Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Making Sense of the PARCC “Tech Prep” Tools (Part 1)


It seems that there are plenty of tools to help you prepare your students for the demands of online testing such as PARCC but what tools should you use and when?  Can any of these tools be implemented into the daily curriculum of your class?  Should these tools be used for teaching computer/tech skills OR should they be used specifically to prepare for THE test?  I try to make sense of this “stuff” for my technology classroom and how to connect with classroom teachers in this post.  I’m not saying I have the answers, I cannot even say how these methods help students prepare or perform on the tests…they haven’t happened yet, but this is how I’m making sense of them.

Recommendation #1 – take the practice test yourself.  Find the grade/subject you teach and take the test closest to your course so you know what is expected and how it works.

                There are two things teachers will notice when taking a practice test. 
  1. Types of questions being asked (what content students need to know)
  2. What technology skills they need to be able to complete a task 

I will focus on technology skills in this post because that’s what I teach.  

Different online tools will be helpful for preparing for the new content assessed and the skills needed to complete.

Click and Drag aka Drag and Drop
                Practice tests ask students to find statements in boxes and click on a box and drag it to another location and drop it.  Some students will want to click on it once to select it but actually you have to click, hold in the mouse button, drag, and then release the mouse when the box is moved to the proper location. For students to practice this skill visit:
This onlinepractice allows students to practice highlighting and inserting text in a sample word processor.
Features that are holiday themed on www.abcya.com also allow students to practice
Drag and drop features
Drag to highlight features
In Ohio Infohio resources are available for many schools/districts/communities.  Using http://www.infohio.org/students/er/grade/gk5 and choosing BookFlix Puzzlers will allow students to practice the drag and drop feature and allow students to practice comprehension after reading a story.

Multiple Choice/Dropdown lists
Google Forms: Sample
                       Make your own see video 
Schoology Tests/Quizzes
Join sample course: 3J9FZ-J4R4K
Make assessments see video

Scroll to see entire page
A lot of this will depend on screen resolution.  Have students practice visiting webpages and use the scroll wheel, click on the scroll bar and drag and use the mouse pad such as on a Chromebook. 
It is important that they can click the scroll bar and drag the scroll as well as use the scroll wheel.  I had a student tell me they couldn’t view the entire page because the mouse was broken…the scroll was broken but the mouse still allowed for scrolling.  Students need to be able to do simple trouble-shooting while testing.

Keying Text
Schoology Discussion Posts
Google Forms
Microsoft Word Text Boxes – using text boxes is important because the tests are not traditional word processors, they are boxes and windows.



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tech Tip: Using Lists to Organize Your Resources

There are various kinds of lists.

This week I was looking through some “old” stuff.  By old I mean the last 2 years. LOL Resources I saved but had not used yet.  I found some resources I could use now but wasn't ready for 6 - 12 months ago or maybe they didn't apply to me yet. It’s difficult to remember what you’ve read, and where you saw it so

(1) I flag emails as tasks with no due date in Outlook so I can refer back to them. 

(2) Another thing I do is to bookmark sites in my web browser.  I use Chrome and log in to the browser so I have the same resources at home and at work. I create a bookmarks folder called Resources. I use this for pages I want to refer back to but I may not have used yet.

(3) One of the best things about my tech tip blog is you can go back and read old blogs as reference. I can also subscribe to other popular blogs and that’s really helpful.

(4) Finally, I will be creating a video repository of my videos that I've been creating as tips.  Feel free to ask questions and I might be able to answer them via a video response.   YouTube video repository

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Apply, Enter, Register...and win!

I was shocked today at the news, I won! (Details yet to be released.) but it reminded me of the importance of trying, applying, and registering for opportunities. I remember a few years back my daughter won a 50" tv. When asked how she got the tv I replied, she applied. You cannot win if you don't try. Today I had a similar experience and I just want to encourage you, on the heels of a Veterans Day service about service, that without putting yourself out there applying for grants, registering for training, providing a service or trying something new you cannot win!  Good luck! 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Using An LMS

The most powerful tech tool in my classroom is Schoology.  Schoology is a Learning Management System (LMS) that connects with other multi-media to help me deliver coursework, collect assignments, and manage individual students within a course.  

Since our school uses Google Drive and has accounts setup for all students in grades 6 – 12, and all teachers have Google Drive accounts too, the fact that Schoology connects to Google Drive as an app is HUGE! Previous tip shows you how!

