Heading to the (Droid) Dark Side (Part 2)

Well, I did it! About two weeks ago, my new Google Pixel arrived. I was excited and a little nervous, but I figured it’s a cell phone. How bad can it be?

Set up was pretty easy. I simply popped out my SIM card, put it in the new phone and I was ready to go. Because I already use a ton of Google products, most of my information was there when I signed in. And surprisingly, most of the apps I’d had on my iPhone installed automatically on the new phone.

There are a few things that have been a little harder to get used to. One is having the fingerprint lock on the back of the phone. The iPhone has always unlocked from the front (either with the home button or Face ID). I’ve also added an unlock screen pattern which gives me the option to unlock it when it’s sitting on the desk without picking it up. The other thing that is different is that the iPhone puts all of the apps on separate pages that you swipe through. The Pixel puts them all in a large list that you can see if you swipe up, but you have to put them on pages manually if you want to swipe left and right. The last thing isn’t hard to get used to, but it’s just a pain. Because the Pixel doesn’t use the same charging cables as Apple, I’ve had to purchase a few new charging devices. Wouldn’t it be nice if they all used the same technology?!

One thing I’ve added since getting the phone is some home automation. I purchased a few smart plugs and smart nightlights and have them programmed so I can turn them on by voice command. Some people may think it’s silly to tell your phone to turn the lights on, and maybe it is (it’s certainly a first world problem!). But to me, one of the purposes of technology is to make our lives easier. Plus, my son thinks it’s funny to tell the phone to turn the lights on for him. I haven’t purchased any of the smart speakers yet, but they’re likely on my shopping list sometime in the future. I don’t want to buy smart home things just for the sake of buying them, just for things that would truly make things more convenient.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I did have one major setback in the process. I noticed almost right away that my camera didn’t work the way I expected to. It would often freeze when I tried to use it, particularly inside another app (like when I tried to use the camera for mobile deposit in my banking app). I couldn’t video chat either; the camera would lock up and often restart the phone. Needless to say, I was pretty frustrated. But after a couple of calls with support to see if we could troubleshoot the problem, Google sent me a new phone which arrived a couple of days ago. So far, the new phone appears to be working well!

I think it’s safe to say that I’m sticking with Google for now. Of course, now that I’ve bought the Pixel 3, they’re talking about rumors about the Pixel 4. I’m also hopeful that Google is going to eventually release a smart watch that plays nicely with the Pixel. For now, I’m pretty happy with my purchase.

Heading to the (Droid) Dark Side

I’ve had a cell phone since late 2001. It was my first year of college and I had the same sweet Nokia gem with the (mint green) changeable faceplate that played Snake. I don’t even know how many different phones I’ve had since then, but once the Apple iPhone hit the market, I was a loyal customer. I believe the first iPhone I had was an iPhone 4 and I’ve carried almost every iteration of the phone since.

If you’d have told me at any point in this journey that I’d become an Android user, I’d say you were crazy. I’ve been an Apple fan for years. I have an iPhone, an iPad, and a Macbook Air. I’ve loved how they communicate seamlessly with each other and the user interface has always been much more intuitive for me than any other platform. But lately that’s started to shift.

I still have no intention of giving up my Mac. I have a PC at work and I honestly hate it. But between my laptop and my phone, I rarely use my iPad anymore. It’s a little older and the battery life isn’t great. And because it’s an iPad mini, it really isn’t that much larger than my phone. I bought a Kindle Fire a few months back that I use primarily for traveling because the storage capacity and battery life was superior to my iPad when wanting things to read and watch on an airplane.

Plus, I’ve been hanging out on the sidelines watching as the whole home automation scene has been exploding. Nothing about my home is “smart,” but I’m intrigued by a few tools that I’ve seen come out in the last few years. The Google Assistant looks promising (I’ve never been in love with Siri and the Reminders app on my iPhone) and being able to control a few things from my phone would sure be handy (my parents would probably say lazy, but oh well).

After LOTS of reading online and visiting the store to see and touch the tech toys in their native habitat, I decided to buy a Google Pixel 3. Almost everything I use is already Google: email, calendar, photos, documents, maps, and so on. I’ve never used the native Apple apps for any of these, at least not for long.

