hold down Shift and press the green circle it will maximize to the max.

Zooming Your Screen

Sometimes you show things on your screen that kids in the back row just can't see. Here's few quick tips to zoom in on your screen.

Try this one first. Go to your System Preferences, click on Trackpad (or Keyboard and Mouse if you don't see Trackpad). Look for Trackpad Gestures and make sure to enable "Zoom while holding Control". Now hold down Control, put two fingers on your trackpad and move up and down to zoom in and out.

The next one requires that you go into your System Preferences and go to Universal Access. Click on the "Seeing" tab and look for the Zoom section. Turn Zoom on. Now press Option + Apple (Command) + =. Your computer will zoom your screen to wherever your mouse is located. To zoom back out press Option + Apple (Command) + -.

In other applications you can zoom in by simply pressing Apple (Command) and + (plus sign). To zoom back out, Apple (Command) and - (minus).

Transfer Photos - iOS to Mac

Update: Also try to send files (iOS App) Send-Anywhere is much easier and simpler because it doesn't require a login.

Note: This is free today only (11/26/13) but it is in the WSD Filewave server so if you have a WSD iOS device it can be installed by filling out this form.

There are more than a handful of apps that will help you transfer your photos and videos from your iPad to your Mac (and vice versa) but one that's free today might be the best one I've found. My kids need to do this on occasion, especially after we've done some filming and need to do some editing on the Macs in the lab. I've written about a few other options before here but today I came across VideoTransfer by Capable Bits. It only does photos and video but it does them very well and very quickly. You can transfer files by using wifi and an Internet browser or you can send to another device that has VideoTransfer installed on it.

I sent a 90Mb movie from my iPad to my laptop lickety split. It zips up the file and appears where your downloads appear. It fills in a nice gap that Apple seems to overlook, for some reason. You can use AirDrop to send files from iOS to iOS but you usually have to plug into iTunes when using your Mac.

Video Transfer is free and don't have any limits on upload photos or videos on your iPhone from desktop and iOS devices.

Just few features for you (from their iTunes description): 
  1. Really easy to use 
  2. 2 in 1: video and photo transfer 
  3. Very fast 
  4. Background transfer 
  5. Beautiful design 
  6. Lovely support (real people) 
  7. Web access without flash

Backup Your Computer

Backing up never goes out of style. I try to remember to backup my laptop at least once a week or after I've done something important that I don't want to lose. There are lots of options for automatically backing up your laptop but one of the easiest and most reliable methods is to do it yourself.
As I was looking at an old tutorial on how to manually backup your laptop I noticed some things that were out of date. If you are backing up using a flash drive or external hard drive and need to know how to configure iBackup to work then watch the following video:
Also, if you do not have iBackup on your computer then you can download it here.

How to Use the Tech Ticket System

Jake from OMS has created a good video on how to use and respond to the Technology Tech Support System.

Shoparoo - App to Support Schools

Here's an app for your mobile device that when you use it gives you an easy way to support your school. It's called Shoparoo and it couldn't be easier to use. Simply download the app and then whenever you shop for groceries make sure to take a picture of your grocery receipt. As you accumulate points you also earn money for your school. I've been using it for a few weeks, as have a couple of other parents, and we've earned a grand total of $1...almost. But there's only three of us. Imagine if there were a lot of people doing the same thing. Every little bit counts, plus the app is free!

My guess is the company makes money by studying shopping habits and also by offering you deals on certain products

Google Drive Phishing Account

Please be aware of this Google Docs phishing scam where scammers try to get you to login to a Google Docs site with a URL and enter your login and password. If it seems fishy it's probably phishy. The article with the warning is below but basically be on the lookout for:

1. Websites that don't recognize you when you go to login. You've been using Google Drive long enough for your browser to recognize you and put in your username or in the very least not ask you to enter all of your credentials.
2. Emails that have a subject titled 'Documents' or something else suspicious.
3. Emails that ask you to click on a link or are not from someone that you recognize.

