Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Hour of Code is Coming Dec. 4-10, 2017. What will you be coding?

Computers are everywhere, changing every industry on the planet. It is up to us as educators to help prepare our students to meet the technology challenges of the future. If you've heard about the Hour of Code before, you might know it made history. More than 100 million students have tried an Hour of Code.

The Hour of Code 2017 is happening again this year, during Computer Science Education Week, December 4-10. What will your class do?

You may be saying to yourself...I don't know anything about computer science, how can I teach my kids this? Good news? There are so many wonderful opportunities out there that are student directed, that you do not need to know ANYTHING about computer science in order to give your students this opportunity. Below are some excellent resources for getting your kids excited about CS!

Hour of Code: The Hour of Code site from Code.org has many wonderful projects to get student started, including Minecraft, Star Wars, ​and Muana! My current favorite project to do with my students is coding the Google Logo!​

Code.org: Appropriate for Y5 through Middle School students. Provides four self directed courses, along with many other outstanding activities including Play Lab and Project Studio.

Made w/ Code by Google: ​Check out some amazing coding mentor videos and code some great beginner projects with Made w/ Code, including Wonder Woman.

For those of you that want to get into the Christmas spirit, check out these coding activities on the Google Santa Tracker.

Disney Hour of Code: Get started coding with some of your favorite Disney characters, including the new Moana, Star Wars, Anna and Elsa, and Big Hero 6.

CS First: Appropriate for 4th Grade through Middle School students. Start your own computer science club with the Computer Science First curriculum provided by Google. Learn more about this awesome opportunity here: http://ppstechtraining.blogspot.com/2015/11/google-computer-science-first-program.html

Khan Academy: Appropriate for our secondary students. Learn how to program drawings, animations, and games using JavaScript & ProcessingJS, or learn how to create webpages with HTML & CSS. You can share whatever you create, explore what others have created and learn from each other!

Scratch: Developed by MIT, this blockly programming site allows students to createtheir own programs. Scratch is a very popular programming site used both by CS First and Project Lead the Way.

Tynker: Appropriate for K-8th grade students. Explore the great Hour of Code activities on Tynker.

Do you have a favorite computer science tool to use with students? Please share!

Get started at http://hourofcode.com/us

Monday, November 13, 2017

Google Drive: Printing Multiple Docs at Once

Need to print this tip?  Click here for a printable version.

Although the need to print student documents has significantly decreased, there are still times when you want to print multiple student docs at one time.  For example, maybe you assigned a writing assignment in Google Classroom that you want to print for their writing folders.  You could go into each document individually and print it, but this can be a time consuming process.  Instead try using the app PDF Mergy to combine the documents into one PDF.  Then you only need to print one document. 

WARNING: Just because you can print lots of docs at once, doesn't mean you should!  Please use this tip with caution and save paper whenever possible!

To get started, you will need to go to the Chrome Web Store and add the app PDF Mergy. Once you have the app added to chrome, you are ready to go.

Find the documents you want to print.  

Here are some tips to finding the documents.

If You Assigned the Docs in Google Classroom
Go to the assignment in Google Classroom. Open the assignment so you see the thumbnails of all the students’ documents. Click on the folder icon. This will open the folder for that assignment in Google Drive.

If Students Share the Docs with You
Go into the Shared with Me section of your Google Drive and select the documents. If you need to search for the documents, you can narrow down your search by using the advanced search features. For example, if you know it is a Slides presentation, you can choose Presentation for the type, or if it is a Google Doc, you can choose Text Document. If it is a student’s document, choose Not owned by me for the Owner. If it was a document they turned in recently, choose Last 7 days for the modified date. Put the title of the document in the Has the words section. Then click the blue search button. This will narrow down your choices.

Select the Docs you want to Print

Once you have found your documents, you will need to select the ones you want to print. If you want to select them all, you can use the keyboard shortcut (ctrl+a), or you can click and drag to make a box around all the documents. If you only want to select a few, you can hold down the ctrl key while you click on the docs you want.