The biggest problem with this change is that it means I won’t really have a use for my Apple Watch anymore. Admittedly, I don’t wear it every day. I like to wear it on weekends, playing in the water with my son, or working out. I also wear it certain times at work when I need to make sure I’m not missing phone calls or notifications. So, that will be an issue to figure out once I evaluate the phone situation.

I’m sure it will be an adjustment. I’ve never owned a non-Apple smartphone (though I did own a Blackberry for a short time in the mid-2000s). But I’m pretty techie and a quick learner, so it should be fine. The phone should arrive later this week – I’ll be sure to write an update to share how the transition goes!

Have you ever made a major change like this? How did it go? Do you think I’ll love the Pixel or hate it?

MMEA Resources

Here are the resources from the three sessions I’m presenting at the MMEA Mid-Winter Clinic this week:

screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-10-40-01-am

 

bit.ly/MMEALittleHands

 

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bit.ly/MMEAChrome

 

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bit.ly/MMEASubPlans

Happy Birthday, Twitter!

Though it seems hard to believe, Twitter is officially a decade old! Ten years ago today the first tweet was sent and the rest, as they say, is history. According to some quick Google searching, there are roughly 320 million people using Twitter as of 2016. Crazy, no?  Even crazier still, another site estimates that roughly 500 million tweets are sent EVERY DAY. Mind blowing!

For myself, I’ve technically had a Twitter account since 2008, but have only been actively using it for just over a year. In that time, I’ve added over 800 followers (most of which are educators) and followed over 900. I’ve made so many new edu-friends that I’d have lost count if it weren’t for that handy little counter on my profile. And the amount of knowledge I’ve gained in such a short time from the fabulous people? Immeasurable!

My second year of teaching (2007)

My second year of teaching (2007)

When I think back ten years ago, Twitter was just in its infancy and so was I. Not as a person, obviously, but as an educator. My teaching career turns ten this year as well. Back then, I was a brand new grad ready for my first job. I spent that first year as a middle school choir teacher, and let’s just say the experience was not exactly a highlight of my career.

Many things have changed since then. I escaped the middle school hormones and spent the next eight years teaching elementary music. I earned a master’s degree, another teaching license, and dozens of post-graduate credits. And now I’ve spent almost a year as a technology integration specialist.

If you had told 2006 me that that’s the path my career would take, I’m not sure I would have believed you.  So what, then, about the next ten years? As someone who wasn’t sure she’d make it to year ten, now we’re talking year twenty?!

I have no clue as to what the future holds. Will I still be in education? Still working with technology? I can’t even possibly imagine what technology could look like ten years from now, though I’m excited about the potential.

Or who knows? Maybe I’ll be off traveling the world on my yacht after my startup/book/blog/____ hits the big time…  😉

Google Drive: Collaborate or Copy?

Most people will admit that the introduction of Google Drive and its collaborative features, has been a game changer in the world of education.  Gone are (or should) be the days of emailing documents back and forth only to be working on outdated copies and trying to sort through multiple versions to find the “right” one.

The ability to share documents and other files with colleagues and students with just a few clicks is amazing.  We can work together on a single document in real time without having to crowd around a computer screen.  Participants can add to a meeting agenda without needing to email the items to the organizer.  Teachers don’t need to photocopy documents or manage hundreds of emails from students (particularly if they use Google Classroom).

Sometimes, however, collaboration on a document can be problematic.  Sometimes we want to share something with a colleague, but we still need to keep our original.  We remind them to make their own copy (which they can do), but they often forget and just start editing away.  This causes some teachers to revert back to old methods of emailing a document so they make sure their work doesn’t disappear.

But there is a little trick!  Did you know that you can force someone to make a copy of your document?  By making a small change to the URL of the document, the recipient will see a screen like this:Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 10.26.20 AM

Clicking the “make a copy” button will automatically create a copy of the document in THEIR Google Drive.  Your document is intact and you’ve still shared your work with others.

How do you do it?  It’s actually pretty simple.