I find with many sources I have information readily available about what tech teachers can use in the classroom but rarely do they show or tell us how to use it.  We look at it, say that’s cool, save the email or resource or pin it to a wall of sorts and never really organize it.  Or better yet (sarcastic tone), we are so excited we create “free” accounts on every service, do a lesson here or there but never really blend the assignments.  Sometimes we don’t go back to the projects or reuse them because they are hard to organize. For that reason alone is why I use Schoology.  Schoology allows me to organize all the other resources (tech or not tech) into one location and deliver those resources to students AND collect assignments back from students.  I can organize my lessons, align units, lessons, assignments to standards and use all the tech I want.  Now listen, I don’t work for Schoology, they didn’t pay me, and well maybe someone that runs their Twitter page might know I exist LOL. To convince you to start using Schoology in your classroom may take more than one blog post, and I’m OK with that.  But honestly this is one account you should go create now if you haven’t already.  And login to it if you created it but never used it.
To get started, create an account.
Then create a course
From here you can organize your course.  I use the free version of Schoology in my classroom so some of the utilities are not available to me but I have all I need to stay organized.  Since we use Google Drive I have my students create their own Schoology account using their Google Drive login information.  Then I give them the course access code to join my class.  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Google Calendar for Work and Home

I used to be addicted to my Outlook calendar.  I color coded everything!  Work events, kids, holidays, birthdays, to do list...EVERYTHING!  The one problem with my Outlook calendar was I couldn't take it with me.  Think 2009.  I did not have a Blackberry or an iPhone.  I did not have money for a phone plan anyway.  So, for Christmas I asked for a PDA.  It needed something that would work with my already established Outlook calendar, and had WiFi access, you know for when I went to Panera Bread or McDonalds. It could NOT rely on a phone plan to work.  So I got a cute little Pocket PC and took it everywhere.  It worked great, and my love affair with Microsoft continued. My husband at the time was using Google calendar already.  His band dates were on Google calendar, his work appointments, and I refused to convert.  "Email me if I need to know what's on your calendar," I would say.

Then it happened.  I got a MacBook.  I went back to school to teach and thought, I need a new computer, so many schools use Macs, I don't have a Mac, I don't know how to use a Mac...I better get in the loop.  Of course the Mac needs the Microsoft Office Suite too.  And it was so.  Problem...alert! Alert!  My Mac that communicated with my PC and shared my Outlook calendar would not communicate with the Pocket PC.  My organizational world was OVER.  I needed a new plan.  That is when I learned to embrace Google Calendar.  

I have 2 Google accounts. One for home, one for work.  I have 5 Google calendars, and share 2 additional calendars, and have access to view 3 other calendars.  It's not as complicated as it sounds because they are all color coded.

One of the best things about Google calendar is my school uses Google calendar as the district calendar so I can quickly save an activity on the district calendar to my own calendar, but only the activities that pertain to me and my building if I want.  

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sharing Files With Colleagues

I have found to never underestimate the power of sharing.  If you followed my previous tip you are taking a lot of pictures.  Maybe you would like to share them???  Sharing goes beyond pictures.

As a teacher there are a lot of resources that need to be shared and they may not be resources available in the student database.  For example, I'm in the Ohio Resident Educator Program and need to share documents with my mentor.  By using a Dropbox folder I can work on Word Documents downloaded from ODE and save them to a folder local to my computer.  Then I have access to them virtually anywhere and can share the folder with my mentor.  Dropbox is similar to Google Drive installed on your computer but does not try to convert your files to the Google format.  Check out Dropbox

View this video of how it works: Using Dropbox

Another method for sharing is the Google Drive.  Files in the Google Drive can be shared with others to view only or view and edit. I share files with my mentor using Google Drive yet share forms and documents with students and coworkers using Google Drive, especially those documents created in Google Drive.  It doesn't seem necessary for every teacher to collect and update the same data so I collect student favorites in a form and shared it with colleagues so they were in the loop too.

Learn more about collaborating with Google Drive below.

The key to either system is to make sure when the files are shared to edit that you have an understanding that it can be changed or even removed from the folder by the people sharing it.  If you want the files to be viewed and not edited make sure you choose that option. If you want the originals intact but want to allow others to edit a file make sure you make a copy first and share the copy.

And for this Tuesday...happy sharing!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tech Tip: Recording Your Screen

Have you ever wanted to show students how to do something but don't have time to create an entire how-to video or even find one?  If you have Smart Technologies Smart Notebook installed you can use the Smart tools to record an activity on your computer.  You don't have to use your Smartboard/Smart projector.

Below you will see a video I created showing how to access the Smart Recorder.

