Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Chromebooks: My Chromebook will not turn on!

THE PROBLEM: You open up your Chromebook to get your work done, but when you open
the screen nothing happens.  You know you charged the device overnight, so it shouldn't be a low battery issue.  However, if you look closely, you might see a faint blueish-gray light to the screen.

The Chromebook has gone into a "sleep" mode and is having trouble waking up.

Thankfully the fix is very simple!
  • Open your Chromebook.
  • Hold down the power key for an extended period of time - 30-60 seconds.
  • You will notice that the screen will go from almost black to completely black.
  • Shut the lid.  Wait 10 seconds.
  • Open the lid and your device should be ready to go.
Note: It is always important to make sure that your Chromebook is charged.  If it is not turning on, and you haven't charged it recently, it may simply be out of power.  Plug it in for a couple hours and try powering it on.  If that doesn't work, then try the steps above.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

March is Reading Month: Create your own video/audio book library!

In honor of reading month, I recorded this short video of one of my favorite books to share with you all and your students.


If you would like to create your own video book library, like this video, here's how to get started.
Step 1: Pick out your book
Step 2: Get out your chromebook or PC with a Webcam attached
Step 3: Open a video recorder.  There are lots out there, but I used: The Video Recorder from
Step 4: Record your video.
Step 5: Watch it and rerecord if necessary.
Step 6: Save and/or download the video.
Step 7: Upload to a Google Drive folder that is shared with your students so they can all view the videos.
Step 8: ENJOY!

Classroom ideas...

  • Create a school-wide collection
  • Have older students record themselves reading books for younger students
  • Have family members record books for the classes
  • Too shy to be on video?  Just use the Voice Recorder instead.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Security: Strong Passwords = Safer Data

Let's be honest, we have all been guilty of poor password practices at some point in time or another.  Maybe you have kept a notebook on your desk with all your passwords, used the same password for "everything", used a simple password (ex: Winter2017) or kept your password on a sticky note next to your monitor.  Unfortunately, all these practices set us up for having our passwords compromised or stolen, and in return put our data at risk.

There are many things we can do to increase our security when online, including avoiding phishing scams.  In this post, we are going to focus on what makes a strong password.

What do I need to make a strong password?
When creating a strong password, it's recommended that we...

  • Have at least 8 characters
  • Include upper and lower case letters
  • Include numbers
  • Include characters, like ~!@#$%^&*_-+=`|\(){}[]:;"'<>,.?/
  • Avoid using words found in the dictionary
  • Avoid using your username as part of your password
  • Avoid predictable passwords (ex: Winter17), your kid's name, your favorite sports team, anything that someone could easily find on social media, etc.
  • Avoid passwords that are in succession (Example: GrumpyCat1!, GrumpyCat2!, etc.)
  • Avoid using private information in your password, including your full name, date of birth, address, mother's maiden name, social security number, phone number, etc.
  • Change them at least every 6 months
In PPS, our passwords must...
  • Have at least 8 characters
  • Include 3 of these 4 character types
    • Uppercase letters
    • Lowercase letters
    • Numbers (0 through 9)
    • Characters ~!@#$%^&*_-+=`|\(){}[]:;"'<>,.?/
  • Avoid including usernames as part of your password
  • Avoid using words found in the dictionary
  • Avoid using the same password that you use for your personal accounts
  • Be changed every 90 days - avoiding passwords that have been previously used
  • Need to change your PPS password?  Follow these directions and you will be off and running.

So, let's play a game (courtesy of Common Sense Media)
I'll pretend to be Abraham Lincoln.  I need to create a password for my email account.  The first password I come up with was: HonestAbe.  Fortunately, I remembered that using a password that uses my name/nickname is not a good idea.  Lots of people would guess that.  So, I give it another try and come up with: 4score-7yrsGbA.  This password is much better.   I'll be able to remember it because Four Score and Seven Years Ago (4score-7yrs) was the beginning of my famous Gettysburg Address (GbA). Success!

Keep it Safe!
Now that you have created a strong password, protect it by not sharing it, using it in multiple locations, or keeping it in a location that is easily located.

Enjoy this Video on Creating Smart Passwords by

Monday, February 6, 2017

Chromebook Tech Tip: Help, the screen is sideways!

What’s Happening?

Your students are working away on their projects and all of a sudden, a kid brings their Chromebook up to you because they have somehow mysteriously flipped the image on the screen so it is now turned 90 or 180 degrees.  And like any good teacher, you are an expert at reading upside down (thanks to all those read alouds), but the kids haven't mastered that skill yet - unless, of course, they are trying to figure out the i-tunes password as their parents type it in.  So the question is... How do I turn the screen image back to the "normal" direction?