  1. Open a Google Doc (actually any Google file type should work).
  2. In the address bar, you should see a URL that begins with https://docs.google.com…
  3. Somewhere relatively near the end of the address, you should see the word edit (it may be followed by additional words or characters).
  4. Delete the word edit AND everything that follows it.
    Untitled drawing (2)
  5. At the end of the address, now add the word COPY.Untitled drawing (3)
  6. Highlight the entire address, and copy/paste it into an email that you send to anyone who needs the link.  When they click it, they will see the screen above.

So now you have the choice: collaborate or copy.  Both serve very useful functions in different situations.  For example, any time a group of teachers will need to have access to the SAME document, they will want to share the document with the group and edit on the same document.  Any time I’m sharing a document outside my organization, such as at conference or with Twitter friends, I tend to force the copy.  There are times, though, that I still use the force copy feature with colleagues within my district.

One example would be when you have created an assignment, assessment or template that you’d like to be able to share with your team.  In this case, if it’s important for every student to do the exact same assignment, you would want to share.  If you want each teacher to get the document but be able to customize it, you might want to choose force copy instead.

Again, both ways are helpful, so choose what works for you in your particular situation!

Google Classroom: Class Workflow Made Simple!

How many of these have ever applied to you as a teacher:

  • You have had to send students to the library to print an assignment they forgot.
  • Students left their papers at home.
  • Someone was absent and now needs to know what the assignment was or needs a copy of a handout.
  • Your shoulder is sore from hauling home a massive stack of papers to grade and comment on.
  • Your shoulder isn’t sore because you forgot all of the papers you needed to grade that night on your desk at school.
  • You’ve gotten several papers turned in with no names on them.
  • You have students share their finished Google documents with you only to get dozens of “shared with you” emails and then have to try to sort through all of them to put them in folders so you can find them later.

If any of these apply to you, you need to stop what you’re doing and get yourself on Google Classroom.  I’m not kidding; stop reading right now and go set it up.  I’ll wait until you get back.  It’s that awesome.

So now that you’ve set up your account, here are a few things you can do with Classroom to make your (and your students’) life easier.  First of all, it provides a place where you can post any class announcements, handouts, and assignments.  It’s a one-stop shop where students should be able to find any and all information they need to do their work.  No more “I can’t find my _______.”

Since it is a product within the GAFE domain, it works extremely well with Google Drive.  In fact, when you create assignments and have students submit them, Classroom will “talk” to your Drive account and automatically create a folder for each class and assignment, meaning you no longer have to deal with students sharing documents with you (and the dozens of emails that go with that) or trying to organize all of them in your Drive.

Evaluating student work becomes easier with Classroom as well.  Once assignments are submitted, the teacher can use the built-in commenting or suggesting features of Google Docs to leave feedback for students.  Tools like Doctopus and Goobric make rubric grading and other evaluation go much quicker (learn more here) and one like Kaizena allows you to leave voice feedback instead of writing or typing comments (check out Kaizena).

My absolute favorite feature of Google Classroom is that when you create an assignment and need to share a document with students, you have three options: students can view file (no editing privileges), students can edit file (everyone edits the same document), or make a copy for each student.  The last one is my personal favorite because if I attach a Google document or other file type, it will automatically generate a separate copy for every student AND put their name on it.  And again, because it’s Classroom, all of those files are neatly organized in the appropriate folder in your Google Drive with no additional work from you.  I suggest to teachers that they create a template for their students (even if the entire thing is blank) because then each assignment will come in with the same title and include the student name.

For those of you who teach more than one class at a time: when you post an assignment, you can assign it to any of your classes simply by checking a few boxes – no need to recreate the assignment for every section.  You can also add students easily by giving them the 6-digit alphanumeric code that Classroom generates for you; this is much more efficient than entering hundreds of students names yourself.  You can even add a co-teacher if you share your class with a colleague.  Finally, for all of my primary teacher friends out there, Classroom can even be used with your students!

If I haven’t yet convinced you of how awesome Google Classroom is, then feel free to check out some other resources.  There are several guides to Google Classroom for sale on Amazon, the most popular of which is Alice Keeler and Libbi Miller’s 50 Things You Can Do With Google Classroom (available here).  Keeler also has a tremendous amount of blog posts, suggestions, and tutorials on her website (www.alicekeeler.com).  I also wrote a short e-book that can help get you started with the basics of Classroom (free e-book here).