Symantec is warning users of a phishing scam that takes advantage of Google Docs that is worming its way around the web. And, since it uses a URL, and even uses Google’s SSL encryption, its could fool even wary users.
Fake login left - Real login rightFake login on the left – Real login on the right. Click to view larger…
However, as Gizmodo points out, just playing it safe, and using some common sense will help you avoid problems.
The scam arrives in your inbox with the subject line “Documents,” and points to a Google Docs link. It shows up in your browser’s address bar as a domain, and it takes you to a fake login page that looks like a genuine Google login page. If you enter your Google login credentials here, the phishers have you.
“The fake page is actually hosted on Google’s servers and is served over SSL, making the page even more convincing,” explains Symantec security expert Nick Johnston. “The scammers have simply created a folder inside a Google Drive account, marked it as public, uploaded a file there, and then used Google Drive’s preview feature to get a publicly accessible URL to include in their messages.”
Following your login via the fake page, you’re taken to an actual Google Doc, and your login info is sent to a PHP script on a compromised server.
To avoid becoming a victim of this sly scheme, just be wary and use common sense. First, be careful clicking links in emails. Yeah, we all do it, especially if we think we know the links are genuine, but be careful. Also, if you receive an email from someone you don’t know, and the subject line is something like “Documents,” well, that’s suspicious in itself.
Also, if you are taken to what is supposed to be a Google login screen, and you are a Google user, and it doesn’t recognize you as such, AND you have to login with all your credentials, be VERY wary.

iWeb Basics

We just completed a basic introductory workshop on iWeb and I wanted to put all of the resources I mentioned in one central location.

The Basics
Easy iWeb Publisher
Support for iWeb
iWeb FAQs (not associated with Apple)

Self-Graded Quizzes with Google Forms

Update: I made one of these and they're great! Plus, there are a bunch of templates already out there so you don't have to reinvent the wheel.

I love Google Forms. They are very versatile and can be used not only to collect and organize a lot of data but thanks to this tip from Mark Wagner from this youtube video you can create self-graded quizzes. This stuff gives me the geek snorts and I can't wait to try it.

Help Students Learn Code

Here's a very neat program created by called Hour of Code. It's designed to get kids interested in learning to write code through a series of videos and interactive coding sessions. I remember my first exposure to coding way back in middle school and I loved it. We spent a whole six weeks programming our computer in Basic and at the very end we pressed Enter and watched our names scroll up the screen. I was amazed. I even made some rudimentary games using Basic and also copied code from magazines to make others. I still love it when I get to dig into some web page code or write my own. If you have kids who are interested in video games creation or computers then this might be a great use of your time to start a fire. There is also a neat Angry Birds code writing challenge here.

Here's another great resource from iLearn Technology that has 30 more resources about coding

If It's Too Loud...

Awhile back I wrote about an app called Too Loud? that allows you to measure the noise volume in your classroom so students can see visually if they are being too loud (or too quiet? Does that ever happen?) Today I found a cool website called that does the same thing but in a more visually stimulating way. You have to see if to understand it but basically you get either bouncy balls, emojis, bubbles, or eyeballs that fill up your screen and bounce up and down based on the noise volume in your classroom. It's one of those things I know elementary kids will love and middle to high school kids will appreciate too because it will bring out their inner child. Give it a bounce!

It doesn't seem to work on the iPad but it does use the accelerometer and make the bouncy balls roll all over the place.

Google Remote Desktop

Update: I got this to work. I had to sign out of my account and log into my personal Google account and then it let me generate the necessary access code.

There is a new Google Chrome extension, not new but just out of beta, that allows you to remotely access someone else's computer or allow someone to access yours. By sharing and entering an access code to another computer running the extension you can control their computer. This would be a great thing for sharing or tech support if both computers are running Chrome.