Open Docs with PDF Mergy

The next step is to open the docs with PDF Mergy.  To do this, right click on the selected documents.  Choose Open With and select PDF Mergy.  If this is the first time you are using PDF Mergy, you may need to give the program permission to access your files by clicking Allow.

PDF Mergy will open in a new tab.  After a moment or two, your files will appear in the tab.  Click and drag on the name of the files to reorder files, if needed.  You can also delete a file if you don't want it included by click on the trash can that appears when you hover over the file name. Once you have them in the order you want, click the Merge button.

The merge may take a couple minutes depending on the number of files. 
Once your files are merged, you will be asked to Save the document.  You can save it to your Computer or to your Google Drive.  Click the button for your preferred choice.  Name your file and click save.  Open the saved file - it will be in PDF format.  Print as normal.  Done!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Google Slides, Adding Start and Stop to Video

View Post as a Google Doc

Okay, so, you're using YouTube videos in your classroom and you’re wishing for a couple features…

  1. I wish there was a way to remove all the suggested videos and other distractions so my students could concentrate.
  2. I wish my students could watch a couple of videos in sequence in a self-paced manner.
  3. I wish I could show just a portion of a video, starting at one point and stopping at another.

Wishes answered!

Solution #1

Here are a couple of solutions for this first wish.

  1. Visit our tech tip on YouTube: A Gift and a Curse, and scroll down to option number two.
  2. Or...Embed your YouTube video into a Google Slide from the menu, Insert > Video.

Yep, that’s right! Put your YouTube, or Google Drive Video, into a Google Slide and the only distraction in the room will be that one bee that gets in the classroom that causes students to run and scream. Aahhh!

And, embedding your video in Google Slides leads us to…

Solution #2

There are a couple of methods you can use to help students self-pace through content.

  1. You can create a Google Slide with “buttons” that link from one slide to the next, like this one.
                Learn how to create your own, here or here.
  1. You can create something called a HyperDoc. Learn “What is a HyperDoc?

And, on to our last solution, again, using Google Slides.

Solution #3

Now, if you should want to use another solution to only show a portion of a video, no worries from me. I would recommend, Edpuzzle. (You can even add questions to this great tool!)

However, should you want to remain in Google Slides, then all you have to do is determine your start and stop and enter those into Video Options. Here’s how…

After you have inserted your video into Slides (Insert > Video), move your mouse over the video, select it, then right-click > Video Options.

I have previously determined that I want my video to start at 28 seconds from the start and end after 38 seconds. I enter those values into the “Start at:” and “End at:” and you’re DONE!

Note: You may also consider using the options to autoplay when presenting or to mute the audio by simply checking those boxes.

I say experiment! It can’t hurt...too much!


This presentation has a couple videos with the start and stop set so you can see what it might look like.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Old & Unused Google Classroom Classes

Hey, teachers!

You and your students might be feeling a little Google Classroom Overload with all those pesky, old classes just hanging around.

Well, no fear! There's a way to clean those up!

I have a couple of classes from the 2016-2017 that have A LOT of really useful information in them. I don't want to delete them (Oh, the horror!), but I do want to get them out of the way as I am using my Google Classroom every day.

So... what do I do? I ARCHIVE them! Here's how...

Locate the Google Classroom Tiles that you would like to archive

Click on the menu (verticle dots) at the upper-right of a tile (1)
Click Archive (2)

Confirm that you would like to archive this class. (Once archived students will no longer see that class either. Whew!)

(Optional) Delete Old Classrooms (Or just to access archived classrooms)

Deleting old classrooms has some benefit, but you must also be careful. When you archive a Class, you can still access that Class and even reuse assignments from that class, AWESOME! (Students can still get to them, too.) However, when you delete a Class, you permanently remove that class forever, from everyone. Here's the BENEFIT. As teachers archive and then DELETE unwanted Classrooms, it will cause our Skyward/Google Classroom Sync to complete more quickly, meaning Classroom and Roster Updates happen faster, too. So, PLEASE DELETE OLD, UNWANTED CLASSROOMS as you are able.