Get Them Talking About Their Learning!

If you’ve spent any time with children, you know that the majority of them LOVE to talk.  In fact, as many parents and teachers can attest, once you get them started, it’s hard to get them to stop!  Teachers cite excessive talking as a problem issue for many students in class, but what if we could teach them to harness this power and use it for good rather than evil (well, not really evil, but certainly not productive)?

What if instead of giving a student a test at the end of a particular lesson or unit, you had them talk about what they know or what they learned?

Would you be able to say with certainty whether or not the child had mastered that standard?  I feel confident that if I got to hear my students talk through their learning, I could get a pretty good handle on what they know and where their learning gaps were.  On top of that, while reading and writing are extremely important skills for students to develop, the ideas of speaking and listening are too often neglected yet just as valuable.

But what about the fact that you have 20+ kids in your class?  Or multiple classes?  How can you get to every student?  You can’t always count on them to listen to each other, because it takes a fair amount of practice for students to evaluate each other well and give constructive feedback (though I would absolutely recommend this as a good practice to get into the habit of doing in your classroom).  So how can a teacher reasonably listen to that many students to ensure that he or she truly knows what their students know?  By using technology, of course!  Teachers can have students use a variety of tools to record themselves sharing their thoughts and listen to them later, freeing them up to work with other students or manage other tasks during the school day.

The easiest way to have kids create an audio or video recording with a mobile device.  My favorite is simply the video camera on an iPad.  They can record in “selfie mode” so you can see them as they talk or they could use the back camera to show something they worked on (paper/pencil, manipulatives, artistic creation, etc.) and explain what they did or learned.  Rather than spending time outside of class correcting papers, the teacher would watch the videos instead.

If you want to get a little bit more exciting, you can try out a few iOS apps like Chatterpix Kids, Tellagami, 30Hands, Educreations, and Book Creator.  Each of these apps works a little differently, but what they all have in common is they have an audio recording feature that lets students talk about what they’re learning.   And each app allows students to take or import a photo of something they have working on and would like to tell you about.  Not only that, but each of these apps is easy to use and content-agnostic, meaning you can use them with literally any subject area.  That’s particularly important because teachers get more bang for their buck when they can teach one app to do many things rather than many apps that each do one thing.

For the most part, each of these apps creates a video that can be exported to your device’s camera roll.  Once there, you can choose to view it from the camera roll or collect it elsewhere.  One tip though: if you have many students doing this type of project, it is helpful to have them include their name on the project somehow.  In Chatterpix, for example, I have my students put their name on the photo they record so I can easily see which student I’m listening to.

Once you have all of these great artifacts showing student learning, you can manage them using a great app like Seesaw.  At its most basic level, Seesaw is a digital portfolio where you and your students can collect all these great photos and videos, comment on them, or annotate them.  It can pull items directly from the camera roll or you can record right in the app itself!  And it’s so easy to use that even the youngest learners can use it independently with some pre-teaching.  The biggest benefit to Seesaw, though there are many, is that the photos and videos are already organized for you by student, which makes assessing and later sharing with parents much easier.  If you prefer not to use Seesaw, see my previous blog post about getting photos and videos from a iOS device to Google Drive for storage and viewing.

What should students record?  Anything and everything!  Use Educreations to work out a math problem and record themselves solving it and talking through their answer.  Snap a pic of a reading passage using Chatterpix and have them read it on video for a fluency check.  Show a diagram of the water cycle and create a Tellagami to explain how the process works.  Instead of doing a traditional report on an animal, state, or other common theme, create a slideshow in 30Hands and narrate the entire thing.  Create a story with Book Creator and narrate it, either in addition to or instead of writing the words – your choice based on the time and readiness of your students.

By the way, as I was searching for images to use with this post, I couldn’t find many pictures of kids talking in a school setting. It was almost always kids reading or watching the teacher talk.  I was able, however, to find several pictures of adults talking to each other.  What does that tell you?

iPad Full of Photos? Send Them to Google Drive!

Photos and videos can be a powerful tool for students and teachers.  But getting photos from place to place can be tricky.  It used to be the only way to move photos from your iPad to your computer was to email them a few at a time.  It took forever!  Not a good use of any teacher’s time!