Share Google Document in Multiple Folders

Today I had a problem to solve and that was how to get one Google document to be in two folders. I wanted to share my Tech Committee minutes with both my Tech Committee and Learning Improvement Team but couldn't find a way to put it in both folders at the same time or create an alias. But Google came to the rescue and I learned that in the new Google Drive in order to move a file you need to do the following:
  • Single-Click on a file to select it.
  • See the Details View and note the file’s current location
  • With the file still selected issue a SHIFT-Z (holding down the Shift key and pressing Z)
  • This opens the Add To dialogue and allows you to choose the folder you wish to add the selected file to
  • Click the Blue Add button to add the file to the chosen folder
  • See the Details View and note the file now has 2 locations for the file

Blur Photos

The last post got me thinking of how to blur an image if there was sensitive data on a screenshot. I Googled a bit and there are some free apps available but then I read about how you can just use the Retouch tool amongst the editing tools in iPhoto. It's pretty simple to use and you can control the size of the brush if space is limited.

There is a free app called Seashore that will also do it. I downloaded it and it has a lot of neat features. But I thought iPhoto might be easier and quicker.
  • Dr. Pick is one of the easiest and quickest online photo editors and blurring a section is a snap.
  • Another one, called CellSea also blurs nicely. It looks like it's geared toward making wallpapers for cell phones.
  • SplashUp also does a nice job

Monday, August 25, 2014

Choose Any Color

Another cool trick that I showed someone the other day that only becomes useful if you've seen it in action. When you are choosing a color for something (like a background for your web page or a presentation in Power Point or Keynote) you'll often see a little magnifying glass next to the colors (see image below). If you have something on your screen and you want to match your background to that color, like the color in a picture on your web site, simply click on the little magnifying glass, hover over the color in the picture you want, and click the mouse. That color will now appear on whatever you had selected to change the color of. Confused? Just play with the little tool and see how it works.

Take Notes with YouTube

VideoNotes is a tool that allows you to load a YouTube video on one side of your browser and have a notepad on the other side for taking notes. I can see this as a useful tool for students who need to take notes on a video and then share them with the teacher or another student. When you go to the website you have to click on the "Create your notes" button and then VideoNotes will ask for permission to access your Google Drive.

Next paste the URL of a YouTube video into the window on the left and type on the right side. You have the options to create notes, save notes, open notes, and share notes.

Getting Tech Support

Update: As of 2/25/2011 you can now request Tech Help from home from both TRTs and TSSs, but remember that you might not get a response until the next working day. From Dave Yancey, "If requests are made after hours/weekends, they will not be responded to until the next working day."

There is a difference between the Tech support help within the building. The TRT is the Technology Resource Teacher, which at FMS is Ray Birks. The TSS (formerly the TRA) is also known as the Technical Support Specialist and at FMS that is Paul Appel. Also, a reminder to that if you need Tech help you are required to put in a Tech Request. This helps maintain our communication and paper trail.

Here's the point of this post. If you are at home and you're trying to put in a request for the TSS for help you won't be able to (yes, you will. See the update above and ignore the rest of this email. Just leaving it here for posterity). The request form has been moved to a different server behind a firewall to avoid robot computers (yep...robots are taking over) from spamming our forms. Bad people set up their computers to search for forms on the web and and spam those forms with their information. So, wait until you get to school to contact the TSS. But you can still contact the TRT anytime day or night. But remember that our response time is supposed to be only during our contracted time.

Animated Math Lessons

Math Live is a neat mathematics website hosted by Learn Alberta. Math Live presents students with animated stories that teach mathematics lessons. In all there are twenty-three lessons for elementary school and middle school students. The lessons are divided into four categories; Number, Patterns and Relations, Shape and Space, Statistics and Probability. Each animated lesson is accompanied by a mathematics worksheet that students complete either while watching the lesson or after viewing the lesson. Each lesson is divided into sections and students can advance or rewind as needed.

I can see these as a great tool for students who are struggling with a particular concept or if you have a flipped classroom.