Go to the upper-left of your Google Classroom, click on the menu

Scroll to the bottom of the menu, click Archived Classes

Select the menu (verticle dots) of the classroom tile you wish to delete (1)
Click Delete (2)

Confirm that you would like to permanently delete that Class

Done... now, my Google Classroom doesn't feel so cluttered. Whew!

Other ways to clean up or use Classroom...
Rearrange Class Tiles by Alice Keeler
Managing Google Classroom Notifications by Matt Miller
Reusing Posts (Assignments, Announcements, or Questions) by Alice Keeler

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Google Classroom: Managing Notifications

Over the summer Google Classroom greatly increased your options to customize notifications inside Google Classroom.  This is great since you may want to receive notifications when someone mentions you in a comment or post, but you don't want one when someone resubmits an assignment or a similar function.  

Thankfully Matt Miller, from Ditch the Text Book, has just posted an excellent article on how to manage all those Google Classroom Notifications.  Check it out here: 
How to manage Google Classroom like a boss with notifications.

To learn more about setting up filters in Gmail, check out this blog post.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Have you ever written over one million words? These kids have...

I think, as educators, we can all agree that “the process of composing is, in a nutshell, critical thinking”. That particular quote is from our own Collin Nuismer, ELA teacher at Central Middle School. I definitely could not agree more. That is why I was so excited to hear about the work he is doing with his students, or more accurately, the writing his students are doing. For example, here is an excerpt from one of Collin’s student’s, Elizabeth, and her writing from a prompt about volcanoes.

the Earth shakes, the mountain trembles, on the verge of eruption
smoke billows from it’s dark maw, blocking the sun, casting a shadow on the world
lava spews upward,  raining fire from clouds of grey ashes,  gleaming bright in the gloom.
(For Elizabeth’s full piece and access to her other writings, follow this link.)

She, in addition to all of Collin’s students, is composing a large percentage of her writing on a web platform called, Write About. In fact, his students had been writing so consistently and with such quality, that Write About contacted Collin, as his students had surpassed 600,000 words written, and threw down the gauntlet to reach 1,000,000 words written. Both Collin and his students responded by crushing that challenge with over 1,360,000 words written this year!

Okay, so Collin Nuismer’s ELA students have written over a million words, is that not what is supposed to happen in an English Language Arts class? Well, yes, but it is not just about a number of words they have written; it is about the meaning behind those words. These students are developing their voice beyond simply answering questions or responding to a prompt. One of the reasons that have allowed for students to develop a more personal writing style has been the level of choice and ownership they are afforded both through Collin’s instruction and the Write About platform. In the words of one student, “I wrote a story about the exoskeleton of a grasshopper. I would have never actually ever chosen to write about that.” She, as well as others, agreed that having a multitude of writing prompt options allows her to write, experience, and think about topics that she would likely not have been exposed to previously. Collin has purposely implemented ample opportunity within his courses for student choice and Write About enables him to do that with relative ease.

Alright, writing options and developing one’s voice are great, but what else do you have? How about peer review and assessment? Yes, these students are encouraged to review each other’s work for comment and assessment, helping students to become the experts in the room. Being able to read classmates’ work with ease has allowed for students to modify their own work. Writers who are well read are better writers. And given the opportunity to dissect another’s writing, both good and bad, only helps to enrich the writer’s style and understanding of language. In the words of another student, “It [Write About] helped me realize that I didn't have that much detail, and it taught me to add more detail.” And another, “I have started writing more as I have had peers checking my work.”

Finally, what makes 1,000,000 plus words and the frequency with which students write so important? When asking one class, “When considering the amount of writing you have completed this year, both on paper and with Write About, who of you would say these things have caused you to do more independent writing, outside of assignments and homework?” Of a class of thirty students, twelve, almost half, of those students responded “yes”. That is why we do what we do. Thanks, Collin, for developing in your students a passion for writing.

“I've been able to express my ideas better, and been able to refine it so it's better. I love Write About and I'm going to end up doing it during the summer.”
- Lelia (student)

If you would like to learn more about Collin’s adventure with writing in his classroom and Write About, be sure to visit him at PPS Tech Camp in his session, Writing Should be FUN! Choice, Authentic Audience, and Accountability to Engage All Writers.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Make IT! LED Name Tags

LED Name Tags are a fun project to do with your students when you are learning about circuits.  Students use watch cell batteries, and small LED diodes to make their name tags shine!

