Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Tech Tip: Student Passwords are only for PPS Services

Logging into computers, and learning passwords can be an annoying, frustrating, but critical aspect of using technology with our students.  Setting up accounts, and deciding what passwords to use for students on outside sites can also be a challenge. We know we should be using strong password protocols, but we also need students to be able to remember the passwords and be able to get into the sites in a timely way.  Whenever you can find a site with the “Login with Google” button, that is the best bet.  However, even though we all love the "Login with Google" button for its ease and security, that isn't always an option.  So, what do we do?

Use a password that is NOT their PPS password. 
Why?  Students' PPS passwords should not be
shared, even with other websites.  Students' passwords are the keys to all their personal data within Skyward, our PPS network, and Google.  By entering their PPS passwords on sites outside of PPS, you are giving that outside website the keys to access that data.  This is a big no-no.  Now, if you have already done this, don't feel bad.  I too have made this mistake in the past, before I realized what an issue this can be, and have had to correct my misstep.  It is never too late to solve the problem.

Create a naming convention that works for you and your students. 
As our elementary teachers know from our IXL or Lexia passwords, the passwords for our outside sites don't have to be crazy and confusing, especially if no student data is being collected.  A few good tips include making sure you don’t use personal information in the passwords.  Find a naming convention that will be easy for you and your students to remember, such as using the first letter of the words of the chorus of a song or the first letters of the pledge of allegiance (ipattfotusoa), or something special to the students in your class.  Another option is to come up with a storage solution, like a Google Sheet shared via Google Classroom (make a copy for each student) where they can easily access their non-PPS passwords.

Still unsure about what to do?  Start here...
1) Make sure you are not using students' PPS passwords on sites other than Skyward and Google.
2) If you are, reset the passwords using the suggestions above.
3) Questions - contact help@portageps.org (x5102) or ask Jessica or Paul.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Dress Up Presentations by Removing Image Backgrounds, Tech Tip

How many ugly looking presentations are you going to have to look at again at the end of this project?

I mean, just look at this example at the right.

His picture (although ruggedly handsome) is sitting right on top of the Eiffel Tower and it has all this horrible background clutter distracting from the tower itself. Not to mention the I “heart” Paris image with that unappealing square, white background. Ugh.

So, how can we fix it? How can the student keep the images he has so carefully selected, but get rid of that white background and the image clutter?

Enter...

EditPhotosForFree.com has an EASY TO USE background removal tool that makes this quick and painless for teachers and students.

Every time a student visits the Background Remover the set of instructions below appears to remind users of the four simple steps.



  1. Select an image
  2. Use the edge (boundary) tool to define the areas to keep and to remove
  3. Mark the areas to keep (foreground) with the green tool
  4. Mark the areas to remove (background) with the red tool
  5. Process the image by clicking the "play" button between both frames
  6. DO NOT ADD A BACKGROUND COLOR! (It's tempting but defeats the purpose)
  7. Download your new image (png) and insert it into any tool you wish.

PRO TIP:
  • Zoom in extra close to the boundary between the foreground and background
  • Use the smallest Edge Tool setting
  • Use the Eraser to refine your boundaries
  • And... convert (or process) the image again and again until you receive the result you prefer

Follow this slideshow in order to see all the steps I took to create my finished presentation slide.



And here’s my finished product below…

Voila!



Enjoy!




Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Google Docs: Fonts for Early Elementary

Sample of search results from fonts.google.com
A couple weeks ago, I was sitting in a training with a bunch of my favorite lower elementary teacher friends, and several of them were lamenting the fact that it is hard to find "good" Google fonts for the little people they work with on a daily basis.  Specifically, it is a challenge to find the single story lower case a and the open 4.  This conversation, of course, sent me out on a mission to remedy this for these fantastic people.  So, the next day I put on my headphones, turned up the tunes on Spotify, and dived into the website fonts.google.com.  This website lists all the Google fonts available.  It also allows you to type in your own letters and numbers and see them in all the various fonts.  For my purpose, I typed in "abckgy 1234 This is the font."  From here I could see all 877 fonts, and look specifically for the  and the 4. It was quite an adventure, and I came across a lot of really awesome fonts - my personal font list seems to be growing exponentially!  During my exploration I was also able to uncover some fonts that just may satisfy the needs of my lower elementary teachers and their students.  These fonts work in all the great Google products, like docs and slides.

I have several personal favorites on the list.  If you are looking for a font that has a more handwritten look, and includes the "correct" a and 4, you need to check out Dekko.  This font was one of the few I found that actually had the open 4.  The open 4 can also be found in Farsan, Fredoka One, and Patrick Hand.  ABeeZee, Amaranth, Viga, Imprima, and Ruluko each have a number four that is partially open and may do the trick for you. 

If you use the Handwriting without Tears program, like we do in Portage, then you will have to decide on what is most important for you and your students because there isn't a perfect fit.  If you want the letter a to be like the HWT letter a, then you may sacrifice the correct formation of the k.  However, there are several, like Andika, ABeeZee, Sniglet and Questrial, that come pretty close.

Check out the fonts below, or click on the image and see a larger image of the list.



To add these new fonts to your own collection, open up the tool you wish to use (slides or docs), then click the area where you can change the font.  Instead of choosing a font, you will select More ... Now type the new font you want to add in the search box at the top, click the font name, then click OK.  Now you will have that font in your font menu to use in the future.

WARNING: Digging into fonts.google.com may be hazardous to your productivity!  I have spend many hours digging through the fonts and the time seems to fly by...don't say I didn't warn you!