This method is good for last minute absences where you need to show a sub what to do.  Record it on your laptop and post. You can always go back later and add a voice over or make it pretty but this is a quick way to record steps for absent students to post on Schoology or send to Google Drive.   Ever considered Flipping your Class?  Show your students what to practice at home, then do the assignment in class together. 

This technique is another way to show tech support what is going on.  If you keep doing an action and not sure of a result and Print Screen doesn't seem to show the problem, consider recording a 5 - 15 second video and attach it to your ticket so they can see what's going on.

Happy Recording.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tech tip: Take pictures

Today's tech tip includes taking pictures. Use your phone, tablet, or a camera to record things you write on the board, student work,  or students working. I even have a scanner app on my iPad called scanner pro that scans to PDF so I can email student work to myself or other teachers as needed. You can add your pics to Google Drive or Dropbox straight from your mobile device or upload photos from a camera and organize moments into folders to use, or remind you to use later.  Besides how else will you Pinterest your classroom?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tech tip Tuesday: Schoology App

Download Schoology app to your phone and tablet. 

Why? As teachers we all know that the day isn't over when the last bell rings but how do we balance our after-work lives with the papers we have to grade? I've found the Schoology app can help. If I'm sitting waiting on a pizza, or at a ball game waiting for it to start and I have my phone out about to peruse the Internet...I can look at a student assignment post a grade and mark one off the list. No lugging papers.  

Not using Schoology yet? Start.

Negatives to the app. Currently...
1) you cannot grade discussion posts
2) you cannot add a rubric to an assignment

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Brainstorming: Near and Far

Last week I decided I wanted to brainstorm ideas for an upcoming project in class.  Each student has a computer so I wanted to do it using their devices.  I considered a Google form but I wanted it to be in real time.  Google forms allow you to see previous responses AFTER you submit if the option is selected. Then I thought about Poll Everywhere but it's so difficult to organize the ideas and work on them later after collecting the data.  That's when a quick Internet search led me to Stormboard.  Stormboard is free to educators through December 2014 so check it out.

Stormboard allows you to collect ideas, color code them, vote on your favorite ideas and organize ideas in a number of creative ways.  I fould for large classes it works best if you only have 4-5 brainstormers at a time but you can enter your idea, rearrange and categorize it then print a report or Wordle of your results.

I created a Stormboard for us to use to brainstorm for fun!  What is your favorite Tech resource for your classroom?  

P.S. you can signup using your school Google account if you have one and have your students do the same.  THEN you can see their official names instead of them making up their own accounts.

P.P.S. I don't get anything for you using this service or following the link.  There is no free space etc.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Print Screen

This week's tech tip is simple!  Often you need to save a screen you were working on or an error message that just popped up but you can not save it in the traditional save as... method and there is no print button.  This is when print screen becomes beneficial.

  • On your PC/laptop the keyboard has a Print Screen or PRTSCR button.  When you press this in most cases you see nothing happen.  What occurs is a copy of the current screen to your clipboard.  
  • Then you can open a software program like Paint or Microsoft Word and simply paste.  You will see your picture and you can resize, crop, edit, and print or save.
start button

Another method is using the Snipping Tool.  At the Start button...

Search for Snipping.  If the tool is installed on your computer you will find the program.  Click on it one time.

When the tool opens you can choose New and click and drag a section of the screen to "snip".  Then you need to save the snipped portion.

On your Mac you will choose ctrl+shift+F3 for the entire screen or ctrl+shift+F4 for selecting a portion.

These saved pictures are especially helpful when sharing with Tech Support what you see on your computer screen and you need help.  Email the picture as an attachment so they know the exact message you are receiving.  Often they can diagnose a problem by looking at the picture. 

Happy snipping!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Connecting a Projector

Video: Connect to a projector

Getting back to school finds many teachers eager to show kids new "stuff" but what happens when you're prepared on your laptop and you want to show the entire class.  I received many questions this week stating "what's wrong with my projector?"

If you see your desktop background screen on your projector but not the“stuff” you want to project, odds are good that you are in extended screen mode. 

To fix this you go to start ->

control panel -> 

(depending on your setup you may have to go to appearance and settings before display) -> 

display ->

connect to a projector -> 

select duplicate.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Office Productivity: Find and Replace Paragraph Marks

Today I was working on a project (aka Resident Educator paperwork) and I learned a Tech Tip in Office Productivity myself. J

I had an email message and I wanted to copy the text into a form.  The comments were in response to an observation and I needed them to be on a special paper.  But when I pasted it the file formatting was not filling the page and it had too many “paragraphs”.  