Materials Needed 
● 3 x 5 index cards 
● Hole punch 
● Marker(s) 
● String or Ribbon 
● LED Diode 
● Watch Cell Battery 
● Copper Tape 
● Duct Tape

Step 1: Write your name on your 3 x 5 index card.  Decorate as desired.

Step 2: Use a hole punch to punch a hole where you want your LED light to poke through.

Step 3: Flip card over

Step 4: Gently bend apart the “legs” of the LED diode so that it looks like it is “doing the splits.”

Step 5: Cut 2 strips of copper tape, approximately 2-3 inches in length

Step 6: Carefully remove the paper backing on one of the strips of copper tape.  Adhere the tape to the card so that the copper side is up.  One side of the tape should be directly above the hole.  The other end should be directly across from the hole. 

Step 7: Place the battery on the end of the tape away from the hole.

Step 8: Leaving the paper backing on the second piece of copper tape, place the tape face down so that one end is below the hole and the other end is on top of the battery.

Step 9: Use duct tape to secure the tape and battery.  Make sure your two copper tapes do not touch.  This will short your circuit.  

Step 10: Place the LED diode through the hole so that one of the “legs” is touching the copper side of each of the pieces of tape.  One leg should be on top, the other should be under.  

Troubleshooting:  If the light does not turn on, turn the LED diode around.  The LED is directional so will only light one way.
Step 11: Once the LED is lighting up, place a piece of duct tape over the LED and tape to hold it in place.

Step 12: Attach a lanyard, string, or ribbon to your 3x5 card.  

NOTES: The LED will burn out after a week or so.  Since there is no resistor to ration the amount of power going from the battery to the light.

Printable Directions

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Google Slides: Creating Computer-based Manipulative

Google Slides is an amazing tool.  You can make the usual presentation, but you can also do so much more!  Newsletters, posters, class newspapers, and computer-based manipulative activities are all great ways to use Google Slides in the classroom.  As our elementary teachers use their Chromebooks more and more in their classrooms, they have been looking for ways to create quick formative assessments and activities that they can assign in Google Classroom for their students to complete in order to practice skills they are learning in math, ELA, science, and social studies.  One way they are accomplishing this goal is by creating Google Slides manipulatives that they can assign to their students in Google Classroom.

Here are some examples:

Spelling Practice
Spelling Practice
Graphic Organizers
Graphic Organizers

Telling Time (Hour and Half Hour)
Food Chain
Place Value
Number Charts

Google Slides manipulatives are fairly easy to create.  The important thing is to place anything you want "locked down" on the Slide Master.  This way the students will not be able to move around or delete that item.  Here is how to edit the Slide Master in a Google Slide in order to create a manipulative.

Step 1: Open a new Google Slides presentation
Step 2: Click on "Untitled Presentation" and title your manipulative
Step 3: Click on the "Slide" menu and select "Edit master"
Step 4: If you want to change the fonts for the entire presentation, do so on the top slide labeled "Master".  If you want more font choices, click the font menu and select "More fonts..."
Step 5: After your fonts are set the way you want them, click on the first of the "Layouts" slides.  This will become your first template for your manipulatives.  Remember, what you put on this slide will be "locked down" and students will not be able to move it.  Think to yourself - what do I want on the background?  If this were a worksheet, what would be on the page that I copy for my students?  You may need to delete the title and subtitle sections if you don't want those on your slide.  Simply click on those placeholders and click backspace or delete.
Step 6: Add your background elements.  When adding elements, keep these things in mind...