Many teachers find themselves with very full iPads. Often, this is because they and their students are documenting their learning through photos.  Pretty soon, though, the iPad is full but we still want to keep those pictures.

Your iPad has limited storage, but your Google Drive does not.  You can now easily move photos from you iPad device to your Google Drive, where you can store as many photos as you need.  Once the photos are uploaded, you can delete them from your iPad and free up much needed space.

Teachers can opt to do this in one of two main ways: manually or automatically.  Now, you might be asking why I would even mention a manual option when it can be done automatically.  I like teachers to have options that meet the needs of their workflow.  If you have students taking photos, you may want to go through them before they end up in your Drive, so you’d rather upload photos as needed (Manual).  Or maybe you’d prefer an automatic solution and you’d like to go through the photos on your computer instead (Automatic).  No right or wrong answer here because both will accomplish what we need to do.

I have created directions for performing both options (click each option to see the directions I created for my teachers):

Manual Uploading

Automatic Uploading

Hope it’s helpful!  And keep taking photos!

Update: In the short few days since I created these tutorials, I’ve shared them with at least a half dozen teachers in my district! Apparently, I was more timely than I thought!

Voxer: Professional Development in Your Pocket!

Many educators out there have been touting the merits of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter for connecting with fellow educators for promoting ongoing learning and development.  I agree with them, and I’d like to add another app to the list: Voxer.  It’s a free website as well as an app for iOS and Android and it will literally change your professional life.

Voxer is essentially a walkie-talkie where you can either listen to people talk in real time or hear their recorded messages later.  Messages can be sent to individual people or multiple users can send messages back and forth in a group conversation.  The result?  You can listen to colleagues from around the globe asking questions, providing solutions, and offering support in real time.

I discovered Voxer a few months back after joining in on some Twitter chats with some fellow Minnesota educators.  I was added to the group and at first I wasn’t sure if I liked it.  Then I was added to another group that made me almost give up Voxer entirely – the group was huge and I couldn’t keep up with the messages!  But then I found the #TOSAchat group and it has been the best thing that has happened to me as an educator!

The group is active, but they make it okay to come and go as you please.  We use a hashtag system, which allows users to know the topic of the message so you can skip over it if it doesn’t apply to or interest you (this was me when some of them were talking about some standardized testing issues in California when I’m in Minnesota).

Just like Twitter, some people actively participate in the voice chats, while others prefer to listen and lurk.  You can record voice messages or you can write text messages.  You can like another person’s message and you can forward them to a variety of other apps to store them for later reference.

I take advantage of my commute time by listening to Voxer messages while I drive.  Time that would normally be “wasted” in the car is now time I use to enhance my practice and connect with other educators.  No other social media can do that!  Others listen during breaks during the day, others at night during Twitter chats.  Because you can listen to messages any time, you can hop in and out as you please.

Have a question? Throw out a message in the morning and you’ll likely have a response later that day.  Just need to vent?  Throw out an “edu-rant” and get support from like-minded colleagues.  Want to celebrate a major “edu-win?”  Share it with your pocket pals who will be more than happy to celebrate with you!

The friends I have made and connected with the past few months have literally changed my life.  Being the only TOSA in my district can be a lonely life sometimes, but I know I’m not on my own because I have an entire network of fellow coaches in my phone who support and challenge me to grow every single day.

Your first step is installing the app and creating an account.  Next, you need to find the right group.  I have seen lists floating around Twitter of all kinds of groups around a variety of topics.  Many times Twitter chats will also have a Voxer group on the side for continued discussion.  If you’re having a having trouble finding a group, reach out to me on Twitter (@halversonandrea) and I will try to help you find a group that meets your needs.

Give Screencasting a Try!

A lot of teachers ask me what my top tech tool is.  It’s like desert island for geeks: what one tool could you not live without if you were stranded with only one thing?  While it’s hard to narrow down, I think my answer right now would have to be the screencast.  They can be used by any teacher at any level and be extremely effective and efficient when done well.