In Tech a paragraph is a hard return, not what you think of as a paragraph from English class.
Anyway, I wanted them gone but I didn’t want to click and delete over and over. Hmmm!

That’s when I thought of find & replace. 

I use it all the time to replace he in a document to she, and that is where I found exactly what I was looking for. 
Click on Replace in a Word document Home Ribbon.  Click in the find what box and select the special button at the bottom of the window.  

Voila!  There is paragraph and a dozen or so other formatting characters that you might want to find and/or replace.  After selecting paragraph mark I then selected the replace field and typed a space (you cannot see it. 
Select replace all. Close the window and the text looks a lot better. Doesn't it?

What would you do to remove the > marks? Hmmm!  

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Office Productivity: Text to Table

 I have my husband to thank for this week's Tech Tip.  When I asked him what should I do a Tech Tip on today he said, "Tables, everyone always messes up tables."  Well somehow if I know him he was talking about tables in HTML or Excel (not the kind you eat on, when we eat we don't need tables). Anyway, I got to thinking and I remembered that I just showed a student last week how to convert text to a table and maybe some of you didn't know it was so easy. Many people who used Microsoft Word before can Insert a table and add things to the blocks (cells). Well how many times have you had something typed up already and thought it would be easier to read as a table but didn't want to redo it?  I'm going to say it only takes 3 steps to convert text to a table (its all in perspective).  

So last week someone was typing their spelling words 3 times each.  I said that is hard to read, if you were doing it on paper maybe you would fold the paper in three columns first???  

Step 1 - Select all your text by highlighting it. 

Step 2 - Select Insert -> Table -> Convert Text to Table

Step 3 - Use the dialog box to indicate how you want to separate your text.  It's at the bottom of the box but should be done first.  I chose other and typed a space. (I know you cannot see it.) In this case there was a space between each word.  You might have a paragraph marker if you made a list or another character.  Then select the number of columns.  I wanted the 3 words to be in one row so I selected 3 columns in this case.  If you had student information you would have to see how you have it listed.  The program automatically figures out the number of rows.

Now you have a table.
The rest is just for fun.  For example I want the word  Spring to be capitalized EVERY instance. I can select the column in front of the row, this highlights the row, and choose the Aa symbol on the Home tab. In this instance I changed the case to Capitalize Each Word.

Finally you can make the table uniquely yours by selecting the table (click anywhere on it) and select the Design tab that appears under Table tools.  You can make changes to the Design of the table to make it even more user friendly.

Quick and easy productivity for reusing documents that you already have created.

For more tips on working with tables please view Using Tables Microsoft Word 2013.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Office Productivity: Word to PowerPoint

Did you know you can easy copy and paste a Word document into a PowerPoint without having to re-type the entire thing?  I find it nice when you have an outline to be able to use it also as a presentation. I do this as a lesson in class but it is practical for any of us that need to put together a presentation. It’s also nice to take outlines or lesson plans and turn them into presentations and notes for our students.

Step-by-step instructions for Word 2013
  1. Open Word document that has your outline or notes.
  2. On the Home ribbon, choose select->select all.
  3. Copy your text.
  4. Open PowerPoint.
  5. Select blank presentation.
  6. Select view -> select outline view. (IMPORTANT!!!)
  7. Click in the outline pane. Paste.
  8. On the Home ribbon select layout->blank.
  9. Press enter at each section where you want to create new slides.
  10. Select view -> normal
  11. Using the Home ribbon, format your slides with a theme and fonts of your choice.

Voila – now you have a presentation from your notes.

To make handouts do the following steps:
  1. Select view->handout master->add info like your name to notes header.
  2. Select file->print
  3. Under slides select 6 slides horizontal.
  4. Select print.

Remember to save!!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Office Productivity Series: Mail Merge

One of the best things I learned in college was not in a class, it was at my on-campus job.  My on-campus job in the College of Business Advising Office taught me skills in office productivity.  The most import skill I learned was mail merge.  
Before I had a classroom I took that office productivity home I used mail merge for my wedding invitations, my Christmas cards, my daughter's graduation announcements, and back in my professional life my students LOVE the personal touch mail merge brings to handouts and letters.  

Mail merge is a tool in Microsoft Word that allows you to connect a database to a word processing document to create individual letters, labels, cards, envelopes, etc. 

At test time I like to merge names on tests and send to the copier/printer so I know who still needs to complete the test/assignment and I know who all received and returned the document without students having to put their name on it.  

So how do you get started with mail merge?

It is actually easiest if you start with a database, CSV file, or spreadsheet with data.  I like to download my class list from the school records (i.e. Progress Book) to get started. 