How do I fix it?

To turn the screen image, all you have to do is click three simple keys...
ctrl+shift+refresh button

Why does it do this?

There is a legitimate reason to flip your Chromebook screen.  For example, maybe you want to view something in portrait view so you can see the whole "sheet".  The rotate would be helpful for this, however, most of the time it is just annoying. 

Now if you really want to have some fun, click ctrl+shift+alt+refresh.  This will make your screen do a complete barrel roll.  Why, you may ask?  Because sometimes you just need to have a little fun.  Enjoy!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Gmail: Creating a Handwritten Signature for the Computer

You would think that as a technology integration specialist, I would get a lot of challenging questions about how best to integrate technology in a meaningful way in the classroom, what are the best tech tools for specific purposes, and how to keep our kids safe when they are using technology.  And you would be correct.  Paul and I frequently get really great questions about all those things, but sometimes it's the little things that really get educators a handwritten signature on email.

My auto Gmail signature contains an image file of my written signature (first name).  I feel like having the handwritten signature adds some personality and personalizes the email better than just a typed signature.  To the right is a sample of my Gmail signature.  It isn't anything over the top or special, but frequently when I am out in the buildings helping our staff, teachers will stop me and as how they can create their own signature.  Paul and I have both explored many ways to accomplish this task.  If you have a wacom style tablet or stylus, then go ahead and sign your first name and you are off and running.  For those of you that are masters of the trackpad or have beautiful handwriting on the touchscreen, open up a drawing tool like Google Drawings, sign your firs name on a transparent background, crop, resize, and download as a .png file.  For the rest of us, give this a try...

Step 1: Get a photo of your signature
  • Get out a piece of white paper.  
  • Get out a pen (usually a fine tip sharpie type pen works well) and write your first name.  
  • Take a picture of your signature using your smartphone, camera, or document camera.  
  • Upload the photo to your computer.  

Step 2: Edit the image
The picture you took of your signature will not automatically have a transparent background, and will probably be a pretty big image, so we are going to need to do a little editing to get it just right.
  • Go to:  This is an online photo editor.  The user interface isn't anything fancy, but it does the trick for this purpose.
  • Upload the photo of your signature to the site by either clicking the Browse button or the more upload options.
  • Choose the file from your computer that contains your signature and click open.
  • Go to the Adjust menu and select Adjust Light Levels
  • Drag the Contrast bar all the way to the right.  Click Apply.
  • Go to the Edit menu and select Transparent.  Click on the white background - not your written signature.  Use the slider bar to increase the transparency so that any background noise that remains will fade away.  When you have it looking good, click Apply Threshold.
  • Go to the Edit menu and select Crop Image.  This should allow you do put a box around your image to crop down the canvas to just your signature.  Draw a box around the image and click crop.
  • Go to the Edit menu and select Scale Image.  A good size for your signature line would be between 125 and 200 for width, depending on how long your name is and how large you want your signature to look when you are finished, so play around - 70 may be just the right size, or maybe 250. Click Scale Image when finished adjusting the size.  
  • Now that you are finished, go to the File menu and select  Save Image.  Choose Save Image as PNG.  This will down load the image file to your computer. 
Step 3: Add it to your Gmail Signature
Enjoy your new personalized Gmail signature!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Skyward: Teacher Course Recommendations [Secondary]

Skyward Teacher Course Recommendations                                          

1. From the Home Screen, select the Gradebook for which you would like to make course recommendations.
Step 1

2. Once inside the Gradebook, click on ‘Other Access’ (Note: If you hover over ‘Other Access’ you can then click on ‘Recommendations’ from there and move on to step 4.)
Step 2

3. On your left menu, click on ‘Recommendations’.

Step 3
4. Once in Course Recommendations you can now create/modify recommendations for your entire class. Click on ‘Modify for Entire Class’

Step 4

You now have two ways to proceed:
  • Recommendation by Class
  • Recommendation by Student

Recommendation by Class

5. You can see what class you are currently in at the top of the new window (see highlight below, Hon Eng 9).
6. Then select (click) which class you are recommending (i.e. English 10 has been selected).
7. Click ‘Add’. Do Not Click ‘Add All’. Recommend only one class per student.
8. Scroll down, you will see the list of students in your class, check those specific students you wish to receive the recommendation you have selected (i.e. English 10).
a. Depending on how many and what students are receiving the same recommendation you may choose to use the buttons on the right.
  • i. ‘Select All Students’
  • ii. ‘Unselect All Students’

9. When the correct students are selected, click Save
***If you have students in your class that are being recommended for different courses, you will need to repeat this process for as many different courses you are recommending. In this example, twice. (i.e. One time for English 10 and one time for Honors English 10).