What is a screencast?  Basically, it’s where you record what’s happening on your screen (a broadcast of your computer), usually with some sort of audio recording.  Some screencasting tools also allow you to record a web cam as well, meaning you can also see the person doing the recording while you watch.  Screencasts can be created on virtually any device, though some particular screen recorders work better on particular platforms.

Screencasts have a tremendous amount of value in the classroom!  A common use of screencasting is to operate in a flipped classroom model.  The teacher records a video segment teaching a lesson, the students watch the video as homework, then the teacher helps the students work through problems and questions the next day in class.  The lecture moves outside the school day and the in class time is spent working directly with students.

Screencasts can also be helpful when planning for a substitute.  I used to love creating screencasts for when I knew I was going to be gone.  When I was teaching a class, I couldn’t always count on getting a substitute who knew my content, but I always had someone that could click a link or press play.  I could leave directions for a particular activity or process, record a greeting for the class, or explain difficult concepts that my students needed to know about in my absence.

Or what about students who are absent?  How many times have you had to sit down with a student and reteach an entire lesson because they missed it?  Or a student who was in class but just hasn’t quite grasped the material yet.  Both of these students can stay in the classroom, watch the video on some kind of device, and then be ready to join back in with the rest of the class.  The teacher, meanwhile, is free to move around the room helping other students working in real time.

Students can also use screencasts to show what they know.  Want kids to explain a process and show you they understand?  Have them create a screencast where they walk through their knowledge, hopefully with visuals of some kind.  Want your students to do a slideshow of some kind but not want to sit through 30+ presentations?  Have them create a Google slideshow then record a screencast to talk through their presentation.  Then have students share their videos for the teacher and their classmates to view.

My favorite screencasting tool by far is Camtasia.  You can pause recording, edit out mistakes and add so many fancy features to make your videos look amazing.  But for the beginner screencaster, I would recommend checking out Screencast-o-Matic, Screencastify, or Snagit.  The last three products are free; Screencast-o-Matic works best on computers (Mac or PC) and the other two both work on the Chrome browser (Mac, PC, or Chromebooks).

Never made a screencast before?  One tip is to plan out your video ahead of time.  Have any windows open that you need and are ready to go rather than having to wait for software to load.  Make sure you have a quiet environment where you won’t be disturbed; this helps keep you from having to edit your video or re-record later.  Finally, keep your videos SHORT! Screencasts are generally more successful when they are less than five minutes, but even better when they are less than three.  Consider chunking your content into smaller bits to allow you to record shorter videos.  You will appreciate it when you are recording the videos (and so will your viewers).

Have you tried recording a screencast before?  How have you used it in your classroom?

Overwhelmed by Social Media? Meet Nuzzel!

One of the comments I hear from teachers all the time, particularly if they are new to social media, is how they feel overwhelmed by the sheer amounts of information that can flood your news feed every day.  I’ve often heard it described as trying to take a drink from a fire hose.  I’d say that expression is generally pretty accurate.

The best way to get connected and really learn from others is to follow a lot of people.  When you don’t follow many people, you don’t see as much in your news feed.  On the other hand, once you start down that road, it can become impossible to read everything that comes into your feed.

Some Twitter fans use other sites or apps like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to organize their feed into different lists or groups, but I’ve never really had much success with that.  I know I won’t be able to see and read everything, but I’ve always felt like I have been missing good information that could really benefit me as an educator.

Enter Nuzzel!  One of my fabulous #TOSAchat colleagues introduced it to me last week and it has CHANGED the way I do social media, particularly Twitter.  Available for both iOS and Android, Nuzzel is an app that shows you the most relevant tweets from a given time period, such as the past 24 hours.

Not only that, but it tell you how many of your social media friends have shared it.  Now you can know exactly what everyone is talking about (or tweeting about) because it shows up first on the list.  You can view the tweet (or connected blog post), share it out again on social media, or export it anywhere (like Evernote where I personally like to store info for later reference – see blog post about Evernote).  There’s also a “friends of friends” screen so I can expand my search out to beyond just my own Twitter circle.

I can still go back to Twitter any time I want and take a sip from the firehose, but Nuzzel allows me to focus my searching and see the best of what’s out there with just a few taps on my phone!  Almost everything I’ve read through Nuzzel has been worth retweeting because it has been just that good.  If you tweet, you MUST use Nuzzel!