First, open Word and select the Mailings tab in Word 2013.

Choose Start Mail Merge.  You can select the type of file you would like to create or if this is your first time, use the Step-by-Step Mail Merge Wizard...

Then choose your database.
Choose an Excel file, CSV, or you can even type a New list in Word by selecting Type a New List...

Type your letter/document then select Insert Merge Field in the spot you want to put a name or other information.

When finished select Finish & Merge to send the database records (names) with your letters for individual documents.

Office Productivity at it's finest.  
To learn more or practice with a tutorial visit http://www.gcflearnfree.org/word2013/31.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Progress Book - Enter Report Cards

Are grades due for yet another quarter and you are pulling your hair out?  Did you spend the entire weekend getting everything RIGHT, yet the office cannot see your grades?  You can put all your grades in the gradebook and the office cannot see them until you follow 5 easy steps.

1. Make sure you select Enter Report Cards
2. Select the class / Show all Students
3. Check the box for the current quarter.
4. Press Equal sign
5. Finally save (at the bottom of page)

You must do this for every class.  Putting the grades in your gradebook grid is not enough for the office to retrieve your grades.  

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Turning off spell check in Microsoft Word

Tech Tip *Bonus*

So…you are tired of the computer auto-correcting that thing you misspelled on purpose or even telling you about the misspelling at all?
Turn off auto-correct as you type or spell check altogether in Word Options.
How do you get there?  In Microsoft Office 2013select FILE -> Options
Then in the dialog box select your changes and push OK.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Connecting your Google Account to Schoology

Start by logging in to Schoology.  If you do not have an account yet you can Sign Up quickly and easily.

Click on Resources at the top of the page. Then select Apps.

 Select Install Apps

Then check the box next to Google Drive (or any other app you would like)

Click Install button.

Approve authorization

Then connect.  After you connect you will need to login to Google unless you are logged in already in another tab. 

Then viola.  You can pull resources from Google to your Schoology account to share with students or show your students and they can submit Google files in Schoology.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Lookup Tables

Today’s tip is for assigning groups people or items to groups/centers/locations.  I like to use the lookup function in Excel to place a group of students to specific assignments or locations.  A lookup table can be used to assign letter grades to specific percentages also.  

Actually, Excel can Lookup many different types of values in a table format.

In the spreadsheet above I show an example of assigning students to groups for a weekly rotation. I have a list of students and assign them to a group. In cell F2 I have a lookup function =LOOKUP(C:C,L:L,M:M)
This function tell cell F2 to look at column C, find a match in column L and return the value in column M.  Then I can copy the formula for every student in the column.  Then if you decide you want to change the assignment for Group A on Monday you only need to make the change in cell M3 and the function will do the rest to the cells with the function available.
Use the lookup table to lookup many variables that might change over time when you have a long list to update.  Have fun customizing your own spreadsheet for classes, over school events, or organizing stuff at home.
For more info on functions watch: Excel Functions
LOOKUP function (description from Microsoft help)
·         For the LOOKUP function to work correctly, the data being looked up must be sorted in ascending order.
Vector form
A vector is a range of only one row or one column. The vector form of LOOKUP looks in a one-row or one-column range (known as a vector) for a value and returns a value from the same position in a second one-row or one-column range. Use this form of the LOOKUP function when you want to specify the range that contains the values that you want to match.
LOOKUP(lookup_value,  lookup_vector,  [result_vector])
·         lookup_value    Required. A value that LOOKUP searches for in the first vector. Lookup_value can be a number, text, a logical value, or a name or reference that refers to a value.
·         lookup_vector    Required. A range that contains only one row or one column. result_vector    Optional. A range that contains only one row or column.
·         If the LOOKUP function can't find the lookup_value, the function matches the largest value in lookup_vector that is less than or equal to lookup_value.
·         If lookup_value is smaller than the smallest value in lookup_vector, LOOKUP returns the #N/A error value.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

So many tech tips, so little time...SMARTboard Activity Builder

So many Tech Tips, so little time…

Once again, I previously posted a blog with SmartBoard resources.  It can get very overwhelming looking for your own info just to create a SmartBoard lesson.  So overwhelming in fact that I avoid the lesson/activity builder because building lessons is so time consuming.  With this said, it’s very beneficial sometimes to create your own lesson tailored to the specifics to your course.  Although some of the SmartBoards are different from room to room the current software, SMART Notebook remains the same.  

I found it very helpful to learn more about the activity builder in SMART Notebook. Hopefully these links will help with the use of creating your own lessons.

SMART Notebook: Activity Builder/Toolkit