Quick Tip for Calendars

Here's a cool tip for changing calendars in Mac's Calendar app (iCal was renamed Calendar with the introduction of the Lion operating system). You do need to be running 10.7 (Lion) or higher to be able to access this hint. To switch between months, days or weeks easily, just use a two-finger swipe across your trackpad. I have always used the keyboard shortcut Command + arrow key but this seem faster and more intuitive, almost like moving the pages of your paper calendar.

Pinterest for Education

Ron Brown shared a great resource for teachers called Educlipper that is similar to Pinterest in that it's a place to pin, clip, and share educational resources. Give it a look when you get a chance.

Force Mac to Learn Words

Here's a tip I show my students quite often. When I'm typing and I just can remember how to spell a tough word (or the program I'm using tells me it's wrong and puts the little red line under it) I'll type it anyway and give it my best shot. If the little red line doesn't show up I move on. But if it shows up simply press Control and click on the word (or right-click) and the program will give you options for how to spell the word. Choose the one you want and keep on truckin' (red line under that).

Which leads me to another tip. If you Control-click on a word you can also tell the program to Learn Spelling, which adds it to your word database and it won't turn red in the future. That's handy for your name or other things, like Wenatchee, that certain programs don't recognize. This is a great tip for those kids who just can't figure out how to spell things. I tell them to give it a shot and use the tools available to you to figure it out!

Collaborative Whiteboards

I don't know why I love collaborative whiteboards but I think the technology is cool and it's one of those things that makes me say, "How'd they do that?"

I wrote about Whiteboard Lite yesterday and my kids tried it out today and really liked it. They love seeing their drawings show up on someone else's iPad and they immediately used it to write/draw messages back and forth to each other. Oh boy.

Today I found another with what happens to have a semi-weird name, Bai Board, but has a ton more features than Whiteboard Lite. It allows you to add text, speech bubbles, highlight, snapshots, web sharing, and much more. One of the coolest features is the chat feature, which allows you to record your voice and post it to the canvas. In all honesty, Bai Board blows the doors off of Whiteboard Lite so give it a try. There's no sign up necessary and students can create a board in seconds and even password protect it.

I like to use these when my students are working collaboratively on a project or responding to a read aloud. Not only does it get them to have to work together but more importantly it helps them to create some working norms within their group, sort of a self-policing mini-classroom.

Another cool feature is that there is a Mac app that allows you to collaborate on a Mac and iPad at the same time. Even better.

BoomWrite - Collaborative Writing

While visiting the ClassDojo website I noticed an advertisement for BoomWriter, which is a site that hosts student writing competitions to write a collaborative book. Basically, they are given the first chapter of a book which can be written by a teacher or someone else. They they all write the second chapter and then vote on what they think is the best chapter and that one gets promoted to the second chapter in the book. Then they do the third chapter, and so on, until the teacher calls the competition over or the book is done. Then the class can buy a copy of the published book. Pretty sweet!

Here is the information from their website on how it works.

It begins with a story start.
A story start is the first chapter of the book. The rest of the story is up to you.
The story start could be written by a professional writer, a teacher, you or your classmates, or maybe even a celebrity!
You write your version of Chapter 2.
Take the story where you like. The only limits are your imagination and a word count.
At the same time, other BoomWriters will be writing their own version of what happens next.
Submit your entry.
When you're done (and before the deadline), you submit your entry for review.
If it's accepted, you'll get points and BoomDollars. You'll use BoomDollars to purchase accessories for your Boomer avatar.
Vote, Vote, Vote!
You and the other BoomWriters vote on the entry you think is the best.
Of course you can't vote for you own entry, and you won't know whose entry it is you're voting for.
You may be able to vote more than once, which is good, as voting also earns you points and BoomDollars.
Did you win?
If so, then your entry becomes the official Chapter 2 of the book. If not, don't worry because there will be many more chances for you to win.
Read, write and then vote!
The competitions continue until the book is finished. Then, *Boom!* you're a published author!
A real book
The end result? A real book that you, your friends, family, and the whole world can buy. Imagine that, a book with your name in it that you helped write.