Nuzzel Website

Nuzzel for Android

Nuzzel for iOS

Create Music Scores Online with Flat

Having been a music teacher for nearly ten years, I get pretty excited when I see some great resources out there for music educators and their students.  One of my biggest frustrations with schools moving toward Chromebooks is the lack of music apps and resources that were included on the iPad.

Flat is a website trying to change all that.  It allows users to create their own musical scores on their browser (translation: no iPad app needed!).

The benefits are huge here.  Flat offers free services as well as paid premium options (many good iPad notation apps are paid apps), but working in the browser means that student work is mobile.  Creating in the cloud means they can feasibly edit and create on any device with an internet connection.  No more “I forgot my iPad” or “my work is on that iPad over there that’s being used by another student.”

Another issue? Printing from iPads.  Many times, students and teachers need to be able to print scores once they are done creating and editing.  By using a browser notation tool like Flat, scores can be printed like regular documents without the hassle of emailing copies to another computer (note: your district setup may or may not allow printing from Chromebooks, but you should be able to pull up your score on another computer that is capable of printing).  Flat allows user to print an entire score, individual parts, or both.

What I’m really excited about in Flat’s site is the ability to collaborate and share scores with others: think Google Docs but with music scores instead of text documents!  Flat also allows users to login with their Google credentials – a huge plus for my students in a GAFE environment.  Flat also offers Educator accounts, which allow teachers to integrate work with Google Classroom.

What do you think? Have you used Flat or a similar tool?  I’d love to hear more!

Want to keep track of things? Try Google Keep!

It seems like there is a never-ending stream of information for teachers, staff, and students to keep track of.  You write it down, but then that post-it note falls off your computer. Or you can’t remember where you saved a file with some important info.

One possible solution is Google Keep.  It allows you to create notes that look like sticky notes, but with so much more power!  Here are a few great features you might like:

  • Title your notes
  • Choose a note color to keep yourself organized
  • Add a note reminder
  • Search your notes for any words in the title or body of the note
  • Share notes with colleagues
  • Tag notes with keywords (which allow you to pull up all notes with that tag)
  • Add images to your notes
  • Copy a note to a Google Doc if you need to do more work with it
  • Can access on mobile devices (iOS and Android) or on the web
Use them with your PLC to have shared notes with reminders.  Use different colored notes to keep track of different things (students, parents, PLC, grade level, etc.).  Collect information or data on students and tag with the student’s name to find quickly.  Keep track of teaching resources, websites, etc. that you need to reference later and tag by subject or standard. The possibilities are endless!

To check it out, view the video below or visit https://keep.google.com/.

Flash Issue: Simple Newsletters in Gmail

I have gotten several compliments on my email newsletters I send out from time to time.  I have been using a website called Smore (www.smore.com), which I like for several reasons: newsletters are easy to create, they are nice to look at, and I can track how many times they’ve been viewed.  Some teachers want to use Smore as well, but the price tag for a paid subscription forces some to change their minds.

This week, another tech coach friend of mine introduced me to Flash Issue (www.flashissue.com).  Flash Issue is a Gmail extension (added program that gives you more functions and options) that allows you to make newsletters right inside your Gmail account!  Users can drag and drop elements into their newsletter, such as text and images, to make their content more engaging.  You can also connect your blog and drag-drop blog posts into the newsletter.  Find an interesting article you’d like to include? Paste the URL into the builder and you can add that, too.

It’s free and easy to use!  Check it out!

Newsela: Non-fiction Reading at Every Level

Want your students to read non-fiction texts but struggle to find something at their reading level?  Want to have an entire class read about the same topic but reading levels vary widely across your class?  Newsela can help!  Newsela features non-fiction articles, many about current events, that can be viewed at five different reading levels (reading levels start around 2nd grade and go up from there).  Topics include science, sports, arts, and kids.  Many articles also have comprehension quizzes available as well.

Teachers can create an account for themselves and it has a Google login option (no need to create another username and password).  They can then either create a class for their students where students can access the content, or they can print copies of the articles (or better yet, save them as electronic copies and share via Google Classroom!).

To check it out, visit www.newsela.com!