  • Adding Text: There are four types of text boxes you can add.  The first is the usual "Text box".  This is static text and cannot be edited unless you are in the slide master.  This is great for titles, directions and text you don't want to be changed by the students.  The next type of text boxes are the "Placeholders."  These are to be used to add spots where you want the students to type.  There are three different placeholders, Title, Subtitle, and Body text.  The difference is simply which default font it uses, and "Body text" also has the bullets.
  • Adding Shapes: There are numerous shapes native in Google Slides that you can add and recolor for your presentation.  There are four major categories: Shapes, Arrows, Callouts, and Equations.  Hover your mouse over each major type to see the shapes available in each category.  Once you add a shape, you can click on it to adjust the fill color and outline color.
  • Images: There are also many ways to add other images to your presentation.  You can go to the "Insert" menu and select images, or you can click the "Image" button on the tool bar.  In both these cases, a window will pop up that allows you to Upload an image, add an image from your Google Drive, or Search for an image.  You can also copy and paste images from other sources, but make sure you have the rights to use those images and you site your sources.  One of my favorite places on the web for clipart is: mycutegraphics.com.  A note on images - I prefer to use .png files since they have the option for a transparent background.
Step 7: Once you have your slide set up the say you want, you can move onto the next template, or if you only want one template, you can click the slide preview on the far left side of the screen.  This will close the Slide Master.
Step 8: Add any elements to your slides that you want the students to manipulate.  
Step 9: Add more slides as necessary.

To share the presentations/manipulatives with your students, simply assign it in Google Classroom.  Make sure you select "Make a Copy for Each Student"!

NOTE:  As of this post, you cannot move around objects in Google Slides using the touchscreen on the touchscreen Chromebooks.  Your students will need to use mice or the touchpads.

What manipulatives could you make for your students?  How could you use this in your classroom?  Share your Google Slides Manipulatives here!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Tech Tip: Make sure you charge your Chromebook

Chromebooks are amazing devices.  They are lightweight, easy to use, make accessing all our Google Applications simple, and keep their charge all day.  However, in order to get that all day charge, you need to make sure your Chromebook is charged fully and regularly.  When charging make sure the charger is inserted completely in the Chromebook.

We recommend that each home have a "charging area" for devices that is outside the bedroom.  There have been many studies that show when people keep devices in their bedrooms, it has a negative impact on their sleep.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Tech Tip: Converting Google Docs to PDF

When sharing documents with others, it is often beneficial to convert them to a PDF for several reasons.
  1. The format will be locked, like a “picture” of your document
  2. The document will be able to be opened and read on most devices, including PC’s, Macs, Phones, and Tablets.
  3. The document will print as viewed on the screen, with no worrying about inconsistent margins disrupting the formatting.
It is easy to convert Google Documents to PDFs. Follow the simple steps below and you will be all set.

After creating your document,
Step 1: Go to the File Menu
Step 2: Select "Download as..."
Step 3: Select "PDF Document (.pdf)"

Step 4: File will automatically download to your computer.  You can now open the file, rename the file, or move the file to another location.

For information on how to convert Microsoft Word Files to PDF, check out this tech tip.

Tech Tip: Converting a Microsoft Document to a PDF

When sharing documents with others, it is often beneficial to convert them to a PDF for several reasons.

  1. The format will be locked, like a “picture” of your document
  2. The document will be able to be opened and read on most devices, including PC’s, Macs, Phones, and Tablets.
  3. The document will print as viewed on the screen, with no worrying about inconsistent margins disrupting the formatting.
It is easy to convert Microsoft Documents to PDFs.  Follow the simple steps below and you will be all set.

After creating your document,
Step 1: Click the File Menu in the top left corner
Step 2: Click Save & Send
Step 3: Click Create PDF/XPS Document
Step 4: Click Create PDF/XPS

Another window will now appear.
Step 5: Choose the location for storing your document (ex: U drive, Desktop, etc.)
Step 6: Give your document a logical name
Step 7: Click Publish
Saving PDF.PNG

Remember, once a document is converted to a PDF, you cannot edit the PDF.  If you need to make changes, you will need to go back to the original Word document, make your edits, then go through this process again.  If you create a new PDF, I would recommend deleting the old version of the PDF so you know which document is the most up to date.

The printable version of this tip can be found here.
To learn how to convert a Google Doc to a PDF, view this tech tip.

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 123apps.com
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 ConnectSafely.org