Steps 5-9

Recommendation by Student

If you have forgotten to give a recommendation, need to change a recommendation, or choose to give recommendations by student, repeat steps 1 through 3 and use this process.

10. From the ‘Course Recommendations’ screen, expand (click) the arrow before the student for which you wish to make recommendations.
Step 10

11. Once expanded, you may expand the arrow next to Course Recommendations for more information or Click ‘Add Course Recommendation’.
Step 11

12. Then select which class you are recommending (i.e. English 10 has been selected below, next page). Click on ‘Add’.

13. Click Save.
Steps 12-13

***Please note that you may have conversations with your counseling department that may not be included in this tutorial, please see the counseling office for recommendation questions and your IT helpdesk for all technical ‘how to’ questions or if you are experiencing technical problems.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Protect Yourself from Gmail Phishing - Your Info is VERY Valuable

What is Phishing?
Phishing is the practice of sending emails, that look like they are from a reputable company or person, in order to get the recipient to reveal personal information like usernames, passwords, or credit card informations.  This is why you always here people caution against clicking on a link in an email if it "doesn't look right".

How does the New Gmail Phishing Scheme Work?
Recently, we learned about a new phishing scheme making the rounds.  This new one is very tricky because, unless you know what to look for, everything seems normal.  The way the new attack works, is the hackers will send you an email to your Gmail account.  That email will look like it is coming from someone you know (this person has probably had their account hacked using this same technique).  It may also include something that looks like an image of an attachment you recognize from the sender - for example, a google doc they would share with you.  When you click on the image, instead of getting a preview of the attachment like you would expect, a new tab will open and you will be asked to sign into Gmail again.  The kickers is, it isn't really the Gmail login page - it is a spoof page.  It looks EXACTLY like the login page you would expect, so you go ahead and sign in.  The minute you do, the hackers have your username and password and access to everything in your google account.  They can download all your info in seconds.

How can I Protect Myself?
So, how can you protect yourself?  The best way is to look at the URL/Address bar.  When logging into Google, make sure there is nothing at the beginning of the address bar, other than http:// or https://.  It should look like this:

It should not look like the address bar below.  Here is a sample of what a phishing address may look like:

Notice the data://text/html before the https://?  That clues you in that the website isn't legit.

Another really good idea is to sign up for 2-step verification, otherwise known as two factor authentication.  Google provides an excellent resource to help you get this set up.

I think I've been Hacked?
If you think your PPS account has been hacked, please change your password and contact the PPS help desk immediately ( or x5102)

Read the original article to learn more on the Wordfence Blog.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Let's Sing our Multiplication Tables! Using Music to Learn Math.

Many of our students have a hard time learning their multiplication tables, but have no problem learning the lyrics to their favorite songs.  Well, what might happen if we were to rewrite their favorite songs so they sing their multiplication tables to the tune of their favorite pop song?  Well apparently this isn't a new idea...Mr. DeMaio has beat us to it!  Check out his Multiplication Song Playlist here:

Using music to help with learning is not a new idea.  We have shared many posts with you on this very subject.  Some of our favorites include:

Also, remember that PPS has our very own YouTube scrubber that will eliminate all the distractions that accompany a typical YouTube video.

What are your favorite learning resources that incorporate music and songs?  Share in the comments below!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Google Classroom: Assign work to individual students for differentiation and small group work!

The beauty and the burden of Google is that they are always making changes and improvements.  The latest updates to Google Classroom will definitely fall into the beauty category.  Yesterday, Google announced the ability in Google classroom to assign work to individual students instead of just the whole class.  WOW!  We've been waiting for that feature.  Now when you are doing small group work, you can assign the post to just the students in that small group.  Have a student who needs extra, targeted practice?  No problem, post an assignment and assign it to just that student.  I can't wait to start using this feature.  To learn more, check out this post from Google's Keyword Blog.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr. - January 16, 2017

There are certain historical figures who have, through their own actions and feats, earned a place in history which warrants annual recognition so that their deeds and works won't be forgotten.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of those people.  This year MLK day falls on January 16, 2017.  Many educators like to take an opportunity to honor Dr. King with their students.  I have shared numerous teaching resources in the past, but have found a few more treasures to help us celebrate and remember.

Scholastic has created a collection of resources specifically for MLK day including lesson plans, and videos, focussed around the theme: The Spirit of Service.  They have broken the lesson plans down by grade level for 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12.  They also have classroom resources for MLK day and Black History Month.

Tynker is also helping students remember the life of Dr. King.  They have created a A Coding Project to Honor MLK Day in which students can code a timeline of the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.  This project is completely free.

If you have other projects that you have done in the past that you really like, we would love to hear about them!  Please share in the comments.